Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: A Skinful of Shadows

Title: A Skinful of Shadows 

Author: Frances Hardinge

Genre: Young Adult, Teen, Horror, Historical Setting 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

While interesting and original this young adult horror story had a bit of an identity crisis as it tried to marry its horror story with historical war. 

A Skinful of Shadows starts out very solid as we learn about our lead gals odd ghost 'issues'. Her Mother that appears cruel and the Aunt and Uncle who have no interest in her sets our lead gal up as a neglected, alone and forgotten soul. Not unlike some ghost/spirits might be. 

And without a doubt Frances Hardinge is a superb writer. She sets excellent scenes and can create a creep factor without being gory or over the top. But...

Historical + Horror

There's no real reason A Skinful of Shadows needed to have an identity crisis. Set during the English civil war, our horror story is the focus, but certainly our characters are affected by the battle events around them. Which was all well and good until our lead gal ends up caught up in a scheme that will benefit one side of the war. While it gets our characters away from certain situations this interlude of smuggling, spies, infantry movements and battlement sieges is just dull. Instead of having an engaging reason to care, and partially because our lead gal doesn't care who wins, I just couldn't bring myself to feel any passion about the war or whose side wins or losses. 

If you're hoping for information about the civil war setting this is the absolute wrong book as the majority of the information is fictional.  


While there are many ghost/spirit haunting stories, and there may even be some in which the spirits haunt live bodies, A Skinful of Shadows still stood out for me as an unique and compelling story. The added touch of a dynasty family with great political and financial power helped put our characters front and centre to many situations we may not have encountered otherwise. This use of a non-noble but high ranking household is brilliant by Hardinge. And while servants, like our main gal, embroiled in high family affairs is not a new setting, Hardinge takes it to a whole new level by defining a servant as something more than a pushy kitchen girl and instead she is a rare commodity that the main family cannot afford to lose. 

Disney's Brave

Perhaps it's very sad and pathetic of me but the use of a bear spirit in this kept reminding me of Disney's Brave. Don't get me wrong I adored our bear and his ferocious, often confused and yet protective role in our story. But each time a bear spirit was referenced all I saw was our lead girl dressed up as Meredith. This was distracting for me. And so I think a different  animal might have been a better choice. A cougar could easily have played the same role and maybe helped distance the small similarities to Brave bear spirit. 


This was my first Hardinge book. I have more a couple more of hers on my shelf for the future and I'm definitely excited to read them. While I give this a 3.5 stars it's a solid 3.5. Assuming you can push through the dragging war bound middle of the novel then I believe most will enjoy Hardinge's creepy and (mostly) compelling ghost story. 

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Stitching: Small Finish

I dunno if it's the new year or what but I feel like I'm plagued by startitis. All I wanna do is start new things! It's really outrageous. So I'm forcing myself to finish some things first (like the monthly dragon piece) before I start any of my 2018 SALs. Which means, of course, I'll star at the year behind. Lol!

I did however cheat and spend an evening or two putting together this cutie. It's an older Mill Hill Kit. All beads. It was really different because some of the beads are not attached as a single bead to the perforated paper but instead 3-4 beads put on one strand and then fit into the empty space. Gives it a very organic look which I really like. It's the transparent purple ones in the between the gold that are done this way. They kind of look just fit into place (because they are). 
Mill Hill Kit
Paisley Heart
Black Perforated Paper
Mill Hill Beads with DMC 310 (black) thread

And so my obsession with the little perforated kits continues. They continue to be the best thing on days when my hand is acting up (too shaky or too numb) to allow me to stitch my 'fancier' projects. Because stitching is stitching whether the skill level be high or low. 

In other news: 
Getting super close to just the black area left on the latest page of Alice! 
Almost have another dragon to show (2 more to go when this one is finished!!) 
And need to pick up Here there be Dragons to keep it moving. 
Plus, so many new SALs! 

Thanks for stopping by and happy stitching! 

Book Review: The History of Bees

Title: The History of Bees
Author: Maja Lunde
Translation: Diane Oatley
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is wonderful! 
By a Norwegian novel debut author, Maja Lunde; translated from Norwegian The History of Bees is really well written. While I give 80% of that credit to Lunde, a bit of credit is due to the translator Diane Oatley. 
Following three different timelines, all related to bees in some way, this is a literary masterpiece. 

The three settings
We have 1898, 2007 and 2089 as our time periods. Set in completely different parts of the world as well; England, USA and China respectively. 
Of course the future timeline starts off the most interesting because we get to learn what Lunde sees as our (and the bees) world in 80ish years. As always it's a bit bleak. 
In 2007 we are treated to honey production at the farm scale (not industrial) but still as the main income source. And of course, anyone who is aware of the bee situation today knows that this was around the time colonies were starting to suddenly collapse with no reason. 
The past starts off slow but becomes really interesting as a man with an awful lot of children starts innovating his own type of beehive.  The innovation is to allow for easier harvesting of the honey that doesn't require as many bees dying when you open the hive to harvest. 

This is where Lunde really excels. Her characters are so life-like. The point of views (one per timeline) we are treated to are parents with children at various ages. Relationships between parents and their children are what The History of Bees is really about; and what makes it a solid 'typical book club' pick. 
In all cases the parents wish better for their children, or at least speak of a legacy to help their children have better lives than their own in the future. A very typical parental obsession; but portrayed here in a way which even adults without children (like myself) can understand and appreciate. 

It's all about the bees
I've looked into a small beehive for our yard before with no success because we don't think we can meet the space regulations. So going into this I knew a teeny tiny bit about colony collapse disorder (CDC).
Now after reading this I'm determined to have a hive at some point under my care. The bees are the link between our three timelines but they are also the link to humanity's survival. Pollination is key for most fruits and many other food sources to grow. Now let's be specific here for a minute we are talking about honeybees. There are lots of kinds of bees but the ones that are critical make the honey. 
It's clear, even to a very amateur prospective beekeeper, that Lunde has done her homework here. Everything that happens in the 2007 timeline has already happened and her descriptions and explanations of the situations are anything but boring. Most of our characters are in love with bees and so they speak or think passionately about it. With just the right amount of truth and science built in. A very enjoyable way to learn about honey bees! 
So for me the book felt like it was all about the bees (and bees are what drew me to it). Even though the bees are the link across time, the reality is that The History of Bees is about people coping with being a parent in their given timeline. The bees just make it sweeter. 

The History of Bees was effortless to read. The characters and settings seemed to leap off the page for me. With the addition of a very relevant, important and interesting topic of bees thrown in this was a lovely piece of literature and one I look forward to adding to my print book collection (the next time I'm at a bookstore). In my book collection these days there is no higher honour than being an ebook or review copy that I read and decide to buy a print copy of. Lunde has earned this honour and I can't wait to read her next novel. 

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Book Review: Jane, Unlimited

Title: Jane Unlimited
Author: Kristin Cashore 
Genre: teen, time(ish) travel, mystery
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars (did not finish at 54% read) 

DNF @ 52% 

This is very disappointing to me. Kristin Cashore's Graceling series is one of my absolute favourite teen fantasy series ever!! I recommend it and buy it for people constantly. 

So when Cashore announced Jane, Unlimited I was (I'll be honest) a bit disappointed it was a contemporary but then learned it had some sort of time fluctuation in it. So I was intrigued. Yet here I am giving up on it (and I tried for two weeks to keep at it, which in my reading world is forever). Now my favourite genres are fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction. So the time wonkiness is not new to me and as a Whovian I embrace lots of anomalies and oddness. Just want to put out there that the time aspect is not at all why I disliked this book. 

Let's talk a bit about why:


As always Cashore has created interesting, quirky and memorable characters. I have no complaints in this department. Well except that maybe there isn't enough about the friend who takes her to the odd mansion for a gala. But otherwise no complaints. I also foresee a lot of people adding Ravi to their book boyfriend list and a character that charming is never a bad thing right? 😉


Interestingly my biggest complaint here is that it's a bit too haphazard. There is no real indicator when the timeline has shifted. You have to just figure that out as you read. While I get that this is intentionally like this to confuse the reader and put them in a certain mindset I just found it irritating overall. 

Otherwise there's a lot of plot. Between the gala planning, art theft, weird family dynamics, suspicious servants, etc there's lots of variety to keep you interested. 

Why I Gave Up

I know it's confusing after my above comments to figure out why I gave up on Jane, Unlimited. So here's the thing: 

  1. Our main gal is annoying. Instead of feeling sympathy when I should have (with the exception of the first few pages) I was just annoyed by her. 
  2. The lead gal never seems to wonder or be concerned about what happens AFTER the gala and she presumably goes back to her destitute life. This would be a HUGE concern for me personally were I in her shoes. 
  3. The largest annoyance by far: there is no logical reason for why our MC is even there!! At no point could I ever figure out why she was invited to the mansion, takes everything she owns with her, doesn't get super uncomfortable and just hide 90% of the time after having breakfast with a bunch of strangers, or not being seriously concerned that her room is far away from her (supposed) friends and why her friend who invited her is never around and leaves Jane to fend for herself. And the response of her Aunt telling her to go to the mansion if ever invited is an okay reason for Jane to have accepted the invitation it still doesn't explain why this semi-not seen in forever friend invited her. 
  4. It was just boring. I think it might have been our main gal, but I'm not sure. All I can say is that I have no interest in finding out who did what, why or when. The mystery is so abstract because (with a shifting timeline) there is an infinite number of possibilities available to solve any and all mysteries. This is not interesting to me at all. 
  5. Finally there is no understanding or even much focus on the time situation (as in how and why it's happening), or even an attempt for our MC to figure out what is happening. Maybe in ten more pages after I stopped that started but I didn't see it going there. And again at the point I stopped just didn't care. 


So thanks for those that read through my somewhat long list of reasons. If you didn't read it, to sum it all up: I just didn't care. 

I will still read Cashore in the future and this doesn't change my opinion of Graceling series at all. 

But I do hope the next book is a little less like Jane, Unlimited and a little more like Graceling and it's companion novels. 

As it's mid-January 2018 while I write this I'm hoping this remains my most disappointing read of the year; because I can't currently imagine being this more disappointed than I currently am.

PS: if you want to read a good time travel book, albeit not a teen book, read Dark Matter. It's brilliant, Michael Crichton-esque and a rollicking, fun and fast-paced read.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Review: Exodus

Title: Exodus
Author: Julie Bertagna
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Teen
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Exodus tells a unique, interesting and compelling story. However it is a story that should be told in 2-3 books ~200 pages each, instead of the 368 pages it is. 

The Premise 
We are taken to a time on Earth when the ice caps have melted and much of the Earth is under water. To a small community in what was once England/Stonehenge who are looking ground to the ocean every year. This portion of the story is very well developed and gives us a solid base for our main gal to develop her character and cleverness. 
From here we travel to one of the 'sky cities' that are a marvel of engineering built way up above the ocean. But of course, as is always the case with dystopian fiction, there is not enough room for everyone and so any newcomers are condemed to remain outside of the seawall that protects this sky city. 
I won't go into details after this as that would ruin the progression of the story. But at one point our lead gal meets with Treenesters (who are easily my favourite of all the group she meets). This group of people has so much literary potential to work with and Julie Bertagna only barely taps into it. I could easily have read a whole book about this group, it's challenges, beliefs and construct.

Really a story outline 
With the exception of the opening few chapters on the small island and the occasional chapter throughout Exodus feels like a story outline that deserves, if not begs, for more to be revealed about it. Bertagna has all these wonderous characters in extreme situations and instead of really looking at those characters and their way of life she rushes us through a (albeit interesting) dystopian plot that at times feels so convenient you'd think you bought the resolutions at a convenience store. This is a sign of under developed writing. Authors should be able to make you feel like the characters survived because they deserved to, or made that future happen; not just because someone opened a door at the perfect time. 

I'd definitely read Julie Bertagna again in the future as I think she has lot of potential as a writer. Unfortunately Exodus just is rushed and doesn't do justice to the elaborate and interesting world she has built. 

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: Scythe

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Teen, dystopia, fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars! 

For the last 10 days I have been trying to come up with a review for this brilliant book. Neal Shusterman has blown me away. Scythe has moved to my favourites list in one read and left me wanting to re-read it again and again. 
This is difficult to review because there are so many amazing things about this book. Original plot, relatable characters, a topic of fear & death that you can't help but be intrigued by. I believe even the most upbeat person would find something in Scythe to appreciate even though it's primary topic is seemingly death. 

When death becomes necessary
So what if death became a non-factor? Or at least a 1% factor that you could ignore 99% of the time. Shusterman puts us into a world that has no natural death, no accidental death, no disease, famine or need of any kind. All humans are well fed, housed and (for the most part) equal. You can 'die' in any number of ways and will be brought back to life (for a fee of course) but money is easily gained in most cases. How you ask? Because a sentient 'cloud', the Thunderhead, now controls the resources of earth, humanity's destiny and overall life. You can 'turn' back to a younger age at any time and your reproductive organs never seem to fail. And so of course here comes the real problem in a seemingly perfect world...

Someone has to die, there's no room at the inn
Forgive me for the cheap joke but our Earth, not unlike an inn, has a limited amount of space. Even with perfect allocation of resources eventually we will hit a moment of mass capacity. Mathematics makes this inevitable. The solution in Shusterman's amazing story is to have people who are selected to become reapers, called Scythes. 
These are people, generally chosen as teenagers or in their early 20's who are apprenticed to become Scythes. People that select 1% of the population (to a perfect cap number every four months that is kept track of, and where equality is very important, you must not discriminate in who you kill) to permanently die. No regeneration, no second or third chance. Just death. 
Not unlike our own world you could be reaped (killed) at any time. Except in this world it will be because a Scythe chose you. 

Now, you already likely know where this is going right... how do you ensure moral ambiguity for your Scythes. How do they not just become murders? What if they like to kill instead of are doing it because its their job? And who governs/regulates these people? 
All good questions. And ones I won't answer because I want everyone to read Scythe.

Let's face it actually dying is easy; but dealing with death is hard, very hard. Shusterman has taken this complex topic and made it easier to digest. Even the entries, that are very philosophical, from the Scythes personal journals, are written in such a way that anyone with a grade 6 level education could begin to understand and really think about what death means. And subsequently what it means when you can't die. Suicide doesn't work, murder doesn't exist, and Scythes cannot be hired to kill you. Life can become stagnant, boring, and unfulfilling. 

The Ultimate Irony
What do people do when life becomes stagnant, boring and unfulfilling? They change something. Often it's a relationship, work or even family change. A common one... the desire to have a baby. Now in Shusterman's world the issue is over population and yet here are a bunch of bored people who have nothing better to do than have babies because they can. The ability to reproduce never 
disappears and so the surplus population grows, exponentially. 

Here's the reality... like it or not this is true of right now on today's Earth: Reproduction is killing our Earth. Our resources are limited and eventually we will run out of everything except the ocean. This is a scientific fact.
Scythe addresses this issue in an elegant, if harsh way. The reality is that we must either stop reproducing so much at some point (slow our population growth) or we must start killing off people in order to maintain any semblance of balance. Now there is, obviously, no balance at all in our world today. But imagine, like in Scythe, there was balance. All that is left to deal with is birth and death. 

Death instead of reproduction control?
Some part of me wonders why in Scythe there isn't just a push to curb the population in; perhaps put restrictions on reproduction. But let's face it that's just messy and difficult. Ironically killing people off is a lot easier (nervous lol in case people don't get why this is funny to me). This is where Shusterman won me over immediately! He has set up the morales, values, philosophy and mantra of his characters and the world in general so perfectly that you accept that reaping is absolutely needed. Brilliant. 
For me, as an infertile mid-30's woman (who has known she would never have her own children for more than a dozen years) I can say that this approach is very interesting to me. Please don't feel pity for me, I'm happy to be 1 of 5 women who cannot have babies, so that my friends who desperately want them can. So a part of me wonders, and maybe some will think me monstrous for saying this, but what we are really doing when we choose to have a child. Obviously we can't all stop reproducing, but at some point do you not have to ask yourself if it wouldn't be better to have fewer people in the world? And isn't curbing reproduction easier than killing people who are already alive? Food for thought. 

Philosophical yet thrilling
I could write 100 pages alone about just this decision in Scythe (to kill people instead of curb reproduction) nevermind all the other topics that Shusterman touches on. And yet amongst all this philosophy I still love our characters, am blown away by the plot and can't wait to turn each page (while not wanting to turn the page because I didn't want it to be over). I could easily see this becoming a literature piece studied in schools. A teen novel that could change people's perspective, challenge their preconceptions and make them think about their own morality and what they will do with their life (especially given they only get one in our real world). 

And so Scythe now sits on my favourites shelf next to other books like Hunger Games, Graceling, Station Eleven, Ship of Magic, Kushiel's Dart, etc. It's funny that until I put Scythe on this shelf I never realized how many of my favourite books have death as a main topic. I should probably not think about that too much for fear of getting into my mind in a way that could be a little scary. 

For this and more of my reviews please visit my blog at: Epic Reading

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: Timekeeper

Title: Timekeeper
Series: Book 1 of Timekeeper series
Author: Tara Sim
Genre: Teen, young adult, steampunk, Victorian, fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely fantastic! Timekeeper has everything a good book should have plus even more! 
A teen/young adult fantasy story set in Victorian London based around time control (not travel but control) with a steampunk flavor. The best part is that our male main character is gay and has an adorable love interest. Everything about Tara Sim's Timekeeper is a check in the great column; but let me break some of it down for you. 

With a backdrop like Victorian London it's hard not to feel like everything is gorgeous in so many ways. Add in steampunk elements, lots of clock towers, and steam powered 'autos' and you've got the beginnings of a beautiful place to visit. Even modern day London is known for its famous clock tower Big Ben. This clock tower is not only an important fixture in Sim's London (as in ours today) but Big Ben is also a bit of a character in and of himself. Plus, like all of our clock towers in this world, 'he' is essential to time moving correctly in London. 

A World of Time
The lore says that time was once controlled by a god, Aetas; but at some time he left the world and time became 'controlled' by each area's clock tower. Now this is very important as the clock towers, if broken, damaged or destroyed, can change the perception of time to the areas people (ie: town, city, village, etc.). Without a functioning clock tower a town can become stopped. Suspended in time and stuck in an existence in which no one can enter or leave that area. Damaged clocks may cause time to skip around, move too fast or too slow, or just make residents feel uncomfortable. Obviously these towers are really important! 
Sim has taken the concept of time and twisted it about; but without having time travel or weird physics rules involved. And you might be thinking that it sounds odd. It is a little bit odd at first, but it is also elegant and the rules of time and the clocks that Sim sets up hold up right to the last page. 
In order to keep time on schedule and everyone synced up; London has a guild of clock mechanics who fix and maintain all the clock towers in England. And, of course, our main character is a member of this elite and essential group. 

All the characters in Timekeeper are complex and interesting and that includes our main boy Danny. A gay, 17-year-old mechanic, with a father stuck in time and a grieving mother; life is pretty rough for Danny. Luckily he has a wonderful gal pal Cassie (an auto mechanic in her own right), a mentor and folks who are seemingly looking out for him.  
Now as wonderful as Danny is, and even though we experience the entire story from his perspective, the real star of the story is Colton, Danny's romantic interest. I can't say too much about Colton without spoiling anything except that he is a perfect 'blond bloke' and at times I wished I was a gay man that could fantasize about him in the same Danny does! 
This is one of the first, and only books with a leading male teen in which I thought the love story was gorgeous. It's set-up perfectly from the boys first encounter with one another, to the stories they tell each other, and the eventual strengths, weaknesses and fears they share. This relationship is poignant, bittersweet and perfect because it's imperfect. This is a romantic teen story I will be happy to visit over and over again. The icing on the cupcake is that it's a love story between two men. 

There is a lot of plot happening in Timekeeper all at once, and yet it all connects. Sim does a great job of ensuring you are engaged in the plot via the characters (there is no plot for plot's sake). In all instances events that happen both affect our characters AND play a part in the overall plot. Just like a well written book should be. None of the teen genre cliches (where things are too convenient or you can't figure out why something happened) exist here. Everything is set-up to happen with a reason and with context so that no one thing feels out of place in the story. 

Timekeeper Needs More Exposure!
Published by a smaller publishing house, Sky Pony Press, Tara Sim and her world need our help to make it big! This gem of a novel is not as well known due to it not being published with any of the major publishing houses. And I have to say, for me, that is maybe part of it's magic! It's always so nice to read great books from publishers that may not have the same resources to push their books to the top with money. Instead these books must reach the top audiences based on their merit. 

Even if this wasn't a debut novel I would think it a wonderful read. But knowing that this is Tara Sim's debut novel makes it even more impressive in my opinion. The first in a series, Timekeeper can be read on it's own if you don't desire to carry forward. Although once you are immersed in this world I'll be surprised if you aren't dying for more of this steampunk world and it's quirky characters. 
All I can say is that if you like teen novels and want to read a diverse love story you will not go wrong with Timekeeper. Add in the gothic feel of Victorian steampunk London, time gone astray, and the sorrow (and love) of a teenage boy and I'll be surprised if you can put this beauty down. 
I'm dying to get the second book (which was just released this month, Jan 2018) and can't wait to read more of Tara Sim's stories. This is a book worth searching for, ordering and adding to your print collection. I know my copy will have a place of honor with Hunger Games, Graceling, Incarceron and other favourite teen fantasy/dystopian books in my library.  

I was offered a review copy of this book last year but was dumb and didn't read it in time. Last week I found and bought a beautiful trade paperback copy. I'm so glad I didn't leave it behind! I only regret that it took me a year to find and read Timekeeper. I could have read this beauty and held the story in my heart for a whole year sooner! Onto my permanent print shelf it goes awaiting the day when I get to read it again.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Stitching: Alice WIP Update

Being off between Christmas and New Years, plus it being -30C or less almost everyday (with extreme windchill warnings 8in effect) was awesome! (lol) Because it meant we could hunker down, marathon some TV shows and I could stitch!! 
As such I made huge headway on page 3 of Alice. I'm very excited that she has a hand! It may not seem like much, but as I've said before, on 40+ pages of stitching you gotta celebrate the small stuff. 

So here's half of page 3 added:

The entire piece to date:

I'm feeling a lot better about this piece now that I've seen the detail of her hand come together. Sometimes hose blobs of colour/background are difficult to really see value in. I know in the end it will be amazing but motivation doesn't always show up when I need it. 

What I learned from this week of stitching while off and hibernating is that if I didn't have a job or do anything and just stitched all day long then I'd be able to finish off this piece in 1-2 years instead of 10+. Lol! 
But unless my life plan A (to win the lottery) happens tomorrow I will continue to chip away at Alice when I can. :) 

Hope your 2018 is starting off with some solid stitching! 

Book Review: Weave a Circle Round

Title: Weave a Circle Round
Author: Kari Maaren
Genre: Fantasy, Time Travel 
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Did not Finish @ 41%

I love complex, weird, interesting fantasy/sci-fi books. Want me to believe in aliens, time travel, fantasy worlds, etc no problem BUT, you must give me a construct in which your world stands on. I don't need every detail or a complete explanation; but I do need a bit of a frame for the type of story I'm getting into and where it might be headed. 
I hate DNFing a book; but when I cannot come up with a single reason to keep reading and am dreading the book I know it's time to give up. 

Fundamentally Flawed
Weave a Circle Round fails at a fundamental story requirement; setting up some sort of existence for our characters that gives something to build from. If you aren't going to give a setting that helps give a logic to the story then at least make your characters really interesting. Unfortunately the characters are just as flat and uninteresting as the non-existent plot. 

I can follow a book for sometime that is failing at plot if I like the character(s) enough. Unfortunately Kari Maaren has not created any character that I cared about or was even intrigued by; including the crazy neighbours. They were all very generic, boring or otherwise unmemorable. Even our two weird neighbours, that seem to be the catalysts for everything that happens, weren't enough to keep me interested. 

Missing Connections
At 40%+ of a novel I expect to have an idea about why things are happening or at least what is happening. Instead Maaren takes our main gal and sets her up for bullying at school; then suddenly she ends up in a Viking timeline with one of the crazy neighbours. Say um... what?!? 

There is zero indication about why this has happened or what it even means. Meanwhile the boy/crazy neighbour is clearly a time traveler with some sort of psychic power and yet still nothing fits into anything. For me it felt like each piece of the puzzle was from a different puzzle entirely that would never fit together. And frankly even if they do by the end I just didn't care about our people, the time travel or even what made the neighbours so odd. 

It's okay to take me on a wild fantasy ride but give me characters I can care about and some sort of pieces that appear to go together. 
I believe this book needs some serious review by beta readers to work on capturing the attention of the reader and giving nuggets of information that might fit together or at least intrigue the reader into continuing to read. 
It also needs some character help to make at least our main gal more relatable if not actually likeable. 
It surprises me that TOR published this. They are usually a solid publishing house. Somehow this one slipped through the cracks and got published. They might do well to pull it back and try again. 

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

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Books: 2017 Recap

I made a decision at the end of November 2016 that I needed to put down my phone and read more. This wasn't meant to say I wouldn't still play some casual phone games; but that the RPGs and intense 'all the time play' games needed to go. 

I am so happy to report I successfully committed to and achieved my goal of becoming a (unpaid) book reviewer. 😃

A couple of things that helped me read 101 books in 2017 (over the ~30 books in 2015). 

- put down the silly games on your phone or tablet  that suck up hours

- ebooks on your phone!! Read in line at the coffee shop, on the train platform, or pretty much anytime you have a minute and can see your phone

- When watching reruns on TV have a book open. You'll probably read more than you think

- Tell your partner this is something you want to do and have them heckle you when you are spending too much time on your phone (my husband loved this 😂)

- Just read!!! 😃❤️

These are books published in 2017 that I read and were my favourites: 

- Novella: Down Amoung the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire 

- Fantasy: Wings Unseen by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

- Middle Grade: The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero 

- Historical Fiction: The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

- YA/Teen: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

- Sci-Fi: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

- The most disappointing book of the year: Caraval 

- The most underrated or misunderstood book of the year: Mask of Shadows 

- Best book not written in 2017 but that I read in 2017: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

2017 By the Numbers

- 15 print books

- 75 review books (!!!) 

- 11 library books (9 ebooks, 2 print) 

- 17 books DNF (not counted in total)

- 101 TOTAL completed books in 2017

Triple from 2016 and as many as I did in 4 yrs prior! 😳😃

So for 2018... I want to just keep it up so my goal is 101 books. If I can match it then I'll know it's a habit that just fits in my life now. 😊

Thanks to everyone who supports both my reading and stitching obsessions! You all truly give me even more motivation with your comments and visits here than I could ever give myself! 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Book Review: 13 Minutes

Title: 13 Minutes
Author: Sara Pinborough
Genre: Teen, Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

13 Minutes was not quite was I was expecting. 
The first 65% is about what I was anticipating. Which was a mysterious almost death by a teen which takes a criminal offense and puts it in the middle of high school drama. 
There are two main perspectives in this book with occasional glimpses into others minds. The two are of the gal who almost dies and those of her ex-best friend. I enjoyed the ex-best friend the best; and actually think it would have greatly improved this book to have the entire story be entirely from the ex-best friends perspective with the exception of the prologue and maybe a epilogue. 

In a mystery novel, obviously, foreshadowing is very important. I won't lie, mysteries are not my favourite books. I usually but I try to read a couple every year; and am always intrigued by young adult ones in particular.
In 13 minutes there is almost a bit too much foreshadowing at times and yet not enough at others. If Sarah Pinborough had stopped the book at the 65% mark with it's 'answer' to our mystery I could have happily walked away with a four star review and been content with the read. But instead there is another 35% of the book to go and a whole new premise/set of information comes to light. 
Yes I know, this a valid way to tell a story and can be the case in real life situations as well. But when I'm reading a book where clues are planted into the narrative it just annoys me to be completely unprepared for a twist. While this twist is plausible and possible (which is why this isn't a lower star rating; because I hate cheap twists), it still seems a bit out of nowhere. While some books are amazing at giving clues that, when you find out the 'whodunnit' you think, "wow, how did I not see that?" The best example I can think of that is a twist done perfectly is the reveal in the movie The Sixth Sense. The clues are all there right in front of us for it's twist; but almost all of us miss them the first time through. Second pass watching it and you'll realize you should have known. That is perfect mystery story telling. Sadly it's uncommon for it to be done so well. 
13 minutes is not a Sixth Sense situation. Were I to go back and re-read this book I don't think there are many, if any at all, foreshadows to the final outcome during the first 65% of the book. There is a spot at about 75% where I was fairly confident I knew the 'new outcome' but the rest of the book didn't seem to point out or remind me of why I should have already known based on facts from the first 65% of the story. (I hope I explained that right, lol)

High School Drama
This is definitely a contemporary teen book set at a high school (secondary school, or whatever you call it in your part of the world). It's got annoying text message conversations with text-speak, boyfriend drama that is outrageous yet just like real high school, and all the standard cliches of being a teenger (most of which are true). The characters (and their drama) all felt quite real and had enough depth to just keep me interested in most of them. One or two were a bit flat but as they are not significant characters I didn't really mind. And, as I said already, the ex-best friend character was easily the one I felt the most for and even though she reacts in a typical crazy teen fashion a few times I still totally understood her and even wanted to defend her freak-outs a few times.

Not Just Almost Death
THIS IS ONLY A WARNING THAT I'M GOING TO LIST THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THE BOOK THAT SOME MAY FIND DISTURBING. IT DOES NOT SPOIL WHO IT HAPPENS TO OR GIVE AWAY ANY OF THE MYSTERY; but if you'd rather not know at all that's fair and you can scroll down to the "Overall" heading. I've left space before and after the possible spoiler mention so you can scroll past easily (I hope). 

I think it's only fair to let folks know that there is more than just the 'almost death' the title implies. There is also sexual engagements between a minor and an adult (not described in detail but it does happen), actual death & grief, drug use, and of course lying and cheating that is typical of a contemporary teenage setting. 

The writing by Pinborough is quite good and I will consider reading another of her books. But maybe not one that is a complex mystery. The plot points just didn't satisfy me at the end of the day.
To support how good the writing is I can tell you there is a lot of backstabbing and posturing in this book between a number of the high school girls. One of the situations reminded me so much of an ex-best friends attitude and way of manipulating me that, even 15+ years since (finally) telling her off, I felt like I was almost back in one of those teen moments where she treated me like crap and I put up with it because I was weak, desperate for friends and ignorant. 
That's really how compelling some of the writing is. So if you are intrigued by the premise, and enjoy mystery in a young adult format, this might be for you. It's not a bad read; just not one I would ever pick-up again or recommend to most people. 

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

Monday, January 1, 2018

Book Review: Long Way Down

Title: Long Way Down

Author: Jason Reynolds

Genre: Teen, Poetry, Poetic Prose, Gun Violence

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is not a traditional story or novel. It's more of a poetic prose that explores the thoughts of a fifteen year old boy and his struggle to follow the 'rules' of his ghetto life. The difficulty being that he has morales yet believes that gun violence is 'required' (because of the rules) and thus a circle of killing is destined to continue in his family and community. 

It's brilliantly set-up as an elevator ride from floor 7 down to the lobby. At each floor someone he knows or knows of is added to the elevator to comment (very poetically) on the situation that is influencing the teen to perpetuate the gun violence. 

I don't want to give much away because the real impact here is not knowing how it will end or who gets on the elevator. 

Without a doubt Long Way Down has the potential to become a required reading in schools; because of the style of writing, the topic of gun violence, and the commentary it makes on society and how/what we teach our children. 

I give this four stars if only because I have a very hard time with gun violence stories or commentaries. I live in Canada and so gun violence (while it happens here) is not as common as stabbing incidents. And so I struggle a lot with this idea that people teach children to shoot others and take retribution. The only thing to be gained from this is more death and violence. I'm slightly concerned that Long Way Down could be misinterpreted as condoning this violence and so I can't give it 5 stars. 

I actually hope that more adults read this than kids or teens. It clearly explains how teens are interpreting what they are told. That they take things literally and  as parents and/or influential adults that are around children we have a responsibility to stop the violence 

I believe we all (especially parents and influential adults to children) need to take some responsibility for our  of the acceptance of gun violence. Long Away Down illustrates this in a distinct, quick to read and obvious way. 

If nothing else I hope at least one or two kids or teens realize that shooting one another is not a solution and that violence only begets violence. 

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