Memo Pad: Book Reviews April (#1)

This is a bit of a weird Memo Pad. I read a lot of books this month (and last month because technically I read Matilda at the end of last month) and if I put all of the reviews in one post then this will be ridiculously long. Also, and more importantly, I went on holiday this month and only got back on the 28th which means I haven’t had time to put my reviews for the books I’ve read while away on holiday in this post. So, all that means is that, only the reviews of books I read before leaving are in this post plus a separate list of the books I’ve managed to read on holiday with my rating of them. I’m going to do another post with their actual reviews next week some time.

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Read: 4 + 5                                     Bought: 2        DNF:1

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Matilda by Roald Dahl *****

Hmm, I’m actually not sure why I’ve given this a two star. I’m trying to think of something I liked about it but honestly the only thing I can think of is: I loved the musical….

Now, before people jump on me, I NEVER get on with ‘classics’. I think it’s the writing style. I just don’t enjoy reading it, it feels a bit too distant for me. I found it very interesting how, coming from watching the film and musical first, I have good memories of Matilda as a main character but reading this, and I’m certain it’s because of the writing style, she came across to me like a really nasty little child. I think if we were in her head and felt her pain, rather than having the story narrated to us, I would have felt for her more and her actions would have felt more justified and vindicated. I guess this is why they say show don’t tell. I had absolutely no affinity with her.

I also felt that there is, especially in the first part of a book, the suggestion that people who read are somehow better and superior than those who don’t. Whether because they can’t or because they chose not to which I don’t agree with.

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The Jewel by Amy Ewing *****

Violet Lasting is no longer a human being. Tomorrow she becomes Lot 197, auctioned to the highest royal bidder in the Jewel of the Lone City. Tomorrow she becomes the Surrogate of the House of the Lake, her sole purpose to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess. Imprisoned in the opulent cage of the palace, Violet learns the brutal ways of the Jewel, where the royal women compete to secure their bloodline and the surrogates are treated as disposable commodities. Destined to carry the child of a woman she despises, Violet enters a living death of captivity – until she sets eyes on Ash Lockwood, the royal Companion. Compelled towards each other by a reckless, clandestine passion, Violet and Ash dance like puppets in a deadly game of court politics, until they become each other’s jeopardy – and salvation.

An offer for this book arrived in my inbox from bookbub and it was actually exactly the kind of book that I felt like reading in that moment so I bought it. Now I don’t normally like reading dystopian books, the ones I’ve read start to feel rather generic after a time. Teenage girl gets given an opportunity that she’d rather not have and through this gets put in a new situation where her world grows that offers opportunities to change things. That’s one way of describing this book but its also possible to take that and use it for at least a dozen other popular dystopians. (hunger games, wool, 100, divergent, the selection, the testing…)

And this one was VERY generic but I was expecting that, I just wanted a fun, exciting three star read to devour on a crappy day but whoa was there a dose of massive instalove of the worst kind shoe-horned into this book.

I also want to point out that the world building wasn’t necessarily done very well. I mean the world is based around concentric circles, the centre one being the richest. The middle ring is the factory sector and we’re told that the smoke is so thick it darkens the sky…. But then we are into the farming sector and that smog… Disappears? Yeah, world building there is a bit dodge.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir *****

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice. For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands of Scholars, all in the name of power. When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death. But once Laia and Elias meet, they find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire.

This was a good book. I enjoyed it a lot…. I honestly don’t have anything else to say about it though? I’m not sure why. It was a solidly built world and interesting plot. There was an absolutely heartbreaking moment in it that seriously brought the tears out but weirdly I came away from this feeling pretty indifferent. There wasn’t anything particular about it? It was just another book that filled some time. Four stars means I definitely enjoyed reading it but I just think it was pretty forgettable once I’d finished it. I think it was the characters, I’m a very character based reader and I didn’t think either of the main characters had anything that was particularly unique about them, I mean, I don’t want a special snowflake character but there wasn’t anything to make them stand out in my mind from the hundreds of other books I’ve read.

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The Heartstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta *****

In the City of Brea, thieves and sorceresses do not mix.
When Curtis Vance—professional thief—stumbles into a sorceress’s trap, he’d prefer to kill her than help her. Now bound to the insane sorceress, his only escape (and chance to turn a profit) is to find the long forgotten Dragon Eye gem. Little does Vance know, the Dragon Eye holds more than the key to Vance’s freedom. The Eye could awaken a devastating power—a worldkiller bent on destruction, and Vance is all that stands in its way.

3.5 stars rounded up for the interesting back story.
I like thieves. A lot. So when I saw someone mention this book on a blog I immediately went to look it up and found it sitting prettily on netgalley just waiting for me to click it. I wasn’t planning on reading any books from netgalley this month because of my holiday but I couldn’t resist.
The thief in this book is a fella by the name of Curtis Vance who gets suckered into a job against his will and involved in things much deeper than he had planned. Cue myths, magic, dragons and a certain sorceress mixing things up.
I found Vance’s backstory refreshingly different, rather than tragic events happening to him as a child, as is so common in this genre, he was the one that caused horrible things to happen. I haven’t seen that before and it made this book stand out to me. That said, I felt like there was something missing in the telling that stopped me from loving Vance. I didn’t quite get to know him enough for him to be a lovable rogue and the plot was a little bit too easily solved in the end. I also didn’t think the romance angle made that much sense, there wasn’t enough shown between them to warrant what happened. But then I don’t like romance much so maybe others won’t feel the same


Holiday Reads:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater  *****

The Captive Prince by CS Pacat  *****

Wilful Machines by Tim Floreen   *****

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab *****

The Untimely Deaths of Alex by Wayfarer by MG Buehrlen *****


DNF:

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke 


Books Bought:

I want to say I was very good this month and only bought two books but I mean really that’s only becuase I went on a book buying spree at the end of last month so didn’t need to. But anyway, here are the two I bought, both were on offer for 99p.

The Jewel by Amy Ewing & We were Liars by E. Lockhart.

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Top 5 Tips for Holidays whilst ill

I’m currently on holiday (WOO!) and thought this would be a great opportunity to share some tips for traveling when Chronically ill as I know this can be a pretty daunting thing to even think about. I mean where do you even start and what happens if you have a flare/crash/massive spike in symptoms while you’re in a foreign country? (I have experienced this and I was by myself, I survived…obviously) So I though I would give this blog post a go and maybe make it a little less daunting.

This is mainly aimed at flying abroad and obviously, everyone’s illnesses are different, even those with the same one, but these tips are, I hope, pretty universal.

 

My Top 5 Tips:

1) Assistance

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Book assistance people! Even if you don’t normally use a wheelchair, even if you think there are probably other people who need it more, even if you could probably just about manage without. Do it. Airports are very big places with a lot of waiting around, the amazing thing is multiple people can use assistance at once, they have whole teams of people ready to help, did I mention airports are VERY big places. Personally when I go away, we bring my wheelchair with us and my parents push me so we just check in and are allowed to bring it all the way through to the gate where they put it in the hold for you. But I’ve used assistance by myself before and it’s been a lifesaver. It saves so much energy that you could be using for other things (fun things!). So please try not to feel to self-conscious about it, It is there for you. That is it’s purpose. (Has anyone noticed that I always use the same photo of my wheelchair? I only have one. I have had him for YEARS now but I NEVER remember to take a photo of me in it!)

2) Plan your attack

Before you go think about how you are going to manage. (Obviously, wait, I’m going to explain…) If your mobility is limited like mine think of distances between places. You might want to be in a built up resort so everything is close and available or you might prefer somewhere quiet where you can rest and relax.Photo 15-10-2014, 16 52 31

You might want to think about the type of accommodation, high rise hotels are good because you won’t ever be too far away from facilities whereas some hotels are resorts in themselves sprawling over large areas with eight restaurants and five pools. Also think about how far from the airport your accommodation is. After dealing with a flight you might want to make sure you get to the accommodation quickly rather than another hour long transfer. Think about when you are going to eat, before you go, at the airport, on the plane, once you get there. Think about times of the flights, if you can pick, decide when would be best for you to fit rest in before/after. There is nothing worse for me than surviving the however many hours of traveling only to arrive and have to hang around for another couple of hours because check in isn’t till later.

 

 

3) Don’t over do it

This is more a personal opinion I guess, it’ll be down to preference but when I go away I’d rather enjoy my time than over do it with the experiences and spend my time regretting it. There isn’t anything worse for me (I realise I’ve said that already and I will probably say it again) than over doing it on an outing then having to spend the next few days in bed feeling sick and my holiday slipping away from me. You’re going to be doing a bit more than usual. Probably. You’re going to be tired from flights and traveling, but pushing to do everything you possibly can might end up with you in agony and wishing you were at home.

I make sure I do NOTHING the first day. If I’m in a hotel I get the room service for my first night, I don’t even leave the room. The next day, no matter how much I want to, I don’t get in the pool, I definitely don’t go out. I’m on holiday and I want to be enjoying it but I’d much rather rest and twiddle my thumbs for the first day than spend the rest of the holiday trying to catch up on rest. Which brings me on to rest activities. Bring things with you for these moments. For me, that’s books and music. I might not be getting in the pool and I might not be getting a tan but I can still lie down in the shade reading a book or listening to summery music while watching the clouds /planes in the sky. I’m still enjoying my holiday and I’m being kind to myself so that I can enjoy the whole week not just one really good day.

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(I actually don’t leave the hotel/villa AT ALL on my holidays, apart from the travelling there/back. Seriously, I spend all my time ENJOYING the poolside, sunshine and yummy food rather than paying for an outing but that is personal preference and to do with my individual illness.)

 

4) The journey.

Be a bitch. I really mean that. You need help? Get assistance. Don’t dither and say ‘oh, its okay, I can manage’ if they look a bit under staffed. Sit it out. Don’t ruin your holiday because you didn’t want to be a hassle. Block everyone out if you have to. I do. I put in my headphones and listen to music to block out the noise, I wear sunglasses to help with the light. Maybe a hat or hoodie to block out some of the extra surroundings. Do whatever you need and plan for it before you go so you have everything handy.Photo 22-08-2013, 20 45 34

I’m expecting at this point you already have the traveling/assistance dealt with but think about light, sound, smell and being comfortable. Sunglasses or a sleep mask for the flight if you think that might be helpful. Headphones or ear defenders to block out the noise. If strong smells get to you then think about how you might combat it, I bring a scarf and spritz the end with my favourite perfume and put it in my bag just in case I need it. Think about warmth and temperature changes, planes tend to be cold places but you might end up somewhere very warm, short of bringing a whole extra change of clothes, think layers. Warm socks for the plane, a warm jumper or hoodie over a tank top, a scarf in your bag. Comfortable clothes! Think if you need a travel pillow or something soft to lean against. I book the window seat on planes so that I have more to lean against but you might prefer to book an aisle seat so you can stretch or get to the toilets easier.

 

5) Pack

Pack early. I don’t mean in the morning. I normally pack as much as I can about two weeks before I travel. This way most things are sorted and I only have to put a few last minute things in (electronics, toothbrush…) which means I can rest up and sort myself out rather than spreading myself too thin before I’ve even left. Also, pack everything you might need. Those drugs you’ll probably be okay without, pack them. Those painkillers you probably won’t need until you get there? Hand luggage. The Pillow that helps you sleep… Stuff that in there too. There’s nothing worse than ending up somewhere and needing something you can’t get. So your suitcase gets a little bit bigger? They give you a lot of baggage allowance and I’m normally way under the limit anyway (I only have so many comfy clothes) and if you have assistance at the airport then they’ll help you with baggage too.

 


 

I hope you’ll find some of these helpful. I’m going to be staying in a villa with my parents and we’re going back to Lanzarote where we’ve been many times before. Depending on the severity of your illness, it is possible to do it alone too, I have before. Very successfully and not so successfully as well (which was completely my fault for over doing it) but I learnt from my mistakes and have been away very successfully by myself again since then. There is lots of help available and with lots of planning you can have a very enjoyable holiday.

I’m away right now, obviously, but if anyone has any questions or wants more info about my experiences then I will be more than willing to answer them once I’m back.

I’d also love to hear any of your tips and experiences of going on holiday while ill. What do you always look for or do that helps you? Or if you don’t what is the main thing that stops you?

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Another mini finish

I have another small finish to show you all!WP_20170329_19_02_29_Pro

I’m really quite enjoying having small projects on the go whilst I’m doing a large project, it’s great to have some finished along the way.

The Ravenclaw pin cushion that I had started for the last update is now done. Here it is fully stitched:

I’m really happy with how the back stitched scrolling on the sides came out. But I decided against back stitching the top after trying it out because it just didn’t look right.

That does mean that the top looks a bit more bare compared to the slytherin pin cushion that I made but I don’t think that’s too much of a problem.

I also managed to get it made up too:

 

Once the stitching is done, the cutting, stuffing and seaming only takes about half an hour to do all together and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I actually like it a bit more than the Slytherin one. Whoops. Here are both of them together so you can see what I mean about the fronts being different.

I’ve already uploaded the pattern to my etsy and plans for the Gryffindor version are already in motion.

Here are the links of everyone else who takes part in the stitch a long:

 

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

We all post progress on whatever we are stitching every three weeks. It’s a wonderful way to keep motivated if your like me and end up with lots of WIPs rather than finished projects!

I’m away on holiday at the moment so I won’t be going around the houses or replying to comments this weekend (if I do, tell me off please) but I’ll try to take a look at everyone’s progress once I’m back and reply then.

Happy stitching everyone!

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Top 10 Things that make me want to read a book

Top Ten Tuesdays are a book meme held over on The Broke and The Bookish. They pick the weeks topic and everyone can do their lists and link up and see what other people have picked.

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This weeks topic is: Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

And I mean that’s a pretty brilliant topic for me because I definitely have my favourite tropes and if you tell me a book with any of them in I will automatically look them up. I am there. So without further ado. Here’s the top ten things that will make me pick up a book:


 

A Clever Protagonist

I want them one step ahead (at least), and even when everything goes wrong I want them to find a different path and still end up in front. They need an ace up their sleeve. Think Kaz Breker or Locke Lamore. Give me a guy with a plan and let me watch then out manoeuvre the world (even better if the world under-estimates them). ALL of my favourite books have a clever/cunning main character.

 

A morally grey character or situation –

Things are never black and white, okay? That just doesn’t happen. Give me a character who isn’t in to saving the world and being the shining light and is kind of just doing their own thing when they get forced into the situation and I will like them a thousand times more. Or, DO give me a shining light, brilliantly, golden child and put them in a situation where they realise they were wrong and they don’t know what wrong and right is anymore and….I will love them a thousand times more? I said that already. Point is, it’s just so much more interesting to be grey.

 

Sarcasm/banter –

Hello, it’s funny and if you can make your characters pull it off and have the dialog run smoothly and naturally then you sir are an awesome writer and I love those moments where I’m just sitting here grinning like an idiot and whispering oooh, burn to myself as I read and probably reread passages.

 

A thief….

I don’t know what it says about me that all my favourite characters are thieves. If a book is a about a thief there is a 100% chance I will look it up. I would like to say that I like the fact that you don’t have to be big and strong to be the brave protagonist in a story but honestly, I just have a soft spot for thieves.

 

A crew / A found family…

By that I mean friends. Give me the best friendships you could ever imagine. Give me bonds that have nothing to do with romance that are unbreakable and the thought of them breaking physically hurts the characters. Give me brothers and sisters who mean everything to each other. Give me a lost little broken thing finding a home and I will be hugging them until…. I’ll just keep hugging them.

 

Interesting magic system –

Self explanatory? Don’t just tell me it’s magic and have that solve everything either. I want to understand the limits.

 

The promise of NO love story –

Also self explanatory. If I see in a review that there was no romance then I’m more likely to give the book a second look. I’m not actually against romance as a sub plot but we seem to be drowning in instalove and love triangles lately and I mean really, is it impossible to have a male and female character and have them NOT have feelings for each other? If it’s done well then okay but it doesn’t HAVE to happen. I kind of hate the inevitability of it all.

 

Real Mythological Gods who play favourites –

Gods that are on or off page influencing events or even better a specific person. (I never liked the Percy Jackson books and I don’t know why). They don’t have to be real world myths like ancient Greece/Egypt, they can be fictional too. Some of my favourite books include this (The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron, A Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet). I need more of this in my life so definitely let me know if you have and recommendations that come to mind.

 

Shape shifting dragons?

I mean, I haven’t really read any of these apart from Seraphina, but that would seriously be a tag line that would get me to at least read the blurb of any book. I want more shape shifting dragons in my life. Please give me recs and if they happen to fit any of the other above tropes then even better.

 

And finally, I would also like to say that if there is only one main character then I am much more likely to read it if its a male character. I don’t know why. (internalized sexism? The fact that female led books always end up with romance? That I just don’t identify with the characters as much? Who knows) That’s just what I’ve always preferred reading. That’s not to say I don’t read female lead books because I definitely do, it’s just a lot easier to sell me a male led book. All my favourite books have got male leads in unless they are multiple POV.

 


Phew, that was fun. If reading this list makes you think of ANY books that fit some of these then please do let me know in the comments.  And what about you? Any of these things you love reading about? Do you hate any of them?

Also, give me recs, all the recs!!

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Quilt Update

I said it the last post that I’m using fusible batting and I can confirm its amazing!

My first four blocks are mostly quilted.

To start with I stitched in the ditch around each of the patterned fabrics, then went on to add borders 1/4 inch out from those which was easy enough, just following my quilting foot as a guide. But then I came into a bit of an issue. I wanted to quilt a border 2 inches out from that line and I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. My normal machine foot has an attachment for a quilting guide (not that its very good, it moves when I try to use it!) but my walking foot doesn’t. In the end I routed out a pack of dpn knitting needles and attached one to my sewing machine with some tape at 2 inches to get a straight line. Am I missing something obvious? Surely there’s a normal way to do this?

It worked in any case.

 

After that I added a final border to keep the edges neat and fabric all together. The stitches are close enough to the edge to be covered during the joining stage but should be just about far enough in to not be cut off when squaring.

Now that I’ve quilted the edges I know I could square the blocks off but I’m not going to until I’ve done ALL the blocks just to make sure they all end up the same size.

After lots of helpful pointers on my last update post, I deciding on colour matching my threads and settled on using yellow for the three yellowish fabrics and a blue for the three bluer fabrics. I had these in my stash.

I’ve done the straight line quilting over the pattern fabrics, I’m a little worried this is going to end up a little too densely quilted and not very drapey. I think I’ll keep the quilting over the patterned fabrics a little further apart next time. I haven’t done it on the rectangle block as I will have to wait and see if it will be lain horizontal or vertical in the final quilt.

I ended up keeping the thread for the back white and used yellow on top. There are little dots of yellow on the back if you look really closely but its not that noticeable. And I knew I wanted to keep the back mostly white but the more I thought about it the more I wanted a colour on the colour fabrics.

There is still a little bit of quilting to do. I didn’t manage to get on to the free motion quilting that I want to do to finish these four blocks as I need to make a start on my mothers birthday present if I have any chance of that being done by her birthday at the end of April. (especially considering we are going away next week!)

But that will be the last bit of quilting I need to do (granted it’s also the most difficult bit) so I’m almost there with my first set of blocks. Just five more sets to go!

It went pretty quickly so I’m back to hoping that I might manage to get this quilt done by the end of the year!

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Cross Stitching On (SAL Update)

Progress is a bit scattered on this one. Lots of chunks of different greens. I’ve been picking a colour and following it around the pattern so I’m not focusing on one leaf like I was last time. But here’s where I was last time and this time with lots more green.

You can see about how wide it’s going to be now, though obviously I have a lot of stitches to fill in. You can also see the bottom but there’s still a lot more on top to add in. There’s already four different greens on there and there’s a few more to come as well before moving onto the blues and then the reds and so on. I thought this would be really daunting as I’ve never worked with half as many colours as this but I’m really enjoying it. (Am I allowed to say that or is that floating my own boat seeing as I designed it? haha)

I’ve also started stitching a Ravenclaw version of my pin cushion. I’ve gotten all of the cross stitches in the sides done but there’s still a lot of back stitching to do and of course the “Accio Pins” to add on the front. I’m really loking the look of the scrolls but I’m not sure whether I should back stitch them or not. And if I do what colour? Black around all of it or bronze/blue. It looks fine as is, but I did back stitching on the front of the Slytherin version and I want them to look like a set. Here’s how far I’ve gotten and the Slytherin one (before I put it together) to remind you of what it looked like. What do you think about backstitching the scrolls?

 

This is my post for the stitch along I’m participating in. We post the progress we have made with whatever projects we are working on and have a look around and share encouragement with everyone else.

Here’s the links to the others:

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

And we have two newcomers this time around as well:

Mary Margaret and Timothy

I’m on holiday during the next SAL update but I should have something to share as I’ll get some stitches down before I go and I’ll try to take a look at everyone’s progress when I get back.

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