Cat Hat! A Cat in the Hat?

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I made a new cat hat! I had one that I made a few years back, but when I saw this one I knew I had to have one! The pattern is called “Cabled Cat Ears Hat” and uses super chunky/super bulky yarn and works up in such a short amount of time. I don’t use super chunky yarn particularly often so sort of forget how quickly a project can be finished.

Aside from how awesome the pattern is, I made this for a couple of reasons. I can’t get to the London Women’s march on Saturday because basically I have no money, and train fare just isn’t a priority. I’ve never been to a rally, and there have been plenty of them in the last year for various things, and I think if I did live closer to London I would go, but at this point in time I just can’t justify the money. So I made this in solidarity.

I love the scope of the pussyhat project. I love that fact that it made the national news, even here in the UK. If I had more yarn and more time I would have made some for the friends of mine that are going to the rally, but I only saw this pattern earlier this week, and haven’t been into the other patterns that I’ve seen.

The pattern itself was super easy to follow. The only time it gets a little fiddly was working around the ears, but the end result is just awesome. I think the only thing that I would change if I were making this again – and had more yarn to play with – would be to increase the brim so that it was either a. longer, or b. able to roll over a bit. As it stood I only had a small amount of yarn in my stash – I was using one ball of Rowan Drift that I had left over from a couple of projects a few years back. I was fully prepared to unravel another hat I’d made with this stuff so that I could finish this one.

The first night I wore it a dog barked at me. And Artie swiped it off my head to go and ‘kill’ it. This has both really amused me and makes me feel like I have definitely won with it.

I do need to give it a soak to soften it up a bit as it’s a little itchy at the moment, but it’s a hat, and that will probably never be a priority of mine as it’s so cold out at the moment as it is.

Have you made any of these hats? What’s been your favourite pattern to use? Are you attending any marches?

Kialtho

Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1) – Rachel Hawkins

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After taking so long to get through Children of Time I wanted a book that wouldn’t be too hard on my brain. One that wouldn’t take too long to read, and one that I would, hopefully, enjoy. Hex Hall was that read – although I didn’t expect to read it in such a short amount of time. But then… I did want a quick read.

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Synopsis

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

This was such an enjoyable little book. I read it in three sittings, and read the bulk of it today. Sometimes when you come across books that are short, they don’t feel complete, or fleshed out – but this one did. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved more to it, but I don’t feel as though we were inherently rushed toward the end.

We’re introduced to a world where witches, fairies, shapeshifters and vampires exist. They are just under the radar, and those who are deemed a risk to exposing their magic are ‘sentenced’ to Hecate Hall until they turn 18. Our main character Sophia is one of those sentenced. Sophia is blissfully ignorant of how things work, how even her own magic works – except it doesn’t work very well. She’s a little like Mildred from The Worst Witch, except she has a sense of humour and is quite witty.

There are some typical YA attributes in Hex Hall. A love triangle of sorts between Sophia, Archer and Elodie. Another reviewer on GoodReads mentions how it’s like Mean Girls with witches – not going to lie – I enjoyed even more after reading that as Mean Girls is a pretty awesome film. [Pink Wednesday, anyone?].

Sophia has a Vampire for a roommate. She’s into Hot Pink, and is decidedly not Goth. I liked that her character was a lesbian as well. It’s one of those things that the author didn’t need to include, and nor was it something that was made into a Big Deal. Jenna was the main suspect for the going-ons in Hecate Hall as the victims all have puncture wounds on their necks, and were drained of blood. Of course, she’s Sophia’s best friend, so she couldn’t be the bad guy.

Despite being a quick read there were definitely some twists and turns I didn’t expect to see. Once the first reveal came I thought that was it, and then we’d have some decent summing up. Then, we’re back with Alice, and there was her own reveal. And even then, linked with that was Elodie’s reveal. Aside from Alice, who I had my suspicions about in the beginning, I didn’t expect the other two. In fact, I was thinking that the headmistress was actually going to be the big bad. I thought it was a good finale at least.

This is one of those books that I wouldn’t be surprised if it got made into a TV series or something. I’d definitely give it a watch!

I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, hopefully that will be as interesting as this one!

Have a good evening folks,

Kialtho

Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair

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About a year or so ago I ordered a subscription/surprise yarn box from an Indie dyer that I follow on Instagram – ForTheLoveofYarn. When the box arrived, I was thrilled, but I didn’t know what to make with the yarn [I’m not a natural crochet-er so I didn’t want to do the pattern that was supplied]. I relatively recently asked on Ravelry what they’re suggestions were to make with the yarn – approx. 200g of a beautiful gradient ready caked and itching to go. Aside from the usual responses of ‘check out this group’ or ‘check the yarn page’ [responses that happen all too often, especially when someone is asking for specific information or personal preferences…] I did get a list of shawls going. I eventually decided to make “Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair’. I kept coming back to that particular design as the one for this yarn set.
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A boy, am I glad I did!

Made from the bottom up – something that I hadn’t done before – with a lace border that eventually works its way into a cabled section – it was also a design that was unique and pleasing to look at. Plus, I had never worked cables in a pattern like that before.

When I bought the pattern it was 21 pages. 21. I immediately thought ‘WTF have I got myself into?’ But the pattern makes so much sense, and not all 21 pages are used. The pattern is divided into sizes, and then specific pages deal with specific sizes. There’s a couple of tutorial pages at the back for beading – I didn’t do that with this one – and the introduction.

I love how this shawl came out:img_2428
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I love the colours. I feel like it’s a very springtime shawl, bright and bold colours that mix well together. I did have to alternate the yarns, but I also had to disengage yarn for bigger sections than I anticipated, but it’s worked out so well together, and the colours just blend so well.
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It’s not as big as I would have liked, but clearly my tension was off. I had 72g of yarn left over, and should have had a minimal amount. That being said though, it sits around my neck nicely and keeps my neck warm – something much needed in the coming days with a wintery storm front approaching.

I used my Chiaogoo needles with this one. 3.5mm, as per the pattern recommendations. I usually do go up a needle size to account for tension – I know I’m a tight knitter – but I wanted to ensure that I wouldn’t run out of yarn this time around. The strange thing is though, these needles really hurt my hands time around. I don’t know if it was simply because I was fatigued from the Christmas knitting – which was more accidental more than anything – or because it was the needles. I’ve not been rushing my current project because of it, and my hands are feeling a bit better. I do still need to invest in that stress ball though.

I was waiting to write this blog until I had some better photo’s taken with my DLSR. Except I took the Christmas tree down, and I need to come up with a decent way of photographing them that doesn’t make me look like an amateur. [I love those Christmas tree shawl photos!]. Maybe I can come up with something with my wood working hobbiest partner of mine. [Space and lighting in the flat does cause some problems…]

Anyway, that’s all for now folks… What’s on your needles?

Kialtho

Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky

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I bought this book on a whim from Amazon when buying something else (probably knitting related, because why not?). Something about it intrigued me from the moment I saw the advert for it. I have to say I wasn’t let down in any sense of the word – except in how long it took me to finish!

Synopsis:

A race for survival among the stars… Humanity’s last survivors escaped earth’s ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers?

WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

There are so many post-apocalyptic space novels out there. Some are rather questionable, like The 100, and some are ingenious, like Planet of the Apes. Children of Time, for me, falls into the ‘ingenious’ side of things. The world building was immense – literally Space: the Final Frontier. Except there’s no-one else out there.

I think what makes this book stand out in many ways – aside from the story telling itself – is the use of ‘real’ science fiction. Space is harsh. Time is short. The ship is built to last, the human travellers stored in cryogenic sleep as ‘cargo’. One of the things that really stood out for me was the use of time, and how it felt like it was passing. The book is set of several hundred centuries, possibly even a millennia or two. [It was hard to keep up with it, if I’m honest] – but it was set out as though only a few weeks or even a month had passed.

Holsten, our main character is woken from his sleep several times throughout the journey, experiencing the weeks rather than the years. He is one of the few that studied the Old Empire – the Earth of nowadays that destroyed itself, and left Holsten’s people to inherit a poisoned Earth. In the few times that he is woken up, there’s some new problem to deal with – an Old Empire satellite that’s just a little bit deadly and doesn’t like to share, megalomaniac commanders that want to live forever in the computer, the creation of the ship wide Tribe, the constant threat of the failure and the loss of the human race. Love. His own child – except not really as she exists only as an embryo in stasis. The woman he comes to love grown old with command whilst he’s been in his own stasis.

In a concurrent storyline we’re introduced to the spiders. Exposed to a nano virus from the Old Empire they’ve become intelligent and formed a society. They’ve become scholars, hunters, fighters, scientists, leaders, biochemical engineers. They are a species that overcome their own evolutionary setbacks – eating the male after mating for instance – to become the dominant species, to rule the roost.

The spiders were probably my favourite part of the story, the way that they evolved from hunter to societal wonders. Although – don’t read about intelligent spiders before bed. They will invade your dreams! Portia, Bianca, Fabian they were definitely the highlights. We were treated with insights into their world, their development from conquering others – the ants – developing religion – the Messenger – developing an equal society – matriarchal society dominating for the longest of times – being a tolerant society – which is something that is key to the ending, and certainly something that I didn’t see coming.

That ending – it wasn’t what I expected, and very much in a good way. For a start I couldn’t pick a side to win the war – the spiders were my favourite part of the book, but I still had to root for the human races survival!

was such a good read. The only downside for me was that it took such a long time for me to get through it. [Life, job, knitting]. That – and I couldn’t quite figure how big the spiders were. I think they became quite big, but then the humans were referred to as giants, so who knows?

If you enjoy space travel novels, the post-apocalyptic survival, and science fiction at it’s best, then give this book a go. One of the best books that I’ve read in a while!

What are you reading at the moment?

Kialtho

2016 Year in Review

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It’s already nearly at the end of the first week of January 2017. How has time flown by so fast? I’ve been in my job for a year now – and whilst it’s very similar to what I was doing before, there’s a lot less stress than I was having before, and I would definitely say that I feel a lot better for it. It’s one of those things – I knew I needed to leave that other job, but in the end I was comfortable there, despite everything that went on. It took getting made redundant to move on, and whilst I may get paid less for what I do, it works out better for me mentally in the long term. There’s a lot to be said for the whole money vs. happiness thing. [More money would be great, but I’ll take my happiness any day].

I thought I would do a quick year in review type blog. I’ll combine my two main hobbies, knitting and reading, and perhaps will mention a few of things that have also stood out for me this year as well.

In the knitting world I made a total of 23 projects over the year. 22, if you count that most of the Doodler was made in December of the previous year, but finished in 2016. I think it counts! Of these, I think I’ve given away something like 14 of them, either as Christmas presents towards the end of the year (see my previous post) or just as a “I like you, you’re my friend, have something I made” gift. I don’t have a lot of people in my life, but the ones I do have are definitely knit worthy.

Here’s a list of the things that I have given away, or are [still] due to be sent:

– Hoody – a knit hood to keep head and neck warm.
– Evenstar gloves – fingerless gloves.
– A Hap for Harriet – I renamed mine ‘Command Scarf’ because the colours reminded me so much Star Trek. It was only fitting that it went to Cap. Janeway.
– Iceni Mitts – fingerless gloves that really intimidated me all those years ago when I first bought the pattern. Easy peasy, but turned out too big for my hands.
– Crocheted Star Trek Voyager teddy bear that I still need to send to his new home… even if he does look a little weird.
– A bunny for Artie – which he still plays with even though he’s mostly destroyed it
– The Doodler – the original version that I knit second time round had to be remade, and I was super happy with learning a few new skills the second time I made this one.
– OWL mittens – who wouldn’t want a spell list on their hands?
– Saroyan – still needs to be sent as this was supposed to be a Christmas present
– Multnomah – shawl pattern for busy hand dyed yarns
– 3 x hats/beanies – for some of the men in my life
– Dearly Beloved – a lacey shawl that took me just 8 days to make.

In all I gave 14 of the knits I made away to my friends and family. Of the 23 I made, I ruined one by accidentally felting it – I put the washing machine on the wrong cycle in my hast to finish. And one of the vest tops I made I screwed up the finishing, so have  abandoned it at the bottom of my finished object box as I doubt I am going to be able to fix it.

In the coming year I would like to aim for about 20 completed items. At the moment my current project is a baby blanket. That should take about 6 weeks to make, not including the enforced break I am going to have to have. [All that Christmas and gift knitting has caught up with my hands].

In terms of books, it’s been a really disappointing year for me. My goal was 40, but I failed miserably in this. I read a measly 16 books in 2016. And many of them, for one reason or another, I didn’t really enjoy. I did finish the Cinder Chronicles, which was one of the few that I enjoyed immensely, and I tackled Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell – a book I didn’t think I would like or ever read, if I’m honest – but there were many that just didn’t grip me well enough. I even read Dune, and made it to the end even though it bored me stupid.

I think the reason I read less is because of the new job. I used to read a lot in the evenings, but now I work largely in the evenings, and knit in the mornings, the reading time has severely been reduced. That being said, going forward, I will aim to try and read 20 books this year. That seems like a more achievable target even though this year was only 16. I think I need to be a bit more choosy with what I am reading. And to use my time more wisely.  It’s easier to read Kindle books these days as I can prop my Kindle or iPad up in a decent position and read from them a lot easier than holding a book at work during my lunch break.

One of the biggest things that happened this year is that we got Artie, our Kitten. Totally unplanned, but he’s been an interesting addition to our life here. I’ve always wanted a kitten, and he’s just super cute. The vet thinks he’s part Korat due to the shaping of his face and his colouring, and part tabby. Mum thinks that he might have some Bengal in him because of his temperament and the way he meows. Whatever he is, he’s definitely a character! [And… my cat plays fetch. Who would have thought that a catch would actually play fetch?]

Other notable things from this year that have impacted my day to day life was the release of Pokemon Go. Whilst I can’t say it’s helped with weight-loss, Alex and I do go out for some interesting, in the dark, past midnight walks through the town. I try to avoid Friday and Saturday nights though, for obvious reasons. We play this game everyday, although Alex plays a lot more often than I do. It’s a silly game, but one that I enjoy – for the most part.

We also recently invested in a PS4. Alex is playing the Uncharted series, and I am dabbling in Rise of the Tomb Raider – which so far is better than the remake from a few years ago as there’s less blood and less sliding down endless waterway. I have another game to play – Dragon Quest Heroes – but I haven’t got round to that one yet. Incidentally, Dragon Quest VIII Journey of the Cursed King is being re-released on the 3DS, and even though I still have my PS2 copy, I really want it! Apparently there are additional scenes, dungeons and history in it! I may have to treat myself to it eventually.

So this was a pretty text heavy post, congratulations if you’ve made it to the end! I promise that’s it for today. Now that Christmas is out of the way and all the secret knitting has been done, I should be able to resume my usual blog schedule. And with any luck, be reading a bit more!

How’s your year looked? What about the coming year?
Kialtho

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My blog has been a bit on the quite side recently. This is mainly because I write about two things: Knitting and reading. In terms of the knitting, with Christmas lurking I was making a lot of things for that, so I didn’t want to share here as the blog syncs with Facebook, and as such the recipients would know what was coming – and that would spoil the surprise. For the reading side of things… I just haven’t read an awful lot, especially as the year was coming to an end. My most recent book is awesome, but I just haven’t been able to find the time to pick it up and finish it.

Todays blog is kind of a two parter. Except all in one, if that makes sense? I want to talk about some of those Christmas knits, and then do the whole ‘year in review’ thing. I guess it will just depend on how long the first part turns out.

I’ve been doing various Christmas knitting since around August/ September time. To be fair, the first thing that I made as a present, I still haven’t sent to the person it’s intended for, so I’ll still keep quite on that one. But, I can mention what it is, without a picture, right? Okay, so that first project was a Saroyan, a side to side short scarf/shawl. It was a lot of fun to make, and quite relaxing too.

I then made a Multnomah shawl. This one I made with my sister in mind. She frequently feels the cold, and is definitely and child of the sun. For this I used Countess Ablaze sock yarn in the ‘Pond Scum’ colour way. I also used my new Chiaogoo circular needles, which are amazing! Especially for lace. Honestly, I was blown away with how nice they were. Grippy, but not too grippy, sharp enough for the lace. I’d like to get a couple more sets in the sizes I use most frequently, but I’ll have to see on that one.fullsizeoutput_169dfullsizeoutput_16a1

Next up I made a series of simple hats. The pattern I used was the ‘Boyfriend Beanie’ on Ravelry. This is one of those things though that I wish I could have made without the need for a pattern. Perhaps I need to get some reference books or something. I hated the fact that I needed help in a pattern to make them, but I did. I also didn’t take very good photo’s of them, so only have this one to share:

The pompom is in the colours of the recipients cricket club team. To be fair, I was asked to make it a long time ago, and it certainly became the perfect present to make for Christmas. Then, I thought, I would make some more for the other men in my life. So I did. I used my “goto” yarn for these, which is HobbyCraft’s Women’s Institute. DK for these hats. The Harry Potter themed one I made from some Hayfield as I wanted it to match a Hufflepuff scarf I made a long time ago. I still need to make one of these for my adopted Old Person though…img_2352

Once I’d made these I made a lace weight shawl using the most beautiful camel and silk yarn. It was such a pleasure to knit with, as Countess Ablaze yarn usually is. I got this a few years ago when the Countess had a sale on, and was part of the Twelve Caesers collection. The shawl, called ‘Dearly Beloved’ only took 50g of yarn, and came out at a decent size. Even though my mum knew and had seen me making it, I still turned it into a Christmas present for her. I finished it a lot quicker than I thought I would have done, just 8 days!
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So that’s all the Christmas knits out of the way! I have another project to share with you, but that deserves it’s own blog as well. But let’s just say, I can understand why my hands hurt. I really, really, need to rest them.

I am really happy with how my Christmas knitting turned out. I have away a few of my other projects for Christmas as well, like the OWL mittens, and the red lace scarf that I made back in the summer. It’s been a good year for knitting. But more on that in the next blog!

What were your Christmas makes?

Kialtho

What, a knitting blog? It’s been a while!

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It’s about time I had a knitting update! To be fair though, a lot of things recently – or at least, it feels like a lot of things – have been Christmas knits. I don’t usually knit for Christmas, not in a serious way at least. So I’ll remain incognito about the Christmas stuff.
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I made some leg warmers. I haven’t ever made leg warmers before, and to be fair, I haven’t actually worn them yet. I used the same yarn that I used for my OWLs sweater [which is getting a lot of wear right now!] which is the Hobbycraft Women’s Institute yarn in Aran weight. The leg warmers turned out really well, and they fit well. I decided to not make the iCord though, as I lost interest in them.

The pattern that I used for them was Slouchy Cabled Legwarmers – link to Ravelry. It’s a free pattern, from a designer I’ve bought patterns from before. It’s easy enough to read and implement, although I didn’t read the chart properly and just went for it on the first one – twisted some of the cables a different way, and then didn’t in other places. Despite it, it’s turn out okay. With how cold it’s been the last few days, I may end up wearing them to bed!

I really need to improve the photography of my knitting. And stop just using my iPhone photos – but that will do for now as that’s all I have to share with you… although, here’s a picture of Artie modelling one of the leg warmers…
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The other project I’d like to share with you right now is my remake of “A Floral Affair” which was originally a pattern in Knit Now magazine. When I made this the first time there was a typo or formatting error or something like that that I didn’t pick up on until it was too late. I didn’t undo my work as I was still hoping for the best, but it didn’t work out. [That vest is sitting in the wardrobe, but I’m not entirely sure what to do with it… donate it? Throw it? I just don’t know!].

I was looking forward to remaking this, and again choose some Women’s Institute yarn, this time the “smooth and silky” range which is a sport weight yarn. It’s what I used before and use it quite regularly so can trust it. More or less.
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The project went well, used around 2.5 balls of yarn. The only weird thing that happened with this project was that the second ball of yarn I used – which to be fair it was a different dye lot – but it was thicker than the first yarn. I perhaps should have switched it out for the third ball, but I don’t think it’s made much of a difference in terms of the gauge or anything like that.

I probably could have done with making the ribbing section longer on the arms, but I was keen to cast off by the time I got to the arms… plus, I needed to rest my hands a bit as they were starting to hurt from all the knitting. [Not that I rested them for long, I went straight onto more Christmas stuff].

Again, I really need to start taking better photo’s as it makes my knitting looks rubbish like this! It’s really not though, promise!
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What’s on your needles at the moment? Care to share?

Happy Christmas knitting!

Kialtho

The Runner (Avi Bloom #1) – J.M. Johnson

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I’d seen this book advertised on Amazon about a year ago, and it’s one that kept calling my nam to read as the premise sounded so interesting, and completely up my street. However, whilst it is interesting, it also needs a bit of work.


Here’s the synopsis:

The Runner – the first book in the young adult dystopian Avi Bloom series…

Ten years ago the president of the United States declared that global warming had reached a tipping point from which it would not recover. In answer to this dilemma, modern technology was shut down. The elderly and other volunteers could opt to live out the rest of their lives in a virtual world, but all others were left to fend for themselves.

Avi Bloom lives in a world in which each family must contribute one child as a runner. A runner risks life and limb to travel from village to village delivering news and other small items. Avi is one run shy of retiring when she discovers that whole villages are disappearing, leaving only a few dead bodies and the youngest children behind. Now, Avi must find out who or what is responsible for these missing people as she goes on a journey and discovers friendship, love, and betrayal. She also discovers that the forces behind these disappearances are much larger and more frightening than she could ever have imagined.

This is a young adult novel with mild violence.

The premise is interesting – a world with the power turned off, a year to prepare – safe guarding elderly in virtual reality [how, if there’s no power?]. Every family contributes their eldest/first born to be a runner, delivering messages to other towns and villages and bringing them back – performing trades etc.

Avi is our main protagonist. She was trained from a much younger age to be a runner, and she also has doubled the required number of runs she had to complete in order to repay her adoptive family for looking after her when her mother died and her father disappeared. [Typical hero in the making, then?].

Avi has heard about the disappearing villages, but doesn’t think it’ll happen in her patch. But of course, it does, and now Avi is involved to solve the problem. After rescuing some children from the most recent disappeared village Avi is tasked with finding out more information regarding what happened, and possibly find the parents.

So she sets out on a Quest. Gathers some followers. Decides she going to find Daddy rather than solve the Quest.

Add some weird magic that isn’t explained nor necessary, plus if this is the future why would there be magic?

I think my main problem with this book was that far too much happened and jumped around in that it didn’t allow the deeper aspects of the book develop. There was also only 17 chapters, but at chapter 13 we’re still in Mall, not gathered all the followers and having some instaromance, an of course, a love triangle and an evil adversary.

I feel that if things had been fleshed out, the ending could have been justified. I wanted to love this book, I wanted it to be the next best thing, however, I’m not sure I’m going to make it to the second book. I’ll have to have a think about it…

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Kialtho

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

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With the release of Inferno in the cinemas recently, I had planned to zoom through The Lost Symbol and at least have made a start on Inferno… that didn’t happen though. This particular book review/entry will probably contain spoilers, just so you’re aware. It has been out for some time now anyway [not that that makes someone spoiling something for you okay, which is why I always try to include these warnings].


Synopsis – From GoodReads:

In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world’s most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling – a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths…all under the watchful eye of Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, DC., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.

As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object – artfully encoded with five symbols – is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation…one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon’s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon – a prominent Mason and philanthropist – is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations – all of which seem to be dragging hi toward a single, inconceivable truth.

As the world discovered in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Dan Brown’s novels are brilliant tapestries of veiled histries, arcane symbols, and enigmatic codes. In this new novel, he again challenges readers with an intelligent, lightning-paced story that offers surprises at every turn. The Lost Symbol is exactly what Brown’s fans have been waiting for…his most thrilling novel yet.

It’s been a very long time since I picked up a Robert Langdon book. In fact, a very long time since I read a Dan Brown book. I’m thinking over ten years, possibly even longer than that as I know I read Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code in school. It’s been so long, so I have to say that while the character of Robert Langdon was familiar, I couldn’t say that I remembered him completely – except what I had seen in the Inferno film a few weeks back,

I was looking forward to reading as I had assumed it was going to be a quick read, as I remembered the others to be, but my expectation fell far short from reality. It’s taken me ages to get through this one, and not just because I haven’t been able to dedicate the amount of time to it either. I would read, and feel like I had been reading for a long time, and make no progress. There is an awful lot of content to consider in this book, and some of which I think could have been edited out a bit.

The plot is heavily invested in the Freemasons – a group based in reality that I have little information about. Robert Langdon is called to Washington to give a lecture, but is tricked and instead has to help a maniac find the Masonic Pyramid, and then if that wasn’t enough – he had to decipher it as well.

Aside from Robert, we have a couple of other characters to note. Katherine Solomon, scientist in Noetics, previous romantic interest, sister to the kidnapped Peter Solomon. Peter Solomon, and the Soloman family, are wealthy – extremely so, but mired in tragedy. From the loss of his son and mother some years back, there’s just Katherine and Peter now. Peter also, conveniently is the head of the Masons.

Oh, and he’s just had his arm chopped off by a psycho. Not that you would know.

Peters’ hand is the start of the mystery for Robert. Masonic rituals, the CIA, Katherine, the odd religious leader here and there guide Robert through the journey of deciphering the pyramid in the hopes of saving Peter. The CIA doesn’t want him to do this. They couldn’t care about Peter any less, in fact.

So Robert is facing difficulty all around. As with many books, not just this one, artistic licence allows Robert to survive everything that comes his way without too much effort. Heck, he even gets drowned in ‘breathable liquid’ before being rescued by the CIA and continuing on with his efforts to save his friend. This actually happens a little too often in this book for my liking, and at times I was like… seriously? Unless you were a main character, you were probably going to end up dead.

The Lost Symbol became a search for the The Lost Word, which when revealed both wasn’t lost, not particularly interesting in my opinion. Certainly didn’t make me want to find a copy of the Bible and give it a read.

When we’re given some history into Peter’s life, and his losses, like that of his son, I had guessed from that moment how the plot was going to go. The maniac that tortured Peters family? Naturally it was his ‘dead’ son, back to wreck his revenge. This was just too darn predictable, and once this revelation was aired, not only was I disappointed – I had wanted to be wrong about it – but I lost interest in the last few sections, skim reading it more than paying any particular attention to it. I wasn’t interested in the Bible being the lost word, I wasn’t interested in Katherine and Robert seeing the sunrise with the Obelisk [again, I called that at the beginning of the book].

I was hoping for a thrilling read, which I didn’t exactly get. The answers weren’t great, and of course, everyone that was important were saved and survived. Also, Peter apparently magically healed up, and didn’t need hospital treatment after his ordeal of being tortured and having his hand chopped off, because he was able to do loads of stuff for Robert and Katherine before the end of the book, like taking them to the top of the Obelisk, and sending them back to the Capitol building.

The journey in the book took only about 10 hours from finding the hand to the  final revelation. 10 hours. Reading it took so much more.

I really wanted to be enthralled by this one like I was with the others, and it makes me question whether I will read the final book – even though I enjoyed the film, can I bring myself to do it? Dan Brown’s writing style in this one irritated me more than once with the constant cliffhangers and treating his readers a little like uneducated masses – I feel like I shouldn’t have been able to call what was going to happen, especially so early in the story.

Have you read this? What did you think?

Happy reading!

Kialtho

Dune – Frank Herbert

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According to Wikipedia this book is the biggest selling Science Fiction book ever. I had wanted to read it before knowing that, if I’m honest, as I love classic scifi. H.G. Wells is most definitely one of my favourite authors, and I had wanted to branch out a bit into other areas of classic scifi. So I decided to pick this up and see what’s what…

Synopsis:

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender’s Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.

In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.

And his journey will change the universe.

I started reading this book with such high hopes, but the further I got into the harder it became to stick to and to finish. I know that there are people out there that must swear by the book as though it were some sort of religion, but I found it mighty hard to keep going through it.

We are introduced to the Atreides family, Duke Leto, his concubine Lady Jessica, and their son Paul. There’s a lot of world building going on, with a lot of political intrigue, alongside the internal and external politics of the time. There’s an empire, with a somewhat ruthless Emperor on the throne, lots of backstabbing and killing, double meanings and intrigue.

On Arrakis there is the most valuable material in the whole universe, a spice called Melange [I didn’t realise that this was what it was called until someway through the book]. Duke Leto has been put in charge in a politically motivated stunt that will see him killed. And he knows it.

There’s also a lot of mention of religion, from the Bible through to the appropriation of the Arabic/Islamic terms – the one that sticks out the most for me is Jihad. I didn’t enjoy this side of things all that much, but perhaps that is because I’m looking at the book from the modern perspective [absolutely nothing against the peaceful religion of Islam, but obviously, very against Jihad]. Perhaps for me I felt that this was an awful lot of cultural appropriation that could have simply been invented rather than stolen. I’m sure that there are going to be plenty of people out there that disagree with that sentiment, but that’s how I feel.

I completely failed to understand the Bene Gesseret [I’m not entirely sure I’ve spelt that right], nor the bringing of a messiah through Paul. But… it happened.

I found it hard to keep my focus on this one as well due to the way that it was written/constructed. There was a lot of shifts in time or shifts in events that weren’t clear that things had moved on until a few pages later. For instance, when Jessica and Paul are in the desert looking for the Freemen, I read it as though Jessica had fainted in their confrontation with Stilgar, but she hadn’t she was fighting him – but that wasn’t clear until we jump to Paul’s point of view of the action.

Also, in my copy – which was the 50th Anniversary edition – there were the square brackets that denoted editors notes [123] which obviously wasn’t exactly great as they were left in the book. Nothing brings you back to reality than something like that.

I did make it to the end of the book, and it was a struggle I can’t deny that. I did it because as I mentioned at the beginning of my blog, that this is one of the best selling scifi books ever. You can see the inspiration for other science fiction rooted in this one book – Star Wars being the biggest for sure, but other things like Tremors for instance.

After all this, am I likely to read the next one? No, not likely. I can respect that a lot of things are inspired by this book, but I’m not going to continue with the series. I’m happy I’ve read the first, but I’m not going to force my brain to read the rest.

Have you read this? What do you think?

Kialtho