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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Still Missing

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a thirty-two-year-old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she’s about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent captive in a remote mountain cabin—which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist—is the second narrative recounting the nightmare that follows her escape: her struggle to piece her shattered life back together, the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor, and the disturbing sense that things are far from over.

At first I thought this would be a weak version of Room by Emma Donoghue but I was very wrong.  While it had a comparable base subject it was approached in a very different way.  Each chapter was a session with Annie's Therapist told in Annie's voice.  There is a mixture of her recounting her past experiences in captivity along with her current experiences on the outside.  Told in a very matter of fact way, this suited my style as I don't like anything too soppy and emotional.  This did not take away from the shock and impact of the story, I inhaled deeply at many points and was quite overcome with sorrow at one particular point, I could almost feel her pain (not putting a spoiler but you will know the part I mean when you read the book).

I did begin to wonder how the author was going to end the book and was worried that it would be a weak or happily ever after ending.  I was pleasantly surprised by the twist in the Whodunnit ending.  My only, nitpicking criticism, is that it all happened rather quickly in the end and I felt she could have expanded on some details for about two more chapters just to make the ending more believable.  

With that aside, her last line of the novel was perfect!   Looking forward to reading more by this author, although there was a sneak peak at her next novel at the end of this one and it seems to be written in exactly the same style with each chapter being a therapy session.  It will take a very strong story for this similarity not to annoy me in future novels.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Frightful's Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Frightful's Mountain (Mountain, #3)

It is illegal to harbor an endangered bird, so when Frightful returns to Sam, the boy who raised her, he has to chase her away. Frightful doesn’t know how to live alone in the wild, and she can’t feed herself, mate, brood chicks, or migrate. She struggles to survive and gradually learns to enjoy her new freedom. But Frightful feels a bond with Sam that can never be broken, and more than anything else, she wants to return to him. 

After reading the first two books I thought it would be quite cute to read the last in the "trilogy" which appeared 40 years after the first title's publication in 1959. Written because a young fan asked, "What happened to Frightful?"  I thought this was a lovely reason to write a book and expected a nice read.

I closed it and put it away after only 84 pages.  I do not like books that are written from an animals point of view via their thought processes and movements when they are made out to behave like humans.  This humanisation of birds and animals is something that has always annoyed me.  They just don't feel the same emotions as us or go through the same thought processes, even if they have been brought up by a human.

It also read like an instruction manual on how to be a Falconer and I just wasn't that interested in that.

So I put the book away unread, never to be read, and decided to just leave it to my own imagination about what happened to Frightful.  Now I may hear that I should have read on to find out more about how Sam is living but, again, I just wasn't that interested.

A disappointing end to an ok series.  Perfect if you like books about Birds of Prey and books from an animal/birds viewpoint but just not for me.  0 stars out of 5 as not completed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Smart Mom's Baby-Sitting Co-op Handbook by Gary Myers

Smart Mom's Baby Sitting Co Op Handbook: How We Solved The Baby Sitter Puzzle

This book is for a mother of preschoolers who wants time out to better care for herself, her family, and her friends. Do the start up in one hour with three friends. Then slowly have others join. When you get ten-moms you will always be able to count on a sitter. With ten moms you are also free to be a sitter when the time works with your schedule. It is all done with points and one call to the secretary--no hunting for a sitter. You serve one month as secretary on rotation with ten other moms. No pleas for help. No guilt. It works on autopilot. It is based on a Baby-sitting Co-op that has been passed from mom to mom for over twenty years. Quick reading. Well organized and humorous. 

Given to me by my local Woman's club Baby-sitting co-op to read before I can join.  Now given that I have been waiting a year to join and no-one seems to be able to organise the proverbial in a brewery, I was interested in reading this to think about starting my own Baby-sitting Co-op.

The advice is quite good when you take out all the unnecessary hyperbole that just does not add to the book.  It felt like a lot was left in to pad out the book, while some other information was lacking for me.  A good first read to give you some ideas and to get some sample forms to run your Co-op smoothly.  As long as you don't expect this to be a complete manual for you, you could use it as a basic guide and insert all the areas that work better for you.  I would also suggest that the advice to buy a copy of this book for each and every new member of the co-op to keep is a tad excessive as once you have read it I would really doubt you would refer to it again.  In my opinion, a couple of copies for the group would suffice - one master for the Secretary (who may need to refer back to it) and one to pass onto new members to read and return. 

I was quite generous and gave this 3 stars, purely because the idea of a babysitting co-op warrants it and kudos to those involved in this book for taking the time to put it all together for people like me to get some ideas.  It is easy for me to say I could have written something better but I am highly unlikely to, so again, kudos to them!  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

To start, in compliance with FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads. 

So now the review. I thought this was a beautifully written novel.  I am not normally a fan of novels that jump back and forwards in time but somehow this author made the dual time zones work together perfectly.  Not once did I have to re-check what date we were on or got confused by this and when she perfectly merged them together towards the end it happened seamlessly.  

When I first picked up the book to read, I thought that the subject matter had all been done before - I was thinking The Prestige by Christopher Priest along with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, both great books in their own right.   Somehow the author gave it a fresh coat of paint.  Yes the base elements have all been done before but the story never felt tired or familiar.

I could not put this book down until I reached the last 30 or so pages and only put it down because I did not want it to end for two reasons.  One, I was enjoying it so much I wanted it to go on and on.  Two, I was nervous that the ending would not do the rest of the book justice.

I was slightly disappointed in the ending, some ends were rather conveniently tied up, while others were left completely unexplained.  For Example, I am still not sure what the point of the challenge was but perhaps that was the authors point!  The character of Bailey and his resultant responsibilities (a bit cryptic but trying not to insert a spoiler here) happened all a bit too conveniently.

Despite these minor criticisms a thoroughly enjoyable and unique read and only one star dropped for some minor nitpicking of mine.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On the Far Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

On the Far Side of the Mountain (Mountain, #2)

Two years ago, Sam ran away from New York City to live in the Catskill Mountains. Now his younger sister Alice has joined him and is quietly living in a tree house of her own nearby. Their peaceful life is shattered when a conservation officer confiscates Sam’s falcon, Frightful, and Alice suddenly vanishes. Sam leaves his home to search for Alice, hoping to find Frightful, too. But the trail to the far side of the mountain may lead Sam into great danger.

In my review of the first book in this trilogy (My side of the Mountain) I mentioned that I struggled with the fact that parents would let their 17 year old son run away and live in the wilderness, so when this book started with them then letting their 14 year old daughter do the same, I very nearly just gave up before I had even started. I decided to read on just to see where it was going.

Putting this issue aside it was a lovely little book that will be loved by 10 to 13 year olds.  Even adults would like the survival skills that are regularly mentioned although I thought these were taken too far when they built a water mill out of nothing and at the end are contemplating using it to produce electricity.  I suppose the point is that even living in the wilderness does not get you away from development of some sort but, really, would a 17 and 14 year old from New York have the know who to do this!!  

Even more like Enid Blyton and The Famous Five for a slightly older audience, as the kids foiled a rare bird thieving ring the only difference being instead of ham sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer they eat squirrel and drink tea made out of plant roots.

In summary, a pleasant story which complements the first book rather well and actually makes the first book slightly better.  So now on to the third and last book!  4 out of 5.  Xx

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Love Story by Erich Segal

Love Story

Oliver Barrett IV, a wealthy jock from a stuffy WASP family on his way to a Harvard degree and a career in law . . . Jenny Cavilleri, a sharp-tongued, working-class beauty studying music at Radcliffe . . .

Opposites in nearly every way, Oliver and Jenny are kindred spirits from vastly different worlds. Falling deeply and powerfully, their attraction to one another defies everything they have ever believed--as they share a passion far greater than anything they dreamed possible . . . and explore the wonder of a love that must end too soon.

My book group has set a challenge for all the members.  Read a novel that it is the NY Times top ten bestsellers list from the week and year of your birth (this is the website for the lists, just change the year to your year http://www.hawes.com/1971/1971.htm).

For me the choice was a "No Brainer" as this book was number one.  A classic book that was supposed to have "defined a generation" felt like a good choice to read.  Why I had not read it before or, indeed, watched the movie I am not sure.

This book is a fine example of where less is more.  114 pages of pure simplicity, a simple story told in a pure way.  No gimmicks, no lengthy showing off of knowledge by the author but just a lovely story that managed to sum up the feeling of love without being soppy and emotional.  A cast of very few characters but somehow the author made me care about each and every one - yes, even Stoneyface.

A book that really lived up to all the hype that must have surrounded it in it's time and one I would say all book lovers should read.  It will only take you a couple of hours anyway, so go on, give it a go. 

So now to find out where I can see the movie.  5 out of 5 from me.


I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Product Details

Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

I was rather nervous about reading this book.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of my all time favourite reads and a book that made me quite emotional, so I was nervous to read another book by this author and be disappointed in some way.   Would this somehow lessen my experience of The Book Thief!?  Charity shop Karma played it's role as this book, in perfect condition, jumped out at me for $2 at the Humane society thrift store.  How could I resist a  great book and helping out poor animals.

This book is not The Book Thief but it did not disappoint in any way.  Even when writing about serious subjects this author did not fail to inject humour that really worked for me.  The same formula of a serious main story with a novel approach to telling it.  This was done in four sections, respresenting the Ace of each suit of cards and within each section a number of different lengths of chapters each with it's own succinct yet perfect heading.

This was a book that just kept me reading and reading.  In fact, I think I ended up reading it so fast that I need to read it all over again just to make sure I appreciated every last bit of it. 

A book that has put this author on my list of favourite authors as well as favourite books. 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My side of the mountain by Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain

Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude and danger of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.

This was a lovely story that will be loved by pre teens as I am sure most of them would love to be free of their parents and living comfortably with nature.  Also, the very interesting facts about how to survive by living off the land would be quite exciting for a child to learn - I was intrigued by some of the things that he could eat and use.

However, I struggled with the story as there were a few facts that I could just not get over.  First was that if your 17 year old had run away, surely, you would be sending out search parties to look for him and bring him home, particularly if you actually knew where he had gone.  I don't think any mother would just leave their child to live in the wilderness for many months without intervening.  Second, how did Sam know all the things he knew about living in nature.  Even the best read teenager would struggle to have all the knowledge that Sam had to survive in the wilderness.  Ok it was written in 1959 a time when there were no video games, computers and tv to distract a child from reading books but still, it just was not believable to me.  Lastly, and again this might be a sign of the times, but I thought the character of Bando was just creepy as what College Professor would leave a child alone in the woods to survive and then come and stay over alone with him in a tree on several occasions.  I just don't think that he would have done this but the times were different in 1959!

So if you can get your head around these three main faults then it is a lovely little story, reminiscent of Enid Blyton for a slightly older audience in some ways.  Perhaps get your pre teen to read and let me know their opinion.

It is one book from a trilogy and I may be tempted to read the next two just to see where it all leads - not a huge effort as they are only a couple of hundred pages each.

So 3 out of 5 from me. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Left Neglected

Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most.
In this powerful and poignant New York Times bestseller, Lisa Genova explores what can happen when we are forced to change our perception of everything around us. Left Neglected is an unforgettable story about finding abundance in the most difficult of circumstances, learning to pay attention to the details, and nourishing what truly matters.

This was a new author to me and what a find.  I love the way she writes as it flows so well and it has just the right amount of emotion without being soppy and over emotional despite a really difficult subject.  What made it an even better read was finding out about Left Neglect and how it is a very real neurological disorder (see more below).  It was hard to really appreciate the workings of this disorder as I kept thinking "but how could someone just not see the left side of themselves"  but it is real and people are trying to live with it.

I could truly relate to the main character, Sarah as I used to live for my job and worked all the hours in the world thinking that work was the most important thing in my life.  I then gave it all up to move continents and ended  up becoming a stay at home Mother.  So while, my life change was by choice and not thrust upon me by a tragic accident, I could really appreciate what she was going through.  I could also slightly empathise with her condition having seen my Father lose the power in his left side through a series of strokes. 

For me this was an emotional read as it struck a number of still raw nerves but somehow the author still made it a very enjoyable read.  She didn't go for the "Hollywood" happy ending that I suspected would happen at first.  It was a novel that I could just not put down and I had to set aside all other chores just to finish it. 

My one criticism is that it wasn't long enough as I thought there was a lot more to the story but then again, if she had stretched it out I would probably be complaining about it being to long and overwritten - no pleasing some people.  So, I guess, I preferred it to be the way it is and leaving the reader with a lot of thought and without all "issues" being nicely resolved.

A great read for everyone and a definite 5 out of 5 for me.  Not life changing but just a really well written novel and a good story.

What is Left Neglect

Hemispatial neglect, also called hemiagnosia, hemineglect, unilateral neglect, spatial neglect, unilateral visual inattention, hemi-inattention or neglect syndrome is a neuropsychological condition in which, after damage to one hemisphere of the brain is sustained, a deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space is observed. It is defined by the inability for a person to process and perceive stimuli on one side of the body or environment that is not due to a lack of sensation. Hemispatial neglect is very commonly contralateral to the damaged hemisphere, but instances of ipsilesional neglect (on the same side as the lesion) have been reported.

Hemispatial neglect results most commonly from brain injury to the right cerebral hemisphere, causing visual neglect of the left-hand side of space. Right-sided spatial neglect is rare because there is redundant processing of the right space by both the left and right cerebral hemispheres, whereas in most left-dominant brains the left space is only processed by the right cerebral hemisphere. Although most strikingly affecting visual perception ('visual neglect'), neglect in other forms of perception can also be found, either alone, or in combination with visual neglect.
For example, a stroke affecting the right parietal lobe of the brain can lead to neglect for the left side of the visual field, causing a patient with neglect to behave as if the left side of sensory space is nonexistent (although they can still turn left). In an extreme case, a patient with neglect might fail to eat the food on the left half of their plate, even though they complain of being hungry. If someone with neglect is asked to draw a clock, their drawing might show only numbers 12 to 6, or all 12 numbers on one half of the clock face, the other side being distorted or left blank. Neglect patients may also ignore the contralesional side of their body, shaving or adding make-up only to the non-neglected side. These patients may frequently collide with objects or structures such as door frames on the side being neglected.