Book review | Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

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Oh this book.

This beautiful, amazing, I-missed-it-when-I-was-done book.

As you can see, I took Circling the Sun to Rarotonga on our holiday and it was the perfect vay-cay read.  I haven’t read The Paris Wife but it’s been on my to-read list forever and has definitely jumped a few places up the list after finishing McLain’s latest offering.

Another true story, Circling the Sun takes us deep into Kenya and into the unforgettable life of Beryl Markham.  The daughter of colonial Brits, Beryl took to life in Kenya with an open heart and mind – despite the closed attitudes that permeated every aspect of life in the 1920’s.  

The characterisation of Beryl paints a flamboyant image of someone I’d love to be friends with.  Passion, drive, ambition in spades and with an unwavering belief in herself, Beryl enjoyed massive success as a horse trainer – the first female to do so – but was unable to find lasting love that she could truly call her own.  Society despaired of her seeming inability to ‘settle’ down and ‘behave’, to find a man she was willing to devote as much energy to as she did her career.  Failed marriages and ‘inappropriate’ relationships, often tragic, were her legacy but she never failed to be true to herself.

You can feel Kenya and the angst of this tumultuous time as you make your way through this stunning book.  I fell in love with Beryl, as I’m sure everyone did who met her.  As she learnt to fly – the bravest undertaking of her life after she lost her lover in a plane crash, it became clear that there are some women, for whom the world holds no boundaries.  How intoxicating would that be?  But also very lonely I imagine.  

Circling The Sun is a phenomenal memoir of the time and of a women of extraordinary character.  It’s hard to finish a book like this and not take a slightly critical gaze over one’s life and wonder how much more could we/should we be doing to really fulfil our true potential? 

I’m rating this one a must read, perfect summer holiday book 10/10.

 

Book Review | How Many Legs? by Kes Gray and Jim Field

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Get the Gift-Mas list out grown-ups!  This book would be a gorgeous addition to any little library.

How Many Legs? stole my heart as soon as I saw the cover, I LOVE bright and bold illustrations and this picture book is jam-packed full of them!

This is one book that will move through various ages and stages with your kids.  Nixon at 2 is enamoured with it because of the funny rhyming, hilarious animal characters and engaging pictures.  Older children will remain engrossed as they attempt to keep up with the maths – trying to remember exactly how many legs are present at any given time is not as easy as it sounds!

Gray and Field, both wildly successful authors and illustrators have nailed the ‘kid brief’ with How Many Legs?  To be honest, Nixon can obsess all he wants over a book, but if it’s not enjoyable to read, then I will do my damndest to wriggle out of it every time.  Books that appeal to both adults and kids are a sure fire way to keep everyone in the house reading and this is definitely one where I do NOT find myself wishing away the pages.  

Kids loving books is such a massive blessing and makes my heart all kinds of happy so I always allocate some birthday and Christmas funds to adding a few new gems to the boys collections.  Do you guys do this too?  Hopefully this will become a tradition that carries on to their own families one day :::::::sobs:::::::

How Many Legs by Kes Gray and Jim Field RRP $19.99

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The Rugby Pantry – A Recipe Book for Every Kiwi Kitchen

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Dave and I both LOVE to cook, but if I’m honest, there are very few cookbooks I pick up that garner an immediate, enthusiastic response from me.  Often they incorporate ingredients which are simply out of the realm of my standard grocery list – which isn’t a deal-breaker, it just means an extra trip to the store to prepare a single recipe. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

The Rugby Pantry by Daisy Dagg and Amber Vito is firmly rooted in the collective NZ kitchen, and that is why I love this recipe book.  I could have picked any of a number of dishes to test as the majority include ingredients that are amongst our family staples.  Bravo ladies, this is exactly what I need as inspiration for family dinner on a Wednesday night when time is short and so is my culinary creative genius lol.

The mythical All Blacks (whom are positively adored by every member of our household!) seem to, in general, have wives and partners that shy away from the limelight.  I think that’s part of my initial attraction to The Rugby Pantry; catching a wee glimpse of two obviously fab women who love and support two of our national heroes, is perfection in print.  It helps that Daisy and Amber’s passion for food shines through on every page.  Each recipe is accompanied by luscious images of REAL food, often inspired by, and apparently always enjoyed by their husbands, Israel Dagg and Victor Vito. 

The recipes comprise a perfect balance of well balanced meals, snacks and sometimes-treats – which is of course what I gravitated towards when deciding to try Amber Vito’s Dark Chocolate Nutella Tart.  It did help that I had a huge personalized jar of Nutella delivered last week but hey-ho!
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Result?  Simple, delicious and sophisticated.  Because I’m quite sure anything ‘tart’ is sophisticated right?  I actually don’t own a tart pan as I’m half westie, so I made do with a slice pan and used some cookie cutters to crimp the pastry edges.  Worked like a charm.  I followed one of the serving suggestions and we devoured this deliciousness with sliced bananas, roasted hazelnuts and a light dusting of icing sugar.  

Heaven I tell you.

There are so many other recipes I’ve got lined up, ready to inject some variety into the midweek dinner and lunchbox grind.  This week I’m adding Izzy’s Pre-Game Teriyaki Chicken on Rice to our menu, Crispy Prawn Tacos plus a batch of Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing for the lunch boxes.

The Rugby Pantry: Healthy Measures & Guilty Pleasures is definitely a recipe book for the modern New Zealand family.  The distinct lack of pretentiousness sees the girls include welcomed shortcuts – such as the store-bought short-crust pastry I used in the Nutella Tart.

This beautiful book is available now, RRP $44.99, plus, I have one copy to give away!  To enter just head over to The Best Nest on FB and follow the instructions on the competition image (closes Thurs 17/9 @ 10pm).

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Book Review | The Father by Anton Svensson

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* Perfect Christmas gift, very much a ‘Dad/husband’ book.

This is a big book.  A very, very engrossing book.
The Father by Anton Svensson is a chilling novel that goes into excruciating detail when describing a family history so violent that there is no escape from it.
Three brothers who grew up fending for themselves against not only their peers but also their own father, mature into young men who know only violence as a means to getting what they want.  Based on the incredible true story of Sweden’s most notorious bank robbers, the author melds fiction to his own reality – The Military Gang, so-called by the Swedish media, were his own brothers and father.
This unfathomable reality has served to create a stunning, albeit brutal novel.  The immense detail in the planning of the many robberies is offset by the stark emotional blankness of the eldest brother, and ringleader, Leo, who struggles to maintain even one personal relationship independent from those he shares with his brothers Felix and Vincent.
The indifference with which the three brothers and one of their childhood friends committed the many robberies made for a slow start to the book for me.  It took me a while to get invested but The Father soon became more than difficult to put down. 

The authors- there are actually two – weave the historical background of the family seamlessly into the narrative which ends in a climax seemingly destined for the big screen.
This is a freaking awesome book, I loved it.  It’s firmly a thriller with all of the elements of a classical tragedy at play.
Highly recommended.
Published by Hachette New Zealand, August 2015 $34.99 RRP

Bear Grylls | Ghost Flight, Father’s Day Gift Idea!

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I’m a HUGE Bear Grylls fan.  Dave and I went through a serious Man Vs Wild faze and when we actually got to use his scree running technique while completing the Tongariro Crossing (and it worked!) we became fans for life.

Ethan loves the Bear Grylls junior novels so I was really looking forward to getting stuck into the first offering in his new adult adventure series.  I’m probably not exactly the target demographic but I figure there’s no hard and fast rules when it comes to adventure thrillers!

No mucking around, this book is awesome.  I believe it’s ‘co-written’ by Damien Lewis, to what extent who knows but the tone and voice is undeniably that of Bear Grylls.  This book reads exactly as Grylls talks on tv, adding some authenticity to the fast moving and globe-spanning plot.  Our hero and main character is Will Jaeger, who is basically Bear Grylls doing some freelancing under a pseudonym.  He’s got some baggage (and a wife and son who’ve been missing for a couple of years!) but he soldiers on and leads an international team deep into the Amazon for a page turning adventure.

The premise is a cracker and the twists and turns keep coming until the very last page.  The revelation of a covert Nazi enemy is probably the most successful and gripping element in this introduction to Jaeger and his team of soldiers-for-hire.

Ghost Flight covers a lot of ground and does seem to skip over a few details fairly quickly but the action is engaging and believable. I found this a surprisingly engrossing read and can’t wait for the second book in the series.
If Dad enjoys Bear Grylls and/or the action adventure genre then this book is an addition to the Father’s Day haul that is sure to please.

Ghost Flight by Bear Grylls RRP $34.99 EBook RRP $19.99

Mad About Mega Beasts! Giles Andreae & David Wojitowycz

I LOVE picture books and I love it when my kids love books.  In our house that means rhyming and animals.

The latest offering from Giles Andreae, author of Giraffes Can’t Dance, is a gorgeously illustrated romp introducing nature’s most MEGA animals.  There’s a dino, a tiger, a penguin and a bear to name just a few.  This is a beautiful large format paperback, just perfect for little chubba hands to grip and lots of eye candy and hidden fun to spot in each illustration.

Each rhyming vignette includes a fact (which I love!) and still manages to keep things sharp and snappy, holding Nixon’s interest for the duration.  

………actually for the duration of both books, as Mad About Mega Beasts follows the 2011 release, Mad About Mini Beasts and we have to read these consecutively.  It’s the rules.

I’m a fan, these are both books I look forward to reading  – over, and over again, every day.

Available from 28th July RRP $19.99

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Killing Monica – Candace Bushnell

Published by Hachette New Zealand, 23 June 2015 $34.99 / EB $19.99 RRP

Though I’ve seen the movies and was seduced by the Sex and the City HBO series, I haven’t read Bushnell’s debut novel – the book which launched a thousand ships so to speak.  Diving in to her latest novel, Killing Monica was somewhat of an unknown quantity for me, written in the Chick-lit genre in which I don’t normally dabble.

It wasn’t until I finished the book that I began to draw parallels between the plot and Bushnell’s own life.  The more I think about it, the more incomprehensible it seems that there is no autobiographical element at play here.

We meet P.J. Wallis (Pandy), successful Chick-Lit author and creator of Monica, a larger than life socialite and heroine of an uber-popular series of books.  As the franchise grows and an actress is cast to play Monica, life and art become enmeshed in a series of events spanning pop culture, celebrity worship, fame and the gritty details of a marriage failed.  

The parallels between Bushnell, her inveterate character Carrie and the indomitable Sarah Jessica Parker are too obvious right?  

This is a great beach bag read.  Failing that (I realise it’s winter!), Killing Monica is an easy weekend read.  The first 2/3 are highly entertaining.  Bushnell is a writer who can easily traverse the trivial nature of the privileged life her characters lead with witty and engaging prose.  I was fully invested in Pandy and Monica, enjoying what I’m sure is a fairly robust representation of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

But the novel concludes with an explosion, a fake death and numerous, ludicrous public disturbances and mob interventions.  I tuned out honestly.  It felt like the author completely lost interest, woke up half drunk from the night before and said ‘eff it, let’s just get this sucker finished…..in 5 minutes ’cause I’m over it’.

It’s definitely an entertaining read and a glimpse into the bedrooms of New York City’s social circuit, but I’m not sure that I really needed to go there, again.



Book Review | You Can’t Give Vodka to a Baby

Look, I’m a mummy blogger.  I guess some of you think that means I must know what I’m doing with my kids but the truth is, I’m just cool with admitting publicly that I have no freaking idea!  The best medicine for any attack of parenting guilt, doubts, anxiety and general malaise is laughter.  And vodka, preferably taken together.

You Can’t Give Vodka to a Baby – Y.C.G.V.T.A.B – by Dr Oliver Green BSA {Bull Shit Artist – he studied at the same school as Dr Dre!} is straight up hilarious.  People talk about a novel, saying they just couldn’t put it down, this book is much the same.  It will have you procrastinating and neglecting your chores and children as you read/laugh/cry through ‘just one more page’.  It’s recommended as the perfect parenting companion for any new parent…….or any parent that feels that they made some horrific mistakes raising previous kids, and now they need a do-over.

Choc full of advice, Y.C.G.V.T.A.B is designed to help you through the tough times as a parent but also help you make some tough decisions, such as Are you ready to be a mother?  Crucial step in the parenting journey and easily answered by completing a simple quiz.  Questions such as “Do you already own enough shoes?”, “Is spare cash a problem that you’d like to find a remedy for?” and “Do you like wiping things?” will help set your mind at ease about getting knocked up or at least trying to.

A section that particularly spoke to me, and perhaps many of you too, deals with the topic of how not to start a baby blog.    If this information had been readily available eight years ago when I began blogging here at The Best Nest, well, I wouldn’t even be reviewing this book would I!  I would have saved countless hours of writing and agonizing over posts read by my Mum and Nana, I would probably have a Real Job and my kids would undoubtedly be geniuses from all of the extra attention I would have lavished them with.  What a shame.

You Can’t Give Vodka to a Baby is a fabulously penned poke at the “Baby Industry”, written to give parents new and old a reminder that raising kids isn’t as complicated as the corporatised advice and information industry around babies would have us believe.  A must have addition to any stack of unread parenting books on your bedside table and a great baby shower gift.

Published by Upstart Press – May 4th, 2015 RRP $24.99

If you would like to win a copy for you or someone in need of some sage parenting advice, head over to Facebook and find the competition post.  Closes Sunday 17th May 10pm.

Munch: Seasonal Cookbook for Baby & Family + Giveaway!

Munch Review and Giveaway Mummy Blog NZI’m so pleased to have joined Munch Cooking this year as one of their Munch Mums!   Look out for my reviews and giveaways each month as I introduce you to some awesome {and pretty innovative} products from The Munch Cupboard.

A cookbook for kids is quite a hard sell for me.  Kids grow so quickly and move through the varying infant nutrition phases with such speed {in hindsight lol} that investing in a book based around baby purees just doesn’t work for me.  That’s the point of difference which sets the Munch: Seasonal Cookbook for Baby & Family apart from the rest.  Author Anna Bordignon has successfully combined the meal requirements of the whole family to produce a comprehensive compendium of fab meal ideas that everyone will love.

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Our family menu is based around classic, nourishing meals.  There is no soaking cashews or avoidance based diets in my kitchen; we like hearty, sustaining meals that are as healthful as possible.  Every recipe in Munch ticks these boxes for me.  Wendyl Nissen sums this up perfectly in the foreword, noting that this is a ‘return to a more simple way of thinking about food.  Eating in season, eating fresh and eating for nutrition as well as taste.  Just like our Nanas used to”.  I love this philosophy!

Recipes are organised based upon seasonal availability which is an awesome way to meal-plan and ensure that your family’s food miles are minimised, you are making the most of seasonal savings on produce and you are receiving the maxed out nutritional and taste benefits that accompany eating in-season fruit and veges.

I wanted to ensure my big boy was totally rested and fuelled up for the first day of school on Monday, so Sunday was spent relaxing at home and unwinding, .  Dave and I enjoyed a few hours in the kitchen baking lunchbox snacks, but a yummy Sunday lunch was definitely required!  Honestly I could have picked any of a multitude of recipes from Munch because they all consist of pantry staples that I pretty much always have on hand.  This is another huge plus when you are perusing a recipe book right?

I settled on the Busytown Pizzas as I knew both the boys would love them.  Omg.  Kumara based dough!!!  Pure genius.  We all agreed these were so delicious and we’re throwing out our traditional pizza dough recipe for good.  I made mini pizzas and froze some extras for quick after school snacks for Ethan or dinners for Nix.

If you would like the chance to win a copy of Munch: Seasonal Cookbook for Baby and Family RRP $28 enter via the widget below, or if you just can’t wait you can buy your own copy here.

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Book Review | The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

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Finishing a book, or even starting or reading a page of one is a rare luxury these days but one I DO enjoy, so I will plod on  s l o w l y lol.

This is a book I really wanted to finish sooner, I never wanted to put it down at the end of the night when my eyelids got too heavy.  It is a beautiful book dealing with one of the most grotesque abominations of human history; slavery.

Written in two parallel but decidedly unequal voices, The Invention of Wings introduces Sarah Grimke, from a wealthy, white, slave-owning family in Charleston SC and the slave she was given as a ‘gift’ on her tenth birthday, Hetty known as “Handful”.

I was naively unaware whilst I was reading, that although a work of fiction, The Invention of Wings is based on historical facts. The Grimke sisters Angelina and Sarah were hugely influential abolitionists and early feminist authors and Hetty was indeed a slave owned by the Grimke family.

One of Monk Kidd’s successes with this novel is surely the disparate nature of the two main characters and the dance between them as they both grow into strong, admirable women.  Each of the main female voices is archetypical of her inherited place in the society of the day, but neither Sarah nor Handful is willing to settle into the life ordained for her by her birth.

This is a novel that doesn’t shy away from the horror of life lived as a slave but it also bows to the beauty of human relationships that can altogether save a tortured soul.  I loved every page of The Invention of Wings and will be looking to read more by Sue Monk Kidd.