9 Mar 2024

One Minute Book Reviews: Winter Reads

One minute book reviews

By chance, I’m writing this on World Book Day. My son is at nursery today; he doesn’t normally go on Thursdays, so I only realised I needed a Where’s Wally costume yesterday afternoon and as a result, my first attempt at the whole WBD costume shenanigans, which I’m learning is apparently a Big Deal in the parenting world, was not a success. Unless you count a black and white striped top and a grey bobble hat (both of which he wears all the time) as a success… Where’s Wally: The Emo Years? No? Ah well, there’s always next year. 

Shall we talk about some books? 

Good Material by Dolly Alderton

We started the year with a good’un. A relationship break-up told from the male perspective: failing comedian Andy can’t understand why his ex-girlfriend Jen stopped loving him and why everyone around him seems to have grown up when he wasn’t looking. Completely adrift, he clings to the idea of solving the puzzle of his broken relationship. Really enjoyed this, it made me both chuckle and tear-up. Felt it perfectly captured both heartbreak and that time in your thirties where it feels like there’s a dramatic shift into adulthood, and friendships can seem much harder to maintain, but the male perspective was a fresher take on the themes. 4.5/5

Sourdough by Robin Sloan 

A quirky little novel about Lois, a software engineer stuck in the daily grind, the only highlight of her day the sourdough sandwich she orders every night from two brothers running a hole-in-the-wall eatery. When the two brothers have to leave San Francisco due to visa issues, they leave their sourdough starter to their favourite customer and Lois must keep it alive and thus, her sourdough baking journey begins. This was a charming read, but I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second. It went off on a slightly odd, fantastical tangent which I wasn’t entirely convinced by. 3/5

We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets

A novella about a woman working as a content moderator for a social media platform. Her job involves reviewing offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and deciding what needs to be removed. She spends all day viewing the very worst of humanity, but she’s made new friends and found a girlfriend amongst her colleagues so it’s not affecting her that bad. Or is it? I liked the premise of this and felt like it achieved the unsettling, low-level disturbing feeling the writer was probably aiming for, but the ending was so abrupt (almost like the author had simply just stopped writing) and unsatisfying that I was left feeling like I’d only read half the story. 3/5

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I am ashamed to say I have had this book sat on my bookshelf for years, it has moved between three different homes, and I can’t believe this unread treasure was there all this time. The intertwining stories of a blind French girl and orphaned German boy trying to survive the devastation of World War II. When war breaks out, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris to Saint-Malo where they accidentally become a part of the resistance. Meanwhile, Werner’s talent for building and fixing radios is enlisted to help bring down the resistance. Ultimately a story about all the ways that people, against all odds, try to be good to one another. The writing was beautiful, and I loved every detail. Honestly, I thought this was an absolute masterpiece of a novel. 5/5

Piglet by Lottie Hazell 

A word of warning: the food descriptions in this book are mouthwatering, so please do read with snacks to hand. Piglet (an unfortunate childhood nickname) has curated the perfect life for herself with her job as a cookbook editor, her upper-middle class fiancé, Kit, and her house in Oxford. But then Kit confesses to a betrayal thirteen days before their wedding. Torn between the life she has always wanted and the ravenous feeling that she is not getting what she deserves, Piglet and her perfect life begin to unravel. Told almost entirely through exquisitely described cooking scenes or excruciatingly detailed vignettes (the wedding dress scene, oh my god), the story examines class differences, a woman’s sometimes complicated relationship with food and the lies we tell ourselves. A very impressive debut. 5/5

The Food Almanac Volume II by Miranda York

From various writers and artists, a lovely collection of stories, recipes and illustrations for each month in the kitchen. A great gift should you have a foodie in your life (or for yourself if you’re the foodie). I enjoyed this just as much as Volume I and am hoping for a third. 4/5

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano 

Dear Edward is one of my favourite books of recent years so I was keen to pick up the author’s latest novel. Seemingly inspired by Little Woman, it tells the story of the four Padavano sisters growing up in Chicago in the 1970/80s. Julia, the eldest sister, marries William Waters, a rising basketball star, and has their lives perfectly planned out. But when William has a breakdown that Julia cannot understand, it is her sister Sylvie that becomes his confidant, and the ensuing betrayal will tear the sisters apart and affect generations to come. The author does characterisation so well; they were all believably flawed and human, and you can’t help but love and root for them. A beautiful family-saga. 5/5

Happy reading folks x 

29 Feb 2024



Alfie’s first haircut. I am still not over how much older he looks. 

A trip up north. After a weekend staying with cats, Alfie now shouts ‘TAT’ and ‘MEOW’ every time he sees a cat, or a picture of a cat. 

Driving down the motorway and seeing a family in the car next to us all laughing. 

32 years around the sun. 

A Thai massage. Not what I ordered but exactly what I needed. 

Sushi lunch date. 

Making my favourite Guinness cake because if you can’t bake your favourite cake on your birthday, when can you?

Pancake day! 

Nine years together. 

A woman with a neon pink umbrella on the greyest, wettest weather day. 

The first hints of spring; magnolia buds, white blossom, daffodils.

A lunch date with my gal, the best kind of catch up where it’s like no time has passed. 

Lighter evenings. 

New babies joining the gang. 

Baking with my boy for the first time. 

Alife’s first babyccino. The milk moustache was spectacular. 

Alfie calling birds ‘tweets tweets’. 

16 Feb 2024

Twelve Months Of Stories: On Motherhood, Writing, Being Selfish

12 months of stories

“I obviously have to tell you that this will affect your salary, pension…” she said with a sympathetic smile, and I nodded resignedly. I’m sat in our spare room on a video call with my line manager whilst on maternity leave. My mum is downstairs with my baby whilst I request to no longer work full time. I have mixed feelings. I have no doubt that I want to be a big part of the village that is going to be caring for my son during the working week, but the financial sacrifice was a hard one to swallow. If I went back to work full time, our monthly childcare bill would have been nearly my entire take-home pay, if I went back to work part time, I lost half my wage & pension but gained the same amount in a monthly childcare bill and if I didn’t go back at all, we had no childcare bill but only one household income. Oh, and needless to say, my husband earns more money than I do so we could not afford for him to drop his hours, despite him being willing to do so. 

We discussed it endlessly, went around the houses, had a lot of back-and-forth etc etc, before eventually settling on me working three days a week. It was a precarious balancing act of what we could afford, what availability the nursery had and what was our actual preference (in that order). We arranged three days of childcare and then I finally sat down with work to put my request in. We registered our child at nursery before he was even born and still didn’t get the days we wanted so at this stage, I assumed getting approval from work would be the easy bit.  

And then I was told that I could come back part time, but it had to be two and a half days a week. For reasons I won’t bore you with, this made sense from the perspective of my employer and the way my job works but I hadn’t accounted for it, and I felt the pre-emptive blow of having even less money than we’d planned for. I was too busy thinking about the money that it took me a while to realise that this would mean I would have one afternoon a week where I was neither working nor looking after my son.  

Funny how sometimes life just presents you with opportunities. At first, I claimed I would absolutely use that afternoon to be the best “housewife”; I was going to get on top of the washing, do the food shop, keep the house tidy… (sorry husband!) But then I realised that, if I was willing to be selfish, I could use that one afternoon a week to write. Something I love, something that I have needed to do since I was a child in order to feel most like myself, something that I’d had such little opportunity to do since my son was born. 

That first week, slipping into my favourite café with my laptop, completely alone, I was both exhilarated at doing something just for myself and overwhelmed with guilt. Was I a bad mother for doing something so luxurious whilst my son was at nursery? I wasn’t earning money (although I was paying the nursery fees regardless), I was technically available to be looking after him. Should I not be doing something more… useful? Probably pretty typical thoughts of a mother under the expectations of a 2023 society. So, here’s what I learnt (because I didn’t cave to those thoughts and spent 99% of Wednesday afternoons sat in a café writing during 2023): that one afternoon a week was the single best thing I could have done for my mental health and my ability to be a loving and calm parent. I am in such a better place than I was this time year and I massively credit that with having just a small slice of time to pour into my favourite creative outlet and the thing that keeps me feeling grounded. I learnt that regardless of what you do, the society we live is always going to push mother’s to be 100% self-sacrificing so you may as well do the thing that keeps you sane. Because a sane and happy mother is far better for a child than a mother who can’t breathe because she’s trying to keep up with unrealistic and exhausting expectations. No one is a bad parent for taking time for themselves. In fact, they are often much better parents as a result. And I can’t emphasise this enough: if you pay for childcare and do something other than working your day job, that does not – in any way shape or form – make you some kind of neglectful parent. Chances are, you’re paying for that time regardless (we pay 52 weeks of the year regardless of holidays, what time we pick him up, bank holidays, illness, whether we’re working or not working). Bloody hell, if you’re paying for your child to be in nursery when they’re ill or old Charlie is having his coronation, you may as well pay for it to have some time for yourself. I know I am lucky, I ended up with this time by accident and it makes no difference to our finances whether I use it for myself or pick up my son from nursery early. But I also refuse to feel any sense of guilt for that luck. My only wish is that my husband could have the same thing. 

I set myself a challenge: one short story a month for the year, post the messy, first draft online to hold yourself accountable. I hadn’t written that much in years (covid, pregnancy, newborn baby) and the idea of sharing early drafts is terrifying for any writer, let alone putting it on the internet. But I did it. It was a real lesson in what you can do when you only have a tiny amount of time once a week. I could not procrastinate, because that time wouldn’t come round for another seven days. I wrote quickly, and furiously and messily. My favourite café learnt my name and order and asked me how I was. I met other writers and discovered a local writer’s group. I remembered why I love the act of making up stories, writing down words so much. I remembered that Kate, pre-motherhood Kate, was still there and had a lot of shit she still wanted to do. She’d just been a bit tired and all-consumed by this brown-eyed, blonde-haired whirlwind that had landed into her life one Christmas Eve. 

I don’t know how long this option will be available to me, but I intend to cling onto it with both hands for as long as it is. Thank you to everyone who has read and been so kind about my messy first drafts (and if you want to catch up on them, you can do so here). I haven’t quite yet worked out what my Substack page will be in 2024 but I do know I am going to keep posting, so you can probably expect more stories and more food writing as a starting point. I’d love for you to join me

31 Jan 2024



That fresh new year feeling, new possibilities.  

Sushi lunch for mum’s birthday. 

Baking two birthday cakes. 

Easing into the year. 

Lots of freshly baked bread. 

Pale winter light. 

Candles that smell like baked goods. 

Toddler birthday parties.

Brilliant British television. 

Finalising and booking my sister’s hen do. 

Tabby McTat on repeat. 

Catching up with my auntie. 

Book vouchers burning a hole in my pocket. 

Dinner in London with an old friend. 

The loveliest afternoon at a National Trust place with old friends and our babies. 

Catching up with family friends. 

Flowers from my sister after a rubbish week at work. 

A lunch date in Cambridge; pizza and bookshop browsing.

Cosy, gentle, slow after the busyness of December.

21 Jan 2024

One Minute Book Reviews: What I’ve Been Reading This Autumn & Festive Season

Autumn book reviews

Last year, as part of trying to get my mental health in a good place and just generally feel like myself again, I set myself a challenge of reading 40 books. I’d never set myself a reading challenge before; I felt reading should be purely for pleasure and not some kind of competition to read as much as possible. But my frazzled mind wanted to give myself a bit of a kick up the bum to do more of what I love and – quite frankly – use the best tool I have found to a) keep my mental health in a good place and b) stop rotting my brain through the act of scrolling on my phone. So, whilst it wasn’t really about the number (although I was halfway through my 37th book when the new year rang in, if you’re interested), I found having a number a good nudge into good habits. And it really worked! 

I also changed how I shopped for books this year. I really made an effort to support my local bookshop over shopping on amazon for example. But there’s no denying that books are getting more and more expensive (so many new hardbacks recently coming out between £17 and £20. TWENTY POUNDS. For one book!), so 2023 was also the year I started shopping for second-hand books. And once I realised I could shop for books on Vinted, I knew I was going to be in trouble. It’s so addictive! That dopamine hit though when you discover a book you’ve been hankering after brand new for three quid. It’s like a little treasure hunt. 

I’ve set myself the same challenge for 2024 but before I crack on, these are my final reads of 2023 and there are some real good’uns. I finally jumped on the Babel bandwagon, fell in love with The Berry Pickers and pushed Strange Sally Diamond into several hands. Let’s dive in shall we? 

The List by Yomi Adegoke

High profile journalist at a feminist magazine, Ola, and her fiancé Micheal are ‘couple goals’ on social media. That is until one morning, they both wake up to find that Micheal’s name has appeared on a viral list of men accused of predatory behaviour. I can imagine this being a great book for a book club. The nuances and the grey areas would make for some hearty discussions. I personally didn’t enjoy this as much as I wanted to because I found the characters quite dislikable, and I ended up caring less and less about what was true and what would happen to them as a couple. I also found the ‘twist’ at the end dissatisfying. But, having said that, it’s a book that races along and offers a lot of insight into the current cultures surrounding social media and cancel culture. 3/5

Madly, Deeply: The Alan Rickman Diaries 

If you’re unaware, Alan Rickman kept diaries pretty consistently for a lot of his adult life and you can now have them all on your bookshelf. To read something so personal over the course of 20+ years of his life, to see his ordinary every day and his extraordinary stories with huge names and unique experiences made for a truly fascinating read. My only gripe with it was I felt like the editor had been a little selective on where he provided explanations; some footnotes felt obvious and others felt lacking and needed more context. It feels weird to rate someone’s diaries but if I was, I’d rate the diaries five stars and the overall reading experience four. Would definitely recommend. 4/5

Zero Altitude by Helen Coffey 

Travel journalist, travel lover and frequent flyer Helen Coffey challenged herself to go flight-free for a year. Part journalistic investigation into just how bad flying is for the environment (really, really bad, and no, offsetting does not make up for it) and part memoir about the incredible travel experiences she had whilst keeping her feet firmly on the ground. This is a great book for those who are interested in changing the way they travel and want to know more about why they should, but it’s also an incredibly reassuring tale of why going flight free does not mean sacrificing experiences, even for the biggest travel enthusiast. And yes, she’s still flight free now. 4/5

The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson 

The second in the Her Majesty’s Royal Coven series, we pick up with the same characters exactly where we left off. I really like the concept of this series (modern day witches) and the characters are enjoyable to read but the plot felt all over the place and it felt like the story could have been considerably shorter. 2.5/5

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent 

This book opens with the main character, Sally, following her father’s wishes – putting him out with the rubbish after he died. I mean, what an opening! Now at the centre of a media storm and being questioned by the police, she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood and we delve right into decades-old mysteries. I read this around Halloween, and it certainly fitted the bill for thrills and horror. I read it in twenty-four hours because I was so hooked, and I loved being with the main character and the unique way she viewed the world. 4/5

The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters 

A four-year-old Mi’kmaq girl called Ruthie goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine sparking a tragic mystery that will haunt her family, unravel a community and remain unsolved for nearly fifty years. Meanwhile, a young girl named Norma grows up as the only child of an affluent family often troubled by recurring dreams, unanswered questions and the just-can’t-shake-feeling that there’s something her parents aren’t telling her. I can’t tell you how brilliant I thought this book was. It’s not a mystery – you as the reader can figure out what has happened of course – instead, it’s an emotional story about the resilient power of family and hope. The characters of Ruthie and Joe were so engaging, and you desperately wanted them to be reunited. Beautiful book. 5/5

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros 

The second book in the Empyrean series about dragon riders at Basgiath war college. I was hooked by the first one and found the second very enjoyable. I think you could tell that this was perhaps written in a bit of a rush, and I can see why some might have been a little disappointed by it when comparing to the first book, but I love the world and the characters enough to happily go along for the ride. I’m looking forward to the next in the series. 4/5

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kaung

What a book! There was a lot of hype around this book, but I actually read Yellowface, Kaung’s latest novel, before I read this. I was amazed at how different the two novels were. Kaung is definitely an exciting author to watch (she’s also ridiculously young for her level of achievements and makes me feel like I’m underperforming in life!). It is set in a fantastical version of 1828 where the British empire is built on enchanted silver bars, which work through the art of manifesting the meaning of words lost in translation. Brought from Canton by the mysterious Professor Lovell, after his mother dies from cholera, Robin Swift spends his childhood preparing to enrol in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation, otherwise known as Babel. But working for Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland and as Robin starts to become more and more conflicted, the questions is: can a student bring down an empire? I wanted to savour everything about this book: the cobbled streets of a fantasy Oxford, the flawed but loveable characters, the gorgeous writing, the detailed footnotes. That ending though; I’m still not recovered from the final hundred pages. 5/5

Falling by T.J. Newman 

I read T.J. Newman’s second novel Drowning and really enjoyed it, but I have to say, I was a little disappointed by her first novel. A pilot’s family are taken hostage and will be killed unless he deliberately crashes the plane he is flying from LA to New York, with 200+ people on board. Whilst I had no idea what would happen in Drowning, I found this predictable and a little too much like a cheesy American film. It was entertaining enough but I think Newman's plotlines have improved since her first book. 2.5/5

Love and other human errors by Bethany Clift 

Bethany Clift’s first novel, Last One At The Party, was one of my favourite books of 2023 so I had to pick up her second novel. Set in the near future, we follow Indiana Dylan and the soulmate program she has invented. Blackmailed into proving the efficiency of the programme by being her own guinea pig, her carefully ordered life is thrown into chaos. This is a different and fresh take on the romcom genre, quirky and funny with loveable robots: what’s not to like? 4/5

The Wake-Up Call by Beth O’Leary

Izzy and Lucus, sworn enemies, work at the failing Forest Manor Hotel. The hotel hasn’t recovered from Covid, money is running out and the ceiling is quite literally falling in. When Izzy returns a guest’s lost wedding ring, the sizable reward convinces management that this could be their Christmas miracle. With four more rings still sat in lost property, the race is on for Izzy and Lucas to save their beloved hotel. And of course, they don’t stay enemies for long. I love a Beth O’Leary novel. And a Beth O’Leary novel set at Christmas? You couldn’t ask for a better joyous and festive read. 4/5

Happy reading folks x 

18 Jan 2024

24 For 2024

New year goals

 Is it still acceptable to say ‘happy new year’? When does that stop? Mid Jan? Anyway, happy 2024! (I accidentally wrote 2014 there, which made me realise that 2014 was TEN years ago. What the?!) Hope you had a lovely festive season. Are the dregs of your quality street still lingering around the house? Because same. Fellow parents – have you watched Tabby McTat eight million times? Because same.

You all know I love the new year reset; a chance to reflect on the last twelve months and think about what I want for the next. 2023 was a good year on the whole. The start of the year felt like a bit of a fresh start because Alfie started nursery and I went back to work after a year of maternity leave. It felt like we began to find a better balance between parenting and, well, everything else. My aim for the year was to invest more time into our relationship and into my wellbeing, and I really feel like I laid some solid foundations. Nothing was perfect of course, the first half of the year was still blighted by horrendous sleep deprivation, but I carved out more time to write, read, bake, exercise and I think apart from one month, we stuck to our resolution of monthly date nights. And as the year went on, the combination of these things and gaining more sleep, helped us feel more ourselves again. I also really, really enjoyed Alfie turning into a toddler. Every parent enjoys different stages but if you’re currently struggling a little in the baby stage and everyone is telling you that toddlers are nightmare, please be reassured that I would take the toddler any day. I mean, sure, they are mini dictators to an unreal level. But it’s been such joy seeing him slowly turn into a little person and being able to communicate more. He’s so funny, with the most expressive brown eyes and dance moves so bad they are good. Watching him go from two to three is one of the things I am looking forward to the most this year.

Outside of motherhood, organisation, wellbeing and joy are what I’m hoping for in 2024. Because it’s finally time to admit that we are drowning in life & house admin that have been neglected in the last two years and that I have become new levels of shit at replying to messages. Because now that I’ve got myself back to a good place, I’d like it to continue and, similarly, I want to enjoy this feeling and this phase of life as much as possible.   


1. Use the first quarter of the year to tackle life admin tasks that have been sat on the list forever.

2. WhatsApp at 0 by the end of the day. 

3. Tackle the bedroom renovations and move Alfie into a bigger bedroom.
4. Write a list of birthdays and organise birthday cards at the beginning of each month. 

5. Tackle the house admin, room by room. 

6. Put together Alfie’s memory box. 

7. Ten-minute tidy around the house at the end of the day. 

8. Lunch meal planning.  

9. Stay on top of photos, backing up and putting into photo albums on a regular basis. 


10. Read 40 books and continue buying second hand and supporting independent bookshops as much as possible.

11. Big family holiday in Camber Sands! 

12. Continue weekly writing sessions.

13. My sister’s hen do, and wedding! 

14. Make baking more adventurous and challenging this year. Teach myself new things, try things that seem beyond my skills, try pastry, try sourdough from scratch and – the biggest challenge yet – my sister’s wedding cake! 

15. A special trip to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary.

16. Write recipes down in recipe notebook.  

17. Visit somewhere new in the UK for our family summer holiday.  


18. Remember to floss teeth and practice good ear care. Forking out £45 the day before new year for an emergency ear appointment was not the one. 

19. Continue to build on my workout routine, with a focus on how it makes me feel and what I enjoy.
20. Keep a journal.
21. More seasonal and varied eating.
22. Do exercises for injured ankle.
23. Be more mindful with phone usage, particularly around Alfie, and checking social media only once a day. 

24. Big things may be coming this year. I can see them lingering on the horizon, all sorts of weather that may or may not pass my way. Anxiously trying to predict it or worrying about what may happen is not going to help. Take a deep breath and go with it. What will be will be. 

Hope you have good things ahead this year dear reader x