Sunday, September 24, 2017

Book Review: Secondborn

Title: Secondborn

Author: Amy A. Bartol

Genre: Teen, Dystopian Fantasy 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a frustrating 4 stars for me because it should be 5. Secondborn is a wonderful dystopian teen novel that belongs alongside Divergent, Hunger Games and the Maze Runner; up until it shatters itself for no good reason. 

Amy A. Bartol does a really good job of setting up her dystopian society (though a poor job of explaining why society is that way but I can overlook this miss) and helping us to understand the hierarchy of firstborn, secondborn and (god forbid) third or less born. She illustrates imaginative buildings that if shown on the silver screen would be gorgeous; and all the while keeping your attention because she shows us things instead of telling us. Our lead gal is strong, interesting, if a little consistent sometimes (but aren't we all?). 

It all seems to be coming together beautifully. A villain is introduced, family dynamics are a mess and friends plus a romantic interest show up and things are really clicking. There's action that develops the characters forward and a lot of plot, but it's all easily understood. 

And then Bartol makes a CRITICAL MISTAKE, that nearly ruins the whole book for me. 

She takes this wonderfully set-up, moving forward group of people and jumps forward one year. Which means, we have to assume the relationships have grown (including the romance between lead gal and boy), catch up on politics, hear in passing about momentous battles and just assume the development of everything. UGH!

So, what should have happened? 

This first book in the series should have ended with the major event that happens shortly after the year break. Having the story in that year be fleshed out and relationships developed would have been perfect. Then when our major event happens it would have everyone dying for book 2. 

It's a calculated error, if you will, because I get that the time jump allows more exciting things to transpire in this book. But plot moving forward at the risk of the world and characters you've built is the wrong choice here. 

Bartol has a compelling writing style. It did occur to me a few times that maybe the flow of the story was inconsistent; but by no means did it stop me from picking up the book. 

I'm sorry to give this book only 4 stars but the gap in time just killed the momentum for me and makes all the relationship things that happen after it difficult to believe because I felt like it just skipped ahead and nothing felt genuine. I want to believe in the live and devotion these characters developed during that one year but I wish I had experienced it myself. 

I will read book 2, but I think I'll always mourn that missing year. Maybe to fix the hole Bartol can write a novella to bridge the gap... 

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: The Last Days of Summer

Title: The Last Days of Summer
Author: Veronica Ronan
Genre: Literature, Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

This would make a wonderful book club book for groups that like to take on tough and morally subjective topics. 

There is not really one major character per say in The Last Days of Summer. Although certainly out leads are a brother who just got out of jail, a conflicted sister over her familial obligation and said sisters two daughters. 

Of all the things that stick out in Vanessa Ronan's prose; it's certainly that the youngest daughter is the person we all wish we could be as adults. Innocent, trusting, and compassionate. I love her line: 

"Everyone should have a friend"

I want to say that after reading this book I believe it's true that everyone should have a friend. That all human beings are valuable in their own way; but it's hard to really believe that. 

There are so many themes to discuss here from:  faith, prayer, forgiveness, innocence and home. 

- Do you have the right to return home after being in prison?

- Do you deserve a friend no matter what? 

- Are there ever ways to gain forgiveness for heinous acts? 

Ultimately for me this book is about what we as humans deserve. Do we all deserve to be happy? Do we deserve to ever have comforts if we've done certain things? And does anyone ever deserve to be treated in a different way? 

Fair warning there are awful crimes described and that play out in this book. If you are squeamish or avoid some of the nasty things in our world then this book is not for you. 

But if you believe we can learn from all acts, responses and thoughts of a child then I believe you will walk away from The Last Days of Summer with lots to think about and discuss with others if you choose to.

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: Odd & True

Title: Odd & True
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: Teen, Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical setting
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm rounding up to 4 stars from 3.5. I think Cat Winters has a wonderful writing style. It's immersive, creepy and fits the 1900's time period perfectly. For this reason alone I will read more of her books (Odd & True was my first of hers). I also commend Winters for putting a disabled main character in an old setting where being disabled makes you expendable. Tru is a character that I think a lot of people will relate to and desperately want to be like. Which is only a good thing. 

This book is really a study in setting mood and developing characters. If you want plot you've come to the wrong place. Almost nothing happens in this book until the last 20%. I found this disappointing as the blurb certainly made it sound far more interesting and exciting. The blurb should probably have said something about how the monsters might be physical or emotional and Tru needs to be prepared for secrets to come to the forefront. Because a lot of this book is just revealing family baggage that isn't necessarily monster hunting related at all. 

Now 3.5 stars might feel like a high rating for a book with no plot. But honestly I can say the mood of the book was truly wonderful. I'm kind of hoping Winters has a sequel planned and I'll be one of the first in line to read it. The ending is a pretty good payoff but I think a lot of people may DNF long before they get there as the substance is really missing for most of the story. So if you can stick it out to the end you'll likely walk away somewhat satisfied; but I wouldn't judge anyone who chooses to give up on this one. 

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: See What I Have Done

Title: See What I Have Done
Author: Sarah Schmidt
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

If you know nothing (except maybe the rhyme) about Lizzie Borden go ahead and read this right away. You'll likely find it an intriguing little murder mystery. 

If you are obsessed with Lizzie then read this; as I'm sure Sarah Schmidt's take will interest you. 

If you know some about Lizzie and the Borden's (watched a documentary or two, like me) then I recommend you read a bit further before deciding if this book is for you. 

Certain this is Sarah Schmidt's interpretation of the history many know so well, and that's okay. However that's what you have to remember while you read. This is a Schmidt's interpretation of the evidence (or lack thereof), cast of characters, etc. 

I was disappointed that none of Lizzie's trial or those facts that are known from it were truly shared. I'd have liked to know what Schmidt thought Lizzie experienced in jail. However, it may have made it so that it wasn't as ambiguous about who the killer may have been by the end. So I can accept why she didn't delve into this; even if I really wanted her to. 

The flow of the story and timeline was a bit of a challenge for me. I felt it was sometimes difficult to realize what events were before the killings, after and in the far future. The dates at the front of chapters didn't help me much as they weren't always adhered to and as an ebook version I couldn't easily flip back to reacquaint myself with the dates. 

My opinion on who killed the Borden's has not changed after reading See What I Have Done. I'm not sure Schmidt intends to change anyone's mind which is just fine. That said, I can't deny that Schmidt gave me an explanation to all the questions and odd moments in this historical event. And she strategically leaves it up to the reader to decide if they accept her version of events or not. I do not accept her version of the event 100%; but it certainly gave me some things to think about. 

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: How to Make a Wish

Title: How to Make a Wish
Author: Ashley Herring Blake
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's official: How to Make a Wish is the first book I've EVER read that portrays a bisexual girl in a realistic and understood way. 

I've struggled in my life, a lot, to even figure out if (given I have a husband) it matters that I'm also attracted to girls. Ashley Herring Blake has reminded this 34-year-old that is most certainly does. Not because it makes me special, but because it's part of what makes me, me! You may think this is a silly thing to say but I think it's easy to loose track of who we are and not just who everyone else thinks we are. 

Quite often I struggle with contemporary "summer" young adult reads. They are either too annoying, too sappy or poorly written. This book is none of these things. It's a very fast read that is poignant, beautiful and yet totally plausible. 

The ex-boyfriend, the crazed mom, the dead mom, the best friend, the town, the lighthouse, the beach and even the summer job are all elements in the story that fit together nicely. The situations, scenarios and people are real. I wonder if Blake didn't base some of them on real people. 

Overall the biggest things to know about How to Make a Wish are:

1) a gorgeous bisexual relationship emerges, 

2) death and neglect are the major themes; 

but both these things are secondary to the major message which is: be sure to make a wish for something you can control and then work hard to make that wish come true. 

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review: The Fifth Doll

Title: The Fifth Doll
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg 
Genre: Teen, Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

This is my first foray into the writing of Charlie N. Holmberg. The Paper Magician is patiently waiting on my overfilled TBR print bookshelf. After reading The Fifth Doll it is definitely moving closer to the top!

Fifth Doll is a solid read. Good characters, interesting unique plot, and a love interest/romance that was just enough for me. The magic in it is clever and yet felt very natural. I think often times when we can't put a finger on why we didn't like a magical system it's because it's illogical or unnatural. Holmberg certainly understands how most people think and keeps his magic inside a realm we can all easily understand and appreciate. 

There is a constant tension and step-up of the plot in a way that keeps you turning pages. I was never once bored or annoyed with the general story. Certainly I cheered on the obvious romantic interest, as everyone likely will, and am frustrated when I doesn't play out "perfectly". But this I also liked because it's more like real life. Pieces rarely fall into place in the way you expect them to. 

Overall, The Fifth Doll is a solid read. You won't go wrong gifting it to a teen 13 or older (maybe even a bit younger if the child is an advanced reader). It's got some intense moments but they are not inappropriate at all. Just moments that are dark enough to keep a teen reading but nothing too offensive that parents would frown at. 

Alternatively if you are like me and an adult that loves teen books I believe that you will at least be moderately pleased with this read. It's not the best book of the year but it's certainly worth a place on my shelf and I have no trouble recommending it. 

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: Starborn

Title: Starborn

Author: Lucy Hounson

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Did Not Finish (DNF) @ 54% 

The best way to describe this book is that it is a hot mess. It goes from a possible dystopian fantasy, to a possible quest based fantasy, to (what it actually is) epic fantasy. 

Now maybe you're thinking, ohhh that sounds elaborate and I love elaborate. So do I. Except that when you build a new elaborate world you absolutely MUST build characters alongside it that your readers are dying to read about. At no time did I ever feel like I was drawn into this world or was excited about reading more of it. In fact it was the opposite, I dreaded picking it up. 

There are three major mistakes made in Starborn:

1) Very poor characterizations. I did not hate our lead girl but I certainly didn't like her. The two travelling companions that she goes with could have been super mysterious and interesting, but instead they had stilted dialogue and just no chemistry with each other or our lead gal. 

2) Plot. You must make me want to keep reading. This (generally) requires plot. There needs to be something drawing us into the story that is moving it forwards. Instead in Starborn things happen that are random, make no sense and seem to happen because it's convenient. A huge pet peeve of mine is when there is no flow to the story and things seem to happen because the author needed them to happen instead of them fitting into the story and plot. 

3) Writing. While the last couple chapters I read actually had some good writing and dialogue going on; during the first 45% of Starborn it feels like Lucy Hounsom is finding her writing style and therefore it's all over the place (a hot mess). I'm shocked that TOR didn't work on this more and allowed it to be published as is. 

Now I know what you're thinking, but Mel if you stopped reading just as the writing was improving how do you the rest of the book isn't great? 

The thing is I just don't care. Our lead gal is inconsistent and does things not because they fit her as a character but because they need to happen. Random people show up with no real purpose or semblance of reason. The world building is just strange (ancient superstition, magic, tribal living, then airships, large cities, etc); it's like Hounson couldn't decide what kind of world she was building so she threw everything into it. I could go on but let's face it I'm just repeating myself. 

Maybe if this book had started at the 40% with a short prologue or flashbacks to tell the first 40% of the story in a quick fashion I would have felt differently. But I just wasn't willing to force myself to pick this book up and pretend to care any longer than the 54% I read. 

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Stitching: New Fabric & Canada Project

Happy long weekend to those in countries where this is one. It is a holiday here in Canada on Monday. 

I've got goodies to share with you all! 
So if you remember I talked last time about new types of fabric. I have the first two to share with you. They are not as stunning as the next one I've ordered but these ones do show off the new technique. As far as I know no one else is doing this kind of fabric 'dying' (it's actually screen printed) to date except for one guy whose selling exclusively via a Facebook group (and two wonderful ladies sell for him). I was not asked to endorse them I actually believe this is new technology in the stitching world and worth sharing. Cause how often does a hundreds year old hobby get something truly new! 

This first fabric is 40ct Parchment, shown alongside the latest Just Cross Stitch Halloween book;

I've shown the front of the fabric, the wonderful old style weathered look, and I've flipped so you can see the back. See what I mean that this is new screened/printed technology. I can tell you it doesn't rub off on your hands or hurt your threads at all. It's very cool!! 

Next up is what will be my next new start, Autumn Leaves 36ct, alongside Jeanette Douglas' beautiful Canada sampler (its 150th bday for Canada this year so it seemed appropriate to do this one next). In the photo you can see the dark silks the sampler uses. I think they will look beautiful on this maple leaf fabric.   

This fabric is what initially caught my eye on this group. I love how subtle it is and yet so very Canadian! I had been looking for fabric for this sampler and cannot believe how perfect this is!! 
As with Parchment the back of the leaves is white and unprinted. 

I'd love to hear feedback about what you think about this new fabric! 
In a couple weeks (when I get it) I will have dark screened fabric to share from the same supplier!! Think Mirabillia witch on a dark forest fabric...! 

So, I'm going to assume others are as intrigued by this fabric as I am. I should also mention the fabric is sooo soft and luxurious. And it comes in Aida, evenweave and linen at most counts! Both shown in my pics are linen but I have an evenweave coming soon as well. 
If you are curious to check out what is available, see what others have done with the styles and see the crazy  printed ones (these are tame in comparison to some available) you will need a Facebook account. 
And then request to join this group:

It's a closed group so you'll need to wait for approval. 
Now this group is different in that Cindy runs her shop through it, but also allows people to post Stash for sale. So just browse a bit and see. Every Sunday there is a live video of the latest goodies Cindy and her crew have! 
Some will find it frustrating it's not a proper website store, and I get that. However, as the only way to get this fabric I'm willing to deal with it! Also Cindy is great and her or one of her crew always answer within a day (usually faster). 

- more of this fun fabric is in order. I'll share it when I get it. 
- update on my newer WIP 'Here there be monsters'
- more monthly dragons (of course I've fallen behind in this SAL, but it's all good) 

As always, happy stitching!! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review: A Twist in Time

Title: A Twist in Time
Genre: Historical Time Travel, Murder Mystery
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

DNF @ 53% 

This is book 2 of a series. I read book 1 and it was just okay. So when I started reading this book I was hoping for more. Instead what I got was the exact same set-up and story. The only difference is our lead lady is already in the past and doesn't travel there. 

I suppose this is why I don't read a lot of murder mystery as the murder cases themselves rarely keep my attention. It's the people and the happenings around them that does. 

For the second time this year a time traveling book has annoyed me by how little the main character seems to want to go home. It's mentioned in passing once or twice about her thinking about going home (and she makes one 'attempt' near the beginning of the book); but overall it just feels like she's not too concerned about it. 

This really bugs me. if Gabaldon got anything right with Outlander it's that at least Claire had a major desire to go home for a long time! 

Overall if you love the whodunnit part and don't mind a Victorian setting you might like this. Otherwise I'd pass, skip and jump to something else.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Bookishly Ever After

Title: Bookishly Ever After 
Genre: Contemporary Teen, Young Adult 
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

I suppose I get the appeal of this book. It's cute, has fairly realistic characters and a few clever little lines and anecdotes. 

Here's the thing, the true bookish girl wouldn't ever have a makeover and suddenly be appealing and popular. Sorry but this just doesn't happen in real life.  Nor would she, before the makeover, be left alone (no bullying) as she appears to be. What I wouldn't have given to be invisible like that in high school. 

It's a cute book about a girl who loves books and uses them to become more popular, outgoing and get some boys. But let's be honest, the Hunger Games and Divergent are probably not giving our teens the kind of advice that is easily translated to their real life, technology driven lives. 

Now, if I was 13 or 14 (and not mid-30a) and reading Bookishly Ever After, I could see myself becoming obsessed with the other stories besides the main one. There are snippets of the books our lead gal loves throughout. As they are in no real order I could see myself figuring out the order, how many books are "quoted" and putting those together. 

In fact I'd have rather read any of fictional books that are referenced than the book I was reading! 

Maybe Isabel Bandiera will write those books instead of more in this series. 

Overall I'm going to read second book because I have it already and maybe the story and characters improve...? 

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stitching: 1/2 pg Alice

By popular demand I am sharing the 2nd page of Alice with everyone, even thought it's only 1/2 complete. 

This page has gone a bit quicker than the last. This is likely for many reasons which I think include: getting to know which symbols are which colours, more areas that are less confetti and just getting the flow of the pattern. 
I did still catch myself twice going for the wrong colour because it was the Dragons colour for that symbol! I suppose when you work on something for 7 years it's pretty ingrained in your mind. Lol! 
I look forward to Alice's symbol and colour combinations getting to that level. 

Here is first 1/2 of page 2 (give or take a few stitches): 

In other stitching news: 
- I've got some amazing fabric on its way to me. This fabric is like nothing I've ever seen before!! Can't wait to get it and show you!
- I have received an adorable stitching book coming out in a couple months. Going to do up one of the designs and will have a giveaway for supplies you can use to also do a design. It's a very unique subject matter! That's a month or so away. 
- I've got some new needles coming to me to try out. With my metal allergy, needle eating acidic skin I struggle with replacing needles constantly. While these are not cheap if they don't deteriorate in a couple days it will be well worth it. Looking forward to telling you all how it goes! 

As summer starts to wrap up here in Calgary, and nights are noticeably darker sooner, I'm looking forward to cooler days and more indoors time (which generally means more stitching time!). I must be the only person who looks forward to Autumn and cooler days. ;) 

Thanks so much for stopping by and checking Alice out!! 

Book Review: The Amber Shadows

Title: The Amber Shadows

Author: Lucy Ribchester

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's easy to forget that during war times that danger doesn't always come from the enemy. I think I've maybe taken for granted in historical fiction about either of the Great Wars that the enemy is usually clear and obvious. Lucy Ribchester does a superb job of reminding us that isn't always the case. 

Not only are there spies to watch out for but also those who would be nefarious no matter what was happening around them. 

I don't read lots of mystery books. Usually the ones I do have historical, sci-if or fantasy settings. So I will confess I'm easily fooled by a good mystery. And yet I'd like to think I'm not completely stupid (lol). So when I got towards the end of The Amber Shadows and realized I had gotten it all wrong, I was genuinely surprised. I believe this is because Ribchester has very persuasive writing. Each time I delved into the story I felt like I was in the mind of our lead gal and so believed what she believed; whilst she typed encrypted messages in an enigma calibrated typewriter. I won't lie, as much as Ribchester reminds us of how harsh and awful war times are (even for those not fighting on the front lines), it all held a little bit of magic for me. How exciting it must have been at times to decide the message that saves a ship, town or supply run from being bombed. 

Yes I realize that is my very naive self falling into the trap of believing that another time besides my own might have been better. Let's face it, this is why so many of us read and wish to travel back in time or to dangerous unknown worlds; for the simple reason that it's not in the here and now. 

I really don't want to say anything more about the content of the story as it might take away from the intrigue as it plays out. 

I will say if you enjoy cryptic, coded, intrigue stories you are bound to like this one. But you're also likely to enjoy it if you like historical fiction in general. Ribchester does a good job of setting the scene of WWII whilst telling us a story that will make you wonder what is truth and what is deception. 

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review: No Good Deed

Title: No Good Deed
Author: Kara Connolly
Genre: Retelling, young adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Re-tellings. The latest fad.
While they can be successfully pulled off, so long as the world is drastically different (ie: Lunar Chronicles), it's awfully hard to do well. This re-telling of Robin Hood has some great little anecdotes and moments; but for the most part it feels like recycled scenes, characters and concepts. Right down to the time travelling aspect. 

While there is action, intrigue, teeny bit of romance and all the things that generally make up a good story; I just couldn't help but feel like I'd read this book before or at the very least seen the movie. 
Now I know the scene of Robin Hood having a battle with staffs over the river is a classic moment in lots of Robin Hood lore and/or stories. However, the reality is that all I could imagine during this scenes description was the scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Now maybe it's not fair as I've seen that movie almost 100 times in my life (it was my Mom's favourite movie when I was a kid; and while we couldn't watch Simpsons or other shows on TV apparently violent movies were okay...). I suppose I'm bound to imagine similar moments in any Robin Hood story to scenes from the movie... even still it would have been nice for something interesting and different to have been thrown in the mix. 

As with any retellings Kara Connolly choses to focus on a couple of things and drop out other things. There is no Maid Marion (but is a Templar knight that our main gal is blown away by every time he dons his armour) or damsels in distress (unless our lead gal counts). Given that our gal is Robin Hood I suppose it was too much to hope for a lesbian romance. But we do get Little John, Will Scarlett, Alan Dale and (sort of) Friar Tuck. The characters themselves are not well fleshed out, but most of us don't need them to be as we know the players. The most disappointing character of all for me was the Sheriff of Nottingham. I adore this character usually but here it felt like he was far less important that others in Nottingham. It's almost like Connolly's story was too vanilla for the sheriff's black and morbid personality. 

The basic plot
Like any good time travel story, girl is plunged into medieval times (luckily she's an amazing archer), screws a bunch of stuff up, concerns herself with trying to survive and get home; whilst not changing history... there's really not a lot else to say here except that I am really tired of reading time travel books where the character has to "fulfill" some task or event in order for the door to open back home. Let's not kid ourselves, this is a cheap, easy way for the author to write their way into a perfect ending at the perfect moment. I'd rather it be elaborate, magical or scientific. Pretty much anything but convenient would have been better. 

So are you wondering why I gave this three stars yet, given that I seem to have rolled my eyes at a lot of it and didn't really enjoy it?  (lol)
The ending. In any 'fairy tale' I'm a sucker for a good ending (not necessarily happy I'd like to point out). No Good Deed ends in a way I was not really expecting. Connolly takes what could have been a super mushy, annoying and overly romantic ending and makes it just... well perfect. It's plausible, cute and lovely all at once. 

So, is the ending worth the read?
Not really. If you love Robin Hood then maybe. Perhaps a tween or pre-teen would love this but it's not even really a teen book (even though it's classified as young adult). In my opinion, you could read this to an 8 year old and honestly it would be less violent and offensive than most saturday morning cartoons. 

Overall you're not missing anything if you skip this one. I'm sure there will be dozens more re-tellings just like it tomorrow.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: The Bone Witch

Title: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I found this to be a very disappointing read. There is so much potential here and yet I wasn't at any point excited about reading this, dying to keep reading, or even all that inspired to pick it up. 
After thinking on this for a day I think I've identified why. 

The world building is spectacular in this book with a magical system that is intricate and well thought-out. However, the reality is that world building is not enough. Even with moderately interesting characters like Prince Kance and Kalen I still just didn't care enough about anyone to be concerned about their safety or destiny. Rin Chupeco gets too caught up in indulging herself and info dumping about her world. This is not the Silmarillion. I don't need, or even want, to read every detail of every ingredient in a tincture, step in a dance, or history lesson or story that isn't even relevant to the current politics! Or if you're going to write out a fable or story within the realm then make that story really, really good. There are two amazing examples of this being done well in fantasy literature: Suzanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (with crazy story footnotes) or Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest. These books incorporate the lore and history of their worlds so well that you almost care more about the mini stories told than the larger story! 

Additionally there is little to no actual chemistry between anyone in this book. Be it a friend, mentor, teacher, or possible love interest. Our lead gal, Tea, doesn't seem to connect with anyone, not even her own brother that she says many times she loves and yet I never really felt it. 

The format of the book is interesting and I did enjoy the snippets of Tea 'today' in the quick page or two break-ups to the main story of Tea as a novice asha. And yet, by the end of the book we have learned NOTHING more to really connect the Tea we get to know as a novice and the Tea in her 'current state'. Additionally the ending is soooo disappointing. There is clearly a HUGE chunk of the story left out. Which would be fine if at least the story I had written to that point had some sort of plot or intrigue. Even the so-called love interests (if you can even call them that) are dull and Tea has almost no actual ability to connect with them. 

It's really odd because all the right elements seem to be in this book but it's just not compelling. I just can't get excited about any of it and ultimately I became bored and looking forward to the next book I was going to read. I almost DNF'd this one. 
However, all that said, and even in spite of my boredom, there is a spark of interest at the end of the book. This tiny spark means I would actually consider trying to read book 2. Because I think there is potential here. 

In the meantime  really hope someone is mentoring Chupeco on how to write more compelling characters and stories. Plot is important, please give me some! And let's face it, this is a young adult book, if you are going to have love interests then don't just make them a passing blip on the radar. Let's get them involved a bit more! I appreciate that there is no insta-love and the eluded to love triangle didn't seem to happen (though still could in future books); and yet I just wanted something more. 

I believe this book, in the hands of a different writer could be sensational. But Chupeco is missing that 'something' that gives writers like Mass and Meyer an edge over other young adult writers. I hope she can find it before book 2 is released. 

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: On the Spectrum

Title: On the Spectrum

Author: Jennifer Gold

Genre: Contemporary Teen

Rating: 4 out of 5

There's one thing this book definitely is, highly readable. It was a very quick read for me and while not everything is perfect in it; some plot points are a bit contrived to set-up scenarios, I can't deny that I ate it up in two sittings without any thoughts of wanting to put it down. This is unusual for me with a contemporary teen book. Kudos to a Jennifer Gold and her writing style! 

I loved our 'on the spectrum but not autistic' little guy Alastair. He said things I've heard from a little guy I used to babysit, who is autistic in real life. The perfect example was his comment about not having 'cold feet' when he was afraid to ride the Ferris Wheel at the last minute. Autism kids don't understand much that isn't literal. By far Alastair was the star of the book for me. 

Our mail gal, Clara, has an eating disorder I'd not heard of before. And for this reason if nothing else this book deserves a spot on library shelves! Orthorexia, a disease where you're obsessed with counting calories, exercising and how 'healthy' food is. Very interesting. One criticism I have is is liked to better understand the difference between anorexia and orthorexia.  

There are many moments in this book that many readers may connect with. For me it's when when Alastair says: 

"I'm on the autism spectrum, but I'm not autistic. You're on the eating disorder spectrum."

This really struck me personally in regards to my own mental health. If you're not willing to accept you have a disease, in my case anxiety, that's okay but at least start to accept that you are 'on the spectrum'. A clever way to perhaps speak to those who don't quite see their predicament in a hard hitting way or can't accept any part of what is being said about them. 

Lastly I'd like to give a copy of this book to all overprotective, my kid is special, parents. Our author, Jennifer Gold, really drives home the very real reality that you need to set your kids up for success. Don't baby them, don't buy them dumb looking shoes unless they absolutely medically need them. Superman backpacks and glow-in-the-dark running shoes are definitely going to make your child a less likely bullying target. If you want to help your kids with bullying situations a the first step can be to change the things that are easily changed. Ie: shoes, clothes, haircuts, etc. While we don't want to teach kids vanity and to try too hard to fit in; there is a balance here that is crucial for parents to find between 'my kid is picked on because he's uncool' and 'my kid is picked on because his clothes are uncool'. I have often wondered if I'd have a bit of an easier time in elementary school if I'd have had more than hand-me-downs for clothes. 

Overall I think this book is well written as it's engaging, cute, funny at times and clever. But it's not five stars because of two major reasons: 

1) Guidance Counsellors rarely call social services over eating disorders. Generally this action is reserved for physical abuse;

2) Real life can often seem to rain down awful events; but three major happenings in a 12 hour period seemed like a bit much. However I cannot deny that it made for a quick read that was concise and to the point. For me this trumps the plot probability issue. 

I definitely look forward to more from Gold in the future. 

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Review: The Halloween Children

Title: The Halloween Children


Genre: Thriller, Horror

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This story needed to be one of two things; instead of straddling the middle. 

  • Either make it a 100 pg or less short story, change the title so it's not a dead giveaway of the ending and tighten it up. 


  • Make it a longer, more mind-bending book (200+ pgs) where there is much more emphasis on the children and expand the psychosis look at the family. 

Instead this book is stuck in a space of not quite a short story but not really in-depth enough to be a novel. Unfortunately the title gives it all away. So that no matter how creepy or disturbing the lead-up is to the end (which is well put together) you already figured out 75% of the 'twist' of horror. This just makes it no fun to me. 

It's an easy read, it does have some chilling moments but for the average horror reader I believe there is nothing here. 

If you don't normally read horror then I think you'll quite enjoy it. And it's tame enough for non-horror readers to handle in my opinion. 

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Book Review: Dear Reflection - I never meant to be a rebel

Title: Dear Reflection: I never meant to be a rebel
Author: Jessica Bell
Genre: Memoir, Teen, Drugs & Alcohol
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Critiquing a memoir always feels almost unfair... you can't say that someone didn't feel the way they did or isn't being genuine; as likely they have explained things in the only way they know how. 
So how can you criticize them? 
The short answer is, you can't. 
The long answer is more complex. 
If I end up sounding like a heartless bitch by the end of this then I will only apologize to Jessica Bell to say that it's not about devaluing her experiences, it's about how they were written about and discussed. 

I found this memoir to use 'shock' value moments in a very odd way. Not to send a morale or turn you straight message to the reader, not to show the progression of Bell as a person, but instead as an excuse. It's like each time something happens that is a 'big deal' Bell uses it as a reason for why it's okay to then do something else. This is not really a good message in my mind, especially for teens. I'd like to have read more about the actual consequences of her binge drinking, of having an abortion, etc. I'd also like to have read more about how those situations have made her the person she is today. Instead by the end of the memoir I feel like Bell has just made a myriad of excuses for why she hasn't done things in life that she maybe wanted to. Or is with the man she is with. 

That said, her definition of love is different; and this I commend her for. She does discuss how love is not a blinding moment or 'instant' and how sometimes it's hard to even see it. So I give her props for describing a non-typical relationship and allowing readers to maybe gain a sliver of insight into why people stay together that may not seem like a perfect match. 
Now alternatively you could easily say that Bell settled. But I will give her the benefit of the doubt here that she isn't taking the easy way out on this one. 

I think overall the glazing over of issues is what bugs me the most here. I hate when moments in life are used as a crutch or justification for why someone should receive sympathy... maybe it's because I can go toe-to-toe with Bell on a lot of situations I personally experienced as a teen myself. And maybe that isn't fair to her... but in my mind those experiences are not something to be used as a way to garner sympathy or used as an excuse. They are moments that make us stronger, more resilient and overall shape our personality today. They also inform our current decisions. And here is where I felt like Bell missed out in this memoir. She didn't connect her past decisions with her future ones. Let's face it, whether we like it or not, the things that have happened to us in the past ALWAYS influence the future us. 

While some may connect with Bell's story and her aloneness, I personally felt like this was missing something. Some piece of Bell that I craved. I still feel like I don't know her even after reading this. I feel like I know about her; but don't actually know HER. 
Overall if you want to read a shock value story about drugs, alcohol and how damaging it can be; read Go Ask Alice instead. 

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: The Devil's Prayer

Title: The Devil's Prayer
Author: Luke Gracias
Genre: Religion, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Devil's Prayer feels like it is three separate books with a couple chapters of a prologue. My 'parts' do not line-up with the parts defined in the book. Here are my three breakdowns of this book: 
1) The first part is a grusome thriller novel. Including every trigger ever; from suicide to torture to murder to moral ambiguity. This section is done by our main gal reading journal entries. It's well written and compelling. I often find journal entries to be a bit dull and an easy way for writers to trick us or leave out important details but that was not the case here. This was easily the best part of the book; and yet also the most disturbing. Be warned it's very horrifying. 

2) The story of a deal made with the devil, and not how the deal was made (as that is covered in part 1) but instead of what happens after you make a deal with the devil and follow-through. It also includes our main gal fleeing across the world. Here is where things start to feel the most 'Da Vinci Code'-esque as we learn (from more journal entries) that there are secrets in the church that have been hidden for centuries. This is all interesting enough and was shaping up to make for a really stellar ending. 

3) Then we are told the a duller than dull story of how a man came to be involved in the church and know many of these secrets that are discovered in part 2. Super boring!  This is set-up to also give us all a lecture about how we are ruining our earth and the Devil is winning. And I honestly couldn't have been more bored or irritated by the lecture. 

Then, like the couple chapters prologue, there is a couple chapters of 'wrap-up'. Except for the part where NOTHING HAPPENS! There is no climax, no plot points and literally the book ends when it feels like there should be another 200-300 pages of plot and story. This is beyond frustrating to me and makes me wish I hadn't read the book at all. It's that annoying. 

For a book to go from amazingly face-paced and engaging to as dull as a history book written in ancient text to  no ending whatsoever is so odd. So if you want to read a book about how to NOT set-up a story. This is a good one to read and be very critical about. Otherwise, I suggest you don't waste your time. 
I am giving it two stars because the first part is so well written and would make an amazing novel on it's own. But otherwise it's not worth reading this book. 

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stitching: New Start!

Well I couldn't just work Alice... and I wanted a new stitch in hand fabric piece. 
So, much to my hubby's chagrin (he wants Alice done tomorrow, lol); I started a new piece!
I think hubby forgives me as I took this one 100% from my stash! 

On: 32ct Relic Linen (that is gorgeous!!!). 
Design by: Elizabeth Foster 
Design name: Antique Celtic Sampler 
Threads: All Weeks Dye Works
Stitches 2 threads over 2 

Here's the start: 

For once an overdyed linen that photographs well!! 

And here's what the final piece will look like:

This brings me up to four pieces I'm actively working on: 
- Alice - HAED (28ct, 1 over 1)
- Mermaid - Mirabillia (28ct, 2 over 2)
- Sugar skull - Mill Hill kit (perforated paper)
- Here there be Monsters (this one! 32ct, 2 over 2)

As usual I rename my projects to something that represents what each item looks like. 

Thanks for stopping by and for all your lovely comments on Page 1 of Alice. I've actually got almost 1/3 of the next page done already!! Part of why I made this start. I am justifying it as 'deserved'. Lol! 
Happy Stitching! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Waste of Space

Title: Waste of Space
Author: Gina Damico
Genre: Teen, YA, Science Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book was... well crazy different. 
It's a super ridiculous and humorous premise; that a TV network is going to send a group of teenagers into space and film it as a reality TV show. I really enjoyed the first 65% of this book. It was amusing, engaging, heartfelt and so cliche you couldn't help but laugh. The end however didn't quite hit for me. 

Waste of Space is written in the format of video or audio transcripts (for the most part); either of the reality TV show, phone calls, unaired footage from the video cameras, or the mysterious intern that provides commentary every once in awhile. On page 1 we learn that the intern is the reason the footage is all combined in one file from so many sources. This format while easy to read is not always my favourite. We only get characters perspectives from their 'confessionals' to video cameras which makes it difficult to know if we are getting their genuine thoughts or more 'acting' out of their stereotypes. I prefer to be in the character's head and better understand their POV. 

The teens are the main focus of the story; alongside the TV executive, Chazz. He's the over the top executive that calls all the ridiculous shots and seems to think that the world needs cutting edge, truly dangerous reality TV. Except that no one is going to sign off on their teenage being shot into space alone... so instead of actually going to space they make it seem like the kids are in space for the show. Oh, and the teens think they are also in space and on their own. A typical Lord of the Flies scenario. 

The best part of this book is that the ridiculous fun of the first half is obviously a hoax. We, the reader learn this right away and of course most of the world buys into the silly premise (because people are easy to manipulate). Thankfully a few groups of scientists easily debunk the show as being in space, even if no one listens to them. 
By the second half of the show I feel like the reader is suddenly the one being taken along for a ride. Suddenly we are trying to figure out what is actually going on as there is clearly more to this little charade than a fake 'space plane' and a celebrity hungry TV executive. 

This brings me to the crux of what I didn't like about Waste of Space. It has an odd ending. It's not that it's bad... it's just... not what I expected at all. And not in the 'wow, I'm amazed' kind of twist. Instead in the I feel there was little to no foreshadowing for this ending and it's a bit cheap. I suddenly feel like Gina Damico took me, the reader, along for a similar ride that Chazz took the TV audience on in the beginning. A total and complete facade that barely explains what is happening. 

The other thing that I found about Waste of Space is that it's a bit long... my ARC copy is 510 pages. I see that the published copy is shorter (400 pgs) so I'm hoping they cut down on some of the unnecessary dialogue between the teens on the ship. That said, the pages aren't fully text either, as they are in the screenplay dialogue style. So average words per page is significantly lesser than your average book. 

Overall I thought Waste of Space was fun, but I wouldn't pick it up to read again. That said, if you have a teen that is a space geek and would enjoy a fun book I think this is a great pick. Also this is a clean book so you could give it to any child at the right reading level. I'd easily buy this for a 10 year old that has a higher than average reading level. And I'm certain that a 10-13 year old would be enchanted by the whole thing. Which makes me wonder just now... maybe I'm just a bit too old for this book (like 20+ years too old, lol). No matter what your age is there is no doubt you will need to suspend ALL belief to really accept this odd ending. But at least you'll have a good, fun time getting to it! 

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Review: The Floating Theatre

Title: The Floating Theatre
Author: Martha Conway
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Usually when I rate a book 5 stars I immediately know why. Otherwise I default to 4 stars as I usually have a critique or two. The Floating Theatre is a bit different in that I really, really enjoyed it; but wasn't immediately convinced it was a 5 star book. But upon a couple hours of contemplation I've realized I cannot come up with any major flaws. Therefore 5 stars it is! 

This is an enchanting and enjoyable book. Now I know you're thinking... um... Mel isn't it about slavery? Well yes, but it's also about theatre, a young woman finding her voice, an unlikely romance, and a cast of characters that you could write entire books about.
Ironically the slavery part is a small portion of the book. Now it's the obvious climax of the book and plays a major part; but the first 65% of the book isn't really about slavery. It is noticed by our lead gal, May, that slavery is only on one side of the river. She continually expresses to herself how she's made uncomfortable by it as she tells her story. On a few occasions May is horrified by what she sees but up until the point in which she is forced to 'choose a side' she remains a silent protester. The typical American woman in the 1800's. Keep quiet, do your own thing and keep out of trouble. 

I don't want to give any plot away that isn't obvious from the blurb. So let's talk about characters instead. While the plot is excellent and moves at a good pace; creating tension and stress for the reader, it's really the characters that endeared me to The Floating Theatre. Our lead gal May tells the story, as though it's her memoir. Offering occasional moments of commentary like she 'didn't know it at the time' but would 'soon learn' phrases. Then we have her cousin, who's a good example of a waste of air. The Captain of our Floating Theatre, whose charming and you can't help but just love him. Our cast of theatre folks who are a troop all on their own. Finally there is a lady who is our catalyst.. I can't call her a villain as I think that is not quite right. However there is no doubting that she manipulates everyone around her to her will. Whether it's with sugar and promises, money, blackmail or good ole negotiation tactics. While I dislike her the most of our main cast of characters, she's actually the second most interesting person next to May. I am always intrigued by morally subject characters; especially women during a time when women didn't have near as much power as they do today.

Overall if you like stories about the 1830's before slavery was abolished, are interested in theatre in any small way, and like a good coming into her own story I think you will enjoy this book. I found it intriguing and a very unique way of looking at how the whites were affected or conflicted by slavery. However, this is not a rah-rah, underground railroad type story. It's more a story of a girl who gets accidentally caught up between the north and south sides of a river that divide a nation's opinion on slavery. 
I look forward to this coming out in trade paperback so I can add it to my collection of historical fiction that I would easily recommend again, and certainly read again myself. 
And I will be looking for more by Martha Conway in the future. 

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