Review – Creative Colouring for Grown-Ups: Japanese Patterns

Creative Colouring for Grown-Ups: Japanese PatternsCreative Colouring for Grown-Ups: Japanese Patterns, Various Authors

I think the Creative Colouring for Grown-Ups range are probably my favourite adult colouring books. They have a ton of designs in them, the paper quality is good (though each page is double-sided, so you have to be careful with anything that might bleed through), and there’s a good combination of finicky detail and bits you can just fill up with colour. (The latter is important for me, being an impatient thing.) There’s plenty of variation in the designs, and they all look good with nice bold felt-tip work. Which is good, because meticulous shading and blending is beyond me.

The patterns themselves… well, some of them don’t strike me as particularly Japanese, but there are some motifs like cranes that wing their way through the book.

Rating: 5/5

Stacking the Shelves

Totally unsurprisingly, this week has involved me grabbing as much Phryne Fisher as I can… I even started watching the TV series, via Netflix. Gah, love it so much.

Library books

Cover of Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood Cover of Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood Cover of Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood

Cover of Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood Cover of Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood

Cover of Away With the Fairies by Kerry Greenwood Cover of The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart

And I actually got some Amazon vouchers, but I’m probably going to save them for some more Phryne book. Just one book purchased, and that was a Kindle Daily Deal.

Cover of Omens by Kelley Armstrong

So really, I’ve been quite good this week! What’s everyone else been getting?

Review – Fingersmith

Cover of Fingersmith by Sarah WatersFingersmith, Sarah Waters
Originally reviewed 1st July, 2009

It’s hard to see this book as primarily a work of historical fiction when everybody considers Sarah Waters to be a lesbian writer. Have to confess, I have a tendency to turn my nose up at books that are toted as “modern feminist writing” or whatever, which is bad of me. Never judge a book by its cover, etc. But I remembered reading a few passages from it in a seminar, early in the spring semester, and wanting to see how it fit into a longer novel. Also, Sarah Waters is Welsh, which helps.

I don’t think it’s the best book that was ever written. I can’t speak for the quality of the research, but the settings are quite well described and vivid, and the language is lively enough to make my synaesthesia spark. It “tasted nice”, as I say, but at the same time, it wasn’t the best overall taste ever. There are some gorgeous passages and there are indifferent sections — I couldn’t put my finger on why, but that was my impression. It just “tasted” blander. I always wonder if maybe those points are when the writer lost focus or got bored for a moment.

The plot is twisty and turny. I actually read spoilers in advance, which was silly, because I didn’t really get the full benefit of the surprises or any moments where everything clicked into place. I think that feeling might have been nice, with this book — but at the same time I wonder if it was probably led up to… I suppose Susan does constantly drop hints that Maud is not what she seems, in the end. Sometimes I did feel that big surprises were thrown into the readers’ faces just for the shock value. I don’t really mind that so much when I’m reading, but for a book that is relatively slow paced and detailed, it seems… somehow inappropriate. Then, at the same time, how else would one keep it interesting? It felt like breaking character, though… reading actual Victorian books, like Charles Dickens, the writing is as slow — slower! — but it still keeps me interested, and even the plot twists don’t seem quite so sharp.

The format, with the Susan POV followed by the Maud POV recounting the same events, was irritating. It was nice to get both sides of the story, on the one hand, but the intricacies of the Gentleman’s plot could have come out without it, and Maud’s POV didn’t bring anything really new to it. The transition wasn’t bad — at least it didn’t say in block capitals, “You are too stupid to understand this, but there is a POV change here”! But it wasn’t great, either, it wasn’t entirely necessary, and the book could have been tighter and neater without it.

Character-wise… I don’t know. I guess nobody struck me that sharply. I ended up being in it more to see exactly how the plot unfolded, rather than for the characters, which is unusual for me. I thought some of the interactions between Maud and Sue were good, and liked the ending; I had a strange fondness for Dainty throughout. But I didn’t get wildly caught up in it as I would if I really, really cared about the characters.

Rating: 3/5

Review – Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

Cover of Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates by Kerry GreenwoodMiss Phryne Fisher Investigates, Kerry Greenwood

Aka Cocaine Blues. I did actually try to read this once before, and really didn’t get into it — I don’t think I read more than a couple of chapters. Looking at that review now, I think I must’ve been really cranky that day, because all I complained about was adjectives. Which, yes, are present… but not nearly as bad as I seemed to think back then. Perhaps a case of finding the right book at the right time, because reading this during the readathon, I loved it!

Even the first time, I was impressed by Phryne’s character: the fact that she’s a flapper, that she’s independent, clever, capable. This time through, I also noticed her kindness a lot: her treatment of Dot, her concern about other people. She’s also a shrewd judge of character. In fact, there’s very little we see by way of flaws in Phryne, which could get annoying… but for now, I just loved the amount of agency she has, the strength she has, the fact that she’s unequivocally a sexual person and nobody can take advantage of her because she owns that fact.

The mysteries were kind of secondary to that for me; they come together well, though, and give us a varied cast. Nobody is involved in everything, but each person has ties to the next. I quite liked that.

If it’s any measure of my enthusiasm, I immediately ordered the second book (in time for it to be delivered — and pounced on — the next morning by Amazon Prime, on a Sunday!) and reserved more from the library.

Rating: 4/5

Review – Timeless

Cover of Timeless by Gail CarrigerTimeless, Gail Carriger

If you’re enjoying the series, then this is basically more of the same sort of tone and plot, relationships, etc. There are a couple of nice developments — Biffy and Lyall’s relationship is particularly nice, and if you’re a fan of happily ever afters, then Conall and Alexia have a solution to something that was a problem, mostly unspoken, from the beginning. It ties up a lot of plot threads, including stuff about the God Breaker plague, Floote’s mysteriousness, and Alexia’s father.

Plenty of drama drama, silly nicknames and sex-positivity, and general silliness. I’m glad to have finished the series, but I’m a bit reluctant to jump into Prudence… The silliness has always been a touch beyond my interest, and I’ve heard other critical things about it. We’ll see. I do own it, so I might as well try!

Rating: 3/5

Review – Murder Past Due

Cover of Murder Past Due by Miranda JamesMurder Past Due, Miranda James

Murder Past Due is a reasonably fun but unremarkable cosy mystery. The main draws would be the cat, Diesel, who is a main character, and the fact that it’s set partially in a library. But the cat isn’t the detective and isn’t the main character, and the library is just where the main character works, so it’s not that niche. I didn’t find any of the characters or their relationships particularly compelling, though the small-town USA atmosphere was kind of interesting — I kept being surprised when there were computers and email, because it seemed more old-fashioned than that in terms of the way people related. More Agatha Christie than Val McDermid et al.

I was not, however, surprised by the resolution of the mystery.

Overall, this was fun brain candy, but I’m in no hurry to read more of the series, and I wouldn’t particularly recommend it unless you’re a connoisseur of cosy mysteries.

Rating: 2/5

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s prompt from Top Ten Tuesdays is a seasonal one — a Hallowe’en themed freebie. So here’s some things that scare me in books… perhaps not all traditionally scary.

  1. When you just know a character is going to make the wrong decision. You know better than them, or you’re just smarter than them, and you can see them about to make a big mistake…
  2. Tense moments in books in third person/multiple first person. You know the character can actually die, because they haven’t had to survive to tell you the story!
  3. Knowing something a character doesn’t. Especially when there’s miscommunication going on. This one ranges from heartbreaking to embarrassing…
  4. Temptation. You know, like Frodo with the One Ring. Gaaah. You can’t help them because they’re allegedly not real. You just have to watch.
  5. Atmospheric moments. Suddenly, you’re getting a description of the weather, the atmosphere, the darkness pooling between the street lights…
  6. When you know an author is not afraid to kill characters. Scott Lynch, I can’t trust you.
  7. When a character betrays principles for a dubious higher cause. Aka the entirety of The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Gah.
  8. Revelation to another character. “I accidentally killed your best friend and we fell in love and now I’m telling you that and you’re going to hate me.”
  9. Misunderstandings. Like the above, only someone doesn’t stay to hear the full story, or somehow something else garbles the story.
  10. That moment when you hear it’s going to be a movie. Right?

Yep, I’m a giant wuss and I’m not really into actually scary books, so a Hallowe’en theme for me was a bit of a stretch!

A Book Blogger’s Manifesto

There’s been a couple of manifestos floating about in the wake of Joanne Harris’ Writer’s Manifesto. It got me thinking about what I promise as a blogger and reviewer, what I think is important. So I thought I’d do a quick manifesto myself.

  1. I promise to give you my real opinion. Even if I’m friends with the author or the publicist or someone’s feelings might get hurt.
  2. I promise to remember that everyone has feelings. I’m not going to attack someone, tweet a critical review directly at the author, etc. Everyone has feelings, and it’s just courtesy to do your best to avoid hurting them.
  3. I promise to reply to comments and return your visits. You put in effort to engage with me, and I’ll make the same effort to engage with you.
  4. But, when I’m stressed out and things are hard, I reserve the right to take time off. Even if my scheduled posts are still going ahead. Even if I post something that generates a lot of discussion. I’m a human being, and I need time off too.
  5. I promise to let you know of my bias. When a book is by a friend or I’m doing something as a favour, then I will let you know. If I’m not aware of my bias, then I can’t tell you, but…
  6. I promise to be open to criticism. It’s not easy, but I know I’m as fallible as any other creature. I may react badly, but I promise I will think about what you say.
  7. I promise to be open to new things. I’m sure there’s things I’m neglecting and things I haven’t tried yet, many of which I may love. I’ll be open to them when they come my way.
  8. I promise to review books that I’m given for that purpose. Whether I like them or not.

I’m sure once this goes live I’ll think of something else, so I might add to this. Feel free to borrow the idea, the wording, link to this, whatever you like, if it speaks to you.

Review – Dark Metropolis

Cover of Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn DolamoreDark Metropolis, Jaclyn Dolamore

I was recommended this initially because there’s some LGBT content and an asexual character. Well, just to deal with that upfront: there’s a character who is, at least, not straight, and there’s a character who isn’t interested in sex. However, she’s not interested in sex because she’s not human, so that’s kind of… not asexuality. If you interpret her as ace, though, she’s also arguably aromantic.

Still, it’s an interesting story/world. It’s got a reasonably unique take on zombies, and an interesting historical background — there’s history and economics driving the plot, which makes it feel that much more fully realised. The main characters are all pretty young, and they mostly seem to react to things in a normal way for their age. Pacing and writing are reasonably good, too.

I think the only reason this is standing out, though, is because of the LGBT/ace characters; it has potential, but it didn’t sparkle for me. It was easy to read, but not unputdownable. I know there’s a second book, and I’m not in any hurry to get hold of it. It lacks a compelling spark of life, I think.

Rating: 3/5

No Book Buying Challenge: Organisation

 

I keep almost forgetting to do this post! Here’s October’s one. This month’s prompt is about how you organise your shelves. Well, right now I have permanent shelves with books I’m keeping at my parents, while I have books I haven’t read yet mostly at my grandmother’s, since I’ve been here the last couple months for healthcare and now to take care of her. In both places they’re sorted by genre — poetry, non-fiction, SF/F, crime/mystery, historical, general. Within that, they’re sorted by author’s last name and within that, by order of publication.

I enjoy occasionally overhauling that and shaking everything up, though.

Here’s my general updates on the #ShelfLove challenge and my New Year’s Resolutions. The colour scheme should be familiar by now…

  • 49/51+ already owned books read from prior to 2015 (last one recorded: Moon-Flash, 25/10)
  • Spent: £21 out of ~£30 budget (budget is 10% of my income) for January
  • Spent: £20 out of ~£25 budget for February
  • Spent: £22 out of ~£25 budget for March
  • Spent: £15 out of ~£16 budget for April
  • Spent: £45 out of ~£30 budget for May
  • Spent: £18 out of ~£40 budget for June, plus stuck within holiday budget
  • Spent: £45 out of ~£50 budget for July
  • Spent £51 out of ~£60 for August
  • Spent £30 out of £40 for September
  • Spent ~£20 out of £20 for October

Not good pay at all this month — somehow the billing cycle means I barely earn anything this month. Sigh.

Here’s my more general progress on resolutions:

  • No books impulse-bought 
  • Read every day 
  • Bed before midnight
  • Up before ten every day
  • Only bought one book from a series at a time
  • Posted to the blog every day
  • Commented on at least one other blog every day
  • Tithed 10% in every month so far
  • Done 8o hours volunteering total
  • Reading/reviewing books from NG/etc (70%!)

Not bad at all, right?