New Reads – Charlie and Lola: One Thing

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Charlie & Lola: One Thing by Lauren Child RRP$19.99

I’ve been in love with straight talking Lola since Ethan was little and am so happy that Nix loves these siblings just as much as his brother did.

Nixon turned 3 a couple of months ago and counting is his jam right now.  He’s starting to recognise that numbers are everywhere and he wants to talk about them all the time.

And by that I mean, ALL THE TIME lol.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Charlie and Lola Book‘One Thing’ is classic Charlie and Lola.  Charlie’s everlasting patience shepherds Lola through an excursion to the shops and they (and little readers) enjoy counting and discovering all kinds of numbers and sums simply everywhere along the way.

As a parent, the joy of both watching and reading about this loveable pair is that they are so relatable.  A Charlie and Lola episode or book IS real life with under-5s!  The magically inquisitive, stroppy, assertive and infinitely knowledgable Lola is somehow both of my kids simultaneously.  Lauren Child does a genius job of weaving age-appropriate maths in with a tale, and characters, that will be loved by both adult readers and little listeners alike.

Available in stores or via Ebook 11/10/16.

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Book Review – Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

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This book took me a  l o n g  time to finish, not because it isn’t good.  It’s good.  Pretty excellent actually.  I just got really caught up in doing anything but relaxing, and reading for me is my number one way to switch off, destress and relax.

So, take from that, that I’ve been feeling pretty stressed lately lol.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Rotorua Travel Blog FamilyBut, today I finished this marvellously dark crime novel, and I’m adding Robert Galbraith to my ‘Author’s to Read Again’ list (this list may or may not exist in my head but it DOES exist!).  Cormoran Strike has the strangest name of any character EVER (in my opinion) but I easily constructed a mental image of him that was deftly developed by Galbraith as the novel progressed.

There are really horrendous crimes to be solved in this book, those alone make it a morbid page-turner, but the relationships between the characters in the present day, as well as historically is what helps elevate Career of Evil above the many dime-a-dozen crime novels that are so hard to avoid these days.  Strike and his employee Robin Ellacott are being targeted by a terrifying predator that is slowly losing control and getting closer and closer to his ultimate target.

As the action ramps up, those aforementioned relationships begin to crumble, seemingly beyond repair.  There is a wicked cliffhanger ending which has done what it’s meant to in that, I can’t wait to read the next novel!

And………I’ve just discovered (from reading the press release lol) that Robert Galbraith is actually a pseudonym for J.K.  Rowling!  No surprises then that I loved the way Career of Evil was written.  I sometimes struggle with novels written by English authors because of the heavy colloquialisms and writing-in-accent that I find off-putting.   Thankfully, Galbraith / Rowling doesn’t go there at all and has penned this brilliant tale with great prose and skill without relying on a ‘voice’ to narrate it.

This is such a great, wintery novel.  The themes and characters are so dark, you just want to snuggle down with a warm blanket, a cup of tea and a roaring fire and read it cover to cover.

 

 

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

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New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Book Review GrishamAs many of you probably have, I’ve read numerous John Grisham novels over the years, always safe in the knowledge that I was almost ‘guaranteed’ a good read.  The best seller, Rogue Lawyer is no different, though the main character, Sebastian Rudd and the disjointed construct of the first third of the book took me a while to warm to.

Rudd is not typical lawyer material in any sense of the word.  His character translates as rough, unrefined, unpolished and definitely a far cry from the slick, courtroom efficienados usually portrayed in legal novels.  For me, Rudd is the point of difference in this book.  I’m not sure if I like him, but as a reader you can’t help but admire the way he handles his shit.

It’s a convoluted plot.  Initially there were so many separate scenarios that I thought Rogue Lawyer was simply a series of short accounts of Rudd’s cases and very colourful clientele.  This is not the case but sets the scene for a twisted tale of kidnapping and corruption, intertwined with Rudd’s own failings and conflicts as an estranged parent.

The crimes and criminals painted by Grisham in Rogue Lawyer are dirty, thug-level evil.  This is a novel far removed from corporate, white-collar, hands-clean crime.  It’s not pretty and I think that’s what caught me by surprise.  To be honest I’m not sure I would go back for another date with Sebastian Rudd, the writing is fundamentally Grisham, but the voice was so different in this novel that I was stretched a little.

Action?  Yes.  

Lawyering level 6/10 – the drama in this book is mostly played out outside the realms of the courtroom.

Evil villains?  So many I lost track.

Die-hard Grisham fans will be happy, Rogue Lawyer is a great read, a novel I looked forward to picking up each evening but not my favourite offering from the undisputed master of legal thrillers.

 

Book Review | Big Book of Love

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What’s not to love about the Big Book of Love by Catherine & Laurence Anholt?

This is the book every parent would love to write for their little ones.
It’s sweet, absolutely brimming with positivity and gratitude, it’s rhyming rhythm rolls easily off the tongue and the illustrations are perfectly whimsical whilst also chocka full of so much detail it’s easy to get lost discussing the pictures instead of reading!
There’s a cracking twist with a fearsome beast and friends who work together to keep each other safe.
Big Book of Love is actually the BEST bedtime story ever.  It checks all the boxes and Dave and I love reading it just as much as Nix loves to listen to it.
9/10

RRP $19.99 available from Whitcoulls and other book sellers

Book Review | Healthy, Easy Dinners for Busy Mums by Julie Bhosale

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Auckland Mum of two Julie Bhosale has been busy over the past year.

We are all busy this is true.  I’m not sure about you but I know I haven’t had my second child, finished writing my thesis, become a viral internet sensation by changing how the world views the post-partum female body and knocked out a cookbook on the side.  All in 12 months.

I’m exhausted after writing that sentence!

This week marks the launch of Julie’s book.  As a qualified nutritionist Julie’s passion for nourishing her family and others positively radiates from her various social media channels as well as from the pages of her new book.  My ‘passion’ (ha!) for cooking comes and goes in waves and inspiration is often lacking.  I find myself ‘splurging’ on celebrity cookbooks or those advocating certain fad diets or strict food regimes and flick through the aspirational pages thinking, “if I could even cook that, would anyone actually eat it?”.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Easy DinnersDo I have, can I afford the raw/organic/gluten free/dairy free ingredients, the zoodle maker, the high speed blender?  Will it taste like dirt?  Will the kids want toast after they are ‘finished’?

Yawn.  It’s already too hard.
Healthy, Easy Dinners for Busy Mums is pretty much the complete opposite of the cookbook I’ve described above.  Julie’s philosophy is eat real, whole foods and keep it simple.

Sign me up.

Probably what I love most about this book is just how totally unpretentious it is.  Julie has created two weeks of gorgeous, family fare complete with shopping lists for each week.  Add in a few of your own family favourites and double up some of the recipes and you could easily plan dinners for a month using Healthy, Easy Dinners for Busy Mums as a starting point.  

I’m a huge fan of meals I can make in the morning to help avoid congestion in the kitchen during witching hour.  I have an 11 year old with homework and after school sport and a 2yo that needs to eat smack bang in the middle of all the coming and going.  As such, I kept flicking back to the recipe for Moroccan Chicken Pie and whipped it up for the family.

Easy.  Yes.

Sneaky nutritiousness.  Yes.

Yum factor.  10/10.

I can’t wait to fortify our menu rotation with Julie’s smart, yummy recipes and plan on using Healthy, Easy Dinners for Busy Mums as a base for getting back on track with our meal planning.  

This large format, beautifully photographed book is available in hard copy for $39.99 and as an e-book for $11.99 from www.juliebhosale.co.nz If you would like to win a copy enter via the widget below.

Book Review | Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb

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New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Blog School Book ReviewWhile I was reading this novel I had no idea that it was number forty-freaking-one in a series!  The ‘In Death’ series no less.  Must be quite popular lol! (Need to read the press releases before I dive in!)

It makes a lot more sense now though, as throughout the book I was wondering why main character Eve Dallas was so curiously ‘unfamiliar’ with so many mundane, run-of-the-mill facets of daily life – this had obviously been well covered in books 1-40 in the series lol!  Guess I’ll never know.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t read book #42 in the series, I probably will, but I won’t be retracing the back catalogue to find out why the Lieutenant can’t get her head around international time zones.

Devoted in Death is a production line crime novel done well.  A fast-paced tale of spree killers on a murderous road trip, fuelled by their discovery that torture and murder does wonders for their sex-life – it doesn’t get more twisted than that!  

The contrasts and similarities between Dallas and the perps she’s hunting are interesting.  She’s rough around the edges, (much like the couple committing these heinous crimes) unrefined and obviously has a very interesting back-story herself.  Despite this, she is married to a very wealthy man and lives (quite bemusedly it seems!) in the lap of luxury.

As time runs out for the latest kidnapped victims, Dallas and her team stop at nothing, ie they work really late, to put an end to the sick tour that’s led two deranged killers to New York City.

Look guys, this isn’t an award winning novel, but, it’s a really great, easy read.  As I said, I had no idea that this was the latest in a long string of quick-turnover, best-selling money-makers – you know those kind of books right?  I thoroughly enjoyed Devoted in Death, it was everything a fast-paced, gritty crime novel should be; quick and dirty with the focus on the perps and their nasty deeds. 7/10.

 

 

 

 

Book Review | I’ll Wait, Mr Panda

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Blog School Book Review KidsNew Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Blog School Book Review KidsI’ll Wait, Mr Panda by Steve Antony 

– Ridiculously cute, minimalist illustrations including ‘on-trend’ doughnuts (I joke!) – Check

 – A lesson in good manners – Check

 – Endearing characters – Check

 – Simple, effective storytelling that both parents and kids will LOVE – Check

This gorgeous hardback was an instant hit in out house.  Nix is obsessed with the simple tale of Panda whose friends are just too impatient to wait and see what the wonderful surprise he’s baking is – except one!  

Antony is a super-talented author-illustrator who ‘gets’ the fine line that one must obviously balance to make both kids and adults laugh simultaneously as well as actually want to engage with the characters in his books.  Nixon is 2.5 and this book speaks to his level beautifully.  It’s the perfect cadence and length, he doesn’t lose interest at all and is so invested in Panda and his friends, we love reading it together!

I’ll Wait, Mr Panda by Steve Antony $29.99

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Summer Reading | Dan Carter: My Story

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Dan Carter: My Story.  Published by Upstart Press RRP $49.99

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Blog Dan Carter Book ReviewOh lord.  I finished this book 2 days ago and I’m still thinking about it.

Whether you’re a die-hard rugby fan looking for something to tide you over until the Super Rugby season begins, a sports fan in general or maybe just an interested kiwi, Dan Carter’s biography is a must-read.

Don’t expect to finish My Story and feel like you’ve got an in-depth understanding into the mind of one of New Zealand’s greatest sons.  Quite the contrary actually.  There are parts of this book that are so utterly impersonal they could be transposed into a biography of any other current All Black.  Seriously.  This doesn’t detract from the readability of the book at all, it just exemplifies the very limited glimpse Dan actually intended the public to have via such a long-awaited release.

There were major events described in the book that were touched upon so briefly I was left wanting more.  To no avail unfortunately.  The insane triumph of the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup, with all of the injuries, substitutions and against the odds, heart-swell moments measured a mere blip.  There was no mention (and I mean NO mention) of  heroes Piri and Beaver, in fact it seemed the whole final faded into oblivion once Dan and his groin were out of action.

Look, I totally get that this is Carter’s biography, not that of any other All Black, but to speak in clichés, there’s no ‘I’ in team.  The only time team dynamics are discussed is with regards to the Crusaders.  Unbelievably absent is any mention of Dan’s relationship with Ritchie McCaw.  In fact, I think our great Captain probably only warrants 7-ish cursory mentions throughout the whole book!

Surely playing alongside the most successful All Black captain of all time throughout your entire career might warrant a little exploration?  They are noted as business partners and teammates but Carter never calls him ‘friend’.  That status is conferred on few rugby players, Ma’a Nonu, Aaron Mauger and Conrad Smith I think are the few that are mentioned as such.

Weird right?  Also very thin on details is anything specific to his wife and children, this is more understandable but a more apt title of the book might have been ‘My Injuries’ as opposed to ‘My Story’.  With such a celebrated career, spanning so many insane highlights, there is definitely an ‘against the odds’ feeling to Dan’s tale which was surprising and left me feeling slightly deflated.

OK, critical book review over, My Story is still a must-read.  I loved it.  I’m a huge rugby/All Blacks fan so an inside look into how high performance rugby in NZ actually works was too good to go past and resulted in a book I was reluctant to put down.

Duncan Grieve has done a fantastic job, the structure is brilliant with chapters alternating between a chronological narrative and transcriptions of interviews recorded throughout Carter’s last year as an All Black.  Beautifully planned and executed.

 

Gold Fame Citrus

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The tittle of this book intrigued me until around half-way through when it’s meaning was revealed.

After living in California myself for 3+ years I have plenty of reasons of my own to explain the seemingly-gravitational pull that many Americans feel towards California and the south west in general, however, the socio-economic explanation of the phenomenon posits the reasons as ‘gold, fame and citrus’.

In her novel by the same name, Claire Vaye Watkins paints an extreme version of all that is characteristic of the land of excess, albeit in a semi post-apocalyptic state after years and years of drought and an ever-encroaching and dynamic desert that spares nothing in its wake.

The west is near uninhabitable.

The natural (yet unrecognisable) landscape is well crafted as one of the major characters in this amazing novel, accompanied by a small cast of lost souls who find, and ruin each other with nothing more than unsubstantiated threats, control via the creation of an idyll against all odds and the human need to want and be wanted.

The beauty of these characterisations is that nothing beyond the shifting sand is ever substantiated.  No bureaucracy or ruling power is ever revealed, threats, though exquisitely described by Levi, the charismatic leader of the Mojaves, do not materialise over the course of the novel and the relationships between the characters run their natural course.  One that is beautifully scripted from the early pages.

Luz, Ray and baby Ig leave a comfortable hold-out, forced eastwards by a growing paranoia and into the belly of the Dune Sea.  Searching for the America of old, or at the very least – water – they are saved only by the remnants of a society that ends up destroying them all, relying on the symbolism of one figure to evoke change, that is ironically nothing more than a throw-back to Luz’s past.  An eerie circular narrative that doesn’t fully play out until the final pages of the book.

Such a gripping, gritty read.  I loved Gold Fame Citrus.  Not a crime, romance, comedic novel; Watkins beautifully lifts the scabs of the human condition and pokes at our ability to manipulate and control one another with nothing more than our words and actions.

10/10.

Book Review | The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

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I hadn’t read a quality, eerie thriller in a while and was surprised to find one on my hands with Lupton’s third novel.

Set in Alaska, The Quality of Silence unfolds in a manner perfectly matched to the landscape in which it is set.  A small cast of characters, an environmental conflict, murder, solitude, an ice road and an invisible threat moving ever closer :::::shiver!:::::

Top Mummy Blog new Zealand Top BloggerYasmin heads to Alaska in an attempt to reconcile with her husband, a wildlife videographer who is filming on location.  Travelling with their deaf daughter Ruby, upon her arrival in Alaska, Yasmin discovers that authorities presume her husband Matt to have perished in a catastrophic fire that decimated an entire village.

Convinced her husband is alive, Yasmin and Ruby begin the journey north, into the centre of a snow storm and into the desolate silence of the arctic circle.

So, there are a couple of farfetched premises that I had to ‘get over’ so I could get on with enjoying this book, because I really did enjoy it.  The first being that a mother would take a child on a mission so desperate that she would hitch a ride into the unknown, potentially most lethal natural environment in the world……….with a truck driver.  Moving on, I then had to accept that when she had to, Yasmin was totally able to drive a massive truck carrying a small building, across the lethal ice roads in Alaska.  This was a tough one as I’ve watched many episodes of Ice Road Truckers, and these shows have led me to believe that it’s a pretty dodgy exercise – even if you KNOW what you’re doing!

Aside from these niggly issues, The Quality of Silence quickly became a book that I couldn’t put down. The fear of being pursued through no-mans land is translated scarily well by Lupton plus the terror of having your child with you through it all adds layer upon layer of fear.

This is a great read, and though set in the snow lol, definitely one to add to your Christmas wish list for lazy summer days!