Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Review: Waking Giants

 Title: Waking Gods (Book 2 of Themis Files)
Author: Sylvain Neuval
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

So I was beyond stoked to get an eARC of Waking Gods and prioritized it to be ready within a week or two of approval. And I certainly wasn't wrong to be so hyped as this book was AWESOME! 

The first 30 pages is slightly dull as it's ten years since the end of Sleeping Giants and so we spend some time catching up with everyone (after the opening chapter gives us the 'hook' to stay interested). I'm not a very good binge reader as I can't sit still for 3+ hours at a time; but given the opportunity I think I could binge Waking Gods as it's that fast paced! 

Not only does Waking Giant keep you engaged but it also keeps you guessing and ensures you understand that no one is safe. There are always victims of war and Sylvain Neuval keeps the realism flowing by ensuring that on one character is sacred or safe. 

At about the 75% point an 'ah-ha' moment is revealed that once explained I felt dumb for not figuring it out! Even though it's a vastly complex theory, but that's how well Neuval can explain intricate scientific concepts. His ability to explain complex science reminds me of Michael Crichton's skill to bring science down to palatable, digestible explanations for us non-science folks. I'm so glad that someone today has this special talent. 

I think for me part of what makes Waking Gods, and the Themis series to date, so compelling; is that it's based in plausible truth. This is something many fantasy and science fiction books don't do well. The more relatable the scenarios the easier it is to be caught up in the story. I have no doubt that the average reader will easily follow all along. 

I could go on and on about how amazing this book is. But instead let me say, read it! Start with book 1 as this is a series that must be read in order. 

I intentionally say little about plot or situations as I don't want to spoil any of the amazing moments in this wonderfully written novel. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Review: Withering Rose


Title: Withering Rose 

Author: Kaitlyn Davis

Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale, Fantasy

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Whew am I glad that is over! Withering Rose and I did not get along. Book 1, Gathering Frost, was sooo much better than this one. 

I think the issue with Withering Rose is that it stuck too close to its Beauty and the Beast roots at times (and at other times when I wanted it to stick to the original story it didn't). For example, when you have the opportunity to describe one of the most famous fictional libraries ever don't you exploit it?! Apparently not, as Kathryn Davis decided not to... 

There was a lot of random babbling in this book, less focus and with no scenery changes (everything happens in the castle) it got dull fast. It didn't help that some passages were just annoying.

"Glimmering silver. Stormy gray. Sharp steel."

I get it, his eyes are grey. Moving on... 

Oddly I'm still excited to read the next book when it comes out because I love the smashed together worlds Davis has created for this series. In this book as learn more about how magic works, why some have it and others don't, as well as get some exposure to "natural" magic versus "stolen" magic. Very interesting and I can see the complexities of the magic system really starting to build. 

All in all I would say read/skim this one just to get through it (assuming when book 3 comes out it's as good as book 1). It wasn't bad enough that I want to ditch the series or author; it was just missing something (action, plot, adventure, characters, engaging dialogue...) that made book 1 so memorable and enjoyable. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: Girl out of Water

 Title: Girl out of Water
Author: Laura Silverman
Genre: Young Adult, Coming of Age
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a very realistic and fair portrayal of what it's like to be a teen torn from their home for a summer they didn't expect. The dialogue, thoughts and actions of Anise, our lead gal, are genuine and honest. This is not a girl who is perfect and selfless; this is a teen girl who is bitter and confused but also sensitive and caring. I found myself relating to many of the things Anise said or did. All things I thought or did as a teen. 

I believe Anise is a teen much like many of us were (or are). Selfish at times, but not because she doesn't care but because life is hard and being a teen is even harder. 

The love interest in Girl out of Water is probably the most frustrating part. While I like him, he's a little too perfect. I would have liked to see him have some vulnerable moments and share times when he's struggled. With the love interest being a little more realistic there might be a fifth star for this book, but as it is I just can't rate it next to Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes at five stars. That said, this is a solid four star read. 

This is not a book where the plot moves the story forward; in fact there is very little plot. Instead this is a character development book focuses on Anise and her 'coming of age' story. I didn't have a problem with it and felt it had just enough of everything. 

I would recommend this book for anyone that enjoys average teens doing average things for stories. Or anyone who is struggling with leaving to go somewhere. This is an excellent story to gift to a teen that is moving homes, being forced on a vacation they don't want to go on or anyone that is struggling with change. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave great or poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stitching: UFO FINISH!!!

Okay I can't lie, I'm super excited about this finish. 
Now this is a bit unusual for me as I don't stitch to have finishes. I stitch because I love it. Finishes are a side bonus. If someone told me I'd work on the same piece forever and never finish I'd still want to stitch. Strange but true. 
That said I read to finish books so I get the obsession with finishing. 

Here I was the other week going through my stitching basket that should only have "active" projects in it (limited space near my chair) and I find this little beauty over 3/4 finished. I could barely remember why I didn't finish it... until I started back in on it. While absolutely beautiful it is a big PITA. 
Metallic threads, variegated silk, fragile easily stretched linen and a pattern full of random errors (mandalas should be identical all on ALL sides; yes I fixed mine up as I couldn't handle the inconsistencies). 
But I pushed to get it done (only took another 10 or so hours which isn't bad). 
Here's the finished product! 
Medieval Hearts
By Kelsyn's Designs 
On 28ct hand-dyed linen 
Rainbow gallery metallic and Waterlilies silk

So there you have it an actual finish of something that was stashed so poorly I forgot about it and just didn't get back to it. :) 

Got another little Mill Hill finish on it's way and an update for Alice soon! 
Happy Stitching!

Book Review: Gathering Frost


Title: Gathering Frost

Author: Kaitlyn Davis

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Gathering Frost is a surprisingly well thought out book and a lovely kick-off to a new series based on fairy tales. Our first tale is that of Sleeping Beauty and yet nothing like Sleeping Beauty. It's clever in its use of the idea of being asleep or emotionless and has some great characters. 

Yes it's a young adult book so there is the required romance and all that. But while there are moments where I roll my eyes a good 85% of this book is solid story telling. With interesting and believable characters Kaitlyn Davis provides us with a magic system and fantasy world that (literally) crashes with our own and creates unique and interesting scenarios. 

I didn't go in with very high expectations necessarily but without a doubt I am blown away by what a good read this is. It's so rare to find interesting and unique retellings of fairy tales (Cinder is another amazing one). Goodness knows there are enough of them out there right now! 

Additionally I couldn't help but have major feelings about the photo walls. It reminded me so much of our real world and the search for lost ones after crises or the average milk carton missing child. Very sad and difficult to deal with. This use of a photo wall was easily a major turning point for me to realize that Davis had really thought out this idea for a split word and wasn't just slapping words on the page. 

Overall it's a nice, light, well built read. Gathering Frost measures up in an over saturated genre of typical fairy tales. Looking forward to more in this series! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: Crown of Ice


Title: Crown of Ice 

Author: Vicki L. Weavil

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars - did not finish

DNF @ 35% 

I hate to not finish books but I honestly couldn't handle another I this, I that, you this, you that sentence. And that's all there was in this book! 

This is a cute little story of a Snow Queen trying to save herself by putting together a magical mirror that was once broken. It's obvious there are twists, world building, magic and more characters to come in this first book of a series; but I just couldn't handle the writing style any longer. Not only is it juvenile but extremely repetitive. Young adult books do not need to read as though they are for five year olds. Give teens and kids some credit; they can understand a book that doesn't tell us every little thing. 

Aside from the language the lack of showing bugged me in Crown of Ice. Every silly thing was described by our main gal and her POV. I know that wolves are loyal to a daily to their leader. I didn't need to be told once, though am okay with mentioning it once; I certainly didn't need to be told four times in 15 pages about the loyalty of a wolf. Onwards the progression of the story and characters went. 

Very stilted dialogue, unoriginal descriptions and the lack of understanding of how to write well in first person turned me off. From page 1 I had a feeling the style of writing was going to frustrate me, sadly I was correct. 

There might be something here that resembles a good story; I just couldn't hack through anymore "I" statements to get there. 

For this review and more visit my new book review blog at: <a href="">Epic Reading</a>

<I>Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave great or poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.</I>

Book Review: Children of the New World


Title: Children of the New World 

Author: Alexander Weinstein

Genre: Dystopian Sci-Fi, Short Story Anthology

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

There were three really solid little stories in this anthology of dystopia snippets. I say snippets because many of these stories are more ideas that haven't been fleshed out enough. 

Even the best writers can't tell a good story in 8 pages. Almost all the ideas in Alexander Weinstein's compilation of Children of the New World are unique and engaging; but most just don't have enough there to really make me feel like I was told a story with characters I can remember. 

Many of the stories I can barely remember the basic premise they were so short. 

The three stories definitely worth reading however are: The Pyramid & The Ass, Fall Line, Saying Goodbye to Yang. 

I hope Weinstein takes a concept or two and writes some substantial stories in the future. Even 100-200 pages could really be a difference maker to feel like there's a real message in his words. 

I'd definitely read fiction from him again; he has a great handle on dystopian futures that are weird and odd but all very believable. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave great or poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: The Change Room

 Title: The Change Room

Author: Karen Connelly

Genre: Women's Literature, LGBT

Rating: 3 out of 5

Let's start with things to know about The Change Room: 

       1) Sex: there is a lot of it; and not just alluded to but described in beautiful detail 

       2) LGBT: we have wonderful lesbian characters 

       3) Sex trade: is a focal point, but seen in a practical, loving way 

       4) Adultery: is the main theme and focus

       5) Ending: it just stops. Right at the moment where things were the most interesting!! 

       6) The main character is obsessed with having babies. To the point of utter annoyance to me (as someone whose mid-30s with no children and zero plans for any this was super frustrating).

       7) There are rape and molestation flashbacks   

The Change Room read quickly for me. Karen Connelly definitely knows how to write a compelling, forward moving story. At no point was I bored. This is not a traditional romance novel even though it has many descriptive sex scenes. It's really more of a literature piece. 

Set in Canada, and with many references to my home town (Calgary) I loved the descriptions and settings used. (Side note: I've lived in Alberta my whole life and never ever heard the 'Alberta curse' phrase she uses)

It's obvious that Connelly either did a lot of research on Greece and political matters as all the political and socio-economic things happening in the world in this book happened in real life. I found this refreshing. While not necessarily relevant to our main story it lent credibility to the overall text and I'm sure an English literature professor could find a hundred ways it relates to the story. 

The focus of Change Room is a married woman whom has two children, a content husband, and an 'average' life that many readers can likely relate to. But she's not really happy. Something is missing... in walks a gorgeous lady to the swimming pool one day and so begins an affair that changes everything in her life. 

Overall this book is intriguing, handles the subject matter really well and intelligently sheds light into a number of situations and scenarios society doesn't like to talk about (see list above) . It's very realistic and handles all its sensitive subject matter quite well. 

The reason for my 3-star review, given all these factors, is that just as the book feels like it's at a pinnacle moment that I'm dying to know how plays out, it ends!!! 

Yes it's an ending where you know what's about to be said and can decide how it plays out for yourself. However I just wanted way more! Normally wanting more would leave me with a high review and excitement. But in this case I felt so invested in the characters and their situations that I can't believe it ended! 

Maybe that's unfair... maybe there are tons of philosophical reasons why this ending is perfect. For me it was a huge let down and makes me frustrated as a whole with The Change Room and the investment of time I put into it. It's possible in a few days I'll feel differently but for right now it just felt like Connelly didn't want to decide how it ended and that feels cheap to me. 

I would recommend this book for anyone that wants a different perspective on the sex trade, affairs, lesbianism and suburban family life. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave good or bad reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Stitching - March Dragon

Completing the March dragon is like I'm caught up because May and March both start with M right? (Lol) 
Yeah I know now I'm more than a month behind. But I gotta say I don't really care. It is what it is and I'll get them done with I can. I'm allowing no stress on this SAL. Cause it's a silly thing to be anxious or stressed about. (And goodness knows I have enough of that at work!) 

So here's March dragon: 


In other news
I picked up an old UFO last night to complete it and I got a lot done. It's very satisfying to work on a UFO, for once! Usually I hate it if I've left it alone too long but this piece is very pretty. 
Pictures later this month when I anticipate it will be done! 
Thanks for stopping by! 

Book Review: Caraval

 Title: Caraval 
Author: Stephanie Garber 
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

First I want to say there is a lot of potential here. Great ideas and creativity in Caraval. But it just wasn't quite up to my expectations or standards. 

Essentially Caraval will make a stunning movie if put into the hands of the right studio and given a proper budget. Without a doubt it's a beautiful world that Stephanie Garber has presented to us. The magic, tone and use of colour will come across nicely on the silver screen. 

<i>So why doesn't this work so well as book? </i>

Let's start with this, 3 stars does not mean the book was bad to me. It just means it could be improved (a lot) and that at a number of moments I was annoyed or frustrated with it but the overall plot and characters are solid. 

<b>In Caraval I have two major complaints: </b>

1) The constant descriptions of smells (using colours), and ongoing, repetitive descriptions with little imagination. The actual things being described were beautiful but how it was written bugged me a lot. 

2) Magic needs rules. In order for a twist in a book to be truly shocking or worthy the readers need to feel like they know what's happening and when they are instead told something else have it stuck out as obviously the real truth. 

Throughout Caraval we are reminded that it's not all real. But with no mechanism to even begin to figure out what is real, it's frustrating to start formulating theories. I like it when I understand the rules of the magic or world and can feel like I have a sense of the twist. Whether I'm right or wrong at the end; so long as it's not a cheap twist, is okay because at least I felt invested in the story. In Caraval all I knew the whole book was something wasn't right and after awhile I was bored and wanted to get to the twist because I felt like anything could be true. This took away any true investment in the story and characters for me.

Some spoiler-y ranting... don't read below if don't want to have twist revealed. 


Why is the issue of the real Count never addressed? Was there one? Where is he? Isn't he expecting a wedding? 

Does Legend just have an everlasting amount of money that he keeps his actors employed all year around? What do they all do when it's not Caraval? 

If Julian is Legends brother (btw not shocking at all) how come Legend is so much more 'special'? I realize this story is likely being reserved for future novels (which is okay) but I felt that this reveal should have meant more than it did. 

Almost all magic in any world doesn't allow for people to come back from the dead exactly as they were before... of all the 'magical' things in this book I am bothered by this the most. 

Also there was zero reason to need to kill Dante, could just have had him make-up'd as dead. The whole concept of aging and mortality is a large factor in my lower rating of Caraval. It's just not realistic enough (okay I know your laughing, realistic magic? --but the reality is that we can accept a lot of things as magical; generally coming back from the dead isn't one of them). 

<I>Will I read the second book?</I>

I'm not sure... if it sticks with me maybe. But if I can barely remember the players and story in 6 months then possibly not.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book Review: The Mercy of the Tide


Title: The Mercy of the Tide

Author: Keith Rosson

Genre(s): Mystery, Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is a really odd book. You don't really understand the plot until the very end. The best description of The Mercy in the Tide I can think of is that it's a 'mans book' like Patrick deWitt novels. I don't mean that it isn't for women so much as it's a book about men and how they cope with grief. Our one female character is a nine year old deaf girl whom I just adore. Interestingly it's not that Keith Rosson forgot about women, it's that the main female character start out dead. And so we experience and learn about these women through the memories of the men left behind. It's quite clever. 

Told in rotating perspectives we get a slice of each person's struggles with grief. Ultimately this book is about grief; how to cope with it, move on from it, and eventually live with it. 

There are some interesting twists and turns that I can't say anything about for fear of ruining it. Just be assured that the story does develop and if at the halfway point you are enjoying the book but still not sure what the main plot is hang in there as it all comes together at the end.

Overall this book is interesting but not amazing for me. If I had skipped reading it I don't think I'd have missed out on something; however, it was good enough to finish. This is also outside my usual genre and so was a nice change both in content and writing style. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave good or bad reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: Uprooted

 Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novi
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I know you're thinking how could I not give five amazing stars to this highly loved book. So here's the thing, this book IS gorgeous! Naomi Novik's writing is lyrical, descriptive and overall beautiful. 

So what's the tiny problem? 

The end dragged a bit for me. I felt like Uprooted had two endings and while the second ending is gorgeous the first 'ending' d was expecting if one or two key things had played out differently. That said the last chapter is one of my favourite parts of the book and it maybe couldn't have worked so well if slotted into the 'ending' I was surprised wasn't the ending. That probably makes no sense... let me explain it this way. If you're seen the movie A.I. then you probably know that there was the beautiful 'blue fairy' ending which was serene and romantic; and if you turned off the movie at that moment it would be a really good movie. But instead Spielberg (and his alien obsession) had to add on a second ending. This is how I feel about the way Uprooted played out. Like an extra 40 pages (minus the last amazing chapter!!) could have been cut and it would have been so concise and not so drawn out. 

This adult fairy tale (yes it is adult there is a sex scene and a fair bit of violence and some moments of true depression) takes elements from Rapunzel, Cinderella, and other well known fairy tales; and yet it's not like any of them. It is truly its own story. 

There are so many themes in this book including: the most unusual but perfect romance, a sisterhood friendship, loyalty to family, and so much more. Uprooted is a book I can imagine being a best friend that I to go to when I hit a reading slump or the world is sucking the life out of me. And maybe when I inevitably re-read it I'll be prepared for the ending and appreciate it more. 

Overall my suggestion is if you love fairy tales read Uprooted. Let me clarify, I don't mean Disney fairy tales; I mean the true fairy tales where the end is happy but not perfect. It's like real life. You look back and think, well that didn't go exactly as I'd hoped, but it could have been worse so I'll take it and appreciate all the more the happiness I have been given. 

I'm confident most everyone will appreciate the gorgeous stringing of words that Novik has put into Uprooted, alongside believable characters with flaws that fit into an original and well developed fantasy world. Truly a book that every fantasy reader must have.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Stitching - Alice: A blob of cream, peach & pink

Are you all super excited to see pictures of blobs of cream, peach, pink and some brown for the next, who knows how long?
I hope so cause there's gonna be a lot of that on this HAED. :)

Below is the 'first' page of my HAED, being affectionately called "Alice". What she will eventually look like is to the right.
For those wondering... this is not the top left corner like most people start with. This is the bottom left hand corner because I was taught to stitch as a lefty even though I'm a righty. Anyways I stitch 'upside down' or some such thing. It doesn't actually matter so long as all the stitches and crosses go the same direction and I've been doing it this way for 20+ years and there's no way I'm changing. So I start in the bottom left hand corner of giant pieces like this and stitch to the right and up.
So here she is to date:

I know this update is so super exciting we all can't possibly hold in our glee. LOL. 
Sadly this little blob is hours and hours of work so far. But gotta keep in mind this is a long, long road; just like Dragons was. And there is by no means a time restriction on this girly. 

In other news: My March Dragon has been started trying to stay one month behind (and no more) from the SAL. It's a bit tough to motivate myself on the little Dragons right now because all I really want to do is work on Alice! But it'll work itself out I'm sure. 
Next week is my local Comic Con! So little to no stitching is likely, but lots of geeking out will be had! 
Happy Stitching!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: The Animators


Title: The Animators

Author: Kayla Rae Whitaker 

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars 

DNF (did not finish) after 23%. 

I realise I am going to be wildly unpopular if I give this a low rating as I did not finish this book and it's well loved by critics. Therefore I am leaving my star rating blank in order to not skew the rating downwards.

The reason for giving up is simple for me: 

I used to be a graphic designer, my husband still is, my brother works in special effects for movies and I've met dozens of comic book artists and other artists over the years. I can tell you one definitive thing from all that experience: We are NOT all train wrecks. PERIOD.

In fact most artists (of any kind) I know are really hard working people that bust their butts every day, for longer hours than the average 'office worker', and put their heart and soul into their artistry. Now are there some bad seeds out there, yes, in any industry (especially one as competitive as art) there always is someone who makes everyone else look bad. But as a general rule the art industry is not full of a bunch of washed up druggy losers there's too much work involved to just get noticed and they don't put the effort in. 

So why is this relevant? 

Because, as is so often the case, I feel like The Animators is setting up the art industry to be seen as awful. It's ironic that The Devil Wears Prada is one of the most honest books (and movies) out there. I have seen publishers be that awful, vague and mean; and I absolutely loved it so much because it was so true! However the same cannot be said for the Animators. I have met very few successful artists that are complete drugged out losers. And so I don't really understand what Kayla Rae Whitaker is trying to say with her portrayal of these two brilliant female artists (except to say that if art is hard for men it's doubly hard for women..?) as partying messes who have just made it big. 

Additionally, this book felt hard to read for me. I needed to work a bit too hard to follow the thoughts of the characters. It's likely a wonderful literary study but honestly as I was reading it all I could think was how much I wish it was A Visit from the Goon Squad which I really enjoyed. Maybe it's the difference in my personal view between the music industry and the art industry that I can accept a harsh, drug-addled perspective from the music world but not the art world. Maybe that makes me the one in the wrong... All I know is I just don't see the correlation that is being made here in this industry. 

At the end of the day it was just too much effort without any pay-off at the 23% mark. I didn't like either of our two main gals and was frustrated with both of them for being really annoying and just flat out dumb. Whether it was their relationships with one another, others, interviews on NPR, or their general laziness and overall stoned attitudes I just wasn't buying it; and therefore didn't feel 

any compassion towards them for it. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave great reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Review: Queens of Geek


Title: Queens of Geek 

Author: Jen Wilde

Genre: Teen

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Cute, cute, cute!!!

That's really the best description for Queens of Geek. This book is funny, heartfelt, adorable and genuine. The story resonates with me and I wish I had had this to read as a teenager. Not only is there lots of talk about coping with anxiety, but there are also moments discussing self esteem. These are two major issues I had as a teen and still have today even at the age of 34. 

This book does a wonderful job at showing that everyone gets nervous, anxious and self conscious. Whether your a celebrity, a shy girl, a geeky boy or a confident go-getter; you will still have moments of doubt and need support. 

True to its title Queens of Geek is very... well... geeky! So many amazing references to dozens of movies, books, tv series and comics. I couldn't help but feel like I was living the SupaCon alongside our characters as I appreciated every geeky moment. 

If you are not much of a geek you may find this book silly or ridiculous. But if you want to know how us fan girls feel surrounded by the geekiness we love this is a good book to portray it. Clearly Jen Wilde is a geek herself. 

So why only four stars... while this adorable book has some amazing moments of clarity in describing anxiety and self esteem; it's use of a three day span to bring two relationships together is a bit too quick for me. I especially felt that Charlie's storyline was a bit too rushed and somewhat unrealistic; even for a celebrity. That's not to say that there aren't some amazing moments in this book; it's just to say that Charlie's romantic moments seemed too soon. On the other hand Taylor's storyline was almost perfect. 

Overall an excellent teen read and one I'd buy for teens in the future. It knows it's audience and this is a true teen book, written for teens. It doesn't pretend to be anything else which I greatly appreciate. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book Review: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Title: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Author: Lisa See
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First let's set up a couple of things:
  1. this book is about tea. How it's grown, picked, fermented, dried, wrapped, sold, etc.
  2. this book is about being a Chinese minority (Akha) and how that makes one standout
  3. and this book is about international adoption. Both sides of adoption are explored here; the parent giving away their child and the child whom has been given up
The narrative is beautiful and generally compelling. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is without doubt a historical fiction novel; it's just that the history it tells is quite recent. And for many, including myself, it's always sobering and a bit shocking to think of people living without common amenities (like electricity and running water) in the late part of the 20th century. And not because necessarily choose to be without technology but because they are so poor and remotely located these amenities are foreign to them. 

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is so well researched you could probably write a thesis about the tradition and origin of tea from it. I hadn't read a Lisa See book before this and didn't know what to expect. At times while reading this I wondered how much was really true about the tea trade and Akha tradition. Had I paid attention I would have found out sooner (than the acknowledgements) that Lisa See did tons of research; never mind, she visited the area and villages she speaks about! This means the richness and details of tea and the culture are impeccable. It's even better that because they are presented in the context of our story the details are never boring. 

I know a few people have been put off by the beginning of this novel, and I too was a bit unsure. The introduction includes a very graphic description of a birth and a horror immediately following it. I can see how some would immediately stop reading for fear the whole book is this way. Rest assured, it's not. The most graphic parts are early in the story and not a common theme throughout. It is worth the pay-off to stick through the beginning if your at all captivated by Lisa See's gorgeous story and writing. 

That said, I can't help but feel this book would probably be five stars for me if there had been a little more restraint with the graphic details of birthing in a village with no amenities. As someone whom has not had children (and cannot) I felt like the explicit descriptions here were excessive and in the end added no real value even for someone like me who has not experienced or witnessed birth firsthand. I think it could have been described without all the gory moments. Another small critique is that midway through I felt like I had just read a thought and there it was repeated. So perhaps a tiny bit of editing the fat would have helped (not details of the tea or Akha; just the narrative of our main gal was a bit repetitive).  

Overall, a gorgeous book that reveals a part of Chinese (minority) culture most didn't even know existed (myself included). I would go far as to say this is the 'Memoirs of a Geisha' for the Akha. 

If you are at all intrigued by any of the following: Chinese culture, tea, one child policy, international adoption, the love a mother has, how a group goes from a traditional tribe to becoming a part of the 21st century, or historical fiction in general, then I believe you will enjoy this book immensely.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Book Review: Ensnared

Title: Ensnared
Author: Rita Stradling
Genre: Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I won't lie, I didn't go into this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast with high expectations. I mean we all know how the story goes; beauty falls for beast, saves him from life of hermit and they live happily ever after. Ensnarled tells the typical story for the first 50% of the book. Sure there are robots and AI involved but for the most part it's very true to the base story we all know so well. But at the 52% point things suddenly get really interesting. 

I didn't want to put this book down once I got into the second half. It's a wild science fiction romp where you need to ask yourself if a robot can harm humans... and if it did why would it want to. 

That's really the interesting piece to this book is the motivation of what drives our characters (and robots) to do what they do. The culmination of this story wraps itself up nicely and is quite satisfying. 

There are sexual scenes in this book. They are quite tastefully described and blissfully brief but without a doubt this is an adult book and not written for teens. 

I'm anticipating many reviewers will compare this to Meyer's Cinder. I think that is a poor comparison. The only thing the two have in common is they are fairy tale retellings that involve advanced technology. Otherwise they are completely different in both treatment, set-up and intent. 

If you like a cute, but 'how could this ever work' romance, with some science fiction thrown in and discussions around what it truly means to be human than I think you will greatly enjoy this book. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Book Review: The Ship

Title: The Ship
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Science Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is a very philosophical book. And like many philosophical books it starts out strong, lags in the middle, and ends with a bold statement. I love the beginning of it, but by about 150 pages in I was feeling like the same thing was being said using different scenarios and words. I feel I got it the first time and didn't need to be told for a couple hundred more pages. The final couple lines of this book are gorgeous and the kind that people will write on their whiteboards for inspiration. I just worry that most people won't get there because they fall asleep.

There are a lot of themes in this book and certainly an English teacher could go on forever about them all. If that is your thing you may really enjoy this book. Additionally a long-time book club that is close and wants a good challenge, discussing how people live their lives and why, would benefit from this book and the debate it is sure to bring about. 

The Ship is beautifully written, with every word chosen deliberately; which is why it's sad to me to give it only three stars but it just dragged on for too long. I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in the questions surrounding why we live and what is living. That's really what this book is about; the question of what is living and what is happiness. So long as you don't fall asleep I believe you will truly get something out of Antonia Honeywell's gorgeous writing.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave good or poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: Catching Echoes

 Title: Catching Echoes (Reconstructionist Book 1) 
Author: Meghan Ciana Doidge
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 2 stars out of 5 

This is a bit of a tough book to review. It's a new trilogy set in an existing world where many of the characters are already known if you've read the previous books. I have not read the other trilogies (two I think) and this series is being marketed as not needing to. But after reading it I think it's probably much more enjoyable if you have read the other books. 

It's clear there's an elaborate paranormal version of our world built here but I never felt like I was immersed in it. Instead I felt like there were some scratches on the surface but that I was missing a lot of somethings. 

Our characters are fairly one-dimensional. A typical, all too powerful, gorgeous vampire and the timid, not so good at magic witch. It's just been done and I didn't feel there was anything here to really stand this book apart from the very saturated paranormal genre. In fact, for me, it felt like a not as good version of Guilty Pleasures by Laurel K. Hamilton, without the smut. Hamilton may be onto something when it comes to having lots of sexual tension and release in her books; maybe this genre just really needs that to make it palatable... 

It's really too bad because the writing is decent and the plot was intriguing; but it just wasn't enough for me. Maybe I've read too many paranormal books but I just wanted something more. 

If you're interested in this book I would suggest going to the beginning if the series as a whole; as many people love this world so there's hopefully something there to build off that is missing if you jump in at the beginning of this trilogy. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave great reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Monday, April 3, 2017

February Dragon - Complete

Got a cute little dragon to share! 

This is the second month Dragon, February: Amethyst. 
As before I have not included any gems or stones yet as I'm still searching out what I'd like to do for the birthstones. 
Only one month behind as I start March (and April was just released). I figure that's not too bad so far. If I can keep up and only be one month behind I'll be very happy! 
First picture is accurate colours. Second picture is oddly green... 
Here she be: 

I have been putting time into Alice and am very pleased with my progress so watch for an update from her next! 
Happy Stitching!!! 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: Optimists Die First

Title: Optimists Die First 

Author: Susin Nielsen

 Genre: Young Adult, Inspirational 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

There's nothing really awful about this book; but there's also nothing that really stands out either, except maybe that it's set in Canada. I'm a sucker for books written and set in my own country; especially when I've been to the place as many times as I've been to Vancouver. 

So why doesn't this stand-out? 

I think it's because, while well-written and engaging, the characters are just not all that interesting or unique. They are very stereotypical. You have your typical classes of 'troubled teens'; a drug addict, a gay, a disabled person, someone anxiety plagued; and of course all of them have mental issues because of their specific situations. Now this is all very good and true; but it's nothing new or even all that inspiring. 

It also takes on way too many issues at once. Not just teens with issues that are mentioned but even just the issues our lead gal has are overwhelming. What this means is that there is never a good focus on one thing over the other. I'd prefer to see more focus on an issue and really dig into them at a true human level and not just as a superficial discussion or thought. 

While the characters may be archetypes, there are some gems in the plot. The clever videos they all make to tell their emotional story, a twist that many will see coming but those that don't will be shocked by, and the organization of events that don't go from bad to great, but instead are like life. Sometimes the going is good and sometimes it's bad. 

There will likely be a teen or two out there that will really connect with this book (probably because of the cats); but this is not as impactful as many other young adult books like it.

So I give it three stars because it's fine, I read the whole thing, and it was entertaining enough. But I can't help but feel it could have been more. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: Gilded Cage

Title: Gilded Cage  
Author: Vic James
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

This book may not be perfect; but it's really, really, really good; especially for a debut novel. In Gilded Cage, Vic James has created a rich 'skill' (aka. magic) world with engaging and complex characters. 

Be forewarned, this story definitely doesn't stop here. If you hate waiting for the next book then don't read this until it's out as you will likely be dying to read book 2, as I am now. 

James does a solid job of tackling the difficult, and over saturated, Young Adult Fantasy genre. As someone who adores fantasy and has read a lot of it; I can honestly say that the magic and world set-up have unique aspects I enjoyed. 

What to expect: you will encounter magic, slavery, some cute romance, torture, sadism and a lot of "I'm better than you because blah, blah" attitude. There are lots of great prejudice and tolerance lessons or points made in Gilded Cage. James does a great job of showing how unfair the world is by making us appreciate characters from all sides. There is a lot more to many of these characters and clearly interesting future story to come for many of them, especially the younger ones. 

"Trust lent you someone else's eyes, someone else's strong arms or quick brain. Made you bigger than yourself."

The theme of trust is throughout the story and I love the way it is used to show characters connections; but also how tenuous a bond between people can be.  I feel one of the many things we don't talk about enough these days is trust. Who do you trust and when? There are some great scenarios in Gilded Cage that are worth anyone considering, not just teens. 

Although I wish it wasn't an alternate version of Earth with out country names. I definitely would have preferred an original map and world over recycling and kinda bastardizing our current country map. And while there was a moment about 40% in where I was bored with the droning politics chapters that were back to back; it was well worth the push to keep going. 

However, these are relatively small critiques overall in comparison to the gun I had reading Gilded Cage. I'm really hoping we get book 2 quickly (is tomorrow too soon?). 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review. Don't believe me? Check out the other books I've had eARCs for that I gave poor reviews to. I always give my opinion whether good or bad.