Friday, 29 January 2016

The Program by Suzanne Young

The world of The Program is a scary one to imagine.  Teen suicide is rampant and parents are willing to go to extremes to protect their children.  The government has established The Program to save their children, but it exacts a steep price, their memories. 

Sloane lost her older brother two years ago, and the only thing that has kept her going is her boyfriend James.  Now he is at risk.

Author Suzanne Young depicts a desperate world where the teen suicide rate is extremely high.  The anxiety that the characters are feeling comes across clear and strong.  If they aren't depressed already, then the fear they feel about being taken into The Program could edge them into a downward spiral.

It was fairly easy to feel the surreal life that Sloan and her friends were living in.  Their every move and word was being watched.  Teens don't function well under that type of scrutiny even when things are going well.

I enjoyed all the twists and turns of this story.  Part One was quite bleak with despair.  From Pat Two onward, it was a different feeling, easier to read and even enjoy.

Sloane and James seemed like real people to me.  Their joys and sorrows were totally in keeping with the responses of seventeen year olds.  I was cheering them on the entire book.

While not a cheerful read, I could hardly put it down.

The story continues:
0.5 The Remedy
0.6 The Epidemic
  1  The Program
  2  The Treatment
  3  The Recovery

Cover image courtesy Simon & Schuster

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Needlework Tuesday - Keeping the Mojo going

I don't know about you, but I tend to start the year with the best of intentions and plans for all sorts of accomplishments.  By the time mid or late January rolls around, my mojo starts to wane and I find myself veering wildly off track.  This year I am making a concerted effort to stay the course.

 Last week I showed you the fittens (foot mittens) that I am making this year. I want a basket full to offer to visitors so their toes stay warm.  Pair number two is complete.  This is the large size which comfortably fits womens 8-9.
 The large, in yellow, is one knit-purl repeat larger than the medium, in red. 
Hubby is curious about the fit, thus I have started a pair in his size.

I doubt I'll keep up this pace for the year, but the intent is at least a dozen pairs, so I am off to a good start.

How to keep my needlework mojo.  The very best approach I have found is to share my plans here on my blog.  Once I put it out to the world then I feel obliged to follow-up and show you my progress.  Readers are curious, but they are also forgiving if I slack off.  When that happens, I have my friend Patricia to nudge me along.  Just like the rest of you, she wants to see the finished item.  Oh, thank goodness for my friends, you help me more than you can imagine.

I recall that Sherrie, at Food for Thought, has posted a list of the quilts she is going to finish this year.  I'm not ready to do that, but I will state that I am going to work on my machine quilting.  I have a few dozen quilt tops and plans for such wonderful quilting for them that far exceeds my skill.  Instead of moaning about that, it's time I started working toward my skill goal.  So stick with me, and please encourage me in my pursuit of stitching happiness.

Have you managed to stay on track this year.  Do you have a technique that you follow and are willing to share. Please leave a comment as well as a link to your goal post or your current needlework post.  Mister Linky is waiting below.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

How did I ever manage to miss this book when it was first released, it is brilliant.  It's easy to feel invisible when you walk into a crowded room, but to feel the same in your own home, that's seriously bad.

Clover is mystified and definitely panicked when she first notices that she is invisible.  Not the invisible you might feel at a large gathering, but the kind where you can't see your hand nor any other part of your body.  She has gone transparent yet her family doesn't even notice.

Soon, she learns that other woman are turning invisible and that some of them have formed a support group.  What she hears from them encourages her to brush up on her neglected reporter skills to try and figure out what has happened.

This is the most original story I have read in ages.  It truly speaks to that part of me that feels lost in large groups.

I love the character of Clover.  Author Jeanne Ray did a terrific job creating her considering that she couldn't rely on Clover's physical characteristics.  Clover falters at first, but quickly regains her balance and even confronts some of her fears while invisible.  She somehow manages to grow in a situation that would humble many others.

After reading this, I want to buy copies and give them to all the women of a certain age that I know.

Cover image courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Canada

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Needlework Tuesday - A Star is Born

 The weather here has turned cold and snowy, which is good when I want to stay inside and stitch. That's exactly how I spent my weekend.  I really wanted to finish this afghan as son will be visiting tomorrow and I want to give this to him.  A friend of his had a baby a little while ago and this is a gift for him.  This is such and easy pattern, I don't mind making it again and again. This is the third that I've done in the past year.   It is a free pattern available from Bernat.

Earlier I wrote a post on why a star shaped blanket is perfect for wrapping a baby.

 Too bad that this variegated yarn colour, Ginseng, is dis-continued, it is so pretty.
Rather than stash away the left over yarn, I decided to knit some slippers.  Daughter calls these fittens, as in feet mittens. They are small and meant to fit in your pocket so that you have slippers when you are out visiting.   The Seamless Salomas Slippers pattern is by Susan Busbee and Megan Williams is free and quick to knit.  I have cast on another pair since I am on a roll.

I had wanted to make several pairs of these last year as gifts,but didn't get a single pair made.  I didn't want December to roll around again and not have any made, so I am staring early this year.

After I get the next pair of slippers completed, I'll add the left over yarn to the granny square afghan that I am stitching.  A great use for leftovers instead of putting those bits away to get left in storage for years on end.

I have enough bits and pieces and unfinished projects sitting around, I most certainly don't need any more.  I'm not going to say i made a New Years resolution to finish my UFOs.  That too broad of a statement, rather, I said that I am going to work on my machine quilting.  I look in quilting magazine and see such beautiful work. I want to do that.  I  realize that I won't be able to do that on the  first quilt, but if I work on at least one quilt each month, by the end of the year I should see some serious improvement. I have lots of quilt tops finished, so I have no shortage of pieces to practise on.

Do you have a skill that you are working on this year. It doesn't have to be needlework, I'd like to hear about it in the comments.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Thanks for all your book recommendations last week.  I'll keep them in mind when I'm looking for future reads.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post. 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Collision of Centuries by John J. Le Beau

It's pretty straight forward, you get sick, you visit the doctor, you take the prescribed medicine and you get better. That is, unless you are in a particular Bavarian town where a plague,  the Black Death, has reared its lethal head once again.

Kommissar Franz Waldbaer is called in to investigate a suspicious death at the remote castle Schloss Winterlock.  It soon turns into a murder investigation with links to an unusual outbreak of plague.  Waldbaer has to work quickly to solve this case before the illness spreads outside of Bavaria and Germany.

This is the very thing that medical researchers are trying to keep ahead of, the recurrence of something long banished, that would spread infinitely fast via today's rapid transit systems.  In modern times we've forgotten the horror of mass deaths from disease, and quickly bury thoughts of SARS and avian flues.  It would just take one mad man to wreck global havoc.  Author John J. Le Beau did a good job of conveying how this very event could possibly happen.  Sure, it is unlikely, or is it....

I like the character of Kommissar Waldbaer.  He is single minded in his determination to solve the entire case, not being satisfied with just finding the culprit in the murder.  I do  think that it would be enlightening to watch him work, were he real.  CIA Agent Hirter does much background work that he shares with Waldbaer. I wish he were more involved in the story, though he worked with the Kommissar in a case in an earlier book in this series, so perhaps he is more fleshed out there.

The most fascinating and least understood character in the novel, is the perpetrator of the evil behind the plague deaths.  He is certainly egotistical and probably a psychopath.  That's all I can say without giving anything away.

I enjoyed the story and it's setting. I am left pondering whether this type of scenario is possible/probable.  Each book I read is a learning experience. Aside from being entertained, I did learn a bit about Germany and the challenges of maintaining historic properties.

Thanks to Oceanview Publishing for my review copy and for use of the cover image.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Remember Me by Christopher Pike

This was a good who-done-it mystery where the murdered girl investigates her own death.  Shari and her friends are at a party when they decide to play at the occult. They awaken a spirit and next thing we know, Shari is dead.  Accident or murder.  There were several twists and turn in the plot that I would never have expected.

These sound like typical assortment of  teens, self absorbed, superficial and materialistic.   i think that many teen readers would be able to relate to the characters.  I found the response of the teens to Shari's death realistic, some acted in ways I might expect, yet others not at all.  

This book could be helpful to a teen who is trying to cope with the loss of another teen

Wikipedia page of Kevin McFadden writing as Christopher Pike

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Die Again Tomorrow by Kira Peikoff

This book grabbed my attention from the first pages and didn't let go until long after I finished reading.

The formulation X101 is a wonder drug. It can inhibit the death of brain cells after the body has ceased to function giving doctors the time needed to repair the deadly injuries before re-starting the heart and life.  After Isabel Leon undergoes this ground breaking procedure, she realises that her time is limited before the man who killed her tries again. 

I keep imagining the value of such a drug and the lives that could be saved.  Author Kira Peikoff also brings to light the cost associated with such discoveries.  There is always at least one unscrupulous person who will stoop to the lowest level to unfairly take advantage of such work. That is where the story took twists that I couldn't have anticipated.  I was kept on edge the entire time wondering what level Ms. Peikoff would take me to next.

There were lots of great things about this story that I want to comment on such at the setting, and the possibly unethical buying of trading of a certain commodity, but I don't want to spoil the story for you.  I loved this book and am looking forward to reading more by Kira Peikoff.

Thanks to author Kira Peikoff for my review copy and for use of the cover image.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Needlework Tuesday - Crewel World by Monica Ferris

I thoroughly enjoyed this cosy mystery and it didn't hurt that it was set in a needlework shop.  This type of shop brings together all sorts of people who generally wouldn't associate with each other except for their craft.  Makes for an interesting set of suspects when the shop owner, Margot Berglund, is murdered.  Her sister Betsy is left to clean up and take over the shop.
Due to the various visitors to the shop and their different interests, author Monica Ferris offers up lots of potential murderers.  She also created a tight circle of staff and frequent customers to guide Betsy and to question what happened.  Interestingly, Betsy didn't  set out to solve the mystery, she just wanted to straighten out her sister's affairs and get clear in her mind how she died.

Being a needlework fan myself, I particularly enjoyed the discussions of fibres and projects.  I liked the sense of community of most of those who visited the shop.  Ms. Ferris kept me interested by slowly doling out clues and connections.  She didn't eliminate suspects one by one, but rather kept them all under suspicion.  

Crewel World is the first in Monica Ferris's Needlework Series, which now stretches to nineteen books.

Mary Monica Pulver has published her works under a number of names including: Monica Ferris, Margaret Frazer and Mary Kuhfeld.

 Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

I thought I'd try something a little different for today's post, a book review of a needlework inspired work of fiction.  In my pre-blog days I read books from several different series and rather enjoyed them.  This is my first in a long time.  Do you read craft/needlework fictions.  leave me a comment with the series and author names or add a linky to a review you've written even if it's not new.  Don't forget to leave a link to your current needlework post.  

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I wanted to read Unwind in one sitting, but that would have meant a real late night/early morning.  I made the adult decision and slept.  Many of the  characters in this book will never make an adult decision thanks to the actions of their parents or guardians to unwind them instead.

It's a little scary how close the subject of this book is becoming to reality.  I recall hearing of at least one couple who conceived a designer baby in order to save the life of their existing child.  All it would take is one unscrupulous doctor....

The new Bill of Life protects life from the moment of conception till the age of thirteen, after that parents can chose to unwind the life of their child.  Theoretically, the child's life doesn't end, as all his or her body parts are redistributed to others in need of a transplant.  If a child makes it to adulthood at eighteen, he or she is safe.

As a parent myself, I can't imagine sitting in judgement of whether my child, who I've lived with for years, deserves or has earned the privilege of continued life.  On the other side, the kids have the belief that it can't happen to them no matter their behaviour.

I was un-nerved by the theme of this book.  What could have happened in their society that drove them to such a point.  This is a thought provoking book and readers would benefit from having someone to discuss the concepts imagined by author Neal Shusterman.

This book brings to mind Never let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  They both explore organ donation at a level far beyond what is acceptable today, at least what is acceptable for now.
Cover image courtesy Simon & Schuster Canada.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Wow, oh wow, this is one heck of a debut novel by Nicola Yoon.  I finished this book last night and I am still out of breath.  It was a heart wrenching, exciting book that I didn't want to put down, but at the same time, I didn't want it to end.

Seventeen year old Madeline Whittier doesn't remember ever leaving her house.  She has stayed inside, safe from all the viruses and allergens that could quickly result in her death.  Her life lines are her mom and her nurse.  She is relatively happy and is secure in who she is and doesn't let her illness define her.

Life changes the day a moving van pulls up next door and brings with it seventeen year old Olly, a dark clad boy to whom Maddy is instantly drawn.   He opens up to her a world that she has stopped short of imagining.

It's human nature to want things we can't have, but if we've never had them, can we truly miss them.  There is lots Maddy hasn't had, though she seems fairly content to stay safe inside.  She lives her world through the many books that she reads and rereads.  I liked the juxtaposition of Maddy's world and clothing being so white while Olly's is so black, her experiences being so limited and his much vaster, her relationship with her mother so close and his relationship with his parents in tatters.

The illustrations in the book by David Yoon added greatly to my enjoyment.  They added more information to the story but they also provided me with breathing room to ponder Maddy's situation.  The inclusion of short chapters, sometimes only a sentence, made them more an exclamation that couldn't be ignored.

I loved this book and highly recommend it.  And if you want to know why I'll never look at bundt cake the same, you'll have to read the book.
Thanks to Doubleday Books for use of the cover image.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials # 1 by Philip Pullman

I listened to the unabridged audio book version of this, and while I enjoyed the story, I didn't so much like the full cast narration.  There were too many widely differing voices vying for my attention.  I do think that it would have been better listening with one female voice for Lyra and one male voice for every one else.

Lyra has been left in the care of the staff and students of Jordan College.  While they care for her, they must place their jobs and studies ahead of her.  They do their best to guide her, but that is the job of a parent.  Her constant companion, Pantelaimon,  acts on instinct to protect her, but a daemon can only do so much.  He can't keep her safe from adults who have other plans for Lyra. 

Once they are torn away from their home at the college, they experience a series of adventures that help uncover a great mystery.  Throughout these events, Lyra is forced to grow up and to learn to trust her own judgement.  While at the college, she has led a sheltered life where others tell her what to do; after she leaves so much follow her own path.  Even I had trouble deciding who was good and who was bad in this story, so it isn't surprising that Lyra was likewise challenged.    I did like that once she had made up her mind, she was firm on her convictions and became steadfast friends to several characters.  This is a good model for the young readers of The Golden Compass. 

As I listened to the story, I refected on how significant the daemon was to each young person.  They never truly were alone.  Imagine if our children were raised with such a constant companion.  I imagine it would have an overwhelmingly positive influence and that our children would generally gorw up to be better balanced adults.

To learn more about this series, visit author Philip Pullman's website.

Cover image courtesy Penguin RandomHouse Audio Publishing Group.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Needlework Tuesday - A New Year, A Fresh Start

 It's been a bit of a whirlwind for the past few weeks. I'm glad to finally have a quiet day to relax.  As much as I enjoy all the visiting and renewing friendships, time alone is healthy as well.

 Ok, that was enough solitude, time to visit with my online friends.  I knew you'd all miss me if I skipped today's post.  I spent the past week being social so I don't have much to share here.  My sister was visiting from Calgary, and didn't want to miss a minute of time with her.  It was a bonus this year, as I'd already been to see her twice in 2015, so to see her a third time was wonderful. I had suggested to her that she should really come visit this Christmas to visit with our grandmother who is 99.  She had fallen in the summer and broke her hip and is having a tough recovery.  Sister is now back in her home after a very early trip to the airport yesterday.

I've been consoling myself in her absence with some new yarn.  Cherry red, Ginseng, and Topaz. Son has asked me to make another afghan for a friend of his who's wife had a baby in the fall.  I had to put it on hold until I completed a few other projects.  Now that I am working on it, it is proceeding quickly.  I'll have a better photo next week as well as pattern details.

I don't have a picture of the quilt from last week, as I barely had time to stitch on it.  I'd been a bit concerned that all the machine quilting would make it stiff, but that isn't the case.  It will still be soft and cuddly.

For a change, the sun is shining here and I want to go out for a walk.  We have only had about three sunny days in the past five weeks, so I don't want to miss the chance to wear my sunglasses and get some exercise.

I hope that you all had wonderful visits during the holidays and are refreshed and ready to go on your various projects.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.