End of year (and decade) Wrap-Up

Closing the year with lots of foxes, Vixy, my family, art and books.

2019 is coming to an end and to be fair, it doesn’t feel like anything so far. Today is just another day, the last one in the calendar and apparently the last one of the decade (we’re approaching the twenties, what fun crazy parties are there to come?!) but so far, the hype, the excitement is not there for me.

This year and decade have been dissonant and odd. And as much as I used to plan ahead like crazy and overplan and have everything “perfect”, that is one of the lessons learned this decade. Even the best laid plans can go awry and not turn out to be the best. You can plan and plan and plan, I had plan A to Z and still, somehow that wasn’t enough for some of the things that happened this decade.

And you know what? That is actually fine. I still plan and I am known to be that person who you approach when you need something. You need sewing supplies in the office, or different types of glue, or food, or whatever, I’ve got it. I am still very much a planner. But I am also aware I can’t cover everything and plans don’t always go the way you planned.

If the plans I had at the beginning of the decade had worked out I’d be married to a first husband, with kids, a successful research career and potentially a high level job as manager or close to CEO of something. And so far I have none of those things. (Yes, to those gracefully pointing out, I did get married this year, but this was not my first rodeo).

Instead, I on my second marriage, no kids (just Vixy and some chickens), on a job that was as far away from my dream job as I could consider that is turning out to be even better than my dream job, and in a country where I am a stranger, an immigrant and unwanted and at the same time, I am not.

Heck, during this decade, I got married twice, had a divorce (something I never expected to have to do, one of the few things I never planned for), became homeless, had all my money stolen away, fought a massive legal battle to be able to have a life and be my own person, survived mental illness, moved countries and moved so many times in a new country. Went from speaking my native language the most, to barely using it.

And relationships. I broke away from my biological family (and then we agreed to come back). Found a new family (where I fit a little better). Tested old friendships (in a few days I will be seeing a friend I have known since we were 13-14 years old, one of my oldest friendships), made new ones. Some of them broke, some never stuck, some have become a massive blessing and grown my network.

In this decade, I have been scared as I had never been before, but I have also exprienced joy and gratitude like never before. I have grown so much.

Even my looks have changed, and my confidence.

I have no big plans for 2020 or the full decade. I do have little (and big) things I’d like to accomplish, but we shall see how they come to fruition:

  • Complete writing a novel.
  • Publish it
  • Write the WBT comic and illustrate it.
  • Draw more
  • Read more

Things I plan to do this coming year is to draw almost everyday. I used to and then got out of the practice for many reasons, and now want to get back into it.

And I am going to be better at choosing books I spend my money on. I had been on a rampage to support as many authors as possible and I end up not reading them all (for example, Contemporary Romance is something I rarely read and yet I had preordered so many). So my intention is to think better what I purchase. In the end, all my efforts to support authors feel like they’ve been mostly wasted (I know in a way they haven’t) and I would rather do this with more care.

I also went on a rampage of bookboxes, but I am slowly culling that down as some are loosing the shine and spark. It is a tough world and there’s only so many *insert overused item in bookboxes here* you need. I just wish there were ways to customise or tailor it a bit better. And I would love a UK version of what PageHabit did (annotated books by the author, with post it notes).

A thing I won’t stop is the generosity and kindness I have. This has been used against me (I have been considered a threat or “evil” for being nice, or that I have an ulterior motive, or that my kindness is a way to mistreat people) but I still won’t stop. I like helping and being nice to others.

What are you musing on today? (If you are musing at all)

I am now off to finish working for the day, then have some pizza with my husband and watch a film and some documentaries.

YALC 2019 Wrap-up

As many of you know (and for those that don’t) I went to YALC this year. All the times I’ve been at YALC, I’ve done cosplays, so this year was no different. Though I did bring in two new cosplays (Previously I have done Hermione, Death from Book of Life and of course Moon dress).

Friday’s cosplay was as Cat Noir from Miraculous Ladybug (a cartoon for children, you can find it on Netflix, and this is no promo as I don’t even have Netflix but I do like the cartoon).

Saturday was Knit Anele aka Moon dress (because it is iconic and everyone recognises it). This was the costume that gave me the most problems as the corset shifted (yes it is a corset) and I couldn’t sit, so after lunch I took it off (it is designed to be used with or without it, but obviously it is more stunning with it).

And finally, on Sunday I dressed up as Menolly (with blue hair) from Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. This was a very interesting cosplay because I got a lot of children asking for pictures (also some teenagers and adults), but no one really knew who I was dressed up as(I think the exception would be Steph from GeekyClean). My favourite part was that when I said who I was, there were two very distinct reactions “oh yes, of course” (on the older side of the scale or those that do a lot of SFF and not just YA) or blank faces of “no idea”. One person even asked me to write down the book and author so they could look it up. The dragon(firelizard) has now been baptised as “Pern” in honor of the planet where he comes from. Oh and yes, I wasn’t “holding” him, attached him to my shoulder with the help of Josie Jaffrey and my friends.

Now to the part about the books! This is my haul:

From left to right:

  • Brought 23 books. All except Lauren James’ book got signed (I mean puppy needed her, good priorities there).
  • Bought 17 books. Some for the wedding favours pile. The new edition of After the Fire (to complete my collection), and some early copies of books plus books that caught my eye. I behaved much better this year and didn’t go on a crazy buying spree.
  • 7 Books that were free or swapped. I did bring about 10 for the book swap so this didn’t go too bad (and only one of those was from the book swap directly). Some publishers did a “buy a book get one free” so some of those are in this pile.
  • And I won 10 books/proofs. Wilder Girls, Chinglish and Kingdom of Souls were high priority and I was so pleased to win them. Sanctuary was “fated”. The first person who drew won, so I went next thinkign that the odds of me winning the other prize were too small (they were), and yet still won.

I won’t talk about every single book here as I will review them at some point. But I tried to only enter those I would read (or a friend was eagerly wanting) and I also didn’t go too crazy on freebies and ended up with a small stack of them rather than a crazy amount.

I have read most of the samplers and started my list of “preorders” that are to come next (for those that follow the preorder spreadsheet, I had paused it on the buildup to YALC so I wouldn’t shoot myself in the foot and buy doubles, but it will continue in the next few weeks).

As per usual, things could be better, but they were better than last year (I am being positive and small improvements are better than no improvement). The biggest issue is lack of suitable chairs to sit for those of us who struggle sitting on the floor (I have been working wiht my physio to help me cope with this better but by Sunday I really really would’ve loved having a chair as I was struggling). And it isn’t a thing that is particularly hard to fix either.

I was also super glad to make new friends, and put faces to names and to have the chance to chat with people (I kinda want to tag everyone but I am also afraid I’d forget someone and I just don’t want to forget anyone!). You know who you are since we talked.

For me this YALC was better and easier because I made myself enjoy it more and go less into a rush and manic hype. And it was about friendships old and new. Community was interesting to see.

My biggest wish would be that people in general are more polite and considerate of others. There was a lot of madly crushing people despite asking not to. (And becauseof this I made an extra effort to not push on people and to not be too close to them in the queues, giving them space to be).

I finish with that YALC sign picture and our squad which keeps growing!

The Gamer Tag

I just discovered this over on A Reading Brit and had to do it. Gaming is a huge part of me (as is reading) so this was a perfect tag to try out.


Aloy fights off a Corruptor, drawn by me

1. What is your all-time favourite video game?

I don’t like favourite questions. I can’t pick one. My favourite video game for “it is a work of art” is defnitely Child of Light. My favourite “I spent my childhood on this” is Jazz Jack Rabbit 2, Duke Nukem 2 and Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego? (yes, I have aged myself, haven’t I? I played all of them on Windows PCs…). My favourite “comfort game (think comfort blanket but game)” is Bioshock series and Alice Madness Returns.

2. What is your current favourite video game?

Still difficult to choose. “I am too tired to do anything but don’t want to sleep yet” is Let’s Go Eevee. Mindless open world wandering is Skyrim and Dragon Age. I love Dishonored series and adore Prey (the Bethesda new one, not the old one). I also love Fire Emblem series as a comfort game.

3. What is your favourite video game genre?

Semi open world first person shooters (?). Think Fallout 3, New Vegas, 4 and 76 (but not Multiplayer I suck at multiplayer) Or Bioshock series, or Horizon Zero Dawn, or Prey or anything Bethesda brings out.
Strategy RPG (Fire Emblem only, Final Fantasy drives me nuts somehow despite being initially very similar). and a little of JRPG (Child of Light)

4. How long have you been playing video games?

Very young. My dad was computer crazy (at a time you could build a PC from a weekly magazine…) and he would let us play games. I remember playing Chip’s Challenge. And Mine sweeper and Pinball…

5. What’s the first game you ever played?

Apparently I replied early to this question. Probably Chip’s, or Carmen San Diego.

6. What game have you clocked the most hours into?

Bioshock series and Fallout series.

7. What’s your longest gaming session?

Not sure. I used to game longer during a difficult time in my life, most of the day. But now I play less and divide hours more.

8. Who is your favourite game developer?

Bethesda, specifically Arkane. And I loved Ken Levine and American McGee as game masterminds

9. Who is your favourite hero character from a game?

Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. She’s such a personality. I also have a soft spot for Link who keeps getting called Zelda 😛

10. Who is your favourite villain?

The Typhon. (Prey)

11. Who is your most hated character of any game?

I am not entirely sure. I really hated Fontaine from Bioshock series. But do you mean playable character or Ai character? Those are harder to choose which one I hate… I love/hate any Assasin’s Creed main character (but the first two were the worst) because they would easily fall down and commit suicide or break cover with a tiny movement from the controller. It drove me mad.

12. What gaming systems do you own?

PC (custom). PS4, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS Lite, DS and 3DS, Switch, Wii (old one). I also play on my phone.

13. What was your first game system?

Not counting PC. The first I played was Atari, then Nintendo 64. First owned was Nintendo DS Lite. (I always had friends/neighbours who had a console and we would play at theirs, until I got older).

14. What’s your favourite gaming system and why?

I love PC as it usually has all games I want and I can just plug a controller or play with keyboard-mouse, and enjoy PS4 a lot (it is my main gaming console at the moment). Recently the Switch has been winning me over with how portable and versatile it is.

15. Do you prefer to play male characters or female characters?

If given the choice I usually choose female. But if the game has a male character only I don’t mind. For example, Dishonored only lets you play Corvo (male), but Dishonored 2 let’s you play him or Emily (female). I have played both, and prefer Emily mostly because she has new powers that differ over Corvo’s.

16. Do you follow walkthroughs, or do you play through on your own?

I try to play on my own, but if I have spent ages trying to figure something out and I just can’t crack it, then I will look that part up. I like walkthroughs mostly for the “trophies” part (I am a sucker for trophies/achievements, I will replay games until I get as many as I can without being too frustrated by it).

17. Have you ever been to a gaming convention?

No. I would love to attend E3 but it is too far.

18. What game are you most excited to come out in the future?

CONTROL.

19. What’s your best memory of a video game?

One of my favourite things is that I went off videogames for a little bit and my little sister found American McGee’s Alice (the first Alice game he did) and she convinced me to play. I was SO bad at it. But she would coach me through it. And when Alice Madness Returns came out I was in the US so I bought it for her. In my head it was her game. I moved away and ended up playing it and beating it before her, which was a shock to me, but a fun memory because it felt like beating the master.

20. What’s your worst memory of a video game?

I do not want to remember those. But funny worst are the glitches that happen in some games 😛

21. Which video game character do you see yourself as, or if you had to be represented by a video game character, who would it be?

I would probably be a female Morgan (Prey). I would love to say I am an Aloy (Horizon Zero Dawn), but I am more Elisabeth Sobeck (don’t google if you intend to play this game, it is a spoiler to find out who she is) than Aloy.


I tag Justine, Asha, Lauren and Lilly-Beth plus anybody else that wants to do this!

Moon Draws: Book Box Club Pin

The pin for buying more than 20 boxes from Book Box Club

I haven’t done a lot of commissions or design work recently (my full time job has kept me very busy, but I cannot complain, I enjoy it a lot). But when the girls contacted me about designing a pin for them, I said yes (I didn’t know what they wanted or anything except a pin, but I said yes).

This isn’t my first work for Book Box Club. I have desgined items for the before. But this is my first enamel pin design and it was very interesting to work on it.

First design

I went overboard with my design. Of course. My take was, to celebrate Book Box Club and the fact you’ve been supporting them, I might as well do a “fun” take on some of the books we have had from them. Can you name them all?

My over the board pin had to be simplified, so I took the fun writings away. (It was then modified a bit more to fit the final one).

Then there was the backing card. I have a Book Box Club shelf on one of my bookcases, so I went with that because I wanted to make a backing card that was complimentary to the pin.

Of course some changes had to be made, as the “texture” was getting lost and it was too dark, but once again, can you name all the books in it?

Bold & Brave Book Box Club Unboxing

The theme for this box sounded great and I was looking forward to it, but you all should know by now I have a soft spot for Book Box Club because they have the Clubhouse meeting with the authors and they were the very first ones to do something that connected author and readers.

The whole box seems very in tune with the theme, but let’s go round, starting from the theme card on the top right:

  • Theme card, very much in tune with the rest of the box and setting the theme.
  • A sampler of The Furies. I’ve heard interesting things for it.
  • Another sampler, for The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods.
  • A Mother of Dragons metal bookmark (the picture doesn’t do it justice)
  • A chocolate lip balm (it smells like I should eat it instead of just apply it to my lips).
  • Underneath we have a tote bag with a Mulan in it (I like the art a lot and that the tote bag is a blue).
  • If you have bought more than 20 boxes, you get this snazzy pin designed by yours truly (aka me)
  • A listpad to be more like Hermione. I love that it isn’t stuck with being a specific year or week, but more of a fill as and when you feel like it.
  • The Clubhouse invite.
  • A promo bookmark.
  • The Hand, the Eye and the Heart. This book has caused some conversations on Twitter, but I am interested in reading it.
  • A gorgeous marble watercolour biscuit that is gluten free. It didn’t last long after the picture.

The box was very on topic which I loved, and the items are gorgeous so I was happy with it.

Q&A with M.G. Wheaton // Emily Eternal Blogtour

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I had a chance to receive an early review copy for Emily Eternal and I reviewed it here. The story follows Emily, who is an Artificial Consciousness (not an AI, Artificial Intelligence) who is now tasked with saving humanity from extinction.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly, but I had so many questions left, and thankfully I had a chance to interview M.G. Wheatong and throw some of those questions his way.


Q: Hi, can you please introduce yourself and tell us about Emily Eternal?

Howdy. I’m M.G. Wheaton and “Emily Eternal” is about an Artificial Consciousness who really, really likes the human species and goes to extraordinary lengths to try and save it when the Earth is threatened with mass extinction.

Q: There is a lot of “science” in Emily Eternal, how did you come up with the idea of Emily as an Artificial Consciousness?

The first time I encountered Artificial Intelligence being used to condition humans was when I was working on a video game years ago. The game was a “Friday the 13th”-esque horror game in which you played a machete-wielding killer. The AI came into play as, early on in the game, your first-person killer could just wipe out a bunch of camp counselors or something but the other in-game victims soon learned to stay away from you and became nearly impossible to kill. So, the player was conditioned to create elaborate traps and stunts to “scare” the victims into making mistakes. They’d trip. They’d fall. They’d run to what they thought was an exit but it would lead them straight to you. By learning to instill fear, it conditioned the player to become stealthier, more sadistic, and ultimately a more successful mass murderer.

Needless to say, the game in its pre-publication infancy proved too controversial at the time and morphed into the much more marketplace-friendly “Naughty Bear” in which a vengeful teddy bear stalks and slashes other teddies, but the fear-based engine remained intact.

What stayed with me after the experience was how the game conditioned the player. If in the military, a lot of the training in the past has been about dehumanizing the enemy in order to make it easier for a human to kill another human, the use of AI could streamline, even personalize that process. But if this was true, I wondered if the opposite could be true as well.

To that, if the goal of modern psychiatry is to make a person their own psychiatrist, I imagined a conditioning interface that could also do that. An Artificial Intelligence would, ultimately, be limited. But an evolving Artificial Consciousness, something programmed to become more and more empathetic the more it learned, I thought would work. Even better, would be if it was able to use the mind of each patient to create an individualized and comprehensive UX to best help lead them to solutions most suited to how their brain already worked. This way, it could not only dodge the biases of AI but also of modern psychiatry.

Something like Emily could result.

Q: Have you ever read or seen Paprika? Emily has similarities with her, and I wondered if there was a connection somehow. (For those that haven’t seen it or read it, you can find it in IMDB and in Goodreads)

I have done neither but just watched a trailer and it looks like something I’d love.

Q: DNA plays an important part in the story, how did you come up with the specific DNA changes that are important to the plot (trying not to give spoilers away)?

All that started for me when my daughter and I were watching a documentary that included a segment on the Sama-Bajau people, a culture of sea nomads near the Philippines and Borneo. They spend much of their lives either on boats or in the water, some submerged four or five hours a day while fishing. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes as the camera followed a man walking without aid of a suit or weights on the sea floor. It was a sight that, to me, violated what I thought I knew of the laws of physics and biology. How could he hold his breath that long? How could he achieve such an easy negative buoyancy?

The doc went on to speak about the peoples’ landsickness, an equivalent to seasickness that affected their sense of balance when they went on dry land. I did some research, discovering that indeed they’d become genetically adapted over time to living at sea. Their spleens were larger. They’d adapted genetic responses to prevent hypoxia and ways to disperse the buildup of carbon dioxide.

This adaptation occurred over several generations, obviously, but it made me think that if a human body can be made to adapt to a different environment in all these ways, what changes could it make in order to adapt to life in a vacuum? Life in low gravity? Life with a nitrogen-rich atmosphere, etc.? And how freeing might that be for us as a species if instead of adapting over several generations, we were able to do it in one?

As I was thinking about this, Yuval Harari’s writings on transhumanism began to filter out suggesting that in the future, humans will or, at least, should merge with technology in order to keep up with the evolving abilities of machines. Though ideas about biotech enhancements and the like have been around for a while, he was the first person I read who talked about this in holistic ways, ultimately creating a new species, a posthuman, not just an elevated Homo sapiens.

Add to that what we’ve learned in recent years about gene editing—literally using enzymes (CRISPR associated proteins) to remove and replace strands of DNA in a living human—and I imagined how a computer would be able to use gene editing tech in a way that produced adaptations within a living person in response to, not conditioning, but environmental stimuli, a’la a squid or octopus using its chromatophores to change color or altering their papillae to manipulate the texture of their skin.

As for replication, it was this story in the May, 2016 issue of Discover Magazine about the now-famous experiment at the French National Center for Scientific Research in which memories were implanted in mice—meaning, they now had memories of an experience (or in this case, conditioning) without having actually lived that experience—that really set my mind spinning. If memory was physical, then it could be replicated. Extrapolating that, so then could be experience. And once you can do that, the idea of cloning moves away from traits to genetically replicating a person’s life in a much more real way.

Putting this all together, the kind of evolution that has occurred through generations of adaptation in the Sama-Bajau people, using gene editing tech, could theoretically be transplanted into the genetic code of another living person. Also, the memories and conditioning that show how best use it.

Q: Who did you base the Argosy (an interesting group of people in the book) on, why? 

Argosy has shades of the private military company best exemplified by Blackwater but also the Bechtel Corporation, the private construction firm that built the Hoover Dam but now controls 80% of the U.S.’s nuclear power plants. Those two firms have done so much to privatize what had once been under strict(er) government control, using taxpayer dollars to make life or death decisions for the masses, but generally without their knowledge.

The “why” is that I’d been hearing more and more about the sociology of science, researchers going in to study how a scientist’s personal biases affect the science the general population hears about as well as what is used by politicians to make budgetary decisions. The more I learned, the more I saw examples of how science can not only be manipulated to a variety of ends but also how a herd mentality can suppress science that disproves what other scientists want an outcome to be.

Even over this past winter, a friend was explaining to me (over some great Trinidadian cuisine in Crown Heights) how in the mid-twentieth century, scientists who poked holes in Einstein’s work were bullied or shunted to the side due to Einstein’s cult of personality. This particular physicist’s mentor actually revived the work of one of these scientists in the 1970s and proved that, yes, they were right and Einstein wrong.

That’s a long way to get to when science and government team up with near-unlimited resources, as in the case of Argosy, you can end up with someone in orbit or the creation of the atomic bomb.

Q: Who is the physical inspiration behind Emily, her appearance and personality?

Dr. Wyman, Emily’s creator, wants Emily to be the most empathetic interface for, well, himself. He’s someone who is used to people the age of his grad students being deferential to him. He’s not looking for an equal partner; he’s looking for someone who will help. To him, it’s someone who looks like and self-perceives as Emily does. Again, it speaks to the biases of those who programmed her, something she struggles with as she self-actualizes.

Q: In the end, the book is an ode to humanity (or at least that is how I read it), so to finish this Q&A, why not tell us something about humanity that inspires you or that you’d like to leave for the future?

When I was a teenager, I saw a page from surrealist Max Ernst’s sketchbook in a museum that was not like anything I’d seen before. Unlike the very polished paintings of his and Rene Magritte’s that surrounded it, I could easily see each pencil stroke in the work. And hey, I’d used a pencil, but I could never make it do the incredible things he’d done. It made me want to decipher his intent beyond just the craft that could be learned, but also find a connection to the human at the other end. I’ve always had a hard time connecting with people one on one in real life. I avoid parties, and, well, almost all social interactions. Maybe because of that, I believe the many artists, performers, actors, etc. who say they feel most themselves when they’re at work—sketching, painting, dancing. I think that’s one of the reasons I spend so much of my time tracking down art here in L.A. and elsewhere, going to plays and concerts, seeking out food designed by specific chefs, and so on. I like connecting to other people through what they choose to author, where their passions are most raw, open, and honest. And it’s everywhere-everywhere-everywhere.


That’s  all! Hope you enjoyed learning more about the inspiration behind Emily Eternal.

Eastercon 2019

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This Easter weekend, I decided to take the plunge and attend my first Eastercon. This is a Science Fiction and Fantasy convention during Easter (not that the name gives it away, right?). To make myself easier to find, I wore my Knit Anele cosplay (it has a huge Moon on the chest), and this definitely helped, plus given that it was a warm day, it felt quite breezy and nice.

The wonderful guys at GeekyClean and The Clockwork Tea made my day a little bit extra nice with letting me hang out a little with them. They’re awesome sellers, awesome creatives, and have great products (I love all GeekyClean products and I kept talking about them to anyone that was around, woops).

I also had the chance to meet several authors I interact with on Twitter and hang out with them, plus meet some new authors. And a lot of books signed (nothing like YALC, but also I only went one day and I was behaving, I didn’t go crazy buying stuff).

The main event for me was the Fountain Pen Meetup (huge thanks to Aliette and Juliet for organising this and being the masterminds behind it), which was a neat way of trying new pens and inks. I finally tried a few I couldn’t decide if I wanted to buy, plus found a new love, the fude pen! Jeanette Ng introduced Tade Thompson and me to it and we both loved it for sketching (and Zen Cho ha da lot of fun using it for its intended purpose, Chinese calligraphy). I also confirmed I do not love Lamy Safari pens (or any fancier type either), enjoyed the TWSBI 580 (now I am getting an Eco), and trying so many new ink colours.

Then we had lunch and afterwards joined a Tor launch party. I was glad to see a few familiar faces, and happy to help organise (because of course I was early). There were free books, wine, and a gorgeous cake!

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I then took a break and rested, attended an imprompty launch party for Genesis by Geoffrey Carr and bought a book. Then attended (again, by accident as in I was wandering around and went into the room and sat down and lo and behold it had started) the BSFA. Maybe we should’ve invited Ian McEwan… Wonder if knowing that there have been 70 conventions to celebrate Science Fiction might surprise him…

Finally, I attended an author reading, my main intent to see Stephanie Burgis, but there were two other authors and gosh I enjoyed their readings so much I now have their books on my wishlist. (People, author readings are awesome, but they’re a trap! You will end up buying books you hadn’t even heard about before, or that you weren’t sure if you’d buy)

As you can see on the top picture, even if I didn’t spend a lot, I managed to get a lot of loot. The two piles on left and middle, of books are books got at the convention (free/bought). I also bought some illustrated books from an Indian/Asian press, and got a lot fo ribbons for my badge, plus pins and other goodies (all the stickers).

Finally, my cosplay got SO many comments it made my heart swell. This was a dream I made true last year and wearing it this past weekend and having it complimented so much was a great thing. It fuelled a little my creative juices.

So what is the veredict? I liked Eastercon. I loved seeing way more older fans (YALC has mostly under 40 attendees, most fo them in their 20s, for example), their approach to SFF was delightful and made my heart soften a little more. But it also made me realise that maybe we younger people need to check our privileged attittude towards YALC. There was barely any drama here, people were extremely polite and helpful. They had badges for every need (need Visual/Hearing/Other priority? Invisible Disability? What pronouns you want? Do not take pictures?) you could select from the welcome table to suit your needs.  Absolutely well handled and I never felt like a stranger, everyone was wonderfully welcoming and non judgemental. Instead, there was so mcuh glee, so much respect of “you got here first, or you have needs, therefore you first”.

So I will plan better next year to make more of Eastercon. And if anyone wants to join, let me know, as I’d love to catch up there too 🙂

Whimsical Beasts Owlcrate Unboxing

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I know I’ve been quite “detailed” in my recent unboxings in general, mostly because I do spend a lot in them, and also because I have to decide which ones to keep, but also, experience. I’ve been buying book boxes since 2015-2016. I think my first one was the 3rd or 4th Owlcrate ever. I’ve seen book boxes come and go, and have seen them stay.

Anyway, the reason I derailed is that I really enjoyed this box and that was a good thing. So let’s do the unboxing starting from the book and going clockwise:

  • Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto. Super gorgeous cover, and purple sprayed edges, plus I like the dark cover.
  • Accio Books beanie. Probably my least favourite item of this box, but that’s mostly because I don’t wear beanies. But I can appreciate a cute one when I see it and this one is gorgeous.
  • Zine and theme postcard, so pink/purple, so cute, I just loved this one so much more than the recent ones.
  • An umbrella. It has pretty artwork, but just the fact that there’s a compact umbrella in the box made me squeal a little. I keep one in my work bag, one in my car, one in my usual bag, and it is always nice to get a handy compact one. Plus this one is SO gorgeous and unique, so less boring than just the black plain umbrella.
  • Pixie Dust soap, smells nice and I am all pro soaps specially if they are from nice small independent companies, so love it.
  • Owlcrate pin. I like pins, this has a Phoenix, not much to say here.
  • Spirited Away keyring, with Haku! I loved this one, and also was happy to see a good keyring in it.
  • A paperback copy of The Tea Dragon Society, which I have in hardback and have reviewed before, so also bonus. I ended up giving this away because I already own it but if I didn’t it’d be awesome!

So one of my favourite Owlcrate boxes recently. Just full of delightful goodies.

A Polar Bear in Love Vol. 1 Review

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A Polar Bear in Love Vol. 1 by Koromo

A polar bear falls in love with a seal, but the seal thinks the polar bear is trying to eat it!

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This was a random purchase where I stumbled upon it, thought it was very cute and bought it alongside the other 3 volumes that I found in English.

I regret nothing! It is utterly cute, with this polar bear finding a “baby” (not that young but still in “baby” fur) seal and falling in love at first sight. The poor seal cannot comprehend this and so it is hilarious to read, but also extremely cute. I kept laughing so hard my boyfriend actually came to check in on me to figure out what I was reading.

Mostly, there are a lot of puns, a lot of insight into love, and what it means to be prey and predator (it also touches on privilege). It is impressive how much it touches about social commentary yet it is so simple, cute and lovely.

The artwork is great at simplifying things but also adds a lot of detail (and considering this is all in the North Pole, well, what props do you have except ice, snow, some ocean, and mostly white animals?)

 

 

The Familiars Review

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The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.

Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.

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I attended the launch party for this book, and got a free copy gifted by the publisher in exchange for a review (not that they force me to, the HotKey people are awesome!). I was already excited to get this book so an early copy was a boon.

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When I first heard of “The Familiars” it hooked me in. It had a hint at magic, familiars and it was set in 17th Century England. (I know, why is that last part intriguing, right?)

I re-enacted for a few years this period, but focused more on the Civil War happening in England rather than the Witch hunts, however, this meant I had a lot of the background and historical knowledge of the period Fleetwood and Alice are in.

Life in general wasn’t easy, life as a woman wasn’t easy, being rich didn’t exactly exclude you from obligations, and this is well reflected in The Familiars. I couldn’t really find fault on the period characterization and how well it was done in ambient. That part was stunning, however it also meant that because it was doing so well at the historical part and the setting, the plot developed a little bit too slow.

This put me at war, because the historical part kept me thinking, oh yes and then this and that, but the actual story kept me going “come on, have something happen, please!”. It even takes a little bit for Alice to really enter Fleetwood’s life and I was itching for it by the time it happens. (I guess you could say that was well done?)

One of the best things here are the hints of “magic” (is it or isn’t it?), and the relationship/friendship between Fleetwood and Alice. They’re both very strong women in their very own ways, and you can see they are doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

A lot fo the time my heart was breaking for one or the other, or both, but at times it was also singing of happiness alongside them. So it was an interesting read.

So my take is that I enjoyed it greatly but wish it hadn’t been as slow as it was in developing the plot. Still, if you like period novels, a hint of magic and female friendship, this is a good book to go read.

Storytellers Book Box Club Unboxing

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The theme for this box was a great start of the year. Storytellers try to tell themselves that they’ll finally write that story this year, or something along those lines (some do write, other procrastinate). And as such it is a great thing to do for the first box of the year. But let’s see what was inside, starting on the top left, with the book:

  • Monsters by Sharon Dogar. I am a bit undecided about this book. Mostly because I am not sure about books involving the “authors” and their lives fictionalised, but it looks also intriguing and I do love the cover design. So we shall see how it happens…
  • Storytelling magnet words. This is such a cool idea because I remember always wanting some of these and then I finally had some and was overwhelmed with how to use them (this set isn’t my first). One of the things that I liked is that the words are in different colours so that helps “see” them amongst the others.
  • A small notebook for all those ideas that may escape if you don’t write them down (maybe like birds). Can’t say no to this lovely notebook and cool design.
  • A very thick pouch (the insides were very thick and padded which surprised, I am used to having flimsy pouches in boxes and always lov eth slightly more sturdy ones).
  • A postcard illustration of the story.
  • A set of postcards about writing. I wasn’t crazy about them because I don’t send that many postcards (even if I do send a lot of books to people). Maybe I need a snail mail friend…
  • A sampler of Outside, which I love the cover and shall review soonish, I promise 🙂
  • The theme card which I kidna hid because I was rushign this picture, gotta make the most out of the little daylight we get.

It wasn’t a wow blow me away box, but it definitely was up to theme and I like that, and it had the original word magnet idea which was nice to see.

Magical Artifacts Owlcrate Unboxing

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First Owlcrate of the year. An interesting start I’d say. (Just in case anyone wonders, this isn’t sponsored, I don’t have enough followers to be a box rep) Starting from the top left and going clockwise:

  • A wall tapestry. This was one of the items that puzzled me the most. Most wall tapestries I have seen are big, kinda like “wrap myself in it” big. So that was my idea of what this may be. But it is the size of a tea towel and looks like one except the fabric is different. And well, I don’t buy it that this is what a wall tapestry is. This is a glorified tea towel that I can’t use as a tea towel because the fabric is all wrong (and that I’d absolutely utterly LOVE to use as a tea towel).
  • A wooden bookmark/letter opener. Haven’t tried it yet, and I am not sure I will. It is Sting which is cool and I like it.
  • The theme card.
  • The Gilded Wolves, which was the book for this month and I am looking forward to reading it.
  • Master of Death Socks. Remember my whole, they do high quality socks I really like? This pair doesn’t fit there. I mean they’re nice quality but look cheap and I am very tired of the same logo printed in everything. Book Boxes, please be creative! With SO many books out there, and with so many things in a book to choose from, and we keep getting the same logo/quote/thingy over and over. Just please, no!
  • Owlcrate collector pin. Every box and their mother is doing some kind of monthly collector item to make sure you keep it up. Fairyloot had their bookmarks but those weren’t that awesome (plus the promise of something amazing coming if you collected them all was an empty one). Litjoy has the cards, which I like because they will eventually complete a full playing card set (the biggest problem is the actual deck/card is hard to read, but it is there). Then Fairyloot is now doing Tarot cards. Owlcrate had something going on beforehand that was monthly too, oh yes, a round pin, but now they’ve upgraded it. And I am not really into this whole collect them all if you get all our boxes. I mean, the pin is cool. Just that I don’t buy book boxes for them to try to hook me with a “collector” item to keep my subscription for forever.
  • ADSOM pouch, which I like and is slightly different than the usual ones so plus points on this one.
  • You can’t see it well, but a golden branch bracelet. I was so happy to receive it because I have a set of hair pins that match it perfectly (that I got in a different box).
  • And finally, a luggage tag, which is one of the nicest ones I’ve had in a box, it is discreet enough but also unique, and I love that.

Well, looking back on my huge description, the summary is, I wish things were a little more creative. Not that I dislike it, mostly it is because I buy book boxes to make me smile, and yeah, this made me smile but also it made me go “but why?!” which takes a little away from that smile. Still, it is one of the “semi permanent” boxes I keep at the moment, so not bad.

 

Fallen Kingdom LitJoy Crate Unboxing

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As you may already know, I discovered LitJoy a while ago and what made me decide for them were two things: that it was cheaper than Fairyloot (including shipping, and considering LitJoy is international shipping vs Fairyloot doing national shipping), and that it curates the box for the book. Yes, there is a theme, and the items fall into the theme, but they do because they genuinely reference either items of the book or things used in the book (and sometimes the theme). Plus it usually comes with an explanation of why they chose each item that is a little more in depth than most other boxes I’ve tried.

But let’s get into this box, going from left to right (there aren’t any more unboxings with this layout, don’t worry):

  • A ruling the world after a finish one more chapter Tumbler (I think that is the right word?), I like it more than the previous bottle type item they sent, as this one fits better but I probably won’t be using it. Nevertheless it is fun, in a great shade of purple.
  • Three trading cards. I like getting them but most of the time I barely recognise the characters and I am not too bothered by them (is anyone really into the whole trading cards thing?). They’re a consistent thing and I am ambiguos about them. (The art is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate that).
  • Once a King, by Erin Summerill. I have the two previous books (which I haven’t read yet) but it was nice to get this edition (it is such a gorgeous one! Classy, beautiful, one of the best “exclusive editions” I’ve seen). I was surprised they included a book that is considered the third in a series, but for me it wasn’t an issue, and actually made this a great choice.
  • Some Darkling (I may be lying) print. You can see how excited I am about it because I can’t even remember who it is, right?
  • If you can read this.. pair of socks. I wasn’t very keen about socks in book boxes when they first started because they weren’t great socks, but I am loving the good quality, not tacky ones that I have been receiving recently in different boxes, and this ones aren’t the exception.
  • Courage dear heart notebook, I loved the artwork. Narnia, yes please.
  • Weasley is King pin, which felt like a super cute badge and made me instantly smile.
  • The themed artwork print which also is the author letter (if I got it right, usually it is inside the book but there was an printing error, however it doesn’t bother me as it still fits inside the book, without damaging it so no biggie!)

All in all it was a nice box, and I was happy to not receive another reading journal and instead get a nice notebook that I can choose to use for whatever purposes I want (which may or may not be a reading journal, but who am I kidding? It definitely won’t be a journal because I haven’t been able to keep one ever).

As I have been saying before about boxes (in previous unboxing posts) missing out on the little things, for example, this box had the “weasley is king” pin which to me was just a wonderful little item I had. I could only have asked for a paper crown in it to make it better.

2018 Wrap Up, 2019 is Here!

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Happy New Year you book dragons, fire bugs, whatever you are! 🙂

Cliche but wow, it is 2019 already, can you believe it? Which to me means I will keep wiritng 2018 instead of 2019 for the next few weeks while I adjust, I have a piñata party to finish preparing for, and big things coming for this year.

But before plunging headlong into this New Year, all shiny, I wanted to recap on my 2018 and do a super speedy summary.

I launched my 101 for subscription boxes and it was a good hit (mostof it still works, however I do not subscribe to the same boxes anymore). Also, yes I know that wasn’t in 2018 but wait, there’s a reason.

Someone tagged me in a “how many subscription boxes did you buy this year?” kind of Tweet, and lo and behold, I counted. Want to guess how many I bought this year? (It is a rough number because I may have missed a few special edition boxes).

I bought over 65 subscriptions boxes. 12 Book Box Club, 12 LitJoy Crate, 5 Illumicrate (this includes the Shades of Magic/Vicious special box), about 6-9 Fairyloot boxes, around 6-8 Yume Twins, 12 Stickii Club (plus one advent calendar), 3 or 4 Owlcrates, one Holiday special crate from Spearcraft, one or two Junior boxes from those that do Junior version, 3 or 4 Wildest Dreams boxes… And seriously I have lost count.

On my last post I hinted of reducing the number, and this is why! I have bought so many boxes, have not caught up with reading all the book in them and decided I want to catch up and also bulk less. So I am sticking with LitJoy, Illumicrate and Book Box Club, with a top up of Owlcrate and some Fairyloot boxes, and maybe a few special ones, but definitely going to try to be more picky about it.

What else did I do in 2018?

Preorders! Loads and loads of preorders! I preordered over 150 books during 2018 (some where 2019 books, but I only decided to start counting properly per year in the last week, so yeah some overlap there). Which meant I bought 4 new bookcases and I have now run out of places where I can put bookshelves (oh dear!)

And the blog has kept mostly to a post every other day (with some contributions from Bea, just to make it more interesting).

And finally, my goodreads goal was 100 and I read 145.

So, let’s jump to 2019!

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My goals are relatively simple:

  • Keep blogging, reviewing books.
  • Goodreads challenge of 120 books for the year.
  • Keep preordering and supporting authors, but be selective.*
  • Try to love my body more, as I tackle body dysmorphia (which didn’t affect me as a teenager but has it’s claws on me as an adult)
  • Do a monthly giveaway on Twitter (which I have done for at least half of 2018)
  • Loose 1-2 stones to help my joints deal better with HMS (Hyper Mobile Syndrome)
  • Write the stories I start then stop then start again and never properly finish because I am tryng to adapt them to please everybody. I am going to write for one reader only, or at least just one in mind.

*I am compiling a spreadsheet of all my 2019 preorders, which you can view here if you’d like to check it out. I made it for my own record keeping but people were interested so I decided to share because sharing is caring!

That’s all from me today. Hope you had a good 2018 (or as good as it could be) and here’s to a 2019 that’s a little bit better than 2018 (hopefully).

Pokemon Holiday Parade Yume Twins Unboxing

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Let’s go everyone!

December’s Yume Twin’s box was all about pokemon (sadly I had not as much Pokemon goodness as I wished for, but nevermind). Starting from the far left and going towards the right (yes, it’s a weird layout, that’s what happens when you do a “panoramic” puzzle instead of the wisdom of a normal puzzle).

  • A Pikachu rice mold. I like rice molds, they’re cute, they make great onigiris and it is fun. However, Pikachu has thin ears so I predict a failure for me because I am not that good at it (and do not have the patience for fiddly ears). However, it is a great add on and fun!
  • Bonus cozy fluffy socks, which I squeaked a little about when I unboxed because I love cozy socks and have had to get rid of some so it was perfect to get new ones in here!
  • A Pikachu case. It comes with a carabiner and it looks quite sturdy, almsot like a game console kind of case, but it doesn’t seem the right size for either the 3DS or the Switch, so I am still trying to figure this one out.
  • Hello Kitty (or Pokemon, but I got Hello Kitty) stickers and sticky notes. Which brought me back to my childhood where I had a CD game for my Windows 98 computer (yeah, I am old now, oh well)
  • A pocket animal plushie, in this case a cow for me, which is super cute, so no complaints there. It is squishable and good as a key ring and against stress.
  • And at the end we have a charm, I got Vaporeon but you could get several different Eevee evolutions or even just Eevee or Pikachu with a Pokeball. Cute too.

I liked the box, but it was a bit sad because there wasn’t as much Pokemon in mine as I wished, and I hoped there would be a Pokeball themed item (maybe a lip balm, or a plush Pokeball or something).

Also, this is my second to last box of YumeTwins for now, as I am cutting down on my boxes (or trying to), There are reasons, which you can read about on New Year’s post 🙂