Memo Pad: Book Reviews

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I’ve been reading quite a lot of short books recently which has meant that I’ve gotten through quite a few in the last couple of months. Having reached four books this month I decided to combat that by tackling the longest book wallowing unread on my kindle. That prize goes to Malice by John Gwynne. It comes in at 672 pages which is the equivalent of the last three books on this review post put together (actually it’s over a hundred pages more than those books put together). I haven’t finished it yet so you can see what I think of it next month….hopefully!

Read: 4

The Hand of Raziel (Daughter of Mars #1) by Matthew S. Cox *****

Risa Black will decide the fate of an entire planet. After all, an angel told her so.

Orphaned young, she grows up among the resistance, fighting to give the people of Mars command of their own destiny. Two governments from Earth vie for control of the Red Planet; she wants them gone, regardless of how many explosives it takes.

To the outside world, she’s an emotionless, broken marionette. Inside, her father’s fiery end haunts her every waking moment. She never cared for destiny or politics, until the angel Raziel focused her anger. Whenever her adrenaline wears off, guilt at what her bombs did cuts deep, as does the apathy of the citizens she wants to liberate. Torn between duty and desire, she learns change never comes without loss.

Even to the Hand of Raziel.

The plot and action was very exciting. World building: brilliant (maybe too brilliant. I don’t really need to know that she sat upon the deflector plate of an ancient air scrubber and leaned her check against the warm plastisteel strut connecting the corner to a hydraulic actuator).

Unfortunately the writing lets it down, especially in the first part of the book.

I found the switch between third person (which most of the book is) to first person thoughts pretty jarring and I also felt that it was mostly needless. There are large swathes of the book written only in third person and it’s obvious from these parts that the author doesn’t need to switch narrative to explain what Risa is feeling. I wish he hadn’t.

Characters are all over the place in the first half of the book and not in a emotional/erratic way but in an I don’t understand these characters way. Which brings me back to the writing. Some of the dialog tags just didn’t make sense with what the characters should be doing. They did get much better as the book went on and with the building action I did enjoy reading this book.

If you like sci-fi with brilliantly built in depth worlds then read this book. If you like character driven books with a well thought out and portrayed protagonist then maybe give it a miss.

 

Prince Charming Must Die (The Grimm Chronicles #1) by Isabella Fontaine and Ken Brosky *****

On the eve of her 18th birthday, high school junior Alice Goodenough feels on top of the world. Classes are almost finished. She’s about to start her summer job at the local library, where she’ll be surrounded by all of her favorite books. And she has a wonderful boyfriend.

Then the rabbit shows up. The giant talking rabbit. He has a message:
200 years ago, the Brothers Grimm unleashed their stories upon the world.
Literally.

With the help of a magic pen and paper, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm brought all of their characters to life. The world was a more magical place … for a time. Cinderella found her prince. Briar Rose’s spell was broken. The dancing princesses spent their nights hidden away in a secret underground city. The old miller’s boy found true love. Then, slowly, the Grimms’ characters began to change for the worse. They became Corrupted. Evil. They didn’t belong in our world, but it was too late for the Brothers Grimm to destroy them.

Only a hero can save the day. Every generation for the past 200 years, a hero has been chosen to fight the Corrupted and rid the world of the Grimms’ fairy tales. To her horror, Alice has been chosen as the next hero. As her 18th birthday nears, she begins to realize life is never going back to normal. As for her boyfriend, Edward … well, he might be hiding a terrible secret.

That sounds like a pretty cool idea, right? I was expecting this to be a solid three stars but I was a bit disappointed.

The main character is billed as smart and strong like Buffy the vampire slayer. Unfortunately, she didn’t really come off as such. I think my main gripe was how we were told what every single person was wearing in every scene. Now, this is a teenage girl, and it could very well be that she’s the kind of person that notices that kind of thing but it got pretty annoying. I wanted more plot.

They are mini books for younger readers (this one only took me a couple of hours from start to finish) and I’m probably going to read at least the next one to see if the character evolves much and if the books get better as I got this as set.

I am intrigued to see how the other characters from the Grimm stories go bad.

 

Flux (Ennek Trilogy #2) by Kim Fielding *****

Ennek, the son of Praesidium’s Chief, has rescued Miner from a terrible fate: suspension in a dreamless frozen state called Stasis, the punishment for traitors. As the two men flee Praesidium by sea, their adventures are only beginning. Although they may be free from the tyranny of their homeland, new difficulties await them as Miner faces the continuing consequences of his slavery and Ennek struggles with controlling his newfound powers as a wizard.

Now fugitives, Ennek and Miner encounter challenges both human and magical as they explore new lands and their deepening relationship with each other.

This was a 3.5 out of 5 but I’m going up instead of down purely because of the improvement from the first book in the series. I really didn’t like it that much (you can see my review of it here) but I already had the second book so gave it a go.

I’m really glad I read this book. Ennek and Miner grow so much as characters. I found them extremely passive and a bit bland in the first book but they come into their own here. They both bring something to the story and are on a much more equal footing than in the first book. The other characters and cultures we meet along the way are also great.

I’ll be picking up the last book in this series. Maybe that one will be even better. It makes a nice change from books getting worse as series go on!

 

Fall Far From The Tree by Amy McNulty *****

Terror. Callousness. Denial. Rebellion. How the four teenage children of leaders in the duchy and the neighboring empire of Hanaobi choose to adapt to their nefarious parents’ whims is a matter of survival.

Rohesia, daughter of the duke.

Fastello the son of the “king” of the raiders.

Cateline, an orphan raised by a convent of mothers.

Kojiro, new heir to the Hanaobi empire.

When the paths of these four young adults cross, they must rely on one another for survival—but the love of even a malevolent guardian is hard to leave behind.

I wanted to give this book a higher rating. The characters and the world drew me in. But we just aren’t given enough of any of it. This book is short. It’d be short for any story but to try to tell four different characters POVs in a pretty in-depth world with different cultures and religions…. It was just too short. I wish there had been more if it, as it is, I was in the middle of the climax before I’d even gotten settled down. The characters are beautifully imagined and each had a very distinct personality but there were so many possibilities for great scenes that just got jumped over. It felt like as soon as we got to know the characters we were almost at the end of the book.

I would love to read a book 2 though. And hopefully we’ll stick with the characters a bit more and see where they go next.

 

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Stitchalong Update

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I’ve managed to get quite a bit done since I last shared an update. Here’s where I was last time and where I am now.WP_20160825_21_21_42_ProIMG_4413.JPGI said that I wanted to aim to get the top right part finished and I managed that and a little bit more on the left side too.

I might even finish it by the next update. We’ll see.

Someone pointed out last time that Ake was a name so I just want to add a disclaimer: Do NOT eat Ake.

 

I currently have no idea what I’ll be doing next because I have about 5 designs in very early stages and none of them are going to be ready to stitch any time soon. I get distracted by new ideas too easily. I feel like I’ve been delaying finishing this one and doing other things instead so I have more time.

These are the other people taking part in our stitchalong. You should check out their blogs and see what projects they very up to.

Avis / Claire / Gun / Carole / Kate  / Wendy / Lucyanne / Sue / Constanze / Debbie / Christina / Kathy / Susan

We post every three weeks and ate always open to having new members join. It’s a great way to stay motivated.

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Starting to Sew

After a rather drawn out saga with my sewing machine I finally got around to using it.

Rewind over a year to the last time I tried to use it and it didn’t work: My aunt ‘fixed’ it. Now, don’t laugh. But apparently we’d put the bobbin in wrong. No one has ever shown me how to do it and it wasn’t in the instructions (it shows how to thread it and very helpfully says ‘put the bobbin in’).

Well now I know, there’s a notch that you can’t see unless you turn your machine on its side or get on the floor so your level with it. It slots in there. Right. Problem solved.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I got my sewing machine out again as I have the space and, I think, energy to give it a go and lo and behold it doesn’t work.

My aunt visited the other week and she fixed it again (thankfully it wasn’t the same thing – some thread had got tangled around the innards of my machine).

So here we are. Finally a little bit of sewing! It’s only a couple of seams. But I can only manage about ten minutes before I’m drained and in pain. But yay!wp_20160912_17_03_32_pro

In case you’re wondering about the ball of yarn, I’ve found that the band around it makes a prefect pin cushion! And this particular ball was probably cheaper than a real pincusion too!

You can probably also see that none of the pieces I’ve done so far have been pressed. But I’m waiting for my mum to do them. I’m terrified of irons, but my illness has given me loads of valid excuses for why I’m not to do it. I can’t pick up something that heavy for example. I don’t have the energy to spare. I’m also very bad at noticing danger, I mean the idea of leaving something burning hot near me is terrifying (weirdly I have no qualms about a sharp needle going a hundred miles an hour millimetres from my fingers).

I’d previously cut all the material out for a lined tote bag. Which was tiring in itself (also, those pins are damn sharp, I kept forgetting about them and smoothing the fabric with my fingers straight into them). I was just using a pair of fabric scissors but I didn’t want to shell out on a rotary cutter and mat if it turned out using a sewing machine was more than I could handle.

I’ve since had a little look online, because I really do think it would use a lot less energy for me than scissors, and I have no idea where to start.

I don’t really want one where you have to squeeze something down for the blade to work as my hand would cramp within about ten seconds. I was looking at this one:71uvgtnih3l-_sx425_

I like that it has a covered handle as I’m sure my grip will slip. Only problem is some of the reviews are pretty bad saying that it breaks easily. Do any of you lovely folks have a recommendation for rotary cutter?

Also, did I mention those fabric pins are sharp!

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August wrap up

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I don’t normally do monthly wrap up posts as, honestly, not enough happens in my life to warrant them. But August was a very busy month for me so here we are.

We had three lots of visitors around this month. It’s not so easy for family to visit anymore as we are a (rather expensive) plane ride away but it was lovely seeing them.14045998_10157263191520177_8038095067380638530_n I don’t have any photographs from any of their stays (I know I’m such a bad blogger!). The only photo I have to show you is this one that my brother took of us for snapchat. Radical Dude.

Over the course of the month, I managed to go out to dinner twice! I left the house twice in one month. I think that’s definitely a record that’s been unbroken for years!

I paid for them both but they were worth it, I’m only sorry I didn’t manage to go out with all three lots but I was very ill the week going up to when they came and I just didn’t manage to recover in time.

It was lovely seeing everyone and the weather was really nice the whole time as well so that was great.

I didn’t get much of anything done nearly all month apart from reading as that’s something I can do when I’m recovering (You can check out what I read in august here, there’s quite a few as it’s pretty much all I did).

Over the last few days of august I did pick up a bit and managed some crochet. I probably shouldn’t have done as I should still have been resting but there is only so much resting a girl can take before boredom makes her impulsive.

Iinsta1 finally stuffed my crochet ball and finished it. The ball part is finished anyway. There’s lots more to do but I won’t be sharing any more pictures of it after this stage as you’ll start to be able to see what it is and it’s suppose to be a surprise present.

There are some weighted pellets in the bottom of it so that hopefully it stands upright once its finished but we’ll see because they weren’t actually that heavy but I’ve never used them before so wasn’t sure which ones to buy.

I also got around to starting a lap blanket for my mum. I’ve been umming and ahhing about it for a while but I couldn’t decide whether to do the granny stripe or the granny square blanket. I took a look at my yarn stash as I want to use up some of the special DK sltylecraft that I used on my tunisian crochet blanket.instaOnce I picked out some of the colours that I thought would go well with each other (I don’t have that many left so while this wouldn’t have been my first choice colours for a blanket, I think they go well enough together), I realised that if I were to do a granny square I would probably end up having to switch colours mid rows which is something I didn’t want to do so I settled on doing the stripe.

After doing a few rows I decided that the yellow didn’t go and took it out. I’m sure I took a picture of the yellow looking all out of place but I seem to have lost it. This is how far I’ve gotten so far:wp_20160908_14_19_46_pro

 

Phew, well that’s a very busy month for me. What have you gotten up to? Any new projects? Any family visiting/visited?

As much as I loved seeing them all, I’m quite looking forward to having a slower month in September and hopefully spending some of my spare energy on giving my newly fixed sewing machine a whirl.

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Let’s Eat Cake – SAL update

Cross stitch sharing time everyone. Gather round! (Can you tell I’m in a funny mood today?) I actually haven’t done much cross stitching this month, heck, I haven’t done much of any crafting this month. But I did manage to get some done over the last couple of days so I do have something to show you.

Here is where I was last time:WP_20160804_15_45_54_Pro

And here is the progress that I managed to speed through over the last few dWP_20160825_21_21_42_Proays:

It’s coming along nicely. I have managed to not snap anymore threads this time around. I’m really hoping to at least get the right hand side finished by the next update but I guess we’ll see. My sewing machine has been fixed (Thank you auntie) so I might find myself a tad distracted…

On another note: I have mixed feelings about cross stitching in only one colour. On the one hand, I’m really enjoying not having to change colours and threads but on the other hand when I’m doing the larger areas of white it can get a little boring. Ah, well, that’s what good music is for I guess.

The other lovely folks taking part in the stitchalong are:

Avis / Claire / Gun / Carole / Kate  / Wendy / Lucyanne / Sue / Constanze / Debbie / Christina / Kathy / Susan

We post an update every third Sunday (time zones may vary) and you should check out what everyone else is up to as there’s some really cool projects.

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The Memo Pad: Book Reviews

mp - august 2016

I’ve done quite a few bookish posts on my blog this month and that’s mainly because I’ve been reading a lot and haven’t done much of anything else. Family have been visiting and I’ve been saving all my energy for them and reading at all other times. Which means quite a few books to share with you. They’re all spoiler free and I would love to hear what you though if you’ve read any of them too.

Read: 5

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey *****

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

I’d heard a lot about this book and I knew the basic premise as I’d actually watched the trailer for the film already. Horror/zombie books are not in my normal comfort zone but I prefer to read it than watch it and this sounded interesting so I branched out a little and gave it a try.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s exciting, the characters are all 3d and have their own motivations and we get to see how they all react under pressure (some of them do better than others).

The Copper Promise (The Copper Cat #1) by Jen Williams *****

There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel – about magic and mages and monsters and gods. For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.
But sometimes there is truth in rumour. Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I was sorely tempted to take another star away purely because my favourite character died but then that would be petty and I’m better than that…..right? Maybe I’m just use to my favourites always dying.

This book is actually written in four parts. Kind of four novellas rather than a single book and that’s how I read it (buying the four parts separately was actually cheaper on kindle so that’s what I did). There’s basically a mini adventure in each. I didn’t like the first part that much, which may have been because it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting a bit more heist and a bit less magic and dragons but then there is a dragon on the front cover so that was totally my fault. The novellas definitely got better as it went along and parts three and four were great. And for that reason it just scrapes into the four star arena.

The only thing I was disappointed about was Sebastians character. There are some massive things that happen in the plot and we didn’t really get any kind of emotional reaction from him. There was plenty of opportunity to go deeper into his character and it never happened. I wanted more dammit!

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Throne *****

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I probably didn’t need to add the blurb for this one, did I? I wasn’t even planning to read this but a friend sent it to me (Thanks!). I’m glad I read it because I am a massive potterhead but I didn’t like it much. I’m actually not even that bothered that it reads like a (not a terribly good) fanfiction I was more pissed off at how the characters were presented. I’m aware that the book isn’t the finished script but characters we know and love like Hermione, Ron and Mcgonagal were so far out of character that they were bordering on ridiculous (Ron especially and I never even liked Ron that much). If you’re going to do a sequel the least you can do is keep the characters IN character.

Break The Chains (The Scorched Continent #2) by Megan O’Keefe *****

As the city that produces the most selium – that precious gas that elevates airships and powers strange magic – Hond Steading is a jewel worth stealing. To shore up the city’s defenses, Detan promises that he’ll recover Nouli, the infamous engineer who built the century gates that protect the imperial capital of Valathea. But Nouli is imprisoned on the Remnant Isles, an impervious island prison run by the empire, and it’s Detan’s fault.
Detan doesn’t dare approach Nouli himself, so his companions volunteer to get themselves locked up to make contact with Nouli and convince him to help. Now Detan has to break them all out of prison, and he’s going to need the help of a half-mad doppel to do it.

I read the first book in this series a few months ago and I absolutely loved it (I mean seriously one of the best books I’ve read this year) so when I received the sequel in exchange for a review on netgalley I was mega excited. I was also slightly apprehensive to read it as I really wanted it to be good. Well, I am so glad to say that this book lived up to my pretty high expectations perfectly. I loved it. Detan is back and just as cocky as ever but we get to go deeper into each of the characters this time. We also get to see more of the fantastic world that was built in the first book. It’s got everything I love in a book: amazing characters, airships, adventure, cons, magic. You should definitely check this out (read the first book first!) if you love anything with cocky con-men a la The Gentlemen Bastards or Six of Crows.

Stasis (Ennek Trilogy #1) by Kim Fielding *****

Praesidium is the most prosperous city-state in the world, due not only to its location at the mouth of a great bay, but also to its strict laws, stringently enforced. Ordinary criminals become bond-slaves, but the Wizard places traitors in Stasis, a dreamless frozen state.
Ennek is the Chief’s younger son. He has grown up without much of a purpose, a man who cannot fulfill his true desires and who skates on the edge of the law. But he is also haunted by the plight of one man, a prisoner for whom Stasis appears to be a truly horrible fate. If Ennek is to save that prisoner, he must explore Praesidium’s deepest secrets as well as his own.

I honestly don’t know where to start with my review for this book. I thought about the rating for ages. This wasn’t a bad book. In fact the world building was actually pretty good. But – it’s creepy and not in a good way. I’ve looked at other reviews of the book and no one seems to have the same problem with it but I got major necrophilia vibes off this book. I mean seriously the main character, Ennek, basically gets sexual attracted to a guy who’s in stasis. And okay Stasis isn’t dead but he’s in a coma and he’s not even breathing and did I mention naked? So Ennek decides he wants to save this guy and it only gets more creepy from there. It’s a shame because if the story had gone about this even slightly differently then I think this could have been a really good book. The rest of the plot is interesting and while I think it definitely could have been shortened (it could have been condensed down and gotten on with the plot a bit quicker which would have meant less icky vibes too) it had a lot of potential. I actually have the second book in this series as I got it without realising it was in a series so I I’ll probably read the next book and hope it’s less creepy and starts living up to the potential. Fingers crossed.

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