Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016 - the year of the series

I'm starting 2016 by taking part in Sheila at http://bookjourney.net/'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.

Onward?

Onward!!

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: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015 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 http://justaddbooks.blogspot.co.nz/ 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: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and with It's Monday! here: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

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:
http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/12/review-uprooted-by-naomi-novik.html 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 http://bookjourney.net/ for her first book of the year challenge: http://bookjourney.net/2015/12/05/dont-forget-to-sign-up-for-first-book-of-the-year/

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: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/

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: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

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: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/12/witches-abroad-review.html and also Think of England and Dragon Age: Magekiller: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/12/two-short-reviews.html

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! https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/1882319 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: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and also It's Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted here: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

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: http://www.monumentvalleygame.com/ 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: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/ (fellow Kiwi! :D :D) and also the Sunday Post,  hosted by Kimba, here: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/

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?



Sunday, 29 November 2015

It’s Monday What Are You Reading?


It’s been … a while since I did one of these posts. Or, looking at my blog, any post. Whoops.

Anyway. At the moment, I’m reading Northern Lights, book one of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. It’s a re-read for me, and it’s just as emotionally trying as the first time around. I do love it, though.

I’ve also still got The Sunne in Splendour on the go, though it has been a while since I picked it up, but I have good Intentions.

I picked up a book on iBooks that had an interesting premise and is the first in a series: The Gauguin Connection by Estelle Ryan. It’s a mystery series featuring an insurance investigator who is also a body language expert. Promising start, anyway.

Up next, hopefully, is The Girl on the Train, because it’s due back at the library on Saturday, and possibly Witches Abroad, by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett.

So. What are you reading?

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Sunday post - 12

The Sunday Post is a chance to catch up - with other bloggers' weeks, and to catch other bloggers up on your own week before and also ahead. Hosted here: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/

I actually managed to blog last week. I'm still mildly shocked but I did it! I did a post of short book reviews here: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/10/short-reviews.html and a review of the movie Crimson Peak, which is here: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/10/crimson-peak-review.html

I also finished another book - The Rules by Stacey Kade, which is the first book in her Project Paper Dolls series. I enjoyed it well enough, and there should be a review coming this week (fingers crossed).

I'm halfway through, now, Welcome to Night Vale, the novel based on the podcast. I love the podcast and the book is shaping up to be my 2015 equal-favourite along with Station Eleven. I think listening to the podcast definitely helps with reading the book of Night Vale because it is steeped in weirdness. Also, Cecil Baldwin - the voice of Night Vale - has recorded the audiobook, if audiobooks are your thing.

What else. Last week was pretty quiet around here these parts. I stayed home a lot and watched a fair bit of TV and finished my first Dragon Age: Inquisition playthrough. It was nice, but it's starting to be time to put on my big girl socks and like ... look for work.

Anyway. I did buy books last week, because somehow I keep forgetting that I'm not buying books at the moment. They were the three for $15 sort out of the remainder bin, but. Still. No more books. (Including ebooks. For some reason in my head, ebooks aren't included in the ban. But yes. Yes they are.)

I had a makeover at the local Revlon counter on Friday because I'd bought some makeup there before and accidentally said yes instead of no to the makeover thing, but it was fine. The woman was lovely and it was actually kind of relaxing. I also went up to my old office to say goodbye to a former workmate who is also moving on - to a new job in his case.

I went to my friend's on Saturday night for our weekly stitch and watch, and made a bit of progress on my Grey Wardens pattern. I hadn't picked it up for a few days and it was nice to get back into it.

Anyway.

First on the to-do list for this week, is to study the road code and go and get my learner's licence, and then driving lessons. It's very easy for me to be complacent and stare into the void for far too long because it's cosy and I think the void is actually a nice place, but - no offence void - it's not exactly productive.

So, hopefully, by the end of this week I will be in possession of a learner's permit, and also  have booked some driving lessons.

I'm also going to venture back into baking this week, and I'm going to give the chocolate chippie biscuits another go, and hopefully make a lemon loaf, as we accidentally have too many lemons at the moment.

I'm also also nano-ing this year, hopefully I can actually write something instead of just signing up and forgetting like I usually do.

What are you up to this week?


Friday, 30 October 2015

Crimson Peak - review

Oh, Guillermo del Toro. I do love you. I do. You gave the world Pan’s Labyrinth and also the phrase “drift compatible” which is such a great phrase.

But now, I believe, you have done the world the greatest service of all - Tom Hiddleston in period costume, being Awfully English about Everything.

Oh sorry - uhm. Crimson Peak is a kind of gothic horror/romance with Deep Dark Family Secrets (including incest and murder), a - literally - crumbling family estate and Mia Wasikowska as the appropriately blonde and wan heroine.

For me, the story was a bit muddled and rushed, though Mr Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain as brother and sister did their part, alternately languidly and ferociously chewing any scenery that got in their way.

It’s not my favourite del Toro film (see: Pacific Rim) and it’s a little bit forgettable, but the ticket price is worth it because - and it bears repeating - Tom Hiddleston in period costume.

I’d pay to watch that for two hours alone.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Short reviews

Dragon Age: Asunder by David Gaider.

This one takes place between the end of Dragon Age 2 and the beginning of Inquisition. Someone is killing mages at the White Spire in Val Royeaux, and the mages - bending and nearly breaking under increasing pressure from the templars - are ready to start a revolution.

Rhys - a spirit mage - finds himself under scrutiny for the murders, and goes on a journey to the far reaches of Thedas to prove his innocence.

Meanwhile, the White Spire has its own ghost that so far, only Rhys can see.

I actually enjoyed Asunder a lot. It filled in the backstory for one of the companions in Inquisition (Cole) and also a lot of the details of the ongoing mage-templar conflict. It’s readable and fast-paced, and fills in a lot of questions about the game itself.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

I really, really loved the premise for this one. The library of Alexandria was never destroyed - but knowledge and books are something that are doled out very carefully. The Great Library controls all knowledge and in a world where owning books is forbidden, is the one power that no one can gainsay.

Jess Brightwell comes from a family of book smugglers. When he’s granted a place at the Great Library for study, he finds out exactly what it controls - and how.

There are very cool steampunk elements to it, and also bits and pieces of ephemera that describe different things - for example one of them describes how Guttenberg’s press was never allowed to see the light of day, which all add to the overall richness of the book.

I read this in a couple of sittings, I think, and really enjoyed all of it. Jess himself was well-rounded and fun to read, the central romance wasn’t cheesy and frustrating, and the supporting players were also really well rounded. I’m excited for book 2.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

In Fangirl, Rowell created Cather, a writer of fan-fiction who’s favourite series is about a young mage called Simon Snow. Now, Simon Snow and his adversarial room-mate Baz, have their own story told in Carry On.

I enjoyed Fangirl but Carry On. My gosh. Carry On is just a basket of kittens, honestly. It’s so cute that I kind of want to bare my teeth at it and hiss a little bit. It’s Simon and Baz’s last year at school, as Simon’s supposed destiny as the Chosen One who will fight the Humdrum is about to come to a head … (I just made a DUN DUN DUN noise in my head).

Carry On is feather-light, kitten-cute and so much fun to read, I almost wish there was a whole series.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sunday post - 11

 The Sunday Post is a chance to catch up with our lives - our own and those of other bloggers. Books, life, cats .... the important things. :)

Hosted here: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/

I didn't intend to miss another one - I'm trying not to be a sporadic blogger, but that seems to be what is happening. Must Try Harder.

What I've mostly been doing lately - as is evidenced by the picture to your left - is buying books. That's not even all the books I've bought lately. I imposed a buying ban - and bought four more books. To be FAIR, one of them was the Night Vale novel, which I would have bought anyway because, you know ... Night Vale. But look, look at the pretties :D

So. Many. Pretties. Not pictured, are Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, which I purchased as an ebook, and Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, which I finished reading last week, and really enjoyed.

Also not pictured, my bookcases, groaning under the weight of centuries.

I decided, randomly, that I couldn't buy any more books until I'd caught up with my goodreads challenge. As of now, I'm 10 books behind. I also ignored it to buy Night Vale and three other books but ... eh, technicalities.

NOW, however, I can't buy any more books until I'm caught up, or until December 31 - whichever comes first.

I'm still jobless and drifting a little bit. We're still okay for money, and I'm kind of enjoying being at home, as temporary as it has to be. It's nice.

I drop spawn off at school, and then either hitch a ride home with hubby - he's a grocery assistant/shelf-stacker and finishes about 9am - or I wander into town for a bit for a browse. On Mondays I have coffee/brunch/lunch with a friend that I actually reconnected with at my work farewell. She works for the same company I worked for, but we'd lost touch as she started working from home. She has Mondays off and suggested we start meeting for coffee. It's nice to be able to do something like that.

I've been watching a fair bit of TV, catching up with my shows (heh, I sound like Peg Bundy), doing a bit of stitching (see above picture) and just ... well, okay. Drifting. But I'm not unhappy about it.

I got the first two rows on my Grey Wardens pattern done, now I'm on to the second phrase, which is "In peace, vigilance." So that's this week's project. I also need to study the road code so I can finally go and get my licence. (I know. You don't have to tell me. I know.) And last week - for the first time in probably about 20 years - I did some baking. It didn't come out perfect - the chocolate chippie biscuits are really hard, and need a bit less cooking, and there's too much butter in the afghans. But OTHER THAN THAT - I made a huge mess and spilt cocoa on the floor. The afghans tasted nice, though.

What else. I've been playing a fair bit of Dragon Age: Inquistion as well. I treated myself to the GOTY edition with the DLCs and I'm working through those.

I'm determined to blog this week. De.Ter.Mined.

I'll likely do a short reviews post for the last three books I read: Dragon Age: Asunder by David Gaider, Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine and Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell.

I also saw Crimson Peak the Friday before last, and I'm planning to write a review of that as well.

Most recently, here, I reviewed Dawn, by Octavia E. Butler for A More Diverse Universe: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/10/dawn-by-octavia-e-butler-review.html

At the moment, I'm halfway through The Rules by  Stacey Kade, book one in the Project Paper Dolls series, about a girl who was created with both human and alien DNA. I read about two-thirds of it in a couple of sittings - it's easy to engage with and the story is interesting, so I have that on the go.

Welcome to Night Vale, the novel, is up next. I've also been flirting with Salem's Lot by Stephen King for the #SalemAlong but as much as I love Stephen King, I'm not feeling this one at the moment, so it's on the perilous shelf.

So more reading, more stitching, maybe some writing - I've signed up for  nano this year and I'm determined to do it - some gaming, spawn, TV, cats ... I mean, there are worse things.

How's your week looking?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler - review


Once again, I nearly ran out of time for A More Diverse Universe. My time management is exceptional, especially since I finished work.

I had planned on reading three books, including a book of poetry by Hone Tuwhare, but the end of the fortnight is approaching, and Salem's Lot is calling to me.

Anyway.

I did manage to read Dawn, by Octavia E. Butler, book one in the Lilith's Brood saga. I bought it on iBooks because my library - which is usually great - has exactly 0 books by Ms Butler.

Dawn begins with Lilith being Awakened - over and over again. She has no idea where she is, or what is going on. She knows that the Earth is by and large destroyed, but beyond that, nothing.

Finally, one of the times she's Awakened, she finds out where she is, and who's been watching her, and for quite a while, Lilith struggles with that knowledge.

The Oankali are an alien race, who have brought the remainder of humanity on board their ship to rescue them. However, the Oankali want something in return - they call it a trade. But is the price of the trade too high?

I have to say, I love sci-fi like this. It's high-concept, it has aliens, and it has a woman at the centre of it who is deeply flawed, very human and struggles with all of the demands the Oankali - and the coming Awakened humans - place on her.

Dawn is a deeply satisfying read and although I did find myself getting impatient with the way some of the humans acted, I thought their actions and reactions fit with the wider arc of the story.

The Oankali - who have three genders, male, female and ooloi, were fascinating. Completely alien in their appearance and in their reactions and it added a rich layer to the overall narrative.

I'm already eyeing book 2 on iBooks.

:)

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Sunday post - 10

The Sunday Post is a chance to catch up with the blogosphere, as well as people's lives and to bring the blogosphere up to date with your own.

Hosted here: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/

I missed another Sunday last week, but the school holidays took a lot more out of me than I expected. Being home the whole time was certainly ... an experience. Spawn is pretty good at entertaining himself but he's also LOUD and has taken up rather a lot of space in my head these past two weeks.

Not a bad thing, but it has left very little room for my own things and thoughts.

Back to school tomorrow though and as much as I'd step in front of a train for him, I'm relieved!

I haven't been doing much this past week really. A little bit of stitching, which has been nice, and I'm making pretty good progress on the Grey Wardens pattern.

I read Dawn by Octavia E. Butler for A More Diverse Universe, and I'm hoping to put a review up for that tomorrow.

Possibly optimistically, I also listed The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and the collected works of Hone Tuwhare for the challenge, but I'm not sure if I'll get to them or not - the #SalemAlong has begun and I need to catch up on that also.

Having said that though, I might try and get through Hone Tuwhare's book - he was a poet, so it's really a collection of poetry. I'll see how I go.

I did finally manage to blog last week, and wrote rather rushed reviews for The Namesake:
http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/10/the-namesake-review.html  and also Mad Max Fury Road: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/10/mad-max-fury-road-review.html

There was no movie watched on Friday night as I ended up playing Inquisition instead. The peace and quite of a sleeping household cannot be underestimated - lol.

Hopefully - in addition to the review for Dawn, I'll also update my progress on the Grey Wardens pattern - I'm really happy with how it's coming out. Optimistically, there'll also be a review of the Hone Tuwhare book.

We shall see.

How's your week looking?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Namesake - review

I finished this before A More Diverse Universe started, so it's just a standalone review, though it'd be a great read for the challenge :)

Gogol Ganguli has spent much of his life struggling with his unusual name.

Named after the Russian author by his father, Gogol has to find a way to be at peace with it as he grows up.

The Namesake is about many things, the importance of names is just one of them. Gogol ends up with his name because of a lost letter between Bangladesh and America, and has to shoulder what he sees - at times - as an unfair burden.

The Namesake is also about Gogol's parents, Ashima and Ashoke, who start a new life in America after an arranged marriage. Navigating a whole new country while holding on to their own traditions becomes a delicate balancing act for them both.

When Gogol turns 18, he officially sheds the name, becoming Nikhil instead. As he goes through college and growing into his 20s and 30s, Nikhil distances himself more  and more from his parents and his Bengali heritage. It takes his father suddenly dying for Nikhil to reconnect with his mother and his sister in a meaningful way.

The Namesake is a beautiful novel. It's a meditation on the connections we make with family, friends and the world around us, and how a simple thing like a name can affect all of those connections.

Lahiri writes about Ashoke and Ashima and their culture with great affection and you can feel the warmth of it coming off the pagees.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Mad Max Fury Road review

I have seen, I think, one of the Mel Gibson Mad Max movies. The one with Tina Turner in it. I remember it being vaguely batshit, but not much else.

In this incarnation, it’s gone full batshit. And I mean that in a good way.

Tom Hardy takes up the Mad Max mantle this time around, surviving in a post-apocalyptic world where the worst of men control all of the world’s remaining resources - mostly gas, and water.

One of those men is about to send out his favourite Imperator - Furiosa - in search of gas - when Max stumbles over her, and her very illegal cargo - young women that the bad man back at the compound treated as little better than breeding cattle.

Oh, this was great. I loved it. I really, really loved it. It was crazy insane, and the crazy never let up, but it was so great.

Tom Hardy says about three words in the whole movie, and the rest of the time  he looks a bit like a confused golden retriever, but that’s okay because Furiosa knows exactly what she’s doing the whole time.

It’s set in post-apocalypse outback Australia, as were the originals but I’m pretty sure any and all similarities end there.

I just. Look, my favourite terrible, bad, great movie most recently is Jupiter Ascending. Mad Max Fury Road does have the distinction of making slightly more sense than that clusterfuck (that AWESOME clusterfuck) but Mad Max also has a guy strapped to the front of a giant truck playing an electric guitar.

So.

Ride eternal, shiny and chrome.

Monday, 5 October 2015

A More Diverse Universe, and #SalemAlong

With no apparent infrastructure to my days, time slips away on me, and two things almost escaped me entirely:

A More Diverse Universe hosted here: http://www.aartichapati.com/ and, of course, the Salem Readalong hosted by Care, Trish and Melissa. Here's Care's post: https://bkclubcare.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/october-and-uncle-stevie/

However, I have managed to pull myself out of the trenches long enough to sort out some books for the former, and assure myself that yes, I do own Salem's Lot.

I actually finished The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri on Saturday, which would have been a perfect #diversiverse read. However, I cast about, and found a short story called Bloodchild by Octavia E Butler on my iBooks. I read it yesterday, and went poking about. Unfortunately, my library has exactly zero books by Ms Butler, so I went back to iBooks. I had to break my own self-imposed $10 ebook limit, but I purchased Dawn, the first book of the Xenogenesis trilogy. I started it today, and so far so good.

Also on the #diversiverse list is another book by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland. And also, I'm hoping to dig into a poetry collection by Hone Tuwhare - possibly No Ordinary Sun, which I have a feeling I own. Otherwise, it will be off to the library for that one.

So #diversiverse is:
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Poetry (probably No Ordinary Sun) by Hone Tuwhare.

Salem's Lot I will likely dig into over the weekend, or next week, when spawn is back at school and I can put the book in the freezer if I need to. :)

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Sunday post - 9

Hosted here by Kimberley: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ the Sunday Post is a chance to catch up on what's been happening around the blogosphere, as well as updating your own blog/life/everything.

I missed last Sunday, I don't think I felt I had a lot to say. Along those lines, I've only done a couple of posts in the past couple of weeks, too.

One life one: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/09/life-in-void.html

and one review: http://lifetheuniverseandcats.blogspot.co.nz/2015/09/the-calling-by-david-gaider-review.html

Other than that, eh. It's school holidays here now, so I'll have spawn home for a couple of weeks. I have a few more meetings with the job search consultant and then I'd better put on my big girl pants and start applying for jobs.

My super payout did come through, so that was a relief. We are - as of right now - credit card and debt-free, which is a very good feeling.

I finished Dragon Age: The Calling, which took me far longer to read than it should have, for no good reason.

Now I'm reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which I'm liking a lot so far.

I keep tripping up on the dates of things and losing track, so I've started writing things down. With no framework (ie work), my days are merging together a bit.

I know that A More Diverse Universe is coming up at http://www.aartichapati.com/ and Dewey's readathon is on the 17th of October, I believe: http://www.24hourreadathon.com/ and there's a readalong of Salem's Lot coming up also: https://bkclubcare.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/how-about-a-pie-post-ilovepie-salemalong/

There's way more than that of course, but those are the nearest things that I'm invested in taking part in, anyway.

I haven't signed up for the readathon yet, but I think I'm just going to be a reader this time, because I'm the world's most useless cheerleader. Having said that, cheerleading is fun and awesome, and you should give it a shot, if you can't make the time commitment for reading.

What else.

The library here is having a book sale. I went on Friday morning and did all right, I think. I also went to the local gaming store and got Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls 3 and 4. I've never played either game but they were both GOTY editions and also super-cheap.
For the books, I got The Autumn Castle by Kim Williams, The Year's Best Fantasy second edition, ed, Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling, The Secret Books of Paradys: The Complete Paradys Cycle by Tanith Lee, King of Ithaca by Glynn Iliffe, The Wood Wife by Terry Windling, Memoirs of a Master Foger by William Heaney (actually by Graham Joyce), Myrren's Gift by Fiona McIntosh and Jingo by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett. That little haul cost me a whopping $3.50. I had to remind myself I couldn't save all of the books.


I started my Grey Wardens pattern over - I found an "I" for the first word of each line that I liked better than the one I had, and threw some colours at it. I'm pleased with the progress I've made so far. Also I'm glad I did start over, because in my head I had the first two lines transposed.  So far so good and hopefully the end product will be worth it. :)




I caught up with friends this week and had lunch which was nice. I was meant to go to one friend's last night for our weekly stitch and watch, but Spawn had a stomach bug, so I begged off. It turned out to just be a 24-hour thing but friend's mother has dementia and is rather fragile, so I didn't want to unwittingly carry any bugs with me.

Instead I did a bit of stitching (see above) and finally watched Mad Max: Fury Road, which was insane. And great. And insane. I'm planning on reviewing it this week.

What else. I've also been playing Inquistion a lot, because I keep mistaking game progress for actual productivity.

How was your week? What's coming up?

The Calling by David Gaider - review

(Aside: That cover makes it look like the guy's head is bursting out of his chest. It's weird.)

Anyway. The Calling is the second novel set in the world of Dragon Age, the fantasy RPG game from BioWare.

After reclaiming the throne of Fereldan from the Orlesian Empire, King Maric has allowed the Grey Wardens - an elite and secretive group who can sense darkspawn (the little, medium and Big Bad of the series) - back into the kingdom after a 200-year exile.

Of course, nothing is that simple. And when a small group of Wardens tell the King that one of their number has booked it for the Deep Roads (where the little, medium and Big Bads live and the  source of MANY GAMING FRUSTRATIONS) and has aligned himself with the darkspawn. Which is bad, because well, darkspawn, but also the Warden - Bregan - knows the location of an Old God. If an Old God comes to the surface, it becomes an Archdemon and a Blight is unleashed.

So, no one is having a good day. Maric, against the advice of his closest associate Loghain Mac Tir, decides to go into the Deep Roads with the Wardens, as he's one of two people who can find one of the entrances. (The other one is Loghain, who thinks it's a fool's errand.)

The Calling (for me) felt like a prequel to the DLC, Awakenings. The Architect (a highly-evolved darkspawn, somewhere between a medium bad and a Big Bad) is in it, as is Utha, who is at the Architect's side in Awakenings, and who is one of the Grey Wardens in The Calling.

It's set about ... 20? 30? years before the events of Origins, which I'm 100 per cent basing on Duncan being about 18-20 in the novel. He's a young rogue, plucked from the streets of Val Royeaux in Orlais to join the Wardens.

I'm getting off-track.

I really enjoyed The Calling, I have to say. It felt familiar and comfortable - in the best way. It referenced events from The Stolen Throne, which I haven't read, but I was never confused (though having played Origins and Awakenings did help).

It's an easy fantasy novel to read, and it was nice - for me - to get lost in the Dragon Age world in a different medium.

Also, it made me cry.

Twice.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Life in the void

Limbo-land is a very strange place. I’ve been redundantly out of work for nearly three weeks now and it’s such a strange feeling.

Part of me feels like I’m just on holiday, and I’m going to pick up and go back to work on Monday or something, even though I know that’s not true. And part of me is sort of looking around for the thing that’s missing. I had no idea how much of my own personal identity was tied up with having that 9-5.

When I was finishing work, I said I was elated and terrified, which was true. Now, I’m mostly tired, and picking away at my days, trying to stay occupied.

Some days are okay. I’m working on tidying my room (I have the tidiness gene of a 14 year old), and reading a bit. I’m writing a bit too, which is nice. Stitching, catching up on shows like Hannibal and Salem and Empire.

Hanging out with spawn.

All of the things that you wish you had time for when you’re working. But when you have nothing BUT time for them … I don’t know. They’re all things that I love, but maybe the shine has gone off them a little bit.

I’m also playing Dragon Age a lot. Some days, once spawn is off to school and I have nothing else planned, that’s all I’m doing. So I try to plan something for every day. Even if it’s the smallest, stupidest thing.

Also, I got my redundancy payout (hooray) but I’m still waiting for my superannuation payout. When I rang the pay clerk who is supposed to pass the form on to the administrator of the fund last week, she said she was waiting for my last stats - sick days, holidays etc to come through.

Which. Bullshit. I see how that would affect the redundancy payout but should have no bearing on the superannuation. The idea of dealing with it makes me tired, but dammit, I need that money.

I’ve been putting off the phone calls I need to make and I feel a bit helpless because beyond repeatedly calling her, or harassing the administrator to the fund, there’s not a lot I can do.

Anyway.

Life in the void.

Short reviews

I have three books backed up to write reviews for, so I’m just going to bundle them all together in a short reviews post.

First up is

The Lola Quartet, by Emily St John Mandel.

Anyone who knows me will know that one of my favourite books ever is Station Eleven, by the same author. STATION ELEVEN (sorry.)

The Lola Quartet was recommended to me by Nymeth from http://www.thingsmeanalot.com/ and good golly what a ride. It’s a mystery, wrapped up in a series of character studies, presented with a bow of human errors and failings. When reporter Gavin Sasaki finds out  that he might have a daughter by his high school girlfriend Anna - who disappeared years ago - he’s determined to find out the truth.

What he finds out is what kind of life-changing errors people are capable of making and how one bad decision can lead to years of them, and what choices are open to him now.

That’s … pale and feeble but I don’t want to give too much away because The Lola Quartet is one of those books that - even as it goes back and forth in time - it unfolds, and in the unfolding is where the true story lies.

Next

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller.


This one was … difficult. Not to read, it actually reads pretty easily but THE THING that’s at the very heart of it  - that’s difficult.

When Peggy is eight years old, she’s taken away by her survivalist father, to an isolated cabin in the woods in the middle of …. Germany? I think? He tells her that the rest of the world is gone, and that there’s just the two of them.

Eight years later, Peggy is back home with her mother, trying to come to terms with the past eight years and THE THING. The story goes back and forth in time, as the story picks apart what happened to Peggy, and how she ended up back home again.

I did find the characters annoying, I have to say. Especially Peggy but for a large part of the book she is a young girl, and eight-year-olds ARE annoying (I know, I have one) so there is that to consider.

And LAST BUT NOT LEAST

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Oh, Patrick Ness. Despite the THING in Knife of Never Letting Go, I do love you so. I love you to the moon and back again.

Um. Anyway.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here focuses on the story of everyday teen Mikey and his core group of friends, as they go about finishing high school, figuring out their lives, and hoping the school doesn’t blow up. Again.

Meanwhile, the indie kids in the background are dealing with being the chosen ones and trying to stop the school from blowing up. Again.

It’s a story-within-a-story that took me a few pages to get my head around, but once I did, I was in. I was invested.

What DO normal people do anyway, when the chosen one is saving the world?