Book Review: Archangel’s Heart

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Archangel’s Heart – Nalini Singh
Published by Hachette New Zealand

Archangel’s Heart is the ninth novel in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series, and the first that I have read. To say I’m keen to go back and read the first eight is an understatement; as soon as I’ve cleared a bit of a bedside-table-backlog, I’ll be hitting the local library to get my hands on the rest of this series.

That’s not to say I feel I need to read them in order to understand the concept – I want to read them. That’s the skill in Singh’s writing: she has written a novel that stands alone and can be enjoyed as such, but that makes you crave more.

It took me a few chapters to come to grips with the characters and the relationships between them (something that will no doubt become clearer once I’ve read the predecessors), but then I was hooked. I thought the characters were well-written and believable (for immortal beings!), and their relationships echoed that. The romantic in me adores the relationship between Archangel, Raphael, and Consort, Elena, even though the realist is scoffing a bit in the background. However, that realist can just be quiet, because the one of the strongest messages in this book is that love is the strongest power in the world (this one, or Singh’s imagined one). There is something immediately appealing about Elena. She’s tough and determined, smart and more than a little stubborn, all which make for a likeable female protagonist. If I had daughters, I’d think she was a suitable role model.

I like Singh’s dark and intense style. She weaves an intricate and magical story, set in an intricate and magical world, and I didn’t want to put this novel down. The ending was very satisfying, while leaving things wide open for the next installment…usually that annoys me, but I enjoyed this book so much, I wasn’t fazed.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book. It was a great read, and I really liked it. Simple as that.

Thank you Hachette NZ for my review copy.

 

On My Mind: What’s Next.

After a lot of thinking, talking, brainstorming, pros-and-cons’ing, I’ve made a decision about what I’m going to do next year.

This wasn’t a decision I came to without a lot (a looooooooot) of researching and soul-searching, but it is a decision that sits well with me and makes so much sense for where I see myself in the future, and it just feels…..right.

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I’ve found my hunger.

As of the end of February 2017, I’m heading back to university, to study something that has been in the back of my mind for the last 15 years. Something I tried to resist, or replace, but it’s always been there and everything has led me back to it…so I’m not fighting it any longer, and to be honest, I’m pretty excited.

I’m nervous, too. What if I can’t write an essay anymore?  (I can. I’m good at essays.) What if motivating myself to study (it’s a distance learning qualification) is an issue? (It won’t be. I’ll have plenty of time when the boys are at kindy and school) What if I spend two years working towards being able to apply for the qualification I’m ultimately aiming for, and don’t get in? (I will. There’s no other option)

I’m looking forward to charging my brain, and absorbing so much knowledge that my head might explode. I’m looking forward to the challenges that I’ll no doubt face, and the successes that will follow.

I’m looking forward to adding a few more letters after my name, and to finally, finally doing something (other than parenting) that I’m passionate about.

Book Review: Ivan and the Lighthouse

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Ivan and the Lighthouse – Grant Sheehan
Published by Phantom Tree House

Ivan is happy enough at Devonport School, but he finds it hard to concentrate, because through the classroom window he can see, gleaming in the harbour, Bean Rock Lighthouse, where his father is the keeper, and that’s where he really wants to be…

Ivan and the Lighthouse is a lovely story about a small boy who dreams of accompanying his father to work as a lighthouse keeper. It is set in 1910, and “loosely based” on real events, and while it doesn’t read as a history book, it gives a great perspective on a little slice of life in Auckland at the turn of last century.

The arrival of this book was very timely, as we’d just returned home from a school holiday road trip. Our first stop had been to The Catlins, where we walked to the lighthouse at Nugget Point. We’d spoken a lot about lighthouses while we were there, and Ivan and the Lighthouse served as a great reinforcer of the mini history lesson the boys had enjoyed (?!) while we were away.

It’s well-written and the illustrations by Rosalind Clark are gorgeous and very appealing. It’s wordier than your average picture book – aimed at the 5-7 year age group – my four-year-old enjoyed it as much as my six-year-old. They loved exploring the detail on each page, and the drama of a hawk in hunt, a grounded ship, hungry sharks and Halley’s Comet was right up their alley. Virtually every page was a little boys’ dream, with boats and animals of all sorts; the illustrations are mostly double-page, and alone tell an expressive and exciting story. Paired with rich and adventurous language, this is a story that will appeal again and again with each reading.

Thank you to the team at Phantom Tree House for our lovely review copy.

Review: Poo Bum Memory Game

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Poo Bum Memory
To be released by Gecko PressOctober 2016

Last night we could hear our children giggling to each other that they wanted to play “Poo Bum”. Before my husband could growl at them for saying inappropriate things, the six-year-old called out, “We’re going to play the Poo Bum card game!”

Crisis averted.

Poo Bum Memory is the classic memory card game, featuring illustrations from Stephanie Blake’s Poo Bum. It can be played at two different levels, with the cards differentiated with a star marking the “difficult” pairs.

As with any Memory game, this can be adapted to the abilities of your children – use less than 36 cards to make it easier, or use all 72 to make it trickier. The cards are a really good size and thickness, withstanding the rough handling of an excited preschooler very well.

My boys also like to play Snap! with these cards, so you’re really getting two games in one. It’s presented in a sturdy, easy to open box, which also makes for easy clean up too – phew!

Poo Bum Memory is a cheeky and fun version of the game we all played as kids, and has proved to be a winner in our house.

Thanks to Gecko Press for our review set.

Book Review: If I Was a Banana

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If I Was a Banana – Alexandra Tylee (illustrated by Kieran Rynhart)
Published by Gecko Pressto be released October 2016

I don’t know if I have adequate words to describe how much we love this book. If I simply said, “BUY IT! Buy it NOW!”, would that suffice?? No? Well then, I’ll do my best to convince you that this is a book your children need to own.

If I Was a Banana is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s beautiful to read, and the illustrations are sublime; Tylee and Rynhart are a talented duo and I hope they publish a gazillion more picture books together because they are a match made in heaven.

The story begins simply, and quite amusingly:

If I was a banana, I would be that one, all yellow and fat and full of banana.

and progresses through a wonderful train of thoughts that perfectly capture a child’s thought pattern. If I was a cloud…a spoon…a cat…a star…a fish… It’s a simple story, but packs a powerful punch, and each page offers the chance to talk about what your child would choose to be, and why. My six-year-old was able to express some really good ideas about his choices; he loved the book so much that he took it to school and read it to his class (in front of the school principal, no less!).

If I Was a Banana captures the poetic curiosity of a child, both through words and the hazy, dream-like illustrations. There’s a magic to each page, and it feels as though the reader is inside the head of the young boy as he lets his thoughts range where they will.

The ending of the story is rather poignant and quite beautiful; through all his imaginings, the boy doesn’t appear unhappy with who he actually is, and the ending shows that, sending a powerful message to little readers everywhere to be confident and happy within themselves.

This is a gorgeous story, and I’m already planning on buying it as gifts for a number of small humans in my life.

Thanks to the team at Gecko Press for our review copy.

 

 

Book Review: Enid Blyton’s Summer Stories

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Enid Blyton’s Summer Stories – Enid Blyton
Published by Hachette New Zealand

School’s out! So go on a picnic, visit the seaside or throw coconuts at the fair in this enchanting collection of stories perfect for summer holidays.

We didn’t save this until the summer holidays, which seem very far away when winter is still peeking its head out of the clouds every once in a while. However, that didn’t stop the six-year-old and I from snuggling up on the couch to read together…until he told me, politely and using different words, to bugger off so he could read to himself!

Here’s what he had to say about this collection of whimsical Enid Blyton stories:

“I don’t have a favourite story in this book – I liked them all. I liked that at the end of some, the author asked me what I thought or what I would have done. Sometimes I thought some of the characters were a bit mean and a bit naughty, but a lot of them were very kind and helpful.

There was a lot of magic in the book. I liked that some of the characters were real and some were pretend. There was a mermaid in the last story [The Galloping Seahorse].

The pictures were really cool. I liked the hedgehog. I think I’ll start from the beginning again…do you want to read them with me, mum?”

Yes, my darling boy, I most certainly do!

Another stellar collection of classic Enid Blyton, with timeless appeal and that magic that every childhood needs.

Thanks to Hachette NZ for our review copy.

Book Review: Cherry Tree Farm Collection

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The Cherry Tree Farm Collection – Enid Blyton
Published by Hachette New Zealand

This collection brings together some of Enid Blyton’s earliest and most imaginative stories – The Children of Cherry Tree Farm (1940) and two further stories about the same children, The Children at Willow Farm (1942) and More Adventures at Willow Farm (1943).

I grew up reading the stories of Enid Blyton, and as an adult, I’m still a big fan. Her stories are appealing on so many levels, and her ability to make adventure and magic from nothing is second to none.

I don’t know who was more excited when The Cherry Tree Farm Collection arrived for review – me or my six-year-old. That night, we sat down together and read a few chapters; the late hour was the only thing that stopped us from finishing the whole book!

There’s something about this bunch of siblings and their adventures in the countryside that speaks of another time, but of adventures that are timeless and exciting. As a parent who is conscious of getting kids outside to play and roam, it was great to read a book that lacks technology and gadgets, but is full of fun. The children are still a little mischievous, and even though Tiny thought they “speak a little funny”, they are still easy for kids to identify with.

The Cherry Tree Farm Collection is a lot of fun to read. It possesses that quintessential Blyton-ness that brings wonder and magic to every page, making it a joy to read aloud or quietly to yourself.

Thanks to Hachette NZ for our review copy.