Thursday, 21 November 2019

Book review : How To Be Perfect - Holly Wainwright

Back in the summer, you may remember that I reviewed Holly Wainwright's debut novel, The Mummy Bloggers. (Click through for that review.) That first novel looked at three bloggers, the apparently "perfect mum" Ella Campbell, with her guilt-free snacks, perfectly dressed boys and airbrushed photos, Abi Black, big-mouthed, eco-friendly, lesbian and feminist (oh, and as it happens, ex-wife to Ella Black's husband) and Leisel Adams, the over-worked mum blogger who just happens to be the sister of the girlfriend of Abi Black. Confused ? That's just the beginning ! Slogging it out to win a prestigious (and well-paid) blogger competition, Ella is ultimately revealed to be a complete fake and strides off into the sunset.

Well, in How To Be Perfect, she's back, with a brand new blog but an equally big ego. She has a new, rich boyfriend, a brand new money-making retreat for women looking to mimic her "perfect" lifestyle (think disgusting smoothies and lots of yoga) and a brand new pay-to-view blog. She has totally abandoned her ex-husband and her two little boys, who have ended up living on his other ex Abi Black's farm, along with her wife-to-be Grace and their own brood of kids. The third blogger from the original book puts in a brief appearance, but in this novel, we have a new character, Frances. As a new mum, she is feeling inferior to the mothers on her WhatsApp group and is determined that if she can just get the cash together to treat herself to a break at Ella's retreat, everything will be hunky dory.

If you've read the first book, it's great to catch up with all the old characters and see how their lives have developed, but it could also be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. Mums of babies, toddlers and teenagers will all recognise themselves with a smile when reading the story. While Ella was portrayed as the ruthless villain of the piece in the previous novel, this book offers a more rounded approach - she is still very selfish and totally self-absorbed but she is also quite vulnerable, needing a bit of a helping hand to get herself out of the (new) mess that she has created.

It's a fun read that will put a smile on your face, whatever stage of parenting you're at !

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Deeno-Saur Toothbrush review

Have you started Christmas shopping yet ? I actually did some this weekend, buying a couple of bits in town and ordering some stuff online. The girls are easy enough to buy for, because, as teens, they are both obsessed with various bands and TV series so I just have to pick which merch to buy. Pierre is trickier though. Now that he's ten, he's out of the cuddly toys and board games that he used to love but not yet really into the clothes and techie stuff that will interest him in a few years. Hmmm, I'll have to get my thinking cap on ! If you're on the look-out for a gift that will appeal to kids of both ages, Deeno-Saur have a range of both electric toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes that would be ideal as a Christmas gift or stocking filler.

The manual brush (RRP £2.99) looks very appealing to kids, with its coloured bristles and dinosaur on the handle. Each toothbrush is made from a single piece of naturally sustainable bamboo so no glue is needed and, unlike other bamboo toothbrushes, the Deeno-Saur toothbrushes are free from any harmful paint, dyes and other chemicals. Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial and water resistant too. In terms of bristles, the nylon is completely BPA-free and feels incredibly soft against teeth and gums. It offers an environmentally friendly way of making tooth-brushing fun.

The battery-operated Deeno-Saur toothbrush (RRP £9.99) is the one that really impressed Pierre though. Inside the box, you get the main brush, a spare head, a sheet of stickers, three batteries and a mini Deeno egg that turns into a Dinosaur after 48 hours submerged in water. Whoever thought that toothbrushing could be so much fun ?!

The batteries need to be placed inside a holder which is then slotted back inside the brush handle. You have the choice of three brushing speeds, soft, medium and hard, so you can totally personalise your brushing experience, depending on age or speed preference. The brush has a two minute timer and a quad pacer that ensure an effective dentist recommended clean.

The stickers can be used to personalise your brush if you want, or you could just stick them on whatever else you like. The brush head has a tongue cleaner on the back, which Pierre thought was fun to use ! The brush also has a specially designed bristle pattern to ensure it reaches all the hard to reach areas of a young child's mouth, coupled with soft bristles and a silicone overcoat around the head to be extra gentle on teeth and gums.

If you have a child who is reluctant to brush their teeth, this is the perfect tool as it looks cool and adds an element of fun. Oral hygiene is one of the biggest concerns for parents and, according to a recent oral health survey of 5-year olds, just under a quarter have tooth decay with 3 to 4 teeth affected on average. Alarmingly, the first survey of 3-year olds in 2014 found that 12% had visible tooth decay, with 3 teeth affected on average. Anything that can help improve those figures has to be a good thing.

Disclosure : I received the products in order to share my honest view.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Giveaway #733 : Win Hannah the Spanner and the Polar Bears - closing date 2/12

Released this month – just in time for Christmas – Hannah the Spanner and the Polar Bears follows the adventures of Hannah and her friends as they cope with grumpy parents, sick reindeer and some strange goings-on in the back garden. This leads to an emergency visit to the Professor and befriending a lost polar bear in an attempt to help a big chubby man in a red suit save Christmas !

The books were all originally written as bedtime stories for Stuart Simmonds’ eldest daughter Hannah, and Stuart promised one day he’d find a publisher for them. That happened earlier this year and the books have been such a huge success that Stuart has been inundated with bookings from schools asking him to visit to read the books and run workshops encouraging children to read. The next two books in the series are now being published.

The previous books in the series are:
- Hannah The Spanner and the Dancing Bear
- Hannah The Spanner and the Robot
- Hannah The Spanner and the Circus
- Hannah The Spanner and the Trip to the Moon
- Hannah The Spanner and the Diamond Robbery
- Hannah The Spanner and the Racing Car

The entire Hannah the Spanner series has been written with bedtime reading in mind; the books are short fun stories, about Hannah on her incredible adventures, which can be enjoyed time and time again. They are aimed primarily at four to nine-year olds and are chock-full of colourful imagery to keep little ones entertained, whilst the engaging, funny stories resonate with older kids – and even keep the adults amused.

The Hannah the Spanner series is available from Waterstones and all good bookshops, Amazon and direct from the Hannah the Spanner website:

I have a copy of the book to give away to one Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 2/12/19

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize.

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Giveaway #732 : Win a copy of Hedgehog Christmas - closing date 22/11

Sunday, 17 November 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #47

You may have noticed, I've swapped my Menu Planning day over to a Sunday, as it fits in better with my schedule. I used to plan my menu then go shopping, buying whatever fit in with my menus. Since Madhouse Daddy died, I do my shopping at Lidl as it's so close to the house, but it's a bit hit and miss on specific products in the meat aisle, so I now do my shopping and menu plan around whatever I've bought. I've tamed down my menus since cooking just for me and the kids anyway, so this works out OK.


lunch - chicken casserole with boiled potatoes (or maybe roast potatoes, or maybe even mash, I'm not sure yet !), carrots & leeks

dinner -  sandwiches, toast, soup ... something along those lines. Or leftovers from lunch if someone wants them.


dinner - pork meatballs with red peppers & onions, served with either rice or spaghetti


dinner - bangers & mash - I think I'll cook the sausages then put them in with some tinned tomatoes, mushrooms, onions & red pepper to make a nice sauce


lunch - baked fish with rice & leeks ... maybe cheesy leeks if I have time, but this afternoon is hectic, with a work meeting and Juliette's appointment to get her braces off - so much for a nice peaceful day off !

dinner - pork chops with mushrooms in a creamy sauce with spaghetti


dinner - paprika coated chicken with rice & creamy leeks


dinner - spicy chicken gyros with rice & whatever veg is still lingering in the fridge !


lunch - our regular Saturday lunchtime fast food trip ! Probably McDonalds as usual.

dinner - trout fillet for me, chicken in breadcrumbs for the kids, with rice & veg (carrots, leeks & mushrooms)

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***


Saturday, 16 November 2019

Fab freebies of the week 16/11

It's all starting to look a bit festive on the freebie front - yay ! And the daily advent calendar giveaways haven't even started yet ! In fact, I'm starting to look ahead and I think we might go looking for some Christmas presents this afternoon. Whatever you have planned, enjoy the weekend and I hope you get lucky with some of this week's fab freebies :)


Sign up quick and get a Christmas freebie from innocent

Get your free Cif Ecorefill at Sainsbury's and reuse your spray bottle for life

Nominate someone special to receive a special gift from Sanctuary

We’re giddy with holiday joy and thrilled to announce the return of the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour. See the stops here (hmmmmnothing below London in the south east, that's not fair !)

16,000 entrants will receive one sample pack, containing a 2ml My Clarins Hydrating Refreshing Cream All Skin Types and a 2ml My Clarins Relaxing Sleep Mask. No purchase is necessary.

Request a free sample of iD baby nappies

Win 100 Warburtons Christmas Jumpers for you and your pet dog (one adult and one dog jumper per winner). (Warburtons barcode/purchase required between 14th November - 4th December )

Harvest lucky olives to win a cookery trip to the home of Filippo Berio PLUS 1000’s OF OTHER PRIZES (Enter daily)

Grab one of 1100 free reusable coffee cups from McDonald's

Just say to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant “Ask Send Me a Sample for Regenerate toothpaste”

Use code RedBullProjectProJack to claim a free can of Redbull

Win one of 1000 tins of Roses chocolates on instagram

Head to Debenhams with your (free) Beauty card - the new freebies is a CHANEL ROUGE ALLURE INK 'Choquant' 2.5ml.

MAF Advent Calendar 2019 - Travel around the world with us this December with MAF’s Advent Adventure calendar!

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Friday, 15 November 2019

Book review : The Last 10 Seconds - Simon Kernick

I have so many books still waiting to be read on my bookshelf that I'm desperately trying not to buy any more. Review copies are OK, but new books ? Nope, not happening ! Well, the last time I went to a charity shop, I spotted a copy of Simon Kernick's The Last 10 Seconds on the bookshelf and I just couldn't resist, despite all my good intentions. It was only 50p after all and it was helping a good cause, if nothing else. Well, I've just spent the last three nights reading it non stop so I have no regrets whatsoever !

The opening chapters are fairly confusing as there is so much going on that you have to try to get your head around. The book starts with a chapter labelled "Today 8.05am" and introduces two characters, Sean and Tina, in a highly tense situation. Sean has been shot and has his gun pointing at Tina, they greet each other, then all hell breaks loose. Who are they and how did they get here?

The next chapter goes back 37 hours and sees a brutal serial killer, called The Night Creeper, being arrested by police. As he is scooped off the London streets, everyone can sleep a little easier, as he is guilty of the brutal deaths of five young women. Or is he? He proclaims his innocence.

We're down to 24 hours ago, where we catch up with Sean from the first chapter, an undercover cop who has infiltrated a notorious criminal gang and has just been called out on a job. On a bid to find a personal sense of justice, he hasn't really cleared all this with his boss and things rapidly get complicated. Has he bitten off more than he can chew?

12 hours ago, DI Tina Boyd (also from the first chapter) realises that the Night Creeper can't have been the murderer in all of the cases, but as she follows her new leads, she finds herself being led into a very dangerous place.

As all the threads start to combine, spinning a complicated and addictive web of double-crossing and danger, who will eventually come out on top ?

It's an exciting read, with short chapters that keep you coming back for one (or two or ten !) more. Each of the heroes has a complex character, with personal faults and dodgy motivations that make them seem very human. I could see this being made into a cracking Hollywood movie, with fast-paced action and heart-stopping gun-fights aplenty !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (11 Nov. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780552158817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552158817
  • ASIN: 055215881X
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3 x 19.8 cm

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Buttermilk Mince Pie Fudge review

Can you believe that in just six weeks time, Father Christmas will be paying us all a visit ? Where on earth is the time going?! I need to start getting into a festive frame of mind, digging out my Christmas CD and making a serious start on the Christmas shopping ! Buttermilk have just helped give my mindset a nudge in the right direction by sending through a fabulously festive nibble to try out: Mince Pie Fudge. Ho-ho-hmmmm ! 

The fudge has a rich, buttery taste that comes through as soon as you pop a square into your mouth, then the Christmassy flavours start to develop : the rich sweetness of golden syrup, the juiciness of plump raisins, the tartness of mixed peel, the richness of brandy and mixed spice ... It's very rich so you only need a square or two at a time. It is dairy free so is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Each 100g box contains about eight cubes of fudge and retails for £2.99, so it is perfect for adding to a secret Santa gift or stuffing into a stocking. You could even add it to a homemade Christmas hamper, in which case you might like to know that Buttermilk also have Gingerbread fudge, Cranberry and Orange fudge and Irish cream fudge available.

Disclosure : I received the product in order to write an honest review.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Book review : Grace's Table - Sally Piper

Earlier in the year, I read The Geography Of Friendship by Sally Piper (click through to read my review), a book which follows three old schoolfriends, recreating the childhood trek that marked their lives in so many ways twenty years before. Grace's Table, released by Legend Press UK back in the summer, was Sally Piper's debut novel and in some ways, it reminded me of The Geography of Friendship, with the same look back at past moments, intertwined with the current events, for a gradual release of important information from the past.

Grace's Table is not a book that is big on action, but it takes the time to delve into the relationships between various family members and looks at how they came to be where they are today. The story takes place on the day of Grace's 70th birthday, when she has invited eleven members of her family and friends - three generations of her family - for a day of celebration. As we watch Grace preparing the meal along with her daughter, the currents of tension and awkwardness soon become evident, but what is their cause?

Grace repeatedly looks back over her life, detailing various feelings and events that she remembers as the day progresses, which gradually start to explain the undercurrents of resentment and hostility within her family. Her husband passed away years before and her two children find it hard to accept that she has a new "companion", as she calls him, to avoid the jealousy and anger that another choice of word (partner ? lover ?) may provoke. But Grace still harbours feelings of bitterness and resentment herself too. Memories from her past will provide the key to understanding them, with anecdotes from her life as a teenager, a young nurse then a wife and mother revealing layer upon layer of Grace's personality and personal history. 

It's easy to look at the elderly people in our own families and social circles and to forget that they had their own rich and varied lives. While we remember in clear detail those events which caused us great pain or happiness, we can easily overlook their own experiences. Grace's Table reminds us that some of those events and the feelings that they caused may still have long-lasting effects to this day.

It's an enjoyable book, which will undoubtedly appeal to mothers and grandmothers or any women of a certain age, who have their own emotion-filled pasts to contemplate. As a widow in my late forties myself, I couldn't help but smile wistfully when Grace talked of her new-found love and companionship, alongside the complicated feelings of her now grown-up children. I think we can all recognise ourselves at some point in Grace's story !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99 (currently only £3.99 on amazon - see below)

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (1 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789550203
  • ISBN-13: 978-1789550207
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Fortnite Battle Royale Collection review

Hands up if you have a tween or a teen in your midst ... OK, well, next question. Do they like Fortnite? Yep, thought so ! Pierre, now aged 10, has been obsessed with it for a while, just like his friends, buying Fortnite branded pyjamas and sweatshirts and watching videos on Youtube, even if he doesn't actually have access to the game itself. The pupils where I teach, aged 11-15, are all pretty much obsessed with it too. There was much collective wailing and gnashing of teeth when it went offline for a couple of days last month, before coming back in a brand new sequel, and everyone thought it was all over !

Well, I have some good news for you, especially if you're currently browsing the shops, looking for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. There are a whole range of collectible characters and playsets available, with 100 figures to collect, that are perfect for bringing Fortnite to life this Christmas. Pierre was very impressed when the postie dropped them off. Forget #Fortnite, bring on #FortniteIRL ! (That's Fortnite In Real Life, if you're out of date with new jargon and looking for gifts for the grandkids !)

I quickly grabbed some snaps of the figures in the boxes, as Pierre was excitedly unpacking everything. There was one box containing two figures, Sergeant Jonesy and Carbide, along with their various weapons.

Each of the other boxes contained one figure plus accessories. We discovered Cuddle Team Leader (awwww a cute teddy bear) and Rabbit Raider (awwww a cute bunny rabbit ... er no, OK, maybe not then !). Each 2-inch figure has two accessories - one weapon and one other item, such as a backpack, or other tool.

Next were Moisty Merman and Sledgehammer.

 And finally in our selection, Brite Gunner and Wukong. The characters are available in solo packs (1 figure, £4.99), duo packs (2 figures, £7.99) and squad packs (4 figures, £14.99).

As Pierre was excitedly unpacking everything and piling up the weapons, I was getting slightly concerned that we'd never remember which accessories went with which character, but he happily told me that this doesn't matter in the slightest as they all swap them around anyway.

The weapons are highly detailed and all very different - there are huge guns, warhammers, pickaxes, battleaxes ... Each of the characters is intricately designed too, with great attention to detail on their clothing and bodily features. Any fan of Fortnite is sure to recognise them all and pick out their favourites.

They are great to collect and look very cool set out on a shelf, but they can also be played with, swapping over their weapons, accessories and back bling. There are also playsets available, featuring Port-a-Fort (£14.99), Mega Fort (£29.99), Battle Bus (£39.99), X-4 Stormwing (£29.99) and ATK-All Terrain Kart (£14.99).

They are guaranteed to put a smile on any Fortnite fan's face this Christmas and the character solo packs are also a great pocket money buy. If you want to add them to your Christmas shopping list, they are available at Smyths Toys, Very and Amazon.

Disclosure : We received the products in order to share our honest opinion.

Monday, 11 November 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #46

Wind, rain, cold weather ... autumn is definitely here now, with a definite taste of winter too. Brrrr ! Definitely a time for winter warmers - I don't feel like eating salads any more ! This week we have a visit on Wednesday from the gas board (the whole region is changing gas suppliers so they have to check everything is OK for the conversions) so I'm not sure if I'll be able to cook in the morning - we'll see. Apart from that, we all fancy lots of hearty casseroles and slow cooked dishes so I picked up some stewing meat at the supermarket again. The good news when making a casserole is that there's enough for two days - win-win !


lunch - Today is a bank holiday for the armistice so we'll all be at home. Perfect time to use up yesterday's leftover roast gammon with rice, veg & gravy ... plus a dollop of apple sauce, hmmm !

dinner - something in the slow cooker - I bought some stewing beef so probably beef bourguignon or beef & ale stew or beef & tomato stew, you get the idea ! - with lovely buttery mash and whatever veg went in the dish (probably carrots, mushrooms & onions)


dinner - leftovers from yesterday - if there's not much left, I'll transform it into a pie, with boiled potatoes & extra veg


lunch - beefburgers and chips with beans (that'll use up the end of the bag of chips and the burgers that have been taking up space in the freezer, as I'm down to the one at the top of the fridge - it all needs a bit more organisation !)

dinner - chilli con carne with rice (and extra veg added to the chilli - carrots, mushrooms, onions, peppers, maybe sweetcorn too)


dinner - leftover chilli & cheese with baked potatoes


dinner - sausage casserole (with peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes) and rice


lunch - our regular Saturday lunchtime fast food trip ! I'll leave it up to the kids again - probably McDonalds, tied in with a shopping trip. I really should start Christmas shopping !

dinner - there will probably be some leftovers to keep us going - if not, I'll make the chicken casserole and we'll have leftovers tomorrow lunchtime


lunch - chicken casserole with boiled potatoes & veg

dinner - pepperoni pizza (Pierre's choice !)

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***


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