Book Club 2020: Adults, Emma Jane Unsworth

I’m not sure there could be a more perfect, ultimately modern-day novel than Adults.

I’ve worked in social media for well over a decade, and what Unsworth has done by bringing Instagram out of the closet and into the light as the ultimate narcissist starter-kit is both clever and, quite uncomfortable, if only because it’s so very familiar and recognisable.

It’s all here – I recognise and acknowledge Jenny’s mid-30’s angst and entitlement, the increasing volume of her biological clock, the association between self-worth and social media success – whatever that looks like?!

What I think resonated most was the complete fallacy between Jenny’s obsessive online presence and the shit-show that was going down IRL (in real life fyi lol). Fertility, break-ups, Mum issues, professional confidence ft job loss, that violent transition between ‘I’ve got nothing else to do so let’s get fucked up, and, I’m over 35 and get quite tired if I’m out after 10.30pm……’

God it was painful.

Not the book! I mean, that stage of life. Although to be perfectly honest I had 2 kids by 35, but, it was painful watching others navigate those hungover waters.

I Loved Adults. Fastest book I have read this year, I could disappear into it easily and with pleasure but it’s also one of those rare gems you can put down and come back to with ease. Which helps when your digital ADD kicks in and you are picking up your phone every 1.5 minutes! j/k.

Kinda.

Available now, published by HarperCollins Publishers New Zealand.

Book Club 2020: Shakti, Rajorshi Chakraborti

Shakti Novel by Rajorshi Chakraborti

Oh my lord, where to start with this one.

It took me ages to finish, and I really wanted to finish this book sooner rather than later.

Shakti, by the author’s own admission, is a weird book. Its rambling narrative covers merely days but stretches on for e v e r . And ever.

Here’s what I enjoyed about this book;

  • India! I wish more local flavour had been included in the storyline.
  • The modern, feminist heroine Jaya. Her internal monologues are humorous, insightful and provide (rare) historical context into her current situation.
  • The ending! The final, very dramatic introduction of even more characters (there are SO many in this novel which I think is one of its downfalls) is as black and white as it gets throughout the story. And it works. The book finishes well, albeit taking a long time to get there.
  • The politics. Again, I wish there had been a little more time spent on this aspect of Indian life, fleshing out the motives and means of those in charge would have added more depth to the mystical powers bestowed upon selected women.

I felt like I was lost the entire time I was reading Shakti. Not entirely unenjoyable but definitely confounding, fast-paced and I wasn’t sure if half of what I was reading was relevant as it seemed to disappear from the storyline as soon as I turned a page.

In short (from the publicist), if ‘psychic warfare, nefarious deities, right-wing regimes, internecine attacks and the vicissitudes of life in a hectic city’ are your jam, then give Shakti a whirl. Chakraborti is a great writer and I’m keen to read more from this Indian-born novelist who now lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Published by Penguin Random House, February 2020

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Book Club 2020: Grown Ups – Marian Keyes

I’d only read one other Marian Keyes novel before turning page 1 of Grown Ups, so in the interest of ‘research’ and ‘diligence’ lol, I headed over to her website www.mariankeyes.com. Turns out lady has written MANY books! Which makes me excited as I adored both her brand new novel (Grown Ups in New Zealand stores February 4th, 2020) and The Woman Who Stole My Life.

I was lucky enough to preview Grown Ups over the Christmas/New Year period and what a perfect novel to savour over those hazy, blurry weeks where you’re not too sure what day it is or if Scorched Almonds are considered a complete meal (surely they are?). Also, this book is l o n g. Over 600 pages long to be exact, which makes packing one book to take away so easy! Though, fair warning, it’s a hard one to put down.

Grown Ups is one of those rare reads which successfully combines slice-of-life scenarios with (many) delicious, funny, narcissistic characters. Keyes does this in a way that creates a super familiar narrative whilst still bringing that ‘train-wreck’ fascination that compels you to keep reading.

This is a very charismatic book about ‘those’ people that appear to have it all; money in spades, woke-up-like-this looks, the requisite tight-knit family, and then, what happens when you scratch a little below the surface and just can’t seem to stop the bleeding.

Fab, engrossing read that doesn’t stretch the brain too much.

Published by Penguin Random House 2019.

Book Club 2020: Kingdomtide – Rye Curtis

I’m just going to say it – Kingdomtide is easily the best book I’ve read in the past 12 months.

The synopsis on its own grabbed me on a purely superficial level; plane crash, sole elderly survivor, remote wilderness, female park ranger, a man wanted by the FBI thought to be in the area……..totally sounds like my kind of book.

That was before I fell in love with the one person who walked away from the crash – the incredible Cloris Waldrip. The resolute conviction of Cloris as a woman who knows her own mind, is steadfast in her decision making and seemingly indefatigable in the face of tragedy and hardship is inspiring. The dichotomy created by Curtis between Cloris and Ranger Lewis is stunning. Both female leads are entirely unapologetic about their actions in the past, and the decisions they make daily as they try to independantly, survive in the Montana mountains.

Full of quirky characters that endear you to the human condition and how totally messed up we all are, Kingdomtide is stunning. The minutiae of Cloris’ day to day struggle to make it out of the wilderness is facinating and perfectly contrasted with the ambivalence Ranger Lewis seems to have for anything except merlot.

This is a FIRST NOVEL and it’s insanely good. A book to read, share and then eagerly await whatever comes next from Rye Curtis.

Available in stores now from Whitcoulls, Mighty Ape and other good book sellers.

Kid’s Books: A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies by Kate Hursthouse

New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Book reviewThere are some books where everything comes together in a gorgeous package that you just want to hold and touch and look at before you’ve even turned the first page.  A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies and other such collective nouns by New Zealand artist Kate Hursthouse is definitively, one stunning book.

Nixon, our 4-year-old is obsessed with Kate’s first, beautiful book.  This is no one-time read guys.  We sit on the couch and pour over each page, counting creatures and soaking up the riot of colour and fun that is each of the 25 animal groupings.

And then we go back and read it again lol.

A simple literary concept has resulted in a delightful marriage of art and language.  Discovering the collective nouns for animals and insects is as enjoyable for me the adult reader as it is for Nixon.  A tangle of octopuses!  A conspiracy of lemurs?!  It’s all freaking gorgeous and a fun read.

Beautifully bound and presented, A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies is a book to keep, pass on and enjoy again and again.

A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies and other such collective nouns by Kate Hursthouse, RRP $30 Available online from Kate’s website here.

New Zealand's Top Travel Lifestyle Blog Book review

Book Review: The Second Child by Caroline Bond

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Book Review The Second Child

I read The Second Child a couple of months ago over summer and deliberately waited until I had finished work for 2017 before I picked it up as I had an inkling that I’d loathe to put it down once I began reading.  

And I was right.

This complex tale of two families is told by switching point of view between four family members, a technique that can annoy and confuse readers in a fast-moving tale, but that’s not the case here.  The Second Child describes an unimaginable discovery that could shake everything two teenage girls hold dear to them, but, in an exquisitely slow, familiar way that almost leaves you feeling like the whole novel is playing out in your kitchen.

The (almost mundane) intricacies of family life are at the core of this debut novel, and I think those are what endeared me to this tale almost immediately.  Sarah and Anne, both mothers, must navigate their families being thrust together out of circumstance (and a mean plot twist!) and decide how both their own futures and those of their daughters will take shape.

There are so many great discussion points introduced by Bond in this novel; how we define what it means to be ‘family’, our unwavering trust in the institutions that serve our first world society, the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, the far-reaching effects of the pursuit of perfection, particularly when using your family as the vehicle for this, and most notably, the discussion around organic human imperfections, particularly when they manifest as life-long disabilities.

The Second Child is an excellent read, a perfect Book Club addition as it’s characters are all so relatable yet full of the simmering, deep-seated emotions that are always present in any family.

I will be looking forward to future novels from Caroline Bond as I thouroughly enjoyed The Second Child.

 

Parenting – Bright Ideas for Young Minds

A couple of weeks ago I attended an event that was a little bit different from those I normally go to each week.  It wasn’t a cosmetic/foodie/makeup event, it wasn’t a glamorous, heels and frock, dress-to-the-nines occasion (thank god!).  It was a book launch.  A beautiful thought-provoking, inspiring book launch that gave me all the feels and left me with an innate desire to be a better mother.

Cripes that’s pretty heavy!

Bright Ideas for Young Minds is a book that screams for your attention as soon as you lay eyes on it.  It’s big, robust and beautifully designed, printed and bound, with fun and exciting content to match.  But what is it?  It’s an activity book brought to life by New Zealand’s largest early learning provider, BestStart and written by kiwi educators with contributions from Plunket, Heart Foundation NZ and Jumping Beans.

In short, it’s amazing.

As well as providing parents and caregivers with a resource chocka-block full of 70 step-by-step activities that cost little or nothing, what Bright Ideas for Young Minds does so well (for me at least!) is remind me how easy it is to bring great joy to my kids.  Showing love through mindful, yet incredibly simple play is the very best education every child deserves.  The great part is, creating positive interactions such as those included in the book, are play options accessible to every New Zealand caregiver.  Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration, a gentle reminder that the currency most cherished by children is our time.

Bright Ideas for Young Minds (Mary Egan Publishers $39.95) is an amazing resource for anyone caring for kiwi kids age 0-6 years and is available now from all leading bookstores.

Win a copy of Bright Ideas for Young Minds!

Tell me how you’d benefit from this beautiful book, or, who you’d gift it to in the comments below.  I’ll draw the winner drawn 11/12/17, NZ residents only.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi Kids Bright Ideas for Young Minds

Book Reviews: My Bali Book List

Three days before we head back to New Zealand and I’ve timed my reading perfectly!  I’m on my final book of three that I packed and I’ve loved them all.

To be honest, I probably haven’t spent as much time on a lounger reading as I would have liked, I totally should have left my laptop at home ergo, I should NOT have worked for two weeks!  But who can do that when they’re a girlboss?

Not me. 

The Roanoke Girls – Amy EngelNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review The Roanoake Girls

Published by Hachette New Zealand.  14 March 2017 RRP $37.77 / EBK RRP $19.99

The Roanoke Girls is a bonafide, can’t put down page turner.  As the novel unfolds, it flips between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ narratives, gradually unravelling the secrets and lies lived by The Roanoke family.

Two cousins, Lane and Allegra, become inseparable over the summer after Lane’s mother commits suicide and she moves to rural Kansas to live with her cousin and maternal grandparents.

City-girl Lane’s initial concerns are around adjusting to the quiet routine of small-town life.  The challenges she faces, however, are much closer to home and much more sinister.  

Engel’s poignant characterization of polar-opposites Lane and Allegra sets the scene for Roanoake history to repeat itself and yet another tragedy to unfold.

Loved it.  Awesome, compelling read.

The Perfect Girl – Gilly MacMillanNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review The Perfect Girl

Published by Hachette New Zealand.  25th October 2016 RRP $27.99

There’s a bit of a girl theme going on here isn’t there lol.  MacMillan brings an eerie calmness and slightly detached sense of reality to her anti-heroine Zoe in The Perfect Girl.

The initial hook with which the reader is caught subtly becomes a secondary story-line as we meet the new players in Zoe’s ‘Second Chance Life’.

Everyone in The Perfect Girl is wound tight like a spring and the tension all becomes too much during Zoe’s first public performance since The Accident.  Zoe is a prodigal piano player and the irony of her immense talent, the very thing that defines her as a young girl, is that it kick starts a chain of events that leads to the death of her mother the same night as her return performance.

The Perfect Girl delves deep into the complexities of self, of family and the unravelling of both.  Zoe finds an ally in her step-brother Lucas and a reason to fight for her family in order to protect her little sister Grace.  How she does so is the ultimate finale.

An epic read, spanning a couple of days in the life of a young teen plagued by tragedy.  Edgy and gritty with a mean twist.  Loved it.

Woman in the Wilderness – Miriam LancewoodNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review Woman in the Wilderness

Published by Allen & Unwin New Zealand.  April 2017 

I deliberately left this book until last on my holiday reading list as I wasn’t sure if it was for me.  Two weeks on and I’m relaxed enough to really appreciate a non-fiction account of two nutters (I affectionately call them that lol), who went bush in the New Zealand wilderness.

Miriam is a dutch native who met her partner Peter whilst travelling in India.  Their story is one of a road less travelled, without the material encumbrances (trappings?) of modern life in the privileged west.

Miriam’s writing is honest but not harsh.  In fact, the whimsy of it can take a while to get used to.  Once I settled into the prose, I began to get quite attached to the ‘characters’ in Miriam’s life and to Miriam herself.  Peter’s liberated world view and philosophy seem at once magnetic and infinitely wise, as if you could spend a lifetime of days with him and always learn something new.

Mouse’s story and relationship with Miriam is one that I eagerly waited for updates on.  He is so relatable to me and particularly reminds me of the kiwi blokes I now call friends in my late 30’s.  It is easy to understand what must have been a great attraction to Miriam; she’s exotic, foreign but with all the makings of a stand-up kiwi girl but she has partnered with a man 30 years her senior.

A complex situation indeed!

Miriam’s story is fascinating, as is her drive and intense lust for knowledge and harmony with the world.  I think this is something more and more of us are searching for as minimalism trends are becoming ever popular both in New Zealand and around the world.  Her travels and life adventures with Peter around beautiful New Zealand are both incredible feats of endurance and tenacity as well as wonderfully inspiring.  In fact, I’ve got a summer holiday plan for our family brewing as a result of reading Woman in the Wilderness!

An excellent foray away from fiction.  A refreshing change and an eye-opening account of a different side of my own country.  Great reading.

Noteworthy:

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review Sally Anderson

The Co-Creative Age – The Next Evolutionary Phase In Leadership, Sally AndersonNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Travelblog book Review Sally Anderson

Purchase at via amazon, links below, RRP $39.95 NZD

Hard copy version

Kindle version 
A New Zealand woman who showed incredible determination to find a way to heal herself after one of the most dehumanising experiences, has written a book for leaders outlining her insights into the human psyche and how to advance it.  

Co-creative is a term Sally coined and refers to tapping into the ‘unknown, and from her personal experience she believes it is a missing link in most of the teachings of business leaders today.

“Most leadership training is linear, because everything in the ‘unknown’ is collapsed into religion, and that’s too political, personal and complex to fit into the business world.  And spiritual has negative connotations.  So the question is, how do you evolve a leader without talking about faith?  My book addresses this and I’m adamant the leaders of today must be as comfortable with the known as the unknown to lead people and companies through this disruptive age,” she says.

Book Review – Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes

Published 27/2/17, Random House NZ RRP $35, EBook also available.

I read a lot of books and 99.999% of them are not about me (surprise!) or my life or anything remotely resembling my life.  They serve as the distraction needed at the end of the day, the vehicle with which to escape and be transported far, far away, to meet strangers in foreign lands and solve mysteries, eat exotic foods join the mafia etc.  The books I read generally do exactly what a good book should do – provide escapism and a method in which to calm and quiet my frantic mind.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids Emily Writes Rants in the Dark ReviewRants in the Dark does the complete opposite.

Rants in the Dark is the ONE book that is about me, it is about my life.  When Nix woke us at 4.30am this morning I rolled over and saw it on my nightstand and half-smiled at the irony of seeing it there, the words inside like a fist-pump emoji sent via Instagram from one mum to another – ‘you’ve got this, you know how to wake up at 4.30am, you know there are 2 Nespresso capsules left and you can have them BOTH because Dave is awesome like that.  You know it’s Little Kindy day tomorrow so you’ll have 4 hours in the morning to gather yourself and work and not-tidy the house ’cause what’s the point?’

Ahhh.  This book is my people.

Rants in the Dark will find audiences among mothers, obviously, but I think there is a great read in here for anyone who themselves HAS a Mum, or knows a Mum, or is married to a Mum.  Emily gives us short, snappy, witty vignettes that don’t bog you down with the oft-mundane minutiae that is #MumLife, rather, these details are woven into beautiful accounts of how, at the end of the day (or in the early hours of the morning!) we can still love it all, and be ready to repeat these days over and over again.  

For 18 years or so.

Buy it, read it, love it, lend it.  

Rants in the Dark is a modern-mothers voice in a snappy navy cover.  Emily’s my literary hero and it was incredibly awesome to meet her on Monday at her launch event.  Bravo you beautiful woman, Rants in the Dark is everything I hoped it would be and more.

Win your own copy of Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes

I have three copies to give away, one here on the blog – to enter just leave me a comment below.

And;

One on Facebook, enter here

One on Instagram, enter here

I’ll draw the winners on Sunday 5/5/17.  NZ residents only.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Kids Emily Writes Rants in the Dark Review

 

 

Summer Reading List

The past 3 weeks have felt long and luxurious.  Work has slowed after a manic end to 2016 and I’ve been rediscovering (and prioritising the things that make me happy; my family, my health, my home, travel and……..reading.

I’m on my 6th book since December 19th and I’ve no plans to slow down!  I’ve read a sweeping variety of novels covering a historical murder, transitional teen/adult coming of age, a legal thriller, an angsty misunderstood artist, the Italian mafia and some travel research for an upcoming family adventure.  Saaaahhhh good!

Here are the books I’ve been devouring this summer;

Summer Reads 2017

The Whistler, John Grisham
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Reading List Book review The Whistler john GrishamI’ve been reading John Grisham for as long as I can remember and was totally pumped to dive into his latest novel, The Whistler.  The beginning of the novel is complicated by anonymous characters and secrets you won’t understand until the very end of the book.  Which is all good, you warm to it and become massively invested in the characters Grisham does introduce you to.  The plot twist here which turns this whole magnificent legal thriller on its head, is that the main character, young judicial investigator Lacy Stoltz, isn’t investigating a reported ‘crime’ as such, rather, allegations of a corrupt judge potentially enmeshed in years of criminal activity.

The crimes follow.  As a does a complicated web of intrigue that kept me speed reading.

Great book, perfect for downtime over summer.

Breathing Under Water, Sophie HardcastleNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Reading List Book review Breathing Under Water Sophie Hardcastle

This is a beautiful, completely relatable and contemporary account of that treacherous time between the end of high school and one’s first tentative steps into the world as an adult.  A ‘perfect’ family living in an idyllic, close-knit community celebrate the joy of their twin’s imminent graduations.

Unfortunately, life’s never more than a couple of cm’s away from tragedy and when it hits the Walker family, young Grace is left positively floundering.

I loved this novel, seriously.  Hardcastle has successfully navigated what could potentially have been a very cliche subject with beautiful sentiment and prose creating unforgettable imagery that I’m still reminiscing about almost 2 weeks later!

It says on the cover that if you love John Green you’ll love Breathing Under Water and I entirely agree.

Coffin Road, Peter May

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Reading List Book review Coffin Road Peter May

Seriously, is there anything better than reading a new author, LOVING the book and discovering that there is a pretty massive back-catalogue to get stuck into as WELL as a new novel coming out?  That’s how I feel about Peter May, my new thriller BFF.

Coffin Road is mental.  I loved this book.  It’s got spooky remote Scottish locations, historical mystery combined with sudden suicides, murder and amnesia!  Plus, bees and multinational corporations!  

Whew.  Despite all of that the pace of this book is just perfect, totally uncrowded if that makes sense?  A man (the main character) emerges washed up on a beach with no recollection of who he is or how he almost died.  Say whaaatttt?  Cray cray.  Gradually he puts the pieces together, only to have them fragment even further when a body is discovered, a murder he potentially committed.

I may have power read this novel.  It’s a winner for sure.

The Butcher’s Hook, Janet EllisNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Reading List Book review The Butcher's Hook Janet Ellis

Well, this book is pretty much the polar opposite of Coffin Road, so let’s see which one you think sounds better – I loved them both.

It was another quick read for me, a very compelling story line here.  I never read historical fiction so this was a wee leap of faith and it totally paid off.  Jumping out of my usual fiction genre was so rewarding I’m going to do it more often in 2017!

The Butcher’s Hook is set in London, 1763.  We meet Anne and watch her character develop, on some levels, throughout the first third of the novel.  She is brave, she is over the patriarchal society in which she finds herself, her Dad sucks as does the major creep she’s been ‘promised’ to.

But what about that hawt young thing at the butcher’s shop?  Hmmm.  Major twists involved guys, you will be so surprised!

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, Anna North

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Reading List Book review The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

There’s a little rule in life you may not be aware of; if Lena Dunham says something is awesome or ‘Unforgettable’ then it probably is.

I had no expectation surrounding this book, I don’t believe I even read the blurb on the back.  TLDSS is a snapshot of someone we can all imagine; gifted (beyond measure) in non-conventional ways, Sophie is a beautifully destructive force whose magnetic pull is impossible to escape.  A film-maker unlike any other, if unable to understand Sophie’s work, audiences could still respect it.  

North traverses Sophie’s life through the perspective of those who loved her and were destined to hurt through her.

It’s poignant and beautiful and an outstanding depiction of one of those people whom we can’t bear not to love.

Currently Reading:

No Mortal Thing, Gerald Seymour – Italian mafia goodness.  Just started, not entirely hooked yet.

Fodor’s Vietnam – Planning……….!!!!

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Reading List Book review No Mortal Thing