Monday, May 30, 2016

In A Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

Nora receives an invitation to attend her school friends Clares hen party, along with her friend Nina they will travel to a modern rural house to have a weekend of relaxing and fun.  Still Nora wonders why she has been invited, she has not seen Clare for ten years, met her fiance or been invited to her wedding.

So you can guess that things will turn strange, and there will be blood.  There are quite a few twists in the story and I didn't totally predict where the story would end up which was nice for a change.  I just wasn't as scared as I would have liked. 3/5

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Raising Ryland - Hillary Whittington

This true life story is told by Hillary Whittington.   When her and her husband have their first daughter Ryland, they think that the biggest challenge they face will be that it appears that she has limited hearing.  However as Ryland grows she starts declaring that she is a boy, and only wants to wear boy clothes and play with boy toys.  While many dismiss this as a phase, both parents realize that there is a deeper pain underneath the tantrums over wearing dresses and princess dolls.

Seeking medical and counselling advice, Hillary and Jeff decide to let Ryland transition into being raised as their son.  Told in such an open and refreshing style, you have to admire the family for doing what they think is best for their child.  By allowing him to be the person he thinks he truly is and by telling their story I am sure they have helped lots of others.  Very brave to put you and your six year old out there where many bullies prowl. 5/5

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lilac Girls - Martha Hall Kelly

There are lots of WWII stories round, and it is nice to read one from a fresh perspective.  In this novel we follow three women, Herta the young German Doctor who is looking for a new job.  Caroline, the ex actress American socialite who is now working at the French Consulate in New York.  Between helping out desperate refugees and fund raising for French orphans she develops an infatuation with Paul, a French actor and finds herself distracted  by his attention.  Kasia is a Polish teenager who is helping out with the resistance as the Germans invade and take over her homeland, and she finds herself taken with her sister and other women from their community to Ravensbruck and Nazi Camp.  Here women were selected to undergo medical experiments by the doctors in the camp, without consent and in inhumane conditions.

Such a compelling story , as most Holocaust stories are you wonder if this could happen in a modern world and what we would have done in any of these womens positions, and what we would have done to survive. 5/5

Sunday, May 22, 2016


A Friday night in, and a movie was to be selected to be watched, so I chose this one.  Going in I had low expectations, and these were met - I wasn't expecting Oscar worthy drama and could do with a giggle.  And a couple of giggles is what I got, no real belly laughs, because you know what is coming.  Mum and Dad are selling the family home to move to an aged retirement center.  Nerdy sister and loser sister reunite to have one last party at the family home and hilarity ensues.

Just like television comedy seems to be dominated by the dumbed down situation comedys spewed forth by Chuck Lorre and gang, comedy movies are taken over by the Judd Apatow formulaic gang of writers who are  amused by their 19 year old selves, even though they are all in their forties wearing elastic pants.  So I wasn't expecting anything magical/clever or witty and my expectations were met.  Back to the corsets and period dramas.  2/5

Friday, May 20, 2016

All At Sea - Decca Aitkenhead

One morning on holiday at a Jamaican beach,  the author Decca wanders down to the beach where she sees a few people swimming.  All of a sudden she realizes one of her young sons is in trouble, but before she knows it her partner Tony runs in to rescue him and this is when things go wrong.

In a minute, everything changes for Decca, and this memoir of the accident from ten years ago is still brutal and raw in its telling.  It is a story not only about grieving, but about relationships, parenting and about loss.  We also hear about Deccas own childhood,  losing her own mother when she was just ten, and how that influenced how she dealt with things with her own boys. 5/5

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In Order to Live - Yeonmi Park

Not knowing much about North Korea, it was almost unbelievable to read this book about Yeonmi Park and her family.   Growing up they were taught to  believe that North Korea was the most perfect country in the world and its leaders were Gods, and that the rest of the world was evil and corrupt.  Yet for the Park family, things were not so simple.  Power failures and starvation were common, and after Yeonmis family is sent to a prison camp after being caught smuggling, things became dire for his wife and two young daughters left alone.

After her older sister escapes into China, Yeonmi and her mother decide to follow to seek a better life, naive to the risks involved and find themselves being trafficked.  So just when you think things may get better for them, things start to get very much worse.

An amazing memoir, that is hard to believe happens in a modern world, and certainly made me appreciate my easy life with a fridge full of food.  5/5

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Good Life on Te Muna Road = Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington comes across in her book as a likable interesting woman who has lived a life with a multitudes of experiences.  Now settled on a vineyard in Martinborough living the good life with her husband and two dogs, she tells us about her early life with young children living the hippie lifestyle, a little bit about her working as a writer,  a little more about her parliamentary years.

Being a couple of decades younger than her, a lot of the name dropping went over my head, as I don't really know the people that many of the pages were devoted to and was a little bored by some of it. I did like the chapters about her animals and pets she has cared for over the years. 2/5

Monday, May 16, 2016

Music Monday - Wings - Birdy

I have been watching Britains Got Talent, and this weeks episode (in NZ) had a couple aged 50 and 47 who had danced together for years, but retired 15 years ago.  They danced to this song, and it was a beautiful thing, lovely to watch.  And like so many others I had to find out the song that they had danced to.  There is some beautiful music out there, with so many talented young things performing.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Red Light - Graham Masteron

Graham Masterton brings Katie McGuire back in the 3rd book in this series,  hunting down another gruesome killer.  This one is leaving a series of pimps dead in the city, with both hands removed and gunshot wounds to the face.  You don't feel too bad about the torture and death, because these are evil men and I don't have a lot of tolerance for me who traffic young girls or make money out of others sexually abusing them.

So there are lots of bad guys, some bad girls and it is tricky working out who is doing all the damage, and who is going to live, and you know some are going to die.  Graham Masterton does a good job of combining the saw type horror with a police thriller.  4/5

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Decade of Hope - Dennis Smith

A decade after 9/11 the author Dennis Smith talks to a variety of people whose lives were changed forever.  From police and fireman who were there at ground zero, to people who escaped the tower, parents, husbands and wives of those who died, a sister of the pilot who crashed into the pentagon and first responders who rushed to the scene.

We all know a lot of the stories, the ones that tragically died and the ones that survived.  It was an interesting reflection, as after this time period the grieving for those lost has changed and for many there is a distinction between people being killed vs them being murdered, who should be considered heroes and more interesting I thought was how the survivors think we should deal with terrorism in a modern world.

It did bring tears to my eyes several times, thinking of how awful it must have been for those people who died in the towers and how hard it was for the families who were left behind, and how confusing it was for them in the days following the disaster.

In this book, and in all the books I have read on the subject you do have to admire the courage and bravery of the fire and police who went towards the towers, to try and help to rescue people - awe inspiring. 4/5

Monday, May 09, 2016

Reckless - Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde has spent almost forty years being the lead singer and songwriter of the group The Pretenders.  This memoir  follows the usual patterns, with the majority of the book spent on the growing up and early twenties.  I found she had an unusual style to her writing, that settled in after the first few chapters.  So after mucking round at school, she left to a life of basically mucking round.  There is lots and lots of drugs, and lots of what seem like unsuitable men and bad decisions which all left me thinking that she was lucky to be alive.

With lots of rock encounters with David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Sid and Nancy, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, Chrissie Hynde finds a true love affair with both the UK and performing, but in this book the band only takes up the last few chapters almost like she was afraid to talk about anything in her life that happened in the past twenty years - or maybe there is a second memoir being written. 3/5

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Keeper of Secrets - Julie Thomas

This story is primarily the story of an antique violin, and the people who love it.  Owned by the rich  Horowitz family in Berlin, it is taken from their Jewish family when the men are sent to Dachau and the women direct to Auschwitz.  From there it is taken by a Russian who treasures it and passes along their family line.

At a 2008 competition, a young Simon Horowitz grandson of the original owner is struggling with his desire to carry on playing baseball with his friends, and not wanting to continue to be a musical prodigy, when he gets to play on the priceless violin.

I found the book a bit of a slow starter, but once in it I enjoyed the stories of all the characters, and how they all came together at the end. 4/5

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Into the Magic Shop - James Doty

I thought going into this book, that I thought I knew what I would be reading, but on many fronts it surprised me with things I didn't expect.  James Doty grew up poor, with a father who was an alcoholic and a mother who suffered bouts of depression and had a stroke.  He finds himself at a local magic shop, initially to look for new magic tricks to learn, but there he learns some skills from the owners mother Ruth, who teaches him meditation skills and how to seek out what he wants from his life.

We learn about how, with not the greatest of grades he gets to attend medical school and find the best training program that he wants to train in.  A successful career, wealth and a good future are all down to the skills he learned as a young man in the back room of the magic shop.

He is now the director at the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford, gets to meet the Dalai Lama and it is truly an extraordinary story, that was almost too good to be true, with me wondering if it was actually fiction rather than a memoir. 5/5

Monday, May 02, 2016

Music Monday - Angus and Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane

On my wanders over the past few weeks (shoe and clothes shops mainly), I keep encountering this song, which always make me want to sing along.  I really like this brother and sister duo - their songs are lovely and soothing, pure chill out music.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Miss You Already

After a day out doing jobs and meeting a good friend, it seemed like a good chance to have a quiet evening at home, and now I am a middle aged lady I am quite happy to sit at home and relax.  So with the curtains drawn and some candles lit, I logged into the apple TV to pick a movie.  The one I really wanted to see was Jurassic World, but that wasn't available to rent only to buy, and there was no way I was spending $20 on that.  So the second choice was Miss You Already.

This movie was about a friendship between two girls, Milly (Toni Colette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore), who met while young, and now grown up have to deal with Milly getting sick and Jesses fertility issues.   There was lots to like about this movie, I liked the main actors were 40 year olds, playing 40 year olds with age appropriate husbands (handsome Dominic Cooper and Paddy Constantine).  I like a good girls story, and that theirs was one that stood the test of time.

Somehow though it felt a bit flat after watching it.  Much as the girls were good, I felt like they didn't really gel, that they weren't quite right as friends and I just wasn't convinced.  I think for me that Toni Colette didn't convince me as an English rose, I was thinking Kiera Knightly would have been more of right actress for the role - sorry Toni.