Memo Pad: Books March 2017

I’m marching on (pun!) with my reading this month and managing to keep up to quite an amazing pace for me. Another 5 books read, this was helped greatly by receiving some brilliant books for review (opinions are always my own honest thoughts) and I was doing really well in the not buying books stakes but then….well, I’ll get to that later.

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Read: 5                Bought: 0 (+7)

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Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb *****

Ship of Magic begins an epic tale of pirates, sentient ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes and bloody battles. On the northernmost point of the Cursed Shores lies Bingtown, a bustling hub of exotic trade and home to a proud merchant nobility famed for its extraordinary vessels. Only Bingtown liveships can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain Wild River and plunder the riches found upstream, but such vessels are made from the most precious commodity in the world – a material with the ability to become sentient – and so are extremely rare. The fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.

Very simply, this book was just too long. I don’t mean books shouldn’t be this length, I’ve read some amazing, long books, just that there needs to be a reason that it’s this long. First off the ending wasn’t really an ending, it wasn’t a climax or resolution and the book could have been ended anywhere without making it that long but more than that the reason this book is so long is because each of the characters seem to go off down memory lane a lot. They have internal monologues pondering things that are just not relevant enough to include, some backstory and exploration of character is good but not when it adds a couple of hundred pages to a long book .

I DID enjoy reading this, it’s a very vivid world and characters all had distinct voices and were from different backgrounds and you always wanted to know what happened next. The characters are not perfect, they are flawed and they got MORE flawed as the book went in rather than better. Personally there’s only so many bad decisions for a character to make and things going wrong for them until I stop being invested. If the book had ended sooner maybe I would have still cared about the characters.

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Raining Embers by Jessica Dall *****

Palmer Tash always follows the path of least resistance. He has an unusual disability involving his hearing. But in theocratic Latysia, being different isn’t a good thing, so he conceals his problem. Brier Chastain’s malady is even more debilitating, and she often must take to her bed for long periods. Her days are spent in meaningless pursuits as she awaits an arranged marriage. When Palmer and Brier are kidnapped on the same night, they meet and discover that their so-called disabilities are actually budding powers. They are the incarnations of Order and Chaos. With their country on the brink of war, the two must step into their predestined roles and learn to take control of their own destinies.

This is exactly what I was expecting it to be. A fun, fast, exciting adventure. Exactly what I wanted it to be after reading a long book. Something to note: the blurb makes their disabilities sound like a large part of the plot but they aren’t, in fact, they disappear completely within the first few chapters.

I also thought that the magic was a bit unexplained towards the end. As if the author was just adding whatever sounded exciting with no reasoning. And there’s no doubt this is exciting, I finished it in two sittings, but it would have been nice to have the magic elements a little bit more explained.

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The Enemy Within by Scott Burn *****

Seventeen-year-old Max has always felt like an outsider. When the agonizing apocalyptic visions begin, he decides suicide is his only escape. He soon finds himself in an institution under the guidance of a therapist who sees something exceptional in him. Just as he begins to leave the hallucinations behind, Max discovers the visions weren’t just in his head. There are three others who have shared those same thoughts and they’ve been searching for Max. Like him, they are something more than human. Each of them possesses certain abilities, which they’re going to need when a covert military group begins hunting them down. As the danger escalates, Max doesn’t know which side to trust. But in the end, his choice will decide the fate of both species.

This is a short but exciting page turner of a novel, it’s a fast paced adventure following a teenager called Max as he gets admitted to a mental hospital after struggling to deal with his visions of an apocalypse. It’s a very quick read at only 160 pages and unfortunately I think this meant that I couldn’t quite connect with the characters as much as I’d want to meaning they came across as a little 2d at times. It would have been great if more time could have been spent on them. I think this is natural for a book of this length though and the plot is enough to keep you interested and racing to the finish.

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Recruits by Locke Thomas *****

For a decade now, seventeen-year-old twins Sean and Dillon Kirrell have been drawn to a mysterious alternate world they’ve translated into hand-drawn images covering their bedroom walls. It’s a world they’ve only seen in their dreams until now–when a stranger recruits them to train for a mind-bending mission of survival.

I could tell from the first couple of pages that I was going to enjoy this book. Something about the way the author writes is just so enjoyable to read. I’d mark this down as science fantasy, it’s set on multiple different worlds so has a very sciencey futuristic feel at times but is also set a lot on regular, modern day earth too. The two main characters, Dillon and Sean, turn out to be gifted individuals called transitors, and they develop… Magic powers basically. So that’s the fantasy part. The twins both have very different personalities and they love each other dearly, but they are brothers and they fight and argue just as much as they should. The only thing I would say is that I found them being seventeen slightly unbelievable. I read books where kids do ridiculously awesome things all the time so it wasn’t necessarily that, I think more the way they interacted with the “adults” was what jarred me a bit. The end section of this book definitely ramped up the tension and stakes and I raced through it. Overall this is a fast paced, exciting and easy to read science fantasy with brilliant world building.

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Inherit the Flame (Scorched Continent #3) by Megan O’Keefe *****

I’m not going to add a blurb here because this is the third book in a series and it has spoilers in it.

I was so excited to read this book  but at the same time sad because this is the last book in the scorched continent trilogy. There’s always a bit of anxiety for me  when it comes to reading the last book in a series that I’ve absolutely loved. You are always hoping that it will do the series justice and end well. I’m sad that it is over but this is the ending that the series deserved. 

The brilliant characters, witty banter and high stakes were all there and I am so glad this was up to the standard of the previous two books. All of the characters come back for one final adventure, everything in their series so far cumulates in one very big problem for Detan and the crew to solve. 

I would say that there were certain parts that I don’t think were intertwined as well as they could have been and, especially at the start, I felt like Detan was a little bit TOO lost for me. But then I always like my characters to hsve an ace up their sleeve. It was still a very enjoyable read and I think anyone who likes reading heist/conmen books like The Gentleman Bastards or Six of Crows should give this series a read. It’s a bit lighter and more fun but still in the same vein with plenty of action, cleverness and heartbreaking moments. 

 


Books bought:

I was doing really well and didn’t buy ANY books, that was helped greatly by the fact that I received three of the books I read this month free for review. But then….I mean, I’m going on holiday next month so I started planning what I wanted to buy for my holiday and I bought them too. Now, I’ll only actually manage at most four books on holiday but I wanted choices…. I ended up buying another seven books. Whoops.

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A Neilson, The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare by MG Buehrlen, Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Boys #3) by Maggie Stiefvater, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, Willful Machines by Tim Floreen, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and The Captive Prince by CS Pacat.

Phew, that’s quite a lot of books. All I need to do now is not read them until my holiday…

But let’s chat. Have you read any of these books, the ones I’ve just bought or the ones I read this month? What did you think? Which ones would you recommend I read first? What was your favourite book that YOU read this month?

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My First Quilt – The Beginning

Having finished my table runner I decided to dive straight in to starting my quilt.

The plan originally was 3 different blocks of each of the six patterned fabrics I’ve chosen. Each of which would be sashed in white and then joined and bordered in white too (or maybe bordered in yellow or navy if I’m feeling adventurous when its done).WP_20170315_15_35_30_Pro

After redoing my calculations before I started, I realised that this would make a rather narrow quilt so I’ve decided to do an extra block of each fabric. Thankfully I have enough left of each of the fat quarters to do this.

(This isn’t going to be the layout, it will be more mixed up than this but it gives you and me an idea of the size and how it will fit together)

All put together it would make a quilt that would be about 5 by 6 foot. Which I think would be a perfect size for my small double bed. It’s 4 foot wide so a 6 inch over hang on the sides sounds about right to me (not that I’ve ever made a quilt before, obviously).

So once I’d double checked all of this, it was time to start cutting. And let me tell you that was very nerve-racking. I only have one fat quarter each of the pattern fabric I need and its 21inch wide, my largest block is 21inch long so I didn’t have any room for error. I bought the fabric from America with ridiculous shipping costs so I did not want to get it wrong! I think I checked my measurements about ten times before I cut!

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But I managed it. Phew.

And I’ve managed to piece all four of the first fabric blocks to show you. I’m quilting as I go, which means quilting each individual block and then joining them up at the end and I’m using Hobbs fusible 80/20 batting which is a life saver. Seriously. I hate pin basting but this stuff is so easy! All mum had to do was iron it and TADA no basting needed.

So here are the four blocks:
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For some reason these photos have picked up every small bump but the fabric is actually very flat and secured well front and back.

The blocks of each pattern will be mixed together in the quilt, they won’t be sat next to each other like this but I’m doing each fabric together. The square blocks are both 12.5 inches, which is a good size for quilting on my poor little sewing machine. The rectangle is 25 inches by 12.5 inches.

I’m not certain whether to do the small squares as the extra block every time or to do the middle sized square half of the time. I have enough fabric to do either. Some of the patterns are larger than this one so maybe those ones I can do the medium block for….

One thing I will say is that the batting is a lot thinner than I was expecting it to be. I’m not sure if that’s because when I imagine a quilt I think thick and snuggly and my expectations were just way off or because this is thin batting. None of the reviews mention it’s thin so I’m thinking the first. This is also probably swayed by the fact that I’m one of those people that like really heavy duvets. If I stay in a hotel with just sheets I go through all the cupboards looking for a blanket to add weight.

Also, I’m using guttermans cotton quilting thread and it feels very coarse compared to the thread I usually use. I’m a little worried it’ll be rough against my skin when the quilt is done. But that’s the thread that the internet recommended and it was in my local craft store so I bought it…..

On the subject of thread, I know I want to use white for all of the white area on the front but don’t think I want to use it on the patterned fabric. I’m thinking maybe using a grey or blue or even a yellow but I’m really not sure. I don’t know whether to match the fabric, so use yellow on the yellow pattern and blue on the blue, or stick to one colour for all of them. What do you think? And I don’t know whether to do front and back with the different colour or keep all the stitching on the back white. I’m a little worried about the guttermans being thicker than the coloured thread if I do both together.

Here’s the patterned fabrics again to give you a better idea. I’m planning on using the bottom row.

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It’s all very exciting. I’ve gotten carried away as I’ve cut and pieced the blocks in just over a week and I definitely over did it. I need to pace it out a bit more but I wanna do it! Things are going more quickly than I thought and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m doing too much or because it’s simply quicker than I thought it would be. I think I will need to figure out my pacing as this is all such a new thing to me.


If you stuck with me to the end thanks! I realise that was quite a long post!

So what do you think? Is batting generally thinner than I think it should be? Anyone used fusible batting before? I know its more expensive but so far, it’s been totally worth it. Also, guttermans thread, a bad idea? And what colour thread would you use over the patterned fabric?

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Top 10 2017 Book Releases

Top Ten Books that I am most excited about being released in 2017

This is a post that I never thought I would write. A post about books that are (mostly) not even out yet?! I’m normally years behind things so how I’m even aware of books that aren’t out yet is yet another one of the miracles of book blogging.

I’m also rather late to writing this post, with it being march already and all. So some of these are in fact already out (and still not read, but shhh. My TBR is threatening to kill me).

All links are to the goodreads profiles for each book and the release dates are what their goodreads profile said at the time of writing this post.

January:

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova is a steampunk fantasy that sounds really awesome. Engineers, thieves, magic: I’m there (or I will be when I get my hands on this book).

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land is a psychological thriller about the daughter of a serial killer. I don’t read much in this genre but this sounds really good. Good might not be the right word to use here – interesting?

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is a sci-fi thriller set aboard a spaceship where they have to work out which one of them is the killer before it’s too late. There doesn’t seem to be an ebook version of this out yet though.

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March:

Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland. For this one I’m just going to go ahead and copt the first line of the GR descriptions because it sounds perfect. “Firefly” meets DUNE in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

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April:

Inherit the Flame (Scorched Continent #3) by Megan O’Keefe So this is one that isn’t out yet but because netgalley and angryrobot (the publisher) are both awesome, I am currently reading this. Like, right now. The first two books in this series were amazing and you should go and check them out. They are steampunk adventures about a con artist called Detan (first book is called Steal the Sky).

May:

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole is about a boy who can’t control his time-travelling ability so spends his life switching between WW2 and the modern day where he has to try to hide his PTSD from, ya know, WW2.

Thick as Thieves (The Queen’s Thief #5) by Megan Whalen Turner. I’ve been waiting my whole life (exageration alert) for the next book in the Queen’s thief series because it is my favourite. Ever. This isn’t a continuation of the series but it is set in the same world and I can’t wait to go back.

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts  is a fantasy about a bunch of bastards (literally, the kings bastards, I’m not just being mean) banding together, having a good time and trying to save their kingdom. Sounds fun.

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June:

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I’m actually not sure how to describe this book. Historical fiction? It’s a couple of posh guys going on a grand tour in 18th century Europe before they have to grow up and there’s um, magical artifact, pirates, highwaymen, and a major crush on each other.

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October:

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. Another His Dark Materials trilogy? I’m more than willing to go back to Lyra’s oxford.

AND:

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Winds of Winter by George RR Martins (ASOIAF #6) Before anyone says it, No, I do not have any inside information about a release date. I am simply an eternal optimist (eternal may just become correctly used here). I have avoided season 6 of the show and it’s starting to look like I might have to avoid season 7 too. BUT I WILL READ THIS BOOK THIS YEAR GODDAMMIT!!!


Are you excited about any of these books too? or maybe lucky enough to have read any of them already? Let me know what you thought. And have I missed any must read 2017 books off of this list? Let me know so i can add it to my TBR and weep.

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Quilted Table Runner: Finished!

My last update on my table runner was photos of the three top blocks pieced. Well now only about a month later I’ve managed to finish the whole thing.

The one big problem I had (and it was big) was my attempt at basting. I bought pins, but they took two weeks to get here from Amazon prime which had never happened to me before but meant everything had to go on hold for a week and then when they got here, well, lets just say we didn’t get on.

I just couldn’t get all the layers to sit well. Putting the pins in only made the fabric scrunch up and get puckered. In the end I barely basted anything. I just did the quilting in a certain order to try to keep the fabric taut.

 

I started by using my walking foot fit the first time (after I’d figured out how to attach it) to stitch in the ditch (or out of the ditch in some places) around the presents and ribbons. Then I quilted straight lines around the outside of the blocks.

Once that was done and I didn’t have to worry about basting anymore, I got my free motion foot out. My machine teeth do not drop, it is, bless it, a very basic machine. But, it does come with a quilting plate that snaps into place over the teeth. I was worried I’d have to screw it in but it was very simple and sturdy.

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I got a couple of scraps and made two small quilting sandwiches about the size of coasters to practice on. As I didn’t think going straight onto my table runner with my first ever attempt at free motion was the brightest idea. But I’m also impatient so after these two little experiments I moved back to my blocks and had a run at it. These are the backs and fronts as I wanted to see what the red thread would look like on both colours of fabric.

 

I’m pretty happy with how my quilting on the blocks turned out but, did I mention how impatient I am? No photos until the end I’m afraid. I used red thread front and back on all of them so on the middle block they are more subtle than on the green. Also it’s ridiculously hard to get good photos of quilting.

All three blocks were now finished and now I had to tackle the join as you go method I’d chosen. I decided to use green strips for the back so it wasn’t noticeable and red strips for the front to match the bias binding I was going to add as a border.

It was actually really simple (they are slightly wonky but that had more to do with me not squaring off the blocks very well which in turn was because the edges weren’t very neat because I hadn’t basted.)

So the moment you’ve all been waiting for…. And probably already seen from the featured photo but oh well.

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Finished!

It’s a little bit easier to see the quilting on the back, just to prove I DID quilt the middle block because you can barely see it on the previous photo.

All in all it took about two months. To piece, baste, quilt, join and border three blocks. I’m pretty proud of that. They’re not perfect but I’ve learnt loads and feel I am ready to give my actual quilt a go. Eeek!

I’d need to cut, piece and quilt three blocks a month to realistically finish this quilt before the end of the year, which was my original goal, but that’s probably not going to happen so I’ll just take it as it comes because I really don’t want to rush this and mess it up. (although, I’m impatient so we’ll see how that goes!) I will be using fusible batting for my quilt though so hopefully that will help not make me want to kill the blocks and eliminate any need for additional basting methods. Is this realistic? Or am I still going to have to baste some?

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Cross Stitch SAL update

Exciting milestone alert!

No I haven’t finished a piece but I have finished a section of a piece. The first leaf is done! (as well as a couple little forays north with the left over threads) And I’ve moved onto doing a little of the green leaves at the bottom too. Here’s where I was last time:

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and compared to where I am now:

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There’s definitely some colour changes that you can’t see so I’ll have to edit that on the pattern but for the most part I’m pretty happy with how it’s looking so far. And I love that I have finally moved onto some of the green.

I’ve also been playing around with another idea that isn’t up to sharing yet but all I can say is I have remembered just how much I hate stitching over two! Unfortunately the design needs to be done like that so I will have to put up with it.

The other stitchers talking part on the Sal are linked here:

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

We post about the progress on our individual projects every three weeks and you should check out what the others are up to.

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Presents in the Post

I wanted to share some happy mail I’ve gotten over the last week. First up was some un birthday presents from Claire. She sends out little gifts to people that you can see over on her blog which is such a lovely idea.

Here’s what she sent me.

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A cute little thread catcher prefect for beside my sewing machine which has been put to immediate use. Before I’d have stray pieces of thread attaching themselves to everything but now they are (for the most part) contained in this little cotton dish.

She also sent a random assortment of charm squares which are lovely. I’m just starting along in this fabric journey so it’s great to add some more colour to my shall stash.

I rarely got much in the post but on the same day I also received this card from a friend and it also has a little gift inside.

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It’s so lovely to receive little happy post, it’s something that I should really try to do more of myself, knowing how much it makes me smile.

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The Liebster Award

So here is the other award which I got nominated for by Jordan who blogs over at herpaperadventures. I had a lot of fun answering her questions which you can read below. The only problem I have with these posts is trying to think of my own (I may have stolen a couple)!

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Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and answer the 11 questions they’ve written for you.
  • Nominate 11 people and give them 11 different questions to answer.

 

Jordan’s Questions:

1. You’re stranded on an island, you get three books, which ones do you pick and why?

Avoiding the clever answers of how to build a raft and such, I think I’d pick survival (alpha force) because they were stranded on an island and survived and that would be nice to read about. Harry potter no reason needed. Game of thrones because its big and would keep me distracted and if I got bored of rereading it then at least I wouldn’t run out of toilet paper for a while….

2. What’s your favourite book you’ve read this year so far?

I think it would be crooked kingdom, which was actually the first book I’ve read this year, though a couple since have come close to toppling it.

3. What book did you think you’d hate but actually loved?

I’m not really sure why I’d read a book that I thought id hate, but a book that I wasn’t expecting to like that much… I liked angelfall a lot more than I thought I would. Also daughter of smoke and bone was probably the one that surprised me the most.

4. Do you have any pets? How many? What are their names?

I have a black and white cat called benji, unfortunately he doesn’t live with me, he’s at home with my brother.

5. What are your top three places you’d love to visit?

This is so difficult. If I was well tomorrow I’d pick three different places to if I could simply go to three places as I am. As is, I think I’d pick Berlin and Perth to visit two of my best friends and ….. I’m not sure about a third.

If I were well I’d want to go to Barcelona, Croatia and koh toa in Thailand as well but I wouldn’t go to any of these places if I was still sick.

6. Who’s your book boyfriend?

Ooh. I think I’d have to pick Eli monpress because things would never be boring.

7. Favourite kickass female character?

Talia from the poison eater. I mean she eats poison and survives and cut off her own hand to save herself so yeah. Pretty badass.

8. Who is your auto buy author?

I really don’t have one. I’ve never really paid attention to the author. It was only when I started book blogging that i even knew the names of the authors of my favourite books because I had to write them in my blog posts. At the moment I have a few VE Schwab and Maggie Stiefvater books on my tbr but even then, only the ones that appealed to me. I’d never buy a book solely on the author. I think the closest I’ve come to this is when I was younger and Anthony Horowitz. He wrote the Alex rider series, the gatekeepers (this is what good reads says they were called but I’m sure they used to be called the power of five) and the diamond brothers series which were all brilliant. I thought he could do no wrong so if he wrote it I bought it. That was until I read some short horror stories he wrote and had to sleep with the light on for a week. Lesson learnt.

9. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you pick?

Lanzarote, canary islands. It’s a Spanish island off the coast of Africa. We go on holiday there every year and fingers crossed we’ll move there in a few years.

10. What is a book that is so underrated bit you love?

I’m naming two, these are the two that I will always pick. They’re both first books in their respective (and freaking awesome) series. The thief by Megan Whalen turner and the spirit thief (the legend of Eli monpress) by Rachel Aaron. Yes okay, they are both thieves but they are sarcastic little geniuses that deserve an audience to perform to.

11. How many books do you own that you haven’t read yet?

About twenty which I’m sure some of you are thinking wow that’s really good but I’ve never been one to buy loads of books without reading them. This is a really high number for me. It’s only since I’ve gotten my ereader that this had happened because I tend to buy books I want whenever they are on sale so I can read them later. Before I only ever had three or maybe four books unread at a time.

 


 

My questions:

1. If you had to pick one, what would you say is the achievement you’re most proud of?

2. What was your favourite book you read last year?

3. If you could visit one place and live there for a month where would you go?

4. What’s one thing you want to be able to look back on this year and say I did that?

5. Favourite book with an animal in it?

6. Where did your blog name come from?

7. If you could pick one craft to be suddenly proficient in/have all the supplies for, what would you pick?

8. What would be your top three places to visit?

9. What’s your favourite word?

10. What would be in a bouquet of your favourite flowers? Or would it all be one? Or anything of a particular colour?

11. What’s your favourite song right now?

 

My Nominees:

Karin @ Anotherpieceofme

Liz @ Travelinretrospect

Kathy @ Sewing Etc

Emma @ bluchickenninja

Tash @ Thebookiemonster

Mrs Craft @ craftandothercrazyplans

Emz @Emzcraftycreations

Louise @ Geniereads

Heather @ Bits&books

Emily @ thebookishlounge

Maddie @ Storiesandspoons

I’ve tried to pick people who might want to do it (and haven’t done it very recently) but if you don’t then I’m obviously not forcing you and if there’s anyone else who does want to do it then I tag you too. I did another award tag a couple of days ago which is here so you can pick which one you would rather do. That one is a more simple post that asks you to say why you started your blog and give two pieces of advice. This one here is a little more time consuming though I had fun doing it.

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