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Friday, 18 November 2022

Never Too Young to Start Reading - and #WOYBS

 Baby and grandmother reading a book. Is This Mutton's November book reviews focus on illiteracy in the UK with high numbers still unable to read.

Dear friends.  You're never too young to get started with reading! Our granddaughter Olive, above, has already got her library card and enjoys hearing stories (above, with Jane, one of her grannies).  But an alarming report this week said that in the UK, 1 in 5 adults are still functionally illiterate. That's over 7 million people. 

Not being able to read has far reaching consequences. Last year, The National Literacy Trust found that a boy born in Stockton-On-Tees, an area with some of the worst illiteracy rates in the country, had a life expectancy over 26 years shorter than a boy born at the same time in Oxford, where illiteracy is rare. 

Of those classed as functionally illiterate in the UK, 63% of men and 75% of women have never received a promotion at work.  This impacts the type of work they can do, and means they will never escape the spiral of low-paid work.

What was your own experience of learning to read? My dad was responsible for teaching me, with the help of Ladybird books and in particular The Elves and the Shoemaker. I was slow to learn at around age 8, and I remember the breakthrough moment when I suddenly started reading the book out loud  (although I did know the first few pages off by heart, and still do!).

From that moment, I lost myself in the world of books, and remember astonishing the teacher by asking for Great Expectations just a few weeks later. Reading has enriched my life immeasurably, and given me so much knowledge and context. 

I'm thrilled to be joining Debbie and others around the world in the #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge, a monthly link-up for book lovers. 

Books Read This Month

Cat Lady by Dawn O'Porter


Author Dawn is a pet lover with two cats and two dogs. She wanted to highlight the depth of grief that we suffer when they lose a pet, which is often trivialised. 

Mia is the "cat lady" in the book, devoted to her 16 year old cat Pigeon.  She starts attending meetings of a pets' bereavement group, even though Pigeon is alive and well. Mia's life is very well ordered and controlled, and that's how she likes it.  But suddenly things start to fall apart, and her conventional life is shattered.

Amusing, thought provoking and ultimately up lifting, this is O'Porter at her best.

The Chemistry of Death: (David Hunter 1) by Simon Beckett

I've always been fascinated by the "back room" experts who help to solve crime, through reading the language of the dead body.  David Hunter is one of those people. He's working as a general practitioner in a quiet village when a woman is murdered. Police find out that David used to be an eminent forensic anthropologist until a tragedy made him flee the profession.  He finds himself helping in the police investigation, but also a figure of suspicion among the villagers. And then there is another murder. 

Gripping and gruesome with a surprising twist at the end.

The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh

I loved this and stayed up late into the night reading it to the end! It's both a thriller and a romance, and asks the question, what would you do if you found out that everything you know about your partner  turns out to be lies?

I liked the sound of Emma, the wife in question: she's a happy-go-lucky, off beat character: a marine biologist with a passion for crabs.  To start with, it seems like a classic love story, with the couple thrilled and relieved when she gets the all clear from cancer. 

But then Leo's job as a newspaper obituary writer has him having to secretly study Emma's past to prepare a stock obituary for her, as she's a public figure from having appeared in a BBC nature series.  

What he discovers, and the reader's initial thoughts, are that Emma must have been having an affair. The truth is very different. 

Too Young to Be Old: How to Stay Vibrant, Visible, and Forever in Blue Jeans by Diane Gilman with Jan Tuckwood  (Amplify Publishing)


My expectations were low. Firstly, I had never heard of Diane Gilman, and I feared there would be a lot of psycho-babble or worse. US readers will probably know the name right away. Diane became a millionaire in her 60s after creating a line of blue jeans especially for Baby Boomers.  The range, DG2,  became a sensation on a TV selling channel.  

Diane was always keen on fashion and design and as a teenager created embellished jeans by hand that were worn by Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

Her book is partly autobiographical with the last chapters giving her 25 Lessons for Life.  Diane has always lived life to the full, and prides herself on being energetic, colourful and exuberantly dressed.  

She has some profound learnings and lessons for mid life women. She tells us to embrace our age of illumination, and uses data and real life examples to explain how older women often shine in their later years, becoming entrepreneurs, as she did, and carrying a torch for a successful and joyful final act. We don't hand over that torch either.  We carry it to the end. 

Of the phrase "Diamonds are Forever," she adds: "The girl is the diamond. Created by pressure, polished and buffed, given a shining second chance at life."

Diane Gilmore's life hasn't always been easy.  She sold a range of washable silks and was naive about the business arrangement which meant she lost the right to use her own name as a brand. She ignored a mammogram that suggested a dark shadow, and three years later, in her 70s,  discovered the cost of ignoring it when she found she had to battle breast cancer. 

I found the book very uplifting and inspiring.  For a cynical Brit who doesn't care for advice or self help books, that's quite an accolade.

This title will be released on November 29.

The Perfect Ones by Nicole Hackett


There have been quite a few novels based on the lives of influencers recently. In this crime thriller, a group of influencers is invited to Iceland for a junket. Each of the girls has her own reason for wanting to go, and a few problems in their lives. 

We learn very soon that one of them, Alabama, has disappeared. The police have no leads so focus their investigation on the two influencers who seemed closest to Alabama at the time she vanished: Celeste Reed, Alabama’s best friend of ten years, and Hollie Goodwin, fitness guru and Alabama's unwilling idol.

Celeste is preoccupied with her deteriorating marriage and problems with her five year old. Hollie, meanwhile, is a very successful Instagram influencer but in private her life is a mess. 

The book darts backwards and forwards slowly unraveling the plot, as we get closer to Alabama's last conversations.  In the meantime her car has been found, but without her. 

An intriguing thriller which will be published on 2 May 2023.

Move Yourself Happy by Dianne Buswell (Watkins Publishing)


Dianne is one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing, partnered this year with 
DJ Tyler West. A former dance partner was YouTuber Joe Sugg and they are partners in real life. 

You'll be surprised to know that the vibrant Australian, who grew up in a sporty and active household, became fixated at losing weight as a young dancer, and found her energy levels plummeting so badly she dreaded performing in case she couldn't get through it.

She started to work on her diet and noticed that eating differently on big competition days gave her energy from start to finish.

Dianne's eating advice is all about enjoying whole foods rather than processed meals and refined sugar. She acknowledges the need for snacking, particularly in her line of work, and prepares food in advance.  

She has some delicious recipes for wholesome snacks and they are simple to make. Even better, the recipes are usually for one person. I imagine this book being a perfect companion for a young person living on their own for the first time. 

The nutritional advice is very sound, no crash diets or dietary restrictions. Dianne is a vegan who eats dairy. She relishes everything in moderation.

Moving on from nutrition, Dianne advocates a lot of rest and creativity:  she writes letters to her 95 year old grandfather as recreation.  There are inspiring weekly mantras and journaling prompts and mood-boosting lifestyle hacks, such as having a 5-minute kitchen disco and creating your own self-care sanctuary in your home. 

The 21 Get Moving Plan will get you dancing like a Strictly pro.  The moves include ballet, jive, tap and salsa, all with clear instructions and photos. Pilates exercises are included to strength and sculpt. 

A lovely book for anyone who wants to increase their vitality and find happiness through movement. 

The book will be published on 14 Mar 2023. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance reader copy.

Doll by Maria Teresa Hart (Bloomsbury Academic)



I find dolls creepy but fascinating. When I was young I had a Barbie, a Sindy, a Patch (Sindy's young sister), a Tiny Tears and two Action Men, Derek and Mark. 

At that time dolls were my secret world and not at all scary. It's only now, through horror films, and the staring eyes of those Victorian dolls that are collected by some, that I have found them chilling.

In this interesting book, Maria Teresa Hart explains that although dolls are viewed as toys, more often they are avatars of the idealized feminine self, representing girlhood as a mythical state of young femininity.

The book brings the stories of dolls to life, from Japanese Hinamatsuri festivals in the seventeenth century to Barbie’s controversial origins and the white-focused narratives of the American Girl doll. 

Some of the information is jaw dropping. Sleepover Barbie came with miniature scales and a teeny book called "How to Lose Weight", which recommends only "Don't eat". 

The book confounds its description as "academic" - it is very readable and relatable, as most of would have played with dolls and been exposed subconsciously to messages about the need for female perfection.  

I hope you enjoyed this new monthly post of book reviews.  The podcasts and TV reviews will appear in my monthly Favourites post, on the last Friday of the month. 

Sharing this post with:  #Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge, #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine Whatever,, #Neverendingstyle at The Grey Brunette, Talent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer, Link Up Pot Pourri at My Bijou LifeWonderful Wednesday at Oh My Heartsie GirlTraffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle Fabulous Fridays at Lucy Bertoldi
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