Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: A - Z of Endangered Animals by Jennifer Cossins

Title: A - Z of Endangered Animals
Author: Jennifer Cossins
Publication Date: This edition published in June 2017

Synopsis: "On this journey through the alphabet you will encounter some of the world's most beautiful, rare and endangered animals - from the majestic Amur Tiger and the curious Kakapo, to the misunderstood Tasmanian Devil and the shy Zebra Duiker.
Come on an illustrated expedition through the animal kingdom with Tasmanian artist Jennifer Cossins."

My thoughts: Kids' books! Are they always for kids? Answer: no, most definitely not. There is so much joy to be found in picture books, no matter your age. In this particular book, Jennifer Cossins does an amazing job of introducing the reader to many different animals - giving a little bit of info about each, including an interesting fact, and then discussing why they are becoming harder to find.

One might think that a book about just endangered animals would make the reader feel very sad, perhaps even defeated. And you do feel a little of that. But, with Cossins beautiful artwork and discussion of the animals, you also find yourself feeling motivated to help out more, and to learn more about the animals that we may lose forever, if we are not careful.

This is a delightful book, beautifully presented, and I will be keeping it on my shelf. I suggest you check out a copy, too!

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest book review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'Interesting Fact: Kakapos are good climbers and although they can't fly, their wings are used like a parachute when jumping out of trees.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy books about animals and learning about which animals are endangered; you enjoy beautiful illustrations.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Something organic and fairtrade would be a good idea!

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Thoughts on 'getting better' and updates.

Hi all,

First of all, I know things are still quite sporadic around here, and while I haven't had review books to talk about in a week or so, I still kind of wish I had posted something else up here just for you guys to read. I do love my blog, but sometimes it can kind of fall to the side when I have other stuff going on.

The 'other stuff' that I mention is mostly health-related, though other things have been happening. I have had some news about a friend in the last couple of months that has left me reeling a little, and not really sure how to move forward. It is also pressing all my buttons of 'this isn't about you, just shut up' and so nasty inside voices have been getting a bit more free reign than I'd like. I have also had really fantastic news about other friends, and plus the whole idea of maybe 'getting better' which I will get to in a moment, so I am often all-kinds-of-mixed-up.

'Getting better'. It's a thing that I haven't really touched with a ten-foot pole for quite a few years. I started getting sick when I was 11, 16 years ago now. For many years, I wouldn't let myself consider that what I had was untreatable, or unknowable. I always thought there was some test/diet/exercise/thought pattern/affirmation out there that would "fix" me. And then I realised that this kind of thinking was really damaging me, because it meant I was blaming myself a lot.

If I hadn't gotten a certain kind of test yet, that was my fault. If I tried the diet and it didn't work, it was because I hadn't been 'strict' enough. If I tried to exercise and I got sicker, it was because my mental state was too weak, and I needed to try harder.

Not really helpful.

I have started a new treatment plan recently, after doing multiple new tests (new to me - I've never done them before) and actually getting some results instead of 'hmmm the tests say you're fine, so maybe just get some more sunshine or get a hobby'. And, against the odds that I feel have stacked up against me for so many years, the treatment is actually working. I am feeling better overall. I am working hard at my new treatment, because I need to, and being quietly hopeful, and also considering that this may all be psychosomatic (whatever! even if it is - yay for feeling better!). This jumble of emotions, plus the jumble of emotions I mentioned earlier, are getting all mashed together and it is some kind of rollercoaster ride, I will tell you that much.

The whole idea of 'getting better' feels really quite scary, if I'm honest. It's not that I don't want to feel better, but my chronic illnesses have been such a huge part of who I am for so many years now that I feel frightened of change, even while I go through it. There are so many questions about what it could mean - and also what does it mean if the treatment doesn't work? It is enough to make me feel like I have my own little cyclone brewing in my brain.

Either way, I am doing my best. I am putting one foot in front of the other, and trying to make sense of the cyclone when I can. It can be hard-going, but I want to do the work.

Love to all who read.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Review: How to Write Good by Ryan Higa

Title: How to Write Good
Author: Ryan Higa
Publication Date: May 30th 2017

Synopsis: "I know you're used to seeing me on the Internet, but here I am, coming at you in book form. You might be asking yourself, A book? You? Why?
Great question! Why did I write a book?

Listen, I'm as surprised about it as you are.

But I have a story to tell that I believe will help inspire people who are going through tough times. And I couldn't be the only YouTuber without a book, could I?
So, welcome to Ryan Higa's How to Write Good, by me, Ryan Higa.

This is the story of how I went from being a relatively happy kid to being depressed and angry and filled with dark thoughts. This is also the story of how I found my way back to a happier life.

But wait, there's more! You're not only getting my story - you'll also learn how to write good well, from a college dropout who struggled in basic-level English classes and still became a legit, published Best Sailing Author. (That isn't a typo. I plan to buy a boat one day ...but probably not anytime soon. This book might not cell good.)"

My thoughts: This book is quite short, about 200 pages, and also has quite a few comic-style sections, so you can quite easily get through it in one or two sittings, if you'd like. It tells the story of Ryan Higa's middle school years, and how he dealt with bullying and what sounds a lot like depression (though I wouldn't recommend making diagnoses from a book). The tone is relatively light given the dark matter, as Higa comes across as someone who prefers to use humour as a way to cope with hard times, and also as a way to dispel tension.

The comics work really well in this, and you can definitely hear Higa's voice coming through. I have watched his YouTube channel for quite a few years now, and you can definitely hear him telling you these things whilst reading. However, I'm not sure I really understand the format they used here - learning how to write well whilst hearing his particular story. It just doesn't seem to combine very well, and I found certain parts just kept jarring me out of the story. 

Also, I feel like Higa's story - whilst one that I was definitely interested in and deserves to be told - wasn't really explored as much as it could have been. At the end of the book I was left a little confused, wondering about some things he had mentioned but never fully explored, and feeling a little like the first half of the book was almost like 'filler', before he actually got down to the crux of the story. I want to know about this story, but it was told in a way that felt a little choppy and not that descriptive.

I liked the humour, and chuckled a little during reading, and the artwork in this is fantastic. Higa's personality shines through well, despite the choppiness of the plot, and I had a fairly nice time with this, all things considered. I think read it if you are a Higa fan.

{I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!!}

Rating: 6/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Reading // May 2017

Books read:
~ Behind the Throne (The Indranan War #1) by K. B. Wagers
~ Etched in Bone (The Others #5) by Anne Bishop
~ Badgerlands: The Twilight World of Britain's Most Enigmatic Animal by Patrick Barkham
~ The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
~ Lumberjanes vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
~ Lumberjanes vol. 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson
~ Lumberjanes vol. 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson
~ Lumberjanes vol. 4: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson
~ Lumberjanes vol. 5: Band Together by Noelle Stevenson
~ Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery by Alys Fowler (review)
~ Understory: A Life With Trees by Inga Simpson (review)
~ Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

~ How to Write Good by Ryan Higa (review)
~ Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society by Cordelia Fine

Currently reading:
~ Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (I have stalled badly on this one, guys. I don't know why, because it is beautifully written.)
~ Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon
~ Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes by Emily Urquhart
~ The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben

I read nine books this month, and five graphic novels. Pretty good, if I do say so myself!

The weather is getting colder her in Australia as we head into Winter, and I am loving all the days with rain or just generally cold weather where I can get cozy on the couch with blankets, my cat, and my books. Unfortunately, quite a few of them have kind of been spent with me watching tv more, due to migraine symptoms and being unable to focus my eyes on printed words, but I still got quite a lot done and I am feeling kind of chuffed.

Out of the nine novels/books, seven were actually non-fiction, which fills me with happiness because I have been trying to read more non-fiction. In particular, I got back into nature writing this month, which was so wonderful - there is just something so relaxing about it for me. One that really deserves a mention there is Understory - I love that book so much.

I don't really want to go on for too long this time, so I will just say that I had a really good month for reading, despite some irritating symptoms, and I am already reading more for June. Oh, and I have already completed my Goodreads challenge of reading 52 books this year so... that's pretty awesome.

Huzzah for reading!

Love to all who read. (See what I did there?)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: Understory by Inga Simpson

Title: Understory
Author: Inga Simpson
Publication Date: 30th May 2017

Synopsis: "'The understorey is where I live, alongside these plants and creatures. I tend the forest, stand at the foot of trees and look up, gather what has fallen.'

This is the story of a tree change, of escaping suburban Brisbane for a cottage on ten acres in search of a quiet life. Of establishing a writers retreat shortly before the Global Financial Crisis hit, and of losing just about everything when it did. It is also the story of what the author found there: the beauty of nature and her own path as a writer.

Understory is a memoir about staying in one place, told through trees, by the award-winning author of Mr Wigg, Nest and Where the Trees Were."

My thoughts: Oh, I barely know what to say here. This book rushed right in to my heart and sprouted a little sapling there. Now that sapling is a full-blown tree and I seem to be unable to stop reading (also my heart has a tree in it, apparently).

Not only is Simpson's writing absolutely beautiful, it completely draws you in to life with trees - I often looked up what trees she was talking about so that I could picture it even more clearly whilst I read. I also had my guides to Australian birds open to do something similar. Simpson imbues her writing with the love of trees, and you often feel upset when she is about the needless destruction of nature. Simpson writes soulfully - this is the best word I can come up with - and talks about her life in general as well as her life specifically around certain trees.

I really enjoyed how each chapter header was a different type of tree, or a different part of the tree or forest. You feel as if you are slowly being drawn closer, welcomed in to a circle of wisdom, of calm. Even though Simpson is talking about some truly stressful things at times, the way she writes about all of it feels so...calm. It all makes it a joy to read, and, honestly? After I had finished this book the first time, I really did flip back to the front to begin again. This book touches something within me that I find hard to describe (which, as you saw before, leads to trees growing in my heart), and I just want to hug it for that. I want to hug Inga Simpson for this book. More of this, please.

[And can we just take a moment for this cover? In person it is even more delightful. Just beautiful.]

{I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'The rose gums I see on rainforest walks are different creatures, massive columns with great ribbons of bark raining down and covering the forest floor around them, burls on their trunks big enough to make a home in. They have such presence it feels appropriate to bow down, but I am too busy looking up. I wish I could see what they have seen, how they know the world.'

You would like this book if: you enjoy nature writing with a thread of memoir running through; you like trees as much as Bethwyn.

Tea to drink while reading this book: in this case, it is not important what tea you drink, as long as you drink it whilst looking at trees.

Rating: 10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Review: Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler

Title: Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery
Author: Alys Fowler
Publication Date: April 11th 2017

Synopsis: "'The best maps are not published, are not accurate or even sensible, but are the maps we make ourselves about our cities, our kith and kin. These maps are made up of private details that allow us to navigate our past as much as our current terrain.'

Award winning Guardian columnist and gardening writer Alys Fowler set out in an inflatable kayak to explore one hundred miles of Birmingham's crumbling canal network. This book is about noticing the wild everywhere and what it means to see beauty where you least expect it. Above all Hidden Nature is about losing and finding, exploring familiar places and discovering unknown horizons."

My thoughts: This book caught me by surprise. I was not too sure what I was reading, going in, but I was interested. Nature writing has appealed to me for quite a few years - when I first discovered it, I was overjoyed that something like this existed, a wonderful blend of exploring nature and observations by an author usually gifted with the ability to turn a phrase and make you feel like you were really there. Nature writing, even when aligned with memoir writing that could be intense and sad to read, was relaxing in the extreme for me.

So, too, for Hidden Nature. Fowler's sudden interest and passion for the canals and kayaking around them hits you almost as soon as you open the book, and you are drawn in. She is descriptive about the things she sees, from birds to animals, and particularly plants (being a gardener herself). She also talks about people's reactions to her little inflatable kayak, and expeditions gone slightly wrong. When she gets down into the canals, she takes you very much with her.

The entire book is written mostly surrounding a huge realisation and change during Fowler's life, and the kayaking becomes an escape for her as she tries to make sense of her life. Whilst quite a short book, she packs a lot in, and she doesn't shy away from putting down her true thoughts during the course of her change. Sometimes she feels truly lost, and you feel that alongside her.

This book is calming and wonderful to read, and I really enjoyed it. The only reason I didn't give it a higher mark is because I, personally, am not that interested in most canals (I'm more of a tree-person) and I occasionally found the writing a little sharp and startling. Otherwise, I highly recommend it.

{I received an unsolicited copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'I garden because I am. I belong to the garden rather than the other way around. I pour myself, sometimes quite physically, into nature because it is how I make sense of myself and my place in this world. The gardener in me observes, the scientist orders those observations into patterns, then the writer makes notes. The scientist shakes her head at these and cries, 'Dreamer,' while the gardener gets on with the weeding. Once again, throwing myself into the detail of the world around me seemed to make the most sense.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy nature writing with a side of memoir; you love descriptions of geese, canal-side plants, and the history of canals.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Thistle tea, I think.

Rating:  8/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Vlog and Society6 Explorations~

Hi all!

For those that have followed this blog for a loooong time, you will know that I used to have a youtube (or booktube) channel. Very recently, I filmed a few bits of footage and decided to stitch them together for a vlog! It was an interesting process, and actually quite fun overall, and I have started working on another vlog already. Please check it out if you have some time!

Also, I have been exploring areas to share my photography and artwork, and decided to try out Society6 for a little while. Please take a look at my page if you can, too :)

I will try and keep updating when I have things to update, but that's it for now!

Love to all who read!

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