Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

‘ There’s really no honor in proving that you can carry the entire load on your own shoulders. And…it’s lonely .’

I had the pleasure of seeing Amanda Palmer live in my city at the end of October as part of her ‘There Will Be No Intermisson’ tour. It was honestly one of the most interesting and rewarding shows I have ever been to. I’m not much of a music gig person with my own anxiety but this was honestly wonderful. The next step was obviously reading her book.

Functioning as both memoir and mantra to the creative, Palmer expands on the subjects of her TEDTalk of the same title. Palmer discusses how through her experiences of being a living statue, a musician, forming the Dresden Dolls and eventually funding her solo career using a Kickstarter campaign on a historical scale. Interwoven with stories of her vulnerable moments, her approach to her fans and relationships Palmer assures us that you too can ask or help.

This is my second ever non fiction review on the blog and it I am aiming to increase the amount I read this year hopefully to something similar to what I used to read in the past. I read this book on audio since I was reading it while working over the holidays. I feel the timing of my reading of this was what made me love it so much since I recently changed job and was suffering from anxiety issues from the stress of my older one.

The audio copy of this book is narrated by Palmer herself and there is a PDF accompaniment with photos and lyrics that come with it. Also, the audio book is interspersed with actual songs by Palmer. Two of my favourites are actually on the book and made it a far more immersive experience.

Palmer is a wonderful writer with such a distinct voice, outside of her narration. We get to hear her advice to readers that it is okay to not be okay and there is nothing wrong with asking for help for anything. In fact she does discuss her own confrontation with her insecurities with asking for assistance, in her romantic life, her career and right down to asking her fans to give her a place to stay. And yes, Neil Gaiman is mentioned a lot in the book. He is her husband after all.

I have my own anxiety and this book did honestly help me understand the aspects of it I was having struggles it while I read it. Palmer felt like an eccentric aunt in my ear that was assuring me that I wasn’t alone, that help is there. I can ask. It’s okay. People I love will see me.

Seriously consider reading this if you are an artist of any kind or just, like me, a curious fan that wanted more context on some of Palmer’s work. The audio version is my preffered version that does have a bit more content to it, especially if you like Palmer’s music. Do consider checking it out and don’t forget; you can ask for help.

★★★★.5/5

Blog Tour:The Home by Sarah Stovell

Good evening readers and welcome to my stop on the Random Things Tours Blog tour for The Home by Sarah Stovell!

When the body of pregnant, fifteen-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away. As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge. A dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also a heartbreaking and insightful portrayal of the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.

I grew up surrounded by crime books. We grew up surrounded by the books of Patricia Cornwell, Martina Cole and many others. I’m telling you this is so that you won’t be alarmed when I tell you that reading this book was like going home (unintended pun, I swear).

The Home is an utter revelation and a true gift to the crime genre. One of these things I like to do going into any crime/thriller books is a total unknowing about the plot and go straight into the story. I did that again with this story and it truly benefited the entire reading experience. What followed was a constantly twisting plot that is dark beyond belief while being a very relevant discussion on issues that are very prevalent today.

We get the perspective of 3 characters as the plot unfurls and the background of each characters is revealed. What Stovell has crafted is 3 very disctinct voices that want you to trust each and every one of them and listen to their side of the story. Don’t trust a single one.

I was honestly taken aback by some of the revelation’s about Hope’s tragic background as the plot moves along. Hope is such a tragic character but has this unusual dichotomy of victim and heroine within this plot. She is obviously completely powerless to the life that she has been dealt especially for the abuse that she sustains that results in her arrival at the Home. But it is her sheer will not give in and let those people have power over, her love for the others she surrounds herself with particularly her love for Annie, that honestly casts her as the true heroine of the story.

Stovell is not even trying to hide her criticisms within this tragic story. The foster care system in the UK is not something I am very familiar with but the criticisms online are unavoidable. The foster care system in Ireland however is very much in need of a makeover with 6,000 children currently in the system. What both Annie and Hope have been through is utterly terrifying. Lara’s experience in particular is what has stuck with me, the trauma of which has left her non verbal.

The tightly woven plot alongside deeply flawed characters that balance tragic with courageous leads to a conclusion that is both satisfying and raw. This is a story that will stay with you long after you put this book down but I honestly would recommend to anyone who is looking to read more crime. You won’t be disappointed.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and ate it up as anytime it wasn’t in my hand I was genuinely scared for both Hope and Annie. Thank you to both Anne and Orenda book for the copy of this book in exchange for a review. Happy reading folks!

★★★★/5

About the Author:

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in
Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.

‘The Home’ will be published on the 6th of February 2020.

Review: Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

‘That is a truth I feel deep in my bones. Bones that plead for me to turn around, that I don’t belong here,that this place has no love for a child of Dinetah. But I do my best to ignore the cold dread that warns me to turn back.’

Good evening fellow readers. I feel this is a very interesting way to bookend the reading year. The first book I read in 2019 was Trail of Lightning and the last book I have now read in 2019 is the sequel., Storm of Locusts. And honestly, this is one of the best series I have read this year.

Four weeks after the deadly incident at Black Mesa, Maggie is trying to gather the scattered strands of her life while learning how to move on. But things are far from over as the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, goes missing with Kai, a mission with the Thirsty Boys goes horribly wrong and a cult leader has emerged known only as the White Locust. Maggie will be led outside the walls of Dinetah and beyond in order to keep what small family she has left and possibly save the world from ending again.

This was one of the bunch of sequels I was determined to read by the end of 2019 and I am so glad I got to it. This is possibly the best sequel I read all year if not one of the best sequels I have ever read. Roanhorse again displays a unique approach to the Urban Fantasy genre and brings Native culture to the forefront once again.

Without spoiling the first book in the series, Trail of Lightning, this world is already established very well especially for the sprawling journey we take across it. This book expands the world further adding to the world that lives outside Dinetah. Life beyond the wall is just as unpredictable and dangerous, if not more violent than the world of Dinetah.

We see the return of many characters, one of my favourites being the return of the Gods that now freely roam the earth. We do meet those that were present in Trail of Lightning along with some newer, trickier Gods. One particular scene involving one of my favourite tropes, a game between a mortal and a God where the human has to win a game to succeed against the God.

Urban fantasy is not a genre best known for character development but Roanhorse honestly writes the best developed characters I have seen in the past decade. Maggie undergoes such a wonderful change,both processing her feelings as a result of the previous books finale while also trying to learn and grow among her friends. The introduction of Ben, Hastiin’s niece, and her sudden presence in Maggie’s life allows for some very touching moments and a strong emphasis on growth and family in the book.

Ben is a wonderful addition to the story. There is no shortage of strong women in the story for Maggie to bounce off, especially in her more hostile moments. Ben is a young woman that is on top of being openly queer, trying to find her own place within this lawless world. Like Maggie, Ben has clan powers that gift her with being a supernatural tracker but also like Maggie, the clan powers are received as a result of a traumatic experience. There is such a strong mentor/mentee development while also learning the lesson that being hard in a world like Dinetah can sometimes kill you faster.

Honestly this plot never releases you from it’s grasp. Just like the first one the book delivers a high octane plot with a seamless set of characters within a mythology we never really get tot see in SFF. The exposure to Native American culture is something I am very grateful for and actively want to seek out after reading this. Roanhorse has crafted a ruthless world that has been handed back to the Gods and people who lived in it first and in the end, were the only ones who were ready for it.

There are very little details available at the moment for the next sequel in the series but you can be guaranteed that when it is confirmed and released it will move straight to the top of my TBR. I can’t recommend this series enough especially for fans of Buffy. Have you read this series yet? Do tell me if you have. Happy reading!

★★★★★/

My Drunken Book Haul

Good evening readers. So about 2 weeks ago I posted a tweet about some books that had arrived at my door as a result of my buying books online while drinking with my friends. This is not the first time I have done this. I like wine. I also like books.

So some of my daft reading friends and people I interact with on book twitter spoke. And I have delivered their request. Here is some of the books I have hauled under the influence.

  • The Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones: I am going to remedy this shortly but I have to go on record and admit I have never ready any of Diana Wynne Jones’s work. This caught my eye before because there is a joke among American Gods readers of the similarities between this and Gaiman’s novel. Gaiman and Wynne-Jones have joked about this in the past also. I put it on my wish list and I believe that cocktails triggered this one.
  • Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: I have been dying to read this book since it first came out but for some reason put it on the long finger. The same cocktails that triggered me to purchase The Eight Days of Luke included this book. It has a very high position on my TBR currently. So now I finally have it and have drunk Hedwig to thank.
  • Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson: This was more of an at home impulse since I had just finished reading Hopkinson’s brilliant Brown Girl in the Ring. I usually cozy up with a glass of wine while reading a book so it’s no surprise that after falling in love with Hopkinson’s debut, I bought her other popular book.
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo: I bought this after a night out with one of my best friends who has similar taste in books with me and we argued over the Man Booker Prize and BBC’s recent treatment of Bernadine Evaristo, one of the winners. In annoyance at BBC and after one too many Jamesons, I bought this online at 3 o clock in the morning. I will be reading this shortly, having read the joint winner just before the end of 2019.
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Okay this book is a long term favourite of mine but I realised one day years ago that I only had my old, treasured paperback copy that was battered. I made a note in my mind to buy a hardback copy. Then I met one of my best friends for ‘one or two’ and the book arrived a week later. I think this may have been the drunken book purchase that started them all.

There you all have it. My embarrassing habit of buying books after enjoying alcohol and how I have ended up with these particular books. Upon writing this I have 2 more on the way as a result of New Years drinks with my family. I hope that you’re all happy. Happy reading to you all!

Bookish Resolutions and 2019 in Review

Happy new year readers! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday period and you are all ready for the year ahead, reading happily and have summoned the strength to go back to work.

2019 as a year was a wonderful and wild year, life wise. Reading wise though, it was absolutely fantastic. I finally started this blog, I attended World Con, I made some wonderful friends, met many authors I loved, saw Amanda Palmer live and just so many more wonderful things. So I have some resolutions for my reading this year that I want to share with you. I have quite a few but I am super excited to start them, starting with;

  • Goodreads Goal: So for 2019 I set myself the goal of 100 books and I met that and beat it by 105%. This is my first time doing a proper goal of getting a quantity of books read and actually monitoring the books I am reading. This was hugely helpful and it is nice to track these things. For 2020 I am setting my goal for the same amount since I now have a commute to read on also.
  • Back to the Backlist: In 2019 I held back a bit from the previous year of picking up new and hyped books and this year, I’m actually making it my mission to do this. I have kind of had it with over hyping books, buying books on an impulse that they are new and just because I’ve seen tweets about it. I am not currently aware of the amount on my physical TBR or my Kindle TBR but just know it’s big. I’m going to focus on reading these this year and particularly backlisted SFF titles.
  • Continue with Tortall and the Discworld Project: As many of you know I discovered the fabulous world of Tortall this year and read the entire Immortals quartet. I have since bought the many more of the books that are set in Tortall and this year I intend to complete my journey, probably with The Protector of the Small or The Lioness series next.

    The same goes for my ongoing Discworld Project. As of the end of 2019 I have read 6 of the books, having read the first 5 in the publishing order. Next up is Wyrd Sisters so watch this space.
  • Using the library and owned TBR: I am not doing a book buying ban because they have been futile in the past. I am however going to focus on books I currently own (a lot) and also anything I have on Kindle (many) as a priority. I just renewed my library membership before Christmas and will be using this as my main source for reading books I hear about but may not want to own yet.
  • Weekly comics and comics in general: I have fallen SEVERELY behind on my weekly comics due to my old job. I am currently trying to fix this while also catch up and read the comics/trade paperbacks/ grpahic novels etc that I own. Comics are a big part of my life and I will be bringing more of them to this blog in 2020.

There you have it, some small but significant goals for the year ahead. I think these are very manageable and aren’t going to overwhelm me, especially with my new job and some other personal goals I need to work on also.

Have you guys any bookish resolutions? Are you going to make any changes to your reading for 2020? Do share them with me please. Happy reading you guys.

The Testaments- Margaret Atwood Review

‘All things come to she who waits. Time wounds all heels. Patience is a virtue. Vengeance is mine.’

Good evening all and welcome back to my world of books! Understandably, I have been busy over the festive period and I am currently changing jobs which is very exciting. But in the middle of it all, I did find time to read my most anticipated sequel of 2019.

After Offred, and the discovery of her tale, there were still women in Gilead. These women continued to survive and struggle within this world. Here is the most dangerous thing to come out of Gilead, it is the accounts of 3 women and how some saw it rise, how some kept it alive, and how they all watched it fall.

I did mention in an earlier blog post that this was one of the sequels I had to get to before the year ended (I’m currently reading another) and I’m glad I picked it up when I did. Atwood has long been a writer I admire and enjoy reading but her writing is certainly the kind you need to be in a humor to seek out. I also find with her work, especially one that is a fairly bleak setting from a previous story, you do have to suspend all hope at the door. This also historically the first ever joint winner of the Man Booker Prize, the other winner being ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo (the first black woman to win the award). This book is also on my current TBR.

Gilead has already been laid out and outlined in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, both novel and TV show, so we already have a certain idea of what to expect in this book. We actually get further expansion of the world, the size of it and the experience of living within the world. We get to see a type of mundane, whatever that is, in Gilead this time.

This story, like many of Atwood’s previous works, is powered by the characters. We get the perspective of 3 characters as previously mentioned. I am going to refuse to tell you the names of some of them since I think it will kill the experience a little of reading this and it’s technically a spoiler. We get the POV of an Aunt and 2 witness testimonies from younger characters, one who has grown up in Gilead and one that is outside of Gilead.

I know this is pretty vague compared to how I usually review but I really think this will help anyone’s reading experience. Something that I really enjoyed about this book is how it answers questions that I think everyone had after ‘The Handmaids Tale’. The answering of them don’t affect the plot or the pacing in any way which I think really is a bonus for any sequel. There is no time to linger on this fact and process anything, this world is dangerous and we need to move.

This was impossible to put down and I flew through it when I was able to read it over the Christmas period. Atwood has managed to write a sequel that is just as compelling as the previous work it follows. My mildest criticism is that I did find it hard to emotionally connect with the characters. Any of them. Whenever I have read her other books, I have always worried about a certain character (whether a handmaid or a cat) off the page when I put the book down. Offred especially is a character I have often thought of. I didn’t find this with The Testaments and it felt a little bit like I missed out a little.

Overall though this did not disappoint. This book was exactly what I was in the mood for and there is nothing more satisfying than that. I also recently rediscovered my love for literary fiction so this was a good read too to get back into this for the new year.

Do you read Margaret Atwood’s books? Have you read this? Tell me all in the comments. Thank as always for stopping by and Happy New Year everyone!

★★★★/5

Blog Tour: The Vagabond King by Jodie Bond

Welcome to my stop on the fantastic Random Things Tours blog tour for the epic The Vagabond King by Jodie Bond.

‘He meant it. Not just for the sake of the rebellion, but for his own sake.’

Threon, the Vagabond King, is torn from a life in the palace by raiders and forced to scrape a living on the streets of a foreign land. Meeting a witch from distant mountains, a rebel soldier and a woman cursed by a god, he seeks retribution through a quest to reclaim his home and throne. Together they rekindle old allegiances, face an immortal army and learn to trust one another. But when the gods begin to interfere with their plans, is it a curse or a blessing?

It’s been a while since I took a trip off the beaten path of fantasy reading and picked up something totally unknown to me. Sometimes I like to read a fantasy book or series I otherwise might not have heard of and this is definitely in that vein. to see if you are okay. If you could take Tortall but make it grimdark, you would get The Vagabond King. I truly enjoyed the moments that reminded you that this is not a fantasy book to cosy up with. This is war and we are here to fight.

The story starts off with an almighty bang with an invasion, a prince left to die and a gesture that leaves you double guessing for the entire plot. The pacing of this is perfect because it doesn’t hold back not once. I honestly was taken aback with a few moments where the story was journeying along and then wham! Something takes you back and throws you back into the mud with the characters. It’s refreshing to read something that is paced so well.

Threon is one of the many eclectic characters that we meet through the course of the story and is one of many who we see this world through. Where we usually get the story of the prince stolen from his throne, thrown into exile and made to learn the way to survive in the harsh, real world. This has already happened by the time we meet Threon and it’s straight to his fight. The reader is left with the choice of picking up a sword with him or being left behind.

The characters overall were an absolute joy, Savanta and the Gods that are well and truly manipulating everything were some of my favourites. One thing I appreciated about Bond’s writing was the Gods and how they interact with humans. They are very reminiscent of the Tuath de Dannan or even Greek gods. They need humans in order to exist and yet to insult them is to be targetted by them. Savanta is one such victim among many. It’s reassuring to read gods who are really gods.

This is definitely a book you should read if you like a royal war, outcast princes or unlikely found families. Or maybe just some realistic gods is what you need. Definitely would recommend for fans of ‘The Name of the Wind, the Tortall universe and American Gods.

Jodie Bond comes from a family of gin makers in the mountains of north Wales. She works in marketing and performs as a burlesque artist. She had an unconventional childhood, dividing her time between a quiet life on her mother’s farm and her father’s home which was infamous
for holding some of the UK’s biggest raves in the 90s.

Thank you once again Anne and Parthian books for sneding me a copy of this book for review and for having me on the blog tour!

★★★★/5