Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016 - the year of the series

I'm starting 2016 by taking part in Sheila at's First Book of the Year challenge.

My first book of 2016 is going to be The Gunslinger, by Stephen King. I'm determined to finish the series this year. Previously, I think I read up to about book three? Many years ago, though.

And that got me thinking about how I'm absolutely awful at finishing series. Just. Terrible. I'll read book one of something, think "wow, that's great" and then never read book two. It's frustrating. So I declare 2016 to be The Year of the Series.

In addition to The Dark Tower, I'm going to read the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. I read book one last year, and loved it. And once again ... didn't seek out book two. I have the trilogy now, so I have no excuse.

I'm also going to read Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy. Once again, I've read the first one ... you see the pattern here. I loved Ancillary Justice but need to re-read it, I think.

That's three. There's seven books (eight if you count The Wind Through the Keyhole) in the Dark Tower series; three in the Imperial Radch series, and three in the Farseer series (I'm aware that there's a boatload more in that universe but I'm starting at the very start).

I need two more, and I want them both to be by writers of colour. Hrmmmm ... *googles*

Right. So I'm adding The Inheritance series by N K Jemisin and also the Xenogenesis series by Octavia E. Butler - once again, I read book one of that series last year and never followed up.



Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The year that was

I have to say, 2015 was a bit average for me. Not the worst year I've ever had - 2011 and 2006 vie for that title as those were the years I lost my mother and father, respectively.

This past year, however, we did lose three cats - two to the ravages
of time, and my sweet girl, Morgana, to a car. She was my lap buddy and only two and a half. That hole in my heart is still open. That photo on the right is very typical of her. Every time I sat down, there she was. I miss that quiet weight so very much.

Let's see ... I also rolled the dice on my job and took redundancy. Which, so far, hasn't been a bad thing. I've taken the chance to kick back at home, which I've never really been able to do. But it's getting to the point, now, where I do need to find something fairly soon.

Cross fingers for me? :)

What else. Spawn turned eight in May, and he's a happy, healthy gamer kid. So that's something to be thankful for. Here he is with one of the kittens we adopted last month - Felicia, I think. Inevitably, he's fascinated by them, but he's pretty good with them and of course kittens have little claws and teeth as warnings if things get to be too much.

Speaking of kittens ... they're both black, so getting good pix is nearly impossible, but I do try. That's Felicia and Ivy in the basket. I think Felicia is on the left - her coat is a bit lighter and glossier. They're very typical kittens and so a joy and a burden to have around - lol.
What else have I done this year? I ...... have played a lot of Dragon Age. Especially since I finished work in September. I'm on my third Origins playthrough since last year, and my third Inquisition playthrough since .. well. Since September. I'm trying to limit it at the moment a little bit because I play on PC and I've found that I'm getting pain in my right index finger knuckle, if that makes sense.

I've "traced" it back to the gaming, and much mouse-clicking, so I'm taking a few days off. But look at my Inquisitors; Ellana and Gethriel (I call him Dorkvellan because well, I accidentally made him look like a dork). Anyway, don't get me started on Dragon Age, I'll never stop.

I didn't expect to love a game so much, but good golly gosh, I love it so very, very, very much of a lot.

Anyway. I also made my goodreads goal this year: and I'm thinking of pushing the boat out and aiming for 80 books in 2016. We'll see.

I also took up baking again, something I haven't done in 20 years or more, with various rates of success. I enjoy the process though, and with it being school holidays, I can drag spawn in to help me with some of it, which he seems to enjoy.

Oh! I also moved! Sort of - lol. From to here. It felt like the right time. :)

How was your 2015? Good? Bad? Average? Great? Let me know :)

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Sunday Post (16) and It's Monday What Are You Reading (4)

I'm linking up with Kimba's Sunday Post here: and with It's Monday! here:

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, or whatever it is you celebrate at this time of year.

We had a quiet one - just the three of us at home. I cooked chicken and spawn played with ALL THE TOYS. It was a good day. On Boxing Day we went to my brother and sister-in-law's for a family get-together, which was great, as we all found - after mum died - that the glue that pulled us into family things had dissolved.

So now we try to make a bit of an effort. It was a beautiful day, which is rare at the moment, and a good time was had by all.

I got what I wanted for Christmas - books, jewellery, chocolates - and so did J, so we did all right. And, as I said, spawn got ALL THE TOYS and had a great day.

Let's see. I  finally finished Uprooted last week, which I loved, and which I reviewed here: and I alos did a shorts review post for We Were Liars and Umbrella Academy #0, both of which I  liked a lot.

I got Stephen King's new short story collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams for Christmas, and I've dipped into that bit, and I also got Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig which I'll dive into sometime soon, given that I'm still riding the high from The Force Awakens and absolutely plan on going to it again.

As for this week... New Year's will be quiet, but that's no bad thing. It's nearly time for the annual Lord of the Rings rewatch/new project to begin. I'll start on Tuesday and watch one part of each movie per night. I have, however, already started on the cross-stitch, it's so pretty I couldn't resist:
I absolutely love peonies, and the colours in the pattern are amazing.

I'm still working on my Grey Wardens chart, but have to concede that I need to unpick that "V" and move it over a bit. The word is "vigilance" and I don't think I've left myself quite enough room. Other than that, I'm really pleased with how it's turning out.

As for what's next book-wise ... I'm still reading The Gaugin Connection, and picking at The Martian, which was $5 on iBooks.

I'm joining in with Sheila at for her first book of the year challenge:

I'm determined to read all of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King in 2016 - I've read the first three books but I'm going to start over on January 1 with The Gunslinger. Should be fun!
Other than that, I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I should start going through all of the books I've bought since September, perhaps. Hrm.

How's your week been/going? What are you reading?

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Review - Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Ahhhh this was such a satisfying read. Sometimes you start a book and you just know it's going to have everything you want and for me, that was true of Uprooted.

Agnieszka lives in a small village in a deep valley, surrounded by mountains - and overshadowed by the Wood. Every ten years, the local sorceror, who is known as the Dragon, takes a girl from one of the villages in the valley. No one knows exactly what the Dragon does with the girls, but there are, of course, assumptions made. When each girl is done with her 10 years of service, it's not long before she is seeking life beyond the valley.

Agnieszka knows that she will never be chosen - that there's nothing really special about her. Her best friend Kasia however, is beautiful and clever and everyone knows that when the time comes, she is the one the Dragon will take.

Well. No, of course not. It turns out that Agnieszka is a witch, although it takes the Dragon an inordinate amount of time to realise that her magic doesn't work like his - or like any kind of magic he's seen.

But there are bigger concerns and Agnieszka and the Dragon must learn to work together, if they are going to save the valley from the rotten heart of the wood ...

Uprooted has a great, dark Grimm feel to it, and the story plays out at a breathless pace as Agnieszka works out how to come into her own as a witch, and also how to stand up against grumpy and hidebound wizards.

The best part for me? The heart of the whole thing though? Is the deep and abiding friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia that endures through all kinds of awful hardships. It's a warming centre to a story that has very, very dark roots.

Great, great stuff.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Shorts - Umbrella Academy #0 and We Were Liars

We Were Liars is set the summer Cady is 17. She's back on the island her family owns, looking forward to hanging out with her beloved Liars - especially Gat, who she has not seen in about two years.

Nothing, of course, is at it seems or as simple as Cady wishes it was.

Two years ago - what Cady refers to as summer fifteen - something terrible happened. Cady has a form of amnesia, which doesn't let her remember what happened then. When she does start to remember exactly what happened, it's far worse than Cady could have imagined.

I really, really enjoyed We Were Liars. There's a twist, that I've seen other people say was a bit ... weak? But honestly  it took me entirely by surprise and added a real emotional depth to a novel that - on the surface - is about privileged youth.

Gerard Way is best known as the front man  for My Chemical Romance, but he's a bit of a renaissance man as far as I know. I have to admit, I've never really listened to MCR, but I somehow follow Mr Way on twitter. I don't know how that happened, but he's kind of delightful.

The Umbrella Academy is his graphic novel series. I picked up #O free on Dark Horse when I downloaded the app to get Dragon Age: Magekiller, and I'm glad I did. The Umbrella Academy are a ragtag group of heroes, trying to muddle through and save the world.

I wasn't entirely sure of everything that was going on, but I really enjoyed the premise and the threads of story that I could pick up.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Surely it's still Sunday somewhere (15) and What are you reading on Monday? (3)

I'm a bit late this week, with the Sunday post, anyway.

The Sunday Post is a chance to talk about the week that was, and the week that may be. It's hosted by Kimba, here:

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is all about the books, all about the books, no ... something. Anyway. You can go here for that one:

The reason today's post is late is because I SAW STAR WARS TODAY. AND IT WAS AWESOME. I loved it so. much. Like. SO VERY MUCH. So I was out and about when I'd normally be doing this and then apparently I had some urgent gaming I just had to do *ahem*.

ANYWAY. I actually blogged last week, and wrote reviews.

Wonders will never cease. I reviewed Witches Abroad: and also Think of England and Dragon Age: Magekiller:

Hopefully this week I'll write up a Star Wars review. It will not be spoiler free because it's likely I won't be able to restrain myself.

What else. I picked away a bit more at my Dragon Age cross stitch; I'll try and take a photo of it for next week. At the moment, of course, I can only stitch when the kittens are sleeping - lol.

I also chose my yearly New Project for starting over the end of 2015/start of 2016 as I embark on my yearly re-watch of The Lord of the Rings. Generally speaking, I start on about December 28 and watch half a movie a night. I love them to pieces but I have to be realistic about ... time.

I've chosen an absolutely gorgeous peony pattern, and started it at my friend's on Saturday night, for our weekly stitch and watch, the last for the year as her family descends for the festivities. Once again, I'll try and take a pic of it for next week.

Also ta daaaa!! I made my goodreads reading goal for the year! I've never done that before!

Let's see ... last week I finished Think of England by K J Charles, and Dragon Age; Magekiller by Greg Rucka ... oh! And also We Were Liars, by E Lockhart, which I really enjoyed. Hopefully I'll get a review up this week.

I also read the first book of Umbrella Academy, by Gerard Way, which was free on the Dark Horse app. It's very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot.

Right now I'm reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and absolutely loving it. Just. Loving it. I also took a pass at The Martian by Andy Weir, but I'm not sure how far I'm going to dig into that because I really want to finish Uprooted. It's the kind of fantasy that I love - awesome, well-rounded kick-ass girls, friendships, magic and it's just. Cosy.

So. How was your week? How's your week coming up? What are you reading?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Two short reviews

It's 1904, and Archie Curtis - two years out of the war, angry and without purpose, finds himself driving to an isolated country house.

He's determined to get to the bottom of what he believes is sabotage - a rifle misfiring during the war took most of the fingers from his right hand, and the lives of many of his men.

Following a lead, Curtis heads for Peakholme House, a pile built in the middle of nowhere with all of the mod cons, where he believes he will find the answer to the sabotage.

What he finds, however, is much more, in the figure of Daniel da Silva - described in the goodreads blurb as "Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts."

However, when sexual attraction smacks Curtis over the head, things start going a bit, er, south. *Cough*

Daniel is of course, not entirely what he seems on the surface, and soon both men are embroiled in blackmail, billiards and of course, pantslessness.

Think of England is a relatively short book, but I did enjoy it a lot. Especially Curtis' evolution, which was handled very nicely.

I may have mentioned Dragon Age once or twice. Possibly. Maybe. Anyway. Dark Horse has launched a new graphic novel series set in the Tevinter Imperium (which excites me GREATLY because of the speculation that the next game might be set there) and it follows a pair of mercenaries who are pledged to tracking down and eliminating blood mages.

They're offered a job, and are, of course wary. The whole thing screams IT'S A TRAP but they've also been told hey, there's a magister who's sacrificing children. It's up to you but ... so they take it and hey, IT'S A TRAP.

And THEN the bloody thing ended! I tapped the "keep reading" button like an idiot, but of course the first issue only came out yesterday so I'll just have to wait.

It's off to a solid start, though, and I'm excited to dig in and learn more about the protagonists - and the Imperium.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Witches Abroad - review

Something is going Wrong with stories. At least, something is happening to them, and that's turning everything in the kingdom of Genua on its  head.

Magrat - newly minted fairy godmother - is tasked with a journey to Genua to save the girl from marrying the Duke, and she's determined to do a good job.

Then Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg invite themselves along and everything goes - well a bit wrong, but of course a bit right, as well.

I'm slowly and painstakingly making my way through all of the Discworld novels in publication order.

Witches Abroad is the 12th novel, and I have many, many delights ahead of me.

I did love this. I laughed out loud more than once, and Mr Sir Terry Pratchett struck that balance between absurdist humour, common sense and sheer bloody-minded evilness perfectly.

Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are of course, great and fully realised characters and poor Magrat - she is a bit of a "wet hen" as Granny describes her but gosh darn it she's trying!

Mostly she turns things into pumpkins and goes on a bit much about self improvement, but she's doing her best.

Great, fun and moving stuff. :)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Monday again? (also Sunday) What are you reading #2; Sunday post #14

I'm linking up with the Sunday Post hosted here: and also It's Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted here:

Let's see ... what's been happening lately ...

It was spawn's last day of school for the year on Thursday, so he's settling in for the long summer break. (I'm using the word "summer" in its loosest possible term, the weather outside is actually pretty bad [which is my favourite kind of weather]).

So I need to try and think of some things to do with him, while I'm still at home.

We went to see Santa on Friday, so that's done for the year. All of my shopping is done (thank you online shopping!) so I can tick that off the list.

I just need to make a list of what I want for the boys to choose from - lol.

The kittens are growing apace. It's nearly impossible to get decent photos of them, but I'll try for next week's post. We have trouble telling them apart, but I discovered that Felicia has a tiny white patch at the base of her belly, so that will help.

Casper's leg has been re-stitched, and the vet is pleased with his progress. So one more visit next week to get the stitches out, and he should be fine after that.

For myself, I haven't really been doing very much at all, but for now, that's all right. If I'm still sitting here in a month's time saying the same thing, then that will be problematic. But for now, it's nice.

I did a little stitching last week; some reading, and I've been obsessively playing two games - Dragon Age; Inquisition (of course) and on the iPad, Monument Valley: which I just absolutely love.

It's not a particularly long game, but there's something very relaxing about playing it, and I highly recommend it.

As for what I'm reading .... I finished Witches Abroad by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett on Saturday, and loved it. Laughed out loud a few times. So there will be a review of that some time this week.

Right now I'm reading A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan. It's an M/M Victorian romance novel about Wes, the second son of a Marquis who is the despair of his family. He's shy, suffers terrible social anxiety, and stammers badly. He meets Michael, a whore who has a history with Wes's father. The two Fall in Love and Overcome Obstacles.

I'm enjoying it quite a bit, I have to say. I've read a couple of Heidi Cullinan's books before, and enjoy her style.

I also have The Gaugin Connection by Estelle Ryan on the go, and STILL The Sunne in Splendour.

Up next is Uprooted by Naomi Novik, then I think I might tackle Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, and possibly Sorceror to the Crown by Zen Cho.

What's going on with you? What are you reading?

Friday, 11 December 2015

Mockingjay Part 1 and The Golden Compass - reviews

I've just re-read Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass) and remembered how much I enjoy that book. Gosh darn, it's a good book.

I had always avoided the movie because I'd heard it wasn't good, but a friend said eh, it's not BAD, it's WATCHABLE ... so I went in.

And she's right.

There's a lot of Big Ideas in the book that don't make it into the movie which is fine as far as it goes, but it means the story in the movie isn't really served and it all feels a bit rushed and muddled.

It's well-cast, though, especially Nicole Kidman as the very chilling Mrs Coulter. Though I do think that Daniel Craig is a bit mis-cast as Lord Asriel - I feel like he's not imposing enough. Dakota Blue Richards is great as Lyra, too.

But the story ... I do have high hopes for the upcoming TV series.

As for Mockingjay Part 1 ... I think it suffered from the same issue. The story isn't served - this time by splitting the last book into two movies. Mockingjay Part 1 feels like a lot of unnecessary standing about waiting for things to happen. Presumably those Things will Happen in Mockingjay Part 2 (which I haven't seen yet.)

Mockingjay Part 1 was fine, but it felt a bit like filler, which is a shame after Catching Fire was so good.

On to the next, though!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - review

Rachel takes the train every day, riding into London. She looks out the window and makes up stories about the people she sees as she goes by.

One couple in particular has caught her imagination. She calls them Jess and Jason and constructs a fictional life for them. Down the road from "Jess and Jason" live Rachel's ex-husband and his new wife and their baby daughter.

When "Jess" goes missing, Rachel - who had got blackout drunk the same night - has an awful feeling that she has missed something terribly important, and that she knows something about that fateful night.

If only she could remember it ...

I really enjoyed The Girl on the Train. I ended up having to read it in a day because it was due back at the library, and I had no trouble with it at all.

It's a pacey thriller with a solid story. The story needs to be solid because all of the characters - from Rachel to "Jess and Jason" (really Megan and Scott) and Tom and Anna - are pretty unlikeable. There's barely a decent character trait among them, and normally that's enough to make me stop reading, but with The Girl on the Train, I kept going because I just had to know what happened.

I do love books like that. :)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

It's Monday ... and also Sunday somewhere

I'm linking up with two posts for this ... post.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Kathryn here: (fellow Kiwi! :D :D) and also the Sunday Post,  hosted by Kimba, here:

I'm still trying to recalibrate my blogging. As you can see by the lack of content, it's not going especially well. But. As in all things, I persist. I persist till the dragon is defeated. Or I die trying. Anyway. The most important thing that has happened lately, is this:

Yes. Yes that is a picture of kittens. Two kittens. Ivy and Felicia. I think Ivy is on the left, though sometimes it's a bit hard to tell. Ever since I lost my sweet Morgana, I've been wanting to get a kitten. Not to replace her, because that's impossible, but to fill the void somewhat. So we went to the pet store a couple of weeks ago, and lo and behold, they had these two. They're littermates and because I'm a big softie, I couldn't leave one of them behind.

The older cats are very, very dubious about this. VERY dubious. 

The kittens are ... well. They're kittens. If they're not playing or pooping, they're sleeping, as you can see. And, luckily, I'm a good shape for sleeping on, being somewhat soft and squishy. Also, two kittens is better than television, they're so fun to watch.

In other cat news, one of our older statecats - Casper - has had some health issues. Well. We've had a black cat hanging about who keeps getting into dustups with one of ours, and I think Casper - despite being 14 and entitled to a quiet life - got involved in one of them. So we had one abscess treated. Fairly easy.

Then, a couple of Fridays ago, he came inside with the BIGGEST lump on his leg. Like. BIG. So I rang the emergency vet, because of course it was Friday night, and J took him out. 

He needed surgery. The vet described the abscess that had formed - and magically appeared out of nowhere, although I was aware he had been favouring that leg a bit - as horrific. He told J he'd never seen one so bad. There was necrotised tissue under it, and also necrotised bone, but only a little bit. Luckily? So he's got a big shaved patch, and stitches and he's been on antibiotics. He might still lose the leg because of the necrotised bone, but we're not sure. 

He's due to go back to the vet tomorrow to have his stitches out, so we'll find out then.

Anyway. As for what I'm reading ... I've drifted back to my slow and ongoing read through all the Discworld novels. I'm up to Witches Abroad, which is proving to be hysterical. Next up I think will be Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I've been meaning to read for a while.

Most recently I finished The Girl on the Train, which I really enjoyed and I'm hoping to get back into a blogging rhythm, so I'm aiming to review that this week.

I also read Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) and watched the movie. Loved the book, thought the movie was ... okay. I also finally watched Mockingjay Part 1 which was also okay. Hopefully I'll be doing reviews of those as well.

So. How's your week looking? 
What are you reading?