Friday, 26 March 2021

The Four Winds

“Sometimes when I close my eyes I swear I can still taste the dust.”

I couldn’t decide whether to review this book. There is so much I want to say. The Four Winds is only the second book by Kristin Hannah I’ve read. I was drawn to her books after watching the Netflix TV series Firefly Lane based on her book with the same name which I have also since read. What a show but I digress…

The Four Winds is Hannah’s latest book based on the catastrophic events of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and it had me from the beginning. As soon I took it off the Holds shelf at the library I work in I was transfixed. Like, I was reading it as I went up in the lift to the third floor staffroom for my tea break.

I’m not a fast reader and will normally just read for 30 minutes and then do something else. With this book I would sit for an hour or two and just want to keep reading.

The flow of the book is easy. The characters are well developed and I liked the protagonist Elsinore (affectionately known as Elsa) Martinelli. It's 1930s America and after dealing with the rejection of her family, Elsa finds a man, a new family and home. But then their land and home is hit by the Dust Bowl and Elsa has to decide whether to leave and head for California to find a better life for her and her two children – a move made by more than three million Americans.

I don’t want to give too much more of the book away but what I like about these kinds of books is 1) the history lesson and 2) the insight you get into what life would have been like for many trying to escape the conditions of those times.

This is a sad book but there were times when I did smile - the small moments of happiness for this woman and her two children which are sprinkled throughout the story. One that comes to mind is when Elsa gives her daughter Loreda a library card for Christmas or when a hairdresser offers to cut Loreda's hair for free. Such small acts of kindness which meant so much to this family and something we can all keep in mind when thinking of others less fortunate.  

A gripping read from start to finish.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Dear Reader

I'm feeling a bit blogged out at the moment but I couldn't let this book pass me by without giving it a heap of praise.

Books about books, reading, bookshops and libraries are among my favourites and Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink is a detailed read about how books have helped her.

In it she talks about her love for books which started from a young age. She talks about the books she read as a child, some of which I have fond memories of too. I remember reading one of her favourites The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4 by Sue Townsend and being excited that there were more books to follow.

She talks about the books she read as a child which may not have been suitable for children's eyes. I  remember having Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews taken from me I think when I was 11 or 12. I'm grateful for that now because I can't believe how depressing that book is.

Cathy gives a short synopsis of each of the books she writes about and a few of the chapters cover topics like fictional diaries, orphans in books, books set in pubs, series books and books about books and booksellers. Part of the book I loved the most was reading about her experiences as a bookseller working for a few bookstores including the flagship Waterstones store in London's Piccadilly.

Cathy talks about family life and the death of her brother Matt several years after he was hit by a car. She writes about her relationship with her brother in her memoir The Last Act of Love but in this book she talks about how reading helped her cope with her brother's accident, the several years that followed when he lay in a coma before his death and then after.

This is a must read for all bookworms or any reader who loves books about books!

Friday, 6 November 2020

Nala's World


Since getting our dog Dollar nine years ago I've developed an interest in animal books and this one would be among my favourites. I really didn't want this book to end, it was so good. 

In September 2018 Scottish man Dean Nicholson headed out to cycle around the world.  On December 10 that same year he came across an abandoned and unwell kitten on the side of the road in Bosnia. He named her Nala, nursed her back to health and a beautiful friendship began. 

Nala was Dean's travelling companion. Everywhere that Dean went, Nala went too, either tucked around Dean's neck or in a special carry case in the front of his bike. Over the next year and a bit they journeyed together through various places including Montenegro, Albania, Santorini, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.

Dean posts a video on Instagram of his first meeting with Nala which was seen and picked up by the animal stories website The Dodo.  One day Dean's Instagram account had 3000 followers, the next day 150,000 followers. He now has more than 850,000 followers on Instagram and his YouTube channel has had more than 8 million views.

Dean posts his travels on social media and has used his presence on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to raise tens of thousands of dollars which he's donated to various charities including animal shelters. People who follow him on social media make special trips to wherever Dean and Nala are just to see the feline star.

I can't express how much I loved this book and while Covid-19 may have halted some of their travel plans, I hope that when they are able to travel more extensively Dean will write another book.

Five out of five stars for this fantastic read.

Footnote: For anyone wanting to follow Dean and Nala's adventures, their Instagram account is @1bike1world and Facebook page is 1bike1world.




Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Tiny Pieces of Us


Have you ever thought about being an organ donor? If there is any book promoting organ donation, then Tiny Pieces of Us is it 

Nicky Pellegrino's latest book Tiny Pieces of Us is, from what I can tell, quite different to her other books. I admit I haven't read any of the others but from what I know about Pellegrino, who lives in New Zealand but was born in Britain, she generally writes about Italy and food. Italy only plays a small part in this book.

The main character is Vivi Palmer, a journalist working in London for a tabloid called The Daily Post. She had a heart transplant and seven years later discovers her new heart came from a teenage cyclist Jamie who was hit by a car and died.

Jamie's mother Grace also chose to donate her son's liver, lungs, pancreas, corneas and undamaged kidney. After Grace and Vivi meet, Vivi uses her journalistic skills to search for the other organ recipients. Grace wants to know what the recipients have made of their lives thanks to her son. The story also takes a few unexpected turns.

There are a number of characters in the book but not so many that it becomes confusing. Part of the book I liked the most was the development of each character. I too was intrigued to know about each organ recipient and what they had made of their lives. 

A great read. Definitely four out of five stars.  


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Things I Learned From Falling

If you read only a few books this year make Things I Learned From Falling by Claire Nelson one of them. What an outstanding book.

In 2018 New Zealander Claire Nelson went on a hike on her own in California's Joshua Tree National Park. It was only meant to be a short hike - a matter of hours. She ended up spending four days and three nights in the desert after she fell down rocks and was left flat on her back with a shattered pelvis and not being able to move. I remember seeing the story on the news at the time and being amazed by it.

As well as describing what she went through during those four days in the desert and the prospect of dying alone, she also reflects on her life leading up to the hike - the loneliness she felt while based in London where she worked as a travel and food writer and the need to make changes.

Her account is raw, gripping, and is told with a lot of vulnerability. Imagine being that thirsty that you have to resort to drinking your own urine. Imagine lying in the scorching heat during the day and trying to find a way to cover yourself even if it is with a map and then freezing at night.

While most of the book is about how she coped in the desert after the fall and reflections on her life, a few chapters are devoted to her rescue and recovery and the gratitude she now has for life, friendships and family.

This may sound strange but I didn't want this book to end, such is the quality of the writing.

Six out of five stars for this amazing true story!

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Gilmore Girls Thanks For Keeping Me Sane During Lockdown

Tonight my binge watching days come to an end. It's only taken three years, a pandemic and subsequent lockdown to watch seven seasons (153 episodes) of the very popular American comedy/drama Gilmore Girls.

I never watched the show when it screened on New Zealand television. I remember it being either on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and I may have caught parts of one or two episodes. I just couldn't quite get it and couldn't handle all the chit chat between the main characters Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory. 

And then I got talking to someone I met through my previous job, who has subsequently become a good mate, and she could not stop talking about Gilmore Girls. She lent me a book - a memoir written by Lauren Graham, who plays Lorelai, and urged me to watch the show. 

So three or so years ago I promptly went out and bought all seven seasons on DVD. I watched the first three seasons and then stopped. I didn't lose interest as such but just wasn't up to watching the rest of the seasons then.

Cue late March 2020 when it was announced New Zealand would be going into lockdown due to Covid 19 and out came the rest of the seasons. Since then I've watched an episode a day, sometimes more. I nearly joined up to Netflix the other week to finish watching all the seasons when I thought our DVD player was about to breathe its last. Tonight I will watch the final episode and I feel kind of sad. However, I still have the reboot season to look forward to.
Here are the reasons why I love Gilmore Girls.

  • All of the many characters and their quirks
  • The relationship between Lorelai and her parents
  • The love interests of both Lorelai and Rory and I am firmly Team Luke.
  • The lovable and weirdness that is Kirk
  • The community that is Stars Hollow
  • The friendship between Lorelai, Sookie and Michel
  • The friendship between Rory and Lane
  • The friendship between Rory and Paris
  • The many funny lines and moments 
  • And last, but definitely not least, the chit chat and close bond between Lorelai and Rory
And just a footnote - thanks Monique Vincent for introducing me to the people of and community that is Stars Hollow.


Thursday, 11 June 2020

Away With the Penguins

Why are my eyes watering? Maybe it's dust or maybe it's this beautiful book!

This is the first book in physical format I have read since our country of New Zealand came out of strict lockdown and what a delight it was.

The main character in Hazel Prior's Away with the Penguins is Veronica McCreedy affectionately known as Granny McCreedy. She is in her 80s and lives alone. She loves wildlife documentaries and wants to do one more big thing before she dies. After reading a blog about penguins she sets in motion plans to visit Antarctica.

But this story is about so much more than a trip to Antarctica. Throw in a bunch of a scientists, an adult grandson she's only just met called Patrick, a penguin she befriends, who she also names Patrick, and Veronica's diaries of her earlier life.

The chapters alternate between Veronica and her grandson Patrick and how pieces of their respective pasts have influenced their later lives.

I don't want to give away too much more about this book but it would have to be my favourite so far for 2020. Definitely five out of five stars for this beautiful tale.