Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Book: The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
Published by Grand Central Publishing; November 2014
352 pages
Format: ebook
Genres: Autobiography/Memoir
I was given this book by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Synopsis via Goodreads: Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world's most successful music Kickstarter.
Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn't alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.
Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.

My thoughts:

I have been a fan of Amanda Palmer since 04 when a college friend played the Dresden Dolls song Coin Operated Boy. To this day, that is still one of my go-to pick me up songs. The bouncy beat gets me every time. Last year, said friend sent me the link to Amanda's TED talk (link below if you haven't seen it) and when he told me that she was writing a book kind of based on her TED talk, I knew I would be reading it as soon as I could get my hands on it. 

I was unprepared for all the feels involved in this book. I was expecting the fearlessness that I think of when I think of Amanda Palmer (who is also my own personal feminist icon), and I got that fearlessness, but at the same time, it was beautiful, and raw, and so emotional. Not only did she talk about her career as a musician, but the time when she was busking as a living statue. Her writing about music and art made me want to create something, even though my artistic talents are few and lacking. 

She also wrote about her personal life: her family, friends, and her marriage to author Neil Gaiman. (If you've read this blog for awhile, you probably know that NG is one of my favorite authors). Reading about their relationship, from meeting for the first time to marriage, felt like such a gift and a privilege. I want the kind of love that they pure and nonconformist. 

One of the few passages, early one in the book, Amanda wrote about how all she really wanted was just for someone to SEE her, for someone know know that she is REAL. That was one of the parts that made me cry. It's a feeling that I am very familiar with, I'm sure most people are. But reading those words on a page, written by someone else, gave me a feeling that I can't even begin to describe. All I could think was, "Yes. She gets it."

It took me several days to read this book, which is unusual for me when I am really loving a book. I kept having to set it down, to cry for awhile and have cups of tea. I felt like I was allowed to be a part of something special just by reading this book. That if I were ever to meet Amanda Palmer, she would see me, she would know that I too, am real, because she's been there. 

I can't recommend this book enough. The Art of Asking is a book that I can definitely pinpoint as having changed my life. I will think and view things differently now. This book has made me a better person and I am so happy, and thankful, that I read it. 

Amanda Palmer's TED Talk:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Scribbler Tales by Mary Ann Bernal

Book: The Scribbler Tales Volume 1 by Mary Ann Bernal
Published by Whispering Legends Press; September 2014
45 pages
Format: Ebook
Genres: Short Stories
I got this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis via Goodreads: Scribbler Tales is a unique mix of genres in one anthology rich with tension, humanity and genuine emotion. Unconventional settings and unexpected twists are bound to leave you pondering long after you close this book.”

In Desperate Measures, Audrey learns of Paul’s duplicity when human cloning experiments go awry. Forbidden Lore beckons Arianna and Ethan into a haunted cemetery where they are confronted by a gathering of witches with evil intent . Adrian must challenge his father to marry Rina or suffer the fate of star-crossed lovers in Forever Lost. In The Hourglass, Flair makes a covenant with the Devil to keep Brice alive. Aaron reflects upon his childhood as a military brat in Sail with Me.

My thoughts: 
If you’ve been reading a blog, you may have noticed that I am quite a fan of Mary Ann Bernal. Whenever she has something new coming out, I don’t hesitate to hop on that bandwagon and I am never sorry that I do. This trend continues with Scribbler Tales.

Scribbler Tales is a collection of 5 short stories of varying genres. Basically, if you like short stories, regardless of your genre comfort zone, there is something in Scribbler Tales that you will enjoy. (Though I dare you to not enjoy all five. Seriously.)

My favorite story in this first volume is Forever Lost. It’s one I had read before and it made me realize why I love rereading; it’s like coming home to an old friend. Desperate Measures might be my second favorite. It was not the type of story I would expect from Mary Ann Bernal, and it blew me away! So creepy!

I think that this collection really showcases her talent and diversity as a writer. Anyone can make a decent story when they have hundreds of pages to play with, but to create short stories that blow your mind in the few minutes it takes to read them is a true challenge. A challenge that Mary Ann Bernal completes with ease. I am eagerly awaiting the next volume of The Scribbler Tales.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Monthly TBR November 2014

How is it even November? Wasn't I just getting excited for fall? Mind blown.Here's a recap of what I read in October.

Sandman Vol. 2 The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James*
Horns by Joe Hill
Anya's Ghost by Vera Bosgol
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Reread)

The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Not pictured:
The Fall by Bethany Griffin
Scribbler Tales Volume 1 by Mary Ann Bernal
A Hollow Dream - Eternal Autumn by Andrew Van Wey
TBD Maine Authors book club pick

By the time that I got to Sandman and The Masque of the Red Death, I wasn't wanting to read them as I was in the beginning of the month, so they went back on my shelf. Maybe when I've powered through some of the library books I have out I will come back to them. I started reading The Fall by Bethany Griffin, but I haven't finished it yet, but I'm hoping to within the next week.
Our Maine Authors book club pick was pushed back to December so reading The Orphan Train may wait until December.

November I am focusing mostly on what I have out from then library. A lot of them are "new" to our collection, if not new releases so I really want to get them read and returned. I'm hoping to breeze through the YA and the adult fiction picks are ones I've really been looking forward to so I hope they will be a breeze. I've joined another book club (don't ask why I can't say no). This one is called Hello Hemlock, I was invited by a booktuber that I adore and the focus is Canadian literature and I am so excited. Here are the books I'm hoping to read in November:

The Enchantress Returns (Land of Stories #2) by Chris Colfer
A Grimm Warning (Land of Stories #3) by Chris Colfer
Cinder by Marissa Meyers (Lunar Chronicles #1)
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory (The Cousins' War #6)
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave #2)
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern [currently reading]
The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell [Little Book Club November read]
The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky [Book to Film November read]
All My Puny Sorrow by Miriam Toews [Hello Hemlock November read] *fingers crossed it arrives in time*
The Fall by Bethany Griffin [currently reading]
The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami [currently reading]

It seems like a lot, but there are 3 middle grade and 3 YA books in the list and they will be a breeze to get through. The Murakami novel seems long-ish at 350 pages, but the book is tiny with moderate size print so it won't take long to get though as well.

I've rediscovered my love for audible, so I'm sure a few of those titles will find their way into this list as well. But I am really confident that I can tackle this TBR list.

What are you all excited to read this month?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: The Truth of All Things by Kieran Sheilds

Book: The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields
Published by Crown; 2012
403 pages
Format: paperback
Genres: Historical Mystery/Thriller
I got this book from the library.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Synopsis via Goodreads: Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning....
When newly appointed Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute's murder in Portland, Maine, he's surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork.  He's even more surprised to learn that this death by "sticking" is a traditional method of killing a witch. 
     Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey.  Distrusted by officials because of his mixed Abenaki Indian ancestry, Grey is even more notorious for combining modern investigative techniques with an almost eerie perceptiveness.  Although skeptical of each other's methods, together the detectives pursue the killer's trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England.
     Before the killer closes in on his final victim, Lean and Grey must decipher the secret pattern to these murders--a pattern hidden within the dark history of the Salem witch trials.

*Notes* This book was the chosen read for September in the Maine Authors book club that I am a part of. It also is the first completed novel in my goal to read four novels for RIP IX's Peril In The First. (Link to RIP IX on the sidebar of my blog). 

My Thoughts:

Recently I have been going into books blind, but in debating whether or not I wanted to join this book club I did read the synopsis before I dived in. I don't believe that reading the synopsis helped in the slightest, it definitely doesn't do the story justice, but even having read the book in it's entirety, I'm not sure I could come up with a better one. 

I was really intrigued with the premise of the Salem Witch Trials, but spent the first quarter of the book a bit confused, rather than looping back to the events in Salem, it read more like a case study of the Jack the Ripper murders. But I can't really say that it is a complaint. More that the dots connected a lot slower than I expected.

But when those dots connected I was completely blown away. I thought that The Truth of All Things was going to be a breeze to get to because the chapters were really short and to me, 400 pages isn't all that much, but it is not only intense, but so dense. There are so many twists and turns, so many characters to keep track of (many of whom have motive and/or means) and just when you think you may have the plot figured out, there is a huge twist. The last 50 pages or so had me reeling! It was so good! 

An added bonus for me was that the story was set in Portland. Despite being over 100 years in the past I could still pinpoint a few places in the book that were familiar to me. I really liked the dynamic between Grey and Lean. In a way it was almost a Sherlock/Watson relationship. I'm not sure if that was intended by the author or how I chose to read the story. 

I was also impressed by how serious topics were addressed as the story unfolded in both subtle and not so subtle ways, in addition to murder/witchcraft/the occult, there were sections where racism as well as women's rights were touched on. I realize that the author is a contemporary, but it was a bold choice in his writing about that time period. I thought it was very well done.

While I don't feel that I can touch on much of the story without giving away spoilers, I hope that I have stated enough to intrigue you into giving this book a chance. I know there is a second story featuring Lean and Grey and I plan to read it sooner rather than later. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Update - October 5, 2014


Fall has definitely arrived here in Maine. The maple tree in the front yard (perhaps my favorite tree in the entire world, which I have lovingly named Bob..yes I know, I'm strange) is beautiful this year with orange and red leaves. Here is a link to a photo of Bob on my instagram.

I haven't finished a book this week, but I'm nearly done reading A Hollow Dream - Eternal Autumn by Andrew Van Wey. I have several reviews started for other books that I have read recently and now not so recently, but I have a bad case of can't finish things lately.

I have been obsessed with the show Reign. Has anyone else watched it? It follows the life of Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots) from the time she goes to France to marry the dauphin (eventually King Francis II of France) and the challenges she faces trying to uphold the marriage treaty and actually get married. I never had a chance to watch the first season when it aired and now that it is streaming on Netflix, I was super excited.

Friday night I had planned to go to bed early since I had work the next morning. I thought I would watch the first episode of Reign just to see what it was like. Seven episodes later I forced myself to try to sleep and it was definitely a rough morning, but the show is so good! Fun fact: Megan Fellows who played Anne Shirley in the Anne of Green Gables films plays Francis' mother Catherine de Medici. She is definitely not as sweet as Anne was! I'm sure that Reign is full of historical inaccuracies, and the history nerd in me has already noticed a few, but I love me a period drama.

In other news I will be pet sitting over the holiday. I am so excited to be reunited with my buddies Isis and Noah, and I am working on getting their new pup Seraphina to trust me. I went over yesterday after work to get the new details (the new pup abuses too much freedom at nightwith accidents, even though for the most part she is house broken) and to try to make friends. I was greeted with one wimpy bark from Noah and then lots of cuddles. Isis is a little bent out of shape by the new pup (and possibly that she's not the baby anymore) but she came to say hello as well. Sera and I are a work in progress. She was rescued from the streets at about 10 weeks old and the theory is that her mom (who couldn't be caught) instilled a major fear of people in the puppies.

I was there for about 45 minutes and Sera barked at me almost the entire time, poor girl. She did take a treat from me, but immedi
ately ran to the other side of the room. Her owners held her and sat next to me on the couch and were telling her things like "Jenn's nice, she's going to care for you". When Noah was being cuddly she came over to me a few times, not very close, but she seemed more secure with her big brother there. I didn't try to pet her at all because she was scared, but talked to her a bit and she touched her nose to my hand a couple times before backing up.

It took me about a day to win over Noah the first time I watched him, and with Sera it may take a bit longer. But I can tell she is a really sweet dog and we'll get there. Plus, I have permission to spoil with treats and let them lay on the "nice" sofa. I'm kind of hoping that when she realized that Noah and Isis trust me and that not only am I the only one there, but the one feeding her, she will trust me more.

The minor thoughts are do I want to take my laptop to work on blog posts while I'm there? Or do I just want to take some knitting? Which books do I take? I really should be thinking about groceries to bring over, but I did name this blog Booksessed for a reason.

I think that is all my news for this week. I am hoping to get some blogs up or at least scheduled in the next week. I read tons lately, I don't know why I am so lax about reviewing in recent months. Sigh.

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Monthly TBR - October 2014

First up is the recap of what I read in September:
Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett (This was a DNF after about 70 pages, but I invested time in it so it counts)
The Elite by Kiera Cass
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The One by Kiera Cass
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter (another DNF)
Obsidian by Jennifer L Armentrout
Rain by Amanda Sun
The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields

Here is what I am planning to ambitiously tackle in October:

Bottom to top:
Sandman Vol. 2 The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James*
Horns by Joe Hill
Anya's Ghost by Vera Bosgol
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Reread)
The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Not pictured:
The Fall by Bethany Griffin
Scribbler Tales Volume 1 by Mary Ann Bernal
A Hollow Dream - Eternal Autumn by Andrew Van Wey
TBD Maine Authors book club pick

*Soon to be airing PBS miniseries, and you know I have to read the book first.

I admit that it looks like a lot, and it may well be, but I think I can tackle it. The graphic novels and short stories will be a breeze to get through. There is the Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon this month (October 18th), and I will be house/pet sitting over the extra long Columbus Day weekend. The creatures are super cuddly so they always make great reading/movie watching companions. Now that colder weather has arrived here in Maine, I feel more apt to dive into a good book in the evenings (especially if it involves tea, slipping on some fuzzy socks, and snuggling under a blanket).

I also had a rather large library haul this week, so during the month of October I may sneak in a little reading of those, too. (Post on the haul to come, but you may have noticed in the above photo that Death Comes to Pemberley and Horns came from the library).

Finally, the next book I finish will complete my Goodreads reading challenge for the year! I challenged myself to read 60, since you can't count rereads towards the GR goal. But I do keep a separate spreadsheet of books read during the year that includes rereads so I have an accurate total of books read and other data.

What are your reading plans for October? Will you be participating in the readathon?

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Book: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Press; 2013
461 pages
Format: Large Print
Genre: Contemporary YA
I got this book from the library.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Synopsis via Goodreads: Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She's horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life. Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She's got a surly room-mate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words ...And she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone. Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realizing that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible ...

My Thoughts:

For awhile I have been hearing great things about Rainbow Rowell’s writing but hadn’t read anything by her. (Confession: I have Eleanor & Park on my kindle, but like most books on my kindle, it will sit there for months* while I acquire and read physical books). When we got Fangirl at the library, I thought I would give it a shot.

It took me almost a month to read Fangirl in it’s entirety because the only format we had was Large Print. While some love and/or need the Large Print format, it is very difficult for me to read. I find it challenging and can only read a few pages at a time. If there are also specialized fonts like anything in bold or italics, it’s almost impossible for me to read LP. Furthermore, I always feel like the author is shouting at me, or something.

I am glad I stuck it out because I LOVED this book. Plus, it was about twins, and being a twin myself, it was all the more personal to me. Being someone who didn’t really get the appeal of fanfiction, I found Wren’s scenes of writing about Simon and Baz quite interesting, (HP and Draco, anyone?) and I felt like I got a little bit of insight on that would, though I still am unlikely to read fanfiction. (Sorry, EL James**)

Back to the twins, I loved that there was a lot of emphasis on Cather and Wren being different people, and Wren wanting to be seen as an individual. (That’s all twins really want). But at the same time, there is that special twin bond that will always be there. Good on you, Rainbow Rowell. You made the twin in me very happy.

I am pretty sure that my favorite character was Reagan. She was snarky, and complicated, but a really good friend underneath it all. Levi was a close second. I loved that he was a nice guy, but still had some faults. Bonus points, for being described as always smelling of coffee.

I need to talk about the humor. It is fantastic. I laughed out loud a time or two. My favorite line has to do with a reference to Flowers In The Attic. (Disclaimer: I have never read Flowers in the Attic, but I know enough about it to appreciate the joke. Also, Ew.)

I found the ending to be quite satisfying. I even sighed from happiness as I closed the book. That is the mark of a good story right there. Perhaps when I have less physical books out from work, I will get to Eleanor & Park soon...ish.

*Or possibly years. I only read my Kindle in bed at night when I am too lazy to get up and turn on/off the light.

**Not actually sorry. Not in the slightest.