Memo Pad: Book Reviews

Read: 4

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr *****

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea.  In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth. Werner travels through the heart of the war and to Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I LOVED the writing in this book. I mean the story was good too but this is just one of those books where I couldn’t get over how well written it was. It’s the kind of book where you find yourself stopping and rereading passages because the prose is just so beautiful. It flicks around timelines and POVs which I know people can find annoying (and if you’ve been reading my reviews you’ve probably seen me complain about in other books too) but I think it’s done well here. I’ve seen another review which says that the prose is hauntingly well written and that’s a perfect description. My favourite line is still: I am only alive because I have not yet died.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman *****

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

Neil Gaiman always makes great adult fairy stories. I’ve read a number of his books but to be honest, I prefer the stories he creates to the way he actually writes. There’s nothing wrong with it, just personal preference I guess, but I feel like his books could be epic if he went into it a bit more. Instead he tends to skim over things in search of making the books lighter. It was a good, quick read, I just wish we were given a bit more to get our teeth into.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo *****

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha and the secrets of her heart.

This book is set in the same world as Six of Crows (which is amazing you should go read it) so when I saw it in the kindle sale for 99p I thought I’d give it a go. My verdict: It’s okay. Definitely not in the same ballpark as Six of Crows. It’s a pretty generic YA book. Female nobody suddenly discovers shes the most important girl in the country, grueling training and love triangle ensue. It reminded me a lot of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard but I think maybe that one was done a little better. It was an enjoyable enough read but pretty forgettable to be honest.

Agent 21 by Chris Ryan *****

When Zak Darke’s parents die in an unexplained mass murder he’s left alone in the world. That is until he’s sought out by a mysterious man: ‘I work for a government agency,’ the man tells him. ‘You don’t need to know which one. Not yet. All you need to know is that we’ve had our eye on you. There’s a possibility you could help us in certain . . . operational situations.’
Zak becomes Agent 21. What happened to the 20 agents before him he’ll never know. What he does know is that his life is about to change for ever .

I had pretty high hopes for this book. I was a massive fan of both the Alpha Force series and the Code Red series that Chris Ryan had written so when I saw this I thought brilliant, another great book series to dive into. At the same time I want to say that I wasn’t expecting too much, contradictory maybe, but there are a lot of teenage spy books so I wasn’t expecting anything massively original. Just well written and exciting. But I was disappointed. The set up for the story is awkward, the main character has almost no reason to do what he does (It really feels like the he does things because the author wants him to rather than him being a fully developed character). It gets better as the actual mission starts but even then it’s predictable. Inevitably I’m going to compare it to other child spy books and it just doesn’t stack up against them. Though the plot is incredibly similar to Stormbreaker, the first book in the Alex rider series, its no where near as good. If you’re looking for books about kid spies and similar check out the two other series by the same author that I’ve already mentioned, the Alex Rider series or the Cherub series instead.

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SAL Update

I missed the last SAL as I was still recovering from my holiday and was too ill to get on the computer but I’m back with more cross stitch to show you all. We post every three weeks in our Stitch-A-Long and new people are always welcome to join in.

Before I went on holiday, I showed you all a cross stitch I had been working on based on a card design I’d made.

Well, the worst happened. After all my effort of sourcing thread in the same colour so that I would have enough to finish and after a few more hours of work it become obvious that something had gone wrong. And by something, I mean my counting.

I ran out of room in the middle.

letsnoteatcakeI started on the left side then, when I realised I didn’t have enough thread to do the whole thing, I switched to the other side thinking I could use a darker blue in the middle for a gradient effect. I eventually sourced more of the same colour but when I went to meet up in the middle I realised I had lost a whole inch! How did I miscount by so many?!? There was no room left for the A in CAKE.

This was the last picture I took before I threw the whole thing in the bin. It had taken me so many hours, and the fabric wasn’t even nice. It was some cheap horrible thing that kept slipping stitches under the weave. I just couldn’t bring myself to rip out so much work and redo it.

I will redo it at some point, (on nicer fabric and it’ll have to be in another colour as now even after sourcing more, I won’t have enough to do a new one in this colour) but I’ve moved onto something completely different for now to try to get my blood pressure under control!

Avis / Claire / Gun / Carole / Kate  / Wendy / Lucyanne / Cathy / Sue / Constanze

These are all the links of the other lovelies taking part in the SAL who you should check out and see what great stitching they have been up to.

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ME Awareness and the Seven Dwarfs

It’s May 12th and that means it’s ME awareness day again. For those of you who don’t know, ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is a serious, chronic, neurological illness.You may also hear it being referred to as CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) I’m not going to go into all the politics behind the name but suffice to say it gets complicated.

I’ve been wracking my brain for a couple of weeks now wondering what I could post for the day, and a fellow sufferer suggested I do a funny post. I think I’ve failed at the funny but I at least took aim at a more lighthearted idea.

So, ME Awareness and the Seven Dwarfs, or, how an ME sufferer is all seven dwarfs at once.

I’ll start with the obvious one:



Us patients tend to have to be our own doctors a lot of the time. We have to advocate for ourselves, find treatments and drugs and therapies that might help because, more often than not, when you get a diagnosis of ME/CFS that’s an end to helpful doctors. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some great doctors for ME out there but they’re difficult to find among all the bad ones pushing exercise and counselling. We do a lot of our own research into drugs that might help individual symptoms and then bring them to our GP’s or specialists in the hope they will listen.



This seems like an obvious one too, I mean, fatigue is in the name, right? Well, the lack of any kind of energy means that we can be tired a lot, but for me, it isn’t one of my main symptoms and that’s one of the main reasons people don’t like the name Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as there are lots of us who don’t feel tired all the time like the name suggests. But most of us do have sleep issues, they are, unlike feeling tired, almost universal for ME sufferers. Whether its insomnia, hypersomnia, sleep disturbances, reversed sleep (meaning we sleep during the day instead of night) or all of the above, wishing we could sleep normally is a constant.


This follows on from Sleepy quite well. When we over do it and get PEM (Post Exertional Malaise which means all of our symptoms hit us worse after any kind of exertion, this can be something small like washing your hair or brushing your teeth) we get grumpy. Most people get grumpy when they get sick, anyone would, but more so that we just don’t have the energy to smile and pretend we are okay like we normally do. My parents can definitely attest that whenever I overdo it I get GRUMPY. My tolerance for small annoyances disappears and suddenly I’m grumbling and glaring at everything.


Google definitions will tell you that to be dopey means to be ‘stupified by sleep or a drug’ which can be very true but they aren’t the only reasons we get dopey. Another symptom you will find in ME is cognitive dysfunction or as many sufferers will call it ‘Brain Fog’. When brain fog happens things just stop working. That really obvious word that you were about to say? Gone. That thing you said you were going to do? Completely forgotten, Understanding something really simple someone is telling or asking you? Nope. An example might be my parents asking me if I want the light on and my reply would be a blank stare while I try to work out if the words being spoken resemble English and what this light they keep talking about is.



Our immune systems tend to be pretty rubbish at doing their jobs so we can get sick a lot. Some of those symptoms that I mentioned that happen every time we do anything and get PEM? Well, one of them is a general Flu-like feeling. Runny or blocked nose, sneezing, phlegmy, sore throat, swollen glands, nausea, even more trouble sleeping than normal and, like a cold, there isn’t much we can do but wait it out.



A lot of ME sufferers can come across as quite shy and reserved in person. This can be for loads of different reasons but for me personally, being around people can be so tiring. There’s this smile that you are expected to wear all the time and following different conversations, understanding everything that’s happening around you, sensory overload from all the sounds and lights. It gets tiring very quickly. Often it’s much easier on the ME to be alone. Though, of course, most of us don’t want to always be alone. When we spend time in your company it’s because we think you are worth the energy and PEM that it will cause. Often we love spending time with you but it’s just not possible for us to do this frequently.

And, finally, but definitely not least:


Being sick all the time can be tiring, not just physically but mentally. And any chronic or severe illness will come along with the threat of depression thrown in too. But you won’t find any group of people that are better at finding the small things to smile at. Often we live from one small happy moment to the next. Whether it’s the lovely flower that’s growing outside our window, managing to have a nice chat with a friend or doing a bit of crafting or reading a good book, us sickies are pretty good at finding something to smile and laugh about.

So there you have it, Doc, Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy and Happy all rolled into one ME sufferer. Next time you hear the phrase Chronic Fatigue Syndrome please remember we’re more than just tired.

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A Holiday in the Sun

I’m back. I’ve been ill pretty much all week so this is the first chance I have to really tell you about it. Where to start? Hmmm.

Well we started by flying from Guernsey back to London to stay at home for three nights to see family and friends. It was lovely catching up with them even if I only got to see them briefly as I had to pace and rest as much as possible so that I would be okay to go traveling again. If you’re reading this, I missed you all and it was lovely seeing you.

Then it was up at 6am to get to Stanstead to catch our flight out to Lanzarote. This bit didn’t go so well. Our flight was delayed by an hour and then when we finally got on the plane we sat there for another half an hour waiting. The four hour long flight is pretty much my maximum and my back is normally all seized up and in agony by the time we get there so this extra waiting time was not a good addition. Luckily, (with a little help from my parents) I remembered to take all my doses of ibuprofen and so while it was painful and uncomfortable I wasn’t in agony by the time we arrived at the villa.

Then HOLIDAY!WP_20160417_18_47_34_Pro

We eventually made it, no major mishaps with the hire car and we got there okay. Mum was in the pool before we could shout JUMP, and I was lying down attempting un-seize my back, leaving poor Dad to unpack and sort everything out!

We had a lovely week. Lots of food (outdoor BBQs which you can see, ice creams and chocolate galore), card games and films and, of course, many floats in the pool.

Speaking of ice creams, have any of you had Ice Cream Sandwiches? They don’t (as far as I know) sell them in the UK (I’ve looked), but we have them every time we go out to Lanzarote and they are YUM! I know they sell them in Ireland and in Spain, there must be a reason you can’t get them in England?

I didn’t leave the villa all week until home time came. We had to be out of the place by 10am so we had a couple of hours to kill (again not great on the back but not much to be done but pop pain pills) so headed out for breakfast at the local marina.

I went into a of couple shops for some souvenirs for friends (if you are one of those friends then I apologise for the growing mountains of Lanzarote trinkets that you have been getting over the years). Then we made our way to the airport to drop off our hire car and catch our flight. WP_20160421_10_12_05_Pro

I had wheelchair assistance, using our own wheelchair, for all four flights and everything went well. Although the spanish guy that picked me up from the plane, Lanzarote side, asked me why I was grumpy as I was on holiday! I told him I was tired and he apologised but honestly, it’s just my resting face!

We had another problem with flights on the way home. We had planned to stay a night at the airport in London before catching our second flight back to Guernsey. We checked out of the hotel after our night and went over to the airport. Hung around nearly two hours until our check in desk was announced, dropped our bags off, went through security and found out our flight had been delayed by two hours due to weather. Okay, so time for a long yummy lunch we thought (I had the roast chicken and chips) after which it was announced that our flight had been cancelled! Que lots of walking (or in my case wheeling) around in circles until we eventually ended up back at the hotel we had left that morning. The extra day definitely didn’t help me as I was already crashing and I was a major grump (for real this time) the next day when we finally got our flight home. We got back with five minutes to spare to watch the FA cup semi final which was the important thing.

WP_20160502_14_02_38_ProI read some books on holiday which and you can see my reviews of them here. And I also managed to crochet half a scarf. It’s sooo lovely and soft. It’s Tunisian crochet in the gobelin stitch. I’m using scraps of stylecraft DK that I’m trying to use up (hence the colour block effect) with a  6.5mm tunisian crochet hook.

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Memo Pad: Reviews


I’ve been pretty ill these last few days so this end-of-month post is a week late. But I’m finally on the road to recovery so here it is, the books I have read this month.

Books Read: 5

The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley *****

Legend states that there exists a mighty sword that makes its possessor invincible to his enemies. But there is a curse on anyone who lifts the sword for conquest. King Kareed of Archeld goes after this sword anyway, winning it from the King of Bellandra. When he returns home from battle, he brings his daughter, Princess Torina, two special gifts. One is a unique crystal, in which she can view visions of the future. The other gift is the defeated king’s son Landen, who is to be her slave. Torina immediately releases Landen, who becomes a member of the King’s army and her close friend.
But trouble is lurking in the kingdom of Archeld and people are accusing Landen of plotting against the King. Torina refuses to believe he would hurt her family. Then Torina begins seeing deadly visions in her crystal. Can she save her father’s life and the future of her kingdom?

This is a pretty typical sword and sorcery fantasy book, except when it isn’t (the ‘sword’ is a peaceful guy who doesn’t like hurting people). The characters are well rounded, the action is believable and the story is exciting. It probably wouldn’t win awards for groundbreaking, original storyline but its well written and very enjoyable to read if, like me, you like this kind of book.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest *****

At the start of the Civil War, a Russian mining company commissions a great machine to pave the way from Seattle to Alaska and speed up the gold rush that is beating a path to the frozen north. Inventor Leviticus Blue creates the machine, but on its first test run it malfunctions, decimating Seattle and uncovering a vein of Blight Gas that turns everyone who breathes it into the living dead.  Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

I was pretty disappointed with this book but I think maybe it was my own fault. I had assumed from the blurb that the story was going to be more about a clever steampunk inventor than what it was about. So, while the story was decent it just wasn’t what I had been looking forward to reading. Also, I love the name Leviticus Blue.

The Child Thief by Brom *****

Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland.

This is a dark retelling of Peter Pan. Peter steals children who are lost and abused and takes them to ‘neverland’ only neverland isn’t what we think it is. Full of monsters, flesh-eaters and dying slowly, Peter needs new recruits to help him fight a war.

I really wanted to love this book. I really did. But, I just felt like Brom didn’t know what story he wanted to tell. Half the book is made up of flashbacks to when Peter first came to Neverland (Avalon in this book) and the other half is the current child used as soldiers story. I thought the last third of the book was much better and, when I think about it, I realise the last third didn’t have any flashbacks in so maybe that’s why. It’s still a very interesting story, as someone who LOVES the original Peter Pan I totally agree with the idea that Peter isn’t as innocent or good as he is made out to be. I just wish it was done a bit better.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey *****

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

On the face of it, this is a YA fantasy romance book. I tend to stay away from them but that wasn’t actually the reason I didn’t like this that much. The ‘romance’ angle isn’t as convoluted and annoying as it normally is, it was actually done quite well. Unfortunately, there were other things I didn’t like much. The POVs for example. Now, I’m not against multiple POV characters at all, some of my favourite books use this (A Game of Thrones anyone?) but it just isn’t done well here. You spend a lot of the time with Cassie, so much so that I assumed it was only her telling the story (it’s done like she is talking to her journal) and then suddenly halfway through we have someone elses POV without any warning or anything. You have to go back and reread it as you don’t even realise you’ve switched. She also spends A LOT of time talking about her feelings rather than telling us whats going on. I can understand why some people like this book but it just wasn’t for me.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo *****

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

I LOVED this book. The characters are great, the story is exciting, I loved the main characters. There really isn’t that much more I can say about it. I don’t give 5 stars very often but this book definitely deserves it. I wasn’t aware this was set in the same world as the Grisha book trilogy until after I finished, I haven’t read them. They don’t affect the story at all.

I nearly gave this 4.5 out of 5 because I wanted to give the world to my favourite character and it didn’t happen but that would have been a very petty reason to lower the rating!

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