Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review: Dreamwielder

Title: Dreamwielder (book 1)
Series: Dreamwielder Chronicles 
Author: Garrett Calcaterra
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

There are so many great things about Dreamwielder and yet I am only giving it 3 stars (maybe this is like 3.25 stars). The characters, plot, world building and magical system are wonderful. They could easily come from any high-end fantasy book. Author Garrett Calcaterra of Dreamwielder (the first book in the Dreamwielder Chronicles) is clearly talented. Right up until you need him to describe a building or scene; or show you what is happening….

Give me more cowbell!
Really good fantasy books require some intricate descriptions. I’m not talking about 10+ pages about rocks (ugh Emyn Muil) but there has to be some sort of substance to the descriptions. If I’m in a throne room numerous times which is enthralling to the characters then I’d like to be able to see it in my head. Instead it was as if it was a generic “Lightbringer” throne room. 

Here’s an example of a lack luster description: ”…the ceiling of the throne room was vaulted, and there was a high balcony lining the rear and side walls, but apart from that it was similar in size and layout to the throne room in Castle Pyrthin.” 

That’s it? I want sooo much more; what are the colours, what’s on the tapestries, what does the throne look like, how big is it, are there windows, is it intimidating, etc. I started (by the halfway point of the novel) rewording the sentences to have descriptions in them that incorporated more of the plot, what characters were seeing and descriptions. 
Even a phrase like (forgive my bad writing) “Not unlike Castle Pyrthin the vaulted ceilings, held up by stone columns, gave the room the impression of being larger than it was. As Caile walked towards the throne he realized that the man on the small, but ornate, gold throne didn’t fit in with the elegant royal purple tapestries which depicting epic fights and sorcerers of great power flinging their blue balls of magic in battle. The Emperor instead appeared…” 
Yes I made up those details, because in my head that’s what I started to do when given no descriptions of the settings. I just wanted so much more! 

Simply put, I wanted someone like Robin Hobb, Brandan Sanderson or Elizabeth Haydon to have written this story because it could be a rich, intriguing and intricate fantasy story. Instead Calcattera gives us a glimpse into what could be an intricate, intriguing and impressive fantasy world and then lets us down with mediocre descriptions and not enough showing. 

Yes I really mean it, give me more!
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Mel, are you saying you wanted this book to be longer?” Yes!! There’s a first time for everything (lol). I wanted to be immersed in this world where we swap characters points of view and split up only to reunite characters later on. It’s an absolute tragedy to me that there is sooo much good stuff here and yet the core base of what makes a book readable and immersive is missing. 
The characters, plot and world are more than good enough that I will read the next book in the series; but I suspect I will be re-writing it with descriptions in my head as well.
 
Genre
I know this is listed as a young adult book, and yes it’s suitable for a young adult. But I think it’s mis-categorized. This is really an epic high fantasy book that just needs a good fantasy treatment added to it. What I mean is that I want it to feel grander than it does right now. Again, I just think there’s so much more Dreamwielder could be. I’d hate to see Calcaterra stay at this level of writing because I think he can be so much more than he is. That’s not to say YA books aren’t good (I personally love them); it’s only to say that Dreamwielder feels bigger and I want a lot more out of it so an epic fantasy treatment feels like the way to go here. 

In Conclusion 
I’m a broken record by now because all I can say is give me more! Calcaterra should re-write this with a more adult audience in mind, add-in descriptions to flesh out this world, and overall step up the writing to a more show and less tell approach. If this was to happen I honestly believe there is a promising future for not only Dreamwielder but Calcaterra himself. 
If I could afford to I’d hire him a big-time editor and copy-editor from TOR or Orbit to work with Calcaterra and make this the grand story it deserves. In the meantime I’ll be moderately content with what I have and keep hoping that a larger publishing house sees what I do in this wonderfully set-up series.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Friday, November 17, 2017

More and more Dragons!!

I've got 2 dragons today to share! I know it's crazy to have 2 done. It's amazing what you can get done when you put down your phone and actually get stuff done (lol). 

This is July and August Dragons. Meaning I'm only 3 behind now. Although given there are only 4 left that isn't very impressive. 





Here's the bottom 5 Dragons together. I was too lazy to take the rods off to show it all off. I won't lie that is why they aren't all there. 


Overall I continue to be huge happy with these guys. I did change some colours here and there but mostly they are as they should be. I have not yet figured out what I plan to do about the birthstones each has that I didn't stitch in. On lots of places I just figured out the stitches to make the dragon whole where the stones were. I have been thinking maybe krenik thread overlaid, or many ladies in the SAL have used actual stones stitched on. 
If you've got suggestions I'd love to here them! 
Also stones are not needed... except for many the tiny green guy (but I could always figure something out for him). He's originally standing on the stone. 

In other news
- page 2 of Alice is really close to done!
- got a new SAL (bands in variegated thread) to start 
- made some progress on Here there be monsters 
- and have kitted up the Feminist ladies. 
Never mind all the next things I want to do and stash I keep buying!! :) 

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Stitching! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: Blood & Ink


Title: Blood & Ink 
Author: Stephen Davies
Genre: Historical, Young Adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is a difficult book to know what to do with. 

On one hand it's a fairly boring, typical Romeo and Juliet story (with a twist). On the other hand it's based on real events in Timbuktu in 2012 which makes it both relevant, educational and sad all at once. 


Historical Content & Importance

Blood and Ink is set in 2012 Timbuktu when radicals Muslims took over the city. These are real life people who believe women should always be veiled in public. Now Timbuktu had been, to date, a very progressive Muslim society in which many women chose not be veiled. So this was an obvious infringement on their rights. Among many other things that happened during that time of occupation 

Timbuktu had public lashings!! 

I cannot even begin to tell you how disturbing I find this. Not only, that it happened a mere five years ago; but also that my sheltered Canadian self remembers hearing of the occupation of Timbuktu and not thinking it meant much at the time. Let me stand corrected now. Stephen Davies has opened my eyes to the radical violence that came (and in some cases still comes) from these jihads. I find it truly disturbing. 

pledge from here forward to be more aware of the actual circumstances that fair practicing, innocent Muslims undergo. And that if anything is in my power to act or do something I will. Even if it's only to bring awareness.


Why just the event is not enough

No matter how important or world shattering a book may be due to its context and content that doesn't make it good writing or characters interesting. 

Without a doubt the main events, based on true stories, are compelling and horrifying in Blood and Ink but that's really where it ends. Everything Davies added to the book; his characters, motivations, etc are dull and cliche. 

To take an event like the protecting of the manuscripts and dumb it down to a couple children being responsible seems offensive to the original folks who actually spent weeks achieving his smuggling act. To indicate somehow that the entire occupation somehow laid on one little boys shoulders in many ways is also ludicrous. 

What I would normally accept in completely fictional stories (extraordinary children) I just cannot abide by when the events actually happened in a completely different way. What was wrong with telling the story the way it happened? 


Historical Fiction is Different

I read a lot of historical fiction based on true events. This is one of a rare few where it's historical fiction written for the young adult crowd. This intrigued me at first; but after reading Blood and Ink I think that Davies has taken complex human emotions, motivations and acts, and dumbs them down to lowest common denominator. 

I'm not a fan of this as it seems to do disservice to the actual history. 

I look at stories like Titanic where the storyline we follow plays no bearing on the ship sinking. This I'm okay with as our characters did not cause or create the iceberg hit. But in Blood and Ink our two main characters appears to be behind almost all the major decisions and events. This doesn't feel right to me. 


Finally

I know there are extraordinary people and children in our world. And I love to read about them. But don't downplay the importance of real people by having your fictional characters take credit for things they shouldn't. Because somewhere out there now is someone(s) who perhaps believes a teen girl in Timbuktu single-handedly actually did what this girl does in the book. 

We should be cautious of ever giving too much credit to the wrong people in historical fiction. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: The End of the World Running Club


Title: The End of the World Running Club
Author: Adrian J. Walker
Genre: fiction, post-apocalyptic, survival
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The first four chapters would make an amazing short story about an asteroid(s) impact on Earth. I rate those four chapters 5 out of 5. And then the rest of the book comes... and ruins the magic. 


The world is scorched, people die, horribleness ensues, and through it all our annoying, whiny lead character (an overweight, disengaged father of 2) leads us on his painfully boring trek. 

I'm actually not sure why I kept reading The End of the World Running Club to the end. So let's look at what was good and what was bad. 


The 4 Great Things

1) Like I said the first four chapters are fantastic. I absolutely loved them. Read them and make up your own ending. 


2) The title, The End of the World Running Club, is clever given where the book heads. I do appreciate the sarcasm and irony that is used throughout the world ending story. 


3) I loved that the lead character is an average 30-something man, Edgar. A father to two small children, with a wife, a moderate house, and a job he goes to because he must. He's the archetype of the regular middle class Joe existing in a first world society. 


4) The end is a perfect combination of victory and sadness. A way to resolve a story such as this without coming out too optimistic is difficult and I do appreciate that Adrian J. Walker resisted the urge to tie it all in a bow. 


The 4 Awful Things

Are you ready for this? The four things that were great are also the same four things I hated. Let me explain:


1) It is so frustrating to read four chapters of brilliance and then wait for that magic during the last 3/4 of the book. Only to realize as you approach the end that his boring, annoying dribble of a story is all you're going to get after the amazing start. Makes the rest of the book feel worse than it probably is. 


2) In most running clubs you, you know, run. While a small part of this book is certainly about running (and it's clear our author has experienced a runners wall, high and all the emotions and pains that come with it); the reality is it's really just your average the world went to hell the moment we lost amenities book. The attempted scary, philosophical mini side stories fall flat. It's so sad to me that Walker created a world where so many things could be done and instead there is no depth to these events.


3) Edgar is the most annoying man ever. He constantly complains, gives up and is really lucky to have people with smarts and perseverance around him. I guess while I think I want books about regular people in extraordinary situations maybe I'm totally deluding myself. Maybe I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy because I want exceptionally competent and capable characters..? All I know for certain is that Edgar made me want to throw him off a cliff; instead of cheering him up the cliff. 


4) I am not a fan of a book that has you believe one premise throughout the entire book; only to throw that awry at the end. There was absolutely no reason for the moment of possible uncertainty that was written in. It's like it was put there because book clubs would salivate over it; not because it made sense to the story or added to the ending in any way. Additionally it felt forced and that is a huge pet peeve for me. Endings should make sense. There can be twists or reveals, of course, but they need to make sense and feel natural. 


Just read Station Eleven instead

Maybe I've just read too many post apocalyptic books lately... or maybe I've just read the best of the best and now no one will ever measure up to Station Eleven (read it if you haven't; amazing piece of literature!). I was moved by Station Eleven, excited to tell everyone I knew about it and loved the side stories and philosophy. In this book the most moved I felt was to close the book and do something else. 


Overall I'm not convinced that Edgar ever felt a genuine emotion towards anyone in his family, running club or whatnot. I'm not even sure he felt emotions about himself. When I should have been crying over events that happened I just felt 'meh'. When I should have felt joy and awe, I felt 'meh'. And when I should have been afraid for our characters and their safety I mostly wanted to cheer for the crazy people they were encountering because then maybe the story would end sooner. This just didn't do it for me. Call me out for being a hypocrite, I'm okay with that. Apparently a story about a boring person who barely feels emotions himself meant I just never had any emotions either (except ones that involved being frustrated and annoyed). 


But seriously read the first four chapters and then imagine your own end; because they are brilliantly put together. And because the actually journey to the end is just a bunch of running, crazies and a whole mediocre mess of nothing. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review: The Agony of Bun O'Keefe


Title: The Agony of Bun O'Keefe 

Author: Heather Smith

Genre: Literary fiction, Canadian

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 


This book is gut wrenching. I'm hesitant to tell anyone to read it because it's about such awful things. Certainly there are moments of love in it; that come from the awful things but that only makes the emotion of it harder to take. 


Heather Smith has done what few writers can do to me. She's written a story that is about tragic circumstances and instead of making me annoyed, that she was tugging on heart strings, I was completely enthralled and absolutely crushed by the sadness of it all. The Agony of Bun O'Keefe is not for the faint of heart. 


Between hoarding, abandonment, molestation, abuse, extreme prejudice and racism there is barely a chance to breathe in between moments. Thank goodness this is only 123 pages. I don't think I could have taken anymore of it. 


And yet the characters, especially Bun (who the story is told through) are vibrant, real people. Smith puts so much energy (good or bad), character, emotion and realism into this short novel it's nothing short of a literary masterpiece. And yet I wouldn't want to read it again because I can only take so much heartache. Considering I rarely cry at books and usually scoff at those written to intentionally make you cry (I hated The Fault in our Stars); it's clear to me that Smith has written something special. And while you share the agony of Bun, Busker Boy, Chef, Big Eyes and others in this book you'll also share in their moments of true love and I suppose that is the whole point. Experiencing the world means sharing equally in both the unbearable pain and overwhelming love. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase


Title: The Screaming Staircase
Series: Lockwood & Co
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, horror
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 stars for this super fun, creepy and fast-paced book. This may say it's a Middle Grade book, and certainly it could be given to a kid 9 and up, but don't be deceived by that everyone will enjoy Lockwood & Co! 

Why only 4.5 stars?
The reason for my deduction of 0.5 stars is perhaps going to sound petty to some; but it's a real pet peeve of mine. Jonathan Stroud is British and The Screaming Staircase is set in London. So can someone explain to me why, in the copy I read, the temperatures are in Fahrenheit?! Almost everywhere in the world (including here in Canada) we use Celsius. No child in the UK would use Fahrenheit. I am assuming, much like changes made to Harry Potter, that the publisher decided to change the Celsius to Fahrenheit to market to children in the USA. Now, you're thinking to yourself, but Mel how many times can they possibly mention the temperature? A lot!! As one of the main indicators of 'visitors' (aka ghosts or spirits) is that the temperature drops it is mentioned a few dozen times. 
Now I realize this is clearly not Stroud's choice. However, instead of changing the scale used what about putting a conversion chart at the beginning or end of the book. Maybe we can teach the USA children about Celsius instead of forcing the rest of the world to manage the metric used by one country. This is a classic example of publishing houses catering to the USA and stuffing everyone else into that category (especially us Canadians). Okay, rant over. 

So many questions!
Overall Stroud is a genius. He takes a simple idea, the world is plagued by visitors that are a menace and can kill people with ghost touch, and creates an intricate world around it. Only children can see the manifestations and so they are the best equipped to fight these menaces and clear places of the visitors. Obviously this comes with it's own set of morale questions. What age is too young to start? When things go wrong is the child responsible? Is it worth the sacrifice of youth to battle the visitors? 
These questions are more are handled exquisitely in The Screaming Staircase. I'm so sad it's such a quick read as I didn't want to leave the world yet. I'll be ordering the next couple in this series immediately! I'm also going to be purchasing this series for my 13-year-old nephew for the holidays as I know he will love the creepiness. What kid doesn't want to read about a 'red room' which fills with ghost plasma that looks like blood, a staircase where the screaming incapacities you, a ghost so unhappy she kills current residents of the home? And these are only examples of some of the things are three lead characters encounter. 

Bring on the sarcasm and fun!
The other thing that is amazing about Stroud is that he is able to write kids books that are sarcastic and funny. Alongside all that creepiness and atmosphere our three lead kids are able to poke fun at each other and fight over the silliest things (who gets the last cookie); just like normal children do. Without a doubt the humour in The Screaming Staircase is critical to breaking some of the tension and scariness that comes along with the story itself. 

Am I a child or an adult?
Most of all what I love is Stroud's handling of the conflicts and emotions that come from children playing at being adults. As the eldest child with two younger siblings in my family (one of whom has Type 1 diabetes) I remember a lot of moments as a kid where I felt I had to pretend to be more adult than I was. Even when it wasn't, I often felt like it was my responsibility to handle situations. As Lockwood & Co. has no 'adult supervisors' you see them struggle with this paradigm a lot. When can they show weakness? How do they convince adults they are competent and capable? And at what point is it okay to just collapse and let someone else take care of things. 
There are no easy answers to these questions but Stroud does an excellent job of helping readers understand that it's okay to show weakness and to reinforce that we ALL have weaknesses. It's less about what that weakness is and more about how we compensate for it. That by surrounding ourselves with people who we trust and will help us we can be both strong and weak as needed. 

Buy it for everyone!
I think this will be my go-to book/series to buy for anyone over the age of 10 for the next while. I look forward to buying multiple copies for kids (including my nephew)! While there is a lot of substance in this book, it still feels like a break as the language is simple and easy to follow. Do yourself, or those around you a favour and pick this gem up! 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Book Review: 419


Title: 419
Author: Will Ferguson
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

419 is very interesting. I knew almost nothing about Nigeria going into it and now I feel some real sympathy for their people and plight. I'm always in awe with books that can take me to real life locations and make me feel like I've been there or have a new understanding of that place. 


A section of the story takes place in my home city of Calgary (Canada). It's a bit odd to read about landmarks and roads I know so well (author Will Ferguson lives here himself) but also a little exciting. Right up until an apartment building could be seen from a road that is too far away (lol). I get it, fictional license and all but it was a bit odd to me because I do know the city so well. 


I'd highly recommend 419 for book clubs as it is sure to generate a lot of conversation. The basic story is a struggle between what we all feel we need to do to survive and what we are willing to do within our own moral compass. It's often surprising what lengths humans will go to protect themselves and others. I don't want to say too much else as I think the intricacies of the setting, plot and characters are all best discovered as you read 419. 


My four stars is merely because I wasn't dying to read the last 1/3 of the book. I'm very glad I did but it lost something at some point. I believe is was when we spent a large chunk of time with the same characters; instead of the back and forth that happens in the rest of the novel between locations and characters. Or perhaps I was just too concerned that one of our focal characters was not going to make it very far. There are some intense moments that really brought home to me how lucky I am to live where I do. 


Overall I think that this is an interesting book, it shares stories from a part of the world many are not very familiar with and it reveals more details about the "Nigerian Prince" email scams than most of us are likely to know. Ferguson does a good job of making you like characters that are morally ambiguous and a good job of telling the stories that are seemingly unrelated to start with. I will guarantee that it all ties together and the end felt perfect to me. Not necessarily happy or sad; just realistic. 


I am definitely going to pick-up more by Ferguson. Not only because he's local to me and meets my Canadian author criteria; but because I did really enjoy the set up and loved the end of 419. 

...And the Winner Is

Thank you so much to everyone that entered my giveaway for the Feminist Cross Stitch supplies. And a special thank you to those that shared the giveaway with others! 

After a random number generator selection the winner is... 
TiffStitch 

It looks like Marie Curie is the most popular of all the ladies in the book. For the obvious reasons in that she was a very smart lady that persevered in a world where women were not supposed to be smart or have discoveries. 

Lately there has been a lot of media around harassment (of all sorts) against women. I think sometimes it's important to remember how far we have come as a society and therefore we can certainly continue to progress. No challenge is too large or insurmountable. Our history tells us that. 

I'm still working on the border design for my Feminist Cross Stitch complete piece. But I believe I have chosen my fabric! It is a 40ct New Castle dyed by Picture This Plus called 'Ancient'. It's got a lovely little green throughout it on the ancient looking yellow/beige fabric.
I also ordered some fun variegated threads the other day to do the border in. The pieces themselves will be in the DMC as called for so I thought I would add a little bit of colour change into it in the border. And because I just can't help myself! 

Thanks so much for stopping by and following my blog! 
Up next week will be more dragons updates! If I'm really lucky I'll have 3 more to share! I've been pushing hard to get those little critters finished up. 


Monday, October 30, 2017

Book Review: Colorless


Title: Colorless

Author: Rita Stradling

Genre: Young adult, Fantasy 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 


I really wanted to like this more. The initial concept, a curse that makes everyone forget you and everything you touch (including yourself) leeches colour, is really cool. I like the setting and overall idea. But it seems to me that Rita Stradling is great at developing cool concepts and plots; and that's where her greatness ends. Colorless is filled with characters that could almost be interesting and side stories that have potential; yet when it comes to actual execution of these ideas everything seems to fall apart. 


Readability

Now that's not to say this isn't readable. It's quite readable. Action packed and again a cool concept. But Stradling is missing that 'something' that makes a writer a really great writer. If I didn't know better I'd think she was really new to writing (which she is not). I just wish she could up her game somehow and have loveable characters, and meaningful relationships. 


A note on language

Stradling is the latest author, in a string of young adult books I've read recently, to use archaic words. Now I read a lot of historical fiction and am no slouch when it comes to vocabulary and Latin root words (I speak French and English) but it irritates me when authors use words randomly just to seem cool. In Colorless the use of anni (year) and annos (years) annoyed me to no end. It just felt unnecessary. It's not like your teaching anyone words that will ever be used in regular English! I get it when middle school books use larger or more complex words, because they are teaching. But by the time you're at the level of this book there is just no reason for it anymore. So take things like ornery, anni and candor elsewhere. You're not impressing anyone. 


Back to the plot

There's also a weird thing that happens near the end that made me go 'What!?!'. It felt a little out of the blue. Looking back there was maybe a hint or two towards this outcome but I felt less like it was a twist and more like it was thrown in because she didn't know what else to do to give this book some closure. 


Colorless is book one in a new series. Would I read the next one? I'm really not sure. Maybe... but it wouldn't be at the top of my must read list. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Stitching: June Dragon Finish!!

I finally got some major time to stitch in!!! 
Today I have the June Birthstone Dragon done which puts me at halfway through the SAL. Only 4 months behind. Lol! Luckily the patterns don't expire. :) 

I've been loving this 40ct Newcastle and am looking to order more of it as it's so soft and nice to work with. I'm over two, of course, with one strand of thread. It's nice not to worry about railroading and flat stitches like with two threads. 

Here is June. She is based on the colours of a Pearl. 



And all six of the lovelies to date:


The next dragon is one of my favourite so far!! He's an adorable sleeping Fire-looking guy. 

If you haven't already seen it, check out my giveaway, closes on Sunday. All the details are in the post right below this one, or click here: 
Feminist Cross Stitch

I just joined another SAL... I know, I know that means I'm committed to three new projects in next month or so... new SAL (when my supplies show up I will share details), new Jeannette Douglas start (I think Once Upon a Time), and the Feminist project (still working on border and set-up for it). 
So needless to say new starts coming soon (And yes Alice page finish hopefully before end of Nov)! 

As always thanks for visiting, commenting and don't forget to check out the giveaway! Some brand new DMC and supplies in it; plus some other goodies not shown!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Book Review: The Salt Line


Title: The Salt Line 
Author: Holly Goddard Jones
Genre: dystopian, fiction, post-apocalyptic, thriller
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

While The Salt Line starts out as typical dystopia, post-apocalyptic novel; it's main theme changes at out the halfway point and then again just before the end. 


This makes it a bit of a weird read.

The writing itself is very good and certainly the story moves forward quickly enough to keep the attention of the reader. However, if you want a badass dystopian story this is not for you. If you want a bleak depressing story this is also not the right story. It's somewhere between a bit of horror (ticks that have wiped out huge portions of the populations), thriller (rebels) and humanism (reproduction concerns and overall quality of life questions). I felt confused at many points about what Holly Goddard Jones was trying to say. 

By the end I felt like I mostly understood the point, but didn't feel all that satisfied; hence my three star rating. 


Stereotype Shattered

I thought at one point that the author had to be a male given the lack of chemistry every couple had. Much to my shock I found out that our author, Jones, is a woman. While the stereotype shatters in my mind (lol); let me tell you a bit more about the pace of this book. There are three distinct portions to the book and if you feel like you liked what you read up to the end of one of the sections but are not intrigued by the latest "twist" in the story then I'd say you are probably safe to stop reading. I'm glad I read the whole book but could see people getting frustrated by the change of messaging in each section. 


In Conclusion

Overall it's like Jones tried to put too much into her dystopian novel and missed a lot of key factors. I wanted more chemistry between characters, less back stories about irrelevant people, and more focus on one or two characters (the voice is constantly changing). Maybe that's why the thrill is taken away at some times; I had heard about the situation from too many voices at some points and just wanted to move on or go back to a favourite character or two. The Salt Line is not a bad read, but it's not a good read. It sits right in that awkward three star zone. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Book Review: Wings Unseen

Title: Wings Unseen
Author: Rebecca Gomez Farrell
Genre: Fantasy, Teen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book really surprised me. I went in expecting a cool fantasy setting (and yes it's as good as the blurb makes it sound), some different magic and a really annoying love triangle. I was partially right, and partially wrong.  

The Not-So Love, Love Triangle
So let's deal with the 'three-headed' love triangle first. Is there a love triangle... not really. There are three people who are caught up in each others lives in some unlikely ways and there is some jealousy that happens at some points but it's not like a cat fight over the lead man. Nor is it a caddy fight between the two girls. Instead it's just progression of friendship, possible love and how tough circumstances create unbreakable bonds. 

The Overall Feel
The three perspectives (two gals, one guy) are all equal and none of them feels like a more important character than the other. Kudos to Rebecca Gomez Farrell for pulling this off. It's a hard feat to have equal standing characters in the lead. The magic is really cool. I love how sparse and yet how important it is. The 'enemy' is subjective and yet obvious all at the same time. The politics are brilliant and I adore our lead man's father who accepts that while he never wanted to be King it was his duty. This solid political base that the world is built around is part of what gives Wings Unseen it's unique feel. 

Of course my favourite character of the three is the morally questionable Vespiri (and she has a snake as her icon!). But don't worry the other two main characters, Jantos and Serra, bring in more than enough sweet, moral, hero traits to make up for any pitfalls Vespiri may have. Additionally they all have real personalities and real faults. Just like real people. I can't emphasis enough how REAL they all felt to me at times. I started wanting to savour this book at the halfway point. Something I rarely do these days.

Now, what's the best part about Wings Unseen? 
It's a STAND ALONE fantasy book! 
That's not to say that it might have future books; but you can easily read Wings Unseen and have enough closure to feel satisfied. I'd love to see future books (and it's unclear to me if it's going to be a series or not...) but it's also so rare to find stand-alone fantasy novels that I almost want to relish in it's uniqueness this way. 

Could I find faults in this novel? 
Of course. But honestly I feel this is a stronger debut than Gilded Cage and I really enjoyed it and gave it four stars. Wings Unseen doesn't have the same plot holes or unexplained circumstances the way a lot of my 4 star fantasy books have had this year and so I've given it 5 stars because I'd happily read it again... is tomorrow too soon?! 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Stitching: New Project & Giveaway!! It's Feminist Cross Stitch!!

This is so fun to share with you all. A couple months ago I was approached about doing a review of a cross stitch pattern book! How could I say no to that!? 
So let's get the legal disclaimer out of the way: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but that has in no way influenced my review of this book or my decision to make a big sampler out of the motifs. 

Before we get into how fun this book is; let me share first this idea for a new project I will be doing. How about one big stitched piece with some phrases, the women and a fun border... (because I can only do 'epic' pieces right, lol) 

Feminist Icon Cross Stitch by Anna Fleiss & Lauren Mancuso

Isn't Frida cute!? 
So here's the concept, 20 influential women in history were chosen, along with some fun feminist sayings and put into a book as cross stitch patterns. Each of the women is significant in history and has a little bio written about them. So you if you don't know who one of them is get ready to learn. 

The stitching patterns themselves are full in DMC colours. As you can see from the quick snippet to the left; there are no symbols on the colour patterns. While I personally prefer the colour with symbols patterns I have not had any trouble determining the colours or what to stitch in any of the patterns. And I admired them all at length. Partially because of what I plan to do with these awesome little motifs. 

Because I had such a difficult time deciding which ones to stitch I've decided to stitch 18 of the 20 (sorry Beyonce but you didn't make the cut, lol). In order to make it an 'epic' piece I've created a grid of 6 rows of 3 with a border and some of the sayings included. I'm still finalizing the border pattern but as soon as I know what I'm going to do I will share it here AND make the grid and border design available for free. Then all you need to do is get the book to have the motifs and we can stitch it together! No timelines or scheduled SAL because we all know I suck at those and fall behind. :) 

The Feminist Giveaway!!! 
The publisher Running Press kindly sent me some supplies to stitch up one or more of the patterns; along with a super cute tote bag (all you need to do is buy the book!). I'm giving the supplies away to one lucky reader! See picture below for what all is included. 

Giveaway is open worldwide (I will ship anywhere for free). You get entries by doing the one or more of the following: 

  1. Comment on this post and tell me which of the 20 women, listed in the contents page above, you'd like to stitch first! 
  2. Share about this giveaway on your blog and post a link to it in the  comments on this post. 
  3. Tweet about this giveaway and post a link to your tweet in the comments on this post. 
Entries will close on Sunday, Oct 29 at 5:00 pm (MST). 

GOOD LUCK & HAPPY STITCHING!

Feminist Cross Stitch is available everywhere books are sold! Ask your local retailer (or you can go to that giant conglomerate that has everything and ships to your front door); but local is awesome for your area! See here for more details: http://www.runningpress.com/book/feminist-icon-cross-stitch/9780762462902

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say


Title: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say 
Author: Nancy J. Cavanaugh 
Genre:7-11 age fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is an adorable, 7-11 kids read. It's got dogs, bandits, a swamp, boats, simple politics and a loving Grandma and Grandpa in it. Very perfect for little girls or boys. I would recommend it as a read to them story, in case they have questions, but it's mostly fun with a good morale at the end. 

It is however, due to the setting at the Okefenokee Swamp and the 'swamp people' lifestyle, filled with a fair bit of religion. Interestingly however the lead gal isn't convinced by God at first; but without a doubt she is quite convinced of God in the end. It's not a bad thing; just something to be aware of if that sort of thing bugs you. 

I think Nancy J. Cavanaugh really captured the spirit and joy of our lead gal, Elsie Mae. As the youngest of seven it's very obvious that Elsie Mae adores her summers (alone) with Grandma and Grandpa because she is the star. I think many youngest siblings could find a real connection with Elsie Mae and her want to be a hero to the swamp residents. 
Alternatively the little boy we meet is a quieter, preachers kid who is clearly troubled by many things. I felt for Henry because he clearly felt unwanted through most of the book. Certainly an emotion I remember as a child and I'm sure most kids have felt this way at some point. 

There are some tougher topics in Elsie Mae Has Something to Say; from abandonment, prison, adults who don't measure up and some dangerous choices the kids make; I feel there is a lot of content here that would engage kids to ask their parents questions. If you read to your little one you might want to read this through first to be prepared for some of those questions. In particular I didn't like how the kids doing something dangerous resulted in them being rewarded just because it turned out okay. What if it hadn't? This is the one theme I had trouble with and why I can't quite give it 5 stars. 

Overall this adorable little (partially true) story about saving the Okefenokee swamp is worth the quick read if you're intrigued as an adult or teen. And certainly in my top 5 for age 7-11 good books picks for 2017.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Stitching: Two WIP Updates

I've got two updates for you today. 
First up is my Here There Be Monsters piece. 
Of course the border and I were not friends because I'm bad at counting to high numbers (laugh all you like it's fairly true!). But otherwise I am loving this fabric, the overdyed threads and the general pattern. It's also been a quicker stitch which is nice. 
Not done yet but here are some update photos:



Second one is the yearly SAL of Dragons. I am beyond behind on this one. Exactly as expected. This is the May dragon which is Emerald. It is standing on a gem but Ive been leaving the gems out because I can't decide how I want to deal with them (or: real stones, metallic threads, beads, etc.). 
Here's May dragon done: 




Without a doubt this project will bleed into next year. Where does the time go!! 

I have put some stitches into Alice recently but I need to find a lot more time for her. Luckily it's getting cold (first snowfall already came) and that means more reasons to stay home and stitch! 

Thanks for stopping by and happy stitching!! 

Book Review: Return to your Skin


Title: Return to Your Skin 

Author: Luz Gabas

Genre: Fiction 

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars


Did Not Finish (DNF) @ 27% 


Nothing in the world will make it okay for our leading lady to make out with mystery man only a couple kilometres from where her husband is catching up on work (because he spent time with her he didn't have). Just no. 

This reads a bit like Outlander (but nowhere near as good) in that there is trashy romantic moments, next to historical lore, next to literary devices. And while the writing is good enough; it feels a little like Lux Gabas wanted to span too many genres and be serious yet a romance novel at the same time. While it can be done, it's tough and Return to your Skin doesn't seem to achieve it. 


I was relatively bored from the get-go. Even the Wiccan ritual was described in a boring and unmoving way. How can you not make witchcraft/magic boring?! 

However, the facts of Wicca I read are correct and laid out in an acceptable manner. For many people (myself included) Wicca (a branch of Paganism) is not a mystery but our actual religion. Through Wicca I found my link to deities an the earth. 

It's possible that this will happen for our lead lady. That seems to be what is being foreshadowed. And yet I still couldn't care. 


Incredibly dull and not worth picking up for any reason I can think of. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Review: The Indigo Girl

Title: The Indigo Girl
Author: Natasha Boyd
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Certainly stories of strong historical women aren't unusual; even if history barely remembers them. We seem to want to tug on these journeys until their story unravels. Indigo Girl is a mostly true story. Eliza, our lead gal, was a women of not even 17 living in the American colonies in mid-1700s. 


The primary purpose of the story appears to be about Eliza but I actually think (based on the afterword); that this is really a story about indigo production and how to get by in the mid-1700s. 

The perseverance and no quit attitude portrayed by Eliza in The Indigo Girls is something I think anyone can admire and wish for; regardless of time period or gender.


As it's the mid-1700s on a plantation in what would later become South Carolina; inevitably much of the book is about slavery. Eliza was a very progressive woman for her time and truly loved her slaves like family. This caused her a lot of heartache but also meant she fought hard for her slaves and treated them well. 

At one point I did get tired of how 'special' Eliza was that she saw her slaves as real people instead of, well, slaves. I suppose that is because to us, today, it seems so obvious that everyone should be seen and treated equally. This was the largest annoyance I had in Indigo Girl is that it got a bit repetitive about Eliza's special bond with the slaves. 

However, without a doubt Eliza's love for anyone with a good heart is what makes this a poignant and sometimes sad story. Especially the elements of it that are definitely true. Natasha Boyd makes a point at the end of letting the reader know what characters were fiction and which were real people. In a historical book built on truth I always appreciate this. There's also a bibliography if you want to read more about Eliza. I love that most of the letters are quoted direct from Eliza's real life letters. 


I would highly recommend The Indigo Girl for anyone that loves historical stories; but also to those with a keen interest in some of the building blocks of the future that people in the USA laboured so hard to create. This Canadian is very glad to have learned the story of Eliza and her Indigo dye. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: Mask of Shadows


Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Genre: Teen fantasy, dystopian-ish
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Well I was blown away by this book. I had heard a lot of very poor reviews on it and gotta say I think it's quite good. The writing is wonderfully compelling and readable. It's fast-paced, has a unique fantasy world set-up and the main character does not identify with one gender over the other (it depends on the day). I love that the gender fluidity isn't the primary motivation of the story or even for our lead Sal. Instead it's just a part of Sals overall personality. 


Why don't others like this book?

There are some problematic areas and what doesn't help is most of them are near the beginning of the book. There are strong comparisons to Hunger Games at the beginning with the competition, but there's not much past that. 

Not unlike The Gilded Cage I think there are improvements to be made but overall for a debut YA author, in an over saturated market of dystopian-fantasy, Linsey Miller has made Mask of Shadows a more than decent read. I also think it's written for teens and sometimes I think us non-teens or older teens forget that to a 14 or 15 this could be their first foray into stories like this. And we all know that you never forget your first book love that opens the doors to a whole new realm of fiction. This book could be that for some people and unlike some books (ahem, Twilight) I think it has interesting morals and motivations to help someone start thinking about themselves in different ways. For me that creative thinking and self identity meant a lot when I was a teen (ie: I didn't have a self identity at all) and so I like that Mask of Shadows encourages this thinking and promotes individuality. 


Numbers as names

I know a lot of people had issues with the naming being numbers, so let's talk about that for a minute. When the competition starts the players are all given numbers and do-away with their names and (presumably) their old identities. I know a lot of people struggled with this.

I'm not good with names on an amazing day. I tend to remember people by association but rarely by their name (in real and book life). Because the number names are written out like Four, Five, etc. It was just a name to me and not a number. Funny enough the numbering system helped me remember that low numbers were invitees and high numbers auditioned to be in the competition. I think for many people you have to immediately dispel thoughts that the word Five means 5. And instead the word Five means a boy whose an arrogant jerk. The same way that you think of any other character with a 'proper' name. 

There are some cute comparisons to be drawn between Four in Divergent series and Four in this story. In the end I appreciated it as it didn't feel stolen but more an homage to stories that came before; but you might not get that until you finish the book which I think promotes a negative impression on readers quite quickly near the beginning. This doesn't help people feel confidence in the story and could result in DNFs. I get that. 


Romance

The romance in Mask of Shadows is adorable!! While I know our lead character is gender fluid I felt like they were more feminine than masculine. I think it's very individual (and shows how well Miller wrote the gender discussions into the story) that many people come away from the book with a different perception of Sals possible anatomy and identity. I hope we learn more about why Sal distinctly chooses to be male or female on any given day and I'm really hoping her anatomy makes sense to it. Ie: castrated male, born with no distinct genitals or both exist, etc. If Miller chooses not to get into the anatomy of Sal however I won't be disappointed because honestly there is sooo much more to love about this book than just Sals gender choices both for identifying herself and whom she finds attractive and desirable. 


Overall

I cannot wait for the next book in this series as the ending was awesome! I actually think book 2 is likely to be better because this one only improved as it went. I've read a lot of teen/YA books in my life and I gotta say that while Linsey Miller didn't write the best ever, she has done a stand-up job in a very difficult market. Her and Vic James should discuss their woes of trying to break into this market as I think they'd say a lot of the same things! 


I guess my point is if you've heard bad thing and have been avoiding Mask of Shadows that you should give it a chance. A 40% chance. If you still hate it after 40% then fair go on and DNF it. But I think you might find that by 40% you can't put it down and walk away as easily as you might have at 20% mark. 


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stitching: Beatrix Potter!!

I've just got to share these old, out of print patterns I got that are of Beatrix Potter artwork. 
As a child I loved these books and thought the art was awesome. Apparently even back then I loved antique or "old"things. A lovely lady, in a stitching group on Facebook, contacted me when she saw I was looking for Beatrix patterns. 

Check out these lovelies!!! 




So cute!! 

In other stitching news I went to Traditional Stitches anniversary sale and spent way too much money (lol) on some lovely fabrics that will be in upcoming projects. 
Jeannette Douglass also released pictures of her latest pattern and its Halloween!!! Putting two of my favourite things together, Jeannette and Halloween. Yes I'm like a pathetic fan girl to Jeannette. 
As soon as I receive the pattern and thread pack I'll be sharing! 

In the meantime I've got progress on Here There be Monsters pattern. In loving working on this one and wish there was more time to stitch (as always!). Pics of it coming very soon. 

Happy stitching! 

Book Review: The List


Title: The List 
Author: Patrician Forde
Genre: Teen, Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it if you like dystopian teen fiction you need to read it. The basis for the book is that climate change killed most of the world off and a few select people who saw it coming prepared for it. These people are led by one man named 'Noa' who created a place called 'Ark' that is a sanctuary. Lots of cute nods to Noah's Ark and other biblical stories (without being preachy at all!). The big thing about this community of people is that they can only use 500 words to communicate. Thus, removing all unnecessary, emotional charged, or problematic words from language. Noa believes that words are cheap and the world would be better off if they didn't exist. 


For now I've given this book 4 stars. I think there is a possibility that as I reflect on it more it might be worthy of 5 stars. My conflict there is that it's not quite as good as Hunger Games (but really what is). However I do believe it is written better than Divergent. The relationships between the people are more realistic. There is no insta-love (chemistry but not love) and the romance story is really on the side to the main story. It interferes very little with the plot and provides some extra motivation for our characters but nothing outrageous or annoying.


The lead gal is an intelligent, responsible heroine that is a good role model for readers. She is a strong, yet cautious person that thinks through her decisions; and when she chooses to do crazy things she accepts that it's crazy but always provides her reasons for acting. I appreciate this as I believe it's realistic and reflective of our real people think. I don't want to say too much about any of the characters or the plot because I believe that part of the enjoyment in dystopian literature is to have the reveals unravel as you read.


There are some science elements that are fictional in The List. I was disappointed to learn that Nicene isn't a real thing (in any form). Yet I believe this really shows how truly creative Patricia Forde is. She's created a world that feels like it could be our world in the not-so far future. 


There are subtle references that I believe were nods to The Giver and other dystopian fiction. I liked this respectful way of including elements of other stories we all know and love. There are things that Forde decides not to touch on (ie: reproduction, death, property ownership, etc.); but I actually think it was nice to focus on language and intelligence as the key to this dystopian society. 


Overall, thinking of the teen books I've read that were published this year, this would easily be in my top 5 teen reads of 2017. It certainly deserves a place on my bookshelf and I will be looking to get my very own print copy to oogle on the shelf. 

I will definitely be looking for more from Patricia Forde.


Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.