I was not a huge Amanda Palmer fan. I really didn't know a lot about her until she married Neil Gaiman (who is one of my favorite authors). One of myI was not a huge Amanda Palmer fan. I really didn't know a lot about her until she married Neil Gaiman (who is one of my favorite authors). One of my daughters is a fan. I started reading her online posts, and following her on Twitter, and found her to be not only quirky and interesting, but also genuine and interested. She wants you to engage with her. It's how she's made her entire career since the Dresden Dolls broke from the label the really didn't "get it." So, I wanted to read this book, to try and get an idea who this person was.
I can't recommend this book enough. No, it's not a step-by-step plan to help you learn to ask without the fear of hearing no. It's a memoir. It's a life story. It's honest and direct and it pulls very few punches. Palmer grew up in Massachusetts in a, if not wealthy, at least reasonably comfortable family. Yes, she's had some advantages, but she never took advantage. She left college to pursue her dreams- art and music. She spent countless hours dressed as a bride, busking for the dollars people would drop in her box in return for a flower from her bouquet. But it wasn't the "begging" that was important. Nor was it the realization that she could make more money as the Eight Foot Bride than at her job at the ice cream shop. It was here that she first began to understand that what most people wanted was just the one, tiny moment of connection. The moment when the Bride, up to then still and disconnected, would bend down to present a flower with a flourish and a moment of eye contact. That bit of interaction would become the cornerstone of her whole career.
She tells her story in small scenes, vignettes that jump around in time a bit. Through it all she is honest and doesn't gloss over the less than pretty parts. Because even for her, the woman who created the most successful Kickstarter campaign of an musician, the woman who did whole tours sleeping on the couches of fans who she didn't know other than email or Twitter, the woman who could announce a "ninja gig" in a park just hours before it happened and have hundreds or even thousands of people show up for music, conversation, and communing, there were many moments of doubt and fear. Moments when she worried about how she was going to ask for one more thing from people who had already given so much. And it is compelling reading.
As I said, this is not a self-help book, but it did teach me a lot. It made me rethink the way I look at Art and what qualifies for that label. You don't have to know who Amanda Palmer is, and you don't have to be a fan of hers or appreciate her sometimes unusual music, to understand what she is saying here. But I think if you read The Art of Asking, you will become a fan of Amanda Palmer, the person....more
It is the early 1800's, the Napoloenic Wars are over, and two wealthy British gentelmen make a bet based on a series of books in which the author claiIt is the early 1800's, the Napoloenic Wars are over, and two wealthy British gentelmen make a bet based on a series of books in which the author claims to have traveled to some of the most unknown (at the time) places in the world. Most consider the books to be mostly fiction, but some claim they could be real. Two crews set out in separate airships in a race to be first to prove or disprove the books.
The story is told mainly in journal entries and letters from Gregory Conan Watts, a war journalist who is part of one of the crews undertaking the journey. He has been hired on to write the story of the journey as it unfolds. We read his journal entries, as well as letters to both his employer and his fiancee. Occasionally, there is a letter from one of the other members of the crew. The entire collection is being published by Gregory's wife after his death.
It wasn't a bad book. In fact, there were a lot of good elements to it. The characters were varied and made quite the interesting dynamic for the voyage. There were secrets, personal agendas, and both good and bad relationships. The settings were true to the period, including the Year Without a Summer (1815). Customs, standards, and speech were all true to upper British society in the period. The steampunk elements added to the mix were believable. The book starts a bit slow, with the early journal entries and letters a bit tedious in spots, but after the crew is set and the actual voyage begins, things pick up a bit. The ending leaves the way open nicely for the sequels.
The problem I have with this one is the format. I couldn't really get into the epistolary format. It felt distant, as if I was being removed from the action and just a passive observer. That made it difficult for me to truly get invested in any of the characters or the story. It also tended to slow the plot in spots. It's an interesting idea, and seems to be done well here, but it wasn't my favorite form for storytelling.
Still, the idea of the story is good, the details are genuine to the time period, and the additional elements make this a good example of a steampunk novel. If you don't mind the format, this book should not disappoint....more
Prudence is the first book in Gail Carriger's "Custard Protocol" series, focusing on Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, daughter of Alexia Tarbotti,Prudence is the first book in Gail Carriger's "Custard Protocol" series, focusing on Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, daughter of Alexia Tarbotti, Lady Maccon of the "Parasol Protectorate" series.
Prudence, known as Rue to her friends, is a metanatural, the daughter of a werewolf and a preternatural. Where her mother simply strips supernaturals of their powers when she touches their skin, Rue not only takes away the power, but is able to use it herself, as long as she is within a certain distance . She is given an assignment by Lord Akeldama, the vampire who raised her. He is hot on the trail of a special new tea that he suspects is being grown undercover in India. He bequeths Rue her own airship, which she has painted red with spots, and christens the Spotted Custard. With an assortment of her friends, some of whom are less than fond of others, she floats off, determined to find Dama his tea. What she finds is not only a grand new brew, but a plot involving a local uprising of possible supernaturals, a kidnapping, and a regiment of werewolves that she knows only too well.
Prudence is just as silly and wonderful as any of the original series. Some people do think Carriger goes a bit over the top with these steampunk comedy mysteries, and, to be fair, in many ways she does. The Victorian mores and fashions are exxagerated, the characters are larger than life, and the humor is rarely subtle. But the mystery is genuine, the plot moves along at a fast enough pace that you don't have time to question the silliness, and it is just generally fun to read. I do enjoy good humor now and then, and wouldn't necessarily want a steady diet of this sort, but it's a nice diversion now and then.
Steampunk, werewolves, vampires, shapechangers, airships, bloomers (or lack thereof), the distress of matching the perfect hat to one's outfit, and, of course, a parasol or two- what more could you want in a funny, quick to read, delightfully humorous Victorian mystery?...more
After all the excitement (in book one, "Hot Scheming Mess") of her grandfather's long-kept secret, her newly discovered ex-KGB grandmother, the improvAfter all the excitement (in book one, "Hot Scheming Mess") of her grandfather's long-kept secret, her newly discovered ex-KGB grandmother, the improvement in her relationship with her FBI mother, and getting to know her new boyfriend, Madison Cruz needs a good day off. Grandma Nika invites Madison, her mother, and her best friend to a day at a high-end spa. Madison finishes her job at a photo shoot (dressed as a heron, no less) and not without a "Madison moment" or two, and heads to the spa, thinking of nothing but manicures, pedicures, massages, and facials. What she finds is her new boyfriend, his crazy stalker ex-girlfriend, an actor turned spa manager who was the victim of a previous "Madison moment," and a plot for revenge that could turn deadly.
These combinations of mystery, humor, and romance are not my usual reading choice. I tend to stick to sci-fi and fantasy as a rule. But it's always good to stretch out of your normal parameters once in a while, and see what else is out there. I picked up the first Madison Cruz mystery because I do like a good mystery and humor. Romance is not really my thing, but these are not heavy-handed in that department, and that adds to the appeal for me. I'm sure some fans who prefer more romance than mystery may be disappointed, but for me, the opposite is what makes these books appealing.
And the mystery is well done. It wasn't easy to figure out, and had a few twists that kept it interesting. The humor is always there, sometimes bordering on slapstick, and always getting a chuckle or two. Madison often appears flighty and superficial, but underneath the pretty green eyes and dark curls, she is smart and manages to keep her head through some intense situations. The relationship between her grandmother, mother, and herself continues to have its ups and downs, but all three are strong personalities and, while the light, humorous tone is always there, the sense that this is a real family with real relationships comes through, also. I enjoyed seeing that explored more in this book.
Fans of light mysteries with a good dose of humor and some romance will find these books to be quick, fun reads, and will, like me. look forward to Madison's next adventures....more
Floor 21: Descent picks up where Floor 21 left off. The remnants of humanity, or at least all that we know of, are living in what is essentially a skyFloor 21: Descent picks up where Floor 21 left off. The remnants of humanity, or at least all that we know of, are living in what is essentially a skyscraper that they refer to as the Tower. There is an almost sentient infection, known as the Creep, infesting the lower floors of the Tower, and the surviving people are confined to the upper floors, trying to keep the Creep at bay. Jackie is now one of the Scavengers, an elite trained group that venture into the lower Creep-infested floors to gather any supplies and food left when the Creep either killed or forced those living there higher up in the Tower. Jackie and her team are about to set out on their first mission, which has several goals. One of them is to try an determine what happened to the team that disappeared in the first book.
Like Floor 21, this story is told from Jackie's first person point of view via the recordings she makes, interspersed in the last part of the book with another voice. This mimics the structure of the first book. It's almost stream of consciousness at times, with her simply talking freely about what she's doing, how she's feeling, and her life in general. Jackie has grown in response to all that has happened, but her voice is true and very fitting a young adult in her circumstances. Not only is she dealing with the dangers of her status as Scavenger, but she also has problems with her parents, her best friend, and confusion over boys. It all makes her a nicely rounded character, and not a stereotype or trope.
This story takes some really dark turns and ramps up the creepiness (pun intended!) of the lower floors. There are more dangers and traps lurking there than ever, and the sense of real peril is all around. There were a few times I thought the story dragged a bit, with a little too much of Jackie's introspection that could have been broken up by action scenes, but in general, the plot does keep moving forward. Jackie is a terrific heroine- smart, tough, intelligent, but with her own flaws and insecurities.
There were some issues with grammar and perhaps editing that dropped me out of the story at times, but I was pulled back in quickly by the intriguing plot and excellent world building. Both books will strongly appeal to both adults and young adults who enjoy their dystopia with a healthy dose of scary....more
Vincent Graves is back. This time, he wakes up in the body of Charles, who is in a mental institution. All Vincent knows, as usual, is that Charles isVincent Graves is back. This time, he wakes up in the body of Charles, who is in a mental institution. All Vincent knows, as usual, is that Charles is dead (otherwise Vincent would not be inhabiting his body) and that his death was caused by a supernatural being. Vincent's "handler", the enigmatic as ever Church, gives Vincent forty hours to solve the mystery. Along the way, Vincent connects with an old friend, makes a few new ones, and runs into an assortment of supernatural entities, some willing to help him and some-well, not so much. If Vincent doesn't find and defeat the killer before his forty hours are up, he will be dead for real.
I like the Grave Report series, really I do. It's a clever idea: Vincent Graves (not his real name; he has no memory of his real name or past) is a soul without a body. He was killed by some sort of supernatural being, and now is sent to inhabit the bodies of others who have died by supernatural means. He has a time limit for solving the puzzle of what is preying on humankind and eliminate it. If he fails, he will die- for real. The premise is intriguing, the urban fantasy setting is real world enough and blends the supernatural elements well, and the characters are, generally speaking, interesting.
So, what's the problem? Well, the writing, actually. It just tries too hard. To be clever. To be witty. To be sharp. And, too often, it fails to be any of those. Sentences are often clunky and convoluted. The narration steps back from the story to explain either backstory, or a character's emotional state, or, in a few cases, a joke. And if you have to explain the joke... All of that takes away from the action and slows the reader down. There are also a lot of pop culture references that unfortunately seem to be in there for effect rather than as part of the character's personality. Every time the author uses the noun "pang" as a verb, I was popped out of the story while I winced. I hoped some of these issues, which I had with the first book also, would have been solved at least a little in this one.
This series has real potential. The base idea is clever and original. The supernatural world and its inhabitants are, for the most part, intriguing. Characters are good, though some lean a bit too hard on tropes. But the ideas are good, the plot is thought out, and the action, where it is allowed to run through its full course, is fast-paced. A bit more care in the writing, and this could be a really good series.
In this second book in Bledsoe's hard-boiled detective fantasy blend, we find freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse returning to his offices above AngIn this second book in Bledsoe's hard-boiled detective fantasy blend, we find freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse returning to his offices above Angelina's Tavern in Neceda. He almost runs over a young blonde woman running for her life. He agrees to help her, but they are attacked and left for dead before they can get to safety. Not only is Laura Lesperritt dead, but the assailants also killed his horse, the only horse that ever sort-of tolerated Eddie. Eddie detemines to find out what was behind Laura's apparent kidnapping and death, and that investigation leads to crime bosses, a hidden cult, a scandal that touches the royal family, and more including the surfacing of some old secrets. To top it off, he has a member of the king's guard watching his every move. It's going to take every bit of Eddie's resourcefulness to untangle the knots in this one.
I will start out by saying that Alex Bledsoe must have had me in mind when he wrote these books. I have been a fan of the hard-boiled detective genre of stories for years, and one of my main reading interests is fantasy. And when a cross like this is as well done as the Eddie LaCrosse books are, it's pretty much guaranteed I will be a fan.
The plot here moves fairly quickly with very few slow spots. Characters are developed, at least the main players. Eddie is as tough and cynical as he should be, and still he has a vulnerability or two. A few of the minor characters are less so, but, really, the evil henchman is just that, so not much more is necessary. Gritty and dark describe the setting quite nicely, and the feeling of being in the underbelly of the city is quite real and fitting for the detective genre.
Don't let the "hard-boiled" description here turn you away if you are a fantasy fan, and, on the other side, don't let the "fantasy" tag deter you detective fans. Both readers should find Eddie LaCrosse a satisfying read....more
I listened to the audiobook reading of the unabridged first edition of this book, read by Trini Alvarado
Alanna wants nothing more than to be a knightI listened to the audiobook reading of the unabridged first edition of this book, read by Trini Alvarado
Alanna wants nothing more than to be a knight of the realm. But girls are not allowed to train with weapons and warfare. Her brother wants to be a great magician. They devise a plan to switch places, with Alanna disguised as a boy and headed off to train as a knight, and Thom going to train with the magic wielders. Alanna soon finds that there is much more to keeping up her disguise and to training as a knight than she thought.
Tamora Pierce is one of the top names in high fantasy, and the Song of the Lioness Quartet (of which this is the first installment) is still one of her most popular works. I've just never gotten the chance to catch up to it until now. And, I have to say, I was a little bit disappointed. I'm not fully sure why, because the story certainly has all the high marks of good fantasy: swords and sorcery, believable characters, and plenty of action. Alanna is a strong character, and a truly wonderful example of how to do a powerful female character correctly. She is determined, she is stubborn, she is intelligent. But she is also, at time, scared, confused, and unsure. She just doesn't let those things interfere with her goal. She works her way through them, and comes out stronger at the end.
So, what was my problem? Something about the story just felt flat. Maybe it was that much of the tensions were predictable in their outcome, but that in itself is not unusual in this type of story, and hasn't stopped my enjoyment of others. There were slow parts, and they did bog down the story a bit, but those were surrounded by well-written action scenes. I can't say it was a bad read. It wasn't, and I do want to read at least the next installment.
I would certainly recommend this one to someone looking for an example of a good, strong female character in a high fantasy setting....more
In the third installment of Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, we are introduced to Cress, an orphan hacker trapped on a satellite orbiting Earth. She is forceIn the third installment of Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, we are introduced to Cress, an orphan hacker trapped on a satellite orbiting Earth. She is forced to spy on Earth for Queen Levana, and has now been tasked with tracking down the fugitive cyborg, Cinder, and her accomplice, Captain Thorne. When Cinder and her group learn about Cress and her hacker abilities, they plan to rescue her and use her skills to invade Levana's Lunar base and stop the impending wedding between Prince Kai and the evil Lunar queen. The rescue mission goes awry, the group is splintered, with Cress and Thorne stranded on Earth, Scarlet captured by Levana's agents, and Cinder left to deal with Wolf, who is almost uncontrollable in his grief over Scarlet's capture. Cinder has to figure out how to reunite the group of rebels, get them into Levana's headquarters, and stop both the wedding and the impending war between Earth and Luna.
This was another audiobook that I listened to while packing for our move. As with the other two installments of the Lunar Chronicles, Meyer takes the skeleton of a familiar fairy tale-in this case Rapunzel- and builds a first-class science fiction tale that makes a wonderful addition to the story the author is weaving.
All of Meyer's characters are individuals, with their own personalities and flaws. Her females are strong and able to fend for themselves, but they are not perfect, nor are they simply window-dressing. Cress is delightfully naive for her age. Her isolation has given her a rather skewed view of the world, and she idealizes Earth, what it must be like to live there, and particularly the rougish Captain Thorne. When those ideals are cracked, Cress reacts but also learns and grows.
The action moves along well, with very few slow spots. Some questions are answered, some of the overall story is filled in, and more detail about Cinder's heritage is revealed. And yet, enough is left untold that I was left eager to read the next installment.
Anyone who enjoys retelling of fairy tales with a completely original twist to each story would likely be satisfied with the Lunar Chronicles. ...more
The Tufa are an enigmatic people, living almost exclusively in Cloud County, in the backwoods of Tennessee. No one knows exactly where they came from,The Tufa are an enigmatic people, living almost exclusively in Cloud County, in the backwoods of Tennessee. No one knows exactly where they came from, or how they ended up in Cloud County. And the Tufa aren't exactly willing to share their secrets with outsiders. They live their lives in their homes and towns, and have little interaction with the outside world. Except for Bronwyn Hyatt, pure Tufa and First Daughter. who, restless and resentful of a tradition that would dictate her destiny, left Cloud County and enlisted in the Army. Now, wounded and decorated a hero, she returns home to heal. But there are signs that only the Tufa recognize pointing to something terrible about to happen, and it is pushing Bronwyn toward something she may not be prepared for.
This was an interesting book. It is not a big, adventuresome fantasy, with larger-than-life heroes and fast-paced action like Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse novels. This is more internal and can seem to be a bit slow in spots. But the characters are true, the mystery is multi-faceted, and the plot, while a bit thin in spots, is quite workable. Bronwyn is a layered character: tough soldier, strong-willed woman, loyal family member, scared little girl, all of whom are battling not only physical scars, but inner ones, too.
The mystery of the Tufa is never completely explained, but it is strongly hinted at, and it is an undercurrent that weaves in and out of the story, and lends it an otherworld quality, even though it is firmly set in the present day Tennessee woods. Music is an integral part of the legend and lives of all the Tufa and the melodies wind through everyone's lives and stories. Part of Bronwyn's struggle is to re-awaken her own music, which she seems to have lost somewhere in her quest to forge her own way.
The Hum and the Shiver is not the story for those looking for high fantasy, adventure, and a quick, fast plot. This one is slower-paced, yes, but that suits the Tufa and Bronwyn's quest to finally find herself and her place in a world that is facing changes it can't deny any longer. It's a good read, a satisfying read, and you will finish wanting to read more....more
In Fool Moon, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago's only practicing wizard/private detective is back. Unfortunately for Harry, his last dealIn Fool Moon, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago's only practicing wizard/private detective is back. Unfortunately for Harry, his last dealings with Karin Murphy, head of Chicago PD's Special Investigations Unit, left her not trusting him very much, and that has resulted in Harry's main source of income- consultation gigs with SIU- pretty much dried up. Until the werewolves show up. At least, that's what it looks like- people are dying in a messy, bloody manner. There are dog-like prints around the bodies, and the murders happen right around the full moon. So, Murphy has little choice but to call in Harry once again. But, as with all things magical and otherworldly, little here turns out to be what it seems, and Harry is once again off and running in a desperate attempt to find the real killers, save the innocent, and not get himself killed in the bargain. Add in a rather special FBI team, and Harry has his hands more than full with this one.
I listened to the audiobook for this one, and enjoyed it. This is the second book in the Dresden Files series, and it builds nicely on the first. We see a bit more of Harry's world, both magical and mundane. And delve deeper into the character himself, who is not only tasked with almost single-handedly keeping the otherworld in Chicago at bay, but is haunted by a few demons of his own making, as well. The plot revolves around werewolves, and there are bits of the lore here that give a fresh approach to the werewolf mythos, while staying true to what werewolves are. There are some interesting twists that keep the reader (or listener) guessing. Harry's wit is intact, and the touches of humor lighten the sometimes grim atmosphere. James Marsters does an admirable job as narrator, and gives Harry a believable voice. This is a good book for anyone who enjoys a good detective story with believable fantasy elements, as well as touches of humor that make the characters that much more real....more
First thing I have to say is that I "read" the audiobook of this novel. And the second thing is that I jumped ahead a couple books when I saw my libraFirst thing I have to say is that I "read" the audiobook of this novel. And the second thing is that I jumped ahead a couple books when I saw my library had the audiobook.
I liked this book. Of course, I am a big Terry Brooks fan, and I have liked (not necessarily loved) all of his work. In this, the first of the Dark Legacy trilogy, the Four Lands are at something of a crossroads. Magic is falling into disfavor, with the Druids being druids and guarding their magic and its secrets quite closely, and the newly resurrected scienctific factions rising. An Elven druid, Aphenglow, has been researching the elven archives at Aborlon, looking for clues to lost magics. She finds a diary, apparently written by an Elven girl who fell in love with a Darkling boy. The diary suggests that the multi-colored elfstones of legend do exist and hints at where they might be found. And that sets us off on this story's quest.
Yes, it is another quest story, as are all of the Shannara books. It does borrow much of the formula from past books, but there are intriguing bits as well. There is more political maneuvering going on here, with the humans and their new Prime Minister an active part. We see the return of the Ohmsfords, the Leah, and the Elessedil families, tied together and all necessary to the resolution of the quest. The defense of Paranor, the Druid stronghold, is quite nicely done. And there is loss, heartbreak, danger, monsters, and, most of all, the struggle to fit the various inhabitants of the Four Lands together in a newly developing world.
The book is narrated by Rosalyn Landor, an English actress. She does a good job of voicing most of the characters, although some of the males tend to sound a lot alike. I think she can be forgiven for that. All in all, it is easy to listen to.
Is it a great book? No, it isn't. Is it a good story? Yes, most definitely. If you are a fan of Brooks and Shannara, you will most likely enjoy this one, too....more
Cael lives in the Heartland, the vast stretch of country that once was home to many farms, family owned and growing everything that could be farmed. NCael lives in the Heartland, the vast stretch of country that once was home to many farms, family owned and growing everything that could be farmed. Now, it is all owned by the Empyrean, and the only crop that is grown is genetically engineered corn, which is used to make the corn syrup that provides the wealth to keep the Empyrean flotillas floating high above the common people. Cael and his crew of scavengers are out on their ship, looking for old machinery and parts to sell when they discover a secret garden of illegal vegetables. Cael sees the bounty as his way out of the dismal existence the Empyrean forces the Heartlanders to endure. Instead, he finds a rebellion, a new connection to family, and the chance to make a difference.
I read recently that Wendig considers himself a horror writer. I don't know if I would say that for all his work, although some definitely has a creepy aspect. This dystopian tale perhaps walks a line that comes close to horror, with its not-quite-sentient-but-certainly-aware engineered corn, and the Blight, a disease that turns people into almost plants. It's quite an interesting concept, and touches on many of today's controversial issues in both climate and food production. And it pains a somewhat scary picture. But not one without hope. That sliver of light does exist to push Cael and his friends on, even when they don't realize it.
The plot moves quickly once it gets going. It is a bit slow at the front end, but once the story is set-up, it gains momentum. Characters are well written, if not exceptional. The setting is the star here, at least for me. The Heartland is bleak and unfriendly. The people who are little more than forced labor for the Empyrean rulers are hard and tough. Most have a fatalistic attitude about everything. The Empyrean flotillas are like distant stars- too far to touch, a dream of wealth and power that most on the ground can never achieve. There is some mention of sex, but nothing explicit. The books are aimed at older teenagers, so that is not unexpected. There is also a fair bit of cursing, but, again, teenagers do curse, and, if you have read any of Wendig's other books, the language should not be a surprise.
All in all, this was a good read and sets up the next book nicely....more