Thursday, September 28, 2017
Title: The List
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it if you like dystopian teen fiction you need to read it. The basis for the book is that climate change killed most of the world off and a few select people who saw it coming prepared for it. These people are led by one man named 'Noa' who created a place called 'Ark' that is a sanctuary. Lots of cute nods to Noah's Ark and other biblical stories (without being preachy at all!). The big thing about this community of people is that they can only use 500 words to communicate. Thus, removing all unnecessary, emotional charged, or problematic words from language. Noa believes that words are cheap and the world would be better off if they didn't exist.
For now I've given this book 4 stars. I think there is a possibility that as I reflect on it more it might be worthy of 5 stars. My conflict there is that it's not quite as good as Hunger Games (but really what is). However I do believe it is written better than Divergent. The relationships between the people are more realistic. There is no insta-love (chemistry but not love) and the romance story is really on the side to the main story. It interferes very little with the plot and provides some extra motivation for our characters but nothing outrageous or annoying.
The lead gal is an intelligent, responsible heroine that is a good role model for readers. She is a strong, yet cautious person that thinks through her decisions; and when she chooses to do crazy things she accepts that it's crazy but always provides her reasons for acting. I appreciate this as I believe it's realistic and reflective of our real people think. I don't want to say too much about any of the characters or the plot because I believe that part of the enjoyment in dystopian literature is to have the reveals unravel as you read.
There are some science elements that are fictional in The List. I was disappointed to learn that Nicene isn't a real thing (in any form). Yet I believe this really shows how truly creative Patricia Forde is. She's created a world that feels like it could be our world in the not-so far future.
There are subtle references that I believe were nods to The Giver and other dystopian fiction. I liked this respectful way of including elements of other stories we all know and love. There are things that Forde decides not to touch on (ie: reproduction, death, property ownership, etc.); but I actually think it was nice to focus on language and intelligence as the key to this dystopian society.
Overall, thinking of the teen books I've read that were published this year, this would easily be in my top 5 teen reads of 2017. It certainly deserves a place on my bookshelf and I will be looking to get my very own print copy to oogle on the shelf.
I will definitely be looking for more from Patricia Forde.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
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
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
Title: Odd & True
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.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Title: See What I Have Done
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.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Title: How to Make a Wish
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.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Title: The Fifth Doll
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.
Monday, September 4, 2017
Author: Lucy Hounson
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.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
So because everyone has decided I'm an awful person below is a link to the ENTIRE conversation that was had with Cindy & April. I wish the times were on it as they are important so you can all see that she was throwing messages at me faster than I could understand. There was no coherence to her messages, many of them are confusing because of that and at the time just upset me.
You all can do the judging now. Hate me if you like. But all I know is something that had me beyond excited 3-4 months ago has become hell now and yet I was super polite about requesting a refund and expected NOTHING in return for the items I was disappointed in.
I've had to block Cindy on Facebook so she will stop messaging me and now I've got people with no context or idea of what happened coming after me in comments and emails. So here's a link to read the entire conversation Read it all. Then judge me and Cindy as you will.
So I guess I'll just live under this storm cloud that Cindy created and was all started because I hadn't seen or heard anything about a fabric I had ordered and paid for 2+ months earlier. I was originally upset by this because the fabric had been re-posted as available in the selling group and I didn't understand how I hadn't received my fairy mist fabric (had just received a shipping confirmation without it) and yet it was available again...didn't make any sense to me. I'd had shipping notifications with items on them but ALL were missing fabric I'd ordered in early August payments and it was mid-October. I was receiving items I had ordered long after the fabric and didn't understand how it all worked. But hey apparently 'multiple' shipments were coming to me on the same day. Still not sure how I was supposed to know that. But it's okay. I can be the bad guy to everyone and Cindy and her pals can all trash me behind the scenes where no one (including me) can see it. I'll be the honest and upfront one. I know I made some mistakes here too. Even apologized for some of my mistakes in the message to Cindy. And yet not once did she try to send me a coherent, professional response in a way that was easy for me to understand. That's all that would have been needed that first time. And all that was needed the second time as well. I didn't post that retraction until the SECOND incident where I politely messaged letting them know my disappointment asking for a refund on undelivered again. Again her inability to send a professional well composed response was what frustrated me more than anything else.
**Ironically the more everyone hit this post the more it climbs on search engines and the easier it will be for others to find and read my frustrations with Cindy. If you'd all let it go this would get buried and be done. But hey, keep hitting my blog if you like. I sure don't mind the push up in recent hits.***
Oct 19, 2017, 10pm - AFTER I posted the retraction below Cindy sent me a $50 credit. She's insistent you all know this. Ironically no one is ever going to see any of my writing here as I'm not republishing or pushing it; yet she immediately kicked me out of all her groups so who knows what awful things she's saying about me behind my back. Everything I've said about her is right here on this public space.
First let me apologize to everyone for promoting a company that treats customers poorly and under cuts fabric. I am so very sorry to lead you all astray and it really disturbs me that this went so badly so quickly. Especially after a very successful and exciting first order (as you can see from my original post below I was beyond stoked to talk about the fabric and even posted about how nice Cindy at Stitchery X-Press was! Unfortunately my entire opinion is now turned upside down and it's been a very upsetting situation for me.
I was going to post screenshots of the conversations between Cindy, April and myself here, but have decided not to as there are over 45 photos to show it all. That said, I am happy to send screenshots of the conversations to anyone that requests.
Unfortunately I have to share that Cindy has now twice responded to me about concerns or issues I've had about my orders in a very unprofessional way. She not only didn't seem to appreciate my frustration in not knowing the status of fabric that I'd paid for two months prior (and no delivery date was ever given even after asking multiple times); she also did not take kindly to my possible suggestion that she let customers know when items are back ordered and what that means for timelines. Had that been the only incident I would have let this lie (and had); but unfortunately more drama happened today.
When I got home today in the mail I was excited to see another package from Cindy at Stitchery X Press. Unfortunately it was a very disappointing package when opened. It included fabric that was packaged poorly and is now terribly creased. As well as fabric that should be dark black/brown with some green, blue and bright pink that looks instead very faded and has no blue or green in it. In addition to that both pieces of fabric are under cut by at least 1 inch on all sides (and that's if I count the waste edges and their screen name on the fabric; which most companies would never count as part of the fabric overall size).
Upon expressing my disappointment to them and why, I politely requested a refund for the three items still outstanding. Within 30 seconds of sending my carefully crafted, and very polite message Cindy wrote to me and told me to send everything back and she'd refund it all. Which isn't even what I was asking! She would respond so quickly there was no way she read my entire message and she gave herself no time to breathe and consider my comments. Instead all her responses to me were very curt and hurtful when I was politely letting them know about my order and politely asking for a refund (not on the items I had received and was disappointed by) just for the items that were on back order and not yet been shipped.
I let them know that I was not interested in shipping everything back and waiting for a refund (as they are in USA and I'm in Canada). Finally I was given the refunds for the outstanding items as requested. Thus ending my orders and time with Stitchery X-Press.
I was called some crappy names and informed I'm the only unhappy customer ever. This is hard to believe; even the best customer service in the world will have disappointed people at some point. I say this honestly as even my own Etsy shop of 5+ years has had a customer or two I couldn't satisfy.
The worst of it all is that this has left a bad taste in my mouth forwards my Jeannette Douglass' Canada piece because the maple leaf fabric I planned to do it on came from Stitchery X Press. :(
I am going to delay starting it now and may do Jeannette's Once Upon a Tree instead as I have it all kitted up and ready to go. I'm hoping that by letting the dust settle and my brain will disassociate the items with where I bought them and I can be excited about the piece again. Or I will need to find some different cool fabric for it.
I'm so sorry to lead you astray. I'm embarrassed to have been so excited about this shop before I had gotten to know them well enough.
I will however continue to shop with my 'sort-of' local shop Traditional Stitches where owner Janice and her team are lovely and have been kind for many years to me. As well as with Joanne and her team at 123 Stitch. I miss Karen at Wasatch Needlecraft so very much these days!
If you have suggestions of online shops to try that you've had great success with I'd love to hear about them either in the comments or you can email me direct at epicstitching(at)gmail(dot)com. They need to be willing to ship to Canada. :)
I'm really sorry all. I will be much more careful in the future before promoting any seller that I have not had a long-time relationship with.
ORIGINAL POST: Happy long weekend to those in countries where this is one. It is a holiday here in Canada on Monday.
I've shown the front of the fabric, the wonderful old style weathered look, and I've flipped so you can see the back.
Friday, September 1, 2017
Title: A Twist in Time
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.