Thursday, 30 May 2019

Strungballs by Mike Russell


Hello Readers, 
Thank you, Jay, for sending me a ebook copy of Strungballs by Mike Russell for free in exchange for an honest review.

This is the fourth book I have been lucky enough to receive from Jay and Mike Russell and I honestly couldn’t wait to jump back down the rabbit hole that Mike creates through his writing. I have previously reviewed Strange Medicine, and Strange Secrets and Nothing is Strange. Having already experienced Mike Russell’s stories, I began this one with an open mind and ready to jump down the rabbit hole. I knew before I started reading that it would be like nothing I have read before and I can say it is unique.
The story is revolved around Sydney, a boy living within a dystopian/futuristic community but all he knows is the corridors within his city, and the regimented robotic lifestyles he and his parents live. The city is protected by a barrier that keeps the monsters away so that the citizens can continue living their tranquil existence in their small world. Sydney world has identical rooms numbered from 1 – 999 which then brings it back to 1. The people who exist in this world seem very clinical and in routine, going to work or school daily and like clockwork, and in addition; the aspirations of most children is to work in the highly respected industries of Strungball sales or a Strungball advertising.

Unlike most dystopian/futuristic community this one donates flesh. when we met 10-year-old Sydney he is in one of the rooms that appears very clinical. It had to be he had proudly just had his first cube of flesh removed from his chest. It was for the good of the community. So, every so often these robots harvest a chunk of flesh from a person’s body. Cauterising it as they do so. Sydney doesn’t know why; it is just what is done in this city. After his operation, His proud parents then present him with his first strungball! Which is placed within the empty space where his flesh used to be. Everything is fine until Sydney learns of the ‘others’ and meets the man who has more Strungballs than anyone else. Through the first half of this book, Sydney seems to be happy, and proud that he has become a part of this tradition but then he thinks for the first time

The descriptions were minimal but it felt like an intentional move on Mike's part. Also, the characters seemed robotic and stereotypical in this city like they have all been brainwashed.  It makes the book seem very clinical and sterile, that they only focus was the Strungballs and their purpose.

I try not dissect Mike Russell’s stories they are just simply what they are the day I read them, tomorrow I will see something else in them. If you’ve seen my previous reviews of Mikes work you know that I loved his writing style. His ability to create such intense imagery in so little words still leaves me speechless like honestly, this book is only 66 pages! I know I shouldn’t be as blown away having previously read his work but it’s not the point he is a brilliant writer and deserves the recognition. I still stand by my view of Mike’s straightforward narrative paired with extremely odd and obscure subjects helped him create an enjoyable world.

L x

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

200 Degree Coffee Shop Barista School [GIFTED, AD]

Hello Readers,
If you follow my Twitter or Instagram you know that last Friday (24th May) you know I was lucky enough to be gifted the chance to take part in the 200 Degree Coffee shop barista school in Lincoln.  Despite this opportunity being gifted, I will still be as honest as always.
Let’s start by saying this class is not a formal sit-down chat you’ll soon be up making espressos and attempting latte art but most of all you’ll be enjoying yourself and getting to know coffee. We started off with a smell testing, putting your senses to the test to appreciate coffee profiles. I remember being told that coffee tends to be pretty much what it says on the tin. For example, if it smells earthy its earthly it’s not overly complicated. One thing I learnt from the smell profiles is that I know the smell of cocoa bean thanks to being a dark chocolate fan.
Before we got hands-on with the actual making, we had a little presentation about how coffee is made and where it comes from and the bean belt. I actually really enjoyed the little presentation about where the coffee comes from and finding out that all the coffee sold and used by 200 Degrees is imported by themselves and roasted in house which gives them the ability to control their blends.
We were given a little run through of how to make an espresso then we were let loose with the coffee machines. I’ll be honest I made a lot of mess I don’t know if it was me being my usually klutzy self or if it’s just messy. Espressos have a very short run time through the machine 25-30 seconds to be exact for a perfect shot. All I will say is thank you to the coffee god that they have automated grinders, depending on how coarse or fine the coffee is ground depends on the run time through the machine. I think my worst runs were a good solid 6 seconds and it was beyond bitter then a 55 second that tasted better but not the correct profile for the task at hand. At this point, I realised how competitive I am that I was getting a little frustrated with myself and kept running coffee through until I finally got my espresso runs through at the 26-second mark.
Then we got to move on to milk for me this was much more fun and enjoyable. Just as before with the espresso’s we got a little run through and were again let loose with the coffee machines. We were told that for lattes the milk must make the right noise not loud and screechy like some coffee chains, but gentle bubbling with a little squeak. We were also told how to gauge the temperature of the milk with our own hand on the bottom of the jug to get the correct temperature for latte art. I had a go at making a latte and I will be honest my lattes weren’t the best taste wise but they weren’t completely terrible and I even managed to drink one of them.
I was dreading the latte art I’m not really beautifully creative but I can do gory and I can do it well, so trying to make hearts and flowers wasn’t going my way so I went with spirals in the hopes of turning them into cobwebs.  The key is to keep everything moving, not letting anything rest. (top left was an attempt at The Darkmark, Top right was a crop circle, bottom left was going to be my cobwebs and bottom right the jury is still out on a turkey or elephant let me know what you see?)
The three hours flew by and I now have a new found respect for coffee, how it’s made, how to make it taste and look good.  I honestly can’t recommend the class enough to anyone interested in coffee and want to learn a new skill. I also think it would be a good alternative for a Hen Do or Birthday that doesn’t involve a cocktail masterclass.

Here’s a little link list

L x

Friday, 24 May 2019

Game Review: Dungeon Keeper 2


Hello Readers,

Today I am away at coffee shop event in Lincoln keep your eyes on my Instagram and Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Today on the blog we are going to look at the second Dungeon Keeper game. I do not own any rights to the images used they are from google images. I have already reviewed the first Dungeon Keeper.

So much of the game was improved for the second instalment and you didn’t have to build rooms a tile at a time. However, the main game-play is pretty much the same a real-time strategy game that turns the entire fantasy genre on its head. Dungeon Keeper Two keeps the same is tongue-in-cheek and cartoony, but engrossing, ideology from the first. In most games you are the hero, exploring the dungeon, slaying evil creatures and collecting treasure. In this tale however you must construct a dungeon, with different special rooms in order to attract different monsters. Once you've got a well-trained fighting force, your goal is to try and eliminate the goodie-two-shoes heroes who are wandering around. You are given minimal information about the world other than you're evil, you have a dungeon, you want to take over the world, and Heroes will try to enter your dungeon to kill your lovely, creatures and steal your gold.

Although Dungeon Keeper 2 shares the original's half-silly, half-scary visual design, the graphics have undergone an incredible refinement since the first game, lending Dungeon Keeper 2 had some of the best graphics you had ever seen at the time. There are only a few extra rooms you'd have hoped for much more from a sequel but we’ll take what we can get. The casino is neat, if only because a jackpot-winning minion starts dancing and singing when he wins (Disco Inferno!). Rooms have better graphics, though. The hen-houses in the hatchery, the on-wall bookshelves and torture racks, everything shows a subtle touch.


Another great feature that has greatly improved from Dungeon Keeper one is the ability to possess one of your minions and see your dungeon through their eyes. While in possession of a creature, you can gather a small army that will follow you as you lead them in an attack. You can also use special abilities, such as the Warlock’s healing power or even the Bile Demon’s projectile farting.

I do have one issue with Dungeon Keeper two and that’s you can’t stay hauled up in your base, the enemy can break through your walls even when you fortify them. Bullfrog I’m still mad! I loved being able to trap the heroes into their little section of the map and taking my time.

The game has enough sound effects to convince you that it takes place in an underground dungeon. However, the best sounds are the voice acting the narrator is both sinister and hilarious, and the enemy heroes are over-the-top in their arrogant, dismissive attitudes toward evil.

In my opinion, both Dungeon Keepers are the best strategy games of the time. Nonstop action, lots of replay value, skirmish, and multiplayer rounds out this package that should be a part of your collection. I would to say thank you again to Gog gaming for selling both Dungeon Keeper and Dungeon Keeper Two as it allowed me to relive my childhood.


Lx

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Let’s Talk About… The Heartbeat Bill


Hello Readers,
I think it’s pretty self-explanatory but I’ll put a trigger warning here for abortion and a mention of rape.
I’ve tried keeping my mouth shut and I can’t anymore! This post isn’t about whether abortion is right or wrong it is about the right to choose. This new Law isn’t only affecting people who identify as female but is also affecting the transgender and non-binary community that seem to have been forgotten in the commotion. What is happening in America right now is beyond scary If you don’t believe me read The Handmaids Tale.

Alabama joins other states, like Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio, who have enacted legislation this year to severely restrict abortion rights.

At no point is a 6-week-old fetus life more important than that of the mothers, the life of American school children being killed in school shootings or the lives of children in foster care. Sort out your priorities! You are giving more rights to blob than a school child! Anyone else see the problem here. When a little girl is born all these rights you fought for given to her in the womb instantly disappear, the moment she is born her right to choose is gone. Once again, this isn’t about whether abortion is right or wrong it is about the right to choose. Nearly one in four women in the US will have had an abortion by age 45, according to sexual and reproductive health research group Guttmacher Institute.

The heartbeat law establishes fetuses as full people meaning women could be held criminally responsible for seeking an abortion or even for having a miscarriage. The bill includes a penalty for those who perform abortions of up to 10 years in prison. The bill doesn’t explicitly exempt women who perform their own abortions with drugs, leading to speculation about whether they would also be subject to criminal charges or even face murder charges. Once again for the people at the back, this isn’t about whether abortion is right or wrong it is about the right to choose.

The bill makes no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, despite attempts to reintroduce such exceptions as an amendment. Making a woman live with the consequence of being raped is beyond inhumane and a risk to her mentality let alone the fact that even in the case of incest it’s still illegal. This means that coat hanger and backstreet abortions will be back and women will die, there is no need for it. This doesn’t even include people who will be forced to buy abortion pills online.

When undertaken by a trained health-care provider in sanitary conditions, abortions are one of the safest medical procedures available, safer even than childbirth. But when governments restrict access to abortions, people are compelled to resort to unsafe abortions, particularly those who cannot afford to travel or seek private care. Preventing women and girls from accessing abortions does not mean they stop needing one. It only forces people to seek out unsafe abortions.

Some people in the United States choose to self-manage their abortions. They report being able to find abortion pills outside of the formal medical system through unregulated online pharmacies. Let's take a step back to something less intrusive people have died from taking diet pills online as they can contain an unknown amount of an industrial chemical, that is used as a pesticide, called DNP.  Imagine all the lovely stuff that they can put into an abortion pill.

An open letter to all the lovely people in the give the child up for adoption or foster care side. For the purpose of facts and figures, I have looked at Alabama for no other reason that it was the latest state to enforce the ruling at writing. There are already ‘approximately 6,400 children in out-of-home placement who are in the custody of the Alabama Department of Human Resources’ (Adoptuskids.org, 2019).  Please enlighten me to how your plan would work.

We need to remember this new Law isn’t only affecting people who identify as female but is also affecting the transgender and non-binary community that seem to have been forgotten in the commotion. A 2018 study published in ‘Contraception: An International Reproductive Health Journal found that out of 450 self-identified trans individuals…..Six per cent reported an unplanned pregnancy, and 32 per cent chose to have abortions.’ (BENDIX, 2019)

Closing clinics that offer abortion means severing some of the most marginalised memebers within the LGBTQ community from accessible healthcare. For an organisation like Planned Parenthood whose clinics often function as an irreplaceable link to care for those living with HIV, on hormone replacement therapy, or in need of other forms of LGBTQ-related care.

Thank you to Danielle aka Space.girrl for designing such an awesome picture here is a link to her redbubble shop.  

Update One (21/05/19)
I got an update tonight that Arkansas passed a law that will allow RAPISTS sue victims who want an abortion. America stop saying hold my drink and doing something worse!

Update Two (22/05/19)
This morning it breaks that Trump wants to cut $8.5 billion from the Educations Department budget... Tell me again how you are protecting children and their future.

Lx

Sources
Adoptuskids.org. (2019). Alabama foster care and adoption guidelines. [online] Available at: https://www.adoptuskids.org/adoption-and-foster-care/how-to-adopt-and-foster/state-information/alabama [Accessed 15 May 2019].
BENDIX, T. (2019). Abortion Rights Are LGBTQ+ Rights, Too — And We Need to Fight Back. [online] them. Available at: https://www.them.us/story/abortion-access-lgbtq-rights-alabama [Accessed 16 May 2019].

Monday, 20 May 2019

Meat Market by Juno Dawson

Hello Readers,
Thank you, NetGalley, Hachette Kids and Quercus Children's Books for the chance to read Meat Market by Juno Dawson on ebook for free in exchange for an honest review
Spoilers
Publication Date: 23rd May 2019

This is the first book solely by Juno Dawson I have reviewed on Readers Enjoy Authors’ Dreams but it isn’t the first of her work I have read. I really wanted to read Meat Market after reading Clean, I loved how Clean wasn’t afraid to pull punches and shows the reader the true horrors of addiction.  I've tried to keep this a spoiler free as I can but have still left the spoiler warning.

Meat Market definitely sits in the darker side of YA fiction. Jana has just started sixth form college with her gang of friends and boyfriend and is known as the tall one.  Jana is "spotted" by a modelling agency when she is on a school trip to Thorpe Park. Jana’s naturally tall and slim, androgynous look attracts name-calling at school but is exactly what the agency is looking for. Surprised and suspicious at first, she's soon pulled into the fast-paced world of high fashion, hurled into a world of castings, catwalks and parties. Nothing had been further from her mind - until the prospect of earning a bit of money and experiencing a different world beckons.

At first, she's excited but soon Jana misses her family, her friends who seem to be getting on with their lives without her and whenever she manages to catch up with her boyfriend, she's too exhausted and all she wants to do is sleep. Modelling isn’t quite as glamorous as it may seem on the surface and Jana soon finds herself somewhat out of her depth and pulled to the dark side of the industry and finds herself alone and unprotected. The industry is as grimy as it is glamorous and there are unexpected predators at every turn. When Jana tries to expose it, she realises that everyone seems to be in on what's happening and covering it up.

The dark side of becoming a model is well portrayed it's raw and a compelling read and it explains how seductive and completely ruthless the industry can be. A hard-hitting book about the fashion industry with messages about its unrealistic expectations and its influence over those working within the industry and young girls who try to emulate their idols. I wasn’t particularly interested in the fashion stuff but really enjoyed reading Jana’s story even the awful bits. Despite not being interested in the fashion this book absolutely gripped me the way the world of fashion and supermodels is always portrayed as a glamorous and the way young girls are inspired to be a part of it but scratch the surface and you'll find the dirt just waiting to spill out.

Juno has a way of cutting straight to the heart of things and I love it and the way she creates compelling characters is amazing. Juno effortlessly moves us into the mind of Jana, and we experience her exhaustion and shock. The story is raw, it's honest and it's a little bit heart-breaking and I can't recommend it enough.

L x

Thursday, 16 May 2019

A Soul Reclaimed by Shayna Grissom blog tour (Spotlight, extract and giveaway)


Hello Readers,

Thank you, Giselle and Xpresso Book Tours for sending me a free eBook copy of A Soul Reclaimed by Shayna Grissom in exchange for a spot on the blog tour.

Today is my stop on A Soul Reclaimed Blog tour grab a biscuit and a cuppa, I’ve got a spotlight and an extract just for you. There is also a giveaway. This post contains links to buy the book, I do not profit from the sharing of these links. 

Title: A Soul Reclaimed
Author: Shayna Grissom
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Release Date: April 1st 2019
Cover Image:

Synopsis:
Hell is divided into seven regions. The first region is designated for the purest of souls, the seventh is for the evilest. There was once a king of Hell, but the steward family has ruled for centuries.
Nora, the stepdaughter of the steward is undone when her mother and step-father take away her beloved tutor, Peter. When Nora confronts the steward and her mother, the discussion is heated and ends with the steward in inexplicable pain.

Shortly after, Nora finds herself in the Starry Wood. Peter told her of the perils within the forest, and it’s not long before the inhabitants of the wood find her.  A giant hunter named Aegis comes to Nora’s aid. He is drawn to Nora, compelled to protect her from the steward’s assassins, the giants, and the evil souls who escape the seventh region.

Together, they travel the seven layers of Hell to discover why the steward is so threatened by a teenage girl.

Links to buy the book:

Author Bio:
Shayna Grissom was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband, two children, and her beloved pets. Shayna draws inspiration for her writings from binge-watching too many shows with far too much wine. She is a lover of the macabre, the strange, natural sciences, and films that feature vivid colours and imagery. Her favourite film director is Guillermo Del Toro, and her favourite books growing up were Anne Rice novels.

Author links:

Giveaway:



L x

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy


Hello Readers,
Dumplin had been on my to read pile for ages and I’m not going to lie to you guys I totally saw the film first, I’m sorry.  In my mind, the fact the film made me instantly pick up the book showed what a wonderful job the filmmakers did of translating Julie’s work to the screen. I also now have an unhealthy obsession with Dolly Parton she is the cheerleader and moral support I didn’t know I needed in my life.

Dolly Parton, Drag Queens and a story that pulls on your heartstrings, making you think about the importance of self-esteem and self-confidence and how it affects daily life and the power we all have when we feel truly ourselves. Do I really, need another reason to like this book. It was so easy to like and that is down to Julie’s writing.

Dumplin' is about a girl called Willowdean and she is fat and she knows it (her words). She doesn't go on unnecessary diets to change herself and is comfortable enough to slip on a swimsuit and go swimming with her bestie. Willowdean has been told by her mother her whole life that if she could just lose a few lbs she could compete in the Beauty pageant she runs. Will is such a relatable character, I don't take much to understand where she’s coming from or how she's feeling, and I also thought her struggle with how to think about her body is something that many people need to hear. I loved how she took no prisoners and called the bullies out it was so refreshing.

Willowdean doesn't care about her weight and she decides to show her mother and the world this by taking part in the Pageant that her mother won so many years ago. Little did Willowdean know that other girls in her class would enter, they would make waves, be laughed at, but most of all they would become friends and they would prove that they are people who deserve respect. I grew to love this group of girls and the effect they had on Willowdean.

The storyline and characters were all thoroughly enjoyable I was invested in learning about how the pageant was panning out and how Willowdean's relationships were falling apart and being put back together.  I loved all the characters, they were all unique and quirky and themselves and they all stood out from each other, which is really hard to achieve. They all had something to add to the table, they all meant something to Will and they all gave us an important lesson to take away.

Throughout the book, Julie highlights the often-unnoticed ways a person’s weight can exclude them from certain places, cultures, and experiences. Clothes powerfully measure these systems of exclusion: Fitting into clothes becomes a metaphor for fitting into society. Dumplin exposes the ways we fail to accommodate all body types. Supposedly, public places can pinch certain bodies reminding overweight people that the space wasn’t designed for them. Julie questions common assumptions about beauty and allure, focusing on how people can find different looks attractive.

This is a book about confidence, friendship, and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s a book about teenage, growing up, and growing apart.

Monday, 13 May 2019

American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Hello Readers,
I finally did it, I finally read American Gods after watching the first season on the TV series but hey we got there. The plot is complicated, yet crammed with marvels as the beginning promises pleasures and horrors, the middle disturbs the balance, and the ending surprises.


Shadow Moon is a big, soft-spoken, ex-con whose life is shattered by the tragic death of his wife (Laura) in a car accident. While reeling from the aftermath of his loss, Shadow is approached by smooth-talking and mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday. Shadow is paid by Wednesday to be an errand boy while he travels America trying to rally his troops in preparation for a war between The Old Gods, and The New Gods.

The Old Gods were brought over by immigrants. Wild, fantastical tales of elephant-headed men and trickster spiders with tales of power, lust, fear and worship. While The New Gods created by the immigrants' descendants. Have evolved into the Gods of money, media and might. Newly formed out of the hopes, dreams and desires of a people who've long since forgotten the Old Gods. I’m sorry but I have to say The Gods are the best part of this book degenerate and threadbare, yet still Gods, capable of inspiring both allegiance and terror.

The Gods are sustained in this world, by people’s worship and their belief in them. When the ancient Norsemen came to America, they brought belief in their Gods with them. When they made sacrifices to Norse Gods, it made them strong and powerful. Equally, as the people forgot about the Gods and stopped telling their tales and making offerings to them, their power waned.

These New Gods of Media, Technology, Internet, Electricity, Highways, Drugs, etc. are young, brash and full of strength due to the worship and adoration they receive. Now, these young Gods are looking to destroy The Old Gods and claim supremacy over all of Godliness.

Neil paints a portrait of America that resembles America as we know it, to me his America might be closer to the truth than some are comfortable with. To me, this story feels old and established almost legend, like in itself passed down from generation to generation. I think this was because I watched the first season of the TV series first. Neil celebrates the underground spiritual traditions, glory in the magnificence of its landmarks, landscapes, and bizarre tourist traps, and most important Gods in decline, battered and diminished as they may be by the shallowness and speed of our new technological world.  The creepiness factor is there, the writing is brilliant, Shadow is a big lug you can't help but love. I have always been fascinated by mythology, so that's an added bonus.

Gaiman loves not only fantasy, but also mystery and horror, and here he fulfils the genre requirements of all.  This story works on multiple levels on its surface its a fantasy, rich in detail and fun to read, but leaves the reader satisfied, with a lot to think about once the book is put down.

Just a little bit about the TV series I’ve just finished season two and I’m still loving it and I hated Laura most of season one and part of season two but she’s slowly melting my ice heart. Also, Ricky Whittle who plays Shadow plays Captain East in Austenland and I can’t move past it. Turns out I have an irrational fear of Crispin Glover. This goes for both the book and the TV series Bilquis ewwwww. 


Lx

Friday, 10 May 2019

The Colour of Magic by Sir Terry Pratchett


Hello Readers,

I am continuing Terry Pratchett week with the book that started it all The Colour of Magic. This year for my birthday I asked for Reaper Man, The Colour of Magic, The Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant and Going postal in the new covers by Gollancz and Doubleday they are stunning. This is the third book that has been adapted for the tv.


The colour of magic is filled with ambitious wizards and ruthless assassins, set in the city of Ankh-Morpork which has survived many dangers in the past, but now it must face a more dangerous, shocking and destructive force...TOURISM!!! The story follows two main characters, Rincewind and Twoflower. Rincewind is a cowardly fake wizard who happens to carry the most powerful spell in the Discworld in his mind and is tasked with protecting Twoflower by the ruler of Ankh-Morpork, a naive but rich insurance agent touring the Discworld, who has more luck in one day than anyone should rightfully have their whole lives. Joining the travellers is one of my favourite inanimate objects in the Discworld a multi-legged, man-eating, overprotective chest of luggage. It follows Rincewind across the Disc and protects him from any threat. It also has the uncanny ability to convey emotions (mostly menace) without possessing any facial features.

Rincewind was expelled from the wizard’s university. However, after reading a restricted book he accidentally manages to learn an extremely powerful spell.  Unfortunately, the spell leaves Rincewind without any magic! Oh and Rincewind is being plagued by DEATH who makes it his goal to kill the unfortunate wizard. So, a nice normal day on the Discworld. I love Rincewind and I love the shard of the Great magical spell lodged in his brain, Death's endless chase for him, the straight adventure he finds himself in.

Twoflower, is a naive tourist with an impossibly optimistic attitude, oodles of gold, and an indestructible, vicious and relentless treasure chest on legs to defend him. Twoflower is an insurance seller from the Agatean Empire (which is on the opposite side of the Discworld from Ankh- Morpork) who decides that he wants to travel and see the Discworld. Twoflower decides to explore Ankh- Morpork in search of adventure. Twoflower's well-meaning but careless ways earn him the attention of pirates, Dragonriders, and various supernatural entities, all looking to rid Twoflower of his treasure...not to mention his life! Twoflower is the first ever tourist to Ankh-Morpork and the ruler of the city has to keep him safe, otherwise, he’ll feel the wrath of the Agatean Empire. Twoflower is tremendous, too, and the chest is one of the greatest unsung heroes of the age.

 The world, plot and characters are well written. I love Terry’s ability to make fun of corruption, greed, cowardice, and other evils so common in the world without coming off as bitter or even very critical and his ability to create characters with many faults but makes them lovable anyway. Terry also had a great sense of comedic timing and the book kept me entertained from start to finish. Definitely, recommend a read of this. In addition, the novel is left on a great cliff-hanger making me want to read the next novel in the series.

L x

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Going Postal by Sir Terry Pratchett

Hello Readers,
I am continuing Terry Pratchett week with Going Postal. This year for my birthday I asked for Reaper Man, The Colour of Magic, The Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant and Going postal in the new covers by Gollancz and Doubleday they are stunning. This is the second of the books that has been adapted for the TV.


Going Postal takes place in the Ankh-Morpork region of Discworld. Moist Von Lipwig should have met his maker Instead, it's Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, who promptly offers him a job as Postmaster. Since his only other option is nonliving, Lipwig accepts the position with escape and profit his end-game objective. However, This will be difficult, though, as a hulking Golem, Mr Pump, has been put in place as both protector and parole officer, just in case Moist was considering abandoning his responsibilities prematurely.  Lipwig has lived by his wits since he was orphaned, becoming a master manipulator of men and women. Turns out, years spent scamming and conning the public have excellently prepared Moist von Lipwig with the skill set needed to run a vast corporation.

The post office hasn't been open for 20 years since the advent of the Internet-like clacks communication system. A quick explanation of the clacks its a mode of communication in Discworld that is made up of a grid of eight shutters By opening and closing these shutters, that converts customers' messages to ticker tape which are then relayed from one clacks tower to the next through the city. Moist's first impulse is to try to escape, but Mr Pump, his golem parole officer, quickly catches him. The all but abandoned post office of Ankh-Morpork might be harder may be a near-impossible task.

The Post Office building has been poorly maintained by ancient Junior Postman Groat and Apprentice Postman Stanley the young and straight pin collector, both long out of practice. The place is also haunted by dead postmen and guarded by Mr Tiddles, a cat.  Every surface of the massive, labyrinthine building with mountains of decades-old undelivered mail clogging every nook and cranny of the broken-down post office building.  Worse still, Lipwig could swear the mail is talking to him. Oh, and one more last nail in the coffin of the worst thing that can happen, it means taking on money-hungry Grand Trunk clacks communication and the bloodthirsty Mr Reacher Gilt.


However, it isn’t long before Lipwig expands his staff by hiring golems to deliver the mail and demanded that all old mail be delivered, and, most importantly, come up with a new innovation called "stamps," which are essentially as good as printing money. Lipwig works out that he can set his own prices and undercut the clacks. With the help of the ever-present newspaper, the Post Office is doing roaring business in no time. The devious Clacks chairman Reacher Gilt sets a banshee assassin on the Postmaster, but only manages to burn down much of the Post Office building. The banshee dies when he gets flipped onto the sorting machine.

Lipwig makes an outrageous wager that he can deliver a message to Genua faster than the Grand Clacks can. "The Smoking Gnu", a group of clacks-crackers, sets up a plan to send a killer poke into the clacks system that will destroy the machinery Lipwig talks the Gnu out of this plan and opts for a more psychological attack on the Clacks. Through the use of an intermediate Clacks tower, he intercepts the Grand Trunk's message and substitutes his own pretending it is from the ghosts of the dead Clacks operators and which exposes the illegal activities of Gilt and his Board.

As much as the intriguing and at times hilariously baffling storyline will never lose your interest, it is Von Lipwig Junior Postman Groat and Stanley, Mr Tiddles and Mr Pump, and Adora Belle Dearheart who make this book brilliant.

L x


Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Hogfather by Sir Terry Pratchett


Hello Readers,

I am continuing Terry Pratchett week with The Hogfather. This year for my birthday I asked for Reaper Man, The Colour of Magic, The Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant and Going postal in the new covers by Gollancz and Doubleday they are stunning. This is also the first of the books I’ll mention that has been adapted for the TV. This is one of the Discworld books that I've reread the most, including print and audio, and I've seen the mini-series a couple of times.


The Hogfather takes place in the Ankh-Morpork region of Discworld, on Hogswatchnight. If you’ve been good, and you hang up your stocking and the Hogfather will leave gifts. In the Discworld, The Auditors control the Universe. The Auditors invented dullness and they do not like Humans, because Humans are messy. The Auditors have decided that they need to "remove" the Hogfather so they contact the Assassin's guild and Mr Teatime is sent to "inhum" him. On Hogswatch how rude!

Teatime is in the realm of the tooth fairy trying to use what's there to assassinate the Hogfather and Susan trying to stop him (we’ll jump back to Susan) while Death finds himself in need to impersonate the legendary Hogfather to keep the belief in him alive and Death is taking children's Hogswatch wishes very literally. Also, Death is thrilled to finally have a job where people are happy to see him. Despite Death instructions to his granddaughter Susan not to get involved, so she leans on her family heritage and investigates the latest interference by the Auditors of Reality. Susan is the level-headed, self-sufficient duchess-turned-governess who firmly believes that "Real children do not go hoppity-skip unless they are on drugs." Susan tries to cling to normality but how normal is hitting bogeymen with a poker. While all this is going on the wizards...well they’re doing their thing. I love Death and there are so many funny moments with him during The Hogfather like when he tries on Hogfather's false beard for size. Despite all the fun Death learns the gift of life (Girl with Matches') and the unfairness of socio-economic status quo.

As you can imagine chaos ensues. Each and every group of characters was hilarious. From Hex only working when it's given its teddy bear and the ever-complaining raven, to The Death of Rats (since seeing the mini-series I have so much love for The Death of Rats). Then there are also the contemplative musings of Death with Albert and/or Susan.

This is a book about the nature of belief while being this story is hilariously entertaining. The reminder that things we think of as essential, eternal, unbreakable are here because we willed them to be. Such as the "Oh God" of Hangovers and the Verruca Gnome. For me, though, the real draw of the particular book is that it reminds me of things that I need to be reminded of. It reminds us that life is not fair but it bloody well should be, that fantasy is vital to humanity and it doesn’t hurt to try to be a decent human being, too.

There was fun, there was suspense, there was the signature humour as sharp as Death's scythe and this book unquestionably holds up to rereading.

Lx 

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Fifth Elephant by Sir Terry Pratchett


Hello Readers,

I am continuing Terry Pratchett week with The Fifth Elephant. This is my second favourite Pratchett book.  This year for my birthday I asked for ReaperMan, The Colour of Magic, The Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant and Going postal in the new covers by Gollancz and Doubleday they are stunning.


Now back to the elephant in the room. A strange theft and murder occur in Ankh-Morpork, and just as the Watch is about to investigate, Sam Vimes and his wife Lady Sybil are sent to Uberwald the land of vampires, werewolves, and Dwarves who rarely come to the surface to attend the coronation of the new Dwarfish Low King as ambassadors.

The rest of the Discworld has cottoned on to the potential wealth of resources that might be obtained by befriending the strange creatures that live there.  While street-hardened Sam Captain of the watch and  Duke of Ankh-Morpork, has to start learning about policies and the politics of the Discworld, Angua has disappeared and Carrot decides to hand in his resignation to go and find her, taking Gaspode with him to act as interpreter, unfortunately her trail leads to Uberwald, With Sam Vimes on his way to the coronation, that leaves Fred Colon as Acting Captain of the Watch. Poor Fred managed to annoy everyone and makes a general mess of everything. This is one of the more darker plot-driven books in the Discworld series, but the humour is still there. Sound confusing? It's not. At least, not yet.

Obviously, things start to go wrong immediately, and Sam is the perfect point of view on it all. His mix of practical cleverness, stubbornness, and slight cultural insensitivity make for an entertaining read.  It just so happened that the origins of the strange crimes in Ankh-Morpork also lead back to Uberwald and the coronation ceremony.  A fish out of water in a new land yet Vimes finds himself attempting to not only play politician and ambassador but also detective to find out the truth before the Dwarves are thrown into a bloody civil war and handling a tiny union strike back in Ankh-Morpork. Once in Uberwald, we see the family of Igor again, who are just so wonderful, they make me smile, the environmentally conscious nature by which they recycle body parts, thinking that they can be of use to someone else.

Cheery accompanies Sam and Sybil back to her homeland as a military diplomat and unfortunately her modern ways cause issues amongst the more traditional dwarves of Uberwald. Detrius the Troll attends as the cultural diplomat. however, in Uberwald the trolls and dwarves have been at war for over a hundred years. Then throw in Angua’s noble yet slightly psychotic werewolf family, oh I almost forgot to add the Vampire clan that’s on the wagon from drinking human blood.

Sir Terry mixes in lots of humour and action with thought-provoking themes and musings. Here we have fun with truth and diplomacy, eastern European folklore, royalty and conflict between orthodox and reform elements, as well as progressive politics Everyone is moving with the times, dragged kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat.

As well as having Terry's values interwoven throughout the story involves sexism and feminism, open-mindedness and acceptance, slow social change and the dangers of conservatism and racism. While featuring good people with good values who fight for each other and who stand up for what's right, even down to the very small stories.

 I remember the first time I read The Fifth Elephant I was a little annoyed that once again we would be leaving Ankh-Morpork however it worked really well allowing Terry to introduce us to new characters and develop extra layers to characters we already know and love. Note to 15-year-old me trust in Sir Terry, you daft bat.

Lx

Friday, 3 May 2019

King of Fools by Amanda Foody


Hello Readers,
Thank you, NetGalley and HQ Young Adult for the chance to read King Of Fools by Amanda Foody on ebook for free in exchange for an honest review
Spoilers
This is the second book I've read by Amanda Foody, the first was Ace of Shades the first book in this series. Ace of Shades was fast-paced, brimming with excitement and thrills, romance and violence, and sees the transformation of the female protagonist (Enne) grow from a naive young girl, into a brave, and potentially dangerous, young woman.

I was excited when I NetGalley approved my request for King of Fools I couldn’t wait to jump back into Enne world created by Amanda and to re-experience Amanda’s world building which is very complex yet easy to picture. I honestly still believe Amanda has a talent for edge-of-your-seat writing and when the story gets going it’s spectacular.  Amanda’s writing style holds you completely captive.
King of Fools starts off right where Ace of Shades ends.  After the Game of Shadows, there is a huge price on both their heads and they've both lost pretty much everything. Enne and Levi are wanted for murder and Vianca's son. With the Chancellor of the Republic dead, New Reynes is thrust into campaign season and there are two parties vying for power.

New Reynes is in chaos as it was during the revolution, and history has a way of repeating itself. Levi wants his gang back but after being challenged by his third and losing all their money he's not sure how to win back their trust or sort out their finances. While Enne, on the other hand, doesn't want the reputation, she's earned. Just like Ace of Shades we have the story told from multiple points of view: Enne, Levi, and Jac. Jac's perspective helped develop a new dimension for the other characters, specifically in my opinion for Levi.

Amanda entwines so much cleverness and un-subtle feminism throughout this book and I love it. I was a little apprehensive that this book would suffer from Middle Book Syndrome and I was wrong it didn’t. There is a lot going on in this sequel and there is never a dull moment. I adore how many strong female characters we have in this instalment. Not just Enne and Lola who I already knew and loved but also new characters like Grace, Tock and Sophia. Our female characters do not fall into the YA stereotype of a strong female, they like nice things, dresses, and romance books.

The ladies are strong and don’t need to be saved by men, and their struggles are more than their relationship with men. There is so much character development in this second book that sets us up for book three and we learn more about the history and politics of New Reynes. All of the characters become so much more than what they originally were, and Amanda's characterization of them made them feel like real people who make mistakes and occasionally do bad things. Everyone in this book is searching for something, vying for power of their very own.

Overall, I really enjoyed King of Fools! If you want a series that is fast paced, full of mystery, gangs, action, romance and intrigue then you're absolutely going to want to pick this series up. I'm already trying to work out who I need to sell my soul to get book three.

L x

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian


Hello Readers,
Thank you, NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the chance to read this ebook for free in exchange for an honest review.
Spoilers
Publication Date: May 2

I loved Ash Princess as it is a darker book than the typical YA fantasy and it was a brilliant debut novel. Laura Sebastian did an amazing job of painting a picture of Theo’s (a.k.a. Theodosia, a.k.a Thora) world.  So, imagine how excited I was when I saw that the second book in the trilogy was available to request on NetGalley.


Before we delve into the book review quick mention that this is the second book in a trilogy so I was a little apprehensive when I requested it as there is always the chance the second book suffers from Second Book Syndrome. However, Lady Smoke exceeded my expectations and was a brilliant second instalment to the Ash Princess trilogy.

Lady Smoke takes place right after the events of Ash Princess where Theo escapes her homeland and is on a ship owned by none other than pirate Dragonsbane who happens to be Theo's aunt and Artemesia's mother.  Now that Queen Theodosia has escaped with her life and has Prince Soren as her prisoner, the next step in Theo's journey is to build an army to finally put an end to the Kaiser by trying to form an alliance with another country.  The only problem is, she has to take on a husband, something a queen has never done in Astrea. However, the pirate Dragonsbane has other plans in mind and they don't exactly line up with what Theo wants for her future. Theo soon realises it’s one thing to escape the Kaiser’s stronghold, it’s another thing altogether to tear it from his murderous grasp and take back her country.

 I really appreciated the characters and their development throughout this book as Laura expands on their backgrounds and personalities of the characters we’ve come to love. As these characters fled from the Kaiser the geography of the land is revealed and we get to see more of the damage that the Kaiser has done. I loved learning more about this world and the unique politics that governed each realm. We see how far the Kaisers cruelty has spread his hate and that we aren’t just dealing with our little band of heroes any more we are dealing with entire countries who live in fear and poverty because they have been conquered by the Kalovaxians. It seemed the Kaiser is not the only unethical player in this world and Theo and her crew must once again concern themselves with the niceties court and the political scheming necessary to get their freedom returned to them.

Theo is being forced into forging an alliance through marriage which means forsaking what Theo believes in. In a sad roundabout way, Theo finds herself having to giving up her newly gained freedom in exchange for the men, arms and funds needed to take back Astrea. Despite became Queen Theo still has a lot of learning and growing up to do. Despite suitors pouring into Sta’Crivero, Theo is still not safe from the long reach of the Kaiser. Laura takes the book through a feminist arc that i loved and I applaud Theo for standing up for not only her country but for herself. As Theo calls into question the patriarchal system and the outdated traditions that further gender inequality, that are only accepted due to nothing more than being practised for years and being committed to memory.

The Theo we get introduced to in Ash Princess is a very different to the one that appears in Lady Smoke. Theo in Ash Princess was forced to live with her mother’s murder when her kingdom was overtaken by The Kaiser and her original desires were almost solely of self-preservation.  Which is understandable as Theo's mother, the Queen, was murdered in front of her eyes when Theo was 6, the country was conquered, the land was taken and resources pillaged. Theo was then humiliated and subjected to torture for 10 years under the “care” of the conquerors. But this once mocked Ash Princess is now determined to fulfil her role as Queen Theo, and this Queen wants her land back and her people freed her soft exterior has been whittled away to reveal a strength that will not allow her to become a plaything ever again.

Lady Smoke delves more into the idea of doing whatever it takes to do what is right even if it means giving up your pride and accepting help. Laura steeped this book with the embodiment of female empowerment and I have so much love for her for doing so.  I want these characters to succeed and honestly cares what's going to happen in the final book. I cannot recommend Ash Princess and Lady Smoke enough. This is one trilogy not to be missed!

L x