November isn’t normally one of my favourite months, but it’s been a watershed one for us this year as we started a new chapter as a family of four.
Since our second daughter’s arrival three weeks ago, there’s been a whirlwind of visits from family, neighbours, midwives and health visitors, quiet nights spent feeding and cuddling our new baby, with trips to shops, cafes, the library, playdates and all our toddler’s usual activites filling the daylight hours, and we’re gradually trying to find a rhythm that suits everyone. Though another child brings new challenges, going from none to one was much harder than the transition from one to two, and we’re finding our way much quicker the second time around.
It’s been a much bigger adjustment for our firstborn who at 2 years 9 months has gone from only to oldest; she’s needed a bit more reassurance and attention at times but has generally been curious about her little sister, showing her caring side by helping to change and bath the baby when she wants to get involved, and I hope they’ll become playmates and friends once the littlest one is mobile and verbal.
In contrast, our cat Mara surprised us by taking another baby in her stride. Mara seemed to be in shock when we brought the first baby home but has already given the newest addition a few tentative sniffs and then carried on with her own well-established routines.
Around the middle of the month, temperatures finally dipped into single figures and I’ve noticed Christmas decorations appearing in shops, garden centres and even a few homes over the last couple of weeks. Life with two small children is fast-paced, so many moments seem to be flashing past before I can catch them but glad to have found time to gather my thoughts here before autumn fades into winter. Have a lovely week. X
My most eagerly anticipated book of 2022 was the third and final part of Naomi Novik’s Scholomance trilogy. Set immediately after the events of The Last Graduate (reviewed here) , El is safely back in Wales with her mum having escaped the Scholomance graduation but still reeling from Orion’s choice at the end of the previous book. The Golden Enclaves really picks up when El is invited to help save wizarding Enclaves around the world and eventually finds herself caught in between New York and Beijing – the two most powerful Enclaves in the world – as they prepare to go to war with each other.
While the first two books were set almost entirely in the Scholomance, this one really opens up the wizarding world, giving readers deeper insight into the politics and practicalities of the Enclaves.
The Golden Enclaves answers most of the questions I had from the previous books as it’s full of revelations about El and Orion, the Wizard eating Mawmouths, how the Scholomance and wizarding Enclaves were created, and El finally starts to fulfil the prophecy that her great grandmother made that El would bring death and destruction to every enclave in the world – though not in any way I could’ve predicted.
The whole trilogy very much questions what people are willing to sacrifice and justify for their own comfort and safety, there’s no central villain as such but lots of people using their power and influence to make life better for themselves and their children at the expense of others, and El is such an unlikely hero because she’s such a misanthrope and cynic who shows consistently that doing the right thing is a choice to be made over and over again even if nobody ever knows or thanks you for it.
Without giving anything away, The Golden Enclaves had a happier ending than I expected, but still a bittersweet conclusion as El has to give up her dream in order to fulfil her purpose, which is totally in keeping with her character development as someone who refuses to sacrifice others to save herself and someone who weighs the cost of every choice and action. Ultimately, this is a dark and poignant but amusing and surprisingly heartwarming YA fantasy story about family, friendship, love, sacrifice, purpose and the choices that define us.
My last post was actually written from a hospital bed while waiting to be induced after my due date had come and gone. Back at home now, I’m tapping out a quick post to share the news that our second daughter arrived safe and well on a sunny November morning last week.
I’m lucky that I’ve had two easy, healthy pregnancies, and two fairly positive birth experiences as well – though it’s only in hindsight that I realise how difficult my first labour was as I arrived at hospital fully dilated but my daughter’s heartbeat started dropping and ended up having a forceps delivery to get her out. I’d been desperate to avoid being induced for my second child’s birth because I’d heard so many horror stories but my own experience turned out to be uncomplicated and relatively quick, albeit intense and painful at the time, and I’m so grateful to the midwives who encouraged and guided me throughout, and helped safely deliver our youngest daughter.
I’d hoped to be discharged the same day but was kept in overnight to check my haemoglobin levels and I was so glad to get home to hand the newborn over to my husband for an hour or so (he’s very hands-on and has always been willing to do his share of bedtimes, night wakings and early mornings) to catch up on some sleep.
We’re now settled in at home and getting to know the smallest and youngest member of our little clan. At the moment, she’s all wrinkles and folds, silky soft hair, button nose, dark blue eyes, squeaks, snuffles, hiccups and sneezes. The last week has been a mix of long nights up with the newborn, busy days entertaining our toddler and visits from family and friends, but it’s been a lovely way to start this new chapter of family life.
Sharing my October reads a little late but it was another good month for reading with a mix of fiction and non-fiction.
Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown
I’ve been a fan of Brene Brown for a while but found this a bit different from her previous books, though it still covers similar themes such as shame, vulnerability, authenticity and courage, but reads like a dictionary of emotions and how to navigate them. Atlas of the Heart is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, packed full of Brene Brown’s humour, wisdom and personal anecdotes.
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
I read and loved Beartown back in January (reviewed here), but have been psyching myself up to read the second part of the trilogy as they are such gripping but tense and emotional stories of small town life that often remind me why I was so eager to escape to a city. Barely recovered from the events of Beartown, the little town suffers another scandal around their ice hockey team that leads to another tragedy. While the first book took aim at rape culture and how far the local community would go to protect their star player, the second focuses on homophobia in sports and is just as absorbing. I’m no sports fan, but I was completely drawn in to this story of marriage and families, friendships and rivalries, team and community.
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
My husband recommended Martin Seligman to me, and this was one of those books that overlaps different spheres of my life from work to parenting and personal development too, though this definitely falls into psychology rather than self-help. The focus of the book is about the link between learned helplessness, pessimism and depression, and Seligman argues that if these are learned behaviours, then optimism can be learned too. Seligman also makes a strong argument for developing an optimistic mindset given that research suggests it leads to living longer, healthier and happier lives. This book has some profound research on how we talk about events, setbacks and disappointments with kids for parents and teachers. Some of the research may seem a bit dated (a lot is from the 70s) but still relevant, and the book is obviously written from an American perspective with whole chapters on sports psychology, military recruitment and predicting presidential elections that aren’t necessarily relevant to other cultures or nationalities. The final third of the book focuses on developing thought-challenging techniques to combat pessimism, and understanding the link between thoughts, feelings and behaviour, that will probably be familiar to anyone that practices or has had CBT.
The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
My most eagerly anticipated book of 2022 was the conclusion to the Scholomance Trilogy, and I’m still trying to put all my thoughts and feelings into words about it so will give this one a full length post. Despite a slow start The Golden Enclaves is full of revelations and kept me hooked until the last page trying to work out how it would resolve itself as El finds herself saving the Enclaves she was prophesied to destroy and caught between two of the most powerful Enclaves as they prepare for war against each other. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy and The Golden Enclaves provides a very satisfying conclusion.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
My husband bought this when it first came out but gave up on it halfway through, I picked it up recently and was gripped from the start. I enjoy a cosy crime murder mystery and found this one that has four aging, amateur sleuths trying to solve a local murder kept me guessing to the very end as it’s full of clues that didn’t quite fit together with plenty of misdirection and red herrings, and the ending was clever but a bit abrupt. I loved the mischievous and determined main characters who remind us that life doesn’t end in retirement, from the relatable and lovable Joyce to the rogue-ish ex trade union leader Ron, the still sharp as a scalpel psychiatrist Ibrahim, and mysterious ex-intelligence Elizabeth who is nothing short of a force of nature. The Thursday Murder Club was an unexpected delight, and I’ve asked Santa to put the second book in my Christmas stocking.