Memo Pad: Book Reviews July 2016

mp july2016

Read: 3

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater *****

Blue has spent the majority of her sixteen years being told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. When Blue meets Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road she knows there is only one reason why – either he is her true love or she has killed him. Determined to find out the truth, Blue becomes involved with the Raven Boys, four boys from the local private school (lead by Gansey) who are on a quest to discover Glendower – a lost ancient Welsh King who is buried somewhere along the Virginia ley line. Whoever finds him will be granted a supernatural favour. Never before has Blue felt such magic around her. But is Gansey her true love? She can’t imagine a time she would feel like that, and she is adamant not to be the reason for his death. Where will fate lead them?

I’m not sure where to start with this book. I’ve been struggling with my thoughts on this one. Objectively, this is a book about a special snowflake of a girl with a unique name to boot that meets a bunch of boys from a local private school who shes sworn never to get mixed up with. But oh, these boys are different from all the others and romance ensues. But- and its a big BUT – I loved this book. I fell in love with the characters pretty much from chapter one. This isn’t a book about a girl falling in love. This is a book about the friendship dynamics between the boys and it broke my heart. Even just thinking about this book weeks later my heart is aching. I wanted to give them all a hug and never let go. And I guess when a book makes you that invested in the characters then objectivity has to go out the window. The only reason this doesn’t have five stars (and if I could rate it 4.5 I would) is that I thought the ending was very blunt and sudden. But then, it’s part of a series and I’m sure it will be expanded on in the next book. If you love books that focus on friendship and group dynamics (like I do) then I recommend you read this book.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers *****

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there. But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war. Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

This book is something a little different. It’s a story set in space that isn’t a rip roaring adventure with the universe at risk. It’s set mainly on a small ship that only has a handful of crew and we get to know them all pretty well. We get introduced to different species and cultures and, while there isn’t a massive adventure. it has just enough happening to keep you hooked. Think Star Trek without the life or death missions. We get some amazing world building (galaxy building?) and all the characters have their own backstories and lives. I thoroughly enjoyed it but for some reason, while I liked the characters, I didn’t feel as invested in them as I’d have liked.

The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill *****

The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace. Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings. To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.
But can he bear the truth – or will is destroy him?

This book is a whole host of magical fairytales mixed in with a good dose of adventure. If you want to know how snowflakes are made, learn about the forest dwelling dragons that only eat certain types of trees or the magic of old light then this book is for you.

Unfortunately, the amazing stories and ideas in this book have a way of slowing the pace down. The writing is beautiful but during the first third of the book while we are being introduced to all these different magical stories the plot comes to an almost standstill. It is worth carrying on though. As, when all the elements finally come together, we get an exciting story that I didn’t want to put down.

It’s just a shame about the start otherwise I would have given this a higher rating than three stars.

 

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Sunshine and seaside

This is just a really quick post that I wanted to share with you all.

Its been eleven months of living by the sea and last week I finally made it down to the beach in front of our flat and into the sea!WP_20160716_15_48_15_Pro

I’ve been paying for it quite a lot since, not been doing any crafting this week. Just resting in bed but it was definitely worth it.

On our way (very slowly) down, I remembered how much I hate sand, much to my parents amusement. The sea was lovely and freezing! But the sun was nice and warm and we had ice creams once I’d managed to wobble back to the flat as we sat outside to dry off. A lovely day. Hopefully we’ll be able to repeat it before summer is over.

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Shop Logo (SAL update)

Since the last time I shared my cross stitching with you I’ve started a new project and finished it as well. It was only a small little thing. It’s 2.5″ wide on 22 count aida (yes i went back to the horrible fabric that I said I wouldn’t use again but I didn’t have any other 22 or 20 count fabric and I wasn’t going to buy a whole sheet of it for such a baby project!). Anyway, here it is:
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It’s a cross stitch version of the logo I designed for my Etsy shop as I thought it would make a nice picture and once I’d thought of it, I couldn’t get the idea of cross stitching a tiny little gecko out of my head. logo_snip_vectorized

My Etsy shop is coming along VERY slowly seeing as I want to test all my designs before I sell them. So right now it’s only got two cross stitch patterns up although I have just started stitching a third.WP_20160713_17_08_43_Pro

These are all the lovely people taking part in the stitchalong:

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

You should check out what they’re stitching. And if you would like to take part in the SAL you can get in contact with Avis on the link above.

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Adventures in sewing

Following on from my birthday post about visiting the craft store: I’ve finally cut up some of the material to make a lined tote bag. Okay, so there’s still a couple of pieces left to cut (the straps) but it’s mostly done. I’m going to be following a pattern that was free on Craftsy. It looks pretty simple so hopefully nothing will go wrong. The pale butterfly fabric  below will be the lining and the outside will be the plain cream and the dark butterfly fabric. I’m excited to see how it goes. Although it will probably be a while before I make it as I have to recover from the cutting. IMG_4282

I also have a question for any of you sewers out there.

I would really like to be able to change some old pajama bottoms into shorts that have elasticated cuffs (I’m not sure what to call them). The greeny pajamas below are ones I actually wear, they’re often sold as lounge pants I think and the bottoms are elasticated. The white owls pair are an old pair that I would like to make into shorts that would have the same kind of cuff at about knee length.IMG_4289

So, my question would be how do I do that?

Are there some instructions I could look up or anyone able to give me some place to start? I’m assuming I’d need to buy some kind of elastic but other than that I have no idea what techniques I’d need to use. The only thing I’ve ever done is sew two pieces together in a straight line! So any help would be appreciated.

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Summer Days and Scarfs

It seems like summer has finally arrived here on Guernsey. We’ve had a lovely week or two of sunshine (okay so there were showers and fog and cloudy days but mostly sunshine). I’ve been making as much out of it as possible. For my chronically ill self that means lying outside for a little bit on the sunny days and reading. Although this did have to take a backseat for a while after a particularly sunny day where I managed to get a bit of sunburn on my shoulder. The book I was reading was just a little bit too engrossing!

We’ve also managed to have a couple of BBQs over the last few weeks too. I’m not sure if i mentioned but we got a new mini BBQ last month. Previously we had just been using those small disposable ones. Our new BBQ looks a bit like a cauldron out of harry potter or WP_20160625_17_55_49_Prosomething but after a bit of a false start (we didn’t put enough charcoal in the first time) it’s working fine.

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BBQs are my domain. They are pretty much the only time I ever cook/make anything as I just don’t have the energy to stand in the kitchen but sitting on a sunlounger next to my cauldron BBQ while everyone else runs in and out getting all the supplies is something I can do. The view isn’t bad either!

This latest BBQ was a bit more difficult than normal though as we put too many firelighters in and it was just way too hot. It even threw a piece of coal at my bare foot which hurt but, I guess, lesson learnt!

In the  times when I haven’t been outside enjoying the sunshine and warmth I’ve been inside crafting. What’s the most sensible thing to craft while it’s really hot? A winter scarf of course! I’ve been crocheting my dad a scarf on and off for the last couple of months. It did start out as a fathers day present but fathers day came and went (oops) and it still wasn’t done. Well, I finally finished it last week AND I’ve managed to get my dad to model it for me.IMG_4297

It’s crocheted in aran yarn using a 6mm hook in linen stitch. It’s a pretty basic scarf but it’s quite soft for crochet. I always find crochet a little bit too knotty when it comes to things like scarfs but this stitch is my favourite so far (other than tunisian crochet which is so much softer).

I really need to get back to crocheting a little more frequently as its become really painful. I’ll crochet a bit then later that night my wrist or my elbow will just not like me at all and I’ll spend the night in agony. I don’t want to loose the ability to crochet, I’ve already lost the ability to knit. Chronic illness can be so unfair!

 

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Crafter Interview: Karen

I have another wonderful interview to share with you. This one is from the lovely Karen, she’s the founder of an amazing website called Conscious Crafties which features and sells crafts made by chronically ill people. The site has some lovely stuff which you should check out.


 

What craft(/s) do you do?
I make meditation benches with my partner out of recycled furniture. Jamie carefully sands down the furniture to make into the bench and I upholster the seat or brand the wood with symbols or words. I also love making unique hand crafted silver charms using Silver Art Clay. I paint, sketch, decoupage, make clay sculptures, shabby chic furniture and all sorts of things. I just can’t knit or crochet to save my life!

What illness/es do you have?12509687_754807021320379_1288047450915494781_n
In 2011 I was perfectly healthy going about my workaholic lifestyle when BOOM! – I started fainting up to 10 times a day and my bed became my best friend. A year later I was diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) a rare condition affecting the blood vessels and heart rate. There’s no cure, but reaching out to others with the same condition has been a huge help in learning to live with it. 3 years later I was told my POTS was caused by EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) a connective tissue disorder affecting the skin, cartilage, ligaments and blood vessels – everything that holds us together! I also have some bonus conditions: Fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s Disease, Chronic Pain Syndrome, Migraines and Asthma. Life has been tough, but I’ve met some wonderfully strong friends who also live with chronic illnesses which gave me the idea to set up ConsciousCrafties – craft selling site and community for people living with Chronic Illness, Disability or Caring for a loved one.

What are your favourite pieces of craft equipment?

Since setting up ConsciousCrafties my craft has been web site building, so all my time is sat in front of my pretty pink laptop!

Why did you start crafting?

I started crafting again after realising that I no longer fitted into the constraints of being a reliable and ambitious employee. Who wants someone that can only be awake and conscious for a few hours?? I was practically bed ridden for about 10 months before I was finally diagnosed and helped with drugs. I then started making my own meditation benches out of old furniture that was lying around my home. I joined lots of support groups for my various illnesses and met other Spoonies who also loved to craft and we became great friends.

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

Certain things aren’t ‘Karen friendly’, I can’t stand for long without passing out so my previous love of shabby chic’ing furniture is off the cards. Instead I up-cycle children’s furniture as I can do this whilst seated because they are so tiny! I’ve always thought there was something magical about old children furniture so I’m not sad about the things I can’t do and instead focus on what I can.

Favourite project:

Making a cushion and upholstering a meditation bench using a customer’s old baby’s blanket. I love creating something beautiful out of old materials!


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

I dread to think how much I have spent over the years creating shiny new things!2016-01-09 16.24.53

My silver jewellery has probably cost me the most as the art silver clay is so expensive and can only be bought from Japan.

I’ve not been able to make any lately as I’m struggling to survive on sick pay. I’m hoping in time I can start creating again, but I’m using every last spoon running our Conscious Crafties community – and loving it!

Advice for someone with a chronic illness starting off in your craft(/s)?

Always think about the things you can do, rather than upsetting yourself over the things you can’t. Buy everything second hand! Quite often people take up crafts but find they don’t have time or patience to carry on crafting so will sell all their tools/raw materials as kits on Ebay etc. Or borrow friends equipment first to see if it’s something you want to invest in. YouTube and Pinterest are craft havens and you can teach yourself literally anything! Some of our Crafties are about to start making video tutorials too!

Additional info – where the ConsciousCrafties.com idea cam from….

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After becoming sick in 2011 almost overnight, I found my way to various support networks. I noticed that many of us turn to crafts to help distract from our illnesses and to feel useful again. Seeing so much untapped talent, the idea was born to create a community for everyone to showcase their work, in one place and give people a way of creating their own business. It was also a way for me to feel useful again, by using my skills to help others. ConsciousCrafties is about empowering us all to be successful through our crafts, tell our stories and meet new like minded friends who understand our struggles. I’m also hoping it plays a key part in changing the way disabled/sick people are viewed by the world. We can still contribute and are incredibly talented!! ConsciousCrafties has been built in honour of Sam, my beautiful friend I met through sickness and our love of crafts. Her strong fight with Gastroparethis and POTS sadly ended in Oct 14. Heartbroken, I knew then, after years of thinking about it, the idea for us all to sell our crafts within a supportive community needed to be launched, so it could help people now and give them hope for the future.


If you would like to take part in a crafter interview for my blog please do get in touch, I would love to hear from you.

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I have no special talents but to try and try again (sal)

I have another update on my stitching to share as part of our Stitch a long. The group posts every three weeks and all the links of everyone else taking part in the SAL is near the bottom of the post.

Here is the photo of where I was last time:passionatelycurious sal

I’ve just about managed to finish it this time. I had to rip then re-rip sections of it out as I wasn’t happy with the colours of the book.

These were my first two attempts at it.

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I didn’t think the first one showed the contrast between the pages enough, it’s actually showing up in that picture a lot more than it did in real life. The second I thought the contrast was too much!

So after a short break where I calmed down, I re-ripped it. Please excuse the bad quality photo, I should have taken one like the other two so you could see the difference better. But I’m happier with the colours now and I can breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to rip it out again (I’m not sure the fabric would hold up to another rip anyway!).

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Other members of the SAL are:

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

You should check out what they’re stitching. And if you would like to take part you can get in contact with Avis on the link above.

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