The Memo Pad: Books

thememopadAfter lots of thinking, I have finally decided to change these monthly memo pad posts into a books only post. I feel like it will be better to update you on craft projects or big events that happen in their own posts. I may re=name these posts to something more booky too, So, on to the books.

Read: 4

Half Bad by Sally Green *****

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination.

So, first off, I got this book very cheaply in a sale. It’s one of those books that’s alright to take up some time but I wouldn’t read the sequel. The problem with that is, they introduced a character in the last third of the book that I actually really like and I want to know what happens to him. I’m still not sure if I’ll read the sequel. Maybe if it goes on sale like this one did.

Ink and Bone By Rachel Caine *****

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

I’ve read the supremely powerful library kind of books before, but this is my favourite. It was very well done and I’m excited for the next in the series to be released.

Steal the Sky By Megan O’Keefe *****

Detan Honding, a wanted conman of noble birth, and his trusted companion Tibs set out to steal an airship. Things get a whole lot more complicated as a doppel shows up and starts murdering important people. Detan wants to stay and finish the plan but if his dangerous secret gets revealed, he has a lot more to worry about than a stolen airship.

This book is like a love child between The Gentleman Bastards and Mistborn. If you liked The Lies of Locke Lamora, I’d definitely recommend you check it out. It’s my favourite book I’ve read so far this year.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld *****

Tally is fifteen, living in a world where everyone gets turned into a ‘Pretty’ on their sixteenth birthday. No differences mean no wars and Tally has been dreaming of turning Pretty all her life. But a few months before her birthday she meets Shay.. Tally gets thrown into a new dangerous world where she finds out turning Pretty isn’t what she’s been told it is.

I read this while recovering from a dentist appointment and it did what it said on the tin. I wanted something YA easy to read. As dystopian books go, it’s okay. Nothing special but interesting enough to pass a few hours with.

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I am currently lying in bed recovering from the dentists. Well, I will be when this post goes live. I have to get a broken tooth taken out among other things and it’s going to cause a massive crash. I haven’t been out in ages as I’ve been saving all my spoons/energy for this. That sucks, hey? I should get to do fun things if I’m going to crash from it!

I have t-minus two weeks to recover from this till I go on holiday. Fingers Crossed.

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Life is a Game SAL


It’s time for me to show you all what I’ve been working on these last few weeks.

This is the first pattern that I have designed myself and I’m quite happy with it so far. I’ve finished the first go but I think I am going to go back and change the font I used for ‘Life’ to the font I used for ‘football’ as I just don’t think the font I used goes with the rest of the piece.

There were a few small changes along the way too, more to do with spacing or a stitch in a different place that I made a note of and am going to go back and change in the pattern too.

I was a bit worried about the colour changes in the word ‘GAME’ but I think they came out okay in the end. It’s not as abrupt as I was fearing. I really should have taken a better picture as it’s all crumpled but I’ll save that for when it’s done and framed. That’s my excuse anyway!

I did it on 16 count AIDA fabric in oatmeal, which wasn’t as dark as I was expecting so the white pitch lines don’t show up as well, but I think it still works okay.

Avis / Claire / Gun / Carole / KateJule / Wendy / Lucyanne / Cathy / Sue

These are the others taking part in the three-weekly Stitch-A-Long and you should check out their links to see what awesome projects they’ve been up to.

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Crafter Interview:

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these interviews, but I really do love doing them so I’m hoping I will be able to go back to posting one a month. We’ll see how that goes. As always I’m always looking for volunteers to take part. If you would like to just get in touch.


Let’s start with introductions. Who are you?
Hi, I’m Helen Jones, but you’ll find me at UnlockingWords as well as over on Etsy at UnlockingImages. I’m 29 years old and love crafting despite having incredibly bad hand pain. However, if I can do this, then most people have no excuses.  I don’t believe that people aren’t creative. I believe that people aren’t given a chance, by society or themselves, to play and learn and experiment but there’s something creative for everyone.

I don’t have an art background (I did a masters in mathematics…) and at school I was never considered creative by teachers because I’m not great at drawing accurately and that was what they focused on…

What crafts do you do?
What crafts do I do… how long is a piece of string?! Predominately, I guess I’m a mixed media artist and photographer (film and digital) and I use those skills to make cards, to art journal etc. But I’ve dabbled in many, many things over the years and have had to adapt or move on as my illness has stopped me from doing particular things. For example, there was a year when I was a prolific knitter, I could only do straight lines, but I made a lot of blankets! Then my hand pain got too much and I was unable to do even a little bit of knitting. I’ve also done sewing, cross stitch, embroidery, candle making…aj4
What illness/es do you have?

I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) which means that my joints are all bendier than they should be which causes full or partial dislocations, joint and muscle pain as well as exhaustion and other fun stuff! I also have a long history of severe depression and anorexia.

In terms of crafting, my EDS probably has the most impact – I struggle to do a lot of things with my hands, for example, I can no longer write by hand (I can manage the odd word with a chunky pen on the odd occasion so there are words in my art still but it’s very limited). This obviously has a huge impact on my ability to create as does the exhaustion.  The depression and anorexia can result in a lack of motivation but on the flip side, being creative does really help my mental health.

What are your favourite pieces of craft equipment?

Hmm… it’s a bit like choosing your favourite child! I love my cameras, all of them, and probably my other must have is a notebook with thick pages.

Once you have the notebook, you really can use anything to journal and create in it.  But I guess my most used bits and pieces for mixed media are probably…

  • ajGesso – I love getting texture in my work and covering a page in gesso is a great way to do it
  • Acrylic paints – any. I’m not precious. I have £1 ones from the kids section and lovely dylusions ones and I use them all.
  • Chunky paintbrushes – these are the only kind I can hold and cos I can only hold them for a few minutes, it means you get a good amount of coverage for your time
  • Stencils – because I can’t really draw!
  • Tim Holtz ink blending tools – I use them to apply paint, ink etc to the paper through the stencil, I’ve found this is the best way for me
  • Paint marker pens – they flow easily, tend to be chunkier and sit on top of most surfaces so great for final details
  • Soft pastels – again, a good way to get a lot of colour for your effort and they smudge really easily. NB, oil pastels are much harder to use in my experience from a hand pain perspective.


Why did you start crafting?

I’ve always crafted… But when my most recent episode of depression started about three years ago, I started to art journal as a way of achieving something most days. I’m really pleased that I’ve kept this up and it really does help my mental health.

What adaptations or changes have you had to make to craft because of your illness(es)?

I want to mention knitting again even though I can’t do it anymore. Knitting with chunky wool and chunky (non metal) needles is so much easier than starting out with standard sized stuff. It’s so much easier on your hands and you’ll get a lot more done more quickly.  Knitting is also quite good for teaching yourself pacing. If you find the row length you can do easily, make a piece that wide, then every time you get to the end of the row, put it down for a minute, reposition yourself, stretch etc, then pick it back up again.

Coming back to what I can do, with photography, I’ve had to buy a new camera with a flip out live view screen so that I can take pictures from angles I can’t really get to. I’ve also had to redevelop my style of photography. Until a couple of years ago, you’d have found me crawling round on the floor for the perfect shot but now I’d get stuck down there! So a new viewpoint has been forced upon me but I’m considering it a creative challenge. In my mixed media work, I’ve often found that limitations create better work because you have to think and experiment. I’m also unable to take as many photos as I used to because I find the buttons difficult and the camera hard to hold. I’m hoping when I get my new wheelchair, I’ll be able to find a way of mounting the camera on the chair to try and overcome some of these difficulties. If you’re interested in photography and have a disability, you might want to check out The Disabled Photographers Society.aj1Mixed media wise, this is such a huge area that I believe almost everyone can find a way to participate. I use chunky paintbrushes, my fingers, chunky pens etc. It’s a lot of trial and error to find the tools that work for you. For example I had expected that stamping would be an easy way to get a lot of colour and imagery down on paper but it turns out it really hurts my hands. I also struggle with spray inks etc. I think you also need to be creative about how you use things. I’ve got a lot of tools that I use regularly which I’ve just picked up from round the house – instead of drawing circles I dip toilet rolls, clingfilm rolls etc into paint. I frequently use the paper that’s under my art journal to catch drips as collage paper; again it’s a really easy way of adding colour. Cut out words from magazines if you struggle to write (or in my case, more frequently I’m getting my carers to cut them out).  Actually, that’s probably a big thing, not being afraid to get help. I had a really bad pain period earlier this year and I hadn’t been able to do my art journal for a couple of weeks and it was getting really frustrating. In the end, I gave my carer very specific instructions and we created a page between us. It’s still my work, she’s just acting as my hands.

I think for me, the two big things to consider with craft and chronic illness is pacing and adjusting your mindset. I work a lot in layers so I can do a bit, let it dry, then come back later. That way I don’t overdo it and I can be doing little bits throughout the day. I also no longer expect myself to do something every day or to do huge pieces of art work. That’s not to say I won’t but my expectation is that I will do something small, most days. Then anything on top is a bonus.

Favourite project: 
Ooh, what a question! I love my art journals and am particular proud because I’ve been filling them regularly since early 2013 I think. It’s great to see the changes in style and the progression and experimentation of my art. And on a day to day basis, it means that often when I’m caj3rawling into bed, I know I’ve completed, or at least started, something creative.

Like many spoonies I guess, my days have a tendency to blend into each other and before you know it a month has passed and all you’ve done is catch up on Netflix.  Art journaling helps to anchor me more in the day and has changed the way I look at things.  I’m always looking for inspiration, be it a quote or an image or a feeling, and that makes you tune into your surroundings in a deeper way.  I don’t just skim read a book, I read it more carefully looking for words to reuse.  I don’t just stare out the window, I notice the birds hopping around and see a feather I might want to use in my journal.

That said, I don’t think I could chose just one page so I’ve included a few.

How expensive is your craft/ how much do you spend on crafting?

Both photography and mixed media art are as expensive as you want them to be. You can spend an absolute fortune on tools and paint and lenses and books but you can also get started with a camera phone and a bit of paint and paper.
Advice for someone with a chronic illness starting off in your craft(/s)?

I think for the basics for photography you obviously need some kind of camera but to start with you don’t need anything fancy. A good photographer is someone who can frame a shot rather than someone who has expensive cameras and 101 lenses. If you can’t frame a shot, your photos will be essentially the same on any camera. Look at training your eye.  There’s lots of online tutorials and information about ‘rules’. But get out there, take lots of photos, look at them all and reflect on what works and what doesn’t. Look at other people’s photographs and again, try and unpick why something works. Flickr is probably better than Instagram if you’re looking to do that – fancy filters can distract from a badly taken photo…

For mixed media work and art journaling… to start out with you need some paper or card or a notebook – something to use as your base. You will also need some way of applying colour or lines to that base. It doesn’t matter if all you have to hand is your child’s crayons – go with it. There’s a lot of very expensive fancy stuff out there but you really don’t need it all. As you get to grips with what you’re doing, then start looking at the fancy stuff.  Otherwise you’ll buy it and then not want to use it because it looks too nice!

For both, look online at other people’s work, there’s a lot of tutorials out there. But at some stage, turn the computer off, stop looking at other people’s work for a while and actually make something yourself. It can be really easy to just spend all your time looking at other people’s work but the only way that you’ll develop your skills is if you actually try it. Aaj2nd be prepared for some dud work to start with, you’re learning something new and trying to find your own style includes making mistakes. Think about how you came to your clothing style, I’m betting there was at least one piece of clothing from your teenage wardrobe that makes you cringe now but without it, you’d not be where you are today!


You don’t have to show anyone what you’re doing. If you’re art journaling in particular, you might find that you start to touch on issues you don’t want sharing and there is absolutely no need to. The reason you’re doing this is to create, not to please an audience.  Let go of the end piece and focus on the process of creating instead.


I want to thank Helen for taking part. I love the work you’ve been kind enough to share with us too. You should check out her blog and, as I said at the start, if you want to do an interview for my blog yourself then just get in tough with me using any of the ways below or my email which should be in the sidebar (or below if you are viewing from mobile).

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10 Book Series I Really Should Finsh

In honour of today being World Book Day I thought I would do a bookish themed post. When I was younger I use to get really excited about World Book Day coming around as at school we’d all get a £1 book voucher. I know, so exciting, right?

Now that I am no longer at school, this day tends to pass me by a bit. But I have remember this year so on to the books. I’m a bit of a sucker for starting series and never getting around to finishing them. They might even be some of my favourite books ever but, for some reason, I don’t get around to finishing the series they are in. I really want to though, so I thought I would compile a list of some (definitely only some because looking any further back on my goodreads to find even more books I don’t have time to read is a bit depressing) of the ones I need to get around to soon. In no particular order I’ve listed them below. The books in bold are the ones in the series that I’ve read, not all of the series have been finished but I’m going to add the books that have been published or will be published soon.

  1. Red Rising / Golden Son / Morning Star by Pierce Brown
  2. Seraphina / Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  3. The Name of the Wind / The Wise Mans Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  4. Prince of Fools / The Liar’s Key  / The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
    • Prince of Thorns / King of Thorns / Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
  5. The Lies of Locke Lamora / Red Seas Under Red Skies / The Republic of Thieves / The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
  6. Artemis Fowl (I’m not going to list them all as there are 8 but I’ve only read the first one) by Eion Colfer
  7. The Bone Season / The Mime Order / The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
  8. Assassins Apprentice / Royal Assassin / Assassins Quest by Robin Hobb
  9. The False Prince / The Runaway King / The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Neilsen
  10. Insignia / Vortex / Catalyst by S.J Kincaid

Okay, so I cheated ever so slightly by counting both Mark Lawrence’s series as one but they are both set in the same world at the same time. That’s my excuse anyway.

I’m looking at this list and thinking why haven’t I read these books? Some of them are my favourite books ever. Whereas a few on the list I can see why I maybe put it off a little as they were good books but could have been better. There’s over 20 books there. Add that to the list of standalone/new series I want to read I’m starting to understand a little more why I haven’t read them all yet! I need a time machine so I can read more books.

If you’ve read any of these series I would love to hear what you thought of them. Do you have any series that you really need to get around to reading?

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