Friday, December 12, 2014

On My Nightstand - Nov/Dec

So, two weeks and seven books to go.  I'm doubtful.  In other news, my review lengths shrink as we approach end-of-year, so this will be brief - don't all get too excited.

'Cinder' - Marissa Meyer


Oooh, this book was fun!  I wasn't entirely sold by the premise, but the reviews were glowing, and I just can't go past an Angela recommendation.  'Cinder' was such a refreshing book!  It had all the necessary elements for a great YA read: intrigue, baddies, evil plotting, genuinely likeable characters, romance, cool setting.  #fistpump.

Meyer's writing is smooth and natural.  Nothing feels forced, and it's fun waiting for pieces of the original Cinderella to fall into place.  YA escapism at it's best.

'Scarlet' - Marissa Meyer


Even more fun than 'Cinder'!  I like both leads, and was glad that Cinder co-starred in this one.  The new characters were fully fleshed and definitely added some fun.  And also, yaaaaaay for spaceships!  I mean... /keep cool, Stell/... whatevs.  Spaceships.

'We Were Liars' - E. Lockhart


Okay, I have to admit that I had some strong reservations as I entered this one.  I immediately didn't love the narrative style and voice, and found the time jumps jarring.  I wanted to know some more stuff about the characters before diving in to the main event, especially as I'd already landed on what the twist was.

I persevered and I'm glad.  The story became much more textured and complex, and the piecing together of events was satisfying.  By the end I felt convinced by the delivery of the story.

'The One' - Kiera Cass


Nope.

BUT: Some (unintentionally - or intentionally?  Not sure) hilarious scenes that made it all worth it.  I think.

'Okay For Now' - Gary D. Schmidt


Sob.  Sob sob.  If you've read 'Boy 21' and loved it, this book is for you!  Actually, this book is for anyone.   This book is so, so good.  I teared up plenty - really, really cared about/rooted for these characters, and found a gaping hole in my life when the last page was turned.

33/40

YA novels
Forest Born - Shannon Hale
Cinder - Marissa Meyer (read)
Scarlet - Marissa Meyer (read)
Cress - Marissa Meyer (reading)
If I Stay - Gayle Forman (read)
The Fault In Our Stars - John Green (read)
The Jewel - Amy Ewing (read)
The Selection - Kiera Cass (read)
The Elite - Kiera Cass (read)
The One - Kiera Cass (read)
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (read)
Boy 21 - Matthew Quick (read)
Love Letters To The Dead - Ava Dellaira (read)
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart (read)
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Okay For Now - Gary D. Schmidt

Contemporary/Adult lit
The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer (DNF)
Rules of Civility - Amor Towles
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn (read)
One More Thing - BJ Novak (reading)
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

NZ fiction
(Middle Grade) The Volume of Possible Endings - Barbara Else (read)
Spark - Rachael Craw (read)

Non-Fiction
Is It Just Me? - Miranda Hart (read)
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Big Little Hooded Vest


A few months ago, Lisa from Big Little Blog worked out a barter deal - and this is what arrived our end.  The cutest little wee vest!  It suits our golden-haired boy to a T.  I've been meaning to take some photos of it, and finally made it happened this weekend.  


He seems so lanky these days.  Long legs and scruffy hair.  I think I can see the teenage boy he will become, though the sun-blonde will be long gone by then.


And this one - so FIVE!  Super five.  The five-est.

Go and check out the Big Little etsy shop if you love this cute hooded vest as much as I do.  The PDF pattern available for purchase, along with a selection of other delicious patterns.

Friday, November 21, 2014

On My Nightstand - November

'Boy21'- Matthew Quick


Oh.  My heart, it is broke.  'Boy21' was all sorts of unexpected.  After reading 'Silver Linings',  I did expect to find the twisting together of brutal and honest and vulnerable, with the faintest fragile glimmer of hope - all of which were present.  I didn't expect Finley or Boy21 or Erin, each of whom carved a place in my heart.  I now must read each and every Matthew Quick novel immediately.  Between this and 'Silver Linings', I just... I have to.  

Maybe two thirds through the book there's a pretty hefty change of tack which a) explains much of what is unexplained at the start and b) veers away from what the novel has spent some time setting up.  I was unprepared, but I got it, and I'm okay with it, mostly - I just thought I better warn anyone planning to read this.  I urge YA fans to try this one out, I really found it beautiful.

There's much more I could say, but brevity is my mantra for book reviews.  I'll just very quickly add that the Harry Potter references were so very welcome.  

'The Elite' - Kiera Cass


I'm afraid to say I liked this much less than 'The Selection', to the point of forcing myself through it so that I could move on to my next read.  I actually started (and finished) 'Boy21' part way through because my brain needed a break.  Or the opposite.  There's really not much to say... There's really not much that happened, story-wise.  In fact, I would venture to say that nothing happened.  Nothing that changed the course of the story anyway.  The big question (who will she choose?  Well, we already know - and plus, does anyone really care?) that centres the plot, is supposed to carry us from start to finish.  But it's done badly.  So badly.  And becomes the major negative.  Annoyingly, I will probably read the final book before the end of the year, because I can't not read the third in a trilogy.

'Gone Girl' - Gillian Flynn


I reaaaaally enjoyed reading this, from start to finish.  I spotted the big 'twist' a mile off (you will too),   but that was okay, because the chapter that succeeded the twist was great!  Super satisfying.

Buuuuuut, after I woke from this bookdreamnightmare, I felt like my brain needed to be washed out with soap.  Hanging out with a bunch of truly toxic characters for that amount of time was hard-out, I definitely needed to find some likeable literary characters immediately afterward (thank you, Cinder!).  There were various foul descriptions of women, these repulsed me (and I really didn't feel like Flynn was doing anything to counteract these statements - you know?  If anything, I felt like she was confirming their truth, which is - despicable).  One in particular almost convinced me to stop reading, it was so offensive.  And well the ending... just... nope.

So why did I enjoy it?  Well, the twists and turns!  It never stops!  It's a hurtling train!  Gillian Flynn's writing is so confident, you feel like you're in safe hands as you frantically try to find an escape route for her characters.  It's compulsive reading, and Flynn is always a step ahead (although in saying this, there are some instances where convenience seems to guide some of her choices).  So I don't know if I loved it or hated it.  Have you read it?  How do you feel about it?

28/40 - Just a few more books to go - can I make it??  Read more reviews here.

YA novels
Forest Born - Shannon Hale
Cinder - Marissa Meyer (reading)
If I Stay - Gayle Forman (read)
The Fault In Our Stars - John Green (read)
The Jewel - Amy Ewing (read)
The Selection - Kiera Cass (read)
The Elite - Kiera Cass (read)
The One - Kiera Cass
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (read)
Boy 21 - Matthew Quick (read)
Love Letters To The Dead - Ava Dellaira (read)
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart (reading)
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Okay For Now - Gary D. Schmidt

Contemporary/Adult lit
The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer (DNF)
Rules of Civility - Amor Towles
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn (read)
One More Thing - BJ Novak (reading)
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

NZ fiction
(Middle Grade) The Volume of Possible Endings - Barbara Else (read)
Spark - Rachael Craw (read)

Non-Fiction
Is It Just Me? - Miranda Hart (read)
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

'Line Up, Please!' - Tomoko Ohmura

"Standing in line can be dull, but not when you mix tigers and frogs, sheep and skunks.  But what could be worth waiting for...?" - Gecko Press blurb.


Get ready for the cuuuuuutest kiddo book!!!  Winning points: sweet illustrations, a counting/identifying game, animals (lots of), humour, A FUN SURPRISE!!!  So.  Everything, then.  Seriously, the surprise is waaaay cute!  And also cute, is watching out for favourite animal characters in the pages subsequent to the surprise.

If your babies are anything like mine, they are probably obsessed with animals and the identification of.  This is just the kind of book for animal lovers - as you can see the (deliciously illustrated) animals are identified by name along the bottom of the page, so once you've finished reading the story, you can go back for a second round, ticking off the animals you know, and adding to your collection.  The characterisations are fun too!  Just fun, and sweet, all round.  I think you should check this one out, stat.


'Line Up, Please!'  by Tomoko Ohmura is available through Gecko Press, who kindly sent us a copy of the book to review.  They are offering free Christmas shipping, so check 'em out!

Friday, November 14, 2014

F I V E


Some belated pics from her birthday.  It included a magical mystery tour, which, due to rain, ended up as a visit to the closest restaurant where we ordered ridic expensive ice-cream sundaes (we BYOd some pebbles).


Celebrating five years of Eleanor was pretty special.  Five years with this fun/fierce/songful girl.  Five years as parents.  I still haven't quite gotten my head around it...


And for the big school question?  It's still a bit of a 'watch this space', but we are buying some extra time by waiting until after the holidays.  She's at home for now, and we are counting our blessings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On My Nightstand - Oct + Gecko Press review

Hmm.  There's no way I'm gonna make my goal, but whatevs.  I'm sure the internets will survive, and I know I will.  Anyway, these are my latest reads...

The Volume of Possible Endings (A Tale of Fontania) - Barbara Else


It was fun to slip into some middle grade fiction for a little while.  There are some refreshing differences between MG and YA (and Adult for that matter), my favourite of which was the POV.  Third person, after sooooo many first person narratives!  I know it's a little (and possibly quite geeky) thing to get excited about but yanno.

The Volume of Possible Endings was a fun, fast-paced adventure with some truly quirky characters.  12-year-old Dorrity is courageous and quick-thinking, and must uncover all the secrets from her past in order to rescue Fontania from an evil Count.  There is a real Steam Punk vibe to the story, a quaint setting, and many little adventures, each playing their part in the slow build towards the climax.  There was one aspect of the resolution that I was a little sad about, but as this stand-alone belongs to a bigger series about Fontania, I'm kinda hoping that this thread-line will be picked up in the next (assuming there is a next - I hope so).  I would recommend this to any MG reader, and it would make a fun read-aloud too!  Very magical :-)

Love Letters to the Dead - Ava Dellaira


Laurel writes letters to dead celebs, describing her journey through Freshman Year in high school (friends, boys, parties, ), and gradually unravelling the truth about her sister's possible suicide.

There was a lot that I loved about this novel.  The writing is fresh, and the concept is fun (especially the references to celebs I idolised in my youth :-)).  Some of the phrasing was really beautiful, with some very poignant moments as Laurel worked through her grief.  The pacing worked for me, slower to begin with, gradually picking up momentum as I read.  There were gentle nudges towards the truth throughout, which did mean I figured out the backstory early on, but this didn't make the gradual uncovering of truth any less effective.

Laurel's voice was very young compared to other YA novels I've read recently, and especially considering some of the life events that have shaped her thus far.  This, unfortunately, was distracting.  To me, she sounded like a 12-13 year old (I think she was 15) which made for some uncomfortable reading in certain scenes.  Actually, there were a lot of uncomfortable scenes.  Too many for me.  There's a real sinister edge the entire way through, and while I often read (and enjoy) sad/tragic/dark novels, this one just felt a bit icky.  There were lots of creeps.  And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Overall I liked it, but I wouldn't recommend it to teenagers younger than 16-17.  I'm putting this one in the 'hmmmmm' pile.

The Selection - Kiera Cass


I knew what to expect; a light romance set in a dystopian world.  Sounded fun, and I was prepared for the bad bits.  I liked: The setting - I'm a closet (not anymore!) fan of The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and love a good dystopian, so this was a perfect marriage!  Plus, castles and glitter and pretty dresses.  I'm a magpie, basically.  I quite liked most of the main characters - Maxon in particular.  He's a tad boring, but still likeable.  The pace worked, and I was hooked from beginning to end - I love a fast read!

Didn't like: The protagonist.  I didn't actively dislike her for the most part, with the exception of some especially annoying sequences in which she proved her worthiness as a 'woman of the people.'  Excerpt:

       "America, you're so nice.  All those people at the airport loved you."  
       "Oh, I was just being friendly.  You met people, too," I countered.  
       "Yeah, but not half as many as you."  
        I lowered my head, a little embarrassed for being complimented over something that seemed so obvious.

*gag*.  Unfortunately these moments of 'humility' were scattered the entire way through.  That and an extreme emphasis on physical beauty.  Conversely, being 'curvaceous' appeared to translate as 'unattractive', which made me grind my teeth just a little.

Well anyway I'm hooked now, and even though I already know exactly what is going to happen the entire way through (the mechanics are glaring), I will see this through to the very bitter end.


The list:
YA novels
Forest Born - Shannon Hale
Cinder - Marissa Meyer
If I Stay - Gayle Forman (read)
The Fault In Our Stars - John Green (read)
The Jewel - Amy Ewing (read)
The Selection - Kiera Cass (read)
The Elite - Kiera Cass (reading)
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (read)
Boy 21 - Matthew Quick (reading)
Love Letters To The Dead - Ava Dellaira

Contemporary/Adult lit
The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer (DNF)
Rules of Civility - Amor Towles

NZ fiction
(Middle Grade) The Volume of Possible Endings - Barbara Else (read)
Spark - Rachael Craw (read)

Classics

Non-Fiction
Is It Just Me? - Miranda Hart (read)
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai


Thank you to Gecko Press for providing a review copy of The Volume of Possible Endings :-) Tres grateful.

Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal

I have been planning and stashing and list-making in overdrive.  Guys, Christmas is coming!  I've also been thinking a little bit about the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal, and providing Christmas gifts for precious little people who may not receive any this year.  I know, it's not all about the presents, but I'll be honest, finding gifts for the peeps I love is one of my favourite pre-summer activities, and if mine are receiving them, I wanna help ensure that underprivileged kiddos do too.

If you would like to donate this year, Kmart stores around the country will be collecting gifts for the Salvation Army to distribute (to approximately 45,000 homes this year, with our help).  Donated gifts do not need to be from Kmart, and for the super skilled amongst us, you could donate handmade! *smiley face*.  Alternatively, if you don't live near a Kmart store you can purchase an e-card which will then be converted into Kmart gifts.

And for a bit of Christmassy fun, some printables (via Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal) for your kids.  Advent activity anyone?





And for full disclosure, I was contacted in regards to the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal but this is not a sponsored post (not money or products were transferred).  I was more than happy to help spread the word :-)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mermaid Party


I feel like our summer/party season has officially opened up now, kicking off with this mermaid party.   I'm glad I have an extra day off this weekend, because I actually cannot believe how tired I was afterwards...


Even though I've been working on this party for quite a while, things were kept pretty simple on the actual day.  We had a picnic-y afternoon tea, and then the kiddos headed into a 'mermaid grotto' to listen to a story read by a *real* mermaid.  Bubbles, mermaid dolls, etc.  It was fun.


Afterwards they played in the caves and the rocks.  Like I said, simple.  Which was fortunate because I had a splitting headache and the sun was beaming down.  Simple was just perfect.


I decorated the grotto with bubbles, seaweed and jewels -  using clear christmas baubles found on ebay, strips of leftover mermaid fabric, and a roll of beaded string (also ebay).  Nothing complicated, but it definitely added a little magic.  I also played 'A Little Mermaid' tracks on my phone, and a friend handled a bubble maker for added atmosphere...  


Nope, I didn't make that awesome mermaid tail that Melody (perfect name, right?) is wearing.  I did make a doll size one though (below).  Don't mind the freaky black doll eyes.  She's not really going to eat your brains (maybe).  If you're wondering where the other mermaid tails are - my kids lasted all of about five minutes in them, before they were stripping off...  Erm... Well they have halloween costumes now, I guess.


As usual we used Pop Roc Parties as our source for party supplies, and were sent a couple of extra little goodies - so lovely!  We went with colourful/mismatched, ordering these cute polka dot plates, some polka dot cups, and these stripy gold ones.  I also purchased a couple of these mason jar glasses while I was at it, soooo purdy!  Pop Roc Parties supplied these adorable Toot Sweet napkins, along with some Toot Sweet cake flags which turned out to be a godsend.  I kinda ran out of ideas the night before, and settled on a simple cake (we did a pink pinata thing, but it looked pretty plain from the outside).  The toppers totally saved the day and we ended up with a very sweet looking cake, yuss!


The party wasn't without it's mishaps and plan-gone-wrongs.  Probably a little higher stress than I would have preferred but overall - successful.  Many of my food choices were collected from Pinterest - no point reinventing the wheel for this one.  The (whoops, green) jellies didn't set in time, but were devoured during the clean up afterwards, so, all = not lost.


I'm secretly planning a much more low-key party for Garland ('cat' theme, oh yeah!), we'll hold that one at home which is always much easier.  But '5' just felt like it needed some extra celebrating...

For more Mermaid stuff:

Party favours here and here.
Mermaid tails here.

Disclaimer:  While this is not a sponsored post - Pop Roc Parties did send two of the party items for me to use at my discretion.  :-)