Sunday, 2 August 2020

Things I Learned From Falling

If you read only 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 visits 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.

Monday, 27 April 2020

My Pear-Shaped Life

So what do you do when there's a lockdown and the library and the bookshops are closed and you've run out of physical books to read? You download Wheelers ePlatform and BorrowBox and read an eBook on your cellphone. 

Being used to only reading books in physical format, I knew if I was venturing into the eBook world I had to find somthing that would grab me and My Pear-Shaped Life by Irish author Carmel Harrington did just that. This being her ninth book, I now want to read some of her other titles.

This is a reasonably light read about a young Irish woman named Greta Gale who has always struggled with weight issues but also a reliance on sleeping pills. After featuring in an advertisement as a child, Greta's greatest ambition is to become an actor but her issues are starting to catch up with her. Cue a stint in rehab and then her much loved uncle surprises her with a road trip across parts of the United States of America and he's going along for the ride too. He has his own issues to resolve.

I don't want to give too much more away except to say the classic The Wizard of Oz and another woman by the name of Greta Gale feature a lot in this book.

For my first eBook I'm glad I chose this one! 

Thursday, 26 March 2020

What to do when you can't go to the library or the bookshop

The other day my older sister (also a bookworm) said I could use the lockdown to go through my book shelves and read the books I hadn't read yet.

"Surely there are books that you haven't read?" she asked
"No I've read them all," I replied.

I thought about what she said and went through my book shelves today and hey presto she was right (I won't tell her that though). I do have a number of books I either haven't read yet or I've started them and decided I wasn't in the mood to read said book at that particular time.

As of 11.59pm last night (25/03/2020) New Zealand went into lockdown for at least four weeks. Pretty much everything is closed and police are now wandering the streets ensuring people obey the lockdown rules. We are only allowed to go to the supermarket or pharmacy and vet, if you have an animal, or seek medical services if needed. You are allowed to take a short walk but that's it! Stay home! If we do we will save lives!

It got me thinking about what I can do when I can't go to my local library or bookshops and I thought I'd share a few tips here.

1. Look up your local library website. Even just reading all the content on the website could fill in a few hours but then there's all the Ebooks and Eaudiobooks available to download once you've downloaded the appropriate apps. Once you've downloaded the app and found a book you want to read or listen to, you can do so by entering the details generally on the back of your library card. If you don't know what to do, look up the contact emails for your local library on the website, and send an email asking for help. There will be someone there to answer your email!

2. Join the world's largest community of book lovers - Goodreads. Now I can spend hours on that website if only I had the time. Oh that's right I do. You can look for all the new releases coming up, you can join communities of people that like the same sorts of books as you or communities with your Facebook friends who may have different reading interests that could inspire you. You can create virtual bookshelves of your "Want to Read" books, "Read" books and "Currently Reading" books. You can take part in reading challenges and follow authors of your favourite books. I could go on and on.

3. If you're on Instagram follow some of the gazillions of virtual bookclubs. Reese's Book Club and Oprah's Book Club are two that I follow and love. 

4. Type in #bookstagram in the search area of Instagram and you will find over 40 million posts by Bookish people.

5. Join some reading groups on Facebook like "I Love Reading" or "I'm Not Obsessed, I Just To Love the Read" or "We Love Reading Books".

6. Find a book club on Facebook. I belong to one called Paper + Ink - An Unofficial Book Club which I just love.

7. Write a list of all the books you want to read after doing the above.

8. Write a review of your favourite book, take a photo of it and share it on Facebook and Instagram. Your recommendation may encourage others to read the book. 

9. And lastly tidy your own book shelves - you never know you may find some books that you haven't actually read yet!  
Happy reading folks!

Saturday, 14 March 2020

How To Be A Family

When I read the synopsis of this book it got me straight away. So what did an American journalist really think of my country and also the country which was the birthplace of my parents?

In 2016 Dan Kois, his wife and two daughters took a year out to find out what life is like in other parts of the world and if there was anything he could glean from the way people parent in other countries. They spent the first quarter of the year in New Zealand (my home), three months in the Netherlands (my parents' birthplace), and then the same amount of time in Costa Rica and Kansas - a a much quieter America to what he's used to.

The family lived mostly in long term Air BnB and the two girls went to school - well at least in NZ, the Netherlands and Kansas. I really enjoyed reading Kois' take on the New Zealand way of life. They lived in our capital city Wellington and appeared to make friends very easily and learnt some of the Maori culture before moving on to Delft in the Netherlands where things were not as easy in the friendship or the English speaking stakes but lots of biking made up for it. Costa Rica was where their girls took their holidays enjoying the sun, sand and sea and many mosquitos before arriving in Hays, Kansas where they soon felt part of its small community.
While I enjoyed this book I came away with the impression that just maybe the grass is not always greener on the other side, that parenting is hard but rewarding work and that our preconceived ideas of what a place is like may just be turned on their head.

I recommend this book for any family wanting to travel together, to anyone wanting to learn about the four places mentioned and any parent who may want to see how their job is done in other countries.

Footnote - the ornament pictured with the book was a gift from my husband's uncle and aunt who recently visited New Zealand from the Netherlands.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Dear Edward

I couldn't decide whether to buy this book. I thought it would be depressing. It is not. It's obviously sad but certainly makes you think - the sign of a good book.

Dear Edward by American author Ann Napolitano is a well-written, well thought out, and in the words of Irish author Marian Keyes, an"astonishing" book.

Twelve-year-old Edward Adler is on a flight from New York to Los Angeles with his parents and older brother when tragedy strikes. The plane crashes and all of the 191 passengers except for Edward are killed.

Imagine being the sole survivor of such a tragedy. The book tells the story of Edward and how he deals with life after the crash. He goes to live with his aunt and uncle and builds a friendship with the girl next door Shay.

The story flicks between the story told through Edward's eyes, his grief and how he deals with it in the years following the crash and then through the eyes of  some of the passengers aboard the plane in the last hours of their lives - what are they thinking about, what has led them to be on that flight and their own dreams and goals.

A part of the book I found the most fascinating was Edward's discovery, some years later, of bags full of letters written to him by family members of those who died in the crash.

In interviews Napolitano has spoken about the inspiration for this book - the crash of a commercial airliner from South Africa to London in Libya in 2010 when all on board died except for a 9-year-old boy who lost his parents and brother. So interested in this story that Napolitano spent several years writing the fictionalised tale of Dear Edward.

I found myself putting down the book a few times and staring at the wall pondering what I'd just read - a sign of a good book as any bookish person will tell you. 
Definitely five out of five stars.