Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review: Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Title: Frogkisser!
Author: Garth Nix
Publication Date: March 2017

Synopsis: "Talking Dogs
Mischievous Wizards
An Evil Stepstepfather
An abundance of amphibians
Such is the life of a Frogkisser!

Princess Anya needs to see a wizard about a frog. It's not her frog, it's her sister's. And it's not a frog, it's actually a prince. A prince who was once in love with Anya's sister, but has now been turned into a frog by their evil stepstepfather. And Anya has made a 'sister promise' that she will find a way to return Prince Denholm to human form...
So begins an exciting, hilarious, irreverent quest through the Kingdom of Trallonia and out the other side, in a fantastical tale for all ages, full of laughs and danger, surprises and delights, and an immense population of frogs."

My thoughts: What a wonderful cover and story idea! I jumped into this book very quickly. I am a fan of Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books (though I haven't read a couple of the more recent ones) and I was eager to see what he would do with a fairytale-style novel.

Nix did not disappoint. This book is filled with wondrous creatures, interesting ideas, and tale of good and evil that people can sink into. Anya, our heroine, is thrown into a Quest and is as confused as anyone, despite studying sorcery for some time. Along with a Royal Dog (who is still kind-of in training) and Prince-Denholm-the-frog in a little cage, she sets off, soon to be joined by a motley crew of supporting characters.

There is so much magic and whimsy in this tale that I am surprised at the extent of Nix's imagination. He has linked in some fairytales people may recognise (not going to list them, that would be telling!) and introduced characters that reminded me a lot of some of the books I used to read, and also kind of like Brian Jacques' novels...

I enjoyed my romp with this one, but I did find I didn't have the time to really get to know the characters and understand their motivations, which sometimes left them feeling a little flat to me. While I enjoyed the book, and the ending was great, I wanted more, and ended up feeling just a touch dissatisfied. I still recommend this book, though, as I feel that other people could definitely get a lot more out of it than I did.

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

A favourite line from the book: "It was the middle of an ice storm, the wind howling across the frozen moat to hurl hailstones against the walls of the castle and its tightly shuttered windows. But despite wind and hail and the full chill panoply of winter, it was deliciously warm in the Great Hall."

You would like this book if: You enjoy sweet fairytales; you want some Garth Nix writing!

Tea to drink while reading this book: I would suggest a nice green tea, to match your book. My current favourite is salted caramel green tea from Twinings!

Rating:  7/10

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Food to Make You Glow by Lola Berry

Title: Food to Make You Glow
Author: Lola Berry
Publication Date: March 1st 2017

Synopsis: "Whether you're looking to boost energy levels, manage stress or achieve healthy and sustainable weight loss, eating the right food is a crucial piece of the puzzle. In Food to Make You Glow, nutritionist Lola Berry shares the key wholefoods to support specific health goals: happiness, energy, beauty, immunity, calming, weight loss and detox. As well as 90 delicious recipes based around these wholefood heroes, Lola recommends the best lifestyle tips, herbal teas, exercises and activities for each health goal.

Recipes include: 'Ferrero rocher' granola * Turmeric and banana pancakes with maple nice cream * Crunchy celery, sultana, macadamia and quinoa salad * Roasted beetroot with zesty almond butter sauce * Raw rainbow pasta with brazil nut and spinach pesto * Thyme-poached chicken with roasted cauli and heirloom carrots * Lucky lamb chops with green pea smash * Mango, chilli and pistachio crumble * Chai spice cookie sandwiches*"

My thoughts: The day I got this book in the mail, I made three of the recipes out of it. THREE. The very fact that I don't have much energy in general should hit that one home for you.

This book is what it says on the tin - or rather, in the tagline. 'A Nutritionist's Guide to Eating for Wellness'. Lola Berry (great name) has organised each chapter by what health goal you want to support, and then she talks about what foods in particular will move you towards that goal. I, of course, skipped right to the chapters on immunity and calming, because they sounded most amazing to me. But I do have plans to make things out of every chapter.

The recipes have handy guides at the bottom to indicate whether the recipe is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, paleo, or a host of other possible things. I found this key really helpful when browsing through - it meant that, say I want to make something vegan for my husband, I could go directly to the key of a recipe to find out if it was suitable, or if I needed to find something else to make.

The photography is beautiful, and the general design of the book is gorgeous and user-friendly. I particularly like that Berry (who has trained in yoga) gives you a yoga pose at the start of each chapter. This was a lovely, personal touch that I really enjoyed.

Finally, I have to say that often when I come across vegan or gluten-free friendly cookbooks, I find a load of ingredients that I have to hunt the entire state for and then accidentally let it go off because I didn't store it at the correct temperature (or insert other random reason here). Berry's recipes have a few things in them that might require a trip to the health food store, but mostly it is stuff you can find in your local supermarket, and I really appreciated that. I just whipped up my second batch of Salted Almond Butter Choc Brownies today, and I had everything on hand to do so. I am really looking forward to using this book for many meals to come.

{I received a review copy of this book from Pan MacMillan/Plum Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

You would like this book if: you love beautiful, vegan/gf-friendly recipes, or you just love Lola Berry!

Tea to drink while reading this book: something herbal - Lola can recommend a few!

Rating:  10/10

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Book Review: Pseudotooth by Verity Holloway

Title: Pseudotooth
Author: Verity Holloway
Publication Date: March 6th 2017

Synopsis: "'The malaise continues. Today, I begin a rigorous programme of exercise to cleanse body and soul.'
Aisling Selkirk is a young woman beset by unexplained blackouts, pseudo-seizures that have baffled both the doctors and her family. Sent to recuperate in the Suffolk countryside with ageing relatives, she seeks solace in the work of William Blake and writing her journal, filling its pages with her visions of Feodor, a fiery East Londoner haunted by his family's history back in Russia.
But her blackouts persist as she discovers a Tudor priest hold and papers from its disturbed former inhabitant. Soon after she meets the enigmatic Chase, and is drawn to an unfamiliar town where the rule of Our Friend is absolute and those deemed unfit and undesirable disappear into The Quiet..."

My thoughts: I have put off writing this review for some time now, because I was still thinking about it regularly and not sure how I felt, even after finishing the book over a week ago. This is a confusing book, where the reader is thrown into confusing predicaments along with its main character, Aisling, as she tries to understand what is happening to her and whether she has any choices to make about her life.

There is an underlying current of threat and unease throughout this book, one that I found difficult to swallow at times, but that kept me coming back for more anyway. Dealing with my own chronic illnesses that baffle doctors meant that I felt a kind of familiarity with Aisling, and occasionally that cut to close to the bone - such as when she attends an appointment early in the book that she doesn't see the point of - another doctor that doesn't know what is going on with her. 

As the tale goes on, parts of Aisling's past are uncovered, along with the past of the ageing relatives she is sent to live with. We also begin to know more about Feodor, the man she can't stop writing about in her journals. I lean towards describing this book as a tale steeped in magical realism, but the kind that makes you really question what is real - which world is the real one? As the threads of the story begin to be knotted together, the reader often finds themselves with more questions than answers. The ending even left me with questions.

Honestly, I thought I would hate that, but I didn't. It left me extremely thoughtful about the worlds we live in and the ones we create in our mind, the worlds of the past and those of the present, and which one may be the most accurate representation of human life, if any. The writing was at times brutal, at others extremely beautiful, and I hope we get to see more from Verity Holloway in the future. The only reason I didn't give this a higher rating was because I sometimes felt completely lost about what was happening and lost the thread of the story, which, while maybe intentional, made it harder for me to connect with the book.

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

You would like this book if: you enjoy magical realism of a darker tone.

Tea to drink while reading this book: if you can remember to drink your tea while being lost in this, kudos to you!

Rating:  8/10

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Reading & Such // February 2017

If you are unsure where this post came from, I urge you to go back and look at my January post for more of an idea as to why I got rid of the structured reading wrap-ups. :)

So, February. The shortest month. My health this month has been pretty average, not flaring too badly (although I did have to go back on a course of antibiotics after a week of bad symptoms that I did not really read quite right), but generally feeling just a bit unwell and not up to a whole lot. I am pursuing the opportunity I mentioned in the January post, which means I am getting more tests done, so that has been kind of stressful, but I am hopeful that the results we get will be helpful and maybe even indicate some form of treatment I can try. All the fingers and toes are crossed.

Over the last weekend of the month I managed to get out to the Perth Writer's Festival and got to see authors like Melissa Ashley, Hannah Kent, Jessie Burton, and Jay Kristoff speaking about their work. It was absolutely wonderful and I enjoyed every minute of it, despite it being 40 degrees celsius on the day I went. I got a couple of books which I am reading and loving, and absolutely crashed when I got home. I was so exhausted, but definitely still think it was worth it. On the Sunday I went out for an early birthday celebration with Xin and my parents to go eat ramen! It was delicious and wonderful.

On to the books I read this month! I read six books this month, most of them in an omnibus by Lois McMaster Bujold. I had been craving getting back into the Vorkosigan saga so I grabbed Miles in Love off my shelf and quickly finished all three stories in there (Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and 'Winterfair Gifts'). I absolutely adored everything in there, and was tempted to keep going, but decided to take a break for a little while to actually read some review books, of which I finished two - Pseudotooth and We Do Things Differently.

The only other book I read this month was Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr Brian Weiss, which I found really fascinating and I am eagerly awaiting another book of his from my library.

At the moment I am reading The Birdman's Wife by Melissa Ashley, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, and Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, all of which are fantastic so far. I can't wait to see what March will bring! Maybe some test results (haha).

Love to all who read.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review: We Do Things Differently by Mark Stevenson

Title: We Do Things Differently
Author: Mark Stevenson
Publication Date: January 5th 2017

Synopsis: "Our systems are failing. Old models - for education, healthcare and government, food production, energy supply - are creaking under the weight of modern challenges. As the world's population heads towards 10 billion, it is clear we need new approaches. Futurologist Mark Stevenson set out to find them, across four continents.

From Brazilian favelas to high tech Boston, from rural India to an unlikely shed inventor in England's home counties, Stevenson travels the world to find the advance guard rebooting our future. At each stop he meets innovators who have already succeeded in challenging the status quo, pioneering new ways to make our world more sustainable, equitable and humane.

Populated with extraordinary characters, We Do Things Differently paints an enthralling picture of what can be done to address the world's most pressing dilemmas, offering a much needed dose of down-to-earth optimism. It is a window on (and a roadmap to) a different and better future."

My thoughts: I think I could probably wax lyrical about this book and everything in it - I have told so many family members and friends about the techniques and stories contained within this book that it's a wonder I don't know it off by heart by now - so I am going to try and keep this review short and to the point.

We Do Things Differently explores exactly what it says on the tin - people around the world doing things differently and showing amazing results. In times like these, where everything seems to be in flux and some of our worst political and social nightmares are coming true, I feel like it is difficult to feel like there is a chance of positive change existing within the world. Stevenson sits you down, pulls no punches about telling you what is not working and why, and then introduces you to someone that is trying something new, and rocking it.

This book blew me away. Not only does Stevenson explain to you exactly what is going wrong with the current systems we have in place, he then shows you people who are creating entirely new systems that are working. So often I come across writing about systems not working, really basic rundowns of the stupidity of trying to retain systems that clearly don't work in modern times, but do not suggest alternatives or ways we can move on from them. This book actually gives me hope, and that is so very difficult to do at present.

From patients sharing their knowledge to assist with the trialling and development of new drugs, to scientists and farmers getting together to find new and better ways to grow crops, this book will leave you with a fuller heart and a brighter mind - which I think we could kind of use right now. Please go get yourself a copy if you can. And a note to Stevenson: please write more!

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

A favourite line from the book: "In my experience, many inside the political class confuse disenchantment with indifference, 'voter apathy' being an easier pill to swallow than the admission that our democracies are increasingly unfit for purpose."

You would like this book if: you want to read about new systems and feel like the world isn't imploding; you like sciencey/techy/awesome things!

Tea to drink while reading this book: perhaps an organic green tea to get those brain cells firing!

Rating:  10/10

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

[hello, body]

it took me awhile.
in some ways I'm still learning.
I used to feel frustrated, negated, for being 'average'.
didn't care, then pretended not to care, now I don't know where
I am.
I still care, but that care is turned inwards.
What do I want to look like today?
[does it matter?]
The bigger issue stares me in the face.
Is my body working today?
[what is next?]
I realise it is amazing that my body still functions. sometimes.
I worship it when I have the space [the brain, the thought, the energy] to do so.
other times... I do the best I can.

I don't dislike my body for the way it looks.
I like the way it looks.
curves, all over.
blue eyes, apple cheeks.
hair that doesn't actually know what it's doing. [much like my mind.]
sometimes I just dislike my body for the way it acts...
[acts out. acts up. re-acts?]

But this body, this home
it does well. it does it's best.
and I love it.


This post was inspired by this poem by Leena Norms.

Would anyone like to see/hear me recite this poem on video/audio? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wishlist // Books I am wanting and waiting on.

I have quite the wishlist on Book Depository, and also on Goodreads... and also in my head. Sometimes those wishlists all line up, and sometimes they are kind of different. I have really been limiting how much I spend on books lately, to try and save money for other things, and so that means that I often find myself longing for books on my wishlist that I can't quite get yet.

One way that I have thought of to celebrate books that I want to get my hands on is to post about them here. Maybe you will take a liking to them, too, and think about getting yourself a copy? Either way, it will solidify in my mind the books that I am really excited about, and separate out the ones that maybe I was just 'caught up in the moment' about, and would be fine to get another way, or not read at all.

Anyway, this is the first trial of this style of blog, so let's get started!

1. Miles, Mutants & Microbes by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a continuation of the Vorkosigan Saga by LMB that I have been reading for a few years, on and off. I have been reading them in the chronological order, mostly following the omnibuses (this is one of them), and I am actually currently reading Miles in Love, the omnibus that comes before this one. I love Miles's character - he has his flaws, which he acknowledges, and he has chronic health problems that alternately accepts and ignores (to his own detriment). It feels like a real and familiar portrayal of chronic health issues, and all the related mindsets that come with them. (To me, at least. Though I don't have the advantage of Miles' brain.) I would eventually like to have all of the books, in either omnibus or standalone formats, in physical editions on my shelf, but for now I am collecting them as and when I can. This one has been a temptation for some time, and the omnibus editions are just so cheap!

2. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

This one has popped onto my radar a few times in the past few weeks, and it just sounds amazing. Yoko Tawada is Japanese, but lives in Germany, and writes in both Japanese and German, so this has been translated into English by Susan Bernofsky. The book follows three generations of polar bears (a grandmother, mother, and son) through their experiences of writing, and circus performance, and zoos. I have read small samples of the writing here and there and it is just beautiful so, despite knowing only a little about this book, I feel like I am going to enjoy it a lot.

3. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Look at that cover! Oh man, I love everything about it. The water motions, the font of the title and author name, just everything. This one just sounds so intriguing, and my hands are itching to stroke this cover and peruse the pages. The story follows a man, Gil, whose wife, Ingrid, has been missing, presumed dead by drowning, for 12 years. But then he sees her suddenly, outside the house. Their two children return home to try and find the truth about their mother. Around the same time, they begin to discover letters hidden in the books of Gil's library, that begins to paint a picture of what might have been going on before her disappearance. Doesn't that sound so intriguing?! And apparently this book comes with little letters and notes tucked into its pages, too. O___O

4. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes

This is also illustrated by Andrea Dezso - and look at that cover! Oh man. This one is a recommendation from Jen Campbell, one of my favourite booktubers, and she says it is one of the only editions of the Grimm Fairy Tales where the original gruesomeness is kept intact during translation. I love Disney stuff, to be honest, but I also want to read the original stories properly. This edition seems like the best one to do that.

What do you think? Are there any books here that sparked your interest? Would you like to see more posts like this? Let me know!

Love to all who read.
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