Memo Pad: October 2016

I started this month on quite a good foot but lost my way in the middle as my kindle died a sudden and untimely death. If you’re following me on twitter then you would have seen me complain about it. A lot. (Did my kindle dying stop me from buying kindle books? Big fat no.) At that point I’d just started reading The Rook (literally the day before) and that had to go on hiatus while I tried (and failed) to fix my kindle and then while I waited for my new one to arrive. I did use the gap to go back and reread my favourite book though.

I had planned to read another arc I was sent this month but that will have to wait til next month now, I’m also planning on reading the three Hogwarts short stories next month. I’m not sure how much more reading I’ll get done than that as I’m supposed to be jumping on the National Novel Writing Month bandwagon. We’ll see how it goes. But back to this month:

Read: 4        DNF: 1       Reread: 1mp-october-2016

Malice by John Gwynne *****

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

I’ve had this book on my kindle for quite a long time. Almost since I first got it about a year an and half ago. I didn’t realise when I bought it that it was almost 800 pages. That in itself wouldn’t stop me reading it but there always seemed to be something else to read instead and it was a big commitment. I finally took the plunge at the end of last month and I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t expecting to before I started. Heck, I wasn’t expecting to for a while after I started too. It’s a bit of a slow mover to begin with and its quite difficult to figure out who is who (I was still having a bit of trouble with this half way through and that’s a long way when the book is that big). I also think it would have helped to have a map because I only started to get an idea of where things were in the last half. Its quite typical high fantasy in that there are lot of guys, and horses and swords and together with not knowing where they were it made it difficult to tell some of the POV characters apart. But enough moaning because once this book got going: wow. I loved it so much. It was in a similar vein to ASOIAF and it does site those books as one of its influences. I reckon this is worse than A Game of Thrones for killing people though so don’t get attached to anyone please.

 

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare *****

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. 

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

I’m going to start this by saying I have not read any other books by Cassandra Clare. I did watch the film for City of Bones and thought it was rubbish and then I did watch a couple of episodes of Shadowhunters purely because I figured the book was so popular that they probably just messed up the film. I thought that was pretty rubbish too though. Clary came across particularly annoying to me so I’ve had no inclination to read those books. As why would I want to read about a character I don’t like? But I’ve seen good things said about the other series set in that world so I thought I’d give then a go as I really do love the whole idea of the world that’s been built (Shadowhunters, Institutes, Parabatai, Marks. It all sounds awesome).

But anyway onto the actual book: There’s a lot of interesting elements but I think the book focused on the wrong things for me. I don’t particularly like Tessa much and from seeing the City of Bones film I thought she was very like Clary and Will was very much like Jace. I think the world is really interesting but I probably won’t be reading the rest of these books. Maybe I’ll give the other series in this world a final try one day.

 

The Breedling and The City in the Garden by Kimberlee Ann Bastian *****

Absolute obedience, servitude, neutrality. These were the laws that once governed Bartholomew, an immortal soulcatcher, until one ill-fated night when he was forced to make a choice: rebel against his masters or reveal an ancient, dangerous secret. He chose defiance.

Imprisoned for centuries as punishment for his decision, Bartholomew wastes away—until he creates an opportunity to escape. By a stroke of chance, Bartholomew finds himself in the human world and soon learns that breaking his bonds does not come without a price. Cut off from the grace that once ruled him, he must discover a new magic in 1930s Chicago.

Armed with only a cryptic message to give him direction, Bartholomew desperately tries to resume the mission he had started so long ago. Relying on the unlikely guidance of the streetwise orphan Charlie Reese, Bartholomew must navigate the depressed streets of the City in the Garden. But in order to solve this riddle, he must first discover if choice and fate are one in the same.

First off, I don’t really like the name of this book. It’s a little clunky, The Breedling and The Garden City would have been fine but, like it is, it’s a little long.

This book has made me realise that I don’t really like third person omniscient. It feels very classic, if you like things like that then great but I’ve never been a very big fan of the classics and I think I’m suddenly realising this is why. It reads a bit too much like an essay (lots of howevers and therefores) I also don’t think its done particularly well here either, there is a lot of exposition, especially in the dialog. Exposition in itself isn’t bad but we’re told things we really don’t have to know like the side character’s life stories in dialog that people just wouldn’t say. Charlie Reese talks like he’s reading from a dictionary. I might expect that kind of vocabulary from the immortal breedling that’s however many hundreds of years old but not from a street kid.

The good news is that it gets better towards the last part of the book once we get into the supernatural stuff that the books premise promised and I feel like its set up for a much better second book. It’s just unfortunate that it couldn’t cut down on the side info and get to the good stuff earlier in this book.

 

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley *****

The body you are wearing used to be mine.

So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her. She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own. In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

I’m honestly not sure how this book managed to be a serious book. Some of the things in this book sound like someone purposefully making up the most ridiculous things (some of the powers for instance: a guy with tentacles for legs, a boy who’s powers are linked with the weather in Norway, there’s one who can make you high if you touch him on the eyeball… ) but somehow it managed to hold itself together. I liked this book, i liked Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) I thought it was a solid four stars. But at the same time there’s so many reasons this book shouldn’t work. The aforementioned ridiculous powers, the letters written to self massive info dumps, the amnesiac main character. I mean that all sounds like the make up of a really bad story but its actually really good. I enjoyed reading it and I’ll be reading the sequel at some point (although I’ve been told its not as good) as I’m interested to see where it goes.

I can definitely tell it was written by an American though, not that I have anything against them it’s just when you have your whole book set in Britain and your British characters mention that they happen to be having pancakes for breakfast I’m going to notice it. This wasn’t the only thing (over abundance of guns) but this, strangely, is normally the culprit.

 

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The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

This is my favourite book and it;s the first book in my favourite series. So okay, there are books in this series that are better than this book. But this was the start, the book I fell in love with so it’ll always be my favourite (even though the third one is, in my personal opinion, the best). Whenever I go to reread this book (and if you can’t tell from the shabby look of the whole series in the photos – I’ve done it quite a lot) I think to myself, okay Jess. You’ve obviously bigged these up in your head and they can’t possibly be as good as you remember them so don’t be disappointed. But then I read them and oh look, they’re just as brilliant, if not more so, than the first time I read them. As soon as I finish one I want to read the rest and as soon as I finish the rest I want to go back and reread them. Perhaps tellingly, if you typed thief into good reads I’ve read six of the first eight entries. I like thieves and Gen is my favourite thief. It also contains my favourite creation stories and myths about gods and goddesses that a book I’ve read has had. Ugh. Okay I really want to read the rest again.

 

DNF

Nightingale, sing by Karsten Knight

Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read this book as I wasn’t feeling very well and just wanted an easy read, YA, adventure. something to escape into. I thought this would be a prime candidate for that but…. I managed to get about 30% in before I gave up. There isn’t anything wrong with this book. The characters aren’t bad, they just aren’t great. The writing isn’t bad, it’s just not great. The story isn’t bad, it’s just not great…. You get the picture. I wanted an escape and this wasn’t it.

 

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Crafty Update

After feeling like I never get anywhere with my crafts I actually have some things to show you all.img_4418

It was one of my best friends birthdays this week. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

I was going to show you her present but I’m not sure its gotten to her yet and I don’t want to spoil it. Sending things to the other side of the world takes a lot longer than I would like. But I can show you the card I made her.

It’s probably the most complicated card that I have designed and made since starting this card making lark. But I’m really pleased with how it came out and I hope she loves the punnyness and its random harry potter reference. Owls are awesome.

(edit: It had gotten to her! Yay! So here it is.

It’s the first time I’ve ever really made anything with my sewing machine and the first time I’ve followed a pattern. I’m quite happy with how it turned out. I used scissors to cut the pieces of fabric and made quite a hatchet job of it meaning the seams probably aren’t great as its difficult to seam straight when the edges aren’t straight!

It’s ridiculously hard to get a good picture of a bag. There’s a little pocket inside, the bottom is boxed and it’s fully lined in the pale butterfly fabric. )
I’ve made a little progress on my mums lap blanket. It’s going to be a Christmas present so hopefully I’ll have plenty of time to finish it. I am starting to worry I’m going to run out of some of the colours before the end as I’m using up stash yarn for this. But if some of the colours get a little more sparse by the end then I’ll just say its a design feature.

img_4585It’s working up quite quickly which is such a change from my Tunisian blanket. I know this is a hell of a lot smaller but still, I’m pleasantly surprised. Maybe I should make more lap blankets! I don’t manage much crochet nowadays as there is so many different things I’m doing but this is nice a relaxing. I don’t have to think about it as the pattern is really easy so whenever I have a magical day where I’m not doing anything else I’ll do a few rows of this.

I’ve also been focusing on trying to get some more cards up in my online shops. This is a pack of 3 greetings cards for £4. The vinyl is a really lovely glossy gold which I’m not sure I’m doing justice in the photos.

I’ve been working on Christmassy things. Tags and cards. Which are also up in my shops. I’m sure I’ll be adding some more Christmas cards too as we get nearer but I can’t guarantee it as I have presents to make as well.

So as for the actual shops. I’m on etsy at Blue Gecko Crafts so if you have an etsy account you should check me out there and favourite the shop if you want to see new stuff going up (or simply to support me and I’ll love you forever).

My other online shop is at Conscious Crafties.

Conscious crafties is a selling platform for people who live with chronic illnesses, disabilities or carers of those who do. So by buying something through there you’ll not only be supporting me but the community too. You don’t have to sign up or anything so if you don’t have an etsy account this one will be easier for you.img_4510

There are a handful of cross stitch designs up on my etsy shop as well. All of the designs I’ve been stitching in my stitchalong posts this year are my own designs and are up there, including my latest one. I have lots of designs planned but these are slower to go up as I want to test each design myself to make sure there are no mistakes and it takes me quite a long time to cross stitch things due to illness. These will all be available through conscious crafties soon but I haven’t gotten around to it yet as the process for selling digital items isn’t as clear cut.

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Guest Posts, Spending Sprees and Chocolate

I want to start by mentioning that I’ve done a guest post over on THIS blog. It was really fun to do and if you wanna know about me, my crafts, my writing, my favourite books then your should check it out. It was really fun to write and while you’re there you should take a gander around the rest of the blog.

Before I go on to tell you about my spending spree (which I guess I’m trying to avoid talking about) I wanted to mention a discovery that I’ve had recently. It involves chocolate bars. More specifically, an amazing one called a Moro bar. Now I was in love with these as a child. My aunt from Ireland always use to send us them because they don’t sell them in the UK. One of the many things I’m annoyed about (ice cream sandwiches anyone?). But the other week (after well over a decade) I found out that apparently there is an equivalent, it’s just branded differently.SONY DSCEnter Boost.

So obviously, I immediately sent out my dad to buy me one. He came back with a pack of mini boosts but these weren’t very good. (Are mini versions ever as nice?) The proportions were all off. I even ate one that had no biscuit in at all! So while it was technically the same thing as a Moro bar I couldn’t tell if it was as good.

I’ve finally had a full sized Boost bar (okay so I had half as I split it with my dad) and I can say it is the same thing. But, my verdict is that it’s not as nice because Irish chocolate is just nicer.

 

Right, enough avoiding.

Do you ever get those weeks where you just want to buy everything? Well I had one of those weeks last week and unfortunately I wasn’t very good. It started by my new foray into using vinyl in card making. I decided to try a new brand of vinyl that was better value than the sample pack that I’d been using till now. wp_20161007_15_24_45_proUnfortunately, after I’d gotten some black vinyl I thought wouldn’t it be great if I could get gold. And oooh, Green and red would be good for Christmas stuff too….

Well it turned out they had 20% off if I bought three rolls so that’s what I did. Whoops. But no, it didn’t stop there. I decided now would be a good time to buy more thick card to make my new Christmas ideas with. So that order went in as well. I’ve spent too much money this month and I’m probably going to need to buy some more cross stitch stuff soon too. Oh and some batting for my quilting…and some more fabric for a christmas present…. eeek.

Hopefully I’ll at least have some lovely new Christmas cards and Christmas tags going up in my shop over the next few days.

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It’s finally time to eat some cake

It’s time for our stitchalongs three week post and I have a finished piece to show!

Get the cake out:IMG_4431.JPGI’m going to be having some yummy lemon cake I think. How about the rest of you? What’s your favourite cake?

It’s obviously not washed or ironed yet as you can see where its just come out of the hoop but I only just finished this one.

I really loved stitching on this fabric. It’s a lovely colour and it was 16 count so no tiny holes to make my eyes go square!

As for what’s next, well. I said last time I had no idea what I was going to do but thankfully that’s cleared up. I saw someone (I have no recollection who I’m afraid) post about a biscornu pin cushion they had stitched together a couple of weeks ago. So rather than finish one of the 5 designs I have on the go I decided to start a new one for a pin cushion, which is just what I need as I’ve started using my sewing machine and at the moment I’m using a cheap ball of yarn as a pin cushion.

It was really quick to design and its ready to get stitched. It’s harry potter themed, because why not? (which brings me to another question actually, where do you stand on selling copyright stuff? I’ve always stayed away from designing anything that isn’t public domain. But one search on etsy brings up hundreds of harry potter cross stitch patterns for sale which tells me no one else bothers with this.)

I just have to decide which fabric I’m going to use. I’ve never made anything 3D before so this should be interesting. Hopefully it goes well.

Here’s everyone else who is taking part in the Sal. They should have loads of great stitchy posts up today too that you can check out. We also have a new member, Margaret. Hi!

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

 

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Top Ten Tuesday

The crafty blog post that I had planned for today has been waylaid by, among other things, a doctors appointment, so instead here’s a bookish post.full

Top Ten Tuesdays is a book tag hosted over at The Broke and The Bookish.

The theme this week is top ten books you’ve read because they’ve been recommended to you.

So this post has some books that have been specifically recommended to me (i.e people have handed them to me and said read this), books that have been recommended by people online (whether I’ve seen them on peoples blogs or on forum rec posts) or, and I was grasping at straws a bit trying to get to ten, books that have just been everywhere and therefore I’m saying the world and society at large recommended them to me.

So without further ado:

Superpowers by David J Schwartz

I’m starting with this one because this is the earliest book that I can remember someone recommending to me. It was about 6 years ago (I’m a very fussy reader so people tended to not bother trying to get me to read things), my brother returned home from his gap year in Thailand/China/that part of the world and gave me, a rather battered, copy of this book saying he’d read it and thought I’d like it. I do remember liking it. Though I don’t know how much as it was before I was really keeping track of books. Basic premise: A group of collage kids drink a load of craft beer and wake up the next day with superpowers rather than hangovers.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Skipping forward to the present day. I wasn’t really expecting to read this book, well not this year anyway as I wasn’t that excited about it (well not excited enough to spend £10 on an ebook). But a fellow potterhead sent me their copy so we could talk about it. (*raises butterbear* – Cheers)

 

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

So I saw this one over on bluchickennijas blog. I haven’t really read that many books recommended by other book bloggers. I guess because I’ve only recently started to follow more people in this community. They are starting to add up on my TBR list though so I’m sure that’ll change soon. I really enjoyed reading this one.

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Nail Gaiman

I’ve read a couple of Neil gaiman books before (and listened, the radio plays of his books are amazing, totally go and listen to Neverwhere if you haven’t already. I’m really looking forward to Stardust) but this one hadn’t really been on my radar much until my dad started reading it. He gave it to me to read after him or, well, I took it but I did wait until he had finished first!

 

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

On my brief stint on reddit (I can’t remember my login and I don’t have enough time in the day anyway) I was following a fantasy book reddit and this book came up all the time (as well as pretty much every book Sanderson had written). I’m counting that as recommendation by whole forum and I decided this one was most to my liking. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. There were scenes in it that really Killed me but large swathes of it that didn’t live up to my expectations. Which is a shame because a couple of years on I’m still reeling from some of the feels the good bits gave me (Are they good bits if they hurt?).

 

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

This was vaguely recommended to me by the internet at large. It seems like every time it comes up people rave about it. They shout about how bad the film was and how everyone should read the book because it was so much better.(They also shout about how it’s a complete rip off of Tolkien and Star Wars but I really don’t care about that) So I did read it. And yes, it is better than the book but…. Eh. It was alright. But I haven’t bothered with the rest of the series.

 

Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden

So this was recommended to me by my Aussie best friend. It’s a post apocalyptic/WW3 childrens/YA book set in Australia. Which was an interesting take on it as I don’t think I’ve read any of these kinds of books set anywhere other than the UK or the US. I liked it, I kind of wish I’d read it when I was younger as it is right up teenage me’s ally. As it was I enjoyed it. But I haven’t gotten around to reading the rest of the series yet. I’m sure I would have gobbled it up when I was younger.

 

The 100 by Kass Morgan

You can be recommended something by a TV show trailer, right? The 100 was on my radar and then I found out it was going to imminently become a TV show so I whipped it out right quick and gave it a read. Unfortunately some of the characters got on my nerves way too much and I never read the rest. (Likewise, I really didn’t like the show. Oh well.)

 

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

So I mentioned previously that I’m really difficult to buy books for. It doesn’t tend to happen all that much. And even less of them are successful even to the stage where I’ll give them a go. My parents bought me this book for Christmas a couple of years ago and I was actually pretty surprised (sorry parents, my fault not yours) that it sounded awesome and I was looking forward to reading it. I read it. And I’m still mad at this book. This had so much potential and then it went all lovey dovey Stockholm syndrome on me. I should give The Mime Order (the next book in the series) a go purely on the small chance it gets back to the potential it had but….I haven’t. At least not yet.

 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Okay so another vague one here for number ten. But seriously, everywhere recommended this to me. It was one of those books where you couldn’t turn without seeing something about it. Whether it was a photo edit or quote or a lovely pic of the cover. Every time I went on goodreads or Amazon it would come up in my recommended, other people who liked this liked, other things you may like…. So on and so on until at last, after I don’t know how many times of ignoring it (on principle you see, I don’t like things being shoved down my throat) I finally gave it a go and Holy Cat. I had to keep putting the book down because I think I was actually in pain from how much I loved it. (My review of this book is here)

 

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Quilting Questions

I’ve wanted to give quilting a go for so long but its always been something that’s not been possible. Whether because of time, money, or mainly because of my illness but I’m at a stage now where I might actually manage a little

I’ve seen some great tutorials for quilt-as-you-go so I wouldn’t have to try and work on anything unmanageable which had definitely given me the motivation to give this a go.

My sewing machine is out, it has a quilting plate to cover the runners, I don’t have a free motion quilting foot yet (will have to figure out what machine I have and get one) but will look into it.

I’m planning on trying to make some placemats (maybe even a table runner) to begin with. Don’t want to jump in the deep end with a full sized quilt and I don’t know anyone with a baby!

I think they’ll be good projects to practice piecing and quilting.

But my main question is: Batting.

It all looks very confusing and I have no idea where to start. I’ve read that you shouldn’t use polyester batting for hot stuff because it will melt and stuff. But other than that what batting should I be getting? I guess I need some kind of heat resistant stuff because hot plates and pots will be placed on them. If you have any specific brands and recommendations that’ll be great.

The top material doesn’t have to be anything special to resist the heat, does it? Plain cotton is fine?

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A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to get a rotary cutter to make cutting the material as ready as possible. I got one, and a cutting mat too. I ended up going for the fiskars even though a lot of you suggested olfa. But I couldn’t find one with a hand guard and I think that might be important for my foggy head and weak arms. If I don’t get on with this one then I’ll definitely go for an olfa next, maybe as a Christmas present but we’ll see. The cutting mat is A2 and it’s slightly bigger than my table but fits well enough.

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