The Girl in the Box Series, Books 1-3: Alone, Untouched, Soulless – Robert J. Crane

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This was offered in a trilogy as an introduction to the series on Amazon for free a while back – a quick check shows that these first three books are indeed still free. I downloaded them because the synopsis sounded like something that I would enjoy, and free, so why not?

Synopsis:

This is a collection of the first three titles in The Girl in the Box Series, which are about a teenage girl who develops powers far beyond those of a normal human, and her battles against those who would use her against her will. (Approx. 185,000 words total.).

Alone – Sienna Nealon was a 17 year-old girl who had been held prisoner in her own house by her mother for twelve years. Then one day her mother vanished, and Sienna woke up to find two strange men in her home. On the run, unsure of who to turn to and discovering she possesses mysterious powers, Sienna finds herself pursued by a shadowy agency known as the Directorate and hunted by a vicious, bloodthirsty psychopath named Wolfe, each of which is determined to capture her for their own purposes…

Untouched – Still haunted by her last encounter with Wolfe and searching for her mother, Sienna Nealon must put aside her personal struggles when a new threat emerges – Aleksandr Gavrikov, a metahuman so powerful, he could destroy entire cities – and he’s focused on bringing the Directorate to its knees.

Soulless – After six months of intense training with the Directorate, Sienna Nealon finds herself on her first assignment – tracking a dangerous meta across the upper midwest. With Scott Byerly and Kat Forrest at her side, she’ll face new enemies and receive help from unlikely allies as she stumbles across the truth behind the shadowy organization known only as Omega.

So we have three books. My initial thought after finishing that last one was really, they could have been condensed into one book. A quick check of the authors webpage reveals to me something that I thought was fairly evident during my initial read of the books: the author is self published. For me the clue here wasn’t just the writing, but the need to add in how many words were in the first three volumes. Why is that necessary? And also, for three books, that’s not a lot of words.

These books are more like novella.

Of course, being self published isn’t a bad thing at all, and fair play if it’s something that you can make work for you, but there’s the lack of refinement that comes with reading something that’s gone through the hoops at a publishing house.

I want to touch briefly on each of the books.

Alone – we’re introduced to Sienna, a girl that’s been left at home by her mother. Her mother hasn’t been seen for about a week, and Sienna isn’t allowed to leave the house. Ever. Or there’ll be punishment [a box/coffin type imprisonment]. Her mother is abusive – there’s no other way to put it – but that doesn’t stop Sienna wanting to find the only person she’s ever known. There are strangers in her house, so she opens some kick ass martial arts, and goes on the run.

This book felt very one dimensional. It was essentially Sienna vs Wolfe – a super strong metahuman that wants to capture Sienna. No one knows why, and she gets taken away by those shady agents that turn out, maybe, to not have been quite so shady.

I actually kept forgetting that Sienna was called that, her name is uttered so infrequently.

Untouched – in this one there is slightly more going on than Sienna vs Wolfe – we have to start dealing with consequences. Well, sort of. Maybe not. The author tries to sort out what happens when Sienna’s mutant/Rogue powers are in effect, but then ends up having her drugged rather than really deal with it. We have a new threat, again wanting to take out Sienna, but only because she’s in the way this time. There’s a lot of death and destruction, but no real, tangible way to deal with the consequences of the actions that our characters take.

Again, a lot of the other characters like Zack, for instance, feel extremely one dimensional. They don’t have a lot going for them. Human, beat up, boyfriend etc. There’s not a lot of character development, or development to make you want to care for these characters.

Soulless – In this one, I do think the writing improves a bit. There’s more storyline, there’s more development and characters, and finally some progress on the longer story arc. But it was very predictable. We see chapters from the POV of “someone else” that I felt was quite obvious who that person was. We also see how easy it is to manipulate Sienna through her aunt Charlie, and a guy called James. I won’t put in spoilers as it’s not fair if you intend to read the series.

So… would I read the rest of the series? No. Well, I wouldn’t pay for them, that’s for sure. At times I did feel like I was reading some X-Men fanfiction, and at other times I thought that it was ridiculous. This is one of those series that you would enjoy if you liked to have lots of action scenes, and not a lot of consequences – for example – girl spends years trapped in her home, not able to leave, not able to have friends, her mother the only company she ever has. Her mother trains her in martial arts, schools her, beats her up a fair bit too. If Sienna disobeys the “rules” she gets put in a metal box, sometimes for a week, without being let out. She doesn’t come out of that damaged – and that would damage someone that would need years of therapy to get over. Nope. We have no consequences to that sort of thing.

These are good if you want a light read that requires not a lot of effort in the long run. I’ll leave the series here though.

Have you read this series? What did you think?

Kialtho

Doodler, Doodler…

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*sigh* I’ve been putting off writing this blog for a couple of days. It should have been filled with the awesome high of finishing a project – which I did finish and feel the high on – but in reality it went downhill not long after. Mainly because I’m an idiot.
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I finished my second Doodler. It looked amazing. The colours, the drape, how it all worked together! I sewed in the ends – didn’t cut them though – I do that after the blocking stage – and put it in the wash.

And that’s where I went wrong.

The yarn did specify hand wash only, but my machine has a “wool wash” that basically soaks the item, turning it once every 5-10 minutes or so – and only once. So essentially, a hand wash. I put it on a cold wash as well, so nothing should have gone wrong, right?

Can you see where this is going?

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Nothing destroys the high of finishing a project that’s taken about 6 weeks to do, that putting it in for those finishing touches and ruining it completely.

The thing is, I don’t think it would have done either. But, in my haste and perhaps that finishing high, I put the washing machine on the wrong setting. The dial was one click away from being the wash that I needed. It went on a silk/cashmere wash – you wouldn’t think that there’s much difference, would you? But there is. Time, for one – you would have thought that I would have noticed that, but it was 3 minutes difference.

No. I think the washing machine agitated the product too much, so instead of simply soaking, it spun. I also didn’t let the machine cool down from the previous load [it’s a washer dryer, the last load had been dried].

BUT!

I have a plan.

Only the blue and white section felted, so the plan is to remake that bit. Then pick up the 300 stitches for the orange, then go back to the original and cut away the felted bit, pick up the corresponding 300 stitches and graft them together with either Kitchener Stitch – magical, magical (long winded) stitch, or use a three needle bind off to seam the two products together.

By doing it this way I don’t have to sacrifice all those weeks of work – just a few – and save the Wollmeise segment – and my mum can still have an awesome shawl for when winter comes.

On the plus side, this has been my first mistake like this in the 4 and a half years that I’ve been knitting, so I can’t really argue or be angry about that, I just feel a bit like an idiot more than anything. I wanted it blocking so that I could give it to my mum the next day when we were meeting after work.

If anyone has any advice or suggestions for this, that would be great!

I’ll write a blog once I’ve conducted the reconstruction and repair… but first, I’m going to make some mittens. I’d like some gratification back. I will also knit a test square and wash that on the wash that I know usually works fine just to be doubly sure before I hand the new finished item over. But first, mittens.

Feel sorry for me, (or not, maybe)

Kialtho

30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 30: What’s your name on Ravelry? If you don’t have a Ravelry account, why?

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Yes! Ravelry is my favourite website. When people mention knitting to me, I always have to bring up how awesome the Ravelry database is. My name over there, like everywhere on the internet [except YouTube as I made that account before this] is “Kialtho”. It’s a name that I came up with some years ago when I first started this blog, actually. I took one of those memes on Facebook that was all about finding your Star Wars name. Add in an extra letter, and there we have it! I love this name, and it’s unique – always available on the websites I want to sign up to.

Ravelry is awesome. I know I’ve spoken about it before, so won’t rehash what I’ve said before.

This post marks the end of the 30 day challenge. I haven’t done particularly well at posting every day – I just haven’t made the time to write the blog entries. I’m disappointed by that, but real life does take precedent.

I’ve nearly finished my second Doodler. Artie loves to try and “help” which has hindered when I can do it, but it’s nearly there. For some reason my right hand is hurting at the moment, in the fingers. I assume I’ve done too much somewhere along the way – work at the weekend was a bit of a nightmare, so maybe I’ve done something there, alongside hurting my back.

Anyway, that’s all for now – thanks for joining me on this journey!

Kialtho

30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 29: Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?

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Hmm. For this one, I would suggest the following:

1. Take your time with your work. It will take time to learn things like evening out your tension, so take your time with your projects and enjoy the process. Don’t get stressed out about it – it’s not worth it.

2. Read a pattern all the way through, several times before jumping in. It allows you to become familiar with the designers writing style, to know what to expect and where. Additionally, any instructions that are “at the same time” can be expected, and save a lot of frogging time.

3. Utilise Ravelry. This one for me is key. Whether it’s the forums and requests for help, or using the pattern pages to see what other people have done, whether it’s modifications or fixing mistakes.

4. Use YouTube. There are some excellent bloggers out there that can demonstrate pretty much any and all techniques in the realm on knitting [and crochet]. My personal favourite is VeryPinkKnits. Her videos are clear, concise and explained in a simple way.

5. Experiment with different needles and types. Use straights, DPNs, circulars of all materials until you find the set that you like the most. I’ve spent a fair amount on needle sets and have a whole set that I just don’t use as I don’t enjoy the material.

To be fair that’s about it. I think if I hadn’t discovered Ravelry I wouldn’t have been as into knitting as I am. It’s such a great resource. It’s probably the only website that if they asked for donations/subscribership I would do it without question.

Any tips or tricks up your sleeves?

Kialtho

30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 28: Do you do any other crafts besides knitting? What are they, and did learning to knit come before or after learning these other crafts?

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I used to do a lot of cross stitch before I knit. I worked on a wolf pattern for the longest time, and was super proud of it once I’d finished it. I had decided that I didn’t want to do the back stitching as it was like a year and half long to get to that point in the first place. I’ve done a few others, and have a panda on the go, but it doesn’t appeal to me in the same way that knitting does.

I learnt to knit after the cross stitch. I’ve been cross stitching most of my life – starting with a hard plastic “fabric” and thick wool when I was just a kid. I always made a mistake somewhere though.

I also crochet a little bit, but it’s a developing skill. I wouldn’t say that I’m great at this, I don’t do it often enough. It’s sort of a cheat including it and it sort of goes hand in hand with knitting/yarn crafts. I learnt to crochet after I learnt to knit. It feels weird to do, and hurts my hands in a way that knitting never has.

Looking forward, there’s the sewing that still screaming to be tackled. I’ve made a few items, but really need to dedicate a decent amount of time to this. And space. Which is more the issue with that one.

What other crafts do you do?

Kialtho

30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 27: How do you acquire most of yarn? Online retailers, local yarn shops, swaps, or large chain craft stores? What’s your favourite?

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Hmm… this is a difficult question to answer because the answer is basically “it depends”. It depends on what yarn I’m buying. If it’s the Women’s Institute yarn – which is my go to yarn, and is available from Hobbycraft, I’ll go in person. I don’t tend to buy things like Rowan, or Debbie Bliss, or Stylecraft particularly often so a normal yarn store is a bit redundant for me. I love my indy dyed yarn – Countess Ablaze, Cuddlebums, easyknits.co.uk etc, so these ones get bought online.

I used to use Deramores a bit for online buying, but really, I prefer to support the indy dyers and buy as direct as I can. I would love a yarn store that sold them all and be able to go and see them in person, and you know… have a feel of the yarn or what not, but there are only a few shops that sell yarn like this, like Loop, iKnit or Yak [Brighton] so it makes it a lot harder to go and find it.

Ultimately, I use online stores for my more high end yarn. But I’m not opposed to going to a big box and getting yarn from there, but like I say I don’t tend to use the middling brands. I hope that this makes sense!

What do you do? How do you buy your yarn?

Kialtho

30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 26: Have you ever been a part, or wanted to be a part of a knit-a-long? What was it? If not, why?

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Yes! The first ever knit along – KAL – was for the Heliopath Vesta good couple of years ago now. I really wanted that pattern, and the host of the challenge managed to get me the book – legitimately – as it’s from the original Harry Potter Knits magazine, and not available to buy in the UK due to the copyright reasons [it’s now available as “Wizarding Knits” in the UK, with some of the original patterns taken out – I think there’s 5 less than the original]. I also had a friend send me a physical copy of the magazine as well as I really wanted this magazine.

I loved being a part of this KAL. The people I was doing it with were awesome as well, everyone was super supportive and chatty. It also happened to be involved with Instagram as well, which is probably my favourite app, so it tied everything in really quite nicely.

I’ve done one for Socktober as well, and actually won some prizes for that pair of socks. I also did the Doodler, but that was after the main MKAL was done with – that’s more because I’m not a huge fan of Stephen Wests designs so wanted to see what it would look like completed before I made mine.

I downloaded an MKAL to do this month, but because I haven’t yet finished my second Doodler I want to finish that first before jumping into this MKAL, it looks like a good design so far.

Overall I prefer to do normal knit alongs rather than mystery ones as you know what you’re getting with the normal, known patterns. There’s every chance that the pattern, or the the final result won’t be to your taste with the MKAls.

Do you partake?

Kialtho

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

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This book has taken so long to read it’s unreal. It is a big book – at something like 850 pages in my edition – and there’s a lot of detail to take in. As I talk about it, I think it’s going to be impossible for me to avoid spoilers, so if you haven’t read this yet, and plan to, be warned that there may be a few spoilers ahead. I would hate to the ruin the read for you.

Synopsis:

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me …

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

There is so much to this book. It’s divided into three volumes, the first introducing us to Mr Norrell, the first magician in England for about 200 hundred years. He simultaneously wants to bring back English magic to England, and also keep it to himself. Theoretical magicians – that is, those who just read about the subject but can’t make a single spell work – are the subject of his ire.  Volume two we meet Jonathan Strange, who had a not particularly pleasant childhood subject of his fathers ire. When his father dies, Strange inherits his lands, and decides to marry the girl of his dreams. But he doesn’t have a job, so when pressed he decides that he’ll simply become a magician, and can with no explanation do magic. Strange becomes Norrell’s pupil, goes to war on behalf of England against Bonaparte in Spain and France and dabbles with magic that he’s never dealt with before. Volume three deals with the fall out between the two magicians, and ties up the back story which started in volume one where Norrell bought a girl back from the dead.

The first thing to say that this is a well written book. The descriptions of England, fairy, Venice, Spain etc. are intricate and build this amazingly detailed world wherein magic, or the existence of magic, is a given thing and not a taboo. The characters are likewise detailed, although perhaps not all on the same level as Strange and Norrell. This is a world of enchantment, of things just not being as they seem, and the problems begin in the first few chapters when Norrell does a deal with a fairy to bring back Lady Pole from the dead. The fairy is a proverbial pain in the ass from that moment on.

Strange was the better of the two magicians. He was approachable, he worked for the army, he helped win the war. He translocated several cities, made rivers run different ways, made dead men talk [in a somewhat disastrous bit of magic because the dead men wouldn’t stop talking even though they were decomposing]. He was the magician that England wanted. And then there’s Norrell, who was unapproachable, unwilling to do magic for others, unwilling to concede others to read his books, or to even educate Strange in some of the more questionable stuff – mainly the fairy stuff, I think – because he didn’t want to reveal his own behaviours when he made the deal with the fairy when he raised Lady Pole from the dead.

What the book is about, more than the two magicians is the fairy. He is never named, but as the story goes on we can make some educated guesses. He is obsessed with the two magicians, with having stolen Lady Pole, for stealing Stranges wife and setting Strange on the dark path that ultimately doesn’t end well for the fairy. Then we have the character of Stephen Black. Head servant in the Walter Pole household, and entrapped in the same charm that has Lady Pole. The fairy loves Stephen, and wants to make him the king of England. Stephen knows this isn’t possible – son of a slave lost at sea, a black man – he can’t be king of any where. All he’d really like to know is his original name.

As I was reading through to the end, I annoyed myself as I didn’t see the similarities between Stephen Black’s story and that of The Raven King, which makes the ending all the more satisfying in how he actually did become King – in fairy.

In some ways this book reminded me of The Night Circus. The plot is building up to a big battle between the magicians, a battle of magic and principle but that doesn’t happen. Strange is trapped in the magic, and Norrell becomes trapped, but the person that does all the hard work and actually solves the problem of the fairy was Stephen Black. There was no epic battle of the magicians, they just had a falling out in the published world about the accepted role of magic, a fight of privileged men in the world of newspapers.

This was such a well written book, but it took so long to read. When I picked it up, more often than not I would fall asleep. I also wonder if it really needed to be so long, considering the slow burner that it was at the beginning – great for world building, and for helping me to catch up on my sleep… it’s one of those books that you have to dedicate a decent amount of time to in order to read and to make any progress – at least that’s what I found.

A quick note on the artwork – it was a great touch actually. The style of having the occasional engraving style artwork included at various points was definitely unique, and certainly added some depth of field to the novel for sure.
I don’t know how to rate this book. It was good, all encompassing, engrossing. But it was so long, and sleep inducing in parts that I am stumped…

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Kialtho

30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 25: Do you have a knitting book or a place where you keep patterns, ideas, size measurements? Post a picture of it!

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I have the most boring, nondescript folder that I keep all my knitting patterns in. When I first started knitting I printed a lot of the things that I wanted to make, rather than just keeping them as downloads in my computer library. These days, I print when I want to make something rather than the other way round as it makes more sense and is way more economical. I didn’t actually end up making a lot of those patterns that I originally downloaded and printed either, so lesson learned there as well.

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This folder isn’t pretty, but it’s practical. Some of the patterns that I’ve made has examples of the yarns I’ve used in them – which certainly makes sense – but I haven’t done that with all of them. I really should keep that up though – alongside keeping the yarn labels as well, which usually make their way into the bin.

I don’t keep tabs on measurements or anything like that. Sadly, I’m not as skinny as I used to be – and although I’m trying to work on it, it’s harder than it should be to stay on track. We’ll just leave that one like that.

How do you keep track of this information?

Kialtho

30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 24: Have you ever made your own pattern or dyed your own yarn? How did it turn out?

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I have yet to try my hand at designing, and then making something. I sort of sketched out an idea for making a pair of chunky owl gloves once, but I didn’t really go any where with it. I want to know more about construction, design, techniques and yarn types before I design. Then I think I don’t have the mental capacities to design something. Am I artistic enough? I know I can knit and follow patterns, but making something of my own? I just don’t know.

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I did dye my own yarn. I used to Kool-Aid and heat to try this. I had two skeins of KnitPicks Bare Stroll, and had one pink, green and white, and the other… was slightly more of a mess. But I’m pleased with how these came out as it was my first attempt at making something like this. The one that came out a mess – yellow, blue, white, purple – is destined to become socks. The white/pink/green may become a pair of gloves, if I can find a pattern I like for fingering weight yarn.

I have more Kool-Aid so I can try again, I’d like the yarn to be more saturated with colour the next time that I try.

Have you designed patterns? Yarn dyed?

Kialtho

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