Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say


Title: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say 
Author: Nancy J. Cavanaugh 
Genre:7-11 age fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is an adorable, 7-11 kids read. It's got dogs, bandits, a swamp, boats, simple politics and a loving Grandma and Grandpa in it. Very perfect for little girls or boys. I would recommend it as a read to them story, in case they have questions, but it's mostly fun with a good morale at the end. 

It is however, due to the setting at the Okefenokee Swamp and the 'swamp people' lifestyle, filled with a fair bit of religion. Interestingly however the lead gal isn't convinced by God at first; but without a doubt she is quite convinced of God in the end. It's not a bad thing; just something to be aware of if that sort of thing bugs you. 

I think Nancy J. Cavanaugh really captured the spirit and joy of our lead gal, Elsie Mae. As the youngest of seven it's very obvious that Elsie Mae adores her summers (alone) with Grandma and Grandpa because she is the star. I think many youngest siblings could find a real connection with Elsie Mae and her want to be a hero to the swamp residents. 
Alternatively the little boy we meet is a quieter, preachers kid who is clearly troubled by many things. I felt for Henry because he clearly felt unwanted through most of the book. Certainly an emotion I remember as a child and I'm sure most kids have felt this way at some point. 

There are some tougher topics in Elsie Mae Has Something to Say; from abandonment, prison, adults who don't measure up and some dangerous choices the kids make; I feel there is a lot of content here that would engage kids to ask their parents questions. If you read to your little one you might want to read this through first to be prepared for some of those questions. In particular I didn't like how the kids doing something dangerous resulted in them being rewarded just because it turned out okay. What if it hadn't? This is the one theme I had trouble with and why I can't quite give it 5 stars. 

Overall this adorable little (partially true) story about saving the Okefenokee swamp is worth the quick read if you're intrigued as an adult or teen. And certainly in my top 5 for age 7-11 good books picks for 2017.

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Stitching: Two WIP Updates

I've got two updates for you today. 
First up is my Here There Be Monsters piece. 
Of course the border and I were not friends because I'm bad at counting to high numbers (laugh all you like it's fairly true!). But otherwise I am loving this fabric, the overdyed threads and the general pattern. It's also been a quicker stitch which is nice. 
Not done yet but here are some update photos:



Second one is the yearly SAL of Dragons. I am beyond behind on this one. Exactly as expected. This is the May dragon which is Emerald. It is standing on a gem but Ive been leaving the gems out because I can't decide how I want to deal with them (or: real stones, metallic threads, beads, etc.). 
Here's May dragon done: 




Without a doubt this project will bleed into next year. Where does the time go!! 

I have put some stitches into Alice recently but I need to find a lot more time for her. Luckily it's getting cold (first snowfall already came) and that means more reasons to stay home and stitch! 

Thanks for stopping by and happy stitching!! 

Book Review: Return to your Skin


Title: Return to Your Skin 

Author: Luz Gabas

Genre: Fiction 

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars


Did Not Finish (DNF) @ 27% 


Nothing in the world will make it okay for our leading lady to make out with mystery man only a couple kilometres from where her husband is catching up on work (because he spent time with her he didn't have). Just no. 

This reads a bit like Outlander (but nowhere near as good) in that there is trashy romantic moments, next to historical lore, next to literary devices. And while the writing is good enough; it feels a little like Lux Gabas wanted to span too many genres and be serious yet a romance novel at the same time. While it can be done, it's tough and Return to your Skin doesn't seem to achieve it. 


I was relatively bored from the get-go. Even the Wiccan ritual was described in a boring and unmoving way. How can you not make witchcraft/magic boring?! 

However, the facts of Wicca I read are correct and laid out in an acceptable manner. For many people (myself included) Wicca (a branch of Paganism) is not a mystery but our actual religion. Through Wicca I found my link to deities an the earth. 

It's possible that this will happen for our lead lady. That seems to be what is being foreshadowed. And yet I still couldn't care. 


Incredibly dull and not worth picking up for any reason I can think of. 


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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Review: The Indigo Girl

Title: The Indigo Girl
Author: Natasha Boyd
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Certainly stories of strong historical women aren't unusual; even if history barely remembers them. We seem to want to tug on these journeys until their story unravels. Indigo Girl is a mostly true story. Eliza, our lead gal, was a women of not even 17 living in the American colonies in mid-1700s. 


The primary purpose of the story appears to be about Eliza but I actually think (based on the afterword); that this is really a story about indigo production and how to get by in the mid-1700s. 

The perseverance and no quit attitude portrayed by Eliza in The Indigo Girls is something I think anyone can admire and wish for; regardless of time period or gender.


As it's the mid-1700s on a plantation in what would later become South Carolina; inevitably much of the book is about slavery. Eliza was a very progressive woman for her time and truly loved her slaves like family. This caused her a lot of heartache but also meant she fought hard for her slaves and treated them well. 

At one point I did get tired of how 'special' Eliza was that she saw her slaves as real people instead of, well, slaves. I suppose that is because to us, today, it seems so obvious that everyone should be seen and treated equally. This was the largest annoyance I had in Indigo Girl is that it got a bit repetitive about Eliza's special bond with the slaves. 

However, without a doubt Eliza's love for anyone with a good heart is what makes this a poignant and sometimes sad story. Especially the elements of it that are definitely true. Natasha Boyd makes a point at the end of letting the reader know what characters were fiction and which were real people. In a historical book built on truth I always appreciate this. There's also a bibliography if you want to read more about Eliza. I love that most of the letters are quoted direct from Eliza's real life letters. 


I would highly recommend The Indigo Girl for anyone that loves historical stories; but also to those with a keen interest in some of the building blocks of the future that people in the USA laboured so hard to create. This Canadian is very glad to have learned the story of Eliza and her Indigo dye. 


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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: Mask of Shadows


Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Genre: Teen fantasy, dystopian-ish
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Well I was blown away by this book. I had heard a lot of very poor reviews on it and gotta say I think it's quite good. The writing is wonderfully compelling and readable. It's fast-paced, has a unique fantasy world set-up and the main character does not identify with one gender over the other (it depends on the day). I love that the gender fluidity isn't the primary motivation of the story or even for our lead Sal. Instead it's just a part of Sals overall personality. 


Why don't others like this book?

There are some problematic areas and what doesn't help is most of them are near the beginning of the book. There are strong comparisons to Hunger Games at the beginning with the competition, but there's not much past that. 

Not unlike The Gilded Cage I think there are improvements to be made but overall for a debut YA author, in an over saturated market of dystopian-fantasy, Linsey Miller has made Mask of Shadows a more than decent read. I also think it's written for teens and sometimes I think us non-teens or older teens forget that to a 14 or 15 this could be their first foray into stories like this. And we all know that you never forget your first book love that opens the doors to a whole new realm of fiction. This book could be that for some people and unlike some books (ahem, Twilight) I think it has interesting morals and motivations to help someone start thinking about themselves in different ways. For me that creative thinking and self identity meant a lot when I was a teen (ie: I didn't have a self identity at all) and so I like that Mask of Shadows encourages this thinking and promotes individuality. 


Numbers as names

I know a lot of people had issues with the naming being numbers, so let's talk about that for a minute. When the competition starts the players are all given numbers and do-away with their names and (presumably) their old identities. I know a lot of people struggled with this.

I'm not good with names on an amazing day. I tend to remember people by association but rarely by their name (in real and book life). Because the number names are written out like Four, Five, etc. It was just a name to me and not a number. Funny enough the numbering system helped me remember that low numbers were invitees and high numbers auditioned to be in the competition. I think for many people you have to immediately dispel thoughts that the word Five means 5. And instead the word Five means a boy whose an arrogant jerk. The same way that you think of any other character with a 'proper' name. 

There are some cute comparisons to be drawn between Four in Divergent series and Four in this story. In the end I appreciated it as it didn't feel stolen but more an homage to stories that came before; but you might not get that until you finish the book which I think promotes a negative impression on readers quite quickly near the beginning. This doesn't help people feel confidence in the story and could result in DNFs. I get that. 


Romance

The romance in Mask of Shadows is adorable!! While I know our lead character is gender fluid I felt like they were more feminine than masculine. I think it's very individual (and shows how well Miller wrote the gender discussions into the story) that many people come away from the book with a different perception of Sals possible anatomy and identity. I hope we learn more about why Sal distinctly chooses to be male or female on any given day and I'm really hoping her anatomy makes sense to it. Ie: castrated male, born with no distinct genitals or both exist, etc. If Miller chooses not to get into the anatomy of Sal however I won't be disappointed because honestly there is sooo much more to love about this book than just Sals gender choices both for identifying herself and whom she finds attractive and desirable. 


Overall

I cannot wait for the next book in this series as the ending was awesome! I actually think book 2 is likely to be better because this one only improved as it went. I've read a lot of teen/YA books in my life and I gotta say that while Linsey Miller didn't write the best ever, she has done a stand-up job in a very difficult market. Her and Vic James should discuss their woes of trying to break into this market as I think they'd say a lot of the same things! 


I guess my point is if you've heard bad thing and have been avoiding Mask of Shadows that you should give it a chance. A 40% chance. If you still hate it after 40% then fair go on and DNF it. But I think you might find that by 40% you can't put it down and walk away as easily as you might have at 20% mark. 


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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stitching: Beatrix Potter!!

I've just got to share these old, out of print patterns I got that are of Beatrix Potter artwork. 
As a child I loved these books and thought the art was awesome. Apparently even back then I loved antique or "old"things. A lovely lady, in a stitching group on Facebook, contacted me when she saw I was looking for Beatrix patterns. 

Check out these lovelies!!! 




So cute!! 

In other stitching news I went to Traditional Stitches anniversary sale and spent way too much money (lol) on some lovely fabrics that will be in upcoming projects. 
Jeannette Douglass also released pictures of her latest pattern and its Halloween!!! Putting two of my favourite things together, Jeannette and Halloween. Yes I'm like a pathetic fan girl to Jeannette. 
As soon as I receive the pattern and thread pack I'll be sharing! 

In the meantime I've got progress on Here There be Monsters pattern. In loving working on this one and wish there was more time to stitch (as always!). Pics of it coming very soon. 

Happy stitching! 

Book Review: The List


Title: The List 
Author: Patrician Forde
Genre: Teen, Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

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: Please let the drama end

Oct 20, 2017 - midnight - Now that I'm being bombarded with messages and comments from people telling me I'm awful... this has become a larger issue than before. I don't understand why Cindy at Stitchery X-Press is unable to let this go and why she has now sent people after me. I am not able to speak to anyone in the groups or her other customers as she kicked me out of all the groups days ago.

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.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2cT1alkkj8tSVF5NnNRU0FuUVU/view?usp=sharing

I'm not denying that Cindy might have great customer service sometimes. Obviously that is true based on my first experience with her! (see original post) 

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. 


RETRACTION - Oct 16, 2017
Never in my 10+ years of stitching blogging have I ever had to issue a retraction like this.
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.   

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ORIGINAL POST: 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: DELETED LINK

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). 

Upcoming
- 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
Author
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 
Author
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.