Monday, June 4, 2018

Book Review: Pick Three by Randi Zuckerberg

Title: Pick Three
Author: Randi Zuckerberg
Publication Date: May 15th 2018

Synopsis:  'Work. Sleep. Family. Fitness. Friends. Pick Three.

In an increasingly demanding world, we've been told that we can do it all - maintain close friendships, devote ourselves to work, spend time with family, stay fit, and get enough sleep. But who can everything - and do it well - every day? Imagine eliminating the pressure to be perfect. Now you can achieve balance over weeks and years. Randi Zuckerberg has the solution: Pick Three.

In this motivational handbook - both a business how-to and self-help guide - the New York Times bestselling author of the "well-balanced" life, arguing that the key to success is learning to be well-lopsided.'

My thoughts: I was intrigued by this idea of only 'picking three' out of the five possible options that Zuckerberg presents us with. I went in with curiosity, but also with a bit of trepidation, as I wasn't sure that the five things Zuckerberg had chosen as her 'main focuses' actually fit my life. As I read, though, I found that Zuckerberg is actually pretty comfortable with people choosing their own five, and she also addresses many different lifestyles that perhaps only allow people to choose two, or combine two together, or the thought that goes into what is perhaps available to people and how they may only have four out of her five to choose from. I really appreciated that Zuckerberg was open and honest, and that she interviewed so many people for her book to give a vast array of choices that people make in their lives.

Having said that, I did feel like parts of this book were definitely not addressing me - someone with a chronic illness. To be fair, I didn't really expect it to. But when you're presented with a 'pick three' formula and find that you have to acknowledge that most days are getting chosen for you rather than by you, it can be difficult to adapt to such a formula. But, overall, Zuckerberg's thoughts, and the thoughts of those she interviewed, were extremely well presented, and actually got me really interested in a few things - like the science of sleep, for example.

She also somehow managed to make me feel motivated about fitness during the relevant chapter - which is a decent feat, if I'm honest. Using the style of open-minded writing and addressing the fact that some people want fitness in completely different ways to others, Zuckerberg really managed to make me feel interested in different styles of fitness, and even to consider different goals. The way she has organised her own fitness goals was so helpful in reminding me that everyone is different, and sometimes fitness is a going concern for someone, and sometimes it's not.

Ultimately, I think I got a decent amount out of this book, and I think I will be pushing it into the hands of a few other people I know who struggle with the idea of being 'well-balanced'. I definitely recommend it as something to try out if you're interested.

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

A favourite line from the book: 'In many of the books I've read that tout the perfect work-life balance, the author often seems to set their reader up for failure by assuming everyone enjoys the same level of privilege as they do. I'm not going to assume that. I know some people are born lucky; they get to pick their passion with the wind at their back.'

You would like this book if: you wish to know how to be 'well-lopsided'; you're interested in the formula of Pick Three.

Tea to drink while reading this book: 

Rating:  6.5/10

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Reading // May 2018

books read:
~ My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris (review)
~ Brazen: Revel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (review)
~ A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
~ A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.1) by Sarah J. Maas
~ Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
~ Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
~ When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (TBR)
~ This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (review)
~ The Running Sky by Tim Dee (TBR)
~ Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery (TBR)
~ Provenance by Ann Leckie (TBR)
~ The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (TBR)
~ Tales of Little Brown Mouse by Alison Uttley (TBR)
~ Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir (review)
~ The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill
~ Pick Three by Randi Zuckerberg (review)
~ Cicada by Shaun Tan (review)

currently reading:
~ Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota #1) by Ada Palmer (TBR)
~ Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (review)

Phew, writing all the books out that I read this month too some work! My fingers are sore - also, it's cold and I get a lot of joint pain lately, so that could be part of the reason...

Anyway, I am really pleased with how much I read this month! I am actually surprised. I knew I was reading a lot, but didn't think it was this much! You may notice that quite a few of the books have TBR in brackets next to them - these are books that have been sitting on my physical TBR shelf waiting to be read. I finally made the decision this month that I would always try to be reading at least one review book and one TBR book at one time (yes, I am a serial reader), because I am often really excited to get to my TBR books but just never make the time to get to them - and I really want to! Super pleased to have read six TBR books this month - hopefully that will continue into June!

Okay, honourable mentions for the month. Please Look After Mom was a book I heard about on Booktube and decided to pick up from the library randomly - it was actually really immersive and I loved the writing style, and I really feel that I don't read enough translated work, so definitely want to check out more by this author.
The Running Sky was delightful - a birthday present from last year from a dear friend - and reminded my why I love Nature Writing so much. Looking forward to the Wainwright Prize shortlist announcement in July!
Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen was a surprise love of the month - I love some historical fiction in the colder weather, and got swept away with this one. Definitely want to read the others in the Tudor Queens series.
And finally, The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill absolutely has my heart. I loved every minute of this webcomic, and I kind of want to read it again already. So sweet and wonderful and diverse and beautiful and ARGH. Just loved it so much. (Psst! You can read it here!)

Oh, I will just mention Cicada, too, because I adore Shaun Tan's work and this was no different. His art is beautiful, his messages are heartbreaking and yet hopeful, and receiving Cicada for review is one of the highlights of my book reviewing life to date. I feel so lucky to be able to review books.

What are you reading lately? Interested in any of the books I mentioned?

Love to all who read.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Review: Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

Title: Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen
Author: Alison Weir
Series: Six Tudor Queens #3
Publication Date: May 8th 2018


Eleven days after the death of Anne Boleyn, Jane is dressing for her wedding to the King. She has witnessed at first hand how courtly play can quickly turn to danger and knows she must bear a son...or face ruin.

This new queen must therefore step out from the shadows cast by Katherine and Anne - in doing so, can she expose a gentler side to the brutal King?

Acclaimed, bestselling historian Alison Weir draws on new research for her captivating novel, which paints a compelling portrait of Jane and casts fresh light on both traditional and modern perceptions of her. Jane was driven by the strength of her faith and a belief that she might do some good in a wicked world.

History tells how she died. This spellbinding novel explores the life she lived.'

My thoughts: I was just flipping back through this book to think over my review, and my immediate thought was that my experience of reading this book was so wonderful. A lot of people say that they love reading historical fiction during the colder months, because you can really disappear into it a little more (plus historical fiction books tend to be quit chunky, and you have more time to pour into them). I absolutely agree with this - as the weather has been getting colder and rainier her in Perth, I have been craving bigger stories, and bigger books to sink my teeth into.

Jane Seymour delivers on this quite well. I was surprised at how much of her story Weir wanted to tell - the book basically spans the entirety of Jane's life, but with little attention paid to her childhood (as Weir says in her Author's Note, there isn't a lot of information on the earlier years of Jane's life). Jane's romance with the King doesn't really even appear until about halfway through the book. Part of me wanted to be disappointed and frustrated at that, but the majority of me was just fascinated at Jane's story, and how quickly she becomes embroiled in court life, and all the machinations and schemes that are in play.

I think one of the most beneficial things that a historical fiction tome can do is get someone interested in the time period that it is written about, and Weir managed that with me quite readily. Despite my parents being English, I have not often shown much interest in British history or their royals. But Jane Seymour:The Haunted Queen has piqued my interest. (I think my parents are quietly thrilled with this - they have other books that they would love to push into my hands now!)

While I did really enjoy my experience of reading this, I did find some parts a little bit dull, hence the slightly lower score, but I think Alison Weir writes wonderfully and manages to evoke the place and time of the book so well. I will definitely be going back to read the earlier books in this series, and I eagerly await the next one, too.

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

A favourite line from the book: 'There were carpets on the floor - Mother would have gone into spasms at the thought of people walking on them; her two Turkey rugs adorned tables, and woe betide anyone who got dirt on them.'

You would like this book if: you love creative non-fiction; you are interested in the lives of the Tudor Queens; you want some interesting historical fiction to disappear into.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I don't think tea was really 'in Vogue' at the time of this novel. Perhaps a good glass of wine or ale would suit better?

Rating:  7.5/10

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

Book Review: Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Title: Julian is a Mermaid
Author: Jessica Love
Publication Date: June 1st 2018 from Walker Books

Synopsis: "The day Julian sees three mesmerising women dressed up as mermaids, everything changes.
All he can think of is becoming a mermaid himself.

But what will Nana think?"

My thoughts: This is an absolute gem of a book. Gorgeously illustrated (I would be happy to have ANY of these illustrations up on my wall, and I really don't hang many things on the wall...), with a very sweet storyline and wonderful characters. There is minimal text within the book, as the illustrations do a lot of the work to.. well... illustrate what is going on, so it's very nearly a silent picture book, but not quite. What text is included is simple and flows well with everything else.

I may be a little outside of the realm of picture books, but I have never actually seen a picture book trying to deal with a topic such as gender-diversity or cross-dressing. And Jessica Love absolutely nails it. As someone who identifies as gender-fluid, I saw a part of myself in this book that I never really felt I had growing up. While I usually review picture books and then pass them onto people with young kids who can enjoy them... I think I will be keeping this one for myself. At least for a while!

{I received a review copy of this from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!!}

You would like this book if: You love beautifully illustrated and produced picture books, with supportive and lovely topics.

Rating:  10/10

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

Spoonie Musings // More Thoughts on Sleep

Ah yes, my sleeping patterns woes continue. I thought I was doing better, but my body seems to want me to stay up late and the sleep long into the day, but then it also gives me lots of symptoms for doing that... and lots of symptoms if I don't... Are you confused yet? I sure am.

Life as a spoonie is really weird sometimes. Okay, maybe all the time. Even when things are going well, it is a little weird because of dietary restrictions ('so you can have... what can you have?' 'things that aren't trying to kill me?'), physical activity or movement restrictions ('I'm going to go do this kind of physical fun thing! Want to join me?' 'Uh I can't, I have this thing...' 'What thing?' 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.'), and/or other things like... mental health stuff that is going on at the most frustrating possible moment ('I was going to go out and go for a walk, and maybe sit in a park for a while, but then I didn't.' 'Oh. Why not?' 'I remembered that I can't handle even the slightest hint of human interaction outside of my home right now...').

Spoonie issues come in all forms, and most of them are kind of strange in one way or another. I can take enough of a step back from my life to acknowledge that. Even now, as I write this, I can feel my stomach beginning to hurt, despite the fact that I haven't really eaten anything in about two hours, and certainly not something that was cause pain. And I think that is the most frustrating thing about being a spoonie for me: the not knowing

And that might be the most frustrating thing when it comes to my bizarre sleeping pattern right now: I have no idea whether I should just honour what my body is saying it wants and stay up, or trying and go to sleep at a 'normal' time to try and reset my body clock. Honestly, I have tried both in the last few weeks, to mixed results. I'd be the first person to admit that sometimes, whether it be because you haven't had enough time to yourself, or your brain is just not slowing down, or various other reasons, you just really need to stay up later than you usually would to reconnect to yourself, or read a book, or play a game, or, dammit, watch that show you've been meaning to get around to for months. Sometimes it just has to happen.

Other times, you need to work on your sleeping habits. Limiting screen use before bed, having a nice warm bath, or a glass of milk, or whatever normally works for you. Going to bed at a reasonable time and trying to get up with your alarm for once, instead of about twenty minutes (to an hour...) afterwards.

But I just don't know what realm I am in at the moment. It's certainly a grey area. It's neither the white light of early morning, or the pitch black of the night owl's lair, but just a grey in-between where sleep is a bizarre creature that I cannot tame. Maybe I should stop trying? (ie. just sleep during the day hahahahaha *manic laughter ensues*)

Love to all who read.

P.S. I have recently stumbled across the work of Charlie Bowater, and I really wanted to share some of her work here. Please visit the links underneath the image to check out her website, deviantart and society6 pages!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Reading // April 2018

books read:
~ Scythe (Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman (review)
~ Begone the Raggedy Witches (The Wild Magic Trilogy #1) by Celine Kiernan (review)
~ Reflections on a Mountain Lake: Teachings on Practical Buddhism by Tenzin Palmo
~ Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (re-read)
~ Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
~ The Good Luck Sister (Wildstone #1.5) by Jill Shalvis (review)
~ Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
~ Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe (review)
~ Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
~ Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (review to come)
~ The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan (review)
~ Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough (review)
~ Paris Ever After by K. S. R. Burns (review)
~ A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

currently reading:
~ A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
~ The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (review)

Another month of several reviews! Seven available, and one more to come in June! I am pretty happy with that, and also happy to note that my style of reviewing is evolving somewhat - I am finding that, with all of my brain fog symptoms lately that make it really hard to remember things, I have started to use little page markers and such to notify myself of important things in a review book - things I might like to quote, or mention, when writing my review. I am also thinking of using note-cards or a notebook to start writing down my thoughts a little more, so that my reviews are a bit more fleshed out and at times. It can be hard to write books reviews when you are having a bad brain day and can hardly remember what the book was about!

Anyway, onto my general thoughts. I mostly adored everything I read this month, with a couple of exceptions which you can read about in my reviews for the most part. I really love the fairly decent mix of genres in this month - lots of SFF, if I'm honest, but Fantasy and SciFi are my favourite genres, so that is kind of to be expected. A little sprinkling of kids books, some romance, and even some nonfiction round out everything quite well, I think.

Particular mentions I'd like to make: The Astonishing Colour of After absolutely blew me away, giving that I wasn't sure I could handle the subject matter (trigger warnings for depression and suicide). It is so beautifully written, and I gobbled it up in less than 24 hours, and then wanted to read it again. I definitely think I will sometime soon.
I finally got around to rereading Illuminae and the finishing the trilogy. And I am so so glad I did because I loved it. 

Oh, and I definitely have to mention A Court of Mist and Fury - I absolutely loved this. After being mostly so-so about the first book back when I read it, but loving the ending, I was a little unsure about picking up the others. But it happened to be at the library when I went so I grabbed it and then devoured it in three days. There is so much here that I love, and I am definitely considering getting a copy of my own for re-reading purposes. I am currently reading the third book and enjoying it, but am reserving my decision for buying the first three until I am closer to the end, I think. But the second book... oh yes. That needs to be on my shelf.

What have other peeps been reading this month? Anything fun or life-changing? Let me know in the comments~!

Love to all who read.

Book Review: Adventures of a Young Naturalist by David Attenborough

Title: Adventures of a Young Naturalist
Author: Sir David Attenborough
Publication Date: 26th September 2017 from Hachette

Synopsis: "In 1954, a fresh young television presenter was offered the opportunity of a lifetime - to travel the world finding rare and elusive animals for London Zoo's collection, and to film the expeditions for the BBC. His name was David Attenborough, and the programme, Zoo Quest, not only heralded the start of a remarkable career in broadcasting, but changed the way we viewed the natural world forever.

Written with his trademark wit and charm, Adventures of a Young Naturalist encompasses David Attenborough's expeditions to Guyana, Indonesia, and Paraguay. It includes his encounters with many wonderful creatures; from three-toed sloths in Guyana to armadillos in Paraguay and Komodo Dragons in Indonesia, caiman on the Rupununi, orangutans in Borneo, chameleons and more.

Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster and naturalist, whose television career is now in its seventh decade. His latest programme, Planet Earth II, averaged an audience of more than ten million per episode, and was the most-watched nature documentary of all time.

The books were first published in the 1950s and have been out of print for decades. The new edition includes a new introduction by Sir David Attenborough as well as a selection of photographs from his archives, some of which have never been published before."

My thoughts: I am a huge fan of David Attenborough since way back when I was a kid - my aunties got me a (VHS!) boxset of The Life of Birds when I was around 11 years old and I remember watching it over and over again - to the strange mix of pride and frustration of my parents. When I graduated my first Bachelor's Degree, I treated myself to the DVD boxset of the Life Collection (which, if I'm honest, I am still working through. Attenborough has put out a lot of series, and it's hard not to get distracted!). I used to own a secondhand copy of Zoo Quest for a Dragon, which I ended up having to give up during a big house move, so I was really excited to see that Hachette were republishing/repackaging some of the Zoo Quest diaries into Adventures of a Young Naturalist - including Zoo Quest for a Dragon!

Now that my backstory is out of the way, how did the republication match up? Amazingly well. Attenborough's engaged and witty tone works so well, and his added introduction shows how much he has learnt over his career, and his desire to share animal lives so that people can learn more about the animal world, and perhaps about ourselves in the process. Some of the things that Attenborough had to endure during the course of each of these Quests was completely startling to me, and I am honestly so surprised that he didn't lose his temper all the time - or lose his desire to travel to far-flung places to learn more. 

The antics that he describes from both humans and animal folk alike had me giggling and gasping with shock, and the newly added photos are fantastic reference and just bring the whole book together in a joyful way. The way that Attenborough writes manages to convey not just the beauty and sometimes horror of the natural world, but also his own insatiable thirst to know and learn more - at times it comes across as an almost childlike wonder, which honestly filled me with a gentle joy and brought me back to the first time I watch The Life of Birds on our beat-up VHS player. Attenborough is here doing what he does best - learning about animals, and inspiring wonder and fascination in all that read (and watch).

I highly recommend checking out this republication, particularly if you are an Attenborough fan like myself.

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

A favourite line from the book: 'Purple sea fans branched above the coral, and here and there we saw sea anemones of a size unthinkable to anyone who has only seen them in colder seas. Their many-coloured tentacles formed a carpet several feet across, and as vagrant currents passed them they waved like a field of corn with the wind upon it.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy nature books/books filled with nature writing; you are a fan of Sir David Attenborough; you like exploration stories featuring humour, sadness, and sometimes a bit of action.

Rating:  8.5/10

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