Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Quick Lit May 2015

April was not a great reading month for me. Miss S was on holiday for two weeks and there was not a lot of downtime for reading. It was lovely having her home and spending long days playing and not having to rush everywhere which seems to be the usual situation during term time.

World of Trouble (The Last Policeman #3) by Ben H Winters 
 I was excited to get my hands on this book as I had loved the first two books in the trilogy. It turns out I had only read the first book so I have now completed the first and third books. Fortunately they work well as stand alone novels. This is another sci-fi the end of the world is nigh story but a good cut above the rest. The premise is that an asteroid is going to hit the earth and destroy it. This volume of the trilogy sees the Last Policeman, Hank Palace, travelling across  a terrified country in the six days before the asteroid is due to hit. He is searching for his sister who was last seen heading into the countryside with a group hoping to destroy the asteroid. This book captures a place and time so well. The anxiety is palpable as the date for destruction approaches. This is in many ways a standard crime novel with the sci fi twist an added bonus. I gave it five stars and look forward to reading more by this author.

Murder at Brightwell by Ashley Weaver is a period murder mystery very much in the style of Agatha Christie. I have read all of Agatha Christie's novels (I was obsessed as a teenager) and I was interested to see how this novel stacked up. I loved this novel. The period details were so spot on. I loved the characters and I flew through the novel in a very short time. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series which is out later this year. If you like a good crime novel with engaging characters I strongly suggest you give Ashley Weavers a go. A five star read.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh was a book I picked up on a whim really. I must have seen a review of the book which made me add it to my to read list on Good Reads. I saw it on the shelves at the library and grabbed it and I am glad I did. It tells the story of Victoria, an orphan who has spent most of her life in the foster care system. One of her foster homes introduces her to the Victorian language of flowers which she treasures throughout her later difficult experiences. The bulk of this novel examines her life once she turns 18 and leaves the protections of the foster system. She is drawn back into the lives of the only happy foster family she knew. This book was an enjoyable read although Victoria is not the most endearing character. A solid four star read.

How To Tell Toledo From The Night Sky by Lydia Netzer was a book that I really thought I would like. The main premise of friends creating children that would be perfect for each other as adults is a really interesting one. I enjoyed the university setting but I loathed the main character, Irene. She was utterly unlikeable and I found I just didn't care what happened to her which made it very hard to get enthusiastic about the novel. The ideas explored by Netzer were interesting but I could only give it three stars.

May has been a month of longer books so far. I am hoping to get six titles read this month including some non fiction. I have also rejoined my book club and am looking forward to discussing the book over wine next week. 

I have linked up with Modern Mrs Darcy's Quick Lit today. This is always a rich source of book reviews. Happy reading.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Best Coffees in Singapore

Within a short time of meeting me you will discover that I like coffee a lot. Becoming lactose intolerant has proved a bit of a stumbling block for my flat white loving self but I am learning to embrace soy and the occasional espresso if there is no lactose free alternative on offer.

Recently a local website (City Nomads) came up with their definitive list of the Ten Best Places For Coffee in Singapore. I was very excited to see that the vast majority of those cafes are very close to my house - at least 4 within walking distance. So, I am prepared to take one for the team and try to visit each of the top ten spots over the next few months and see if they measure up.

I mentioned my plan on Facebook and a few friends have expressed an interest in trying out the ten contenders. My former workmates Adeline and Monica met me for lunch and coffee at the sole CBD based cafe, Sarnies. It would be quite easy to miss the cafe( located at 136 Telok Ayer Street) with its very understated signage  on one window but it was already very busy at noon on a Friday.

The cafe operates well into the evening and has three distinct menus for breakfast lunch and dinner. As the name suggests sandwiches are the main attraction along with some lovely salads and the great coffees.

Adeline decided to try the Smoked Kurabuta Ham and Chedder Cheese sandwich and as you can see they are very generous portions. It looked delicious and Adeline managed to polish the entire thing off which was a spectacular effort. 

Monica tried the smoked salmon sandwich. She said it was delicious and kept half to have later in the day as it was such a large portion. Both sandwiches were served on soft sour dough bread although there is a rye option for a small additional cost.

One of the joys of lactose intolerance is bread is a really risky food. I was thrilled to find a dairy free salad on the menu. The Paleo Salad was mainly really beautifully cooked steak on a bed of lettuce, cucumber and tomato. The portion of meat was really generous and the dairy free guacamole on the side was worth the price all on its own. 

Adeline and I both had a flat white - hers a standard one and mine a large (and in a takeaway cup) soy variety. The coffee was excellent. The staff knew their stuff and picked me as lactose intolerant after I asked a couple of questions about the menu. Service was quick and friendly which was appreciated as they were very busy in the middle of the Friday lunch rush.

Sarnies have a good simple website which has all their menus and prices listed. I would like to return with the family one weekend morning and try their breakfast options. I will definitely be back as their coffee really is excellent.

If you have any favourite local Singapore coffee spots that did not make the list please let me know as I am always keen to try good coffee. I have already visited another couple of entries on the list so will have some more reviews to share soon.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Currently April 2015

I first saw the Currently List on Kristin's blog and have seen it elsewhere in various forms. I thought it might be a good way to show what is happening around here at the moment. I found the list I finally went with on Pip's beautiful crochet and so much more blog and will link this up there.

Making : A final push on my alphabet cross stitch sampler so that I can start the monthly Frosted Pumpkin sampler that I cannot wait to start. 

Cooking : A chocolate Anzac slice in anticipation of the 100th anniversary tomorrow

Drinking : Too much espresso and sparkling water

Reading: How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer and The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - I am enjoying the latter more

Wanting: A proper oven instead of a convection microwave

Looking: For a new apartment with a proper oven and dishwasher

Playing: Way too much Criminal Case and a lot of Spot It with the small girl

Deciding: Where I want to go for my birthday meal

Wishing: We had a good holiday planned for the small girl's 5 week break

Enjoying: The sun on my skin during the current hot season

Waiting: For a couple of my requested books to come into the library

Liking: How affectionate our 9 year old Maine Coon is becoming as she gets older

Wondering: If my daughter will ever sleep the whole night in her own bed for more than one night at a time

Loving: The fact that next weekend has four days

Pondering: Whether we should brave the holiday weekend traffic and go to Legoland to see the big Star Wars exhibit that my husband would love (I still have not watched any of them)

Considering:If I should join the gym or just get back into walking

Buying: Postcards to send to my Postcrossing recipients - who knew they would be so hard to find in Sg

Watching: The Blacklist - I have loved James Spader for too many years and he just keeps getting better

Hoping: I can find a job that gives us enough family time and some income

Marvelling: At the amazing job my daughter's Prep teacher does

Cringing: At the thought of hopping on the scales

Needing: A plan to make the most of my days at home

Questioning: If we should stay in Singapore or if returning to New Zealand would be the best option for our family

Smelling: My favourite Silver Birch candle

Wearing: My City Chic black skinny jeans - shame it is too hot to wear them out of the house

Following: A lot of Paleo blogs

Noticing: The more Paleo blogs I read the more I crave carbs

Knowing: Water really is the cure for everything and I need to swim more often

Thinking: That our PM's pony tail obsession is frankly embarrassing

Admiring: The gardener's at Gardens by the Bay who manage to keep tulips alive in 35 degree heat

Sorting: Through the small girl's clothes as she continues to grow out of them 

Getting: Overrun by 60 litre containers full of the small girl's discarded clothes

Bookmarking: A couple of scrapbook sketches - the first time I have considered it in nearly a year

Coveting: A pair of shoes that are not to loose around my heels that are not fit flops or trainers

Disliking: The idea of having a head transplant

Opening: The windows and enjoying the fresh air before haze season begins

Feeling: Very stiff in my neck and shoulders from too much sewing

Snacking: On mangosteens, guava and papaya

Wishing: It was already lunchtime as I am meeting a friend to try one of the top ten coffee places in Sg: Sarnies

Helping: Out in my daughter's class every week and loving it

Hearing: Kim Hill and Kathryn Ryan every day as I get my jobs done - I love Radio New Zealand National and it is nice to feel well informed about what is happening at home

Have a great weekend!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Quick Lit April 2015

 I have really made an effort to get back into reading over the past 12 months. I discovered the joys of Good Reads and then I found Modern Mrs Darcy and her excellent book posts (I think through the Little Gold Pixel blog). This month I am going to join in Modern Mrs Darcy's Quick Lit post and share the books I read in March.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica  was a well paced thriller set in the Mid West of the US. A woman is kidnapped as part of an extortion plan. Her complicated family relationships and a series of choices made by her kidnapper see her confined to a deserted lakeside cottage in rural Minnesota while the police and her her mother attempt to track her down. This was an engaging quick read which I gave four stars. I would have rated it a three and a half but the final twist was totally unexpected.

The Likeness by Tana French is the second in the Dublin series of thrillers. I have had no luck getting the first book through the library so I bit the bullet and started with book two. This was a very absorbing read. The story is successful as a stand alone novel (phew) and the lead characters were well drawn. The plot had enough twists and turns to keep me turning the pages well after bedtime even if the main premise is a bit of a stretch. The lead character, Cassie, is a police woman who is called to a murder scene as the victim is the image of her. With few clues to draw on the decision is made to insert Cassie into the victim's life and see if she can solve the murder herself. A good four and a half star read.

 Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell was a Young Adult book that I really connected with. I found the characters so well crafted and believable. It is, at its core, a love story but so much more than the usual boy meets girl formula. The time period (the mid 80's) was exactly the time I was about this age and I really loved all the musical references and familiar experiences in the book. I was all set to give the book five stars but I felt the ending really let the rest of the book down. A very solid four stars though from me.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes is the first book I have read by this author. I was under the (false) impression that she was a bit like Jodi Picoult and so I suspected I would not be a fan. I was wrong. This novel about a modern family dealing with the pressures of modern life was at times laugh out loud funny but at other points in the book I found tears in my eyes. The characters were really believable and it was nice to see a non traditional family portrayed so positively and vividly. A good four star read and I look forward to reading more books by this author.

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton is the fourth book in the Lacey Flint series. I am a huge fan of Lacey Flint. She is ballsy and fierce and totally focused on her role as a policewoman. These books can be read as stand alones but I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series as the back story does explain some of Lacey's behaviours in this novel. This is a police procedural set in London and the river Thames dominates this story almost to the point of being a character itself. Dark, scary and well written I gave this novel four stars.

The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman was a book I had heard a lot of buzz around a couple of years ago but as I generally am not a huge fan of Fantasy I didn't read it at the time. I wish I had. This book is beautiful from start to finish. The quality of the writing and the imagery has stayed with me for weeks after reading it. It is a Fantasy novel but it is so much more than that. All I can really say is that if you have not read this book you should. It was an emphatic five star read for me.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler suffered a little for being read straight after Neil Gaiman's book but I just did not enjoy this one much at all. I found the early part of the novel quite interesting but once the twist was revealed (about a third of the way through) I started to lose interest. The story seemed to peter out from this point on and it was a struggle to finish. I gave it three stars when I finished it but it may actually be closer to a two star read for me with the benefit of a few weeks passing.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill was a beautiful read. This is a short but very sharp read. I could see so many familiar aspects of the drudgery of baby raising and the difficulties of relationships in the contemporary Western world that really resonated with me. The author has a powerful writing style that contains so much beauty and truth. My second five star read of the month and book I intend to buy as I really loved it.

So that is my month of March in books. I got through quite a few books. My daughter had two weeks of school holidays in early April so my April list will be considerably shorter. I would wholeheartedly recommend Dept. of Speculation and The Ocean at the End of the Lane if you are looking for a great read. Both the Sharon Bolton and Tana French series are worth a look if you like your thrillers. My sole don't bother book this month is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves but I think I am in the minority with this one. Lots of people loved it.

I am linking up with the Quick Lit post at Modern Mrs Darcy. It is well worth a look if you are looking for something to read as there are over 60 links to posts like this one there.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Great Abandoned Blog Mystery

If you asked me why I have not touched my blog in nearly twelve months I really couldn't tell you. I guess I could spout all the usual excuses of the 21st Century - I am busy, lack of inspiration but really it is a mystery to me. 

I got so much pleasure from blogging and interacting with friends and strangers from around the world and it was mentally really healthy for me to have an outlet for my thoughts and creative projects. I need to get back into this.

I was chatting online with my sister-in-law and our conversation touched on blogging and she reminded me just how much I enjoyed this space. I cannot be sure what shape it will take. I have not touched my scrapbook supplies since I finished LOAD last year so I doubt there will be much scrapping going on. I think I want to return to the original idea of the blog a little more and record some of the adventures we are having in Singapore and beyond. Life has changed a great deal with Miss S starting primary (elementary) school and turning five so there are things to explore there too.

I have returned to my passion for reading in the past year. The discovery of the amazing Modern Mrs Darcy has introduced me to a world of new and exciting books and book bloggers. I want to share the books I have enjoyed with my readers in the hope that some may strike a cord with you.

I am also making a concerted effort to get into yoga. I have been working my way through 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene via Youtube and although my body and fitness won't allow me to do everything in each of her sessions I feel really great after them. There is always a pose in the session that my body really requires even if it is just Corpse pose at the end!

So the plan is to blog once or twice a week and see if I can find my mojo again. I hope those of you that have hung in there will join me for this new installment of my adventure in Singapore.