Read, If You Like: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Steifvater

I wrote a review for The Raven Boys about three millennia ago, so as Call Down the Hawk has been something I’ve looked forward to since Maggie mentioned it on Twitter in 2016, it felt fitting to do my current version of a review, which is Read, If You Like. As with all of the reviews-slash-vague-recommendations I do, there are no spoilers!

Read Call Down the Hawk (Maggie Stiefvater, 2019), if you like:

  • Excellent dress sense
  • Questionable dress sense
  • Art. Traditional, historical art,  I mean. Museum art. The sort that talking about gets you quiet respect at dinner parties or makes you sound like a dick depending on how you talk about it
  • Weird shit magic. Properly odd ‘what the fuck is going on do I understand what I am reading wait yes I do this is fabulously mind-bending’ magic
  • Women with beautiful hair. I can think of at least three and probably six women in this novel whose hair is stunning
  • The Raven Cycle. Call Down the Hawk starts after the end of The Raven Cycle, and you definitely don’t have to have read it to understand or enjoy it. IT STANDS ON ITS OWN MAGICAL MERIT. Certain scenes will be more delicious and/or devastating if you have, though, and you should read The Raven Cycle anyway, for health reasons
  • The sort of anxiety that rips a literal hole in your stomach. I meant this in relation to a character, but to be honest I am now thinking a lot about the sequel BE STILL MY INSIDES
  • Over thinking about how you’re living your early-mid twenties. I am now in my mid (!) twenties and whoever said it’s easier once you’re out of your teens was a damn liar. I mean, 24 is better than 17 was, but does it look like what I thought it might look like? Nah. Call Down the Hawk gets it.

Writing this has reminded me that I almost impulse bought a BMW over the weekend. It was red and convertible. I would love to blame the fact there’s a BMW in Call Down the Hawk, but mostly it’s the car’s fault for being the only vehicle on the entire internet that wasn’t absolutely hideous. Why is buying a car so difficult? All I want is something with medium boot space and an automatic gear shift that doesn’t look as though it was designed for a semi-retired boules enthusiast (it’s time to admit that the Mini is giving me taxi driver’s hip and that my complete lack of ease behind the wheel is mostly caused by the fact I can’t reach the pedals). GIVE ME A CAR I AM COMFORTABLE TAKING ON A ROADS, PLEASE, UNIVERSE. One that doesn’t make me feel like I’m about to start a conversation about annuities and The Archers, please, universe.

What a detour from the original topic. Here is my copy of Call Down the Hawk. There is a bit of gin on it already, and some bathwater. Also butter. Those were mostly unrelated readings. I pulled a couple of tarot cards for the picture, since I don’t have any scented candles or bookstagram accessories. By pulled I mean chose the ones that felt apt, which I guess is spoilery if you know your tarot but haven’t read the book yet? FAIR WARNING LOOK AWAY NOW.

paperback of 'Call Down the Hawk' by Maggie Steifvater next to The Tower and Eight of Swords from Raven's Prophecy Tarot

I’m off to look for a car that looks like that BMW but smaller-ish and with less of a rep. Ish.

This is a story about tarot decks and YA novels.

This evening I bought two sets of tarot cards. Officially it’s because I’m going to a Halloween party at the weekend. Unofficially, I feel really guilty about a small amount of book piracy in 2015.

Officially, I need tarot cards for my costume. I don’t, really, but the dress and shawl I bought in a charity shop are actually just a regular dress and shawl, so I feel like I might accidentally just look like an eccentric  if I don’t bring props. I left it way too late to buy anything fancy – and it’s a house party, not a seance – but I probably could’ve just bought a used deck off eBay or Depop. Instead, because I’ve been meaning to learn more about the tarot for ages, I trawled Etsy and Folksy and eBay and Depop looking for a deck with I genuinely like. No faux realistic graphics. Nothing with too many cats. No pictures of ethereal nymphs wearing gauze.

I found this cute major arcana deck on Etsy with incredibly sweet coffin-shaped cards, but the processing time is up to two weeks! So I bought it anyway because I wanted to support an indie artist (and because incredibly sweet coffin-shaped art, it turns out, is totally not an oxymoron). But I was still thinking, you can’t just dress as an eccentric, Francesca. You already are an eccentric, Francesca. So I trawled for decks with one-day shipping. They were all ethereal nymphs! Or quite expensive given this is a house party not a seance.

Then I remembered that in 2015, I bootlegged a copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. If you’re new here, Maggie’s Raven Cycle series, in which The Dream Thieves features, is my favourite book series. I’m trying to be kinder to myself when considering past actions, so I am going to reflect upon my reading of a pirated copy-and-paste edition of TDT as a minor moral misstep during a time in which a fictional world brought me great comfort. Also, my library was taking forever to get its copy in.

I knew it was a shitty thing to do though. Then I bought a couple of Maggie’s books used off Amazon, that tax paying, small business supporting gem. Have I mentioned I’m now an indie author.

I’ve since atoned for my sins: I have a print from Maggie’s official store on my wall; at least three of the Maggie books on my shelf were purchased from a bricks-and-mortar shop; I’ve bought copies of her work for family; my YALC ticket that time was absolutely not scalped unlike My Chemical Romance tickets 9 years ago but that’s for another day; her next novel is pre-ordered at my nearest Waterstones.

But my grandmother was Catholic, so every time I see her post about book piracy and The Raven Cycle, I feel completely responsible.

So when I was considering one-day shipping and a costume prop I will realistically be too drunk to focus on, I got Maggie’s Raven Prophecy deck from Waterstones. Express shipping straight to the front door.

cover of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Prophecy tarot deck

Officially, I’m a professional indie creator and a little bit into karma. I can’t ask people to buy creepy cute art from my Etsy shop if I don’t get my own coffin-shaped tarot decks on Etsy; I can’t ask people to buy my weird magic YA novel instead of moaning about why it’s not already on Amazon if I don’t buy weird magic YA novels somewhere that isn’t Amazon. Or, in this case, buy the tarot card-companion to the weird magic YA novel. And really, if we’re being spiritual, the whole reason I have a vague interest in the tarot is The Raven Cycle, so this is quite… cyclical.

I’ve just now realised I don’t have a tarot guide. I have no idea how to read the multiple decks I’m expecting in the next one-to-fourteen working days. Good thing I’ll be three sheets to the wind for most of this party, then!

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I had my tarot read in Thailand? I can’t remember if I ever wrote about it. I can’t remember much of the reading, to be honest, except that I think I was supposed to get married at 24 or 26. It was dark, though, so maybe she interpreted marriage when she should have interpreted huge professional success. Or the desire to drive on motorways. Not sure how specific these things get.

If either of these decks actually turn up by Saturday evening, I’ll post pictures of them with my costume. I’ve bought a lace scarf and gloves off Depop that was originally for an ’80s night… I’m starting to think I’m just going to look like one of the Shelbys.

Update: I did in fact look like one of the Shelbys. I’ve put multiple card/costume photos here.

9 Raven's Prophecy tarot cards with a hand

In which I went to YALC and so did that guy from Game of Thrones apparently

Attending YALC this year was a last minute decision, by which I mean I bought my ticket on the Wednesday and went on the Saturday. I thought it might be nice to visit as a reader, because it’s this heart-warming day of bookish people who are really friendly and polite talking about books with other bookish people who are friendly and polite. It’s also a great place to pick up books on the cheap without resorting to Amazon or ripping off any authors, which I think justifies the train fare and ticket entry. You also rub shoulders with those authors, who are also bookish and friendly and polite. Everyone is just… there for books. IT’S HEAVEN.

(Side note Jason Mamoa was there on Saturday. Not as a guest, apparently he just wandered through on the way to Comic Con downstairs. That is why you should go to YALC.)

I also went to do some work for The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, and by work I mean ‘hand out some hastily-designed business cards to the cool indie publishing houses and sit in on the agents’ arena talks’. This was probably less successful, as a) even most indie publishers won’t take unsolicited manuscripts even if they did look up the project, and b) by putting the book on Patreon myself I might have accidentally harmed my chances of it getting picked up by an agent. It was really good to hear more about getting an agent from agents, because it highlighted what I could do if I were to pitch The Princess and the Dragon a second time around. Possibly I should have pitched it as YA, not middle grade, a thought that did not occur to me until I was doing the second big round of edits and realised that it’s not really a middle grade book. Possibly my cover letter could have been stronger. Possibly the agents I pitched to just didn’t, you know, vibe with my weird angry princess and her strangely Catalan-esque kingdom. It’s hard to know for sure when they’re too busy to provide feedback.

Basically, pitching to an agent is as soul destroying as applying for a job, except the process is even slower.

ew from sunshinethekatt.tumblr
(from Tumblr)

That being said, I learnt a lot and I met approximately 473638 different booksellers and agents and publicists. Everyone is so genuinely friendly that even if an agent says something you’re not happy to hear, like ‘the market is kind of saturated with fairy tale retellings’ or ‘if you re-pitch your book, you could just not mention your Patreon’, you don’t particularly mind. Even if I was writing The Princess and the Dragon before all those retellings came out and I’ve never even read any and even if I’ve put more effort into my Patreon than I did most of my GCSEs.  But let’s not dwell on that.

I  popped downstairs to Comic Con for a bit while I was there. It was way too hot and crowded but does have a very cool artists’ alley that’s also probably worth the ticket price. I met a handful of artists I would kill to commission Princess and the Dragon art from. There were a few cosplayers I would commission clothes from. The talent floating around these conventions is intense. If I were genuinely wealthy and needed some artwork made for my house or something, I’d just hang around Comic Con all weekend. Life goals, huh.

 

Read, If You Like: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

Full disclosure: I was sent this book by the lovely Nina Douglas, a PR aficionado  I met at YALC a couple of years ago. I used to be a bit uppity about accepting books and things for reviews, but then I decided that a) this blog is a hobby, b) reading is a hobby so, c) LET’S READ EVERYTHING. Also, I’m not exactly the sort of blogger to shy away from blatant honesty just because I got a product for free.

Second full disclosure: I first started reading this book in January. If I had realised that writing a book was going to make it much harder to sit down and read books, I may have started dragonnovel. I suppose I have a reason to hurry up and finish it, ha. Anyway, I really struggled to get into A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars. I could blame the first person narrative, which is not my favourite narrative, or the general writing style which I found hard to follow on occasion, but to be honest I think if I had taken book to a beach holiday and read it in a day, I would have enjoyed it much more. My bad. I need to finish dragonnovel and go on holiday immediately. Right, the review:

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe (2017)

Read, if you like…

  • Circuses
  • First person narrative
  • Ghosts
  • Ghanaian folklore
  • Beautiful book covers. I mean, look at that embossed gold type. I want to frame it
  • Spain
  • Books that aren’t all about white people doing the same white people things you’ve read about in 80 other books
  • Stories about people trafficking, but not like on the news
  • So, humanised stories about people trafficking. Stories where people have names and ambitions and family members and that sort of thing
  • Magic
  • Really shady adults
  • The sort of family you choose for yourself
  • Birds
  • Precocious teenagers
  • POC and LGBT rep, but not in a way that swallows up the whole book. This is a book with people of colour and LGBT people, in the same way as it’s a book with magic and ghosts and circuses. It’s there, but it isn’t preachy and it isn’t tokenism. WE NEED MORE OF THESE BOOKS PLEASE AUTHORS. AGENTS, PLEASE SIGN MORE AUTHORS WHO ARE WRITING THESE BOOKS. THANKS.

No seriously I wasn’t kidding about the cover. I would usually go for some sort of background for #bookstagram goals but no adornment is necessary:

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe cover on white background

I saw online that the novel isn’t available on the US, but I’m not sure if that’s still true (or if it ever was true) so if you want to read it, I reckon you should either hit up Google or ask Ms Badoe about stockists on Twitter.

Introducing a BOOK, Sort Of, That I’m Writing, I Think?

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

It occurred to me recently that a) I should start calling the Giant Enormous Writing Project a book, and b) I should probably talk about it more because it’s driving me a bit mad, in a good way, and when it’s done I’m going to brag about it until hell freezes over, and I should set the ground work for that.

So, yeah, I’m writing a book! It hasn’t got a title yet, before you ask, but I’m calling it dragonnovel, because there is at least one dragon in it. It’s a children’s book, probably. I’m not telling anyone anything else yet, because the dragon is one of about three elements that definitely won’t change. Kind of like in an essay when you know that you’ve got to answer a specific question but how you’ll answer it is really anyone’s guess because you’ve deleted about 5,000 words and made 14 separate plans and look please come back later I need emergency snacks and the ability to spot repeated sentences with my eyes closed.

But it’s going well. This week I rewrote an irritating paragraph and I haven’t felt such a sense of satisfaction since I finished my A Levels. I guess the whole not-discussing-the-plot thing is going to keep this post quite short haha, because all I can tell you is that it’s a CRUCIAL PARAGRAPH. There are also many characters. Several conversations pass the Bechdel Test. I think. Ugh, now I’m paranoid that they don’t. I’ll check in a minute. Look, I made a Pinterest board? Enjoy?

I’m going to try to sort-of track my progress with the book by blogging about it sporadically. In theory, the further I get the more I’ll be able to talk about without worrying that whatever I’m telling you won’t make it into the final draft, so hit me up if you have questions you want answering or have strong feelings about dragon mythology or something.

I’m also here because even though I hate talking about works in progress, a condition of finally talking about dragonnovel is to share my Patreon page more often. I’ve reworked it – again! – because I could do with a little bit of financial breathing space while I write, just for tech expenses and website domains and the like, so I can focus on getting as many MCR jokes into dragonnovel as possible and finishing a proper first draft by the end of summer. I want to make this whole thing as fun and off-beat as possible, too, so everyone who pledges from now until I’m finished writing will get their names in the thank yous of the book, and anyone who pledges $3 or more will get a free ebook/PDF of the finished novel. I am hoping to get traditionally published with a proper agent, but I’ve been working on dragonnovel since 2016 and even if I end up printing it on my home computer, there will be an ebook or PDF. All patrons will also get behind the scenes updates and extra content like playlists and previews (spoiler alert: Lorde is on a playlist). I’m still going to write little short stories and things too, as a break, so there is still early-access to those. Oh and I’ll always name a character after patrons, because I enjoy naming characters hugely.

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures
from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

I’ve done some research and did a soft opening of the new page for friends and apparently it all makes a lot more sense than the old one did, so have a read and bask in the glory of my reward tier names. I also got rid of all tiers above $5, because who has more than $5 spare every month, and added some cool rewards. I’m not really ever expecting to hit 10 patrons but if I do, you guys better prepare yourselves for some excellent fan fiction reading.

Have a good weekend!

How to Have a Snow Day When You’re An Adult

House of Night neon poster by Francesca Burke

IT’S SNOWING! I haven’t had a snow day since I was 17, but I also didn’t have to go into my office job today and was going to work from home regardless. Not remotely fair, and the desire to curl up with a book is immense. The snuggle struggle is real, you guys. But I have money to make and a university course to pass, so I loaded up some podcasts and have ended up having an unusually productive day? Maybe being locked inside the house with a foot of snow on the ground is a good way to focus haha. So here is how to have a snow day as an adult!

Step 1: Ughh. Just get it together.

I got showered and dressed and put perfume on to get into ‘the work mood’, which is weird because I never wear perfume when I work from home. Clearly that should change.

Step 2: Do your physio.

Wait, that’s just me.

Step 3: Chain yourself to your desk!

Shit I’ve done so far: some market research for Etsy, a section of my course (I’m studying women’s suffrage and hellooooo the only thing I’ll ever talk about at dinner parties ever again), cleared out some of my emails and done some graphic design. One of the designs is for this very blog’s sidebar:

Indifferent Ignorance Patreon sidebar advert

The other is a cool Heroes of Olympus-inspired poster I’ve wanted to do for ages:

House of Night neon poster by Francesca Burke

Step 4: But take lots of breaks to make a cup of tea and stare at your snowy garden!

Do you want to build a snowman? Yes. Do you want to go outside? No.

Step 5: Check your dogs are still alive

Both dogs refused to go outside this morning. Fred inspected the garden at midday and Donnie chanced it about half an hour ago. They have the right idea.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat until 5pm

Or whenever you normally clock off when you work from home!

YOU’RE WELCOME. I have to go and do some more physio now. I might also build a snowman.

Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2017

The Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera UK Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Book of the Year: Backpack & They Both Die at the End

Two books have defined my year. The first is Backpack by Emily Barr, which was actually published about 15 years ago. It’s about a girl who goes backpacking in South East Asia, and I found a second hand copy in a shop in Hanoi. It’s also about a string of murders of backpackers in South East Asia, so I possibly made a mistake by staying up late to finish it in my bunk in Laos in almost the exact place where some of the action happens. It’s a brilliant take on the whole ‘British person goes travelling to find themselves’ narrative and has some good twists, so you should definitely read it from the comfort of your English armchair and then book yourself a flight to Asia.

The second book is They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. I started using GoodReads this year to keep track of all the books I see on Instagram and in those often questionable ‘recommended books for x’ lists, and I’m really glad I listened to the recommendations for this one. My review of it is here.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera UK edition on a map background

Special commendation to: Angie Thomas‘ debut The Hate U Give. I want to do a proper review for it so I won’t say too much except pick it up right now and read until you reevaluate your world views.

Album of the Year: Melodrama

I know who my Lorde and saviour is, thanks.

 

Right, onto the news.

The ‘I Can’t Believe I’m Living Through This Shit, Although it Will Probably Kill Me So At Least There’s That’ Story of the Year

There are so many options, so I’m just going to list my favourites, aka the ones I’ll be complaining to my grandchildren about:

  • Trump’s inauguration
  • Another election how many fucking elections does one country need
  • When the DUP won the bloody election
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg’s opinions

The ‘I Witnessed this Shit Live and Wish It Had Killed Me’ News Story of the Year: Brexit

Brexit. All the Brexit. Big Brexit news on the actual news and little Brexit conversations in my house. Blue passports. The Daily Mail. Random people on the news with opinions about Brexit. The fact that, despite the entire country’s obsession with Brexit, very little tangible Brexit has occurred. So Ireland won’t have a boarder? Was anyone ever really going to look the Irish people in the face and say ‘hey I know there was a decades-long violent war in this beautiful land about boarders and sovereignty that was concluded with great effort on both sides, but I really feel that we ought to put a giant bloody wall up and reopen wounds that are only just starting to heal because BREXIT MEANS BREXIT’?

Probably not.

Special commendation to: the American government. Obviously it was tough to choose between Trump and Brexit, but on reflection I have decided that Trump will eventually be impeached, die from all those Cokes he drinks or come to the end of his term and deny he was ever president in the first place. The clean up process won’t be pretty, but I have confidence in the better part of America. Or the part that doesn’t want to die from climate change and nuclear war, anyway. The process and effects of Brexit, on the other hand, are likely to chug on until I reach retirement age which I am assuming will be 95. But who cares as long as we have blue passports!

Outstanding Achievement for Distracting Me from the Horror of the Year for Five Minutes: Blue Planet II

Thank you, little puffin families, for restoring my faith in the husbands of this world. You guys saw what puffins go through to bring back food for their pufflings, right? And the parents split the childcare! I wish I understood science because studying puffin families sounds like a nice job to have. And did you see the sea lions hunting tuna? How do humans think we’re the smartest species I frequently can’t locate tea bags.

Special commendation to: the country of Australia for passing equal marriage (congratulations, you have one-upped the UK) and every Women’s March placard, poster and pussy hat for warming my feminist bones.

Outstanding Social Media Moment: the Big Green Bookshop vs Piers Morgan

The Internet has been a double edged sword this year; the news is so important that it’s hard to look away, but so awful and consuming that it’s equally as important to know when to look away. But sometimes humanity proves it’s all right, and my favourite example of that this year is when the a man named Simon, who co-owns the Big Green Bookshop in London, tweeted Piers Morgan the entirety of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Until he got blocked, anyway. If there’s one thing the people of Britain can agree on, it’s that Piers Morgan should piss right off – and I feel the Big Green Bookshop gave us all a chance to rally together and express our collective love for Potter and our collective loathing for Piers. Please support your local independent bookshops.

Indifferent Ignorance Homophobic Dick Award: Everywhere?

I can’t remember their names and I won’t look for them because I don’t wish to give them further exposure, but some ‘gay cure therapy’ people were on morning TV this year. I think it was Good Morning Britain, but I won’t check and give the news articles any more views. I can’t dish out an award without knowing the names of the people I’m awarding, though, so this year’s winners are the member states of the United Nations. News broke some time in February about the detention and murder of perceived gay and bisexual men in Chechnya. The UN has confirmed and condemned it, but as far as I can tell the only country to have actually done anything to help is Canada. It’s also still illegal to be gay in 72 countries – countries whose human rights records are generally lacking. The Guardian did a handy map indicating levels of legal status of LGBT people globally, and it looks a lot like maps indicating press freedom and women’s rights. I feel like if one of those things can improve in a nation, the other two will follow, but I would also like to learn more about how that can be done in the next year. Primary education? Free access to the Internet? Democratic election processes? I will report back with my findings.

Indifferent Ignorance Ignorant Fuck Award: The Donald

Ugh. Ugh. It’s Trump. It was always going to be, really, but Jacki made a point in her comment on my nominations blog: Trump is a figurehead. If someone who had never heard of Trump were to take everything that is ignorant about Western culture in 2017 and mix it up and cook it and craft a little figurine, that figurine would be Trump. He represents the worst of us.


Look, a line representing the end of the year. A fresh start. I’ve been thinking about all the winners (and losers, ha) and next year I’d like to reboot The Six O’Clock News but with a twist. Every time I’ve turned on the news this year, either on an app or Twitter or the TV, the ratio of awful story:nice story has been about 9:1. So next year I want to find a story that has a happy ending or a fun twist. Like this 16 year old who got into Harvard (thanks Jacki!) or this dog whose bones were surgically regrown in a lab so she didn’t need her leg amputated. I like to think there will be enough material out there to fill a blog post or two… what do you reckon?

I won’t be back on here until some time next week and/or when the NYE fug has lifted, so happy new year! May your return to work on 2nd January be as painless as possible.

Read, If You Like: They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera UK edition on a map background

Sometimes you read a book you weren’t expecting to be anything other than a book, and then it turns into a small piece of your rib cage. I am very pleased for this to have happened with an author I had only vaguely heard of, because now I can devour the rest of his books at breakneck speed and if they are as good as this one, I may need to add a rib or two.

They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera (2017)

Read, if you like…

  • Death (the title is not a metaphor, and that is not a spoiler; I’m mentioning this first because I am aware not everyone has come to terms with their own mortality and if you haven’t you should this book is possibly not the one for you, although you will probably get the most out of it)
  • New York, but not the touristy bits
  • Diverse novels in less of a stock character way and more of a ‘oh, I guess this ticks several diversity boxes but I didn’t notice because the characters were too busy being REAL LIFE PEOPLE THAT I COULD PRACTICALLY SMELL’ way
  • Fiction that is futuristic insofar as it is more like a story about facts we haven’t invented yet
  • Pushbikes
  • Being arty on Instagram
  • That feeling you get when you finish a novel that’s a bit like missing a step
  • That feeling you get when you’re in a crowd at a concert singing along with several hundred other people you’ll never see again
  • Waterfalls
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera UK edition on a map background
The map background is indicative of themes within the narrative etc etc and coincidentally the only thing I could find that halfway complemented the orange-yellow-iridescent blue look

You can get They Both Die at the End from all good libraries and bookshops.