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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Book Review -Full Measures by Rebecca Yarros

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“War was such a spiteful bitch; she took everything we loved and handed us back a folded flag in return, telling us the honor of their sacrifice was a just and equal payment. It wasn’t.”

I’ll start off by saying I don’t usually cry while reading books. I have tear ducts made of steel but WOW, this book was emotional. It was a tearjerker from the very first chapter. 

Three knocks at the door can change everything…

When Ember Howard hears the 3 knocks at the door she knows what’s coming, she knows her life is about to change in ways she can never, ever imagine. She tries so hard to be strong and hold her family together. She tries so freakin hard to survive in unimaginable tragedy.

“They shook our hands. They leaned down to hug us. They were sorry for our loss. They couldn’t fathom our grief. They wanted to know what they could do. I said thank you so many times that it no longer sounded like a word. Selfishly, I just wanted them to stop touching me.”

Josh Walker is the local hockey star and Embers teenage crush. He wants so badly to hold together Embers pieces and save her from completely falling apart. From the first time they meet again he feels like he NEEDS to help her and take care of her –

“’Do you need me?’ he asked softly,”

Josh and Ember are perfect for each other and seem to be exactly what each other need amongst all the grief. However Josh is keeping a secret that could shatter their world.

First off, I want to say that I adored Josh. He. Is. Amazing. He’s exactly what Ember needs him to be without being pushy or alpha male douchey (a rare quality in NA novels!). He’s a strong, reassuring and constant presence in her life, which she desperately needs. Josh is seriously one of the best and I wish he would jump out of the book so I could run off into the sunset with him. I love him and Ember together. It’s nice to read about such a functional couple. I know some readers found them to be quite angsty but I really didn’t feel much of that from them. I loved Ember for not holding him back. For deciding that the relationship was beyond her emotional capabilities at that time, and instead of having a tantrum and demanding her give up his dreams for her, she walked away. It was truly selfless of her.

This book reminds you that the cost of war is extremely high. Knowing your loved one is out there and not knowing whether they are safe or even if they will be coming home is a heavy cross to bear. I have a huge amount of admiration for those serving and their families and even more so after reading this story. I can’t even imagine what they go through on a daily basis but this book really gave us some insight into what it’s like.

While this book was a little clichéd times (virgins – Ugh! I’m over them), I didn’t find it to be a typical NA story. The emotion behind this story really takes it to the next level. It’s a beautiful story of grief, despair, passion and hope.  It was a solid debut novel by Rebecca Yarros and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of her books in the future.

“There’s nothing better than us.”

Book Review – Too Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins

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I was looking for a nice, light, chick-lit to read for the weekend and a twitter follower had actually recommended this to us a couple of weeks back. It sounded cute so I went for it! And cuuuute it was.

Grace Emerson is a sweetheart. She’s loving, loyal, and she absolutely ADORES her younger sister, Natalie. When Natalie starts dating Graces ex, Grace makes up a fake boyfriend (as you do, right?) to spare Natalie’s guilty feelings and stop the pity parties people seem to love throwing for her.  All is going well with Graces perfect (imaginary) fake Boyfriend…until her family starts asking to meet him. Queue the shenanigans!  In the midst of all this, Grace decides that perhaps she IS ready to get back on the dating horse and sets out to find the perfect man. Enter hot neighbour! Hellooooo Callahan O’Shea. Of course, the path to true love never runs smoothly and Grace and Callahan are in for a bumpy ride.

First of all let me just say that I LOVE stories that have sisters in them. I have 4 sisters myself (no brothers) so I understand the sisterly bond. These sisters were so funny and Margaret (the oldest) was my personal favourite. She made me giggle more than once!  

“Are you looking for a good sharp instrument so you can hack away at your wrists? Thinking about sucking a little carbon monoxide?”

“Aw listen to you, you big softy. Your sisterly concern brings tears to my eyes.”

I also have experience with a “creative” mother so this definitely made me chuckle. I know the feeling of running around the house before a visiting quickly displaying all the “gifts” she has given, all too well. Except in my family, my mother likes to call them family heirlooms.  Good times. I think everyone can relate to the dreaded “unwanted gift” dilemma!

Grace is an absolute pushover, without a doubt. She’s a people pleaser and sometimes you just want her to yell or something. To just tell everyone to F-CK OFF! You want her to stand up for herself and admit how she really feels. It’s frustrating but it’s a necessary part of the story and the frustration is eased by the end of the story.  Her character really grows and develops and she finally displays a back bone that you might have wondered about her possessing at the start of the book.

This was a light and entertaining read. It’s perfect for relaxing with a cup of tea and some chocolate on a quiet weekend. The writing was clear,easy and fun to read and the supporting characters were fantastic! I’m glad I decided to give this one a go – it was worth it.

Sunday Loves – 30.03.2014

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So I totally love food. Just as much as reading. My BBH conveniently, is also a mega food lover (We are food soul mates as well as book soul mates)…in fact, I would go as far to say that a lot of what we plan to do revolves itself around food opportunities. We have quite the knack of blending our food love with general life, if I do say so myself. And everything else aside, we really do need to fuel our reading brains….

So anyway, back to the task at hand, it’s Sunday, I’ve had a frantic week. Far too much running around and not enough reading, relaxing and eating. I’ve decided to remedy that tonight and thought I would share my deliciousness with you, so you too can enjoy such things one Sunday soon. It’s not the fanciest dessert you’ll ever create but it’s easy, fast and delicious, which are 3 big fat ticks in my house! Oh yes, you’re very welcome!!!

 

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Butterscotch Self Saucing Pudding

Total Deliciousness...

Total Deliciousness…

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Ingredients:

¾ Cups self-raising flour

100g (4oz) butter, melted

1 egg

½ cup milk

4 tablespoons golden syrup

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 ½ cups boiling water

Cream, ice cream, custard or natural yoghurt to serve

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 180c (350f). Grease a 6 cup ovenproof dish.

Combine ¼ cup of the brown sugar and all of the flour in a bowl. Add the melted butter, egg, milk and 2 tablespoons of the golden syrup and stir until combined. Spoon into greased dish.

Combine the remaining ½ cup of brown sugar and cornflour. Sprinkle over the pudding mixture.

Combine the boiling water with the remaining 2 tablespoons of golden syrup. Pour over the top of the pudding mixture (carefully – I use the back of a spoon to break the stream of water) and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Serve with cream, ice cream, custard or natural yoghurt, a comfy couch and a good book!

 

Wednesday Anything – Outlander Series: Yes or No?

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As BBH mentioned on Sunday Loves, we each have a day where we are going to post about what ever takes our fancy. My day was meant to be Friday but I have decided to go with Wednesday instead. Something to break up the monotony of the work week. If your work week is Monday to Friday. So this week I wanted to talk about/get your opinions on the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon.  

I haven’t read this series. I first heard it mentioned when a favourite author of mine (Nicole Peeler) talked about it on Facebook. I read the blurb and wasn’t sure if it sounded like it would be up my alley or not, so figured i’d think on it for a bit. And THEN I saw that there was a breastfeeding scene in there. Not weird at all right? WRONG! Because I don’t think she was talking about babies. Is this correct? Or have I read between the lines wrong? And if it is correct then what the hell was going on in these books?!?! Hah! So I decided to leave it for now. 

But then I saw this – 

And it looks AMAZING!! I’m definitely watching this, no doubt about it. I’m going to force Charmaine to watch it with me too. It looks like it’s going to be epic. 

Also, let’s just take a second to appreciate this –

What I need to know is if you think I should read the books first? Worth it or not? Give me your thoughts below!

Book Review – Making Faces by Amy Harmon

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This is not my first time at the Amy Harmon rodeo. I have read previous books of hers and A Different Blue was one of my favourite reads last year. I was looking for something with a bit of depth for my next read and when I saw Making Faces come up I thought it sounded perfect! So I immediately one-clicked it. The reviews for this book are some of the best I have ever read. People. Loved. This. Book.

I didn’t have too many expectations going into this book, I was expecting to love it, because when one of your favourites writes a new book you usually do, but I had no preconceived ideas of what would happen with these characters. I went in with an open mind. Amy Harmon has this beautiful way of making all of her characters and their worlds come alive. Every time I have ever picked up one of her books I have felt fully comfortable within the pages of her story. I usually lose myself in it straight away and every single time I’m left with a huge book hangover.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

Fern, the protagonist of this story, was such a beautiful character. She had a quiet strength and grace about her that I couldn’t help but admire. She’s the exact type of person you would want around if you ever needed to be talked down from a ledge. And that’s what she did for Ambrose. Coxed him right off the ledge and back into the world, bit by bit. She helped him heal when he was scarred by loss right down to his soul.

“No, Fern. I’m not ashamed to be seen with you, I’m ashamed to be seen”

And Bailey, oh Bailey. Bailey was such a gorgeous character! He really brought the whole book alive for me. I don’t think I have read about such a likable hero in a book. He reminds us how we should live every day. He was platinum.

“He said Bailey had taught him to love and to put things in perspective, to live for the present, to say I love you often and to mean it. And to be grateful for every day.”

“The happiness of knowing Bailey, of loving him is part of the pain now. You can’t have one without the other.”

This was a really emotional read. There are so many feelings happing while you read it. I’m pretty sure I spent the last 25% of this book in tears. For a while there I cried so much I was worried about dehydration. I’m not kidding – it was the ugly cry. But it was beautifully written and the emotion is what makes this story unforgettable. 

If God made all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?
Does he make the legs that cannot walk and eyes that cannot see?
Does he curl the hair upon my head ’til it rebels in wild defiance?
Does he close the ears of a deaf man to make him more reliant?

Is the way I look a coincidence or just a twist of fate?
If he made me this way, is it okay, to blame him for the things I hate?
For the flaws that seem to worsen every time I see a mirror,
For the ugliness I see in me, for the loathing and the fear.

Does he sculpt us for his pleasure, for a reason I can’t see?
If God makes all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?

Book Review – Life After Life By Kate Atkinson

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‘What if we had a chance to do it again and again,’ Teddy said, ‘until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?’

This book took me a little time to read. It couldn’t be rushed. It was one of those books that you would do yourself a total disservice if you tried to read quickly. It needed to be absorbed slowly, mulled over and really thought about. And I guarantee you it is TOTALLY well worth it. For a start, check out this bit of stunning writing:

An icy rush of air, a freezing slipstream on the newly exposed skin. She is, with no warning, outside the inside and the familiar wet, tropical world has suddenly evaporated. Exposed to the elements. A prawn peeled, a nut shelled. No breath. All the world comes down to this. One breath. Little lungs, like dragonfly wings failing to inflate in the foreign atmosphere. No wind in the strangled pipe. The buzzing of a thousand bees in the tiny curled pearly of an ear. Panic. The drowning girl, the falling bird.

There is much, much more from where that came from. I found no matter what part of the story Kate Atkinson was telling, her writing was beyond beautiful. Even when discussing death, loss, pain or despair. She has a beautiful way with words.

The books follows main character Ursula and her numerous lives. What would it be like if every time you died you came back again? What would that do to the person? What would it mean for the people around that person? And of course, how would it alter the course of the world and even possibly history? The chapters flick back and forth and with each time she dies, the stories reincarnate with her. Each time her life story would slightly be altered, have a slightly different direction. Each time she would have a sense of déjà vu or a sense of foreboding for no good reason. From the readers point of view it’s beyond intriguing to watch Ursula make different decisions based on a feeling of fear, but not knowing it’s because in another life she or someone else had made a decision that ended badly for her or for people around her. That subconsciously she was trying to prevent events that she doesn’t even know will happen in her current life. Her alternate lives have her in various scenarios, sometimes taking multiple attempts at living to actually survive an event. Sometimes she would come back and avoid the first death or disaster only to fall to something that still ended her life in the same time or situation. Each time the story rewinds. Many times we start back at her birth, or start back at a certain chain of events.

Everything familiar somehow. ‘It’s called déjà vu,’ Sylvie said. ‘It’s a trick of the mind. The mind is a fathomless mystery.’ Ursula was sure that she could recall lying in the baby carriage beneath the tree. ‘No,’ Sylvie said, ‘no one can remember being so small,’ yet Ursula remembered the leaves, like great green hands, waving in the breeze and the silver hare that hung from the carriage hood, turning and twisting in front of her face.

The jumping back and forth slows down once she reaches adulthood; she seems to have fewer situations that bring her back to being born on a freezing snowy night in 1910. As the gaps widen between her life restarting, the stories really start to develop. World War 2 is starting to encroach on Britain and it is these stories, these potential lives lived by her that cram the most gripping detail in. Kate Atkinson really does take Ursula down every potential life that you could lead in wartime. She manages to layer so many layers into one character, see so many different scenes with in the same war and have so many different experiences. One such life I am so glad that she wrote about was when Ursula was in Berlin. She was trapped in Germany when the war accelerated, and more so, trapped within Hitler’s inner circle. I think that this life of Ursula in Germany was so important to the greater story, how else can you convey so many details through one character if she doesn’t experience them first hand.

At the Fuhrer’s approach the crowd’s excitement had grown to a rabid frenzy of Sieg Heil and Heil Hitler. ‘Am I the only one to be unmoved?’ Sylvie said. ‘What is it, do you suppose – mass hysteria of some kind?’ ‘I know,’ Ursula said, ‘It’s like the Emperor’s new clothes. We’re the only ones who can see the naked man.’ ‘He’s a clown,’ Sylvie said dismissively.

 The detail over chapters and chapters of the blitz in London and the people caught up in it makes you feel that you too are trapped in the midst of the swishes and booms of bombs, the dust caked in your lungs and the constant fear and weariness of being trapped in a city that is slowly being obliterated. The rawness of what people faced sometimes was hard to digest. I could compare it to the book The Cellist of Sarajvo By Steven Galloway. (Also WELL worth reading) You are constantly on edge. It’s unsettling. The facts laid out cold and bare, babies dying in bombings, people blown apart like crackers, the cold, no food, the smell and the sound of war and the fact that soon Ursula and other characters began to find a normalcy in the constant violence.

Death and decay were on her skin, in her hair, in her nostrils, her lungs, beneath her fingernails, all the time. They had become part of her.

So I’m over-emotional and trying to put down on paper words that just don’t seem poetic enough, descriptive enough to tell you about this novel. I don’t feel that my review can do this book justice, I honestly think that everyone will pull something different from it and I cannot recommend it enough. I personally found this book so incredibly thought provoking. It’s hard to wrap your head around the possibilities raised within the pages. So much of it replays in my mind, even after finishing it and I’ve been kept up at night thinking about its many aspects and layers. There was actually a certain paragraph that hit very close to home for me;

‘Hugh’s sixtieth birthday’, one more in a roll-call of family occasions. Later, when she understood that it was the last time they would all be together, she wished she had paid more attention.

How true is that, even in our everyday lives today. How often do we go about life, seeing people we love, family and friends and just check it off like a box on a to-do list. The finality of not being able to have these times back gets forgotten until someone is no longer here. This is what I think this book does so well, it explicitly points out how life is short, how life is unfair, how we have no way of predicting the future and how unlike Ursula, we can’t just go back and re-live it every time the black bat comes for us.

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Making Faces by Amy Harmon

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So, I have just starting reading this tonight. I was looking for something with a bit of substance. We’re still going strong on our buddy read (Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells) but I’m enjoying reading that one slowly because there a lot of detail and world building going on in it. Anyway, back to Making Faces. I have seen some pretty impressive reviews for this book with people using words like phenomenal, breathtaking and many are claiming that it is the best book they have ever read, which is a BIG CALL. It also has some of the highest reviews on Goodreads that I have seen. I’m trying not to build it up too much in my head or expect too much but I’m PRETTY EXCITED to start reading it! Will let you know how it goes!