Memo Pad: Book Reviews

I’ve been Nanoing all month which has meant I haven’t read much at all. I miss reading so much. I’m really glad I saved the Harry Potter short stories for this month but I only managed to read one other book. Here’s hoping I can read more next month.november-2016Read: 4

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies by JK Rowling *****

I really enjoyed reading McGonagall’s and Lupin’s back stories. We do know the big facts already but it goes more in depth and these are two great characters. I’m really glad we got to find out exactly out to become an animagus (no,I haven’t been trying it myself….) Side note: These books are going to be really helpful for writing my harry potter fan fic. The insight into some of the other teachers was cool as well.

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists by JK Rowling *****

This book started well, I liked the stuff about politics, the small bits of Umbridge’s back story that we didn’t know just made her even more real and the list of Ministers of Magic and what they’re remembered for was very interesting. But I was very disappointed in the potions part. And alright, it isn’t in the name of the book but as soon as I saw there was a section on it I was excited. But it just didn’t deliver. The prelude of the chapter asks: What makes a truly great potions master? We never get told. We’re asked: Why is Hermione’s ability to brew polyjuice as a send year student remarkable?Answer: Because its difficult….. Really? That’s all you’re giving me? Having just read the previous book, which outlines each step needed to become an animagus, couldn’t we have gotten a little bit more than Snape is a stereotypical potions master and polyjuice is difficult to brew? I feel like JK could have easily added a sentence or two to this section and it would have made it so much better. But oh well. At least the poltergeist part towards the end was interesting.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by JK Rowling *****

Well, the first one was great. The second one was mostly great with a disappointing section and this third one was just disappointing. I almost feel like JK came up with three great sounding titles but then didn’t really have anything to fill them. There wasn’t much of any new information in this. This maybe had a couple of lines of interesting things in. I honestly don’t feel like it would have taken long to make up some new things. Tell me about a new secret passage that links two areas of the castle or a funny anecdote about a student getting lost because he followed the wrong portraits advice. JK could have sat down and written something like that in an hour and added it in and made this book worth reading.

Overall, if your a potterhead definitely read these. I loved them so much more than the Cursed Child. They aren’t stories, they’re information books but I knew that going in. But there’s no way these are worth £3 each. It’s pretty disappointing how much they’re trying to milk money out of this now. I have no problem with new things coming out but £3 for each of these and £10 for the ebook of the Cursed Child is ridiculous. Sell us new stuff, don’t extort us. My friend gave me her copies of these to read (thanks!) because there was no way I was buying them at that price.

 

Gilded Cage by Vic James *****

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
A boy dreams of revolution.
And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

First of all I was expecting this to be a modern setting, right up until the guy arrived on a motorbike which caused some quick rearranging in my head. Basically this is our world but history diverges when Charles I is killed by a guy with magic (Skill) and now those who are skilled (and skill is passed down through bloodlines so think a ruling class of aristocrats with magic) rule those without it. I liked this book. It’s very YA which isn’t a bad thing but just something to know. The characters were great, especially Silyen. I like morally grey characters and I hope we see more of him in the next book. It had some great twists that make you intrigued and infuriated in equal measure and I’m looking forward to reading more.

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Cross Stitch Update

I haven’t gotten much stitching done this month, I’ve been really busy with other things (mainly writing) bit I did manage to spend one afternoon making a little progress on my Slytherin pin cushion.

Here’s where I am now next to where I was when I shared with you in the last update:

I’m really hoping I calculated the edges correctly so that they all line up when I go to join them. I think I did but I guess I’ll have to wait and see. It doesn’t help that I changed the pattern when I started stitching so the thing I printed out and am following is wrong.

Hopefully next time I’ll have the words in the middle done. November is almost over and I’d like to think I’ll have more time to stitch next month.

 

Here’s the links to all the other folks taking part in the SAL: (welcome to Helen)

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

We post every three weeks on whatever stitchy projects we are working on. It’s a great way to keep motivated and to see what others are up to. We’re always up for new members joining too.

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#Netflixandill

I’ve seen this hashtag floating around the chronic illness community on twitter and I have to say it made me laugh. But it also got me thinking.

When I’m having a flare and feeling more ill than normal, TV is definitely a retreat for me. I’m not someone who watches that much. I tend to watch an episode or two of a new show and then never watch the rest, even if I think it’s a really good show (Lucifer and Da Vinci’s Demons are two that spring to mind). So when I’m feeling rotten, I tend to go back and rewatch some of my favourites, whether it be from the start or a particular episode that I feel like watching. I thought it would be fun to share my Top Ten TV Shows for Rotten Days and I’d really like to know which shows you turn to when you need a pick me up too (whether you’re chronically ill or not). Stick to TV shows though as I’m definitely going to do another #netflixandill post at some point aimed at movies soon.

 

The Great British Bake Off –bakeoff

So this is one is that’s only just finished but its one of the only TV shows that I actually follow week by week on the day it airs on TV. It’s a baking show (obviously). I’m going to include all the spin offs as part of this same one (so that includes The Great British Sewing Bee, The Great British Pottery Throw Down and GBBO: Creme De La Creme). These are just feel good TV and I always really look forward to watching them. (Mega sad at the recent news about this show)

I’m not going to pick a favourite episode but I will say I enjoyed GBBO: Creme De La Creme even more than the original bake off. Watching professionals lose it is even more fun.

 

Silent Witness –624

This is the only other TV show that I actually watch on the day if not exactly as it airs on TV. It’s also really good for going in and rewatching favourite episodes. For those of you who don’t know what this is I’d say it’s kind of a mix between Bones and CSI but very much more British. All the episodes are two parters that air on consecutive days so it’s like watching a movie.

Favourite two parter: Season 16 Episdoes 1 & 2

Reason: This was like a new start for silent witness with new characters coming in (Note: a disabled character played by a disabled actor that isn’t treated any differently. Win) and its a brilliant place to start if you’ve never watched silent witness before.

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Dance moms –

So this is a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s a reality TV show that follows a group of girls dancing in an elite competition team. When the show starts I think they’re age 6-12. I love watching them learn the dances and compete. I don’t like the drama the mums always make but then I guess that is the name of the show. It’s definitely easy to get favourite episodes too and going back and watching season one to see how cute and tiny they used to be is also hilarious.

Favourite episode: Season 5 Episode 23.

Reason: Mackenzie is my favourite.

 

Game of Thrones –

I’m going to start by saying I haven’t watched season 6 yet and so far have managed to avoid most spoilers so please no spoilers in the comments. This is also the reason why this one had no picture because I am NOT typing Game of Thrones into google. That way spoilers lie. The only reason I haven’t watched season 6 is because I’m waiting for the book (Please by soon. Please be soon). I don’t think I need to explain what this show is about. But I love going back and watching whatever episode I feel like. I absolutely love the books and the TV show’s not bad.

Favourite episode: Season 4 Episode 1

Reason: Pedro Pascal as Oberyn is perfect.

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Greys Anatomy –

This is my favourite medical drama (Another medical drama to note would be casualty and I’ve started to watch Chicago med as well and so far so good) Greys is currently at 12 seasons so plenty of episodes to dip in and out of. There’s plenty of different characters so even if you find some characters or storylines annoying (*cough* Izzy *cough*) theres still plenty to enjoy.

Favourite Episode: Season 8 Episode 9

Reason: I love the friendship between Alex and Meredith and any episode that shows this is a good one for me. (also most of the season finales are pretty good telly).

 

Merlin-merlin1

In a land of myth and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name – Merlin. (I think that intro might be seared into my brain for the rest of my life)

I want to say season 1 – 4 because I’m still mad about the last season. But Merlin is a fanatically sarcastic kid and this series is just brilliant. Magic, fighting, friendships and legends. BBC at its best.

Favourite Episode: Season 1 Episode 5: Lancelot

Reason: Er.. Lancelot? Although Episode 1 is highly sarcastic and I love it.

 

Doctor who:

Specifically the ninth and tenth doctors. I don’t really rate it anymore, I stopped watching at some point during the eleventh doctor. Not because of him but I think the writing has definitely gone down hill unfortunately. Still these few seasons were pretty amazing.

Favourite episode: I’m going to pick one for each.

Ninth: Run – Season 1 Episode 1. Reason: Because this is where it all started for me.

Tenth: Midnight – Season 4 Episode 10 Reason: Sometimes great Sci fi strips everything back and makes it psychological. This whole episode is set in one room and it’s awesome.

 

Life-life-series

No I don’t mean the David Attenborough documentaries. I mean the American cop show with Damian Lewis. It’s about a cop who spent 12 years in jail after being wrongly arrested for the murder of his best friend and his family. The series starts after he’s released and rejoins the police force and its amazing. It’s only two seasons but its exactly how long it should be. It’s really refreshing to have a show actually stop when its done rather than drag it out.

Favourite Episode: Season 2 Episode 4: Not for Nothing

Reason: It’s just really good, okay?

 

Band of Brothers –btz3tkhb0yy-market_maxres

Staying on the Damian Lewis trend. Band of brothers is a mini-series about an American paratrooper unit during ww2. It’s amazing. It really focuses on the men who went through it all (it’s all based on true stories and you can see the real men talking about it at the start of each episode) Definitely the best war film or tv show ever made. I’ve rewatched this so many times (and this is definitely making me want to watch it again).

Favourite Episode: Ep 2 : Day of Days

Reason: The friendship between Damian Lewis’ character and Ron Livingstons character.

 

I want to take a moment to visit the graveyard of great sci fi tv shows that have been cancelled and mention Almost Human and Defying Gravity. They were both amazing shows and while they only made one season of each I definitely recommend them to anyone who wants to be angry with me about their cancellation.

 

Firefly –mv5bmtm0otiznjm4ov5bml5banbnxkftztcwndk4mdu5mq-_v1-_cr5754340418_uy268_cr180182268_al_

One of these lists wouldn’t be complete without firefly cropping up, would it? I admit I didn’t see this on TV when it came out. It was something my dad had on box set and made us watch episodes while we ate dinner when we were young (this and red dwarf, which you will not find me wanting to watch again. Sorry dad!). I love this series and, like most fans, will eternally curse whoever decided to cancel it. But at least we got a film I guess.

Favourite Episode: The one where mal threatens Jayne.

Reason: Mal being protective of his crew.

 

Honourable mention to Westworld because I’m pretty sure that it’s going to end up on this list as it is freaking amazing.

So, what are you favourite shows? Which ones do you rewatch the most or are you someone who tends to only watch new shows?

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How are my NaNoWriMo goals going?

WHOA! We’re half way there.

WHOA! Living on a prayer.

Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear.

WHOA, living on a prayer.

– Bon Jovi

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about why I decided to take part in nanowrimo for the first time (November is national novel writing month where people attempt to write 50,000 words in a month). I was only going to do one post but it got long so I’ve split it into two and this one will be about what I hoped to manage and the goals I set myself going into November. It’s the midway point so what better time to check in.

nanowrimo_2016_2

I’ve never done nano before. The most I’ve ever managed to write in one month is about 8.5k words. Which was an amazing achievement for me considering I wasn’t writing at all last year. Going in to nano I didn’t have very high expectations. I never set my sights on winning (which is what we call it when you manage the 50,000 words). I wanted to write at least 10k. I knew if I managed that much I, at least, wouldn’t be too disappointed. But my ultimate word count goal was 20k. I thought that would be pretty amazing but I was desperately trying not to think about achieving that much so that I wouldn’t be disappointed when I didn’t get to that lofty target.

Away from word count there was a certain point in my story that was an even higher goal. I mentioned in my previous post that I’m using nano to do a kind of prequel of short stories for my main story idea as I wanted to get to know the eight main characters that make up the crew of the airship that they’re on. Well the point I set myself was to get to the introduction of character number 4. About a third of the way. Now if I thought 20k was going to be pretty difficult, I was certain this wouldn’t be possible but we have to aim for something.

So they were my goals going in, now to what I’ve actually managed so far.

I can officially say that at half way (day 15) I have managed: 25k!!!

And that’s actually disappointing because I had to take three days off because I got ill and was throwing up/not sleeping. I actually can’t quite believe how much I’ve done. I’m so proud of it! Not sure I’m proud of the actual writing as I’m trying not to think about that but hopefully it’s not too bad. If I look back all is lost.

As far as my plot goal is going well, unless something else goes horribly wrong, I think I’ll get that too. I’ve currently written 7 chapters (oh yeah and those short stories ended up merging into one coherent story, whoops) and little Noah (character number 4) will get introduced in chapter 9. Having done 7 chapters in two weeks I’m pretty sure I’ll manage two in the next two weeks.

It is all getting that bit more difficult as it goes on though. While I do know what happens, I’ve now passed the point where I’d prewritten it in my head. So scenes are now ‘this happens and they have a conversation about this’ rather than knowing exactly how something happens and exactly what is said which makes writing slower as I have to keep stopping the train and desperately laying track in front of me to keep going.

Life is also getting more hectic. I’ve run out of scheduled blog posts (hello everyone!), Christmas is coming and presents need to be bought and made and Christmas cards need to be made and written. Everything will need to be wrapped and posted…. Basically I’m definitely thinking I won’t manage to repeat my word count in the second half of the month. But so long as I finish chapter 9 I’ll be happy. And I’m so glad I took part in nano for the first time even if it was so daunting to begin with.

Also. I miss reading!!!!

So how about everyone else? If you’re taking part in Nano how are your goals going and if you’re not then what have all you lovely people been up to while I’ve had my head down swiping furiously on my phone?

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Why I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo 2016

I’ve mentioned in quite a few posts recently that I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo. (For the uninitiated that’s National Novel Writing Month where the challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.)

The last few posts on my blog were written in advance and set to queue so that I could concentrate on writing but I’m at the end of my preplanning now (note: I can manage three weeks in advance but that’s the stretch of my planning.) and I thought it would be a good time to finally talk NaNo with you.

nanowrimo_2016_1

So where to start….

The beginning, I guess, was a few months ago when this imaginary guy called Caelum walked into my head from out of the shadows tossing around this glass ball of light in his hand. He smiled and I thought I want to write him.

Cue lots of research (how exactly does one use science to make a glass globe glow?) and from this the world grew. He became a captain of an airship (how exactly does sailing through the air work?) and I got a lot of headaches (physics hurts my brain), crew materialised in my head much the same way he did and magic systems were introduced and examined.

I had the crew, I had the world, I had religions and conflicts and backstories but I didn’t have a plot.

Then one day at least a month later (and let me tell you it felt like a lot longer than that) I jumped up from my bed with a massive smile on my face because I had a plot. Lots of dancing ensued and amused looks from my parents as well.

Now the problem I had at this point was, like always, I don’t make things easy for myself. I had nine main characters  (NINE!) and while I knew them and where they came from I didn’t have their voices and I didn’t know from which point of views my story was going to be told.

I decided that if I wrote the backstories down as a kind of prequel of short stories that would be a good idea. I could write how each of my main characters got to be part of the crew and it would help me get to know them and flesh out some story arcs. (Also, I don’t know about you but I hate having to stop every other line to research something or name something so I thought this would be a good idea to get all that down before properly writing my story)

 

Something else comes into play here. And that’s the fact that since December last year I’ve been writing down a Harry Potter fanfic (which is basically a retelling without Harry Potter from a Slytherin main character and you can read it on AO3 or FF.net)

This time last year, I wasn’t writing anything.

I’ve been sick a long time and while I’ve always loved the idea of writing and I’m always creating stories in my head, I haven’t been well enough to actually write.

Last year I got to a point where that could change and I started writing down the harry potter story that had been keeping me company in my head for the past few years. All those days where I’d been too ill to do anything but stare at my bedrooms walls, I’d been escaping to the Hogwarts in my head. It was a great way of getting back into writing without too much hassle after all the world was already built and the story had been in my head for years.

(I also want to add that I write on my phone. I have a windows phone so use Microsoft word and it saves automatically to onedrive and if it wasn’t for this I still wouldn’t be well enough to write as I can only manage the laptop one day a week and can barely write a sentence with an actual pen and paper before I get pain.)

I didn’t want to put pressure on myself but I also knew that if I didn’t have any that I would give up too easily. So I got a beta (someone who checks your work for errors) and told myself I would write one chapter a month. At the start this ramped my anxiety up to eleven. I kept thinking I have to write now, I have to edit this, I have to…I have to. And it often stopped me from sleeping. And like any writer I had my self doubts. I’d go through periods of thinking what is the point? This is rubbish. I’m rubbish. But I kept going (in massive part thanks to my beta).

What does this have to do with nano? Everything.

I ended up finishing first year of my harry potter fic in October. Canny timing, I thought. I’d ended up writing 18 chapters in 11 months. And it wasn’t any where near as daunting as it had been at the start. I knew I could do a chapter a month, hell I knew I could do two if I needed. I also knew that I could stick with something even when I doubted myself.I’d also learnt a lot from my beta about punctuation and grammar and all those things that maybe we were taught in school and forgot and all those other things that we were never taught in school. So, finally, I was in a really good position to give Nano a go.

So I am and in a couple of days I’ll have part two of this post to share with  you (because this one got very long) about my First Nano, the goals I set myself and how it’s all going.

If you’re taking part in Nano I’d love to hear how you are doing and why you took part this year? If anyone wants to add me as a writing buddy my username is Princess Blue.

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Q&A and Giveaway

This is going to be a really happy post. I might gush a little. Just a warning. But I hope you stick around for the giveaway at the end.

During the summer I decided to take this blog a little more seriously, and by that I mean I just wanted to connect with the blogging community and interact more rather than write my own blog and leave it at that. So I started to read more blogs, comment on them and on twitter too. I set myself an aim of trying to get 200 followers by Christmas. Not because follower count is the reason I blog but I mean honestly it’s nice to know your doing something right and it’s an easy way to keep track of progress. This wasn’t a massive goal but something I thought would be achievable if I stuck with it and it was good motivation to stay actively involved.

Well folks, I did it!

I hit 200 about mid-October which was way earlier than I ever thought it would happen and I just wanted to say thank you to all my new and old followers. Every time I get an email telling me someone has followed my blog or commented on a post it really makes my day. You guys are all awesome. Seriously, I love you.giveaway

I thought this would be a great opportunity to do a Q&A. I’ve never done one before but I thought it would be a fun post to do and a great way to connect and chat to some of you. You can ask me questions about anything. Books, blogging, crafts, my illness, or just random fun and whimsical questions and I’ll answer them in a blog post soon. Ask me a question in the comments below.

Also, as a thank you I’m going to run a small giveaway. Anyone who asks a question is eligible to enter just add “I’m in” into your message. The winner of the giveaway will get to pick any listing they want* from my etsy shop whether that’s a greetings card, set of notecards, pack of gift tags or a cross stitch pattern. It’s not much but I hope you’ll all find something you’d like there. I’ll announce the winner of the giveaway when I do my Q&A post, where I’ll answer all your questions, in a couple of weeks. (This giveaway is open internationally but I do have to set a restriction on the postage costs side of things so depending on where you are the large packs of cards may be to expensive to ship )

Remember you are all awesome and leave me a question 🙂

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Cross Stitching SAL

Last Sal I showed you my finished piece but I’ve got it in a frame now (I did it myself so its not very brilliantly done) and I thought I’d show you it again! If the frame looks familiar it’s because I’ve only got one and they each take their turn in it for a photo before being relegated to a draw somewhere.img_4510

On to some actual stitching. I’ve started my new harry potter, Slytherin themed pin cushion that I was talking about last time. Here’s how far I’ve gotten:
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It doesn’t look like much but I have a feeling this is going to go quite quickly, or at least the cross stitching will. The backstitching and the joining might take me a while. Luckily I had all the supplies and the right coloured thread in my collection so I could start out right away and not have to spend anymore money.

These are all the other lovely stitchers talking part in the SAL. You should take a browse of their blogs to see what projects they’re doing and a special hello to our new member.

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

I’m really not sure how much cross stitching I’m going to be doing this month as there are other things I’m concentrating on. I’m using national novel writing month as an excuse to start writing some short stories down, and obviously with Christmas coming I’m trying to get some presents done and wrapped and then there’s cards to make and… Well. I’m just saying the next update probably won’t be much further than this.

I do hope that I’ll manage to make an old cross stitch into a cushion by then though so I might have that to show you. A question. I seem to have a lot of questions lately. When turning a cross stitch into a cushion do I need to put something against the back of the stitching to protect it from the cushion filling being pulled in and out? A layer of fabric? Some fusible thing or other?

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