Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

If you are one of the many who think fairy tales are the stuff of childhood, then get prepared.  The Hazel Wood may be built upon fairy tales but they have been amped up and twisted at least a few times.

Alice Crewe knows that her grandmother Althea Proserpine wrote a book of fairy tales that has a devoted cult following.  She's tried to read them, but the one time she found a copy of the book, it was snatched away from her.

For years, Alice and her mother Ella have lived a nomadic lifestyle, always trying to elude the bad luck that seems to follow them.  When events take a terrifying turn for the worst, Alice knows that she must find the Hazel Wood and attempt to set things right.

I was carried away by this story.  It had a great mix of real world and magic, that blended so well that it blurred the boundary.  Did the Hazel Wood really exist in our world, or was it imagination based.  Could you wander into it if you didn't know it was there.  At times I found myself  yelling aloud warning to Alice and Finch as though they could hear me through the pages.  Perhaps they could hear me and my words helped change their stories. Who can really tell.

I loved  the characters of Alice and of Finch.  She is angry inside thought can't pinpoint why.  Most of the time she can hold it together, which speaks of her strong will.  When she turns to Finch for help and support, she shows her smart side that sense his strength of character and his resourcefulness.

This is a wonderful debut novel by author Melissa Albert.  I have no doubt that her future tales will have me gripping my book with white knuckles as I hang on her every word.

Cover image courtesy MacMillan Publishers.

I received and advance reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, 29 January 2018

Stitch'n Time - Some Times You Have to Jump into the Deep End

 I undertook an interesting search on the web last week.  I was looking for the perfect method to join together the blocks for a set of crocheted blocks.  The pattern suggested using a whip stitch, but I didn't want that look. I envisioned something different.  I found several lovely methods but mostly they were too elaborate for my project.  In the end, I went with my gut and simple chains. I could have put off my decision and did some more searching, but I didn't think I was going to come up with a stitch that I would like even better.  Time to jump in and go.

 I started at a corner and did a single crochet.  Then chain two and single crochet in the corner on the other block.  Chain two and crochet in the first stitch on block one.  Chain two and crochet in the second stitch in block two.  Then continue to alternate blocks skipping a stitch.  I did have to fudge a bit as I didn't have the exact number of stitches around the border as the patterns suggested.

I am really happy with how this is going.  So far I have attached 8 of the 20 blocks. 

Getting this much done has gotten me excited about this project once again.  I am now looking forward to the next step, which is the out borders.

I also have another project that I need to jump back into.  A friend, my mom and I took a quilt class together late last spring.  My friend finished her project, but mine is still sitting.  I promised her I would finish mine so it could be exhibited along with hers at a quilt show in March (?).  I had better jump into it.  It would be great to attend the show and see our items displayed together.

Do you find that there are times, when you have to stop the planning and second guessing your self, and just jump in and get it done.  I think that we all reach that point every so often and I'm glad I realized it with this afghan and now I can visualize it completed.

Thanks for visiting with me for Stitch'n Time today.  Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Walking the Bones - Ryan DeMarco Mystery 2 by Randall Silvis

This story picks up where Two Days Gone, book 1 in the Ryan DeMarco Mystery ends. DeMarco is still mouning the passing of his son more than a decade earlier and the loss of his friend Professor Huston and his family earlier in the year.  Not coping well with this emotional burden, he heads off in an RV along with his romantic partner Trooper Jayme Matson.

 It isn't long before they get pulled into a  cold case that won't let either of them walk away.  The bones of seven young women had been found hidden in a church.  Though they had been identified, no one was ever charged in their murders.  This just doesn't sit well with either Ryan nor Jayme.

I found the pace of the story a bit slow in the first quarter where we are learning more about DeMarco's back ground and what events made him the man he is.  Additional details of Jayme's background are slowly revealed and tend to balance his memories.  Once they hit their stride in this renewed investigation, the pace of the story picks up and begins to soar.  At this point I only stopped reading as I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.

I still love the character of Sergeant Ryan DeMarco.  He makes for a great investigator and someone I want to spend my time with.  Jayme is still a bit of a mystery to me and that's a good thing.  If everything about a character was spelled out in the opening chapters, it would make for a less enticing read and would leave less for future chapters.

This is an excellent follow-up to the series debut. You could possibly read this on it's own as author Randall Silvis did a wonderful job of catching the reader up on what happened in the first book, though he didn't spoon feed us, he made us work to glean the details.  The two are very different style books.  The first is more about the investigation and why the murders happened, where this one is more about DeMarco and what makes him tick.  I certainly hope that there will be more for him to investigate in the near future.

Also by Randall Silvis:

Two Days Gone

Rafflecopter Giveaway Embedded: a Rafflecopter giveaway Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af7611/? No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Open to legal residents of USA who are 18 years or older. Giveaway begins January 15th and ends February 1st at 12:00 AM. Enter the Giveaway during the Promotion Period online by submitting the entry form. The entry form can be found on the following website at. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. 3 winner(s) will receive 1 finished copy of Walking the Bones (approximate retail value or "ARV": $15.99US). By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Sourcebooks. Sourcebooks does not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of this giveaway. (Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads) are in no way associated with this giveaway.

 I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

A look in on the lives of women in India during the 1920's.  For the most part, men controlled women's lives.   Even though Perveen Mistry had graduated law school at Oxford, she struggled to be accepted as a lawyer in Bombay. 

While completing paperwork to settle the estate of one of the firms clients, she realizes that something is amiss.  She is determined to speak with the man's three widows and verify their true intentions with regard to their inheritances.  Most lawyers at that time would never consider speaking with widows who lived in seclusion and would deal only with their designated agent.  What a unique opportunity for Perveen to represent these women and ensure that their wishes were honestly protected.

I really enjoyed this novel.  Author Sujata Massey has created a strong female character in Perveen.  She does have her flaws such as her failed marriage which continues to haunt her.

By intertwining the story of her marriage and the plight of the widows, I was kept on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would be revealed next.  Alice, her school friend from Oxford, was a brilliant inclusion.  She helped add balance and realism to the story.  Even with her family's elevated status in India, she was still limited as a woman in what she could do and where she could go.

This is an excellent start to a new series.  I can imagine many avenues that Perveen and Alice have yet to explore.  This story should appeal to those looking for a legal mystery, but also to those wanting to read about a strong woman with the will to make change.

I received and advanced readers copy from Soho Press in exchange for an honest review. 


Monday, 22 January 2018

Stitch'n Time - Have I Accomplished Anything?

I am having one of those days where I question whether I accomplished any thing in the past week.   I didn't sit at my sewing machine once and I miss it.  I did knit.  I have been working on the body builder afghan and have now completed all the part that makes up the body and the weights.  Six more rows till I start the top border.  At this point you will have to wait until after it is delivered for a finish photo.

I also prepared a presentation for work.  It was a workshop for teens, which I'll say went well even though we didn't really have any teens attend.  I had a curated selection of poetry books and prepared materials, but there just weren't any teens in the store during that time period.  Other shoppers did approach and another co-worker (a teen) and I spoke with them about what we were doing.  They were totally on board with it, writing and posting notes with positive messages.  I sent my co-worker home with all the messages we created for her to post around her high school.  I also got to try out one of the 7 year pens that we sell.  It's from Seltzer Goods.  It does write nicely, though I still prefer my fountain pens for writing at home.

In between knitting and planning, I finished reading a few books and managed to post some book reviews.  I have fallen behind on those lately.  Too many work hours during the holiday season which is still continuing.  arg, I want more time at home for stitching.  I also spent some time planning.  at the top, is an afghan I started a few years ago.  At that time I finished all the blocks and then it got packed away as we were having visitors for a few weeks.

I would like to try and join the blocks together by crochet and have pinned a tutorial that looks reasonable.  After that, it needs a few border rows around the outside, which is on the pattern somewhere.

When I reflect back, it was more of a productive week than I had thought.  I should take Kate's suggestion from last weeks comments, and keep an ongoing list of finished for the year.  That way, an easy look will give the information I need and the moral boost at the same time.

I hope that you all have had a wonderful and productive stitchin' week.  Did you write about it on your blog, if so, Mister Linky is waiting below for you to add your link.  Happy stitchin' and I'll see you again next week.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Swing it, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Sunny has had a lot of changes in her life lately.  She's started middle school and her adored older brother has been sent to a boarding school.  Talking to her grandfather once a week really helps, but she's still sad.

at first this story seemed all over the place, then I realized that Sunny's life was continuing with her varied activities even thought her brother wasn't at home. Yes, she had sad moments, but mostly her  life was continuing on track.  She really started turning things around when she stopped feeling sad for herself and started to consider her brother's feelings.  It's a big step for any person to realize that the world doesn't revolve solely around them.  Once Sunny reached out to her brother she started to feel better and so did he.

This is a touching story about Sunny's concern for her brother.  She learned a lot about what it means to be part of a family.

This graphic novel is suitable for middle school and younger readers who read at an advanced level.

I received and advanced readers copy of this book from Indigo Music & Books Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, 19 January 2018

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Maya is in her final year of high school in a small American town.  She is quiet and often hides behind her video camera which she employees to make documentaries.  She'd love to attend NYU for film studies though her parents expect her to follow their wishes of meeting a nice Indian boy while she attends a near by law school.  Maya is torn between pleasing her parents and following her heart  All these plans are thrown in turmoil when a response to a serious incident elsewhere in the country unleashes islamaphobic attacks upon the family.

Maya is your typical girl next door that you'd want your child to be friends with.  She is kind and sensitive to others, smart and studies hard.  She also happens to be Indian and Muslim.  These shouldn't and don't matter to most people, but there are some who hold these differences against her.  Just because a person is different than you, it doesn't automatically diminish that person nor does it make them bad.

At an age where so many teens are struggling with what they want to do with their future, Maya has a very clear view.  She wants to study film so she can make and direct documentary films.  She also wants to be able to tell her parents that she wants a love match and not an arranged marriage.  She wants to be given the freedom to make her own choices.

I love this book.  It spoke to me on so many levels.  As a parent, Maya is a daughter that I would be pleased to call my own. She was brought up in a warm and loving family by attentive parents.  She is intelligent and well prepared to face the adult world.  When the world crashes into her life and her family, her response is realistic.  She is concerned for the well being of those who were directly impacted by the incident before she questions how this might reflect back on the Muslim communities across the United States.

Author Samira Ahmed has shone a light on an ugly incident of the type that happens far too often in our so called 'civilized communities'.  She helps to call attention to racial and religious bigotry.  Such hatred has no place in this world.  All it does is create damage.  Education is the best weapon against such ignorant actions.  This book needs to be widely read.  It would be a good starting place for class room discussions about combating racism.  This is a strong debut novel by Ms. Ahmed and I eagerly await her next novel.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.


Thursday, 18 January 2018

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

I loved this book.  It is wonderfully creative.

It's the story of a seemingly absent minded father who steps out of the house for a few minutes to buy milk for his children's breakfast.  His is gone a very long time.  When he returns home with the milk,  the children ask what took so long.  This launches dad into a fantastic tale.  With time travel, dinosaurs and aliens, what child wouldn't be entrance to listen to their father read them such a tale.  Did I mention pirates?

This is a wonderfully told tale that had me hanging on every word.  Oh, please Mr. Gaiman, write more for children.  You definitely have a gift of knowing what they love to hear.

If you are looking for a book for a new or expectant dad, or heck, any dad, Fortunately, the Milk, would be the perfect choice.

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by Mr. Gaiman.  1 hour. Suitable for young readers.

Be sure to read what Mr. Gaiman has to say about this book.

Cover image courtesy HarperCollins Canada

Monday, 15 January 2018

Stitch'n Time - Heads up on current project

I have been having such fun with this project.  Even though I designed the pattern and totally understand the concept of knitting and purling, it still amazes me to watch the image come to life.   The part that was giving me the most worry, was how the face would turn out.  It didn't have to  resemble the baby's father, but it did need to look human.  I am so pleased with the results.  Yes, he does rather have a grimace on his face, but remember that he is hoisting a massive amount of weight on that barbell.
It will be exciting to pass this along to my son to gift to his friend.  You will get to view overall photos once it has been delivered.

I have a few more inches to stitch and then I'll give it a gentle wash, pin it out and let it dry.

As this project draws near to close, I have been thinking of what to work on next.  I do have another unfinished knit afghan as well as a crocheted one that needs the blocks stitched together and then a border added.  Then again, there is that new ball of yarn destined to become a hat....

Today I have a rather fun experience at work.  I know it isn't mainly stitching related, but I do want to share.  One of the librarians from the school that our store adopted in the fall came in to purchase books with the donated money.  She has a lot of buying to do as our store and customers raised well over $7000.00.  That equated to approximately 700 new books for their school library.  Today she selected 88.  One of the books was a knitting instructional book.  The librarian said that when she loans it out, she is going to include a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn.  The children from that school are generally not well off and there is no sense in borrowing a knitting book if you don't have supplies.  How thoughtful of her.   I'm going to look through my supplies and select some for her.  Who knows, perhaps the kids will start a knitting club at their school.

Thanks for joining me for Stitch'n Time.  I'll be back again next Monday with my next project.

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

Monday, 8 January 2018

Stitch'n Time - All New for a New Year

Welcome to my inaugural post for Stitch'n Time.  It was a hard decision to retire Needlework Tuesday, but it needed to be done.  Frequent readers realize that along with my needlework posts, I also read a lot and post reviews of those books.  What I didn't know when I started my needlework column, is that new books are traditionally released on Tuesdays.  Now that I am a book seller, I thought it was important for me to be able to post related reviews on their date of release.

Stitch'n Time will be a work in progress.  Mostly I will be sharing my needlework progress on an assortment of techniques and projects.  I would like to add a few tutorials as well as group projects/challenges.  Details on those are still very loose.  What will never change is the encouragement I get from my readers .  I love your comments as they boost me along and keep my moving forward.  Also returning will be Mister Linky so that readers can add a link to their current needlework post.

I hope that you will join me on Mondays for Stitch'n Time.

With all the extra hours I worked over the holidays, I didn't have much time for stitching.  Sure, I buried a few yarn ends and knit a row or two, but no major amounts of progress were made.  It's just in the past few days that I've had a chance to spend a notable block of time knitting.

I have been focused on this baby blanket.  The little boy is getting bigger, but this is an oversized blanket, so it won't be a problem.  He is still in the baby category so it will still count as a baby gift.

For new visitors, the dad is a body builder and my son asked me to make a blanket with that theme.  When I couldn't find a suitable pattern, I designed my own starting an online open image.  Shown in this image is the torso up to the underarm area.  I am really pleased with how this is turning out.  I'll keep you updated with my progress.

Since I haven't had a needlework post in a few weeks, feel free to add your linky to your recent stitch'n posts from the past few weeks.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Fairy Mom and Me by Sophie Kinsella

Fun early chapter book.

Her mother is a fairy and Ella can't wait to be just like her.  One of her favourite activiites is to watch while her mothers works on her online fairy classes.  Ella loves those classes and finds them useful when her mother has trouble working any of her spells (which happens far too often).

This would be a great selection for mothers and daughters to read together.  Ella and her mother are very supportive of each other.  They encourage the other to do her best and never make fun nor tease when something does't go well or as planned.

The story of Ella and her mom has the stamp of approval of author Sophie Kinsella's own children.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Everless by Sara Holland

Jules Ember is just an ordinary 17 year old girl in her tiny village.  She helps her father in any way to support the two of them.  But unknown to anyone else, Jules has a unique and scary talent, she can stop time.  She can freeze the world around her, though she doesn't know how or why.  As it turns out, there are more secrets surrounding her.  The only way to figure them out is to infiltrate the Gerling estate where she once lived with her father as a child before they were run out of town.

Everless is an old kingdom ruled by a queen said to be over 500 years old.  Not an impossible feat when you consider that blood is equivalent to time.  A person can sell years of their life by extracting their blood and using alchemy to turn it into coin.

Jude senses that she is connected with the Gerlings and their time wealth.  She hopes she can find out how before they capture and punish her.

This is a brilliantly written debut novel by author Sara Holland.  She has created a country where alchemy affects the lives of all  I was pulled into the story and Jule's life from the first pages.  I was so captivated by her plight that I actually felt as though I was creeping along the darkened servants passages with her.  I also questioned with her, how the Gerlings could have so many riches, while the common fold were so poor that they would even sell the last of their lives so that they could care for their families. The descriptions of the estate and the towns were so realistic I could almost see the snow covered streets with the smoke curling from the chimneys.

There is a great cast of characters.  From Jules fellow servants, the towns people, to the royals, they all came to life for me and I quickly liked may of them.

This book would not let me go.  I stayed up late reading and found myself early up the next morning to continue.  My only regret in finishing is that I now have to wait for book to to read further about Jules adventures in her quest to learn about her mysterious past.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Wow, I was so totally immersed in this tale that I was beginning to forget it was fiction.  I loved the characters both human and faery.  Their emotions, love, hate and jealousy made them seem real.

Jude has spent the past ten years trying to fit in and make herself be accepted by the faery.  Her two sisters seem to have found their places and made some sort of peace with General Madoc, the faery who murdered their parents, abducted them and then continued to raise them as his own beloved children.  Jude still struggles against his boundaries and the cruelty of her classmates, particularly that of Price Cardan.  Things take a drastic turn when she finally  decides to stand up for herself.

The play off between the faery and humans kept me guessing at what would happen next.  I quickly suspected that the motivation of these actions varied from faery to faery, though why seemed very personal to each.  Madoc's second wife, Oriana was a surprisingly wonderful addition to the cast.  It was hard to determine whether she was the classic wicked step-mother or something else entirely. 

Author Holly Black wove a wonderful tale that took the reader far beyond it's dramatic beginning.  She never let up on the appeal to the emotions of her readers until the last words were read.  I couldn't help but cheer on Jude in her antics and urge her sisters to both grow more of a backbone.  I look forward to reading more about these characters in book two of The Folk of the Air.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.

Cover image courtesy Hachette Book Group.