Category: Reviews



The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was fun. I usually love Alice Hoffman books. And though I liked this one and was kind of sad finishing it, it was slow. It was so wordy while not getting anything done or convincing me that anything got fixed.

As the movie, Practical Magic deals with the curse of the family that should never fall in love, that is the theme here, too. And since romance novels bore me I found myself doing other things than reading, so it took longer to finish than it should.

Don’t get me wrong, it is worth picking up and reading. Would be a great vacation read. But if you are like me, the book, the characters, don’t seem to gel until near the end. I must admit to misting up near the end so I must have finally gotten into it.

I wish I knew how to improve this read. Maybe I needed the audio rather than text-to-speech? A real voice or bunch of actors playing the story for me? I do remember pulling out of the book thinking ‘show don’t tell’ but then as I looked at it I couldn’t figure out how that could be done.

Don’t take my word for it. You may love this book. Like is as far as I can reach.

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Hop and Chomp: A Caterpillar Story: Children's Books - Picture Books for Kids - Story Books for Children - Beginner Book for Children - Age 3-7Hop and Chomp: A Caterpillar Story: Children’s Books – Picture Books for Kids – Story Books for Children – Beginner Book for Children – Age 3-7 by Gita V. Reddy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We live in the desert outback of Oregon. When you picture Oregon, you probably see green trees and oceans. This is mostly sagebrush and sky. I love it. There is room to breathe and did I mention sky? Many of us don’t have grassy lawns, between critters and the amount of water it would take to keep it green, it seems silly to attempt. So instead my family and I have dedicated to saving bees and inviting hummingbirds into our yard. I think because of the heavy snows of the winter we have a lot more vegetation than usual. More butterflies. And just yesterday I saw a Mourning Cloak. I realized I hadn’t seen one of those for decades.

And then this little sweet book comes into my life. How adorable the grasshopper and caterpillar are! I love how the author explains why the caterpillar needs to eat so much and about the pupa stage. The pages are colorful with butterfly backgrounds and the Rangoli designs on each page above the main characters. Those are inspiring me to try my hand at drawing them.

This book is great for the early reader but great fun for a read aloud and learning about everything from caterpillars to India and lots of art to play with. All while learning to read. I would have had a ball reading this with my kids back in the day.

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An Unnecessary WomanAn Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend recommended this book to me. She and I are fascinated by languages. I think that was why she thought I would love this book. She was right.

I went looking for the book on Amazon and found the Kindle version a bit too pricey for my book budget. So I went to Audible and found I had a credit sitting there waiting for me to use. I was so glad I did! Suzanne Toren is a great voice for Aaliya Saleh, the woman living alone in Beirut, Lebanon.

Look, this book wasn’t nail-biting excitement or in anyway stress inducing. But I loved hanging out with Saleh. This is the reason I love books. It is a chance to travel to other places and get inside other people’s heads. This book is a perfect example of both of those. And it left me wanting to start doing my own translations for my own edification. I have plenty of books in other languages. I plan to pull out a notebook and just get busy.

I want to read this again and have the Kindle version to read along with the Audio. It helps me internalize the story better. Even so, the narrator kept the story very interesting and age appropriate. By the way, the fun of this book was it was about an aging woman. Stories of this type are rare! I don’t think it would matter what gender or age you are this story has something for everyone to relate to and learn from. Enjoy.

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Loom Knit Safari CollectionLoom Knit Safari Collection by Scarlett Royal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can finally give a review of this book! I made each and every animal featured in this book. Yet I have to take responsibility for the less than 5 stars here. That makes me a little sad. You see, I am not as good at reading patterns as I would like. I have been loom knitting since about February of last year. Mostly I feel I have learned to watch YouTube instructions better and better. In the process, I am gaining the ability to read patterns, but still not there.

What does this have to do with the book? Well, each of the patterns in this book has a corresponding tutorial on YouTube. Except for the giraffe. That one leads you to a Ravelry page with a picture of the giraffe but nothing else. So there was my problem. I only had the pattern and did my best to help the giraffe come to be. I think I did okay. If you follow my blog you will see my nearly finished giraffe and a hat to go with it. I need to add eyes. I want to make the long lashes I love so much on giraffes so for now, the baby is sightless.

Oh, the other problem I have to own is my inability to count. The poor lion had a few curls that were a bit too long. But that is not the fault of the author. She did a fantastic job writing the instructions and filming the tutorials. Maybe she could teach us some hints as to how she keeps track of small rows and the like?

Anyway if you go to darsword on wordpress you will see my results. (I can’t put an URL on here. Hope you can find me.) This book was reasonably priced. I just wish I could afford Scarlett Royals other books. She is a great designer of loom knitting items. I can’t wait to learn more from her.

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Here are pictures of what I have made:

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I made the elephant first. Since the yarn is donated I often don’t have the right colors or enough of said colors. Hence the psychedelic elephant.

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I didn’t like how the monkey’s muzzle turned out so I added lips. I don’t have glass eyes that Scarlett Royal suggests. So I made these on the spool knitter. The lips I did that way, too. The hat is Tuteate’s pattern. I followed her tutorial on YouTube as I do most of my knitted things. The reason I made a hat with ears is I made most things with the donated yarn for charity and my group said that they gave my things to the local clinic. I thought that the hat and monkey would be fun together.

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See what happens when I run out of the right color yarn? Colorful arms! I still haven’t made the eyes for this guy. Again, I don’t think the glass eyes would be good if the recipient of the gift might put them in their mouths and choke. My brother suggested whiskers. You can’t see them very well here but they are there. The nose was done on the spool knitter.

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The giraffe was the hardest as I had to use just a pattern. Still, I think he turned out okay. I still need to make the eyes. I hope I can make eyes with long lashes like real giraffes have. The hat was the Tuteate patter except I used the ear pattern from Scarlett Royal’s animal patterns so I didn’t have to sew it on. And I didn’t close the way Tuteate does hers. I used Scarlett Royal’s Kitchener stitch to close. I think it worked out quite well. Oops, I just noticed I need to sew close the ears. Well, I wasn’t finished when I finished the book. If I think it makes a big difference I will post the finished products here.

And though he isn’t in the book here is another stuffed animal using Scarlett Royal’s YouTube:

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My friend suggested steam or flame from the nostrils so I added a those bits.

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Eyes are done on the spool knitter. Since this is going to an adult I will get the glass eyes instead.

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I love how the spike knit up. I added the wings from Scarlett Royal’s bat pattern. I will add pipe cleaners to these so they can stand out. I made this dragon with my own materials is for one of my best friends who is crazy for dragons.

20170715_13272820170715_13275120170715_132803I love him! I can’t wait to make more of him for me and my other friends who are dragonphiles.

But will this next one has nothing to do with the book it is the latest of my tiny dolls. This pattern is by Denise of LoomAHat. This is the cupcake doll. I added the ears–just because I wanted to! These are so fun and easy and versatile. This will go to the clinic.

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Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Just Wow! An author friend recommended this book stating that it was the best book she’d read in a long time. She was right. It was the best read for me in a long, long time.

There was a drowning. The family responds. That’s the extent of it. BUT we are allowed in all the characters’ heads. What led to the present moment? Who can take the fault? Who might be innocent?

This bit of mystery only leads to the inside of your own head, your own family history. It is amazing how the author does that. How she keeps the story so interesting that I had a hard time putting it down, even when it was 4 AM I couldn’t let it go until the next day.

The most interesting questions the story brought to mind is how many of our goals and passions are leftovers from the previous generation? I made me look at my grandmother and my mother and my own daughter. And even now, I wonder how much of my mother’s pushing of piano practice, for instance, brought about my son’s participation in a band? How do our personal goals affect others around us, from family outward to the occasional associates. This book brought about a strong link between us all that I think we often overlook.

And then let’s add to the story the things that make us unique, our nationality, ethics, religion or politics and we see how we think the other person is wrong. How the tearing down of others is tearing us all down. In this case, the family is half Chinese, half American. They live in a place where they are the only ones of color. Racist slurs are slung at them. When that happens, when we are bullies in any fashion, one has a hard time separating true hate from imagined hate.

As usual, the fictional family reach their own conclusions and don’t communicate with each other. That speaks to me. We often forget to say what we should. We think the other person already knows, or doesn’t need to hear it again, or doesn’t feel taken seriously. Relationships are hard, even the best of them. That’s how our fears and hurts hit as bullets on those we should give our best to.

All of these ideas came to me as I read this book. I bought the Audible version (I had a credit lying around). I know now that I want to read this again. I will have to buy the Kindle version when I get the chance. Oh, and a word about Cassandra Campbell (Narrator). She did a great job acting out the different characters. It was due to her skills that this book came to life for me.

Thank you, Patty B. for the recommendation. I loved it!

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Kill Game: An Urban Fantasy Thriller (Dana McIntyre Must Die Book 2)Kill Game: An Urban Fantasy Thriller by SM Reine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Dana! My first born son and this female powerhouse character that we all met long ago in Sara Reine’s series. In this case, it is the first character I could personally relate to in size and shape. I’m much older but a part of me thinks I looked like her when I was in my forties. I think I had similar beliefs to hers. I don’t know that I hate vampires. But I never saw the craze. Now Ms. Reine has brought me along to expand my imaginary creatures profile.

And Dana isn’t a perfect person in any way. She makes mistakes. She has a mindset that needs taming. But she is lovable and loves deeply. And it is wonderful that she is getting her own series. This was the second book. I think it may read as a stand alone but I love that I have read all the history of these altered Nevada stories from the beginning. Other states are in her other books but most of Sara Reine’s books are in places I have lived or visited enough to know ‘our’ versions. It gives a depth to the books that a made up place never has.

Dana is going through divorce in this series and it is messing with her mind. As it does for most of us. The reasons seem weird to me, but most folks from the outside of the couple going through this might think that, also. But will the ending of this book change that? Gosh, Sara, if you’re going to bring us to this ending can’t you write faster and let us see what happens next?

Okay, I need to clear this up. This is not a cliffhanger. You all know how much I hate those! And I don’t know a more prolific author than S.M. Reine. I just love her books so much I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Hey–since I moved from there two years ago, how about another Reno setting? Las Vegas is too busy, too much of a tourist trap–even in the alternate universe. Is there a place for Dana, the vampire-slayer in demon possessed Reno? Or, since I can’t seem to find a way, could you take her to the beaches of California? Orange County, LA County? Mojave Desert?

Okay, I’ll read it no matter where you take us! Can’t wait!!!!

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A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Can I give this book 20 stars? This is MY kind of sci-fi! No wars and shooting and one-up-manship. We get to know another social order, the good and bad of it. We watch someone growing up within and without that order. We get to know other beings. We get to travel in space. There just happens to be males and females. In this case, a female lead but it could as easily have been a male. Good choice to have a female to have the adventure. YAY! Male in the story, not necessarily a romantic counter point. A friend. Believe it or not!!!!

Though this is book two in the series it could stand alone. But if you get the chance to read the first book, do so. It was fun, too! You can find my review of the first book in GoodReads under The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

What I think I liked best about this book is how the author took us into a young girl’s thoughts without making us feel childish or talking down to us. And how well she matured said girl through the years helping the reader feel that maturity and sense of growth. How a sense of time alone doesn’t become boring as it might if we lived it, but a chance to learn and explore ideas and abilities.

Oh, and one of my favorite reasons for reading sci-fi is to learn new philosophies or enjoy those we might have left behind for a revisit now. I think Becky Chambers may be my new favorite sci-fi author!

This book is now on my gotta buy the Kindle and Audible versions so I can reread it soon!

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19841984 by George Orwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my second reading of this book. It was required reading in high school (about 1967). I remember it being very scary and prayed it would never happen. As the actual year of 1984 flew by many of us began to relax. Maybe the science fictional prophecy was far from ever happening.

Many people have recommended this book again what with rumors of Newspeak/Fake News. The book shows that anyone can be convinced of anything given the right set of circumstances. I believe that to be true, which is why I don’t believe that torture would ever bring out the truth. Many are in jails because the good cop/bad cop or other tricks of coercion have brought the suspect to admit to something they never did do. Much of the book shows how this can happen.

Regardless of which side of the political system you may stand, this set of possibilities should shout at you. You should feel free to tell your truth without worry of being tortured or demeaned in any way. After all your set of circumstances have brought you to your belief. But on the same line, we should have respect for another point of view, even if it seems crazy. If you stop that truth from coming out, you may miss a grain of truth you may need to learn to live more openly.

I relate that to the lowly dandelion and my mother. My mother was anemic and had very bad health in general. But when I was young I would see her out in the lawn digging out the dandelions and tossing them away. Knowing what we know about that so-called weed, this could have been the medicine my mother could have ingested and become much healthier, regardless of the ungroomed lawn. What gems or weeds of health are we missing by calling each other names and not learning someone else’s truth?

On another level… As scary as the world of ‘1984’ is, the misogyny of past sci-fi and fantasy is very clear here. I didn’t notice this when I was a teen. Almost all the books I read were male-heavy. I remember asking about it only once. The answer was we had to have these books because boys have a hard time learning to and then liking reading. Having watched my brothers with that very problem I didn’t think about it again. I had trouble with reading but found ways to get around the problems and I LOVED reading. (Still do.)

In this book the main character’s wife won’t give him a divorce, they had infertility problems. He gets the wet dream fantasy fulfilled in a woman who gives without requiring anything from him, not even or especially not wanting love. Finally, there is the woman out in the yard who sings with clothespins in her mouth and he finds her big hips sexually appealing though in another segment he is reminded how like his mother she is. So beyond sex and birth, it seems this generation of sci-fi writers seemed to have nothing to do with women. That should have been our biggest warning! Of all that happened to this character!!!!! I find myself feeling foolish that it took me until my 60s to figure out how little part women play in most men’s lives. I have a friend that tried to tell me this when I was still into makeup and clothes–and making my own babies. But it is because I decided to make my reading diet be mostly female writers with female main characters, and not in the romantic chic-lit stuff. More along the lines of Bechdel. (Google her) This is also how I choose to watch TV/Movies. Women have to hold up half of the sky of whatever I read or watch. Equally important. That was not the case in this book. And years ago I might not have noticed. Now I am nearly blinded by it. So if you haven’t seen it as strong as I have, try my ‘diet’. Give it a year or so. I especially challenge male to try this. When you notice the lack of human equality in reading or what you watch maybe you will be part of the change? Maybe if women hold their own in a story like ‘1984’ we may find ways to avoid that crazy kind of life.

Do read this. No matter which side of the fence, or gender, there are weeds of health here we all need!

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A Space Girl from Earth (The Kyroibi Trilogy Book 1)A Space Girl from Earth by Christina McMullen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe it is because I have been reading Sci-fi for so long, but I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I wanted to be. Maybe it is because I have to read using Text-to-Speech and I miss a lot in that process. I just couldn’t get into this book. I didn’t care for this girl raised by a super model. Yawn!

To find out that the daughter is from another planet and possibly a princess? Still didn’t care. I think the only thing I really felt her heart and soul was her feelings for the assassin-bot. But even that didn’t do much for me.

I did like the idea of being able to transport to other places and feel things through the strange ‘freckles’ but once again, I liked the ideas present, still not the characters. Please, why do main characters have to be the most beautiful? Most people aren’t How do you expect regular people to like the character when they can’t relate at all?

I did appreciate the chance to read this.

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Which is p and Which is q?Which is p and Which is q? by Gita V. Reddy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a cute little book for the early reader. The illustrations are fun. The story as imaginative as I expect of Gita V. Reddy.

I actually read this a few days ago and am just now getting around to reviewing but the experience stays clear for me. Mostly because some of my offspring and I are dyslexic. This would have been helpful for all of us as early readers.

Ms. Reddy sent me an email a bit ago offering the read for honest review. I was more than willing as I have loved most of what she has presented to me to read. This was just as fun as the rest. As usual, there is a story, with morals and fun adventures.

As it was for the children, the book was fine. I just wish there were more hints or ideas for parents and teachers. Gita does say that one needs more practice with many letters like M and W. But L and 7 come to mind for me, lower case U and lower case N, lower case Q and lowercase G, lower case B and lower case D, 3 and E. I’m sure there are others that get confused. In fact, most letters can be switched backward or upside down. These were all so confusing to me as a kid and I had to watch my boys go through the same confusion.

Nowadays, while studying German, I am finding my old nemesis ‘I before E…’ coming back at me because in German it is the other way around. So dyslexia still plays havoc in my life. But this book is a start for the new generation of readers to play with.

As for the story and pictures, I love the one where the grandfather is emptying the box of wooden letters on the floor for Minki to play with. Having tactile experiences with the letters is so important for children who are learning about the alphabet.

Great job, Gita. I hope this will spare many children and the parents the confusion of letters that won’t stay in the right directions.

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