Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Okay, let's clear up some myths about vampires. First of all, you won't see me using the V-word much. In the Night Watch we prefer the term parasite-positives, or peeps, for short.
The main thing to remember is that there's no magic involved. No flying. No transforming into rats or bats either... [blurb]

I made some mistakes with vampire and urban fantasy type books lately as my reviews will tell. I remain hopeful of finding some GOOD ones. I know they're out there but there's a lot that's not to my taste obscuring the great reads. I made a rather different mistake here. That was to start reading late at night. I thought I'd read a chapter or two then get some sleep.

Here I found a very different vampire novel and a very well researched book. I particularly love books that have great research at the centre - other examples are The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. They gain a great deal of strength from their research and I love to gain knowledge while enjoying a fantastic story. The depth and integration of research into Peeps is brilliant. I think this is what kept me reading past so many just-one-more-chapter deadlines.

Like The HistorianPeeps suffers from a weak ending. The fantastic research and resulting species and world-building appears to be the point, but whilst most of the story worked well certain aspects of the ending felt contrived - they were just there so that things could be brought neatly to a close to create a story rather than a fascinating study. Also like The Historian I can forgive Peeps because I loved the rest of the book so much.

Peeps won't be for everyone. There's a crash-course in parasitology and epidemiology strewn throughout - pretty much every second chapter is mostly factual research. It's well written and concise to keep the reader's attention. It is, however, probably not for those who are very squeamish.

On the other hand, if you like urban fantasy, less starry-eyed-and-too-perfect vampires and a well researched story I'd definitely recommend this book. It's a few years old now but not too hard to find.

There's a second novel, The Last Days, that connects to this one though according to the summary I have read does not focus on the same characters. I'll be looking forward to reading this one soon and seeing what it has to add.

Scott Westerfeld was an author I'd noticed enjoying some popularity a while ago - but as I find popularity and quality don't necessarily have a whole lot to do with each other in the book world I'd not been in any particular hurry to read his work. I believe I've found a new author to explore the works of here!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Time for a sale?

I'm trying out using a coupon code on the Triple Threat Librarian Etsy Store - the code is XMASRUSH and today (17th Dec 2012) and tomorrow (As per Adelaide's timezones) that code will get you 15% off everything in the store. If you're in Australia everything will make it to the post office on Wednesday which is in time to be delivered for Christmas with Australia Post's regular delivery times.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

He wouldn't smile for the camera

The Christmas tree is up! And Christmas shopping is almost finished - there's always that one person who offers a challenge. Thankfully the family Secret Santa means that Christmas Shopping happens on a far lesser scale than it once did.

I'm afraid I have no crafts (unless the eyes count) or book reviews to offer you today. The silly season is being just that and the table I generally craft on is off being polished in time for Christmas. It's been a while coming but it's a beautiful old table and with a bit of TLC it will be just wonderful.

Also, 1500 pageviews might not be a big number, but it's a milestone all the same!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Cards on Etsy

These are just a couple of the cards I've listed on my Etsy store -

I've substantially reduced the prices from those I was charging at the Christmas fair and other placements. If you're in Australia and order by the 18th they will get to you in time - if not some of them would be great for any occasion! I'll be listing some more general-purpose cards after Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2013 Photo Project

On my older personal blog I completed a photographic 365 challenge - which blew out to a bit over 500 before I gave it away. I had lost interest and it had become a chore. For some time I had no interest in taking on another such project.

Recently I've been thinking it'd be nice to have another photographic project - but something a bit more directed and not quite as demanding.

So next year I'm going to take on a new project - but instead of once a day I'll be looking at once a week. I want to compile my own photographic alphabet inspired by urban alphabets and natural alphabets looking at my own surroundings. I want to look for shapes that already exist, not create my own. They might be permanent or temporary arrangements but never deliberately arranged for the purposes of the project.

Although I had been thinking about this for a while I decided while out on a walk this evening. Once I did I started seeing possibilities everywhere - I'm looking forward to this!

I'll start posting on weekends in the new year. This should take me halfway through the year - when I get nearer to the middle of the year I'll work out where to go from there.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review - Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

I want to love steampunk novels. I really do. The style is fabulous and so much fun. But the books I have attempted to read so far have mostly failed to impress. A few I've put down and not found the strength to pick back up. This one was at least quite good, but I've still not found a steampunk book to love here.

I picked this book up in a second hand bookshop in Darwin so I'd have something to read at Yalara and on the Ghan. It was the first line of the blurb that got my attention - I'm a sucker for fantasy books with librarians...

'Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.'

The dialogue was a lot of fun, there were gadgets aplenty and some very good storytelling in places. The degree of action most certainly did not disappoint. Plenty of the characters were a lot of fun too. It had a lot of fantastic things going for it. And yet I still haven't found that steampunk series to love.

The heroine, Eliza Braun, is possibly the biggest issue. The strong man, brainy woman trope has been taken and gender switched. To me that's not turning a trope on its head. It's becoming almost commonplace. It's a trope in itself. The degree of flamboyant feisty violence in full public view is fun but it just doesn't fly in the Victorian setting, fantasy or no. She'd be quite over the top even in modern settings.

In a related problem, some of the devices feel like twenty-first century technology with gears glued on. Not all - some of the devices were great. But enough that it felt like a problem. Modern solutions to the problems - just with more brass.

Also, an Australian called Bruce who speaks even more Ocker than Crocodile Dundee? From an Australian perspective I found this character jarring. He was at least a well fleshed out character, as were most. I found a couple of other issues, but... too spoilery.

None of these problems were abandon-the-book or throw-against-the-wall bad but they did hold a good book back from being an excellent one. I'm undecided as to whether or not I'll read the next book in the series. With so many books I plan to read I'm not sure I have time to spend on a series that's less than excellent. However, if you're a lover of steampunk books this one is worth a read.

If anyone wants to make steampunk reading suggestions, fire away! It might take me a while to get to them but I might just find that amazing author.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A skirt waiting to happen

Late last summer I came to the awful realisation that my favourite dress to wear on a really stinking hot day had deteriorated into a terrible condition. This made me quite sad as it was a pretty dress with very nice embroidery. I did notice that the damage was almost entirely on the top half so I put the dress aside intending on working out how to turn it into a basic skirt. I've done some machine sewing before so know my way around a basic machine but I've not done any work on clothes or with elastic before, so this was new. Many thanks go to Mum for helping me out here.

This is the old, tired dress with quite a bit of yellowing around the top and a lot of elastic that had given up and died. It took a bit of courage to take the scissors to a favourite item of clothing, but with a bit of courage...

After this I naturally forgot to take more photos, but I made a waistband from inch wide elastic, sewed it into the top and rolled it over. I did this with Mum's whiz-bang sewing machine as my 30-or-so-year-old ol' faithful sewing machine is in storage. Its a very nice machine. Even cuts the threads for me.The skirt might not be winning any competitions for refashioning, but it's nice to have it back in my wardrobe.

I'm also working on Etsy listings for these two necklaces. They should be posted this evening. I'll put a shout out on the TTL facebook page when they're up.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Babies and Christmas

A staggering number of people I know have been having babies lately (or so it seems). I made a couple of cards for some of the most recent arrivals today - one boy and one girl.

This card is for a neighbour who has just had a baby - an excellent reason to use a gorgeous paper I bought quite some time ago and have been waiting for a reason to use.

This one is for a friend's baby - I've deliberately made it somewhat less blatantly gendered. Opinions vary, but I am sure that this baby already has more than enough pink (though it is not entirely lacking here)

Christmas is getting entirely too close for comfort and I have made a huge number of Christmas cards lately. These are two of those I'm most pleased with.

This card was based on a stamp that I couldn't initially see a lot of use for - until I took a craft knife to the stamped image. Now the possibilities seem quite endless. I'm sure I'll be getting plenty of use from this one.

This card also allowed me to use a really gorgeous piece of paper I had sitting about the place.

Before these two I'd had very few cards with stamped images that I'd been happy with - cutting them out and adding a bit of dimension to them makes the world of difference. Now I have more use for my picture stamps that came with the word stamps I bought the sets for...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tutorial: Bigger-on-the-inside TARDIS card

Time for the promised TARDIS card tutorial! As an added bonus this tutorial shows you my method of making standard card blanks. This is the first tutorial I have made, so if you have any feedback do let me know so future tutorials might be improved...

In order to avoid sounding like a broken record I'll let you know right here that you need to be quite precise here. It'll really show in the results. On with the tutorial - Allons-y!

These are the tools used. With one exception - the glue marker. How I could forget such a useful object is beyond me.

Tools and materials:
TARDIS blue cardstock - A4 or 12" square
Black cardstock - scrap is OK
White cardstock - scrap is OK
White printer paper
Self-healing cutting mat
Clear quilting ruler
Metal ruler
Rotary cutter
Craft knife
Bone folder
Glue stick
Glue marker
Glue tape
Fine silver paint or gel pen
Black fineliner - 0.1

The first step is to make the card blank. Start by cutting an 8"x6" piece of TARDIS blue card. Keep the scraps, you'll need them later. The best way to make the larger cuts is with a quilting ruler and rotary cutter. The cuts are kept straight and it's very easy to line things up precisely (don't use a craft knife with a quilting ruler, you'll kill the ruler).
Using the bone folder, score a line at the 4" mark on the long side. If the paper is textured, score on the side that will be the inside. Fold along the line and, with the card folded, run the flat of the folder along the crease to sharpen it.
Cut the top inch from the side that will become the front cover, and prepare for one of the trickier sections.

Keeping in mind you will need to erase later, rule a pencil line one inch from the top in line with the previous cut(not shown in the picture). Measuring up from here rule a line at 3/8", 1/8" and 1/8". This should leave 3/8" at the top.

As per the lower left section of the picture above, n the lowest ruled section draw vertical lines 1/4" from each side. In the next section draw lines 1/2" from each side. In the top section draw lines around a 1/4" section at the centre. Join this to the tier below with a diagonal line.

Cut around this outline using a metal ruler and craft knife. You may find it easiest to cut small sections away. Erase the remaining pencil lines.
Cut a section of black cardboard 1/4"x3.5", or slightly shorter if you prefer (see right side pictures). Write on the card with a silver paint or gel pen as shown. Stick in place with glue stick or marker.

Cut a 1/4" square of white card. Stick to form the light at the top of the card. That's the top section complete! Next, on to the front.
Cut four 1.5" squares, four in blue, two in white.

Cut a blue strip 1/8" wide and at least 4.5" long. Don't worry if it curves a bit, that's fairly unavoidable. Cut it into three 1.5" sections.

Using a glue marker, stick the strips on to form a window pattern.

On the front flap of the card, stick the blue and white squares. They should be 1/4" from the edge of the card and 1/8" from the top, bottom and other squares. You can use any kind of paper glue here, but glue tape doesn't have a drying time so you can continue on without fear of shifting things. Repeat for the other side.
Cut a piece of white card or printer paper 1"x3/4" and write on it with a fineliner as shown. Glue it to the centre left panel. While you're at it, why not add a silver doorknob?

Congratulations! The front is complete. The rest should, by comparison, be very easy.
The pop-up that will form the inside is a map fold. There's a great tutorial for it on this website (link replaced Feb 2015) which I doubt I can improve on. Use an 8"x8" square. The tutorial uses a rectangle, but squares are fine.

If you put it in your card you'll likely find it's marginally large. No worries! Cut off 1/8" and get the added bonus of an extremely tidy visible end.

Use glue tape on one side and stick the folded paper in with the centre line 2.5" from the bottom. Be sure to get the point right into the fold of the paper. Put glue tape onto the other side, press the card firmly shut, then re-open...
Ta-da! It's bigger on the inside!
 With Adelaide's famous Christmas Pageant on tomorrow and as I'm also preparing a lot of work for a stall I'll have at St John's Anglican Church Christmas Fair (Friday 16th November, 6p.m., Church Gardens at 379 Halifax Street, Adelaide) I'm in a very Christmassy frame of mind. I twisted together sparkly pipe cleaners and made a wreath to make a Christmas TARDIS.

That concludes my first tutorial! I hope you liked it - I expect I'll make more in future. If you use this tutorial, either as-is or with modifications, I'd love to see what you do!  Please do not use this to produce items for sale.

Do, however, feel free to share the tutorial further. By all means use the first or last image as a link, but please link to this blog for the rest of the tutorial.

P.S. The link marked as replaced in 2015 was changed as the original site was now just throwing particularly dubious looking ads. Sorry about that, and hopefully the replacement will stay... if it should fail again, search 'map fold tutorial', there are quite a few about - Heather

Monday, October 22, 2012


Do I sound too childish if I tell you that I'm easily fascinated by watching plastic shrink?

I'm working on things for an upcoming fĂȘte at the moment. I wanted to make more jewellery and make it fairly affordable. At the moment I don't really have the space or set-up to get out all of my jewellery stuff so I decided to have a go at shrink plastic.

My first few sheets were so bad they didn't even make it to the oven - I'm having tremendous difficulty getting stamps to transfer the entire image, and at first I did not know what kind of ink to use. I found that a waterproof fineliner worked just fine for the black lines - although it doesn't truly set until baked so needs to be handled carefully it comes with the bonus of being able to redo difficult bits. Coloured pencils provide great colour, especially as baking concentrates the colour. I also now sand one side before I start.

These are destined to be necklaces and earrings, the 50c piece is for scale. The cherries will probably go onto a bracelet - one on each chain link. I'll have plenty more time to do this when I get back.

I'm off now for a week and a half. I'll return in early November with a TARDIS card tutorial and photos of Uluru.

Until then, adios!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book review catchup

Keeping these relatively brief so I can catch up without writing a blog post that'd border on being long enough to make into a book. I'm including only books I actually finished, nothing that was so terrible or dull that I couldn't bring myself to keep reading.

“Do I have to talk to insane people?"
"You're a librarian now. I'm afraid it's mandatory.”

- The woman who died a lot, Jasper Fforde

The woman who died a lot is the seventh Thursday Next book by Jasper Fforde and at this point we've almost caught up with the alternate modern-day. Some of the things that were so central to the earliest books are missing entirely. Whilst before reading this I might have called that a deal-breaker, especially as book six, One of our Thursdays is missing did not particularly live up to the high standard set by the earlier books, I thought this book worked brilliantly without those things, and delved far deeper into things that were important before but clearly had a lot more to offer. What they are, I shan't say, because I don't want to ruin such a fantastic series for other people.

Despite the big changes, this book was fantastic. It had a bit of the whodunnit mystery about it, after a while the reader can cotton on to what's going on - but there are things stopping the characters from seeing this. It's a lot of fun, especially trying to work out how the main characters might go about finding out. If you haven't read the series, just do. They're brilliant.

I'm a long-time fan of fantasy short story collections and with names like these on the cover, how could I resist? Under my hat contains a lot of stories, and pleasantly every single one of them was new to me. I often find that modern collections contain quite a few that have been recycled over and over. I'm not sure if they can be found elsewhere or not but they're a great read! Don't be turned off by the book being listed as for children - the stories are full of depth and detail and are really wonderful. Three favourites of mine were A handful of ashes by Garth Nix, B is for bigfoot by Jim Butcher and Great-Grandmother in the cellar by Peter S. Beagle. There were plenty more great stories in here, once again a thoroughly recommended read.

I picked up The vampire shrink by Lynda Hilburn for two reasons. First, the premise, a psychologist treating those who might or might not be vampires or just pretending. Second, the reviews about the place promised me that this was, if not entirely free of the paranormal romance angle, not suffering from the same things that generally drive me away from that particular genre.

They lied.

The first half of the book was quite good. The premise and character were interesting, well detailed and developing quite well. Then along came the designated love interest and the strong heroine started, with what felt like token doubts, just following about and Being Protected. A real pity, because the first half of the book was shaping up quite well. I'm not averse to romance in a story, I just wind up frustrated that it so often ruins what might have otherwise been a pretty respectable book. If you're into paranormal romance you might well enjoy this, but if it's not your thing this, like the others, is probably not for you.

After three fantasy books in a row, here's a change... animal-centric autobiography. I read Cleo by Helen Brown a couple years ago and quite enjoyed it so when I saw a fluffy kitten and it was a sequel to a book I enjoyed I knew I had to read After Cleo came Jonah. It was a good book - as much about family and dealing with the coming-of-age of others as it is about the cat Jonah. Another enjoyable book recommended to those who have an interest in biography.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tardis card is bigger on the inside

I was invited to a Doctor Who party last weekend, and I got the idea of making a TARDIS card that was bigger on the inside. The exterior design was simple enough to come up with - I didn't find an existing design I particularly liked so I took a good look at the TARDIS and the needs of my card and came up with this. The magnets are not part of the card, just holding it closed for the photo.

I knew that the interior was doable because I've seen folding maps that pop out larger than their covers. After searching about I found what's creatively called the map fold - there are any number of tutorials on it but I found this one particularly straightforward. With a little modification on dimensions it worked beautifully, and there you have it. A TARDIS card that is bigger on the inside.

Just a tiny little bit proud of this one.

I'm making a lot of other cards at the moment in preparation for a fete, I'll show some of the best of them later but there are only so many photographs of cards I can justify blogging in one hit.

Oh, and excuse the clumsy watermarking. It's a just-in-case so if anyone shares it on without, heaven forbid, linking back, the photo will do that for me.

P.S. As I intend on making another of these and there's been some interest I'll look at making a tutorial for this card soon, likely after I return home in early November

Update: The tutorial is now available in this blog post!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spring is sprung

Spring is sprung,
The grass is riz,
I wonder where the birdie is?
They say the bird is on the wing -
But that's absurd!
I say the wing is on the bird.

  It's been beautiful outside so I've been out playing with my camera! The first rose is out, plenty more to come. They're early this year. This is one of Mum's. Mine are a bit behind - one's been in too shaded a spot (fixed that) and the others have recently been moved from ground to pot. They all survived but I'm not sure if they'll flower this year.

Mum's orchids are also stunning this year. There are more spikes that haven't opened still. Every year Mum manages to get them to put on a stunning display.

Whilst this last shot isn't a traditional garden beauty shot this caught my eye, especially as I've been reading a book on finding great photos in ordinary places, particularly with different subject matter. There is a lot on colour and texture as well - unfortunately some pattern-focused photos I took did not come out as well as I might have liked - I think I needed a greater depth of field. I will have another go at those when the light is where I need it again.

It is amazing just how many photographs you can find to take in a small area. I can spend hours out there with a camera - there's always something else to photograph. When I start I find the big and obvious things, but the more time I spend in a session the more detail and interesting subject matter I find.

The rose and orchid photos were taken using a Sony DSC-HX100V, the geranium seeds with a Pentax K200-D. Whilst the latter is a DSLR the Sony, a superzoom type camera, has been better for close macro work. It has a focus ring for manual focus and operated in aperture priority does a very nice job indeed. Hopefully I'll be able to save up for a macro lens so I can do the rest with a DSLR. The general-purpose lens with a macro setting is just not cutting it. I'm not sure whether I'll stick with this body or change to another for that. Anyone have any suggestions? It'll be some time until I can justify the expense but I eventually want a good setup for macro and night photography.

I'd also like a tilt-shift lens but I think I'd need to win the lottery to justify that...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Take one sheet of blue cardboard

I might not have as much opportunity to craft as I did before, but I'll take what I can get. Paper crafts take up an astonishing amount of space (not to mention the array of tools and materials) but I absolutely love working with paper. I tend to be more creative with it than other crafts in my repertoire.
I had fun this evening playing around with card making materials. I made the card blanks for both cards in this post from a single 12x12 square of card stock. The card above is just me having fun with buttons and paper and seeing what I can do with them. I'm normally a bit wary of using stripes - you have to get them just so or it looks wonky. This card's not been made for any particular occasion but I'm sure I'll find an occasion for it at some point.

This card is for a 60th wedding anniversary I'm going to in the near future - I'm not too worried about the intended recipients seeing it, so I might as well show it off now. I began with one concept and asides the pretty bird not much of the original idea stayed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The World of Poo

Terry Pratchett's a busy author this year - courtesy of my library I'm looking forward to reading all of the new releases. A couple I'll likely buy as well. I certainly got some interesting looks when this arrived at the library! A few recognised it as tying in to Snuff but certainly not the majority.

Fiction from within fiction, though only fantasy by virtue of the outer level of fiction The World of Poo is most certainly a book that's aimed squarely at the (fictional) six to eight year old boy. I'd love to find out what a real seven year old boy would think of this! So long as the setting didn't confuse I like to think it'd be a hit, though possibly not inspiration to imitate the protagonist? This twenty-eight year old woman found it a bit of fun too. I particularly liked the mention of Unseen University in the visit with Harry King. My inner child got the giggles...

This was a quick read, well written and a bit of fun between chunkier books. If you've read the Discworld books, particularly the more recent ones, I'd give this a go. And if you happen to have the chance to introduce it to a suitably aged boy, do let me know if they liked it!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another Sanderson Review

I promise I read other authors...

I finished reading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson about week ago. In order to catch up I'll try to keep this review short. This was Sanderson's first novel, and it really shows. It's not bad, but having read the Mistborn books I can see he's come a long way since. If you particularly want to read his works and haven't started yet, give this one a go first. You'll probably enjoy it more that way.

The premise of this book is great - the once godlike are now akin to lepers. Characters were pleasantly multi-dimensional, at least for the most part. Good and evil were not clearly defined though some were a lot greyer than others. One or two characters bugged me - one too perfect, the other almost comedically evil - a little but I liked that the primary antagonist wasn't acting on "evil" motives. Even the nastiest of characters showed a human side, if only briefly.

The exploration of the magic system through the main characters' discoveries that was seen in Mistborn is here too. The main difference is that in Mistborn things tended to dawn on the main characters as you worked them out for yourself. Here some of them were clear a mile off, and the supposed genius of the characters was blindingly obvious well ahead of time. And the ending was also always going to be the way it was. It was clear very early on how things had to resolve - it was just a matter of how the story got there.

To sum up, Elantris is enjoyable enough and showed the promise that Brandon Sanderson has come good on later on - this book, while very good by general fantasy standards, just isn't up to the standard of his later works.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sad Wolverine with T-rex

Paper wolverine appears to be a little sad about something. Maybe because his claws are so much smaller than robot-skeleton-t-rex's?

I made this paper toy from one of the patterns available at the Mini Papercraft blog a little while ago and have realised I never shared a picture of him. Fixing that today. Parts were a little fiddly to cut out with an x-acto knife but I love the results. The newest one there is Batman. I will absolutely be making one of those in future.

I'll be doing a lot of house-moving in the next week but I'll try to post at least once or twice!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review - The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson

After enjoying the epic trilogy there was one more of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn books to read. This one is set three hundred years after the last one, and the world has come a long way. The world of the first three books is the stuff of legend. The characters I got to know so well appear now in place names, religion, turns of phrase and in one case, as a bogeyman. Eastern street slang reappears in an interesting way - I won't ruin that for you, but it made me laugh.

Instead of epic fantasy this book is a mash-up of fantasy, western and detective. I appreciated the genre mixing, it was well done, and a good genre mix is something I often enjoy. The epic scope of the earlier trilogy is gone, though with a revelation at the very end I began to wonder if that might return. I thought the scope of this book worked well, so I am uncertain as to whether I'd welcome this new setting taking a turn for the epic.

The map at the beginning of the book is well worth examining, it's very interesting to see how things have developed since the end of the trilogy. Place names such as Elendel, Rashekin and Hammondar Bay were highly amusing. I imagine you could read this book without reading the trilogy if you wanted to, but I got a lot out of knowing what had come before, and having quite a bit more understanding of certain things than any of the characters appear to have.

The magic system has evolved with time and the dilution and crossing of bloodlines. The strongest variants seem to have largely disappeared but different combinations of skills allow all kinds of things that weren't possible before. Some established gaps in knowledge from the trilogy have been filled in, but knowledge has also been lost, consequently I was able to gain insight that it's clear the characters couldn't. I found this particularly interesting. In a more epic book I think I'd miss some of the things that are gone but with the story here operating on a smaller scale it was probably best not to have these.

The only significant nitpick I'd have with The Alloy of Law is the main character's name. One of my pet peeves are names that have ambiguous pronunciation (or conventional names with bizarre spellings). I find they distract me from focusing on the rest of the story and ruin my ability to fully immerse myself. Many invented fantasy names are fine - Vin, found in the first three books, is not a problem. Waxilliam, on the other hand, is. The protagonist has a very serviceable nickname, Wax, but while this was used extensively in dialogue it was not generally used in the rest of the text. I would have liked to see Waxilliam reserved for formal use as it would have made things a lot smoother.

On the whole I enjoyed this book. It was a total change of scope, but as it is clearly a totally new story arc this isn't a problem. It was a lot of fun in a well thought out setting. Although there is no release date set Brandon Sanderson's blog indicates that there will be a sequel to this book. I'll keeping my eye out for it, it will be very interesting to see where things go from here.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mistborn Trilogy Review Part Two - The Hero of Ages

I've just finished Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, so this post comes with another minor spoiler warning - while I won't tell you exactly what happens no doubt it will be enough to bother some.

Hero of Ages uses several point-of-view characters who are far more spread out than in previous books, and their stories are not bound so tightly together as in the first two books. Each plays a part in the big picture but the parts are more distinct. Although I initially found some more engaging than others they all eventually came into their own.

Several of my concerns from Well of Ascension appeared to be coming over into Hero of Ages. After a while these began to lessen and the pace of The Final Empire started to reassert itself. Examination of the internal musings of characters did not disappear - but thankfully were no longer repetitively focused on feelings and insecurity. One character did continue this to a degree I consider excessive, having finished the book I can see why, however still consider it to have been overdone. Recap wasn't entirely absent either, but was done with reasonable restraint, and shed new light on things rather than simply repeating.

Events from the end of The Well of Ascension appeared to be producing the imbalance that I thought they risked, but as with my other concerns, these sorted themselves out. When the major revelations started coming I found the book far more engaging and enjoyable and thankfully, unlike Well of Ascension it began to pick up the pace. Some revelations were at least partially predictable and gave me the sense of satisfaction from working something out - others completely blindsided me. At the end of chapter seventy-two I realised that there was no chance whatsoever of putting this book down. One of the revelations I had been suspecting was thrown out into the open, proving my suspicions but on a far grander scale than I had been expecting. From here ploughed straight on to the end without so much as looking up from the page. I was left with a fantastic sense of satisfaction, my mind continuing to process and expand ideas.

I couldn't help but draw comparison with David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon series. Shortly after finishing Hero of Ages I realised that there were noticeable similarities in the theological goings-on. The execution and detail of these, however, is sufficiently different that I would not call this a flaw, just an interesting comparison.

The Mistborn trilogy's greatest assets would have to be the magic system and how carefully planned it appeared to be - even at the end of this trilogy it is clear that not all has been told, but everything fits together perfectly. The initial description of the magics at play seems logical and well understood, but time and time again the characters find they have more to learn and that it is far bigger than anticipated. This does not feel, as it can in some series, as if the author has tacked more on. Bits and pieces of story from earlier on support every new revelation allowing you to see earlier events in a different light. The Final Empire looks very different once the revelations of Hero of Ages are considered and I am very tempted to re-order the book from the library to see what other implications I did not realise were there before.

Although the middle of the Mistborn trilogy was decidedly lacklustre the beginning and end make it one of the best new fantasy series I have read in a long time. I think I am experiencing a book hangover.

I have already got my hands on a copy of another book set in the same world - The Alloy of Law is set many years later and from the author's notes at the beginning, is a side book rather than the opening of a new series. There notes also suggest that there may one day be three trilogies set up in this world in different time periods – if so I will look forward to reading those.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mistborn Trilogy Review Part One - The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension

That intermission went rather longer than expected - but I'm back again. There's a lot going on at the moment, including packing up to move house. I'll probably have to store a lot of things for some time so the crafty focus from the first few posts might well be lessened , but I'll do my best. For now, book reviews.

I'm currently reading Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, this brief review will cover the first two books The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension. I've kept spoilers to a minimum, but if you are particularly concerned about these things, consider this a warning.

I read The Final Empire over a month ago. I was seriously impressed - my more recent ventures into fantasy reading have been fun, but it's been a while since I've found a series that I've really got involved in. This first book set a blistering pace - every now and then I'd go back to check a detail of a previous event and be amazed to find it was only two or three pages back. This book kept me reading far later into the night than I should have because I just had to read one more chapter, then one more, and one more again until common sense prevailed. I particularly loved that this book, despite being the first in a trilogy, is able to stand on its own as a complete story - the drive to continue reading the series had more to do with a thirst for more than being hurried onward by a cliffhanger.

When I finished The Final Empire I was desperate to get started on The Well of Ascension, but a changeover in library systems (see the lovely new catalogue here) caused a bit of a delay. With the new system up and running I was able to order a copy from far further afield than the older system allowed, and got reading.

The Well of Ascension, unfortunately, just didn't impress me as well as its predecessor. It was still an enjoyable read, and the change from rebelling against an evil emperor to running a government really wasn't the issue. The fantastic pace of The Final Empire was lost to a great deal of internal musing from several characters. There was also far too much recap of the first book's events. I find this disconcerting in a trilogy - it feels like the author does not trust the audience to remember what happened in the first book. In a series which encourages the reader to jump in anywhere constant recap is one thing - though Terry Pratchett's Discworld books manage with very little of it - but in this book it was totally unnecessary. The book could have got to the point with far fewer words. Once the story did get moving it was very enjoyable. I did not dislike the book, but think that it could have been a lot better if it had got right some of the things the first book did.

I have started the third book Hero of Ages, and the opening is promising. One character's developments have me feeling a little unsure - these started at the conclusion of the previous book and feel a little convenient and deus ex machina, however there are interesting things going on and the pace has improved dramatically. The first book is being cast in a new light and revelations are coming thick and fast. I have hopes for this one yet. I will have more to say when I've finished reading.

Now, off to bed to get on with the reading.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


I've wanted a decent flower-shaped punch for a while but always found them a bit expensive. When I found a set of three for $7 today I couldn't help but get them...

Of course, I've already been playing with them.

These came out quite nicely. There's room for improvement, I know - on the first one (on the right) I was concerned that the gold ink might not mark well enough so pressed a bit hard. Learning experience I guess... I also added another little detail inside just for a bit of fun

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chitty Chitty Bang BOOM!

The library I work in has a monthly book sale, and staff are permitted to purchase from it. I buy a few things - some to read, some for friends and family, and a few for use as craft supplies. This abridged copy of Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car was somewhat damaged but the illustrations on the undamaged pages were good so I thought they'd be good for crafting.

But I just had to read it first, of course, and found it rather different to the movie - clearly the movie was just loosely based on the original story. When confronted with a bank robber's weapons stash, what else would you do but blow it up? I love the line "Then we can have our picnic." It just seems so absurd.

Better get away quickly!
But what else would I expect from the author of the James Bond books? This is really such a gem, and now I'm torn between using it as initially intended or keeping it for hilarity's sake.