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  • Bookshelf spotlight

    Every time I see photos that have bookshelves in the background, I zoom in to try and read the titles, even if they have nothing to do with the subject of the photo. I haven’t often posted photos where my own collection is in the background but I have posted one recently and had comments that people wanted to see what was in the other bookcase. So I think this is a fairly common behaviour.

    Sometimes it’s about seeing what books we recognise. Sometimes it’s wanting to discover some new-to-us book/series. Either way, it is often a compulsion that we book lovers can’t resist.

    So I thought it would be fun to start a series sharing what is on my shelves. Both read and to be read. And because I do like a good alliteration, I thought I’d take it that geeky step further and share Fantasy Friday, Sci Fi Saturday, Murder and Mystery Monday.

    I do have quiet an eclectic reading taste so the books on my shelves won’t all fit into these three categories. Those others will be random genres on random days.

    I’m not promising that there will be a post every Fri, Sat and Mon, but I will be posting at least one a week. After all, my bookshelves are full and there are always more books on order.

    If you have read any of the books/series/authors that are included in each spotlight post, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. All of the posts will be spoiler free, and I’d encourage any discussion to also be spoiler free for those who might want to use these posts to discover new books to try.

  • A Crown of Swords

    A Crown of Swords

    I finished Book 7 of Wheel of Time this morning. No, I didn’t read the second half as fast as it may seem if you saw my December TBR post. I actually wrote that post a week ago and rescheduled it, so by the start of the month I had a lot less left 🙂.

    We start the book at a point in time before the previous book ends, picking up other threads which included the point of view of one of the other sides of the battle. In this book, Elayne and Egwene seemed to grow up a little, though they are still annoying, while Min and Nynaeve seemed to regress to several years their junior, and be a bit more reminiscent of very young high-school girls. And I didn’t enjoy the storyline of the sexual harassment and rape of Matt. It is no more acceptable when it is a woman doing it to a man than it is when a man does it to a woman, and the fact that Elayne found it amusing made me like her less.

    Luckily, despite his weakness in female characters (not just that they are unlikeable but the stereotypical way he imagines them), Jordan can spin a good story and there are often surprises. I’m not sure how Rand manages to strategise so well but you can be given hints on what the end goal is as things are happening, and not always see how they come together. Despite this book being another good example of this, I didn’t think the ending was very strong in this book – it seemed a little rushed.

    On the whole though, I enjoyed reading this book and a looking forward to the next volume. It’s been over 15 years since I last read these so I have mostly forgotten everything and it’s like reading the book from new.

    (Spoiler comments below)

    A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

    Spoiler section

    I know the ending was probably done in a way so that Sammael can reappear again with Rand thinking he is dead, but still it felt like the ending was just suddenly there. But the biggest disappointment to me was bringing Liah back. It opened so many questions that I know will never be revisited. How did Liah survive all this time in Shadar Logoth and why didn’t see leave the city? The way she reacted with “Mine!” when attacking the Trollocs and running from Rand made me think that perhaps she had somehow already bound herself to the place, but I can’t remember enough back to the earlier book where we learnt more about this city to know what/how exactly. But after all this time, why does she only now fall victim to the Mashadar? It felt too much like an easy way for Jordan to distract Rand and leave that aforementioned gateway open for Sammael to not actually be dead and surprise Rand later in story.

    We see the return of the Seanchan in Book 7 too. And in ways that they seem to take everyone by surprise – just suddenly appearing. It will be interesting to see where this thread goes. Though we might be starting to see the setup of how Matt crosses paths with the Daughter of the Five/Nine (other?, can’t remember) Moons.

    If you want to include any spoilers in your comment, please put a spoiler warning at the beginning so people have the option not to read it.

  • December TBR

    December TBR

    I did pretty good with my November reading, finishing Lord of Chaos (book 6 of Wheel of Time) and The Salt Path as planned. I also read about half of A Crown of Swords (book 7 of Wheel of Time). So here are my plans for December.

    I’d like to continue my reread of Wheel of Times and finish A Crown of Swords, by Robert Jordan.

    And make some headway on that list of past book club books. I was going to finish The Survivors by Jane Harper, but I can’t find my copy. I’m wondering if I lent it to my Aunt who likes Jane Harper, since I wasn’t reading at the time and had plenty of others in my queue. So instead, I’ve chosen Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin.

    And finally I’d like to finish a cli-fi novel based on the world struggling with strong consequences of climate change: Melt, by Jeff Murray. I started this soon after it was released in 2019, but I think my book club reading overtook it at the time. I’ll need to restart this as I only have vague recollections of what had happened so far.

  • November patchwork wrap-up

    November patchwork wrap-up

    Back when I used to blog regularly, I loved doing monthly updates, so I thought I’d try reinstating that with the new blog. These updates will be craft focused. Sometimes there might be other things thrown in. We’ll see what takes my fancy.

    So, what did I achieve in November. Quite a bit actually. I cut and attached all the black and white pieces for the sides of my modified Dream Catcher, which I posted here. And I also got a good amount more done on my William Morris Galaxy – an informal QAL I’m doing with a friend. We both dip in and out of working on it as we have other focus projects. We both had amazing Morris fabric collections and wanted to start to use it, so sat down and looked through the patterns we had between us, to choose our first one. Galaxy, by Lilabelle Lane was the winner. While most people make this quilt using EPP (English Paper Piecing), we’re of course hand piecing (with running stitch) as that is so much more enjoyable. Plus faster.

    This month I added the light blue joining pieces to the four blocks I had completed previously;

    Turned two stars into blocks;

    And made 5 new stars, and started turning these into blocks.

    That last photo took a while to get as Shadow wanted to play. Here are the bloopers…

    I’m loving how these are turning out. I do need to put it aside though, no matter how tempting it is to continue as I am so close to finishing my modified Dream Catcher. I’d really like to have that quilt top finished by the end of the year.

  • Impulse buy

    I had to duck out to Whitcoulls yesterday during lunch to get some things I need for my move. Well, they didn’t have what I was looking for, but I couldn’t help but checking out the SciFi/Fantasy section while I was there. I love a good SciFi/Fantasy section. I wasn’t going to buy a book (you can stop laughing now, I don’t always buy a book when I’m in a bookshop – ok, mostly I do, but not always), but this one caught my eye.

    The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler

    Doesn’t this synopsis sound cool

    When pioneering marine biologist Dr. Ha Nguyen is offered the chance to travel to the remote Con Dao Archipelago to investigate a highly intelligent, dangerous octopus species, she doesn’t pause long enough to look at the fine print. DIANIMA- a transnational tech corporation best known for its groundbreaking work in artificial intelligence – has purchased the islands, evacuated their population and sealed the archipelago off from the world so that Nguyen can focus on her research. But the stakes are high: the octopuses hold the key to unprecedented breakthroughs in extrahuman intelligence and there are vast fortunes to be made by whoever can take advantage of their advancements. And as Dr. Nguyen struggles to communicate with the newly discovered species, forces larger than DIANIMA close in to seize the octopuses for themselves.
    But no one has yet asked the octopuses what they think. And what they might do about it.

    I’m thinking this will make a good Xmas weekend read. At least that was my justification after I bought it. I have a scheduled post due to come out on Thursday with my reading plans for December, so I guess we’ll see at the end of this month how the addition of this book changes that. That’ll teach me for being clever and writing a post a few days in advance. Plus there’s that book from the UK that is on its way…

  • The Salt Path

    Within a few days, Moth is diagnosed with a terminal illness and Raynor and Moth lose the court battle to keep their home. The former is incredibly sad. The latter, is anger inducing, as it is a classic example of the legal system letting people down. But these were my reactions, not those of Moth and Raynor. Their reactions were more. More everything. How do you handle your entire life falling apart? In this memoir, we see just what Moth and Raynor decided to do.

    Walking the South West Coast Path is a tough challenge, but when you add in being near destitute and having to wild camp with very little food, that takes it to a whole new level. And on top of that, having to deal with coming to terms with Moth’s diagnosis. But it seems like this is just exactly what they needed. And the journey allowed for growing in strength, both physically and mentally. Allowing Raynor to slowly move from denial …

    “They don’t talk to you about it because it’s you that has the problem, not them. They talk to me. We’ve talked frankly about it all. It’s going to be hard, it is hard, but they’re strong. It’s changing us all, and if you just try to face it, then maybe we can all cope”

    Moth

    to acceptance.

    It had been said; death had been acknowledged. He would fight, but eventually he’d lose. Moth had been strong enough to see this from the start; now I was calm enough to know it was true and let it be. We lay…, and let death in. And life came with it. The jagged, shattered, lost fragments of our lives slowly, mercurially drawn back together.

  • Book club books

    When I was living in Rotorua, I joined the local book club at McLeods. It was a great way to meet people, being new to town, and I thought it would be a good way to make me step out of the genre that I was otherwise mostly reading (SciFi/Fantasy). The book club would choose two books every two months, and we could read one or both of the books. I did successfully read at least one book every time since I joined in mid-2018, until I moved to Wellington in late 2019. The plan was to keep up with book club, and time my visits back to Rotorua on the weekends that we discussed the books and picked the next two. Yeah, that didn’t work out very well. Covid was a big disturber of plans to travel back (between lock downs and being unable to travel if I were the slightest bit unwell), as was getting someone to stay with Shadow (one spectacular fail resulted in cancelling the trip two days before due to the cat sitter breaking her ankle). And my reading in general took a nosedive in mid 2020, until this month.

    So in addition to all the other books I’ve been buying and not reading, I have a stack of book club books on my shelves that are waiting to be read, or in some cases finished. I’d really like to try to work my way through them as I’m sure there will be some gems amongst them. So from December, I’m going to try to read/finish one book every 1-2 months. To assist with this, I’ve collated a list of all the book club picks dating all the way back to the start of 2019. It’s as far back as I have any record of what the books picked were, but as the problem didn’t raise it’s ugly head until Aug/Sept 2019, I think that’s ok.

    Here’s the key that I’m using to annotate the list to show which one(s) I chose to read, and what my progress to date on each of them is.

    • ✔️ = chosen (✔️* = chosen but don’t have the book for reasons)
    • 📖 = started (still plan to finish – eventually)
    • 📗 = finished
    • 📕 = abandoned

    Here’s the list, starting from the most recent.

    • Oct/Nov 2022 – Note: I was eyeing up both of these before they were selected, but I chose not to officially select one this time due to my reading slump, and knowing I wouldn’t make it to the Dec meeting
      • This is Happiness by Niall Williams
      • Haven by Emma Donoghue
    • Aug/Sept 2022
      • Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin ✔️
      • Ordinary Masters by J.M. Miro
      • The Girl from Shadow Springs by Ellie Cypher
    • June/July 2022
      • The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave ✔️*
      • Gallant by V.E. Schwabb ✔️📗
    • Apr/May 2022
      • The Bookseller at the End of the World by Ruth Shaw
      • Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson ✔️📗
    • Feb/Mar 2022
      • To the Sea by Nikki Crutchley ✔️📗
      • Pandora by Susan Stokes Chapman ✔️
    • Dec 2021/Jan 2022
      • The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
      • Fox & I: an uncommon friendship by Catherine Raven ✔️📖
    • Oct/Nov 2021
      • Tenderness by Alison Macleod
      • Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy ✔️📗
    • Aug/Sept 2021
      • Catch Us the Foxes by Nicola West ✔️
      • The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Mas ✔️
    • June/July 2021
      • Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura ✔️
      • Before You Knew my Name by Jacqueline Bublitz ✔️📗
    • Apr/May 2021
      • Ariadne by Jennifer Saint ✔️📕
      • House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
    • Feb/Mar 2021
      • All our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton
      • The Liminal Space by Jacquie McRae ✔️
    • Dec 2020/Jan 2021
      • Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
      • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig ✔️
    • Oct/Nov 2020
      • D by Michael Faber
      • The Survivors by Jane Harper ✔️📖
    • Aug/Sept 2020
      • Goldilocks by Laura Lam ✔️
      • The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle ✔️📗
    • June/July 2020
      • The Glass Woman by Caroline Lee ✔️
      • Things I Learned From Falling by Claire Nelson ✔️
    • Apr/May 2020
      • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
      • The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson ✔️📗
    • Jan – Mar 2020
      • Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates ✔️📗
      • The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes ✔️*
    • Nov/Dec 2019
      • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow ✔️*
      • Sliver by Chris Hammer
    • Sept/Oct 2019
      • Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar ✔️
      • The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
    • Jul/Aug 2019
      • The Overstory by Richard Powers ✔️📖
      • A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes ✔️📗
      • A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
    • May/Jun 2019
      • Circe by Madeline Miller ✔️📗
      • The van Apfel Girls are Gone by Felicity McLean ✔️📗
    • Mar/Apr 2019
      • Where the Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens
      • The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff ✔️📗
    • Jan/Feb 2019
      • Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield ✔️📗
      • Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare ✔️📗

    So there you have it. Three books still to finish and a whole lot more to start. I’d like to revisit this list in 6 months to see both how I am going with keeping up with my book club reads and also how I’m going with reading the back catalogue.

  • The end of stripes

    The end of stripes

    I have finally reached the end of the stripes in my modified Dream Catcher. Yay!!!!! Man were those units boring.

    Modified Dreamcatcher with just the half hexagon border to go.

    Sorry, it’s not the best photo. I’m a little limited with where and how I can take photos in my current house – am so looking forward to the much better options when I move back to Rotorua.

    With the completion of those stripe and spot side pieces, the final fabric amount required for each of those comes to:

    • Lineworks Poms in ink, 1.5m
    • Lineworks Stripes in paper, 3m

    You can see the rest of the fabric requirements in my previous post about this quilt, together with a selection of progress pics to date.

    Now I just have the half hexagons to complete. I know what I am doing with those and I think (hope) it will look good. I need to make some templates to start those, because of course they are going to be pieced half hexagons, and constructed completely differently from any of the hexagons the templates from the pattern could make. Yes, both half hexagon types need different templates – I can’t make it easy for myself can I.

  • Pandemic books

    Pandemic books

    While in real life, we may all be sick of the pandemic, in literature it can be a good read. Here are two books I read in the last 12 months that both centre around a pandemic. One was written before Covid hit, and one was written after. They are quite different, and both impact the world to a much greater extent than Covid did. These ones were potential extinction-event level viruses. Both very different. Both books equally fascinating.

    The End of Men – Christina Sweeny-Baird

    While this book was published after Covid hit, it was written as a thought experiment before. And there is a note by the author at the beginning of the book on how surreal it is that she wrote a book about a global virus, just before one occurred. There were two main distinctions between Covid and the Plague virus from this book: the Plague has a much higher fatality rate than Covid, and it only kills men. Women can be carriers, and they are asymptomatic, so they don’t know they have it or are passing it on to their husbands, brothers, sons, until they are sick. It’s a race to find a vaccine before mankind comes to an end. There is also the consequences of the resulting world with a lack of men. All very interesting.

    One might think that a book about a virus that only kills men would be filled of feminism, and hatred on men. But that is not the case. There are heartbroken women who have lost sons and husbands, women who are resentful of friends who had daughters, people isolating themselves to the extreme to avoid the virus or to save their husband/son. But yes, there is the odd feminist message coming through. My favourite would have to be the thoughts of one not-very-likeable woman who has obviously encountered the very real difficulties of being a woman in science. Yes, she’s working to find a vaccine, but she also appreciates the irony…

    I’ve been training virologists for years and I’ve always prioritised the hiring of women in my department. Despite many accusations to the contrary, I’ve never prioritised diversity over ability. I’ve always had a simple policy. The best female applicant gets the job. Invariably, she’s as good as, if not better than, the best male applicant. As a community, the scientific world has sexism running through it like grey swirls in marble. It’s deeply woven into the fabric of labs, university departments, hiring panels, boards determining tenure. And guess what? The preponderance of senior male scientists and majority-male teams, specifically in virology, was a disaster when the Plague came so who’s going to be right in the end? Me. I am.

    It’s going to be a bit less satisfying being right when my former enemies are almost all dead. But still, some satisfaction will no doubt shine through.

    Lisa – Day 672

    I thought the premise was executed well, and it’s an enjoyable and though-provoking read.

    Last One at the Party – Bethany Clift

    This book was written after Covid, and it even references Covid in the narrative, commenting on how they “learnt from Covid” when it came to shutting down borders and having lockdowns, etc. Unfortunately for the people in this book, this virus makes Covid look like the common cold…

    A virus sweeps rapidly across the globe, killing within 6 days of symptom onset. It’s 100% fatal. You don’t get sick. Somehow, you’re immune. Are you the last person alive? Maybe. What would you do? How would you handle being on your own? Electricity doesn’t last long once no one is around to run the stations. How would you make your way in this new world? Would you build a new life, or seek to end it?

    If you read this book, you’ll find yourself asking yourself these questions and imagining what you would do. I’m pretty sure I would handle it better than the woman in this book. But then again, I know who I am, I like who I am, and I’m not struggling with years of depression.

    I won’t say the character in this book is likeable – she’s not. But as you progress, you get to understand her more and why she may have reacted to different situations the way she did. While the book is a little bit like watching a car crash in slow motion, it keeps drawing you back. I’d definitely recommend it. If for no other reason than that the internal reflection that is sparked every time you pick it up is incredibly interesting.

    Plus, who could resist a book with just an awesome beginning:

    Fuck You!

    Those are the very last words that I spoke to another living person.

    If I had known that they would be my last, I would have chosen them a bit more carefully.

    Something erudite, with a bit more wit.

  • Book mail!

    Book mail!

    I came home to a wonderful delivery today from my favourite bookshop. And such a great quote on the box. Just wish it included the attribution.

    And what a treasure this held. Five more novels to add to my collection, and a very delicious looking hardcover that I will enjoy using when I am back in Rotorua, restore my garden, and have a lot of seasonal fruit and veg to use/preserve. There was even a gift of some chocolate (books and chocolate – perfect pairing) added into the box. along with a bookmark that has me looking up the book and likely starting my next order, lol.

    Did I mention next order? Well of course this was added. I’ve barely flicked through it and already have one book I need to buy. I’m trying to hold of opening it again for a few days. Because I am weak.