TTT: Top 10 books that surprised me; the good and the bad.

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Top Ten Tuesday is a book tag hosted over at The Broke and The Bookish, there’s a new topic every tuesday and anyone can join in and linkup. I really liked this weeks topic.

Which is: ….Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would

All title links go to the goodreads page. 

 The Good:

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57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G.Buehrlen

I bought this a couple of weeks ago on deal because its published by angry robots and out sounded interesting. I wasn’t ejecting much just a rollicking good time that I expect from any angry robot book I pick up. But it was very unexpectedly a five star read. I loved it, it handles time travel so well.

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The Selection by Kiera Cass

So I don’t like romance books. The whole premise of this should have put me off and I honestly can’t remember why I read it, I think it was one of those ‘I’m bored and feel like reading some trash’ moods (anyone else get those?) but I actually did really enjoy it (why? I still have no idea) and I’ve actually gone back and reread it as well.

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A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

This was a netgalley book I got for review and hadn’t heard of before. I was obviously expecting to like it or I wouldn’t have asked for it but it definitely surpassed my expectations. I couldn’t put it down and I think I read it in two days. It was so fast paced and it had magic and dragons and Greek gods. It was very good.

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A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

I think this is the book I read the longest time ago on this list. But I remember enjoying it a lot. It sounds like a light scifi adventure and while I was expecting an enjoyable ride I wasn’t really expecting much more than that. It was a very good book. I can’t tell you much more than that but now i want to read it again.
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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab

Short story from back when I bought my very first kindle; a couple of days after it arrived I saw this book in the kindle daily deals for 99p/ Even from the title it sounded like my kind of book. I’d never heard of it before though (this was a couple of years ago now) but I thought hey, for 99p as long as its alright then that’s still a bargain. Well holy crap was it like the best book ever! Seriously one of the best books I’ve read.

 


 

I actually meant to do this post on ten books that were positive surprises but it turns out it was actually a lot easier to think of negative surprises so welcome to the second half.

The Bad:

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The Child Thief by Brom

I love Peter pan stories, the whole idea is so intriguing and I want something to go deeper and explore how not the hero he is and while this did that it just wasn’t a very enjoyable book to read.

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The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

This is a Sci fi alternate reality adventure about books. Which sounds awesome. And maybe I just had too high expectations but it didn’t live up. It was okay, which is about as much praise as I can say about it. It’s not on the list because I thought it was rubbish, I just thought it should have been better and was disappointed.

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The Final Empire (Mistborn) by Brandon Sanderson

I REALLY wanted to love this book. I’d heard so much about Sanderson, the blurb was really intriguing. The magic system might be one of my favourites ever, kelsier is a brilliant character, there were scenes in this book that ripped my heart out and I still feel it years later but…… Something was missing. I didn’t like the way the story was told with the extracts at the start of each chapter, I felt bored at points and it was a bit of a slog to get through. I’m still mad that this book wasn’t consistently at heart breaking level or maybe I’m mad that it reached heart breaking level and didn’t stay there? I haven’t picked up the rest of the series.

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The 100 by Kass Morgan

I’m not sure what to say about this, this is a Sci fi dystopian but I just couldn’t get over the stupid decisions that the characters make. Like really, above and beyond teenage stupidity. If the person you love more than anything is all about helping and healing people then maybe doing something that risks literally everyone’s lives to win her back isn’t the smartest decision?
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The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

Okay, don’t stone me. I really don’t like fantasy books that are based on traveling on a quest. We end up getting a lot of scenery and not a lot of character. Seriously where’s the character?! There’s no doubt Tolkien was brilliant and paved the way and blah blah but I found this boring to read. Personal opinion. I struggled to the end of it.

 


So how about you? Any of these books make your list of happy surprises/disappointments? Am I so completely wrong about some of them that you want to shout at me? What’s your best and worst surprise when it comes to the books you’ve read?

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New Cross Stitch Project (SAL)

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It’s time for another link up with the stitch along. We post updates on whatever stitching projects we’re working on every three weeks.

Avis / Claire / Gun / Carole / Kate / Lucyanne / Sue / Constanze / Debbie / Christina / Kathy / Susan / Margaret / Cindy / Helen / Steph / Linda / Catherine / Wendy

Check them out as they have some brilliant projects going on.

I finished my project last time around so I have a new start to show this time.
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I’m concentrating on the center of my cross stitch. I’m not sure if you can tell yet, maybe squint? It’s a leaf. And so far I’ve used, neon pink, neon oranges, burnt reds and I’m onto gold! I’m really hoping I’ve gotten the colours right and they’ll look okay when all is done. It was looking quite good for a while there but I’m not so sure about that bright orange in the middle. I’m going to leave (punny) it in until I’ve at least finished this one leaf. I’m hoping it looks better when I add all of the yellow colours.

It actually isn’t as shocking on the fabric as they are in the skeins so hopefully they all mix well and look….leaf like together.

It’s exciting to see things starting to form. I can pick out the edges of the leaf and also the letters of the quote going through the middle. I might add some Green in the next update. I know, who would have guessed I would add green in a pattern full of leaves, right?wp_20170212_19_30_50_pro

I’ve also finally finished the tutorial for the pin cushion I showed you all as my finish last update. And I’ve uploaded the pattern and tutorial to my etsy which you can see here if you wanted to.

And I also thought I would show you the little demo pin cushion that I made for the tutorial because its small and cute.

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Crafty Update

I’ve been doing a lot of bitty things craft wise recently. So thought I’d do a post to update my progress on all of them.

First off I’m crocheting a cowl, ostensibly for my mother but honestly I’ve just really wanted to do this stitch for a while. I saw it ages ago but only recently realised its actually a pattern by a blog I follow. You can see the pattern on Not Your Average Crochet’s blog. I’m doing it a lot smaller as I prefer snug cowls to big ones. Or my mum does? I don’t know, they’re quicker to stitch! Haha.

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I’m using up the scraps of yarn that I had left over from my mums lap blanket as well as a darker red that I have half a ball left of from my stash. Hopefully that’ll be enough for the cowl, if not then I guess I’ll add even more random colours. I’m really enjoying doing this and it is so ridiculously soft, I have to keep stopping and squishing it.

 

I’ve also been testing out stitches/patterns for my dads scarf. I made him one last year and I told you in my new years post that he’d asked for another one in a Christmassy colour. Dark red or Green. The last scarf was a dark blue in a simple crocheted linen/moss stitch and I wanted to do something different.

I originally had planned to do a Tunisian crochet pattern that I’d found on ravelry but after trying it out I’ve realised that I really don’t like doing the Tunisian purl stitch. And the pattern it made wasn’t as nice as I was expecting either so that one is out.

I’ve seen people I follow do the basket weave stitch and had it recommended to me before so I thought id finally try it out for this scarf. The tester I made was pretty good and my dad approved so that’s what I’ll be going with for his scarf. It’s a lot softer than I was expecting for double crochet. I’m not sure I’m doing the edges right as they’re pretty messy but I’ve been looking it up and it looks like if I do half double crochet for the edges it’ll be neater.

My dad has picked out his yarn, it’s a dark green. And I only got 200g to start with because I’m not sure how much I’ll need and I’d rather not buy another 200g ball if I don’t need it. It’s also Aran yarn (which I worked out after googling because the band is very American) and I was originally planning on using DK but dad seems okay with it being thicker than the tester.

I haven’t started it yet, although its definitely calling to me. So far I’ve been good and am trying to finish the cowl before I start this.

 

Something not crochet related in the middle of this post. I decided to try out sewing something else. I made a couple of tote bags from the same pattern last year and I decided to try something else out (in between trying to quilt). So I’m attempting to make a pencil case/make up bag/thing. These are the fabrics and zip I’m going to be using. The plain is for the lining and the pattern is for the outer.

The pattern is pretty simple but it had a couple of new to me things. I’ve never sewn a zip before and I’ve also never used interfacing before. But I thought this was a good way to add a couple more things to my skills…I use that word loosely!

Sewing the zip meant I got to use my zipper foot out of the box of sewing machine feet that I got for Christmas. I have to admit I took quite a while staring at it and at my sewing machine before I figured out how it worked/how to attach it. But figure it out I did. Eventually. My second attempt at using it went well (on my first attempt I accidentally sewed the zipper on upside down!). Then all I had to do was sew it all together. At which point the instructions told me to sew over the teeth of the zip when I was seaming. Apparently that didn’t include the little metal bit at the end of the zip. I was left with one very broken needle. But I replaced it! Go me.

 

You know what I said about being good and not starting any more crochet projects until I’d finished the cowl? Yeah well I lied. I decided to try to make a hat.

A hat.

I don’t do hats. I didn’t knit them when I used to knit and I don’t crochet them now. But you may remember I made a pointy hat for Christmas? Well, while I was doing that I got an idea in my head for a pattern and I couldn’t dislodge it so I attempted it.

It was of my own design, so no pattern to follow (not that I’m good at doing that anyway) I want to let you know that the hat I made for Christmas I had to make twice because I got the sizing wrong. It was way too big (and that was me following a pattern). So it was rather inevitable that I’d get the sizing wrong on this too.

This time it was way too small, not in the circumference – that was okay, but well, I’m sure if anyone has made hats before they know there’s a bit where it tells you how many inches to keep going to make it the right size? Well as I said I’ve never done hats before, and I started decreasing WAY too early. The hat doesn’t actually make it to my ears!

BUT the pattern idea worked! I used some old Aran yarn for the tester but I think I’d rather it was dk yarn as its Tunisian crochet which makes a pretty thick material. So I’m waiting on buying more dk yarn to try again. And this time I’m definitely waiting until I’ve finished the cowl before buying the yarn.


Phew. That’s all the projects I’m chipping away at (If you include the table runner I posted about, and the cross stitching I’ll update you on this weekend). I’m really enjoying crochet at the moment, I fell a bit out of love with it for a while there. Anyone else get that? 

I’d love to hear what crafty projects you are all working on.

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Another Birthday Present

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Originally I meant to do this and the last post as one but I ended up splitting them up as it got very long and I’m noticing I ramble on haha.

But this is another present and card that I made recently, it was for a friends birthday just a couple of days ago.

Starting with the card. He’s a big Nintendo fan so it was pretty easy to come up with this idea.wp_20170202_15_06_24_pro

I started the present months ago as it was just an idea and I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out or even if I wanted to make it at all. I teased you with this photo:

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It was a long time ago and I didn’t post any updates since then because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. It went on hold going up to Christmas as there was just so much other stuff to do but I got back onto it in January and here is the finished object next to its rather more expensive twin so you can see what it should look like.
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It’s the bb8 droid from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I used this pattern that I found on ravelry.

I don’t normally do amigurumi so I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It has some weight beads in the base to keep it upright.

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A Birthday Present and Heat Transfer Vinyl

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At the end of last month it was my brothers birthday. I didn’t have any great ideas for a present so I ended up asking him if he wanted anything particular. Well he did. He said he wanted a laundry basket… Which might just be the most boring present I’ve ever been asked to buy for someone but he asked if I could stitch something on it like the cushion I gave him for Christmas.wp_20161209_16_46_23_pro

I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d go about stitching on something already made. It would be pretty hard but he’d also only told me about two weeks before his birthday which isn’t enough time for me to stitch anything so I compromised.

I have a bunch of heat transfer vinyl that I got for my last birthday and hadn’t gotten around to using yet so I thought this would be the perfect project to use them on.

After browsing pinterest for a suitably funny quote I went on my computer to design it and then cut it out.img_4747

At this point I also cut out a practice project for two reasons, 1) I only had one sheet of white heat transfer vinyl so I wanted to make sure I could cut it properly without ruining it and 2) so that my mum could practice ironing the heart transfer vinyl onto something before we tried it on the laundry basket.

I had a cheap tote bag that I’d bought over a year ago for exactly this purpose so I fished that out and I didn’t want to spend too long trying to think of something to put on it or spend to long designing it. I knew I wanted something to do with water, be it a swimming pool, the ocean, the beach – something like that as I wanted to use the blue heat transfer sheet I had. Well, I was listening to Jump in the Pool by Friendly Fires at the time so…. That’s what I did! I added a few swimming pool waves underneath to make it a little bit more interesting. Then set it to cut.

Luckily it cut perfectly and was super easy to weed out the bits I didn’t want so I went back and cut out the design I had made for the laundry basket.

Here they are cut and weeded:

Once that was done it was time to iron them on. Mum didn’t have any trouble on the tester so we went on to the laundry basket which was a group effort. It was rather large so dad had to hold it up while mum ironed on the vinyl to the lid. (if your wondering, my part was watching them).

Here it is:
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That’s the only pic I got before we packaged it up again and sent it off to my brother. Suitably funny quote to make it a little bit less boring!

I really enjoyed using the heat transfer vinyl so I’m sure I’ll do more of it.

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I also made my brother a card along the washing theme to go with it. He bought me a Manchester United shirt with my favourite player on the back for Christmas so I included that on the washing line. I don’t think it’s one of my best cards but it’s good to do something different every now and then and it definitely went along with his present.

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Table Runner Update

At the start of the month I decided to make a table runner to practice my quilting and to test out all my new quilting goodies that I got for Christmas. I also wanted to test out my poplin cotton against regular quilting cotton to make double sure it would work (instead of finding out a few months into making my quilt it didn’t!). Thanks to everyone who responded on my starting to quilt post about poplin. It was very helpful.

I want to show you how far I’ve gotten. Well, I’ve finished the top pieces:

 

The pattern is very loosely based on a tutorial by Missouri Quilts. And by that I mean I watched the video…. At some point…. A couple of months ago…. Okay so I basically just took the idea and hashed the sizing because I’m honestly so bad at following a pattern. The extra effort of looking at a pattern is that bit too much effort. I’m a perfectionist but only once I’ve finished and I’m looking back at my work, when it comes to the actual doing I’m lazy, I cut corners.

The actual presents should probably be smaller and the sashing should be bigger I think but its alright.  These blocks are actually a lot more complicated than the blocks I’ll be using for my quilt. Which I guess just shows how simple they are going to be!

So far the poplin is working fine. I’m using my new 1/4 inch foot and it’s definitely making things neater. I’ve cut the backs (Green) and the insulated batting and i will be quilting it this month. Or at least starting to. I’m going to use my walking foot for the first time to stitch in the ditch around the presents and then… Okay I’m not sure what else I’m going to do but it will be using my free motion foot as I need to see how that works.

Once all three are quilted, I’m going to use a join as you go method to turn the individual blocks into a table runner. But I’ll show you an update before that point. It’s a pretty good amount of work for me to get all three blocks done in a month. Although I’m sure my mum would prefer me to go slower as she is the one that has to press all the seams for me.

For my quilt I will have three different blocks for each of the six fabrics so if I can manage to do the blocks for one fabric a month that would be great. Of course then I’d need to quilt them too… I’m starting to think it might take me more than a year!

 

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Memo Pad: Books – January 2017

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This month has been a really good start to the year and I managed 5 books, okay so one of them was only a novella but still, that’s pretty good for me. I finally got around to reading Crooked Kingdom and The Dream Thieves, which were both sequels I couldn’t wait for and yet, there were so many other books I wanted to read that I did indeed have to wait for them. Neither of them disappointed. Hopefully I can keep up this reading form and get to some more of the books I-cant-wait-but-have-waited-for.

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Read: 5

Note: I normally include blurbs for all the books here but I’m not going to for the two sequels because they are riddled with spoilers for the first books in their respective series.

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Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows Duology) by Leigh Bardugo *****

What can I say? This book is amazing. Kaz is just as brilliant as before. He’s a big ball of menace and revenge prowling about with a lead lined cane but we see some more cracks in his armour this time around. Those moments are beautiful. The whole team is back and schemes upon schemes are formed and foiled. If you like books with heists or thieves or intellectual protagonists then why haven’t you read these books yet? I would say that overall, it’s not as much a five star as Six of Crows but this one has my favourite scenes in so it evens out. It’s still an absolutely amazing book. I’m not ready for this duology to end.

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The Girl in the City by Philip Harris *****

With the oppressive Transport Authority controlling every aspect of their existence, Leah and her father do what they can to carve a good life for themselves. Leah spends her nights scavenging in the rural zone around the City, risking capture by the Wild Ones as she hunts for salvage her father can trade for food and other essentials. But when Leah takes a bag of salvage from a dying stranger, she and her father are drawn into the world of Transport and its war against the terrorist organization, TRACE. A war that could cost them both their lives.

The world building in this is great, even though it’s only a novella I could still picture the world clearly. Unfortunately, I didn’t really identify with the main character. I didn’t think her motivations for doing certain things made sense, it felt like the author needed her to do something so she did. Maybe that’s because this is a really short novella and so we didn’t really have enough time to really get in her head and understand why she was acting a certain way. The story could have been a bit longer while still staying a novella and that way it could have developed her character a little more.

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The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G Buehrlen *****

For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair. But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them. It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories. Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever. And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

I was not expecting this book to be as good as it was. This book is time traveling done right. Which is very difficult to do. I’ve been pretty disappointed in other time travel books lately but everything wrapped up well and was very cleverly intertwined. And mixing time travel with reincarnation and past lives was very interesting.

I loved the characters, it’s refreshing to see a teenage character who acts like a teenager rather than always doing what’s best for the world. Teenagers get panicky and self conscious and irrational but the author’s done this really well to make you still really root for Alex. I don’t normally like books with romance but I really enjoyed this. It had a lot of complicated relationships as well as the romantic one and the romance was never the be all and end all like it seems to be in a lot of YA.  I’ll definitely be reading the sequel.

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Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan *****

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen. But perhaps this doesn’t need to be the end…
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return. For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?

First of I’ll say that both the title and the cover are gorgeous. But quickly behind that, I didn’t get on with the writing style. It’s written in the present tense that makes it sound like stage direction.

Carys and Max hold onto the rope tethering them together in the asteroid belt, quiet and contemplative

It was jarring and not the kind of jarring you get used to and then don’t notice again.

The book is split into two timelines, what’s currently happening ie drifting out in space and flashbacks of the two main characters relationship. They live in Europia where everyone has to move every three years to a new area or Voivode so there are no borders/national pride to start wars over. It was a really interesting setting and concept and I wish it had been explored a little more. I liked Carys and Max, in fact their first conversation when they met was so brilliant I laughed aloud and then went back and re read it. A lot of the present time is just a set up to show certain flashbacks and at times it really is obvious that they’re going through a list of moments rather than having a natural conversation. I feel like there needed to be a little bit more happening plot wise in the present timeline to make this book better also I felt like the ending was cheating. Without giving any spoilers away, all I’ll say is there was absolutely no reason in the plot for that to happen.

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The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater *****

This book is ridiculously well written, I mean forget about the characters and the story for a second. The writing is beautiful. But back to the characters and story because no one reads a book just for the writing. I am still completely in love with the raven boys. They all need a hug and I can’t wait to read the next book. 

 

I’m not sure what wrong with me. Last year I think I only gave out five five-star reviews all year and I’ve given three in just one month. 

How have your first reading month of the year been? Read any five-star books? Have you read any of these and what did you think?


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