13 May 2015

{Renee Reviews} - When I Am Happiest

Most of you who have followed along here for a while know that I have three daughters. They are all now in school and my eldest two in particular seem to ebb and flow with their enthusiasm for reading. It is so strange for me to see this since I have always been a bookworm and even though I want my daughters to feel the same way about reading as me, I know it is unwise to push them into something which can make them switch off altogether. My youngest daughter, Aimee, really turned a corner when she started school towards the end of last year. Never have I been more excited to see her proudly show me her reading book for that particular day and actually want to sit down and read it to me. This is what I want to encourage, the enjoyment of reading, of having that interest in plot development and how stories can transport us to a different time and place or echo parts of our own lives. I have seen such a change in Aimee's enthusiasm for reading and hope it will continue to grow. I still hope that my eldest children will want to pick up a book and read for enjoyment, but it's a work in progress for them and with Aimee at an emergent reader level, at least this way, I can still get to read aloud to them all at bedtime. In my hope to encourage my children's love of reading for pleasure, I have been lucky enough to partner with Gecko Press. They are a boutique publishing house here in Wellington and their books are very distinctive because of their beautiful covers that often have quirky illustrations. The books they publish are generally English translations of award-winning overseas titles, but there are a number of New Zealand authors and illustrators amongst them as well, including Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy, Elizabeth Knox and Jack Lasenby. Importantly to me as a parent, the books seem to intrigue children to pick them up in the first place which is often the biggest hurdle. From time to time, Gecko Press will send our family books for us to enjoy and we will select from them the ones we would like to review. We are not compensated in any other manner and all views expressed are mine and those of my daughters.

'When I Am Happiest' by Swedish author Rose Lagercrantz is one in a series of three books about a young girl called Dani. The story contains black and white illustrations by Eva Eriksson and short chapters, which is a key factor to help a child move on from picture books, but who may not be quite ready to tackle longer novels. 'When I Am Happiest' is a tale based on camaraderie, family and love which is brought to the fore when Dani's dad is seriously injured in a road accident. I wondered how my sensitive child would respond to this event, but it led to some good discussion about mortality and what would happen if something happened to me or her dad and also the importance of searching for the good in the bad.

I thought you might like to read Renee's thoughts since she is the book's target audience. She writes:

I think it's a very extraordinary and purrrfect book. I enjoyed the story because it has a mixture of emotions. I felt sad when the father got run over. I laughed at the riddle How many eyes does a herring have? Please comment if you think you know the answer. Anyway, I think it's a good book for 7 year olds and up. It has lots of nice pencil illustrations.

Reading level: 5-7
RRP: $19.99
Due for release in July 2015

Thank you Gecko Press for sending us a copy to review. Book images taken from the Gecko Press website. Feel free to take a guess at Renee's riddle. There are no prizes, but you will make a 7 year old's day.

07 May 2015

The Bachelor NZ Ep 16: The Finale

Here we are, the moment we have all been waiting for. T minus 21 girls, eight weeks and a bazillion sparkly outfits and extreme dating locations and we are down to the final two. I. Can't. Stand. It.
Tourism New Zealand should do quite nicely out of this series, I should think. Not so sure about Suzuki, they are still nana cars. And Lindauer, woweee. I shudder to think how many throats that beverage was lubricating at Bachelor parties around the country last night.

Art's abs get in one last round of exercise before he takes his girlfriends to meet his parents as they and his eldest sister have joined him on the Gold Coast. Matilda walks in and sees his family seated together like the interview panel from the Dragon's Den. Art's father leaks out a "Wow" at the sight of her. Good start. They start firing questions at her. Art's mother has quite a formidable presence and she takes Matilda aside for an arm wrestle and also to chat. She wonders if Matilda is too much of a 'yes' girl. Some of the questions are quite direct. Art's sister thinks Matilda would fit well with the family. Given that Art has already told Matilda previously that he would be checking to see if his sister approves of her, this is a good sign.
Afterwards, Art and Matilda head to a wildlife hospital and a koala does a Poppy on her the entire time they are trying to have an intimate discussion. Then, it poos on her bare midriff. The feralness of it all. If this was the American version this scene would never have made it to air, but this is New Zealand and we find that kind of thing hilarious. A broken arm and defecated on by a marsupial. This girl deserves to win.

They enjoy a dinner and Matilda goes into hustle mode, stating that they would be more compatible because Dani has never been in a serious relationship before and probably doesn't know the difference between lust and love. Ouch. Then it's off to the beach for a roll in the sand.

Ding, ding. Round two. Dani arrives at Art's place to meet the in-laws. The family is still seated intimidatingly around the outdoor dining table and muttering amongst themselves. Similar questions are thrown at Dani and when Art's mother takes her aside to talk to her, she asks if Dani thinks she will be the last one standing. Dani is really convinced that she will be and if Art wants to get engaged, she would be fine with that. Her intensity is matched by Art's mother's gaze. Dani discloses that she is in love with Art. Art's mum kisses Dani on the lips as they leave. They are obviously a very close family, but I notice that Matilda only got a hug. Is this a telling sign? Dani says to the camera that she hopes after she tells Art how she's feeling that Art will say that he loves her as well and wants to be with her. No, no, no Dani, this is not how the show works. You must wait until the final rose declaration to learn whether he is feeling the way you do.

They head to Seaworld and go swimming among the dolphin wee. Anything Matilda can do, Dani can do better.
Art and Dani enjoy a romantic poolside dinner date at The Hilton with lots of fairy lights and reflective surfaces. Dani reveals that she is in love with him and Art squeaks out a "OMG. Thank you". That went well, then.

Art needs to choose a ring. Thank goodness this show has been full of product placement so he knows who to call. Michael Hill - Jeweller does house visits now. Not only does he give Art a ring, he offers some sage marital advice. I think he should stick to marriage guidance.
The music becomes more dramatic as we see each of the girls and Art getting ready for the finale. Art describes Matilda as beautiful, funny and warm. He says Dani is vivacious, positive and stunning. Who will he choose, there are no negative adjectives there to tell me which way this thing is going to go. There are violins playing and Art, dashing but sweaty in his suit on this hot Gold Coast day, walks onto McLaren's Landing. He stands alone on the sand under a pergola held together with the broken dreams and despair of all the girls he has bid adieu to on his journey of love. The camera is trained on a patch of sand where the girl who will have her heart broken will appear.

It's Dani. The girl who gave him her heart, her soul and the nation so many great facials. He starts by telling her all of the things he loves about her and that a life with her would be an ongoing adventure. Then he says BUT, which is all Dani needs to hear to know she is not going to get familiar with his face ever again. Dani is not expecting this speech at all. She composes herself enough to wish him and Matilda well, saying that they will have a wonderful future together if it beats what they had. He apologises for hurting her, and she is clearly devastated. They walk to where he says his final goodbye and then she walks out of his life and probably straight to the carpark to key his car.
Art shuffles off to kick some sand and wait for Matilda so he can stop feeling bad about taking the bubble out of Dani's bubbliness. If Art's paleo business flounders, he should consider a career in speech-writing. His words to Matilda are pitch-perfect. Matilda had been worrying all day that it wouldn't be her, and he responds with "It's always been you". He presents her with the Super Bowl championship ring and they walk off into the sunset busting out dance moves and with Art singing this song:

To all the girls I've loved before
Who stepped out from behind the car door
I'm glad they came along
Cocktails would have been better with a bong
Shivani would have been easier to score

Fiona, Michelle and Nikki
Natasha, Rosie and Cristy
And Lisa didn't stay that long
Their Bachelor game wasn't strong
And Danielle L's too old for me

Hayley wanted to be my wife
She couldn't rap to save her life
Amanda and her smily face
And her golf game's a disgrace
I've got no other words to rhyme with wife

To all the girls I've once caressed
Kristie thought she was the best
She's the girl who just wanted love
But I gave her the shove
She's gone home to study up on Black Doris plums, I guess

To all the girls who cared for me
Alysha, Poppy and Natalie
Chrystal had no heart
And laughed at my bowl cut
But she still got some jewelry

To all the girls who spent time with me
Carissa, Brigitte and Danielle B
There was controversy along the way
And despite the rumours, I'm not gay
With six sisters peeing sitting down comes naturally

Dani had so much more to give
I thought she was really attractive
And though it was wrong I know
I strung her along for the entire show
I hope her step-mum doesn't find out where I live

Matilda proved her love for me
By breaking part of her anatomy
And when the koala did a poo
And used her puku for a loo
I knew that it was meant to be

06 May 2015

The Bachelor NZ Ep 15: Getting cosy on the Gold Coast

Please ensure your seatbacks and tray tables are secured in their upright positions, we are about to land at the fantasy dates destination. The show's music is ramped up a couple of notches to let us know how exciting it is to be in Australia. Where the sun is shiney and the skies are always blue except for the ominous storm clouds just before the rose ceremony that portent the end of the blonde triple layer love sandwich that Art has been snacking on.

Dani gushes to the camera that Art treats her in a way in which she's never been treated before. She's 22, there's still time. They attempt to surf on the Gold Coast waves of love and then head aboard a luxury yacht where there's lots of "Ooh, sunset", "Ooh, nice view" and other idle chitchat interspersed with Dani ravenously launching at his face. They come up for air to enjoy some dinner and Dani feels that their chemistry is written in the stars because Art is Taurean and she is a Cancer which are really compatible. I had to check that detail and she isn't making it up. Art invites Dani to spend the night on the yacht but is unsure how Dani will respond to his invitation. At a guess:

Art goes to great pains to reassure her that the overnight stay will be just at pyjama party levels of sordidness. All sorts of euphemisms are used to avoid using the 's' word that rhymes with ex, because 7.30pm timeslot.
Hands where we can seem them, Dani.

She agrees to spend the night with him but disappointingly, we don't get to see them with their early morning bed hair or what they have for breakfast but it will be something ridiculously healthy sprinkled with some rose petals and an added helping of Adonis goodness. One assumes.

Matilda heads on the next date, walks along a marina and loves what she sees, but she's easily impressed. Art romances her with a cruise on a rickety gondola, which quite sensibly, is motorised. They head out for dinner and Matilda gushes that it's amazing. Am I missing something here because it looks like someone ran out of time to set the table properly. It is basically a couple of glasses of water, some rose petals dumped on the table and the previous diner's left their dance of the seven veils costume on the corner.

Matilda says the food is lovely and deadpans that it is just like the food she cooks at home. Art misses the joke, so Matilda has to clarify that it's not at all like what she cooks at home. Awks. They head upstairs to the "amazing" penthouse and go out onto the balcony to spill some more superlatives about the view. The dessert platter looks good and Art tests whether everything on the plate is edible. It's not. To Art's credit, he blushes when he tries to eat a red sliver of plastic. Art says he was nervous that he was not going to meet someone he really liked on this experience but he couldn't have been more wrong. Is he talking about Matilda specifically? After seeing Dani and Art on their date, I just don't know anymore. They get to the crux of the chat and he invites her to spend the night but she declines the offer and then spends the rest of the episode agonizing over whether she has made the right decision. Bed. Lie in it.

Alysha has the final date and stands right in front of a Helicopter tours sign and asks what they are going to be doing. Oh, Alysha. They fly inland to a health spa retreat and proceed to step into a hot tub where Arthur has obviously been watching those home birthing videos again and reenacts the blood and gore by pouring some oil and good red wine INTO THE WATER. Alysha tries not to throw up at the grossness.

They take a shower and I'm feeling like I need one too watching this. Alysha says it feels private but there's a camera trained on them and we are all watching so it is very voyeuristic.

We know Arthur likes his trees, so there's the obligatory shot of him losing control at the size of the ones they see on their post-shower bush walk. There's a decent picnic set out for them on a deck overlooking an amazing vista, but coming from New Zealand, I'm just paying lip service. It's becoming clear that South Islanders aren't particularly knowledgeable about fancy fruit because Alysha has not heard of quince before. They chat and Alysha does her best to make no eye contact whatsoever and so kissing seems like a good way to pass the time. Oh, and spending the night together.

Now we are down to decision-making time and Mike casually interviews Art from his matching Barcelona chair. Is it easier or harder now there are only three girls left? Well Mike, it doesn't make it easier. So it's hard then. Right, glad we established that. Moving right along to the rose ceremony. The geniuses at the TV3 wardrobe unit colour-code the girls so it's clear who spent the night with Art and who held out. Matilda, dressed in virginal white, looks anxious and sweaty.

The suspense is building and in classic cliffhanger fashion, the show makes us wait until after a commercial break to find out who gets a rose. Matilda wins the first rose and then returns to hold hands with her bestie, Dani. Dani gets the last rose, sending Alysha home. Dani and Matilda hug in happiness, overjoyed with the knowledge that they get to share their boyfriend for a few more days. Alysha's stoic but there are oily, red wine whirlpools of anger in those baby blues of hers. She forces a smile and musters up something nice to say. They walk stiffly to the front door and have another stilted conversation and I am screaming at her to do the right thing and stab him in the head with her stiletto. Right between the eyes, there's still time! But, no, she's a classy married woman until the very end.
We also get a sneak peek at what I imagine is the promise ring, because we can be pretty sure there's not going to be a proposal at the end of this show. I literally gasp when I see it, and not in a good way.

Tune in tonight for the last episode. Who will win the final rose? Will it be Dani the Despo, or Matilda the Hold-out? It's going to be MASSIVE!