Memo Pad: Books – January 2017

This month has been a really good start to the year and I managed 5 books, okay so one of them was only a novella but still, that’s pretty good for me. I finally got around to reading Crooked Kingdom and The Dream Thieves, which were both sequels I couldn’t wait for and yet, there were so many other books I wanted to read that I did indeed have to wait for them. Neither of them disappointed. Hopefully I can keep up this reading form and get to some more of the books I-cant-wait-but-have-waited-for.

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Read: 5

Note: I normally include blurbs for all the books here but I’m not going to for the two sequels because they are riddled with spoilers for the first books in their respective series.

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Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows Duology) by Leigh Bardugo *****

What can I say? This book is amazing. Kaz is just as brilliant as before. He’s a big ball of menace and revenge prowling about with a lead lined cane but we see some more cracks in his armour this time around. Those moments are beautiful. The whole team is back and schemes upon schemes are formed and foiled. If you like books with heists or thieves or intellectual protagonists then why haven’t you read these books yet? I would say that overall, it’s not as much a five star as Six of Crows but this one has my favourite scenes in so it evens out. It’s still an absolutely amazing book. I’m not ready for this duology to end.

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The Girl in the City by Philip Harris *****

With the oppressive Transport Authority controlling every aspect of their existence, Leah and her father do what they can to carve a good life for themselves. Leah spends her nights scavenging in the rural zone around the City, risking capture by the Wild Ones as she hunts for salvage her father can trade for food and other essentials. But when Leah takes a bag of salvage from a dying stranger, she and her father are drawn into the world of Transport and its war against the terrorist organization, TRACE. A war that could cost them both their lives.

The world building in this is great, even though it’s only a novella I could still picture the world clearly. Unfortunately, I didn’t really identify with the main character. I didn’t think her motivations for doing certain things made sense, it felt like the author needed her to do something so she did. Maybe that’s because this is a really short novella and so we didn’t really have enough time to really get in her head and understand why she was acting a certain way. The story could have been a bit longer while still staying a novella and that way it could have developed her character a little more.

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The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G Buehrlen *****

For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair. But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them. It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories. Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever. And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

I was not expecting this book to be as good as it was. This book is time traveling done right. Which is very difficult to do. I’ve been pretty disappointed in other time travel books lately but everything wrapped up well and was very cleverly intertwined. And mixing time travel with reincarnation and past lives was very interesting.

I loved the characters, it’s refreshing to see a teenage character who acts like a teenager rather than always doing what’s best for the world. Teenagers get panicky and self conscious and irrational but the author’s done this really well to make you still really root for Alex. I don’t normally like books with romance but I really enjoyed this. It had a lot of complicated relationships as well as the romantic one and the romance was never the be all and end all like it seems to be in a lot of YA.  I’ll definitely be reading the sequel.

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Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan *****

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen. But perhaps this doesn’t need to be the end…
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return. For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?

First of I’ll say that both the title and the cover are gorgeous. But quickly behind that, I didn’t get on with the writing style. It’s written in the present tense that makes it sound like stage direction.

Carys and Max hold onto the rope tethering them together in the asteroid belt, quiet and contemplative

It was jarring and not the kind of jarring you get used to and then don’t notice again.

The book is split into two timelines, what’s currently happening ie drifting out in space and flashbacks of the two main characters relationship. They live in Europia where everyone has to move every three years to a new area or Voivode so there are no borders/national pride to start wars over. It was a really interesting setting and concept and I wish it had been explored a little more. I liked Carys and Max, in fact their first conversation when they met was so brilliant I laughed aloud and then went back and re read it. A lot of the present time is just a set up to show certain flashbacks and at times it really is obvious that they’re going through a list of moments rather than having a natural conversation. I feel like there needed to be a little bit more happening plot wise in the present timeline to make this book better also I felt like the ending was cheating. Without giving any spoilers away, all I’ll say is there was absolutely no reason in the plot for that to happen.

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The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater *****

This book is ridiculously well written, I mean forget about the characters and the story for a second. The writing is beautiful. But back to the characters and story because no one reads a book just for the writing. I am still completely in love with the raven boys. They all need a hug and I can’t wait to read the next book. 

 

I’m not sure what wrong with me. Last year I think I only gave out five five-star reviews all year and I’ve given three in just one month. 

How have your first reading month of the year been? Read any five-star books? Have you read any of these and what did you think?


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First Cross Stitch Finish of 2017

I have a finish to show you!

Not only did I manage to finish the stitching for my pin cushion, I also managed to actually finish the pin cushion.

Here it is fully stitched and also fully finished.

And some close ups:

I’m really happy with it, I hashed the counting a little in that the detail on the sides was suppose to line up but for some reason that I can’t remember I decided to make it a slightly different size to the pattern I made. But oh well, at least it all fit together properly.

I’m looking forward to making the other houses too. Ravenclaw is in the early stages of being designed. But I’ve already lined up a pretty massive next project. After months of work I’ve finally finished a Peter pan quote design which is what I’ll be stitching for…. A while!

It’s got 25 different colours in it which is ten more than I’ve ever used for one project before and even that wasn’t something I’d designed myself. (It was 30 but I managed to get it lower!) I dutifully went through my stash looking for which ones I had so I could buy the others and in the end I only had one! I had to buy the other 24 but at least I already had the fabric. I’ll be stitching it on 18 count white aida.

Here’s a sneak peak of all the colours next to each other.
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The stitch along is run every three weeks which gives us all enough time to get something done and you can stitch whatever you want.

Here’s the links of all the others taking part:

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

You should check them all out as there’s so many different awesome projects going on and we’re always up for new members.

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Getting into Quilting

This is going to be my year of quilting. I’m going to make my first quilt. I got everything I need for Christmas. The plan was to start straight off having ‘practiced’ on my table mats. In reality, I didn’t do as much quilting on the table mats as I wanted to as I ran out of time before Christmas and I realised I should probably practice using my new feet and the join as you go method I want to use before I start my quilt. Just to make sure…. Okay, I’m procrastinating but I’ll be making a table runner first. It’s going to have three blocks so I’ll have two chances to practice my joining method and I can give my walking foot and quilting foot a test drive.

But onto what this post was suppose to be about; all the quilting goodies I got for Christmas.

Fabric:

After spending literally months looking online at fabric fat quarter packs and not finding anything that was right I eventually stumbled across this:

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It’s wanderer by Joel dewberry (well, half of it). And it fits exactly the image I have in my head for my quilt so when I saw it I almost danced. And then I found out you can only buy it in America. But it was perfect and I couldn’t find anything else that fit what I wanted for my quilt so seeing as it was going to be a Christmas present I went for it, I just added the extortionate shipping into the cost of the present.

I’m really happy with it, I only actually need 6 of them (assuming I don’t ruin anything by way of rubbish cutting). So it’ll take a bit of time to work out which six I want but at the moment it’s the bottom 6 in that photo.

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I also got a lot of white fabric for the sashing and backing (I bought six metres, I might end up needing more. Who knows? Not me) we went out to the craft shop to get it because the cheapest I could find online was £8 a metre plus shipping and that adds up to a lot when you want….lots. (I say THE craft shop because there is pretty much only one craft shop on the island that does a decent amount of fabric). I am not well versed in different fabrics, all I’d heard was 100% cotton being repeated so that’s all the knowledge I went in with. The two options in the shop for white fabric were either polycotton or 100% cotton poplin. I went with the poplin (£4 a metre) but after googling I’m not sure this is the right kind of fabric to quilt with. I can’t find out for certain because google doesn’t seem to know what cotton poplin is and keeps telling me different things. But its what I have so it’s what I’ll be using.

 

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I also bought some quilting thread in white and a stash of thread from someone getting rid of their craft supplies (It’s sylko brand and I got all that for about £4.50 including p&p). I haven’t bought any binding because that’s a long way off!

I bought heirloom fusible batting 20/80 in queen size. I’m planning on making a double size quilt (I know, I start easy, right?) but with the join as you go I’m sure I’ll end up using all of this up. It was pretty good value at only £25 (I think that’s good) and hopefully the fusible element will help keep things neat.

 

Tools:

I got a quilting ruler. It’s 6×12 inches. I didn’t want to get a bigger one because I’m not actually sure my table is 24 inches deep so that would probably be a bit too cumbersome to try and use!

 

I also got a pack of sewing machine feet. It had pretty good reviews and includes a 1/4 inch foot, a free motion foot and a walking foot.

 

Music:

Finally but certainly not least, I got some Bluetooth over ear headphones. I’m always listening to music but listening to music with earphones when I’m cutting or using the sewing machine is just simply hazardous! And listening to music on a speaker isn’t ideal as the sewing machine is loud so I bought these little beauties that make me look a little like an alien but means I can jam out to music while quilting/cutting safely and without turning my music up so loud it annoys other humans. They do have the unfortunate side effect of not realising I’m singing aloud though which is probably more annoying but whatever.

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I’m very excited to get started and use some of these for my table runner. Fingers crossed everything goes well and I can start on my actual quilt soon.

Does anyone know anything about cotton poplin and would you like to educate me? Haha. And have I missed any essentials?

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Looking Forward

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Here’s part two of my Looking Forward, Looking Backward posts. You can read part 1 all about my year here. But for now onto my goals and hopes for 2017. (You can call them new years resolutions if you want but I’m avoiding the word.)

Writing:

  • Keep writing.

I want to write two chapters a month every month this year instead of the one chapter that I set my goal as last year. Breaking this down a little more; I want to write one chapter of each my harry potter fan fic and my original story idea each month.

Related to that:

  • Keep writing my harry potter fanfic and…
  • Finish my prequel story.

My vague plan right now says there are about 7 or 8 chapters left (I’ve written 14 so far) so hopefully this will be done by the end of summer which will leave me enough time to…

  • Do a first edit of my original story.

This includes fixing all of the auto corrects and typos and going through my list of changes and writing them in.

I’m not going to say I will start my next story as it will depend on where I am with finishing the prequel at the end of the year. If I am in a good position to start it I may Nano it in November if not then I won’t. I’m not going to force it if there are still things to figure out. And it feels an awful way away right now so I’ll just see where I am

 

Books and blogs:

  • Keep blogging

I started taking my blog a little bit more seriously and interacting with other bloggers during summer and I’m really enjoying it so I want to keep doing this. I’m not sure I can commit to doing more posts regularly but I hope to do a few more.

 

  • Read at least 40 books

And review them, although I’d like to manage 4 books a month so 48 for the year but I’m not going to force myself.

 

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Business:

  • Put more energy into my shop.
  • Have more listings

I’ve started working on some new designs (cards and cross stitch patterns) and I also want to try to promote a little more including trying to figure out pinterest and other ways to get more traffic and hopefully some orders. I’m really bad at all the social media/advertising stuff and have mainly just been focusing on making products so far but this will be my next step.

 

Crafts:

Old crafts:

  • Try to make some small cross stitch projects as well as the big ones

Related to the section above, I want to try to make some small cross stitch designs so I can add some more cross stitch patterns to my shop rather than just doing massive ones that will take me half a year to stitch. I’m currently working on some Harry Potter pin cushion designs that I’m really excited about and should work up relatively quickly.

  • Make my mum a bag

I got a charm pack along with my quilt fabrics because they were on sale for £5 (!!) and they’d be perfect for my mum. She’s asked me to use them to make her one of the lined tote bags I’ve made recently. And speaking of requests…

  • Make my dad another scarf

I crocheted my dad a scarf this year and he’s asked for another one in a dark red/maroon colour. I’m not sure which stitch I’m using yet as I need to test a couple of things. This will also be the first time I’ve bought any new yarn, rather than using my stash, in a couple of years but if he buys it then my yarn buying ban is still in effect, right?

 

New crafts:

  • Make my first quilt

I got all the supplies and fabrics I want to use for Christmas so everything is ready to go but I’m a perfectionist so I’m procrastinating and I’ve decided to…

  • Quilt a table runner

I want to use the different sewing machine feet and try out the join as you go method that I’m planning to use on my quilt on this first so that when I eventually do start my quilt hopefully it will go well. I want to get them both done this year. You can see a post all about the quilty stuff that I got for christmas next week.

 

Spanish:

I’ve been failing at learning Spanish for a couple of years now. I tried duolingo which was good for a while, I tried a couple of exercise books, I tried a YouTube podcast which was really informative but eventually I always stop. It’s a lot of effort, my brain gets tired easily and I’m rubbish at sticking with things that seem like hard work especially when I’m doing it alone. So this year my new idea is…

  • Keep a Spanish diary. Every day.

I’m going to write a short diary every evening in Spanish. Simple things. What I did that day and how I feel. At the start I’m sure I’ll be looking up most words but I’ll be saying a lot of the same things and hopefully it’ll stay in. The only problem is I’m almost forgetting about it everyday already. I have managed everyday so far but I’m honestly not sure I’ll achieve this one. I hope I do because it’s one of the most important ones as I want to move to Spain at some point.

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  •  Find someone or a website to check my work

I would love to be able to type up a week of entries and…. Send it to someone or upload it to one of those learning websites for someone to check as there’s only so much I can learn unless someone is correcting my mistakes but so far I haven’t figured out how or where to do this one. So if anyone has any ideas please let me know. I think it’d also help me stick to doing the diary everyday.

 


So they’re my goals and hopes for the year. It’s a lot but they’re all in different areas and there isn’t really anything I want to pull back on. But at least it’ll mean I’ll probably at least achieve some of them!

How about you, what are your goals for the year? Are you aiming to read more books or try any new crafts? Have you learnt a language recently or are you trying, and what have you found helps you?

 

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Looking Backward

This is first half of my Looking Forward, Looking Backwards posts. The one focusing on the coming year will be up in a couple of days but for now, this is a look back at how 2016 was for me (hint= really quite good).

This might be quite a long post as I think this might have been my best year since first getting sick 9 years ago. I’ll split it up into sections and start with the simple stuff and hope you’re still around at the end!

Books and blogs

First off, I kept blogging (hello everyone!) I’m still mega proud that I’ve kept going and persevered. This little blog of mine is now two years old. Hopefully it’ll avoid the terrible two temper tantrums and keep growing.

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I read 46 books this year which is the most I’ve ever managed and you can see my post about my bookish year here. I also started writing reviews for the books I read this year which is something I’ve never done before. I’m not great at them but hopefully I’ll get better and it’s something that I’m enjoying doing and also brings opportunities like being able to review ARC’s (or Advance Reader Copies) for Netgalley.

Crafts

I don’t feel like I’ve had that many finishes this year but I actually have they’re just a bit all over the place.

I crocheted a scarf for my dad, a lap blanket for my mum and hat for one of my best friends.

I started using my sewing machine after a 5 year hiatus which is actually massive for me because I struggle to sit up for long but it’s all set up in the spare room and I’m able to squeeze ten minutes in here and there on good days and I’m so happy that I’m finally in a place (health and space wise) that this is possible. Because of this I’ve made two bags (okay they were from the same simple pattern but you’ve got to start somewhere) and quilted 2 1/2 table mats. I didn’t quite manage to finish the third one for Christmas but its my first attempt at quilting anything.

I bought a silhouette portrait cutting machine at the beginning of the year and started to design and make cards. I honestly don’t think I could count how many I’ve made this year and it’s been a very unexpected positive as I’ve never been into card making before.

I also started to design cross stitch patterns which is much slower going as not only do you have to design them (square by square) but you also have to test them to see if it looks right and I’m very slow at cross stitching due to having to take breaks. I’ve only managed three cross stitches all year.

Shop

Related to the last section, I also opened my Etsy and Conscious Crafties shops selling cards and the few cross stitch pattern I’ve done. It’s extremely slow going but I’m really proud of myself for finally taking that plunge and registering as self employed so that I can build up some years for my pension. Lord knows I’m not well enough to work any other way.

I also had my first couple of orders and I just want to say a massive thank you to anyone who has supported me so far. Not just to the couple of people who have bought things (you’re extra awesome for that too) but also for anyone who has shared or liked my etsy page. Heck, even if you’ve just clicked and had a browse to see what I’m up to. Thank you.

 

Writing

At the start of December last year I started to give writing another go having given up for a few years. It was my personal goal at the start of the year to write one chapter of a Harry potter fan fic a month. For me, trying to stick to that goal was massive and anxiety inducing and there were times I was so full of doubt that I wanted to stop but I kept writing and I am so proud that I stuck to that goal and of what I’ve achieved this year.nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winner

Not only did I keep writing that fic, but I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time as well. And beyond all my wildest goals, I won! (You can see my posts about nano here and here)

I ended up writing (roughly) 130,000 words this year. Having written nothing for a couple of years I’m just so mega proud of myself for that.

My harry potter fic is still on going (I’ve just finished writing chapter 20) and the original story idea that I cooked up during the summer and Nano’d is also still being written.

I can’t tell you how much of a thing this is for me. To go from really struggling to write one chapter of a fan fic a month to having the belief and dedication (and a handle on my anxiety enough) to keep writing and manage what I’ve done is probably the biggest achievement that I’ve had in a long time if not ever.

 

Life and illness

I’m going to keep this bit short because pretty much everything I mentioned is a comment of just how much I’ve managed to do this year. I’m struggling a little with anxiety of managing all the things which is so far away from where I was a couple of years ago when I was going bored out of my mind staring at the ceiling. I know that the only ‘pressure’ is me simply wanting to carry on doing everything so I’m trying to tell myself it’s okay, I can manage this, and not let myself ruin everything.

On top of everything else, I managed to leave the house ten times this year!

To put that in to perspective, before we moved here a year and a half ago now, I was only leaving the house two times a year.

And okay so they weren’t all the most exciting excursions (I went to the dentist and had a haircut) but some were. I went out for dinner a few times with visiting family (normally they all have to go out without me as its something I haven’t managed for a few years now due to my illness so I’m so happy about this), I went to the craft shop (twice!) and I managed to get to the beach across the road once.


That was a very long and happy post but the TL;DR is its been a pretty great (and very busy) year all things considered. 

How about you? How have your years been and if you had to pick one thing you are most proud of or your happiest moment of the year what would it be?

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My Bookish Year 2016

I’m a little late on this post but its finally time to share with you my year in books, my top ten books of the year and just my bookish year in general.

To start with here’s what Goodreads has to say about my year:

yearinbooksyearinbooks1readingchallengeI set my reading goal really low this year. I knew it wasn’t actually a challenge but over the last couple of years I’d been feeling the pressure to meet a challenge rather than reading to enjoy and it had caused major reading slumps so I set it really low (for me) on purpose. I reached it, obviously. And I’m pretty happy with 46 books. This doesn’t include any DNFs of which I think there were six although I don’t keep track of them so I’m not certain. It also doesn’t include any books I’ve reread, there wasn’t many of those this year as I just had too many awesome new books to read.

46 books is, I’m pretty sure, the best I’ve ever achieved, and I have no idea how anyone manages to read hundreds in a year! I’m setting my Goodreads goal for 2017 at 40 books. If we’re looking at the last four years I’ve beaten it twice and not beaten in rwice but honestly with how things are right now I think I’ll be majorly disappointed if I don’t read that many books this year (I already have 200+ on my Goodreads TBR and at least 60 that I REALLY want to read like now!)

As for my rating this is how it breaks down:

5* =4
4* =18
3* =18
2* =6

I’m not even bothering to put 1* because I never rate a book one star. If it’s that bad then I don’t finish it and I don’t currently rate/review books that I don’t finish. Although I’m starting to wonder whether this is the right thing to do. Where do you stand on rating DNF’s? It skews the ratings if no one rates DNFs, so maybe I should but I don’t always DNF because it’s bad per say….

I also remain extremely stingy when it comes to 5*. A lot of those fours could easily have been fives. I seem to always be able to find SOMETHING wrong or that a book is missing SOMETHING. And I always feel a bit guilty when I read great books but….. Not quite haha. But then looking back a few of those threes could easily have been twos so I guess it evens out.

In no particular order, my 10 Favourite Books of 2016*:

* meaning books I’ve read this year not books that are published this year

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

So I’m in love with the whole gang and I’m gearing up to read book two very soon (and maybe the rest of the series too)

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I don’t really think I need to say anything about this book because it seems to be everywhere. I absolutely loved the characters and heist books are my absolute faves. I’ve just read the sequel and I’m so sad that is only a duology.

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Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Greek gods, magic, dragons and witty sarcastic comments galore. I loved it. Shame about the romance.

Steal the Sky and Break the Chains by Megan O’Keefe

Okay so I know this is technically two books but they’re the same series, I read both of them this year and they were both freaking amazing and both deserve a place on this list. I mentioned I love heist books right? Well, Detan is on my list of favourite thieves too.

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Malice by John Gywnne

This was the longest book I read this year. In the vein of game of thrones and you really shouldn’t get attached to any of the characters. I’m just warning you.

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The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

This is the only Sci fi book in my top ten, I really didn’t read many of them this year and that definitely needs to change. If anyone wants to recommend scifi books that aren’t too heavy I’m all ears. There doesn’t seem to be as many light Sci fi books as there are easy read fantasy books.

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All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This was me branching out of my genre a little reading a historical fiction book (I do it every now and then). It was so beautifully written and kept me interested the whole time.

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The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did, it’s quite an old book and I got it on a kindle deal but it was brilliant. Sword and sorcery but with really good characters.

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The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

Again another book outside my comfort zone. I don’t read horror or zombie books but I really enjoyed this one.20643052

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

A book about books. The Great library of Alexandria is all powerful and very controlling. It was really good and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel soon


So that’s my year in books. Are any of these your favourite books of the year? Are you planning on reading them? (you should) and where do you stand on rating/reviewing DNFs?

 

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Cross Stitch Sal Update

It’s been another three weeks (what?!?) which means another post for our stitchalong. We’ve got a couple of new stichers joining in this time. Welcome!

Amazingly I have managed to squeeze in some stitching around Christmas. I’ve manly been going back and adding back stitching (there’s a lot of it!) and details which means it doesn’t feel like I’ve done as much as I’ve been managing lately but I have.

Here’s where I was compared to where I am now:

At first I really want sure if back stitching the border around the centre was a good idea but I actually really like it now. It doesn’t drown the colours out like I was worrying about instead it just makes it look a bit more intense.

You can now see the words too. For any muggles out there, accio is the summoning charm. So all my pins should magically stick themselves in the pin cushion….. Lets hope.

Here are the links to all the other members taking part in the SAL. It’s ever growing which is exciting.

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

You should check them out and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new stitchers are up to.

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