Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin

The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard’s power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.’

I am a die hard Le Guin fan for over a year now. Starting my experience of reading her works with ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, I very quickly fell in love and this is now one of my favourite books of all time. I have only read Le Guin’s science fiction and this is my first read of her fantasy epic Earthsea.

‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ begins the story of both Earthsea and Ged who is the greatest sorcerer of Earthsea. Known as Sparrowhawk during his youth, we meet Ged as he grows from boy, to made apprentice to wizard. Along the way we watch him as he learns to confront his own mistakes and learns truly what balance means as bot ha made and a young man.

I LOVED this so much. I read it on my commute mostly and honestly was annoyed when I had to get off the bus and actually go to work (RUDE). I was aware going into this, despite my love of Le Guin’s writing that this was a classic fantasy with a male lead and my have all the tropes that I am sick of. Nope. Not. At. ALL.

For a start, I can picture Earthsea as a place so perfectly in my head. It’s always a huge indicator of my enjoyment of a world built by an author when I can see, smell and hear the world within the first few pages. This is the same distinct feeling I get from some of my favourites like Discworld, Hogwarts and Tortall. I get the distinct impression that this world as a structure mattered so much more to Le Guin as she began writing first. And apparently, this is correct as she began by drawing the map before she wrote the book.

Something else that never gets talked about definitely due to white washung within the publishing industry is that Ged, Sparrowhawk, the main protagonist, is not white. Neither is most of the wide cast of characters we encounter on his journey across Earthsea. This is another thing Le Guin spoke about at length and what prevented her from allowing illustrated versions of the books happening.

Ged is honestly one of my new favourite characters in fantasy. He is incredibly developed throughout this book. He learns so much and he still makes huge mistakes. He is flawed but in the end is a very kind and caring soul with a strong moral compass. He values those around him very dearly while also growing with the knowledge that people are at the end of the day entitled to be both good and bad at the same time.

I found there were so many notable quotes in this book aswell. There is a whole discussion between Ged and his mentor, Ogion, that I quote at the start of my review. The discussion that there is light and dark in all of us. There is this strong lesson that we are incredibly flawed beings (whether magically gifted or not) and we need to embrace that side of ourselves and we will in turn become more powerful. Ged is not like other fantasy protagonists in that he had to work to become this legendary wizard, he had to take journeys, perilous pilgrimages and risks to get where he is. He also has to learn to embrace that side of himself to learn these things.

The plot is not one we have not seen before, magical wizard travelling alone and taking on tasks. It’s even the basic plot of The Witcher TV series (which I did love). Yet, in the hands of Le Guin and her ability to craft such warm, tender stories with rich expansive worlds, it’s a story of vulnerability. It’s a story of learning to reclaim the power within with rich diverse characters that is more relevant today than ever. It is actually a story for teens so it is technically one of the YA books that came before the eruption of the YA genre if that interests you.

I’ll be very quickly continuing this series out of both a need to know what happens to Ged as well as my intention to read the rest of the Le Guin books I own (it’s a lot okay?). I would honestly recommend this to anyone who loves classic fantasy or wants to ease their way into Le Guin’s bibliography. Do tell me if you have read this, if not then please do! Happy reading all!

★★★★★/5

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

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

Five of my Favourite Short Stories

Short stories are literally a godsend. I have grown up reading anthologies, short story collections and now that I am a working woman, reading them on Kindle. There’s nothing like cleansing your reading palette with a short story, especially when it is a well written story with a good plot.

I have listed five here which I thought would be an issue (or an issue if they were all Neil Gaiman stories) but I actually could list so many more so if anyone wants to hear me rant about short stories, I’m all here for it.

I also would like to note that short stories are truly where the wide genre of books I read tend to be best displayed. I tend to love literary fiction short stories especially and there is at least one here. Without further ado;

‘…you have no conception of what goes on outside in the dark. In the lonesome places’
  • Title: ‘The Lonesome Place’ (1948)
  • Author: August Derleth
  • Genre: Horror
  • Collection taken from: American Supernatural Tales, Introduction by S. T. Joshi, Edited by S. T. Joshi and Guillermo del Toro

    I loved this story so much I use the term ‘lonesome place’ in everyday life, based my final degree year on it and I genuinely watch out for them. I walk home a lot and it’s easy to spot these places. This story is a bit Bradbury-esque with the narrator detailing the account from his younger years but it is unsettling with a sense of dread you take from the page into your everyday life.
‘And there was indeed something coming down the driveway towards the house. I could see it through the binoculars clear as day.
  • Title: ‘The Price’ (1999)
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Genre: Horror, Fantasy
  • Collection taken from: ‘Smoke and Mirrors’/ ‘M is for Magic’

    This story has stayed with me for years now. I always look at my cats that come home a bit torn up with a strong sideways glance. This is the first ever short story I read by Neil Gaiman and I think it really drove home for me how exceptional his shorter work is. There is no way you will see the ending coming. It is in 2 collections also so it is widely available.
‘There are some stories that my mother does not tell when there are men present, never at dinner. Never at parties’
  • Title: Significant Moments in the Life of my Mother (1987)
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • Collection taken from: ‘Bluebeard’s Egg and Other Stories’

    I will advise anyone who is not into the literary fiction quality about certain stories that depict humans with a very bleak brush will not like the short fiction of Margaret Atwood. I had a hard time picking one book from this collection but this one was the one that left the kind of deepest impression on me. Atwood writes characters I want to shake sometimes, but I never do forget them
‘She could smell the blood. It coated the inside of her nostrils, infiltrating her lungs.
This was worse than before. This was more’
  • Title: ‘In the Forest Dark and Deep’ (2015)
  • Author: Carrie Ryan
  • Genre: Horror, Young Adult
  • Collection takne from: ‘Slasher Girls & Monster Boys’, stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke

    This entire collection is YA horror done right and I mean very right. It was hard to pick on as there is a story as well in this collection by Leigh Bardugo that I also really love but this one really took me by surprise. Each tale in this collection is based on another famous horror story and this one in particular is based on Alice in Wonderland. And I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
‘I remembered the old custom of burying suicides as cross-roads: “Ah! I see, a suicide. How interesting! ” but for the life of me I could not make out why the horses were frightened.’
  • Title: ‘Dracula’s Guest’ (1914)
  • Author: Bram Stoker
  • Genre: Classics, Horror
  • Collection taken from: ‘Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories’

    I read this for he first time in the depths of winter in a cafe in Dingle. It was November, it was misty and I was 14 years old. I honestly think this story can function as both a mild introduction to Stoker’s magnum opus and also as a nice extra towards the story. There is a strong theory that the character in the story is Jonathan Harker (and it is basically confirmed by Stoker’s wife) but you are totally entitled to think otherwise.