Thursday, 30 April 2015

VSH Book Club #3: All The Light We Cannot See

Well I promised that the next book would be something you can get your teeth into, and I am certainly hoping that's the case with this month's choice, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and New York Times bestseller All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. 

I first came across this book on the Waterstones website under the bookseller recommendation section. Having done a little more research, more than one source has said that fans of The Book Thief should enjoy this, and I LOVE that book. I guess the two are being linked because of the similar backdrop of World War II. In All The Light We Cannot See two children cross paths in occupied France; Marie-Laure a blind French girl and Werner, a German orphan. From what I can gather (I don't like reading too many reviews in case of spoilers) we follow their journeys over a 10 year period intertwined with a mystery connected to a cursed jewel. 

Amazon reviewers have given the book 4.5 out of 5 and you can buy the kindle or paperback edition here. Or head on over to Waterstones, where it gets 4 out of 5 from the solo reviewer, who describes it as "Magnificent. An all time great."

So there we go. Who's in? 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

VSH Book Club... The Girl on the Train Review

Look away now if you haven't finished the book or want to avoid spoilers!

If I had to sum up this month's book I would say that it is an easy read thriller, enjoyable but not ground breaking. Overall I liked it despite it not setting the world alight; it was well written and engaging, and I can understand why it is currently so popular. Like with last month's book however I wasn't overly enamoured with the characters, and this wasn't a read which I kept thinking about afterwards.  If asked for a score out of 10 I would go for 6 (in a very far reaching and general book category) or 7 (in its genre). Here's why:

The biggest plus point of the book is that it hooks you in immediately. No slow build up here, the reader is introduced to the main character Rachel and all her flaws from the outset, as well as the couple she has become somewhat obsessed with as her daily commute (which we soon learn is contrived) passes the back of their house each day. A few doors down lives Rachel's ex and his new wife and daughter, who add to the intrigue. There is no arguing that the writing leaves you wanting to know more, this is the kind of book that you will stay up late for even when you don't think it's worth it!

The array of characters' secrets adds to the overall success of the book and keeps you fairly on your toes for the majority of the story as to how things will pan out. I say the majority as I suspect many people will have guessed the twist and/or outcome around 3/4 of the way in which is when I did. This didn't ruin the book for me though, as I thought the conclusion of the story was well handled and didn't feel as rushed as some thrillers do. It also made sense and didn't leave me wanting to punch the author in the face like a certain similar title did. Most of the characters (Rachel's housemate aside) had a hint of darkness about them, and the story flowed well from one narrator to another as well as from one timeframe to the next. 

I also thought that having such a flawed main character was a bold move and one which made the book more interesting than many of its counterparts. Obviously towards the end we learn that many of Rachel's shortcomings are the after-effect of an abusive relationship, but for the most part we are dealing with a character whose lonlieness and excessive drinking are described in all their (anti) glory and which appear at times to be self inflicted. I found that I did engage with Rachel and was willing her not to open that bottle of wine at 10am in the morning. Equally I was cringing for her when she wakes to her housemate discovering the pile of vomit at the bottom of the stairs, which I put down to the effective writing and refreshingly realistic descriptions of how bleak living in such circumstances must be. 

On the downside, I found there was some repetition within the story and that it lacked depth. I guess it doesn't set out to be the sort of book that will change your life though so can't complain too much about that! The character of Scott, Megan's husband was an obvious cliche for me, and I found it pretty hard to believe that he and Rachel would have struck up the shortlived friendship that they did without him asking a few more questions about her relationship with Megan. There were also a number of characters introduced but not explored fully enough for me, like Anna and Dr Abdic. 

I am trying to think of other shortcomings of the book given that I only think it is a 6/7 but am actually finding it difficult so maybe I have been a bit harsh! My main issue is simply that it's not a book that will stay with you or effect you emotionally, but for a thriller read which keeps you guessing and makes you want to race to the end (which isn't a difficult task) you can't go too far wrong with The Girl on the Train. 

What did you think folks?! Please share your thoughts! They are probably more insightful than mine!

Come back tomorrow for May's book club choice x 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Haul Ass to... GAP

I rarely go into or look at Gap online for clothes for myself. When it comes to baby and kid's clothes though, they are up there with the best in my opinion. They currently have an interesting offer on whereby the more items you buy, the more discount you get. If you purchase one item a 20% discount will be applied, if you purchase 3 or more items the discount is 25% and if you have a blow out and go for 5 or more you'll get a 30% reduction. The code is LOVEGAP and ends today! 

Here are some of my kiddie favourites. Head on over there now! 

Americana flutter star one-piece £14.95 before any discount 

Whale one-piece £12.95 before any discount 

Flutter ladybug one-piece £17.95 before any discount 

Americana star slip-on sneakers £8.95 before any discount

Ant tunnel banded pants £7.95 before any discount 

Have a great weekend! And if you haven't finished reading this month's book club read then get a move on :-) 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Monthly Milestones... 8-9 Months

We have a crawler! I said in my last monthly milestones post that Teddy was almost there, and a couple of weeks after posting that he figured out how to cross the rug to reach his favourite toy and since then there has been no stopping him! It has been so amazing to watch, as you can see him working out in his head where he wants to go and the determination he uses to get there. He does sometimes still alternate the crawl with the bum shuffle, and prefers carpets to wooden floors but I suspect that we will be needing that stair-gate very soon! After the first time Teddy crawled he didn't do it again for 24 hours, and I think he hadn't realised that he had cracked it, but now as soon as we put him on the floor he is on the move. Pablo is less enthused about this than the rest of us :-)

Crawling hasn't been the only major milestone this month, we also took Teddy on his first holiday! I will write a detailed post about both the destination (Tallinn) and tips on travelling with a 9 month old very soon but the short story is that he was a little star and we found the whole trip to be much less stressful than anticipated. I would definitely recommend a city break with a baby around this age; Teddy seemed fascinated by the new surroundings and was more than happy to be pushed around in the buggy we borrowed. It also turns out that menus are his new favourite thing! He was happiest with one of those in his hand (and not one of the carefully selected toys I had packed) whilst Chris and I had a beer. You can't argue with that! It was lovely having time together as a family, we didn't cram too much in so had plenty of time to chill out just the three of us. I just wish we could have had a bit longer!

Over the last month Teddy's sleeping pattern hasn't changed much but one new development is that he now sleeps on his tummy rather than his back, sometimes with his bottom in the air as demonstrated beautifully below! When he first did this I would turn him back over but having consulted fellow mums I learnt that it is a safe way for babies to sleep once they are strong enough to turn themselves over, so I leave him be. Unless of course he decides to fall asleep sitting up which he has now done twice. How this is even possible I don't know, the boy has some serious sleeping skills.  

Food wise, Teddy continues to eat most of what he is given. Given being the operative word however - he has decided that feeding himself is too much hassle so now tends to drop whatever I hand to him on the floor and opens his mouth expecting me to do it for him. Of course this never seems to apply when he is given a baby biscuit, the little monkey. It is a good job we didn't go for solely baby led weaning as it would be a nightmare right about now! I am not worrying about it yet as I am hoping it is just a phase, and I am sure that if he gets hungry enough he will miraculously start to feed himself finger food again.  On holiday we discovered that he LOVES spaghetti carbonara and pizza (I gave him a tiny bit of mine) so he clearly takes after his mum when it comes to a weakness for Italian food.  I suspect that he has put on a fair few pounds recently! 

I think that is all for now, quite a month it has been for the little man! I will leave you with a few more pictures from the last few weeks and will see you in a months time!