Monday, 5 February 2018

Book Review: YA Round-Up #2

I have been reading a wee bit in the spare time that I have - here are some brief reviews of the Young Adult books I have enjoyed - or not.

Who Runs The World by Virginia Bergin is a dystopian novel of a semi-near future where a virus has wiped out almost all of the men in the world. The females have pulled together a new society complete with Global Agreements, a voting system and no violence. One day, fourteen year old River runs into a very sick creature who turns out to be a BOY. River has never seen a male before and drags him home to her Granmumma. He is immune to the virus but his presence disturbs the community and River starts asking questions about why things are done the way they are.

I did not enjoy the writing style of this novel very much. It was very fragmented and there was very little explanation or backstory, mainly just thoughts and observations from River's point of view. I wanted to know more details but it was obviously kept simple because River did not know these extra things.

After reading the author notes at the back of the book I understood how she got the concept for the book. She wanted to write about a world where it wasn't that the gender roles were reversed, it was one where there was no need for the concept of gender and how this would create new versions of culture and community.It is a very interesting thought and for me this was the concept that drew me to the novel. Unfortunately it didn't deliver for me personally, although I can tell that if you like the sound of the premise then you should at least give it a go, you should be able to tell by the first couple of chapters if it is for you. A Matriarchy would be very interesting!

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

This novel is another dystopian (surprise surprise), set in a world where women are designed, not born. They are taught that beauty is everything and when they turn seventeen, men who were born in the same year as them will choose a lucky few as companions, the others destined to be concubines or chastities.

With an interesting premise I jumped at the chance to read another messed up take on a possible future. It was an interesting read but not quite my favourite style of writing. The first thing I noticed was the lack of capitalization for peoples names - but only the girls because they don't deserve to be more than an object of pleasure and procreation. But this just made reading hard! There was also very little world-building outside of the school the girls attended. It was a very negative and rather depressing take on the pressure for girls to look a certain way and there was so much cattiness between the girls. The ending was quick and unexpected.
It was quite the opposite to the previous book I read! All that said, it wasn't a terrible read, it showed insight into mental health, bulimia/anorexia and digital addiction. It has been described as a vague cross between The Handmaid's Tale and Mean Girls. I'd say this was accurate. Don't read this if you want an enjoyable book, read it if you want to be shocked.

When We Wake is the first book in a sequel about a 16 year old girl called Teegan who is living a great life when she gets accidentally assassinated while at a protest. Then she wakes up, 100 years later after being one of the first experiments for being cryogenically frozen. The world she wakes up to looks a lot different, with Australia holding the cards and although the world has got a handle on green energy, racial tensions are high and there is a very strict policy on migrants trying to enter the country. Teegan obviously goes through a big dose of culture shock, still reeling from the fact that her boyfriend, parents and literally everyone she knows being long-dead.

She gets paraded round the country as a 'miracle' of technology and some see her as the opposite. Teegan is strong and brave and quickly figures out that all is not as it seems and starts digging deeper with the help of some new friends.
The book is written as it is delivered from a live-stream video journal featuring Teegan. This is a refreshing take as she is able to add some retrospective thoughts in as she goes. There is a romance thread but is pretty minimal in the scheme of things which is nice.There is a lot of politics and activism with some crazy religion thrown in but the action and fierceness of Teegan makes this a great read. 

While We Run is the sequel to When We Wake. Teegan and her *its complicated* friend Abdi are on the run after spilling some nasty government secrets to the world. Abdi narrates this book which is a stark change from Teegan and it takes a while to get used to, especially if you read them in quick succession. Abdi is betrayed by Teegan and this really affects him. He is a very clinical thinker and it makes him both unrelatable but also endearing. His backstory comes out and it turns out his mother trained him to be this way so he could be a politician in his home country of Djibouti. Being a migrant - a legal one- in this environment brings a lot of diversity into the plot. There are a few new characters introduced and it is hard to trust any of them after what the government put them through.

A good sequel with a new perspective, plenty of action and plot twists and a nice reveal of living in the aftermath and consequences of their actions, which is not always explored.

Gated is about Lyla who's younger sister died when she was little which sent her parents into a tailspin which led them to be chosen to invest in a 'gated community' (Read: cult) led by a man called Pioneer. Having spent 12 years in the community, 17 year old Lyra enjoys the seemingly idyllic life as the chosen ones who will survive once the world turns to evil and ends.
Lyla's character is quite likable because while at shooting practice (where the targets are cardboard humans - for defense of course), Lyla just cannot bring herself to fire and is horribly punished by Pioneer for it. The story gets more intriguing when a young nephew of the local police comes to scope out the community and manages to make in impression on Lyla. And so sows the beginning seeds of doubt about the world she has grown up to believe was evil and doomed.

From there the story takes a more intense turn, ending with some major psychological thriller events involving an underground silo. I didn't see this coming and made for harrowing reading but mostly because in the back of my mind it is plausible. It does happen to various extents all around the world. I am fascinated by the psychology behind cults and their charismatic leaders and have read quite a few books along this theme recently.
The writing and some of the characters weren't amazing but the plot made up for that. I really enjoyed this read.

Gated has a sequel that I have not been able to get my hands on yet but I will!

I hope you enjoyed this round-up, I'll have another coming shortly, my reading game has been strong recently!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Book Review: This Is What Happened by Mick Herron

This book was awesome. Yup I led with that. If you like crime thrillers then you must read this.

Maggie Barnes leads a life that not many would notice. No ties to anyone, deadbeat job, keeps to herself. Which makes her perfect to be recruited for a spy job - which goes wrong and leads to her being a safe house for two years.
There are so many twists in this book, not too many, enough that leaves you thinking - hold on-what? Not everything is as it seems but I can't say much more without giving the plot away. It is also not a spy-book as the blurb indicates - it is a psychological suspense that involves some very interesting but flawed characters.

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy of this book.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Fox(ish) Quilt

To start my crafty 2018 off, I decided to challenge myself. I have an amazing friend that I have known since primary school and she is having a baby pretty soon! I wasn't able to fly up for her baby shower so I decided to make something to send up.

They have not found out baby's gender so I decided to look through my fabric stash for inspiration. I had a bunch of orange/yellow/grey fabrics and a teeny scrap of fox fabric left so I squeezed three triangles out of that and made the other fabrics work around them. I wanted a relatively simple design so I went with rows of half-square triangles (it's a thing!), separated by some solid grey.

Once I had pieced together the quilt top I used a woolen blanket as batting and went to work with the quilting. This is the part I struggle with which is why in the past I have only done simple stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. I have issues with the back piece puckering and I get super frustrated hauling a huge and heavy quilt around my machine. However, I have been inspired by my friend Holly and her queen-sized quilt and I followed her lead and quilted random patterns on each triangle. I didn't really have any plan, which you can probably tell, but I challenged myself and I enjoyed doing it.

After I finished quilting each triangle I trimmed it to shape and added the binding. I handstitched it because it looks neater and I have a terrible track record of not catching the binding when I try to machine stitch it. 

I love the way this quilt turned out and I think that more will be on the horizon. I hope this quilt will keep bubba warm once it arrives. I love giving baby gifts!

You can check out some of my previous quilt attempts below:

Rainbow Chevron Quilt

Windmill Quilt

Vintage Sheet Quilt

Triangle Cot Quilt

Grey Stripe Quilt

Cross Quilt

Vintage Sheet Quilt #2

Monday, 1 January 2018

2017 Makings

I though that I would flick through my camera roll to see how many of the things I made have been documented this year. Turns out there were quite a few. Here they are:

Size 1 Bunny coat

Size 3 Bear coat

Size 3 Bear vest

Size 3 tiger dress-up coat

Size 2 unicorn vest

3-6 month size baby vest

Mother and daughter coordinating unicorn jackets

The lining of the mother/daughter jackets

Size 3 vest

Size 2 Dinosaur coat

Size 3 pony coat

5x 0-3 month baby vests

6-9 month size baby coat

Size 4 Dino vest
Yellow floral dress for me

Crochet giraffe for my nephew

Door mat

Door mat #2

Tree stump cake for my nephew

Pirate ship cake for Addison

Custom crochet baby blanket

Fox hot water bottle cover

Cat pot plant holder out of a Coke bottle

5x sets of tiny wooden villages

Bird string art
I'm glad that I managed to document these projects, I have definitely kept busy although I found that the first half of the year held a bit of a creative slump for me. I think I jumped from crochet to sewing because I needed some quick projects and that helped kick start my creativity again.

2018 will be another creative year for me, I have plenty of ideas in my head, I just need to find the time to do them. May this year be creative and fun for you too! xx

Friday, 29 December 2017

Life Update

Hey team,

Thanks for stopping by, I know things have been a bit quiet around here.

Life has been changing over the last year, my study journey to become a qualified librarian hit full-bore in the middle of the year when I got a casual job at a library. I was juggling both work and full-time study, as well as the normal parenting and (trying to) keep the house liveable (no one said anything about presentable!).

I made it through that with good marks and am now on the home-stretch with only 1.5 papers to go! I am not sure what next year will hold for me but I am looking forward to it!

Addison is 3 and a half now and is very talkative and curious. She has a great imagination and has picked up an interest in crafts. She loves to go out to Daddy's Shed and make things in there and is coming up with some great projects.

Our house renovations are sort of paused at the moment while we try and carve out some time as well as slowly, slowly save some money to fund the bathroom reno as well as a fair few dump runs. We have plans though!

I am still crafting, although documenting it seems to comprise of a single photo, usually in terrible lighting because I only craft late at night these days. I have been sewing a lot, collecting woolen blankets to use to make winter jackets and vests. I am hoping to extend this a bit next year and open up a few custom order spots as time allows. I haven't done as much crochet this year, just a few projects here and there. I post regularly on Instagram as @inthefoxsden if you want to see my goings-on.

Dave and I celebrated our 8-year wedding anniversary a few weeks ago and it feels like that time has flown by. Dave has been busy with his day-job as well as heaps of custom woodworking requests which he somehow manages to get through.

So to sum up, we have been busy. Hopefully next year we can settle into a bit more of a routine and find time to take a break or two and relax. We aren't very good at being still!

Thanks for sticking around and following me as my craft blog is slowly turning into a book review blog. I do still love my little space here so I will try to make more effort in documenting the things that keep me busy.

Book Review - Year One by Nora Roberts

When you think of Nora Roberts you generally think of romance novels, the kind that you take on holiday to read on the beach or on the plane. You may also know of her crime writing under the pseudonym J.D Robb, but the Dystopian genre isn't one you would normally associate her with. But Year One is just that, a dystopian novel, still with some romance mixed in mind you, but this is the beginning of a new three-part series that I will definitely be following.

Year One begins in Scotland where a pheasant is shot down on a standard hunting trip. The blood from the bird begins a plague called The Doom which wipes out a very significant chunk of the worlds population. As you can imagine, chaos ensues and as those who remain fight to survive, others become dark and violent. Among this, people with powers - magic - start to manifest in both dark and light forms, and a new fight for power begins.

Arlys Reid is a news reporter who survives the plague and escapes New York with some friends. Max and Lana have practiced the Craft and now their power has grown as they find themselves in charge of a very special light. Both groups combine as they attempt to create a safe haven, a New Hope, but the darkness is hunting the light and will stop at nothing to extinguish it.

It is tricky to write a synopsis without giving away some major plot details so I will leave it at that and if it peaks your interest then find yourself a copy! If plagues and magic aren't your thing then give this one a miss.

I am a big lover of the dystopian genre, though I tend to stick with YA novels. The maturity level of Year One is definitely a step above YA. I found that the tone of the book changed about 1/3 into it but I could look past that. I was also a bit annoyed with how some of the characters were left, although I'm hoping they still play a big part in the next two novels. The book is clearly setting the groundwork for the rest of the series and working up to some sort of epic showdown. Now to wait until the end of next year when Book 2 is due to be released!

Year One by Nora Roberts is available now from bookstores and libraries. Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

KIWI AUTHOR Book Review: Broken Silence

Broken Silence is a brand new book by NZ author Helen Vivienne Fletcher.
I won this book at her online Book Launch on Facebook, I don't know how I ended up there but I am glad I did!

This is a YA novel about seventeen-year-old Kelsey who is having a rough time, her mum is very sick, and her dad doesn't want anything to do with her. She ends up staying with her older brother at his flat and on top of all these issues she has an abusive boyfriend. It makes for a big downward sprial in Kelseys life. She begins getting stalker-esque prank calls which have a dark undertone to them. Soon Kelsey is fearing for her life and those of her friends and family too. Who is it on the phone and what do they want?

I must admit, this book sat on my drawers for a good long time before I picked it up. Life got busy, but I wish I had read this as soon as it arrived. Although I do not personally relate to Kelsey on most of these issues, they are very present in society and having a front seat to the train wreck was confronting yet compelling. Helen has managed to craft a character that I really cared about by the end, despite her whingy 'tantrums' throughout the book.

I love that it was set in Wellington but apart from the odd reference here and there such as Manners Street, it could have been set anywhere. I had some great images in my head of the setting of this book.

There were some very good twists and turns as we try to identify the caller, I thought I had it a few times before being proven wrong again and again. The ending works well and everything felt resolved, although it got darker than I expected towards the end.

I would definitely recommend this book to those who like a good psychological thriller and don't mind themes of violence and abuse. As I said before, they are more common than we think and having an inside perspective shines a light on some of the mental health issues that many suffer.

Please support our hard working Kiwi writers and find a copy of this book (or I can lend you mine!), then leave a review on her Facebook page! This is not a sponsored post - I just really enjoyed this book and think that our local writers deserve a shout out now and then!