Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Usborne Very First Reading: Book 2 - The Dressing-Up Box

Written by: Mairi MacKinnon
Illustrated by: Kate Sheppard
Pages: 32 pages
Format: Hard cover
Genre: Children’s Book
Reading Level: 3 – 5 years old 
  • An exciting story to inspire very beginner readers.
  • Based on the principles of synthetic phonics, supports the "Letters and Sounds" programme used in thousands of UK primary schools.
  • Adult and child take turns to read, and the child’s text uses only the letters s a t p i n m d.
  • Fun puzzles test understanding, and provide opportunities for discussion and further reading practice.

My thoughts:

This book is part of a series that introduces reading to first time readers. I started reading Book 1: Pirate Pat from the series a couple of weeks back to the kids. Per my previous post on my experienced reading the first book, my kids loved it because they love stories about pirates but I had suspected that the kids won't enjoy the second book so much.

I was right, my kids were not as excited to read the Dressing-Up Box unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong the book was fine but dressing-up is not something my kids are into just yet so that’s why they were not interested when I read it to them. It took a lot to get them to focus on listening to me read the whole book.

So note to self: Read books with subjects that they are interested in and it would be easier for them to stay focus on the book.

I had plans to slowly purchase and collect the whole Usborne Very First Reading Series but was surprised that they had removed it from the shelf of the bookstore I originally purchased it from and is no longer available for sale in any of their outlets. The sales girl was explaining about stocks being on their shelves for only six months and after that it is returned back to the stockist. I called all other local bookstores and they don’t carry it either. Buying it online would just cost more for delivery.

What that means really is that I won’t be reading any other books from this series to the kids. That’s kinda sad cause I was looking forward to reading the rest of the series with the children.

Anyway, I just made major purchases on Audible for the children like Gruffalo’s Child, The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet and Curious George Visits the Zoo. Big boy and I listened to the Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet last night and he quite enjoyed it because of all the farting sound effects… sigh… boys…

Monday, February 23, 2015

Travel: Sentosa Island, Singapore

The pool at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa
This is way overdue but I really wanted to share our experience when we stayed at Sentosa Island during a long weekend holiday in January. Hubs and I have not travelled with the family for almost three years. We made a conscious decision to delay travelling temporarily when I got pregnant with my second son. Reason? Well, we didn't think we were up to travelling with two toddlers.

My second son is two years old now and took his first airplane flight for this trip. He was a star. He did look a bit scared when we took off but other than that, he was enjoying himself on flight.

We wanted to bring the kids to Universal Studios Singapore and we thought it would be best to stay within Sentosa Island itself. We decided to stay at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa for the three days two nights trip. While the hotel looks a bit old, the facilities were awesome and honestly the service was beyond excellent. The staff were really friendly and they looked like they really enjoyed the work that they do.

It was also the boys first time experiencing the beach. The beach on Sentosa is not the best that we have been to but it was clean (it’s Singapore! Of course its clean!) and the boys had fun building their first sand castle. We spent more time at the pool then the beach honestly cause Shangri-La’s pool area had a better environment for the kids.

Traveling around Sentosa was really easy as they had a free feeder bus that took you around the island. The feeder bus schedules were consistent and easily accessible. The only time that we took a taxi was from the airport and back and when we wanted to visit The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

Universal Studios was good for the kids. They really enjoyed themselves. The boys especially loved Jurassic Park in the Lost World section and the Transformers section. Both my boys are into dinosaurs so you can imagine how excited the kids were when we got to Jurassic Park. My eldest son took his first theme park ride at Jurassic Park and he was super excited. As we were only there for one day, we did not manage to visit every corner of the theme park. We had to be selective and only went for the ones we thought the boys would enjoy. I think we should have allocated two days to visit the whole theme park at a more leisurely pace.

Mum and I quite enjoyed the 50’s diner called Mel’s drive-in. There was a performance by these 4 guys called The Cruisers singing 50’s and 60’s tunes and I absolutely enjoyed myself singing along to the songs (no I am not in my 60’s ok but mum played a lot of her favourite 50’s & 60’s tunes when I was growing up so I kinda know the lyrics to most of the songs from that genre).

Sentosa Island is a great location for short family get-away. We really enjoyed ourselves and would definitely want to visit Sentosa Island again in the future.

Before I end this post I'd just like to add: though I’ve visited Singapore many times, I have never visited Marina Bay Sands. We went to visit the mall this time around and I am absolutely in love with this place. The brands are a bit expensive for me but the detailing and finishing for the building was really impressive. The place was spacious and more importantly had FREE WIFI! Lol…

Till next time!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's Monday What Are You Reading This Week?

It’s Monday What Are You Reading This Week is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. We use this meme to share what we have read in the past week and what our plans are for the upcoming week.

It was a four-day weekend last week for us in Malaysia to celebrate Chinese New Year. Hubs and I took the opportunity to take the kids on a quick beach holiday in Kuantan. You’d think I would have managed to sneak in a couple of pages in between but seriously I was occupied trying to make sure the kids were ok at the pool or trying to get their ass out of the pool which requires 150% of my time and energy especially when your kids are below 4 years old.

Ok enough about my holiday, last week I finished reading Going Gray by Brian Spangler. You can read my thoughts on the book here. I intended to listen to Curious George Rides a Bike with the kids but I think maybe the audiobook is too long a duration for them. They would listen to it for the first 2 minutes and then suddenly they’ll lose interest and request for their favorite audiobook Jack and the Beanstalk instead. We did listen to The Gruffalo on our drive back home from the resort and the kids and I quite enjoyed it.

This week, I’m reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I’m just a couple of pages in and I’m liking it so far. I also started listening to The Walk by Richard Paul Evans this morning on my drive to work. This audiobook was kinda an impulse purchase. It seemed to have great reviews both on Audible as well as Goodreads plus its only a 4 hour listen. So that’s my reading list this week.
Anyway, I’m back at work today after a four-day weekend and as you can imagine I literally had to drag myself out of bed for work this morning. I’ll be having a really busy time at work from now right up till June. It’s like that every year. So I do hope that I’ll be able to keep up with my reading and blogging despite my busy schedule. In the meantime, happy reading everyone and do share whats on your reading list this week!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Going Gray (Gray Series Book 1)

Written by:  Brian Spangler
Pages: 285 pages
Format: EBook
Genre: Apocalypse, Science Fiction

Going Gray is a 285 page novel, and is Book 1 of the Gray Series.


When Emily heard the first scream, she became concerned.
When she heard the second scream, she grew scared.
When she heard the third scream, she was struck with terror.
But it was what Emily could not hear that frightened her the most.

Emily wakes to find that her world has plummeted into darkness--the clouds have spilled out of the sky and taken the sun.

And there is more to the mysterious fog--the mist is poison, killing everything in its path. Emily's home is no match for the caustic fog, and her family is suddenly on the run for safety.

But when she learns that the machines built to save the world could be the cause of the accident, Emily turns to her father, the original architect, with the hope that they can stop the environmental catastrophe.

My thoughts:

Going Gray is a gripping story that kept me at the edge of my seat from pretty much the first page. The book starts off with a bang and was an intriguing read until the last few pages.

The ending however felt abrupt and there was not much story on how Emily and the group survived. I really did want to read more about what happened to Emily, Justin and Peter and how they built their life to survive the apocalypse. It would have been great if it was elaborated a bit more.

But anyway, the ending left me with a few unanswered questions: Why did the skies fall? What is the purpose of the machine? I suppose this book really focusses on how the apocalypse begins and sets the pace for the next book in the series, which I look forward to reading. So much so that I bought the Gray Omnibus version that has all four books from the series on my Kobo yesterday.

Going Gray is a quick read seeing that it is only 285 pages in total. Storyline was captivating making it an easier read. I gave this book a 4 over 5 on Goodreads.

We Were Liars

Written by:  E. Lockhart
Pages: 240 pages
Format: E-Book
Genre: Young Adult, Mysteries and Thrillers

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

My thoughts

We Were Liars is a story of Cady who comes from a family that is rich with ‘old’ money. Cady spends every summer on a private island with her cousins. The summer of her fifteenth year, a terrible event occurs which left Cady suffering from a severe memory loss and constant migraines. She returns to the island two years later and slowly the memory of the tragic event returns in scattered memories.

Can I just lie and say I didn’t like it? Ok. Truth: I didn’t like all of it but I liked the ending.

The writing style was not something that I’m used to and it was sometimes annoying to read. There were parts where fairy tales were used to narrate the story. Truth, I skipped those parts mostly. I’ve read reviews of people actually appreciating Lockhart’s style of writing but unfortunately, I can’t appreciate it.  

Despite the writing style, the storyline was still engaging. Cady is an unreliable narrator. Her memories are scattered and revealed in bits and pieces but just at the right time and the right doses to keep you wondering and wanting to know what happened to her that summer fifteenth.

What I did absolutely love was the plot twist at the end of the book. I. Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

I finished reading We Were Liars a couple of days ago and honestly the thing I remember the most is the twist and not much else from the book.

I gave this book a 5 over 5 in Goodreads for the memorable plot twist. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lego Star Wars Book Collection: A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back

Written by:  Emma Grange
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
Genre: Children’s Book
Reading Level: 5-7 years

DK Readers is a multi-level reading program guaranteed to capture children's interest while developing their reading skills and general knowledge. With nine new exciting titles to choose from this season, kid's ages 4-9 will find the perfect book at their appropriate reading level to help with school projects or independent reading.

A New Hope:
DK Readers: LEGO® Star Wars®: A New Hope is the exciting story of the iconic Star Wars: Episode IV movie, retold for young readers with their favorite LEGO® Star Wars® minifigures and sets. This Level 1 Reader follows our heroes as they attempt to rescue rebel leader Princess Leia from the evil empire.

The Empire Strikes Back:
Follow the adventures of the rebels as they fight against the Galactic Empire-all in LEGO® form, with DK Readers: LEGO® Star Wars®: The Empire Strikes Back. Clear, informative text helps beginner readers to read on their own in this all-new Level 2 Star Wars Reader from DK.

My thoughts:
I’m a big Star Wars fan and when I saw this box set on the shelf of my local bookstore, I just couldn’t resist getting myself one. The box has a picture of a storm trooper in front. Inside the box set, there are 4 books; one copy of A New Hope and one copy of The Empire Strikes Back plus two activity/sticker books.

My kids are into the Star Wars Rebel cartoon so when they saw me come back with this box set, they attacked it and tore it open. I think my kids enjoyed the sticker books more than the actual story books. The sticker book was really a fun activity to do with the kids and I also honestly think my husband had more fun with the sticker book than the kids.

As for the books, well I’m quite surprised that the author managed to capture the essence of the storyline in less than 30+ pages for each book. The Lego mini figurines were used quite well and flowed with how the author wrote the story.

Obviously, I had more fun reading the books than my kids did because they are below the intended reading level. It really is a cute book and a fun 10 minute read. A definite must have for the Star Wars buff parent who want to introduce their young kids to the Star Wars series.

I gave both these books a 5 over 5 on Goodreads

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February Blog Improvements: Part 2

I learned a painful lesson last week: Always back-up your blog so that if you are not happy with any amendments made you can restore your previous blog settings.

I have had the intention to re-organize my blog labels for quite a while now. I did some research and found a couple of sites that provided step by step guides on how I can rename labels in bulk on Blogger. The guide provided by the sites seemed pretty simple but yet I managed to screw it up somehow. Sigh. Only I can screw up such a simple process. 

While I was trying to re-name my blog posts labels in bulk, I accidentally deleted about 90% of my posts from 2011 and a couple of my posts from January this year. Anyway, for fear of losing more posts, I decided to re-label each posts ONE BY ONE! It’s a good thing that I am not a consistent blogger and have less than 250 posts in total. Even then it took me a whole three hours to get it done.

So re-organize labels – DONE!

Other blog improvements:

I’ve added two other widgets on the widgets column:
  1. Search widget
  2. Popular posts widget
Those were pretty simple to do since Blogger already has the widgets ready so all you needed to do was click to install them.

Ok am gonna lay off working on the blog for the rest of February.

Next month, I’m gonna learn how to install a contact page on the blog and also how to install a progress bar for my 2015 Reading Challenges page. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Usborne Very First Reading: Book 1 - Pirate Pat

Written by: Mairi MacKinnon
Illustrated by: Mike and Carl Gordon
Pages: 32 pages
Format: Hard cover
Genre: Children’s Book
Reading Level: 3 – 5 years old 
  • An exciting story to inspire very beginner readers.
  • Based on the principles of synthetic phonics, supports the "Letters and Sounds" programme used in thousands of UK primary schools.
  • Adult and child take turns to read, and the child’s text uses only the letters s a t p i n m d.
  • Fun puzzles test understanding, and provide opportunities for discussion and further reading practice.

My thoughts:

I have a two and a four year old boy who is more interested with the iPad and watching cartoons on TV than reading. I wanted the kids to have more exposure to reading actual books rather than the storybook apps that they go through on our gadgets. So I did some research and found the Usborne Very First Reading Series and figured I’d give it a try with my boys.

How this book works is that the parent reads one part and the kids read another. The process is repeated until the end of the story.

Both my boys can’t read yet but what I do is I place my finger on each letter I am reading so that hopefully they can recognize some of the words if we continue doing this often enough.

My boys are quite into Pirates so they did like this book a lot. The simple rhyming used to tell the story makes it interesting to read together with the boys. My two year old especially loves it when I read this to him.

Overall we quite enjoyed reading about Pirate Pat. I’ve only purchased this book last Friday and we’ve read it about three times together over the past few days. That’s a good sign. Overall I give this book a 5/5 on Goodreads.

Oh before I forget, the book also has puzzles that you can use as activities with the kids. My kids are not so interested in them yet but I'm sure they will once they get a hang of how it works. 

This week I’m aiming to read the second book in the series titled, The Dressing-Up Box. I have a feeling my boys won’t like reading about dressing up so much as they do reading about pirates but I’m gonna give this a go anyway. 

Time Flies

* Note: This post actually appeared in early January 2015. Due to a technical error the original post was accidentally removed. I am reposting it again here.

I don’t know why but yesterday I decided to re-visit this blog. My last post on this blog was in 2011… Gosh! 2011… That’s like four years ago!

Then I got to thinking, what the hell did I do in the past four years, where have I been, what have done, why didn’t I continue blogging.

If you’re reading this, please bear with me cause I’m really writing this for my own benefit.

So let’s start with 2010 and 2011 – a combination of a really bad and really good year for me:
  • I lost my job.
  • I got pregnant. Hurrah!
  • Managed to get a great job in a cool agency while I was pregnant.
  • Then I was diagnosed with molar pregnancy  and was in and out of so many hospitals seeing so many doctors that I literally lost count of the number of specialist I met and hospitals I went to.
  • I gave birth to my eldest baby boy. Blessing.
  • I had post pregnancy problems and had to go for emergency surgery two weeks after I gave birth. Post-surgery, my wound stitching opened up and I was going around with an open wound for two months and had to go to the hospital EVERYDAY to get the wound cleaned up by the doctor.
  • I was also diagnosed with a GTD and had to take another two months off from work to go through mild chemotherapy.
  • After two months the doctors said they’ve cured me but just in case I shouldn’t plan for a baby for at least a year to ensure that my body was stable.

Moving on to 2012 – generally an okay year but I was struggling with work and motherhood quite badly.
  • Because I missed out a lot at work, I had a lot of catching up to do.
  • I was also struggling as a new mom juggling with my full time job.
  • Accidents happen but this was a good accident, I got pregnant with my second child. Since I was still under observation for my GTD, I had to go in and out of the hospital for check-ups quite often.
  • I gave birth to my second son at the end of 2012 without any incidents and I was also officially cleared from my GTD diagnosis.
2013 and 2014 – Honestly I don’t know what happened in 2013 and 2014. I think I was just moving like a robot: wake up, get kids ready, send them to babysitter, work, pick the kids up, come back home, cook, clean, spend quality time with the family, sleep and repeat the process again the next day for the next two years...LOL.

I’ll openly admit that I am not a super mummy and I think after almost four years of being a mom, I’m just only getting the hand of handling multiple responsibilities. Believe me it’s still a struggle but I’m coping with the challenges at work and at home much better than when I first became a mom.

My kids are a bit bigger now and a bit more independent so I have a little bit of time to spare for myself. They are truly a blessing despite the problems that I went through.

So, I may not have achieved much or blogged much in the past four years but I am a proud mom of two boys now.

Last year I was able to pick up my reading habit more aggressively (thank you audible) and I also dabbled with blogging on another site; Family, Work & Play. The reading bit is coming along well but the blogging bit is neither here nor there.

I miss blogging at Ulat Buku in the City. Though I no longer live in the heart of the city as I did when I first started this blog, I feel that I can still relate to this blog site better than my new one. Maybe I’ll start blogging actively again on this blog, maybe. I don’t want to say I’ll do something and end up not doing it. My life is very much focused on family, work and me-time whenever I can slot this in. Blogging is not top priority but it’ll be nice to reconnect with the friends I’ve made through this blog.

Anyway, if you’ve read this post till the end, I’m sorry for the random rambling.

Point is- I miss blogging. I miss connecting with other book readers around the world. I hope I will find time to pick up blogging aggressively just like how I pick up the habit of reading again.

By the way, this is me now, a happy mommy.

Till next time, 

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Interrupted Tale - Book 4

Written by: Maryrose Wood
Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren
Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins
Format: Unabridged Audiobook
Reading Level : Ages 8-10

Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, "They must have been raised by wolves."

The Incorrigible children actually were.

Turning 16 is a bittersweet occasion for Miss Penelope Lumley: Her parents remain disappointingly absent, and her perfectly nice young playwright friend, Simon Harley-Dickinson, has not been heard from since he went to visit his ailing great-uncle Pudge in the old sailors' home in Brighton.

Luckily, an invitation to speak at the annual Celebrate Alumnae Knowledge Exposition (or CAKE) at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females provides just the diversion Penelope needs.

Optoomuchstic as ever, Penelope hopes to give her CAKE talk, see some old friends, and show off the Incorrigible children to Miss Mortimer, but instead she finds her beloved school in an uproar. And when Penelope is asked by the Swanburne Academy board of trustees to demonstrate the academic progress of her three wolfish students so the board can judge the true worth of a Swanburne education, the future of her alma mater - and of her job as governess to the Incorrigibles - hangs in the balance.

My thoughts:

I started listening to this series quite some time back. It really is a great book. There is always excitement, drama and mystery. The main characters are really lovable. If you are listening to the audiobook version, better. The narrator is super excellent in bringing the characters come to life.

As much as I loved this series though, I was hoping that the mysterious plot would come to an end in book 4. At this stage I just want the suspense to be over and the plot revealed completely.

I didn’t realize until I visited the authors website recently that this is a six part series. SIX! Might be a little too much and make the storyline too drawn out. Nevertheless, I still love this series and am looking forward to read the fifth book when it’s out.

Apparently book five, The Unmapped Sea will be released sometime in April this year. I do hope that the author will be able to keep up the excitement and suspense in the next book so that it doesn’t become a draggy read leading to book six. 

I am now a digital bookworm

When I first became a mom, it was really, really tough for me to keep up with my reading habit. My first year as a new mother, I only managed to read two books for the whole year. I tried reading often but I was always too tired to finish a book. At that point of time I was already a member of Audible, Amazon’s audiobook store. I was purchasing books monthly on audible but never really started listening to them because I wasn’t used to “listening” to a book.

About two year ago, I moved in to stay with my mum and dad for a while and they live really far out from my workplace. It took me about half an hour to get to work … on a good day. On a bad day it can be between 40 minutes to an hour to commute to work in my car. I got sick of listening to the local radio station (our morning shows really suck by the way). So one day I decided to download the audible app on my iPhone together with all my audiobooks and just started listening to my first audiobook on one of my long drives to work.

The first book I really listened to from Audible was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Really good choice for a first audiobook, the listening experience was great and I have been hooked on audiobooks since then. Thanks to audiobooks, I’ve managed to continue ‘reading’ despite my hectic schedule at home and at work. In fact on days that I am really lazy to read to the kids, we listen to audiobooks together instead…  LOL. That’s me making good use of technology.

I’ve since moved out of my mum and dad’s home, my commute to work is very much shorter now but I still listen to audiobooks whenever I’m in the car. I absolutely love the experience. I plug my earphones to listen to my audiobook whenever I can; when I go grocery shopping, manicure sessions or anything that I do that doesn’t require serious focus or communicating with others. Last year I went through about 15 audiobooks in total and I am hoping to listen to more this year. I absolutely love listening to audiobooks and the technology has helped me ‘read’ whenever and wherever I can.

I also invested in my first e-reader about a year back. Kobo e-readers are not available here in Malaysia or at least I couldn’t find a reliable source to purchase from. Fortunately for me, I managed to trouble a friend to buy it for me in Australia. I’ll explain my choice of a Kobo over a Kindle at another time; this topic deserves its own post. Again, it took a while for me to get used to reading on an e-reader. Transitioning from a traditional book to an e-reader took me about 6 months. The first time I held my Kobo and tried reading from it, I actually missed the weight, feel and smell of an actual book.

Late last year, during a long holiday I decided to start reading off my Kobo. I’ve since read five books and am now on my sixth book purchased from Kobo.

I am now so in love with my Kobo that I don’t leave home without it. It’s light and small enough to carry around in my handbag. At night if I want to continue reading, I don’t have to leave the lights on and disrupt my husband; who really can sleep through anything to be honest, lights on, off, loud sounds, an earthquake even probably… so the function isn’t that important to me but it’s quite nice to have. I can read anywhere I want and whenever I want; in between meetings, lunchtime, when I’m waiting for people. I just whip out my Kobo and start reading.

But… the coolest thing about going digital is that I have over 500 books with me ALL THE TIME; a combo of my list of audiobook and e-books in my Kobo and Audible library. That’s seriously cool, no?

I still buy books of course, but not as often as I use to. The only thing that I need to research on a bit is whether I can still get tax refund from audible and kobo bookstore purchases in Malaysia.

Anyway, I’m proud to say that I’ve finally gone digital and I’m loving it!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

It's Monday What Are You Reading This Week?

It's Monday What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. We use this meme to share what we have read in the past week and what our plans are for the upcoming week.

Last week’s reads:

I’ve been pretty busy at work the last week but still managed to catch up on my reading and some reading with the kids. I finished the 4th book of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Series: The Interrupted Tale on audiobook. As for reading with the kids, this week we read Pirate Pat, an Usborne publication as well as a Lego Star Wars book that basically has a shorter, children’s version of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back that can be read under five minutes. I think I enjoyed reading the Lego Star Wars book more than the kids did to be honest.

This week’s reads:

I started reading We Were Liars last week and was hoping I would be able to finish it over the weekend but it was quite impossible to since we had a couple of social events that we had to attend. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish it off before this weekend. 

Yesterday, I also started listening to The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Am only a few pages in so it’s still too early to tell if I’ll like it or not. As for reading with the kids well, I am planning to read another Usborne Publication to the kids this week titled The Dressing-Up Box and would like to start listening to Curious George Rides a Bike which I've just purchased on Audible for them.

Have a great week ahead and happy reading everyone!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Jack and the Beanstalk

Narrated by: Richard Hope
Length: 12 mins
Format: Unabridged Audiobook

One day, when they have no food left, Jack's mom sends him to market to sell the cow. On the way, Jack bumps into a funny little man wearing a big, baggy jacket with big, baggy pockets. In the pockets lie six bewitched beans, but the funny little man has lost the instructions for them. Jack's adventure begins when he swaps Daisy the cow for six magic beans that grow to the land of the clouds.

My thoughts:

Jack and the Beanstalk is a classic which most of us have read when we were children and I really wanted to share this story with my two boys. 

To be honest, I found the music at the beginning and the end a bit annoying. But I suppose I am not the target audience. My boys love it and danced to the tune whenever we’re listening to this audiobook. (Not a good thing if you’re listening close to bedtime!) After a week of listening to it, I kinda got use to the music.

Apart from the music, the narration for this audiobook is actually really good. It’s quite animated and my kids paid attention to the audiobook from beginning to end. My 4 year old especially loves the part where the giant says ‘Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a stinky man’ and now keeps calling everyone a stinky man. Sigh.

This version is slightly different from the ones I used to read as a child but the main storyline is still the same.

Anyway, I dare say that this is one of my son’s favourite audiobooks. I just had to post this video up. Yesterday, my four-year old was trying to tell me and my husband the Jack and the Beanstalk story at bedtime. Well, his version of the story anyway…

This video only proves how much he loves listening to Jack and the Beanstalk. 

Definitely recommended listening for the kiddo’s. I gave this a 5/5 on audible.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

February Blog Improvements

I recently decided to come back and blog on this site which has been left idle since 2011. Because of this, I felt that I needed a new look and feel that would be more suitable with the current times. I wanted to improve the blog design, layout and navigation. So in the past two weeks I was working to improve my blog somewhat. This will obviously be an ongoing project as I won't have the time to update everything at one go. These are the improvements I’ve done so far:  

Blog design
My previous blog design was implemented sometime in 2010 and I thought a refreshed look was much needed to suit my current style. I cluttered my layout with so many widgets and links to multiple sites that honestly would not benefit anyone who visited my site.

I worked with a designer I found on Etsy and requested for a design that is cleaner and minimalistic. The current design that you see is the new look. What do you think?
I’ve also created different pages with information that is more relevant to the blog’s purpose. Pages I’ve created:
  1. An about page – This page gives a little more detail of who I am and the purpose of my blog.
  2. Policy – When I did research a lot of the bloggers advise that one should have a blog policy featured. My policy page is really a brief outline of my blogging principles and also just a few words to say that the blog content is mine nothing fancy.
  3. 2015 Reads and 2015 Reading Challenges – The whole purpose of my blog is to keep track of my reading habit and connect with other book lovers in the digital sphere. So I thought creating pages of what I’ve read and the status of my reading challenges so far would be of interest to other book lovers. The 2015 Reads page also links all my latest reviews for the year.

Widgets Column
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I use to feature so many widgets on my widget column. I’ve decided to review which widgets would be useful to keep and what should be deleted. I used to have widgets like number of people who visited the site, number of google followers, a live twitter feed, a grab button and also a Shelfari bookshelf that allows people to see the books I’ve read in the past.

First off, I don’t think people care how many visitors and followers you have on your blog except for you.

Secondly, if people wanted to read your Twitter feed or find out how many books you've read, they can follow you on Twitter or Shelfari.

Thirdly, no one wants your grab button or at least I don’t think they ever wanted mine. I assume if people like the content of my blog they can subscribe to my blog via the multiple widgets available to get updates on what I post.

I think the new widget column looks much cleaner than the last one I had. What I feature on the column now is:
  1. About Me –Previously, I blogged under the pseudonym Ms Ulat Buku (don’t ask me why, I just thought it was cool at the time). The updated version of the about me section reflects the real me. It has a short summary of who I am and automatically links to my google+ account and a link to a more detailed background of myself on my About page. I think this is better because all my other social media sites uses my real name and not a pseudonym. Hopefully it makes it easier for people to find me if they wish to link up.
  2. Social media links – the designer I hired designed all my social media links. This link is so much better that featuring my twitter feed or shelfari bookshelf.
  3. Subscribe to - allows visitors to subscribe to my blog and get updates on posts and comments. 
  4. Currently reading, currently listening to widgets – so that visitors know what I’m reading right now.
  5. Archives and a labels widget- so that visitors can click and read what I wrote in the past.

Obviously, there is still much to improve on this 'ol blog of mine. 

For example, I’d like to develop a contact page, add a search widget, post sharing options etc. All this will require some time for me to do. So it will be a slow process but am gonna chronicle all that I do so that I remember what I've learned. 

If you have recommendations on how else I could improve my blog, please do provide some feedback. I’m open to ideas on how I can make my blog nicer and easy to man oeuvre.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Written by: Justin Cronin
Pages: 624 pages
Format: Ebook
Genre: Fiction, Supernatural, Post Apocalypse

In his internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong.

With TheTwelve, the story continues.

In the present day: As a man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos, desperate to find others, to survive, to witness the dawn on the other side of disaster. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, has been so broken by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced by loss of electrical power to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a minefield of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

A hundred years in the future: Amy, Peter, Alicia, and the others introduced in The Passage work with a cast of new characters to hunt the original twelve virals… unaware that the rules of the game have changed, and that one of them will have to sacrifice everything to bring the Twelve down.

The scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic tale of sacrifice and survival begun in The Passage surges forward in its breathtaking sequel—The Twelve.

My thoughts:

I read The Passage a couple of years back and really loved it. I’ve been looking forward to reading The Twelve for quite some time but to be honest the 600++ pages deterred me from picking up the book much sooner.  I’ve always been a bit fearful of reading chunksters.

Overall, I loved The Twelve but not as much as I did The Passage. The first few pages of the Twelve started with biblical-type writing which really felt weird to read. I felt that the biblical style of writing came across trying too hard to make the book seem bigger than the last.

The book also is a bit scattered and jumps from the present to the past and back to the present which had a flow that was sometimes hard to follow. It has a lot of characters to keep track of and I got lost a couple of times reading some of the chapters and had to re-read and remind myself the connection between the characters or the events that brought them together.  So I did struggle a bit with the book.

Despite the confusion, The Twelve was overall an enjoyable read.  The book had a vastness to it that brought out the main characters history; stories and events set in various time periods that gradually comes together at the end.

I was still really engrossed with the characters and the storyline. My favourite character in this book is still Amy. I also love reading about Peter.  I was a bit disturbed to read about Alicia but I'm not one who goes into details as I wouldn't want to spoil it for those of you who have not read it.

The Twelve is an epic book that one should take the time to read. It was a satisfying read but as much as I’d like to give it a 5 star review and whilst I did enjoy reading it, it fell short from my expectations and experience from The Passage. I gave it a 3/5 star in Goodreads

Monday, February 2, 2015

Quick update: Last night in Singapore

It's our last night in Singapore. It's almost 12 midnight and I've just finished packing. Our flight back to KL is tomorrow.

Everyone has knocked out for the night and I thought I'd try writing a quick post on the blogger app from my iPhone.

We've been here for the past three nights. I was hoping I could have some down time and read a bit but no such luck. 

I had my ereader fully charged before we left KL and even chose a book to read for this holiday a few days before we left. I was hoping to start reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. But throughout the time we've been here, my ereader never left my luggage bag. 

Well nevertheless, this has been a short but really great holiday. We were at Universal Studios the whole day with the kids, did some shopping at Marina Bay Sands and of course spent a lot of time at the beach and pool. 

I'll try and write more about our holiday sometime this week. I've always love Singapore and this holiday experience deserves a separate post.

Anyway, I'm sad that the holiday is coming to an end but hopefully we'll have more holidays to look forward to in the future with the family. 

On a separate note, drafting a blog post from the blogger app on my iPhone is pretty cool. Am gonna say goodnight now and see if I can post this up without any problems. 

Till next time!
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