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!!!