Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

I finished reading my fourth SPFBO book last week – One of Us by ML Roberts.  I’ve already posted my first two SPFBO reviews and the second two books will be reviewed soon.  I also finished reading For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten and The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison and I started reading Jen William’s psychological Thriller – A Dark and Secret Place.  I have had a busy week and I need to do quite a bit of gardening but the weather went off a little and so rain stopped all plans. I’ve completely dropped the ball with both my buddy read books which I’m feeling sheepish about.  I will catch up though.  This next week I’m hoping to make a start on a couple of my July books, I’m thinking The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd or The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley.  

Complete A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams.  Start a couple of my July books, maybe The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd or The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley.   I think I will be focusing on reviews this forthcoming week.  Need to catch up a little so probably less memes.

  1. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. Deathborn by CE Page
  3. One of Us by ML Roberts
  4. Hyde by Craig Russell
  5. For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten
  6. The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned (Reed Lavender #1) #SPFBO

SPFBO71024_1

Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes is the second of the books I’ve read this month as part of the SPFBO Competition.  Stranded by Rosalind Tate was the first book I read and my review can be found here.

Graves

Graves Robbed is the start of an Urban Fantasy series with what I found to be quite a unique concept. Reed Lavender is a detective with a difference.  He looks like your regular run of the mill human being but his family are far from the mundane.  Nephew to ‘Death’ he is only partly human.  A story which is still in the making and I imagine more will be revealed with each instalment.

I enjoyed this.  I’ve read Capes before and I do like his style of writing.  With this particular story there is no hand holding.  You’re thrown pretty much into the plot and just need to run with it.  Lavender is working a case involving a runaway – his unique genealogy gives him the ability to talk to the dead – which can come in very useful in murder cases and the like.  He can also call on Death although this isn’t always terribly helpful, that being said, having a bunch of cousins who you can use in tricky situations does have it’s benefits.  I would also mention that he has a couple of tricks up his sleeve and that help to protect him but I won’t elaborate too much here.

So, Lavender’s case leads him to uncover something much more sinister taking place in the city.  Something that seems to involve summoning something dark, strange cult like behavior, sacrifices and kidnapping.

The setting is much as you would expect with urban fantasy.  Contemporary, modern day but with plenty of supernatural aspects including Gods and reapers.

As with most urban fantasy I usually find the first book is more involved with getting to know the main character and the world and Graves Robbed is consistent in that respect.  To an extent being thrown straight into the action left me a little bit perplexed to begin with, especially in terms of the other characters and becoming familiar with who everyone was, but I fairly quickly found my feet.

The plot is a little scattered, maybe a little too busy for the actual size of the book.  I think this is slightly under 150 pages and there’s quite a lot of action involved.  I must confess that when I first started to read I initially felt like I’d missed something, maybe a prequel or something with a little more background but I don’t think that is the case.  As it is I think the shortness of the story works against it a little bit, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough time to become familiar with the characters and keep on top of the storyline.  Basically, and this is a fairly consistent theme with me when it comes to novella length stories – I think I would have liked a little more.  Not padding just for the sake of it, but a bit more time setting up the people and their relationships to each other.  That is, of course, a personal preference.

However, criticisms aside I did find this a good read.  I liked the idea of a character that is related to Death and I enjoyed meeting Lavender’s cousins.  I think there is so much potential for this series and I would pick up the next instalment to see what the author comes up with next.  I would also mention that this first instalment doesn’t conclude the story, things are still very much in the air and in fact Lavender’s situation has become even more complicated by the final page and I suspect he might regret some of the promises he has been handing out like candy.

Overall, I think if you like UF this is a series that you will enjoy.  It’s short, entertaining, easy to get along with.  I suspect the second and third instalments will really flesh out the characters and place and probably drop a few more clues as to exactly who Reed Lavender really is and what he’s truly capable of.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Friday Face Off : Out of Perspective, or makes you feel a bit dizzy

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

Small update – I’m still catching up with blog hopping and I haven’t even started on comments on my own blog.  I have read them all just not got back to everyone at the moment.  I’ve been catching up with reviews and review books – or at least trying, I’ve caught a wicked cold and I don’t mind telling you it’s wiped me out.  One day I will be fully caught up – one day very soon *fingers crossed*.

This week’s theme:

Out of Perspective, or makes you feel a bit dizzy

This week I’ve chosen a book that I’ve not read yet (in spite of owning a copy and reading very positive reviews – (something about time and lots of books, yadda yadda yadda).  Anyway,  I think the covers for this are just what I had in mind, it took me a while to figure out what I was really thinking for this theme and then this book popped into my head:  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – the covers really fit this whole skewed/out of perspective makes you blink or feel a bit off kilter.  Check them out:

My favourite this week

DM4

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

2021

June

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Book of Magic (Practical Magic #2) by Alice Hoffman

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Book of Magic (Practical Magic #2) by Alice Hoffman. Oh my giddy aunt.  This book.  I love this world, these characters and now this book is on the horizon.  I nearly had a conniption when I saw this. I’m okay, I’m breathing and all is well, but, this book!  Give it to me now.  Pretty please.

bookofmagicMaster storyteller Alice Hoffman brings us the conclusion of the Practical Magic series in a spellbinding and enchanting final Owens novel brimming with lyric beauty and vivid characters.

The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.

A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.

The Book of Magic is a breathtaking conclusion that celebrates mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, and anyone who has ever been in love.

Expected publication : October 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : Summer reading

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic :

Books On My Summer 2021 TBR

Okay, in my particular neck of the woods Summer runs from June 21st until September 22nd – yes, I looked those dates up and I literally cannot believe they are so specific!  But, having found them out I feel like I should stick to those dates.  So, this week is going to be more than 10 books – because I have quite a few books on my plate this Summer that I’m excited to share that fall in between these dates.  Here goes, all titles linked to Goodreads so you can check out the synopsis:

June

  1. The Witness for the Dead (The Goblin Emperor #2) by Katherine Addison

Witness

July

  1. The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd
  2. The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley
  3. Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey
  4. The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry
  5. The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
  6. The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente
  7. The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi
  8. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

August

  1. Mrs Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott
  2. Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce
  3. The Infernal Riddle of Thomas Peach by Jas Treadwell
  4. I Shot the Devil by Ruth McIver
  5. The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
  6. My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
  7. The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

September

  1. Mastermind by Andrew Mayne

Mastermind

On top of this I will be continuing with my two buddy reads and also reading more of my SPFBO books – details to be revealed at the start of each month.

Are you looking forward to any of these?  What plans do you have for Summer reading?

Stranded (The Shorten Chronicles #1) by Rosalind Tate #SPFBO

SPFBO71024_1

Stranded is the first book in my first batch of books as part of the SPFBO Competition.

Stranded

This is historical fiction with light fantasy elements and a hint at romance not yet realised but slowly coming to fruition.

Sophie Arundel has arrived at University, with her pet dog Charlotte.  It’s her first day, she’s allocated a room and as she makes her way across campus she spots a former classmate – Hugo – although the two were from completely different circles and not exactly what you’d class as friends.  To cut a long story short, the two of them, plus the dog, after entering what they believed to be a lift, are taken back in time to an alternate history.  The lift was a portal that disappeared not long after dropping our two main characters into the middle of the countryside with little idea of when and where they were.

From here the book is predominantly about coming to terms with the different period, living in a world where social norms are much more restricted, trying not to offend everyone whilst at the same time as trying to figure out the mystery of the portal and how and when it might become available again, on top of which there is an unknown person who seems to be taking Sophie and Hugo’s meddling badly and is issuing threats.

In a nutshell I’d liken this to Pride and Prejudice (the characters) meets Downton Abbey (the setting) meets ‘insert cosy mystery of your choosing’.

After a slightly rocky start I found myself enjoying this.  The author clearly enjoyed writing a period style novel and, although I’m not an expert on the time, seems to have researched the time well – although, as this is an alternate history you need to exercise a little leeway because a number of events, highly significant to our own history and pertinent as driving forces of emancipation, have not occured and therefore certain elements are slightly skewed.

What shone through in particular from this was that the author enjoyed the period and telling a story that is descriptive in terms of setting, house and clothes etc.  In fact, I mentioned above that I found the start a little rocky and I think that could simply be because the author wasn’t quite in her element in a more modern setting and found her feet as soon as our characters were taken back in time.  I also enjoyed the other little nods – for example the dog being named for one of the Bronte sisters because of the main character’s love for Jane Eyre.

The setting.  1925, grand house, upper class family.  You could be forgiven for thinking that Sophie and Hugo have fallen on their feet as they’re lavished with attention, clothing, food, events, etc.  In fact this is where the Downton Abbey comparison came from.  It really does have a feel of that particular drama and I’m not pointing that out as a criticism as such, more a simple observation that at times this almost feels like an alternate style fanfic.

The plot.  Well, as the story begins we pretty soon learn that a number of people have also come through the portal, in fact the ‘Lady of the Manor’ herself and indeed the local landlord and the head gardener at the house are all from similar modern backgrounds.  Sophie and Hugo spend some  time trying to figure out what links the travellers in particular but to be honest the mystery of the portal plays second fiddle to the developing friendship (potentially budding romance) between Sophie and Hugo and the ever increasing number of faux pas made by Sophie as she tries to come to terms with the restraints of the period – the corsets being the least of her problems.  As I mentioned this is an alternate reality and certain ‘key’ events have not taken place leaving our travellers with the dilema, should they be unable to return to their own lives, of having an uncertain history ahead of them.  On top of this someone, unknown, is taking an interest in their investigations and sending warning notes.

The characters.  I struggled a little to really like Sophie.  I feel a little unfair saying that because she isn’t a bad character so much as slightly annoying in that for someone who has travelled to an alternate place she seems to have very little self control or self preservation.  She is constantly blundering around offending people willy nilly – okay, I think it might have been a lot more useful if the lady of the house had sat her down and outlined some of the pitfalls, but, even with that lack of guidance you would think Sophie might have acted a little more cautiously.  Hugo on the other hand, and quite in contrast to how he seemed initially, seems to be a studious fellow with an infinite knowledge of the period therefore much more comfortable when it comes  to fitting in – not to mention, let’s be honest, men didn’t suffer the same restrictions really, particularly in terms of reputation.

As I mentioned the author is clearly comfortable writing an historic style novel.  She certainly got her teeth into the period and it was obvious that she enjoyed writing this.  The pacing is fairy even and I had no problem with forging ahead.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, firstly, although this is a portal story and alternate history it’s very light on fantasy.  The main element of the story seems to be about Sophie’s struggles to fit in and even the mystery is relegated to the background.  I’m not really sure why the author felt the need to include a dog in the story.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore dogs and I’m always happy to have them included when and wherever possible but this felt more like a plot device not to mention a little unrealistic at times in both the way Sophie behaved and her expectations in terms of the dog.  There is also an element of Sophie and Hugo struggling very little indeed.  They definitely landed on their feet being treated like favourite visitors and lavished with attention – which is probably why I railed against Sophie so much.  She could have found herself in a totally different situation by mere fluke, perhaps a scullery maid for example, getting up in the early hours to light fires, etc, instead of being drawn baths and helped to dress by her very own lady’s maid.  I don’t know, the fact that neither character seemed to have any real regard for how lucky they seemed to have been, or how very precarious their situation could have been irritated me slightly.  Finally, the mystery feels a little like an afterthought, the characters don’t seem to have any urgency at all about getting back ‘home’ in fact they both become very settled with almost indecent haste.   Also, if you’re picking this up expecting romance then be warned that this is very subtle, clearly the two main characters are becoming attached but there is no real romance at this point.

Okay, criticisms aside, this is an easy to read, cosy, period mystery.  I would describe this as charmingly easy. It’s perhaps not a book that I would instantly pick up off the shelves but I had no problem reading this one.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

I went off plan a little bit this week and read the first three of my SPFBO books.  Hopefully reviews will be forthcoming this week.  I’ve read a little more of For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten which I will complete this week, also hoping to complete my fourth SPFBO book. My two buddy reads have suffered a little as a result. I’m hoping to delve back into First Law later today and then I’ll be starting my third Discworld book.  I’ve had an awful cold this week which in some ways slowed me down but at the same time gave me a little more down time for reading.  

 

Complete For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten.  Read my fourth SPFBO book.  I still have a few more review books this month so hopefully think about which to pick up next.

 

  1. Wendy, Darling by AC Wise
  2. Day Zero by C Robert Cargill

 

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  3. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  4. Deathborn by CE Page

Friday Face Off : Covers that make you rant

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

Small update – I’m still catching up with blog hopping and I haven’t even started on comments on my own blog.  I have read them all just not got back to everyone at the moment.  I’ve been catching up with reviews and review books – or at least trying, I’ve caught a wicked cold and I don’t mind telling you it’s wiped me out.  One day I will be fully caught up – one day very soon *fingers crossed*.

This week’s theme:

A cover that annoyed you and why

I have a few things that make me go on a rant about book covers.  For the most part I’m very positive about covers and love sharing but there are a couple of things that really wind me up.  Titles or author names being almost illegible/invisible.  Huge banners that cut out most of the artwork, covers that are baffling because they don’t depict the content at all or misrepresent it somehow and – books with stickers on the covers.  I do understand why publishers use the stickers and the desire to shout things from the rooftops, but, I’d go a long way to avoid buying a book with a sticker on it – it used to be that those stickers, were actual stickers and you could at least remove them (although not always successfully) but these days, they’re printed onto the cover.  Argh!!!!

Anyway, to the covers – and for the record, these are covers that I like – I just don’t like the stickers:

Anyway, no favourite this week.  Just a little medley of covers – that I like (for the record) – but that annoy me because of the stickers.  I know, I need to just chill out don’t I?

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – Out of perspective/makes you feel a bit dizzy

2021

June

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

Day Zero by C Robert Cargill

Posted On 10 June 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 5 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : I absolutely loved this book

Day ZeroIn a nutshell this is an incredibly entertaining story about one small boy and his tiger bot nanny.  It has just about everything you could want from such a story. It takes a look at issues such as slavery and artificial intelligence whilst at the same time exploring loyalty.  There are plenty of fun moments which help to offset the bloodshed and horror, lots of action and underneath that a very touching and heartfelt story about the love between a young boy and his plush anthropomorphic tiger.  What more could you possibly want.

I won’t elaborate too much on the plot.  This is a prelude to the wonderful Sea of Rust by the same author.  Rest assured that it isn’t necessary to have read that book before picking this up (although it is very good so why deny yourself the pleasure of reading it?)  This is a standalone novel with a self contained story in which we discover how the post apocalyptic world from Sea of Rust actually came about – and it’s a harsh story indeed that eventually concludes with humans wiped from the face of the earth.

As the story begins we meet Pounce.  I have to say that I adore Pounce, but more of that in a little while.  Pounce is coming to terms with the worrying notion that once his ‘charge’, Ezra, grows up, his role in the Reinhart household will no longer be necessary.  This hadn’t occurred to him until he found the box in which he was delivered stashed away in the attic and questions why the box was kept – obviously to return him once he’s no longer needed.  Pounce is shocked and a little sad, he loves his family and they love him don’t they?  Or is he just a robot, purchased to serve a purpose?  This is when Pounce begins to question things and become more aware of events taking place around him, a general sense of unease, tensions between humans and AI and a groundbreaking case where an AI known as Issac is given his freedom. Long story short – things are about to get real, by which I mean everything is going to kick off.

There are so many reasons that I loved this.

The writing is fantastic, Cargill is excellent at describing action scenes and also quite masterful at pulling you into the story immediately.  His sense of timing is perfect.  We no sooner meet the family and start to ponder Pounce’s dilema than the plot moves forward, again and again and before you know it you’re in the middle of the most unexpected adventure.  And I can’t deny that the adventure and action are just great.  It does have a sort of popcorn feel to it because things move along at a swift clip but there is also the thought provoking moments that continue to play a role in an ever evolving way and I love the shout outs to Asimov that are included here.  This might not be quite as deep as Asimov’s take on the theme but it is nonetheless really entertaining and a story that I think would make a great adaptation to the big screen.

The characters.  The main characters are Pounce and Ezra and they are a fantastic team to follow.  Kind of put me in mind of the second Terminator film with the young John Connor.  Ironically, at 8 years of age, the family were starting to consider whether or not Ezra still needed a nanny, thankfully that decision hadn’t been made before the uprising began and that’s probably the biggest piece of luck that Ezra ever had.  There’s so much more to Pounce than a plush and loyal tiger AI although I won’t say exactly why here because it’s such a woohoo moment when you discover his hidden talents.  The thing I particularly loved about Pounce was the time he took to explain things to Ezra and the way he treats him, even though he’s questioning his own choices at this point or more to the point how he came to make those choices, Pounce always has time for Ezra.  There are moments of pure tenderness between the two and those moments together with the humour that Cargill manages to throw in really help to offset the somewhat blood fuelled horrorfest when the AIs go on the rampage.  There are also a bunch of extra characters that come into play that I also really loved.

The other thing that I’m really hopeful about, given the ending, is that maybe Cargill has something more in store for this world – I have my fingers and toes crossed for that eventuality of course, that could be just plain wishful thinking on my part, not to mention I can sometimes be quite wide of the mark when it comes to second guessing things – but nothing wrong with a bit of speculation crossed with a bit of hope.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is :  Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest.  I just love the sound of this and I’m already familiar with this author and enjoy her writing very much so here’s the description:

Grave ResA psychic travel agent and a Seattle PD detective solve a murder in this quirky mystery in the vein of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files and Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series.

Meet Leda Foley: devoted friend, struggling travel agent, and inconsistent psychic. When Leda, sole proprietor of Foley’s Flights of Fancy, impulsively re-books Seattle PD detective Grady Merritt’s flight, her life changes in ways she couldn’t have predicted.

After watching his original plane blow up from the safety of the airport, Grady realizes that Leda’s special abilities could help him with a cold case he just can’t crack.

Despite her scattershot premonitions, she agrees for a secret reason: her fiancé’s murder remains unsolved. Leda’s psychic abilities couldn’t help the case several years before, but she’s been honing her skills and drawing a crowd at her favorite bar’s open-mic nights, where she performs Klairvoyant Karaoke—singing whatever song comes to mind when she holds people’s personal effects. Now joined by a rag-tag group of bar patrons and pals alike, Leda and Grady set out to catch a killer—and learn how the two cases that haunt them have more in common than they ever suspected.

Expected Publication : October 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : Please sir, I want some more.

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic :

Books I Loved so much that I wanted more of the same thing:

This is a list that could become very long quite easily so instead of delving into the books from my way in the distance past I’m going to focus on books from my very near past.  Here are ten books that I really enjoyed and wish that I could read more (this could have so easily been a lot longer list in fact I’m so pleased at the restraint I exercised).  All the books are linked to reviews and they are all standalone novels or first in series:

  1. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  2. The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
  3. A Boy and His dog at the End of the World by CA Fletcher
  4. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
  5. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
  6. The Bone Ships by RJ Barker
  7. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar 
  8. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
  9. The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
  10. Later by Stephen King

Wendy, Darling by AC Wise

Posted On 7 June 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 6 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review. Very dark, no fairy dust

WendyWendy, Darling is definitely a dark retelling of the Peter Pan, Neverland, Lost Boys story.  It shines a much more sinister light on the original story and examines themes of family, mental health and memory and the way it sometimes distorts truth into illusively perfect snapshots of the past that reach new heights of perfection as time moves forward.

As the story begins we meet Wendy, now a mother with a young daughter Jane.  Jane is taken by Peter, I could say in a moment of mistaken identity but I don’t really believe that’s the case, he didn’t want a Wendy that had grown older, he wanted the young girl he remembered and so he took Jane. It’s kind of ironic that Peter wants a ‘mother’ figure for himself and his lost boys but at the same time wants a child rather than an adult in the role, he doesn’t want an adult to tell them what to do he simply wants someone who is perceived to be looking after them, believing their stories and administering band aids when necessary.  Now, Wendy must return to Neverland, a place that she left willingly, not afraid to grow up, but that she still holds cherished memories of, to rescue her daughter

We have two different timelines here.  We return to a much younger version of Wendy who remains steadfast in her belief that Neverland exists.  Her brothers have both changed their minds, believing it was make believe, but Wendy still insists and it is this persistence in the face of rationality that eventually sees her placed in an asylum.  Of course, in the era this retelling is set it wasn’t unknown for ‘troublesome’ females to be placed in such institutions to rid families of either an embarrassment or difficult family member.  In fact the story of the young girl that Wendy befriends whilst incarcerated is truly awful.  The other storyline is the adult Wendy version who has a marriage, a daughter and a best friend.

Ultimately of course the story takes place in Neverland, both the ‘then’ and the ‘now’.  We slowly reveal some of the memories that Wendy has repressed over the years before she came up  with her rose tinted perfect version of events.  The Island is different and as Wendy explores the terrain in search of her daughter she realises that the idyll has long since disappeared.  Meanwhile, Jane is trying to come to terms with this strange place that she has been dropped into.  Peter literally drops her amongst the Lost Boys and expects her to pick up their care.  She struggles to remember her own name sometimes becoming almost consumed with the thrill of the chase and the games.  As Jane begins to recapture her own sense of identity she also becomes aware of the slightly sinister feel to this life.  Peter has secrets for sure but much worse than his secrets is the desperation which drives him to insist that they’re all having fun, a desperation that fuels his constant need to find new games to play, insisting that everyone is enjoying themselves whether they like it or not.  Fear and bullying are a very real element of this world that help to keep the boys firmly in place and malleable to Peter’s every whim.

The setting is predominantly Neverland with a little bit of London and also the time Wendy spent in an institution.  I’m not going to give anything away about Neverland in this later iteration but it isn’t quite the sparkling fun filled paradise that it once seemed.

The characters.  Well, we have Wendy and her two brothers.  One now traumatised by his experiences during the war and the other in complete denial of childhood events.  We have the lost boys, Peter and a monster living at the heart of the island. Suspiciously absent was Tinkerbell but Tiger Lily plays a strong role.

In terms of criticisms.  I liked this and thought it was an interesting take with a strong feminist slant. However, if you’re coming here, like Wendy in this retelling, with strong and rosy feelings of nostalgia then you’re likely to be disappointed.  There is no fairy dust, no swirly mustachioed pirates or beautiful if slightly peevish mermaids.  There is still a lot of petty adolescents, rivalries, vying for attention and a strange Lord of the Flies feel to the Lost Boys overall, and Peter, whilst you could still think him a boy simply refusing to grow up you would be hard pressed to deny that he is somewhat manipulative. On top of this, there is a slightly bloated feeling to this, it takes its time to set scenes and provide background but sometimes it feels a little bit too distracting, pulling you away from the plot.  I also felt like the ending was a little rushed and I’m not one hundred percent on what really happened.

All that being said, I enjoyed this one.  It is dark, gothic in fact, given the London feel and the asylum. it certainly kept my attention and I wouldn’t hesitate to read more by this author.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars.

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

And June is here.  How on earth did that happen so quickly.  I’ve not done as much reading or blogging this week.  Still pushing through my review books and managed to write up three reviews which feels like progress to a certain extent.  I’ve been busy in the garden and still have lots of projects which are keeping me away from books and the blog.  This week I read Wendy Darling – a dark take on the Peter Pan story by AC Wise.  I’ve read the first quarter of First Law, my buddy read with The Book Forager – which I’m loving, shouldn’t be a surprise as I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve picked up so far by Joe Abercrombie.  I’ve also started For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, it’s still early days but so far I’m having Uprooted vibes.

Complete For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, continue with my buddy read of First Law and hopefully start Stranded, which is the first SPFBO book.

  1. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
  2. The Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso
  3. Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. Day Zero by C Robert Cargill
  3. Wendy Darling by AC Wise

Around the Discworld: The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #2)

Discworld

TheLightToday is my review for the second book in the Discworld series and the first step on a journey that Louise over at Lou’s Book Stuff and I agreed to undertake together whereby we read the entire Discworld series in order. You can check out Lou’s review here.

The Light Fantastic is book No.2 and pretty much continues where book 1 left off (my review here).  Okay, I will preface this review by stating that at the moment I’m not totally blown away by the Discworld, but, at the same time, I had been warned that this could take two or three books before it really took hold so I’m still very hopeful. I will also clarify that last remark by saying I’m not disliking what I’ve read so far, so much as it hasn’t quite knocked my socks off in the way I’d hoped, or more to the point, whilst there have been quite a number of moments that have made me smile I haven’t had a proper laugh out loud moment just yet.  I do have expectations though and I suspect that as I continue with Lou on this journey we will become attached to the characters and familiar with the world in a way that immerses us much more and provides a greater sense of connectivity.

What I will say about The Light Fantastic is that it felt like it had more of a plot than The Colour of Magic.  There is of course a lot of travelling around but this didn’t so much feel like a series of strange or unfortunate events that was the overall flavour of book No.1.  In a nutshell, an object is hurtling towards Discworld on a collision course.  Everyone is doomed.  Things are desperate, the naysayers are out in force and Rincewind, the failed wizard we met in Book No.1, seems to be the saviour of the piece  Really, it doesn’t bode well.

So, in terms of characters Rincewind and Twoflower are central to the plot, together with the delightful and sentient piece of luggage that scuttles around on multiple legs and swallows threats like a huge hound of hell.  Seriously, I want this luggage.  We do, of course, make the acquaintance of other characters in this instalment, the most noticeable of which, for me, was Cohen the Barbarian.  An elderly gentleman who has lived through many an adventure and intends to live through many more.  There are of course other characters, not least of which the entirety of the wizarding world trying to find Rincewind for the spell that he holds in his head – a very important spell that is needed, without doubt, to save the planet.

I really enjoyed certain aspects of this one.  The forest – which has a decidedly fairytale feel and the whole visit to the home of Death.  I loved both those scenes.  Of course, everything Pratchett does is tongue in cheek and softly fun poking at the fantasy tropes but those two particular scenarios particularly stood out for me.

To be honest, although I’ve not been totally knocked out by the two first books in this series, I can see myself already becoming attached.  I like the humour, it reminds me very much of Monty Python and obviously Douglas Adams.  To be honest, I know already, that I will love elements of these books because I’ve read the Tiffany Aching series which were excellent.

I have my fingers crossed (and my toes) for book No.3.  Will it be the one to blow me away?  Time will tell.

For now. I’m enjoying this, but, I think all my buddies who cautioned me that the first few books were not necessarily the best, gave me some excellent advice and helped me to temper my expectations.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

I bought a copy for kindle.

Friday Face Off : The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot

So, by way of an update. I’m still catching up with comments so if you’ve stopped by and left commens and I haven’t responded yet- I am getting there.  Blog hopping = nearly there.  Reviews = catching up with.

I had a couple of covers in mind this week but I’ve gone for a book that I read quite some time ago, pre blogging by an author that I enjoy.  Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson:

My favourite this week (without a doubt):

EW2

Do you have a favourite?

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – A cover that annoyed you and why

2021

June

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

Near the Bone by Christina Henry

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Cryptid monster horror survival story

neartheboneNear the Bone is my second Christina Henry story and I seem to be on a roll because I enjoyed this one as much as the last one I read (The Ghost Tree).  

This is a psychological as well as slasher style horror story.  There are plenty of double meanings together with a setting that feels almost claustrophobic.

As the story begins we meet Mattie.  She’s doing the rounds, checking the traps for animals caught when she comes across a dead fox.  The fox hasn’t been eaten, just mauled and left, which is unusual in itself, added to that, the strange tracks that accompany the kill really give Mattie pause (paws or maybe even claws) for thought.  They look like bear prints, but on a massive scale.  Mattie doesn’t however have time to dwell, no lollygagging or gathering wool here, back to the cabin with haste before she receives punishment for her tardy behaviour.  She tells her husband of her grisly find and the two set out to follow the tracks – which mysteriously disappear.

Mattie has lived with William for as long as she can remember.  she sometimes has snatches of fleeting memories that elude her before she can grasp their meaning.  Meanwhile, William is always there, watching, controlling, and punishing her.  Mattie has learned to be quiet, to speak only when spoken to and to make herself almost unnoticeable.  The appearance of a second monster into her life spells real trouble but maybe also the possibility of escape.

I’m not going to go into the relationship between Mattie and Williams other than to say it is an abusive one.  Mentally and physically abusive (so keep that in mind).  Mattie is on the verge of becoming a shadow self, she’s beaten, raped and starved on a regular basis and yet, because of the length of time she has spent enduring such horrors she doesn’t realise just how terrible her situation really is.  She is William’s wife, she must obey him and be dutiful.  The appearance of a second monster on their isolated mountain really upsets the strange existence they have.  First, William becomes almost unhinged about the presence of an unusual creature sharing their space (with reason as will be eventually revealed).  Second, rumours of a mysterious critter brings strangers to the mountain in search of myths and legends.  Both of these act as catalysts to trigger memories in Mattie that leave her questioning the life she has accepted as normal.

Okay, I won’t really go into the plot with this one.  We have a creature capable of stalking unseen and unheard, the very forests themselves go quiet upon its approach.  It can remain unseen if it wishes and it’s tracks oftentimes disappear.  We have William, a monster himself by all accounts.  Armed and dangerous he resolves to rid the mountain of this newcomer and threat to his life.

So, the setting is great.  High on a mountain.  No roads.  Freezing cold temperatures.  This is not the sort of place that people seek out as a rule.  It really plays into the story giving it a ‘closed’ feel. Hemmed in for the most part by cliffs there is basically one route on or off the mountain.  No electricity, wi-fi or roads.  It’s your basic nightmare, particularly when there’s a huge creature running around outside and for the most part if feels like the characters run around in ever decreasing circles never gaining any momentum.

The characters.  Well, William is an absolute horror and almost invincible in the way that only truly bad characters in horror stories can be.  Mattie is a great character.  You really, I mean REALLY, feel for her.  The terror and desperation she feels on a regular basis – before three strangers stumble into her life and unwittingly try to help her – giving her not just new feelings about what is really happening but also massive guilt because they have now become her responsibility.

What I really liked about this is the tension that Henry creates.  The characters quite often stumble around in circles making outrageous mistakes, much akin to teenagers in a Halloween movie, and the only one that seems capable or really perceiving the threat is Mattie.  Strangely enough, Mattie and the creature almost seem to understand each other in the most unusual way.  I wont’ say more because I don’t want to give away spoilers.

The other thing that I really liked is that this is a look at the real monsters that are present in our everyday lives that we simply fail to see.  Of course, a huge hairy creature with long claws, a monumental roar and exceptional strength and speed, yes, now that’s a monster, but at the same time maybe it’s simply a creature also trying to survive on instinct.  

I really enjoyed this one.  I’m not going to say it didn’t have a few plot holes here or there or that at times it wasn’t frustrating in the way that slasher horrors can be annoying, but, it kept me pretty much glued to the page.  A strange combination of psychological thriller and creature feature horror.  Sleeping with the Enemy meets Predator meets ‘insert whatever horror you deem most approrpriate after reading’.  

To be clear, when I say I ‘enjoyed’ this – well, I was hooked, about Mattie’s story initially but then about the creature and the final outcome.  However, perhaps ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word in some respects.  To be clear, there are strong themes present here plus a level of slasher horror that will make some readers grab for the nearest cushion to hide behind.  You have been warned.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars.

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire #2) by Andrea Stewart

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is :  The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire #2) by Andrea Stewart.  I can’t wait for this.  Here’s my review for The Bone Shard Daughter and the description for this second in series:

BoneShardEmperorThe Bone Shard Emperor is the unmissable sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter, one of the biggest fantasy debuts of 2020 – a captivating tale of magic, revolution and mystery, where a young woman’s sense of identity will make or break an empire.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the northeast of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin needs their help to defeat the rebels and restore order.

But can she trust them?

Expected Publication: November 2021

NB – note that this is not the final cover – I just got carried away when I saw this book was due for release this year.

#SPFBO 7 : My First Batch of Books

SPFBO71024_1

Woo hoo, the 1st of June is upon us and with it SPFBO 7 begins.  Release the Krakens, unleash the warg riders, saddle your dragons and let’s go. 

For those of you unfamiliar with SPFBO here and here are two posts that might provide some enlightenment.  Basically, SPFBO is the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, brainchild of Mark Lawrence.  300 hopeful authors submit their word babies.  10 Judges are allocated 30 books each.  Each judge chooses a finalist, the competition narrows to 10 hopeful candidates.  Alas, there can be only one winner so following an intense reading session where all the judges read and score each others finalists a winner finally emerges.  

The main change for myself this year is that I am joining up with the wonderful Critiquing Chemist and her lovely boffin.  We are very excited to start reading our batch (at the moment equally divided between the two blogs).  I love this part of the competition, it’s full of expectations and hope.  As in previous years  I will give a brief introduction to the books and authors that I’m picking up that month together with an update at the end of the month where I may roll some books forwards and cut others.  I know!  It’s a part of the competition that I’m not overly fond of but it is unavoidable.  Personally, I like to think that as the competition begins we already have 300 winners who each took that bold step to throw their hat into the ring and join in.  So, enjoy yourselves, take the opportunity to make friends and become part of the community.  

This month the four books that I will be reading are:

***

 

Stranded (The Shorten Chronicles #1) by Rosalind Tate

Stranded

Sophie Arundel is stranded in history, stuck in a grand house in 1925 England. Thankfully, she has her faithful dog Charlotte with her. Oh, and fellow student Hugo, annoying and charming in equal measure.

Baffled by upper-class rules, courted by boring suitors, Sophie is desperate to get back to the twenty-first century, but the only way home is through a hidden portal — and she must work with Hugo to unlock its secrets.

As one clue leads to another, Sophie and Hugo discover that history is unfolding differently. Mobs rule the streets. And when chaos turns into a deadly revolution, anyone in a grand house is fair game.

Sophie and Hugo are running out of time…

RTAbout the Author:

Rosalind Tate is the author of the Shorten Chronicles — the acclaimed time-travel series featuring Sophie Arundel and her dog, Charlotte.

Join Rosalind’s ♥ Readers Club ♥ and get the short-story prequel, completely free, at www.rosalindtate.com/home-impossible-…

Visit Rosalind’s website: www.rosalindtate.com

Find out more about Charlotte: www.rosalindtate.com/meet-charlotte.

Follow Rosalind on BookBubhttps://www.bookbub.com/books/strande…

Follow Rosalind on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheShortenCh…

Follow Rosalind on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/shortenchro…

Follow Rosalind on TikTok at https://www.tiktok.com/@rosalindtate1…

Twitter

***

 

Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned (Reed Lavender #1) by Ashley Capes

Graves

At least when you’re Death’s nephew the bad guys literally have nowhere to hide, right?

Meet Reed Lavender, a mostly-human detective with the uncanny ability to hear the final words of the dead. But on this case he’ll need more than his usual tricks to solve the murder of a teen runaway – he’ll need something that just might be more trouble than it’s worth – the help of his ragtag Reaper-cousins.

But the deeper Reed digs the more he realises there’s something far bigger and darker beneath his city, something vast, something that is ripening to rot…

ACAbout the Author:

Ashley is a poet, novelist and teacher living in Australia.

He teaches English, Media and Music Production, has played in a metal band, worked in an art gallery and slaved away at music retail. Aside from reading and writing, Ashley loves volleyball and Studio Ghibli – and Magnum PI, easily one of the greatest television shows ever made.

See poetry and fiction at http://ashleycapes.com/
 …more

***

 

Deathborn (Sovereigns of Bright and Shadow #1) by CE Page

Deathborn

Corruption is a disease with no cure that ends with a rapid descent into madness and violence. And until now it only targeted mages.

When an infected warden shows up challenging everything Margot thought she knew she is thrown into the chase to find the impossible cure. But to understand this new revelation she needs someone who knows possession … She needs Nea and lucky for Margot, her warden friend Garret has been tasked with tracking the rogue necromancer down.

Garret is used to dealing with dangerous mages so this should be like any other job: find the mage and deliver her to the king. But from the moment he finds Nea he is dragged into a deadly game of dark secrets and brutal machinations. Now he must make a choice: deliver Nea as promised and place a weapon in the hands of a madman or deny his king and change the lives of wardens and mages forever.

CEPAbout the Author

Website: 

 

.

.

 

 

 

 

***

 

One of Us: the City of Secrets by ML Roberts

OneofUs

The witch wants her dead, the fae want her alive, the police want to bring her in for questioning. High school should not be this way.

Olivia knows the rules: study hard, never lie, do unto others, but when a witch makes the rules and the others are fae, telling the truth will get her locked up.

Last month she saw the impossible, now she sees it again. She tells herself it’s all in her head. How else explain a shining man who fell out of nowhere or a student who died but still lives?

She carries on with her usual activities: volleyball, pop quizzes, a favor for Mom, but denial won’t make it go away. When she thinks it can’t get any worse, it does.

Friends, enemies, the police, someone is lying. If not one of them, one of us.

About the Author:

Twitter: 

 

Finally, good luck to everyone.  Don’t forget, if you want to pay me a visit here on the blog you’re more than welcome.  Just email or leave a comment. 😀

 

 

 

The Ikessar Falcon (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen #2) by KS Villoso

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Fantastic setting, great characters.  Dragons

IkessarThe Ikessar Falcon is a book that I was eager to read.  As it happens I picked this one up when I was having a little bit of a reading low and although I probably read 40% I decided to stop and return to it at a later date.  That is probably one of my better decisions because I started this book again from the beginning, I part read and part listened to it and in fairly short order I was immersed in the world and caught up with the drama surrounding the characters.

Where in the first book Queen Talyien left her home to try and make reparations with her estranged husband and found herself at the centre of a very tangled web, this second book follows her struggles as she tries to return to the son she left behind, desperate to keep him safe.  Now obviously, I’ve over simplified that – a lot – but, if we leave all the titles, the back stabbing and the politics behind this is about a woman desperately trying to return to her child to save him from imminent threat – and the fact that many people are about to stand in her way and try to make the journey impossible.

Two stand out elements to this book.

Firstly the characters are all strongly written.  There is such a depth of emotion with this book. we see Tali revisiting events from her childhood that really demonstrate the relationship she had with her father.  We also gain insight into her relationship with Rayyel and look at events from both perspectives.  It’s fascinating watching Tali struggle with who she is and what she’s done in the past that has led to her current path.  She veers from guilt over her previous actions, to desire to change her life to resorting to who everyone expects her to be when conflict arises.  She is without doubt a fascinating, frustrating and compelling character.  I admit that I went at times from feeling exhilarated by her lack of caution as she flings herself recklessly into dangerous situations to despair as she revisits old ‘mistakes’.

Secondly, the world building.  Tali encounters a lot of obstructions along the way.  This isn’t an easy journey, rife with people who want to use Tali for their own advancement, I was fascinated by the blood magic, in awe of the imagination and of course wowed by the dragons – which I’m not going to spoil here – but they come with some amazing surprises of their own.  Also, I suggest you keep snacks on hand when reading this one – lots of lush descriptions of delicious sounding food.

This is a well written, deep and emotional read.  It has plenty to entertain and yet doesn’t balk at taking a good strong look at the characters and digging below the surface level to explore who they really are.

In terms of criticisms, I don’t really have much to be honest.  I mean, this is a long book – but it doesn’t feel long because there is plenty to keep you entertained.  I think my biggest issue relates more to Tali and the fact that she reacts impulsively and doesn’t always make the wisest choices – but then she’s human, she makes mistakes.

Overall, this is an excellent second in series that leaves me very eager to pick up the third book (although I would like to wait for the audio so I can both read and listen again – I definitely recommend both versions)

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Booking Ahead/Weekly/Monthly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

The end of May is nigh so my weekly wrap up will also include a short monthly update.  I have been busy this week again.  I’ve done quite a bit of reading and I’ve managed to squeeze in three reviews.  Of course, when you’re reading just as many books you never quite catch up.  I went off plan a little but still reading review books so it’s all good.  This week I’ve read three books and started two more.  I read and already reviewed The Priest of Gallows by Peter McLean – spoiler alert – it was very good.  I’ve also read and enjoyed Day Zero by C Robert Cargill and Near the Bone by Christina Henry.  I’ve started my buddy read of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie and I’m about a third of the way through the audio version of Hyde by Craig Russell.

Hopefully complete Hyde by Craig Russell.  I have three other books in mind, not that I anticipate reading them all, just I haven’t decided which to read first.  The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley, For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten and Wendy Darling by AC Wise.  Has anyone read any of these yet?  Any thoughts??  Next Tuesday I will also be posting the first four SPFBO books that I’ll be reading this month.

  1. The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis
  2. The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
  3. The Priest of Gallows by Peter McLean
  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. The Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso
  3. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
  4. Near the Bone by Christina Henry
  5. Day Zero by C Robert Cargill

My Monthly Feedback and plans for May.

Books read : 11 (assuming I finish Hyde which I hope to do:

  1. The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
  2. Later by Stephen King
  3. Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso
  4. The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
  5. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
  6. The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis
  7. The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
  8. Priest of Gallows by Peter McLean
  9. Day Zero by
  10. Hyde by
  11. Near the Bone

Reviews : 6

Books I’m hoping to read this month:

4 books (to be detailed next Tuesday) from my SPFBO books

Review books:

#SPFBO 7 Introductory Post

Posted On 29 May 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 7 responses

SPFBO71024_1

Today I’m taking the opportunity to post a brief outline of my process for this year’s SPFBO Competition.  SPFBO 7 will begin on the 1st of June.  Stage 1 of the competition lasts for five months and during that period each team/judge will read their 30 selected books before choosing a finalist.

I already took the opportunity a few days ago to announce that this year I will be teaming up with the Critiquing Chemist and her fellow boffin, (our posts can be found here and here).  We’ve already split our books equally into two groups, we will be approaching the contest in a similar way and the Critiquing Chemist will also be posting soon to outline their approach. 

At the start of each month I will post which books I will be reading during that month (these will be randomly selected using a number generator), at the end of the month I will provide an update of those books chosen and which ones I will be rolling forward.  Between myself and the CC we will be aiming to read at least 30% of every book but the likelihood is that we will read much more than that. 

As with previous years I will write full reviews for the books that I complete.  Any books that I don’t read fully will receive short summaries.  

Hopefully, the Book Gods being willing, we will be able to choose 5 or 6 SFs before narrowing our choice down to one.  

For more information about the other judges and the books submitted this year check out Mark Lawrence’s post here.

You can also follow the competition on Twitter (#SPFBO) and through Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/122875124938545/

Check out this page for the results of the recent cover competition.  So many beautiful, standout covers this year.  Congratulations to the winners.

Finally, I would like to wish all the authors the best of luck.  As with previous years, the best advice I can offer is to enjoy the competition as much as possible, make friends in the community and take part in as many events as possible.  As with previous years I would like to extend an offer to any authors taking part to visit my blog either to post an excerpt, discuss covers or for a general interview.

Below are the list of books allocated to Team LB=TC2

  1. Deathborn by C.E. Page
  2. The End of the Line by David Nelson
  3. Orphan’s Rite by M Warren Askins
  4. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation #1) by Phillip Blackwater
  5. Carrion by Alyson Tate
  6. Squire George & the Dragon by Adam Digger Stolz
  7. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  8. As Fierce as Steel by Christopher P Walsh
  9. Iarraindorn by Philip Dickens
  10. Ghost Line by M.A. Poole
  11. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska
  12. Face of Glass by Damon L Wakes
  13. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  14. Blades Falling Softly by Sarah Lin
  15. Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
  16. Subversive (Clandestine Magic #1) by Colleen Cowley
  17. Dragon Birth by Raina Nightingale
  18. The Darkness that Slept by Tristen Kozinski and Keegan Kozinski
  19. Out of the Dust by Joe Coates
  20. The Ballad of the Songbird by Jon Ford
  21. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  22. Children by Bjørn Larssen
  23. The Throne of Ice and Ash by J.D.L. Rosell
  24. Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater
  25. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  26. Lycoris in Moonlight by Kova Killian
  27. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  28. Hall of Bones by Tim Hardie
  29. One of Us by M. L. Roberts
  30. The Crown of Death by David Schratz
   
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

 

 

Friday Face Off : The Hood #wyrdandwonder

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

 The Hood

May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder so for the FFO themes I’m choosing fantasy books.  This is my last FFO that links to the Wyrd and Wonder event – I cannot believe we’re almost into the month of June.  I’ll be writing a wrap up post shortly for what books I read this month.

W&W

I was looking forward to this week.  I read quite a few fantasy books and hoods are quite often used on covers.  I could do a medley but I already did a medley last week so instead I’ve chosen a very recent read and in fact the winner of the most recent Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition.  The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson is a very good book that I heartily recommend, and, unusually (for self published books) it has three covers to choose from  all with hoods.  Feast your eyes on these:

My favourite this week:

TLW2

Do you have a favourite?

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

2021

June

4th – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

Priest of Gallows (War for the Rose Throne #3) by Peter McLean

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Brilliant

Seriously, I don’t need five words for my short review here – one will suffice.  Brilliant.  I absolutely loved this third instalment in the War for the Rose Throne in fact I can honestly say that not only was this my favourite book in the series so far but quite possibly one of the best books I’ve read for a long time.

This is not a series that you will want to crash into part way through.  In fact part of the real pull for me with the War for the Rose Throne is the fascinating way that the story and characters have evolved with each book.  Our main character, Tomas Piety, started the series returning to his home town following the end of the war and that first book had a gangster fantasy feel with Tomas slowly rising in power in Ellinburg.  The second instalment increased Tomas’s fortunes and brought him to the attention of the Queen’s Men.  He continued to rise in fortune, becoming Governor, but started to question where he was really heading.  Book 3 firmly cements Tomas’s position into the Queen’s Men and although he enjoys certain aspects, being knighted for example, Priest of Gallows really throws him into shark infested waters.  If you haven’t read the previous two instalments, well, I would suggest you do so, if you love fantasy then you simply have to read this series, but, also be aware that this review could include spoilers.

I’m not going to go into the plot other than to say – the Queen is dead and those who seek power are circling, pulling strings and manipulating the situation to their own advantage.  We learn that life in the capital, for all it’s nobles and finery, is little more than an exaggerated version of life on the gang infested streets of Ellinburg.  The people here live in fine houses and dress in fine clothes but the desire for power and wealth are much the same no matter how they dress and behave.  The only real difference here is that this is a fight for absolute power and the fights have the potential to morph into all out war.

The Queen’s Men, of which Tomas is now firmly a part, are like a secret force that are dreaded among the populace.  They’re talked of with fear, people warn their children about the Queen’s Men taking them away if they’re naughty, they’re like the bogeyman but worse and Tomas is now one of their number.  What really comes through here is how much Tomas is out of his depth.  This is a feeling that started in Priest of Lies and increased here.  Tomas finds himself really struggling to know who to trust.  Thankfully he has Bloody Anne, Rose and Billy accompanying him, characters that he knows have his back.  Ailsa also plays a role.  Estranged from Tomas since the Priest of Lies, their marriage was little more than a foil, but Tomas finds that he has feelings for Ailsa, as much as he tries not to and struggles to determine whether she is actually friend or foe.  We are introduced to Tomas’s counterparts in the Queen’s Men.  These are a mixed bag of characters with few redeeming qualities among their lot – some of them very appropriately named.  I love the politics at play here and the way the city is eventually whipped up into a frenzy, puppets whose strings are masterfully pulled by the Provost Marshal, Dieter Vogel.  Now the most powerful man in the City.  A man with a long vision who is not to be defied.

I have to say that I love the way McLean writes.  I found this book remarkably easy to get along with.  He has a way of simply pulling you immediately into the world.  Tomas isn’t necessarily a lovable character for example, and yet at the same time I find myself liking him.  He isn’t soft and cuddly and nor are the people he surrounds himself with.  They’re all sharp edged and hard, unafraid to do what is necessary and basically all soldiers at heart, they take orders and carry them out, as distasteful as those orders might sometimes be.  But, yes, they’re likable and they have won me over.

The other thing that I really love about this series is the overall message.  As we began, war was finally over, the battle hardened and weary soldiers returned home, traumatised by what they’d done and seen, now as the pages close on this third instalment, the inevitability of war yet again looms.  If history teaches us anything it’s that the same mistakes are likely to be repeated over and over again as the people in charge throw the public at large underneath the wheels of their gilded carriages in search of yet more power.

In case you haven’t guessed.  I’m absolutely loving this series and Priest of Gallows is my favourite instalment to date I can’t wait to read the final instalment, although ultimately I’m also scared for some of these characters that I’ve become so attached to.

I highly recommend the War for the Rose Throne.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 grim and bloody stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Wisdom of Crowds (The Age of Madness #3) by Joe Abercrombie

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Wisdom of Crowds (The Age of Madness #3) by Joe Abercrombie.  I am loving this series and can’t wait to return.  Here’s the description:

Chaos. Fury. Destruction.

The Great Change is upon us…

Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies… while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.

The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together…

Expected publication : September 2021

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Posted On 25 May 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Brutally honest tale of slavery

the wolfdenThe Wolf Den is another book that looks at a period of history through the often overlooked eyes of others.  This is  a story that takes us to Pompeii and provides us with a glimpse not only into the lives of slaves, or even female slaves  but prostitutes.  It’s a shockingly honest reimagining of a look at these women, often taken against their will or sold into slavery due to poverty, who manage to form strong bonds whilst fighting against the despair and degradation they face daily.

Okay, to be equally honest, I didn’t start out loving this one as much as I’d hoped  BUT, stay with me here.  It certainly doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects and I started to wonder exactly what route the story would go down.  On top of that it does start out (unsurprisingly) as a rather seedy portrayal of the lives of the women and I started to feel a measure of despair on their behalf.  But, also in the vein of complete honesty I confess that this story completely won me over.  The narration by our main character, Amara, becomes a gripping and tense account, heart rending and ultimately hopeful.  

This story doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh truth of the lives of such women but at the same time it doesn’t dwell on the finer detail.  This isn’t gratuitously violent or sexual, there are plenty of references to what’s taking place and none of it is romanticised or painted in anything less than grim reality.  I mention this simply as a warning to some readers, violence, rape (off page), sexual references, slavery, degradation they’re all here so be aware of that when you pick this up but also be aware that this story also depicts firm female friendships and the strength and support they provide.

Amara is an educated, intelligent, well spoken woman.  Her family was hit by tragedy and she was eventually sold into slavery.  Her fortunes fell further when she was sold again into one of the most infamous brothels in Pompeii.  A dark and dismal building,  Small, cell like rooms, packed dirt floors and smoke stained walls help to demonstrate the cloying claustrophobic feel of the place and curtains to divide the rooms did little to provide any sort of privacy from  what seemed like a constant stream of drunken, demanding and often times demeaning, customers.  As the story begins we feel Amara’s shame and despair and the hopelessness of her situation but slowly but surely we become attached, Amara is resourceful and soon realises that she can manipulate certain situations to her advantage and in fact this is when the story really takes off. 

The characters.  Amara is our narrator and she was very easy to like.  She has a lot of sympathy for the women in her life and makes a good friend but this is tempered by the desire to escape servitude and the ultimate dream of freedom.  Eventually her fortunes begin to change.  She is good at planting seeds into her owner’s head, a man driven by greed he starts out wanting to beat Amara for her outspoken behaviour but soon comes to rely on her for the money she earns him.  I thought Harper did an excellent job with all of the character to be honest.  There are a number of different women, all portrayed really well with their own back stories, desires and mannerisms.  Even the brothel owner, a dislikable, petty minded and often vicious character has a long and turbulent history at the Wolf Den. 

What i particularly enjoyed about this was the sense of fear and anticipation that the author manages to create as the story goes forward.  Amara is taking risks, spinning stories and is constantly aware of the precipice that she balances upon.  Her story is compelling and you feel desperate for things to work out somehow.  There’s also more of that brutal honesty in Amara’s actions.  She has difficult choices to make.  She is aware that if she achieves her own freedom she will be leaving these women behind but at the same time she understands that she needs to be free in order to make any sort of change.  Her actions are sometimes heartbreaking as her head overrules her heart. 

The other thing that comes across here, in the most powerful way, is the absolute invisibility that these women suffer.  They are shown virtually no respect, no regard or no sensitivity whatsoever – other than the odd exception here and there.  Most of them are in situations that make your heart ache and yet they are treated terribly.  But, at the same time, as horrible and dire as their situations are there are moments of love and laughter that help to temper the story and prevent it from becoming overwhelming.

I think my only criticism, after I pushed through the start, was the modern voice that this is told in.  I understand the desire to make this easy to access and relatable but there were times when the conversations and actions felt a little too contemporary.  That said, there were also some wonderful descriptions of events, places and special holidays that I really enjoyed reading about.  I would also mention the ending which was both satisfying and surprising – in that it ends with a clear thread that promises more.  I hope that’s the case.  The story is complete but there are issues that need resolving and I would like to return to Pompeii and see how Amara fares.

Overall, I thought this was a well written and gripping story.  Yes, I did have a slight hesitation as the book set out but I’m so pleased that I pressed on with this one and I have no hesitation in recommending this.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 stars out of 5

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

My Five Word TL:DR Review : I wanted to love this

TheLightsI really did expect to love this one.  Prague.. Vampires.  Gothic.  This is my catnip  In fact it’s what I’ve been waiting for.  And, to be fair to Jarvis, there’s a lot of positive vibes here, but somehow, although I liked the story it failed to make me connect with either the characters or the place.

To the story.  Basically, we follow Domek Myska.  This is the gaslight era where science was starting to play a part in everyone’s lives for example here, the dark streets of Prague, lit by gas lamps, forcing the monsters to retreat even further into the darkness.  At the same time the monsters here are still hidden, the majority of the population are unaware of the vampires or pijavice that they are known as.  Now, the gaslighters are more than they seem.  They act as a kind of monster hunter force, lighting the streets whilst eliminating monsters and keeping people safe.

In terms of plot, we have a vampire slayer and a vampire.  The two have been circling each other in a romantic way, unaware that they are natural enemies.  On top of this, following a late night attack, Domek has stumbled onto something secret that will change things in the worst possible way – for humans at least.

Lady Ora Fischerová is part of the nobility but she is also a pijavice or vampire and for some time she’s been flirting with Domek, blissfully unaware of the danger he could pose to her.  Ora was turned hundreds of years ago but she now resists the natural life of a vampire.  In fact she loved and married a human who she still mourns.  Ora is about to be pulled back into the vampire underworld against her own better judgement.

Prague lends itself naturally to the supernatural elements of the story.  A beautiful city with dark tunnels beneath where danger lurks.  This is a city with ghosts, vampires and much more.

So, I enjoyed this but it didn’t ‘wow’ me in quite the way I hoped for or expected.  It’s difficult to put my finger on why that is exactly.  I think it boils down to two things.  I failed to really engage with either Domek or Ora and this led to a lack of fear or tension when they stepped into the fray.  And the two of them certainly face danger as the story progresses.  Basically, this was certainly not a bad story, or difficult to read, but it didn’t deliver the gothic fantasy I was eager for and in some ways the plot was a little obvious.  I was hoping for a little more menace from the vampires but felt the threat was never quite realised, even when they were striving to become something much more dangerous.

Overall, I think this could possibly be down to my own reading mood or the fact that I over hyped this one to such an extent that it would always be difficult to live up to such notions.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3 of 5 stars

 

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

This week seems to have flown by in an almighty rush – May feels like it’s escaping me completely.  I’ve continued to catch up blogging, slowly but surely.  I’ve also read three books this week.  I finished The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper, I also finished The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett and I read The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis.  And I posted a couple of reviews.  Although I think I’ll perhaps have to just have a very busy week and try and catch up because I still have five reviews to post!

Hopefully complete The Helm of Midnight and read The Broken God by Gareth Hanrahan.  I’m also hoping to start Hyde by Craig Russell which I picked up for audio.

  1. Later by Stephen King
  2. The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. The Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso
  3. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
  4. The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
  5. The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

Friday Face Off : The Top Hat #wyrdandwonder

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

The Top Hat

May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder so for the FFO themes I’m choosing fantasy books:

W&W

This week, I have no idea what I had in mind – whoops!.  I think next week will be much easier.  I’ve gone for a medley instead. See if you can spot the odd one out:

My favourite this week:

SW

Do you have a favourite?

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – The start of Wyrd and Wonder.  A month long celebration of fantasy : The Hood

2021

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

28th – The Hood

June

4th – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

#SPFBO 7 Announcement and Cover Competition

SPFBO71024_1

If you follow this blog you’ll probably be aware that I take part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) competition as a judge.   SPFBO 6 finished recently – my wrap up post is here and SPFBO 7 will begin on June 1st.

What’s SPFBO?  This is a competition for self published authors of fantasy fiction.  It’s the brainchild of Mark Lawrence and it’s mission (other than to boldly go….) is :

‘The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.’

Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list. 

The first announcement : 

For the purposes of SPFBO 7 : The Critiquing Chemist and I will be teaming up.  Our judging team will be known as LB=TC2 (as displayed in the banner above).  Basically, we got to talking and before you could say ‘give our creation life’ – things had moved on and we were a team (woohoo):

it's alive

We will be posting again shortly to outline our process in terms of the competition.

The second announcement :

Is in relation to the Cover Competition. 

Every year, as part of SPFBO, there is a cover competition.  Each of the 10 judges chooses 3 covers from their selection of books and these are then voted on by both the judges and the public.  Go ahead and take a look at all the lovely covers and make sure to vote on your favourites once the link becomes available (keep your eyes peeled here).

Below are the covers from LB=TC2′s batch :

And, after deliberation, discussion and analysis, the three covers chosen for the competition by LB=TC2′ are:

*

*

*

*

wait for it….

Do you have a favourite??

Note to authors – if I’ve not displayed the most recent cover then please let me know.

Later by Stephen King

Posted On 19 May 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review: In a nutshell, loved it

LaterI had such a good time with Later by Stephen King.  This is a book that I picked up on audio and before I say anything else about this I highly recommend it in that format, although I suspect I would have loved this just as much in written form because the narrator has such an excellent and addictive way of telling a story.

I won’t go overboard about the plot in this review.  Jamie Conklin is telling his own story reflecting back on certain events during his life.  He takes us back to a period when he was about four or five years old.  We learn that Jamie has been born with a gift.  He sees dead people.  He doesn’t always know that he’s seeing dead people because unless they died in some sort of accident they look like regular people.  They’re not haunting him though and they don’t want anything from him.  They seem to just linger for a few days before fading out – but during this period Jamie can talk to them, and for some strange reason, they are unable to lie.  His mother discovers Jamie’s secret after a friend passes away and makes him swear to tell nobody else of his ability. Of course, secrets are hard to keep, especially when times are tough and maybe a little ghost talking could help things get back on track.

There are a number of things that I really enjoyed about this:

As I mentioned above, I loved Jamie’s narration.  He has a compelling voice and tells his tale in the most addictive way.  During the course of his story he progresses to the age of around 15 sharing what start out as interesting anecdotes, slowly turning a little more serious before becoming decidedly creepy.  What really impressed me was that although Jamie is recounting his story, so you could be forgiven for thinking that as he’s now older he must survive whatever dreadful events he seems to be building up to, King still manages to suffuse the story with menace, enough to give you doubts about where the story might eventually end up.

I liked Jamie.  Brought up by his single mum I enjoyed the relationship they shared, it was realistic, touching and not always perfect – so life like really. Jamie doesn’t go overboard giving you details.  He recalls his childhood and early teenage years in a clear and organised way that makes the story a pleasure to read and from the start  he’s a bright child with a good dose of healthy humour.  For me, put simply, he felt real.

Little by little, King cranks up the tension.  He takes the story in a most unexpected way fusing thriller, horror and the supernatural in a seamless and entertaining way at the same time as keeping those elements almost low key.  As though seeing and talking to dead people was the most natural thing in the world. This is Jamie’s life and it feels like a normal life – until crazy things start to happen.

The other characters are also well drawn and equally well motivated.  Jamie’s mother, struggling to keep her head above water and protect him whilst also trying to have a relationship herself.  Then there’s the ghost that doesn’t disappear.  I mean, there’s always one isn’t there – and this guy definitely has the creep factor.  Finally the detective who uses Jamie to help her own career eventually dragging him into a life threatening situation.  She’s probably worse than the ghosts to be honest.

All in all I had a really good time with Later.  I liked the plot, the pacing was perfect, there will little references included here and there that made me smile and  that I wish I’d noted down so I could share them here.  It was simply addictive and I can see myself wanting to reread this – I certainly think it would make an excellent adaptation.

I have no hesitation recommending this and would also give another shout out to the audio version which was brilliant.

II purchased this book for audio.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

.

Top Ten Tuesday : Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences #wyrdandwonder

 

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic :

Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences

W&W

The Month of May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder and so in recognition of the event my top ten this week will be all fantasy books. 

 

The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue #1) by Christopher Buehlman #wyrdandwonder

The Blacktongue Thief is one of the books I’ve read as part of the Wyrd and Wonder event (details here) and what a creative wonder this book was.

W&W

My Five Word TL:DR review : Fast paced, inventive, fantasy shenanigans

blackImagine that somebody put all the fantasy tropes in a big bag, shook it up and then upturned the whole thing.  A hot mess of mediaeval style fantasy might be picked from the ensuing chaos.  A quest, if you will, filled with reluctant heroes, witches, trolls, giants, goblins and much, much more.  Now, flavour that concoction with some fantastic creativity, a dash of horror and a healthy glug of humour, stir wickedly and the result is a rich stew of delicious delights.

Yes, I enjoyed The Blacktongue thief, it’s a very entertaining read that runs the full gamut of emotions.  It had me laughing out loud one moment and then staring in horror the next.  Never predictable, fast paced and I must say I can’t wait to read more from this world.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into the plot – in fact I’m not going to go there at all.  To be quite honest the plot feels almost inconsequential in some respects and in fact we, much like the main character, remain in the dark for a good portion of the story.  That isn’t to say there’s a lack of action or motivation to propel the characters forward – more that it’s not the most important aspect and it’s a story that has a number of twists which is another reason I’m not going to elaborate.  Let’s just say, the characters have a need to travel from A to B but will go through a circuitous route that will involve C, D, E and F along the way.

Instead I’m going to chat about what worked for me with the Blacktongue Thief.

Well, firstly let’s take a look at the title which refers to the main character, Kinch Na Shannack, otherwise, thankfully, known as Kinch.  Kinch is from Galt where the people are born with a black tongue.  On top of this particular characteristic Kinch has a lucky streak, a very curious reading ability and a lot of charm.  Kinch has been trained as a thief by the Taker’s Guild.  Of course they don’t take on this burden of training out of generosity.  They expect payment and Kinch is in debt.  I could say his debts force him into a life of thieving but as he’s been trained in the arts that’s hardly the case, he always expected to take this route, its more that his debts have simply pushed him to desperation – which is where we find him when the book begins, sitting in a tree, with an arrow knocked, and a bad feeling inside waiting for a most unlikely victim to come strolling through the trees ahead. The early chapters see Kinch set out on a path, at the behest of the Guild, that team him up with a warrior known as Galva.  Galva is on a quest of her own.  She has secrets and at least one very cool surprise.  Along the way they gather a couple of other companions.  Most notably Norrigal, a witch in training who becomes something of a love interest as the story develops.  And a blind cat known as  Bully Boy who also has surprises in store.

The thing is.  I liked these characters.  I found them easy to read about, I cared about them as the story progressed and I really enjoyed the unusual aspects that each of them bring to the story.  I mean, there is literally never a dull moment with the Blacktongue Thief and the characters seem to ricochet from one outrageous situation to the next.  Which isn’t to say that this is too ‘busy’.  It’s just incredibly creative, full of magic and myths and with a number of genuinely laugh out loud moments that offset events that could otherwise become too grim.

I really enjoyed the writing and in fact I have another book (horror) by this author which I’m now dying (no pun intended) to read.  I mean, there’s a lot of gallows humour here not to mention a sort of tongue in cheek feel to certain elements.  Like I said above, the author seems to have a determination to fit everything into this world, witches, kraken, adventures on the sea, deserted islands, flesh eating goblins, and such a lot of little details that help to strengthen the sense of place, and yet this is all accomplished with apparent ease, it doesn’t feel overdone or cluttered and the world building is great – the history of the wars, songs, games, etc. all infused with enough  unique ideas to help it carve out it’s own little niche in the fantasy world.

I will just point out that this book isn’t shy of a bit of cursing and certain elements where you can really see Buehlman’s experience of writing horror coming into play. I don’t say that to put anyone off.  This isn’t horror as such, just a bit bloody on occasion.  For example, I never expected to read about such an unusual tug of war and its gruesome outcome!

Overall, I had a remarkably good time reading this one.  If I had any criticism at all it would simply relate to a slight feeling of being a little lost just over half way through, a feeling which ultimately relates to the meandering journey that the characters end up on and a fleeting sense of not quite understanding where the story was going.  To be honest though, I actually think that this was intentional on the part of the author.

The conclusion provides a great set up for the second instalment and I look forward to seeing where the author takes the story next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 stars.

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

Still very busy last week but I’m pleased to say that I’ve started to catch up with blog hopping, if I’ve not visited you yet I have made good progress and this week hopefully will get to everyone.  On the reading front I’ve read two books, both a little spontaneous and off plan – but, never mind – The Blacktongue Thief which I really enjoyed and Later by Stephen King which was also very good.  I do need to get back to The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter and The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper.  Both of those were not quite working their magic for me so I will try again this week.  I also will be reading the next instalment of the second Discworld book later this evening.

Complete The Helm of Midnight and The Wolf Den as mentioned above. I will also make a start on The Broken God by Gareth Hanrahan.

  1. A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  2. The Shadow of the Gods by John Grynne

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. The Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso
  3. Later by Stephen King
  4. The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Progress Update: Wyrd and Wonder reading #WyrdandWonder

W&W

We’re half way into May and so today I’m giving an update of the books I’ve read so far for Wyrd and Wonder – details here (but in short W&W is a fantastic month long celebration of all things fantasy) and also looking at those books I’d like to fit in for the second half of the month.

1 The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne – okay, this was brilliant.  What a way to start the event.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  Please give it a go, I seriously. 

Shadow

2 Later by Stephen King – I listened to the audio version for this one.  I haven’t read a King book for a while and  although I haven’t written my review for this one yet I can say it will be favourable.  I really liked this story and was thoroughly gripped.

Later

 

3 Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso – I started this book a while ago and put it down.  Nothing to do with the book and all to do with my strange up and down reading mood.  Anyway, I decided to start it again and part read/part listened to it.  I really enjoyed it.  It’s a winning combination of action and character focus.  Review to follow soon.

Ikessar

4 The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman.  My review for this will be up soon – I had so much fun with this book, literally laughed out loud on a number of occasions – much to the delight of the OH.

blacktongue

 

That’s my reading so far this month – and it’s been very good – so the second half has got a lot to live up to.  

Well, firstly, this month I hope to complete the second Discworld book that I’m buddy reading with the lovely Louise at Lousbookstuff.

lightfantastic

And, here’s a little medley of books.  I probably won’t get to them all but maybe 5 or 6:

So, what you reading for the rest of the month.

Friday Face Off : The earliest fantasy you recall reading

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

The start of Wyrd and Wonder.  A month long celebration of fantasy. The earliest fantasy you recall reading – or the first fantasy book you really loved, maybe the book that kickstarted your love of fantasy

May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder so for the FFO themes I’m choosing fantasy books:

W&W

This is an easy one for me  I did read a few fantasy books that I recall quite young, The Wizard of Oz, The Borrowers and The Wind in the Willows spring to mind immediately.  But, without doubt the book that sealed my love of fantasy fiction was Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, I’m pretty certain I read this when I was about 15 and I’m also fairly confident that I formed a huge crush on Aragorn.  Here is a small selection of covers.

My favourite this week:  I can’t really choose but I like these three because : Gandalf/Epic/Ring:

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – The start of Wyrd and Wonder.  A month long celebration of fantasy : The Top Hat

2021

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

4th – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

A Slightly Different Review : A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by VE Schwab

Today is a slightly different format for a review.   This is my second buddy read with Mayri at the Bookforager blog.  If you haven’t visited Mayri before I heartily recommend you do so, she’s a wonderful blogger. Our first buddy read was Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.

Slight spoiler alert – this didn’t really work out as well as we both hoped.  It’s a good book for sure and probably a few years ago I would have adored this but at this stage we probably won’t continue with the series but will instead look for a new book to start.  Read below for our thoughts.

We decided to post our review during Wyrd and Wonder the details of which can be found here.  This is a celebration of fantasy  It’s a fantastic event and it’s never too late to join in the fun.

W&W

Similar to our last buddy read this review will take the form of our chat back and forth.  This time round Mayri is posting the opening chapters and I will be going with the conclusion – so, ideally you might want to step away and go read Mayri’s post before continuing to read on.   

Also, before I start, I would mention that given the nature of our ongoing conversation during our read this post will contain spoilers so if you’re planning on reading this book you might want to avoid both posts.

Mayri has posted our conversation for week 1 and 2.  The conversation below follows weeks 3 and 4:

A Darker Shade final for IreneWeek 3 – Chapters 9-11

Mayri : Is it just me, or did the pace just kick up a notch? I even wrote down the page number (page 261) where I felt things started to get … not interesting, it’s been interesting from the beginning, but … more urgent, I guess. Like the vague threat of what the black stone can do suddenly became immediate. What do you think, Lynn?  

Lynn : The pace definitely picked up in fact when I read this section I almost pressed on because I felt like I was finally getting into the stride of things.  I didn’t though, I showed massive restraint! 

Mayri : (I’m so proud of you!) I was wondering when the Dane twins were going to rear their heads again, but wasn’t expecting Astrid to turn up inside Rhy! That was pretty cool. 

Lynn : Oh yes, I definitely didn’t see that coming.  What a surprise.  I think the only downside that I felt about that was if it’s really so easy to infiltrate a member of the royal family then that really isn’t very good.  In fact anybody could be taken over and manipulated.  But yes, such a shock – and I do like a good shock.

Mayri : Good point. Why haven’t they guarded against this possibility? They know about magic, so they know what can be done with it…

And I’m not sure that the magic in the stone is going to be wield-able. I’m pretty sure it’s got its own ideas. I really like the way it’s growing itself now it’s found people with more magic in them to burn. 

Lynn : Yes, that stone is pretty scary and quite tricksey too.  Is it just me or does it seem to be finding itself more ‘capable’  bodies to take over.  The last chapters definitely make me think that the stone poses a greater threat than I first suspected.  I wonder what will happen if Kell and Lila manage to take the stone back.  Will it’s presence fade then from the other Londons or will it keep on growing in strength.

Mayri : Good question. It’s interesting how power seems to be distributed differently across the Londons. I liked the description of the people of Grey London as only having a candle’s worth of life in them. And I think we’ve now got a pretty good idea of what happened to Black London, if not why. I’d like to know how the magic got the way it is now – sentient and hungry. 

Lynn : Yes, why did the magic change.  This black stone is certainly very hungry and incredibly willful!

Mayri : And Lila. She definitely remains the more interesting of the two. I love that she recognises the cunning of the stone. 

Lynn : Yep, I like Lila.  I mean, to be fair, I don’t dislike Kell but considering how much he knows and his experience he comes across as a little naive in some respects and you just can’t help thinking that he’s really put his foot in it.

Mayri : Definitely. I still find Kell bland, even this far in and think Lila makes the more compelling character. I love when she gets to dress up! That was awesome! I can picture her in her horned mask – what a badass look! 

Lynn : It was a good scene and I loved her choice of outfit. She’s very calm in most situations isn’t she, even managing to swipe an invitation for herself. I had a horrible sort of dread that the young ladies she took the invite from would figure it out and be lying in wait. You have to admire her too. Walking into this elaborate, royal party, on her own, and with no real qualms. Go Lila.

Mayri : Yeah, go Lila! 

 

Week 4 – Chapters 12-14

Mayri : Man, I still don’t really know how to feel about this story! On the one hand, I love the four Londons, I love Lila, and I was fascinated by Holland and what had been done to him. But on the other, I feel it’s been an uneven ride, slow to start and now, in this last section, all in a hurry to finish. Holland is vanquished like that *snaps fingers* when I wanted so much more from him. Rhy dies, but oh, nope, it’s OK, Kell’s done a spell. And Athos and Astrid never quite got the room or time to make their menace truly felt before Kell and Lila defeated them, (although they’ve definitely left an impression).

I sound like a right moaning min, I know, but my overall feeling is one of disappointment. There were a lot of promising ideas that didn’t ever get off the ground. And I don’t know if I can be bothered to read on. The only story I want more from is Lila’s …

Perhaps I feel this way though because we weren’t grabbed from the beginning, and so we never gained any momentum?

Thoughts?

Lynn : To be honest I couldn’t agree more.  Like you say, on the one hand there were so many promising ideas and people and yet on the other I feel like they weren’t given a fair shot somehow or just failed to reach their potential.  All the threats that loomed were easily defeated and the twins were definitely a disappointment. And I can’t help wonder why Holland had to die?  It just seemed such a shame.  I do like Lila and I loved that she walked away at the end and didn’t even glance back.  She has a lot of potential especially now she has discovered she has a small glimmer of magic herself, but much like you, I’m not really interested in continuing this one.  To be fair, I don’t think I’m the target audience and these days I’m less inclined to be bowled over by the promise of a dreamy relationship, which, I realise didn’t happen here – but it does hold the potential for a love interest in future instalments, even maybe the dreaded love triangle.  

I vote we move on and see if we can find something that will really blow us away.

Mayri : Ha! I second that! I’d much rather discover something new than read something because it might get better. 

And, yeah, I felt this wasn’t really written for me either. I can see how everything that happened in this book could whet the appetite for some (especially that possible romance *shudder*), but unfortunately, it didn’t grab me.

And there are so many books out there … waiting for us. 😁

 

So, there we have it.  All wrapped up.  It’s a shame this one didn’t quite work out for us both.  There are some fabulous ideas here and to be totally fair – I recently read and adored The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue by the same author so it could be that my expectations were unrealistically high going into this one.  This book does enjoy a lot of love though so don’t be put off by the fact that it didn’t quite win us over.

 

#SPFBO Wrap Up and Announcement

Posted On 12 May 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Comments Dropped 3 responses

Artboard 1

300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

If you’ve been following SPFBO (The Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition, brain child of Mark Lawrence) you’ll probably be aware already that we have our winner.  It was a close competition with some excellent reads – I advise you to step over here to see what takes your fancy. 

The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson topped the charts and is a worthy winner.  This was closely followed by my first book (and definitely not my last) by Michael R Fletcher a dark and grim little number called Black Stone Heart.  Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire was actually the first finalist I read and it really set the bar high (so no surprise that it came in the top three).  Anyway, I won’t go through all the finalists here, the final order, scores and all the reviews can be found on the link above and I highly recommend giving them all a try in fact I think I can safely say that there’ll be something here to satisfy every taste – from epic style fantasy to character focused, to grimdark, to norse retelling to gladiatorial style fight club and much, much more.  (Never forgetting of course that there were some amazing books that didn’t make the final cut – check out the blogs to see their thoughts on their original batch of books and eventual semi finalists).

***

Moving swiftly on – ‘WHAT!!’ you may say.  ‘Already? No, it’s too soon’. 

Well, SPFBO 7 will be starting on the 1st June so this post also acts as a ‘heads up’ for all you authors out there who would like to submit your work for the next competition.  The details can be found here  – (hint – the doors for submission open on the 14th May).

Two things must thee know about SPFBO.  

Firstly, it’s a competition – you have to be in it to win it.

Secondly, 300 books may enter the gates but…

highlander

Don’t be put off by those odds though – come for the competition but stay for the community, the camaraderie and the friends you will make along the way.

That is all.  Keep your eyes glued to Mark Lawrence’s blog, check out the SPFBO Facebook group or sign in to Twitter (#SPFBO) for further updates.

 

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Paper and Blood (Ink and Sigil #2) by Kevin Hearne

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Paper and Blood (Ink and Sigil #2) by Kevin Hearne.  I loved the first in series and can’t wait to read more.  Here’s the description:

PaperandBloodKevin Hearne returns to the world of his beloved Iron Druid Chronicles in book two of a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

Charming and unconventional Scottish detective Al MacBharrais returns in the second installment of the magical murder mystery series Ink & Sigil.

Expected publication : August 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : The Natural World of Fantasy

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic :

Books with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.)

W&W

The Month of May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder and so in recognition of the event my top ten this week does indeed depict nature – ‘a la fantasy style’.  I recommend all these books and hope you enjoy looking at all the fantasy critters on display.

The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Brilliant

ShadowI absolutely loved The Shadow of the Gods, in fact it’s possibly the best book I’ve read in a long time.  It made me happy every time I picked it up, I was caught in the age old dilemma of racing to the end to discover what happens at the same time as wanting to slow down my reading so that the story wouldn’t end too quickly.  This is a story that feels refreshingly unique and yet epicly familiar and it had me talking out loud in awe at certain points.  In a nutshell this book gave me a warm glow, it made me smile more often than I thought possible, it was gripping and heart wrenching and the kind of book that reminds me why I love reading fantasy so very much.  Mr Gwynne, I salute you for bringing back to me the joy of reading.  This review will be unabashadley gushing in nature. I want everyone to read this book, in fact I want to read it again to see what I missed the first time around.

As soon as I heard that Gwynne was writing a Norse inspired story I was onboard.  What better type of story for a talented writer of battle scenes than a Viking style saga set in a world of dead Gods and filled with mythical creatures and monsters?  This story from this author – what can I say, it’s like a perfect match.

Shadow of the Gods is set in a world shattered and reformed following the demise of warring Gods.  Relics and bones are sought after for their magical qualities and descendents of the Gods still exist, their god blessed blood giving them strange abilities.  Such people are known as ‘tainted’.  They generally keep their natures secret as they’re feared and loathed in equal amounts and also hunted down and enslaved more often than not.

The story is told by three characters, each sets out on their own path although ultimately their stories converge (remember that patience is a virtue).  I won’t deny that I had a firm favourite amongst the three and so I’ll start with that particular character.  Orka is a huntress and former warrior. She now lives a quiet life with her husband and son (Thorkell and Breca) but the peace they have found is about to be shattered.  Children are being taken, stolen in the night or violently torn from their parents for unknown purposes.  In one night Orka’s world is changed and she sets off on a path that is awe inspiring to behold.  Orka is such a great character.  She’s an absolute tigress and yet at the same time her maternal instincts, although initially buried beneath a stern exterior, are so emotionally touching.  Don’t get me wrong, she made me so frustrated with the way she rushed into situations with very little thought of her own safety or how she’d get back out of such situations but her reckless behaviour and furious onslaughts were certainly never dull to read about and I just couldn’t help but become attached to her in very short order.  We also meet Varg, an escaped slave (or thrall) who seeks vengeance for his murdered sister.  Unfortunately Varg has no idea who commited the crime and seeks magical aid to recreate her last moments and uncover her murderer.  Varg, hunted himself, becomes embroiled with a band of mercenaries known as The Bloodsworn.  In this company he finds friendship, respect and a camaraderie that he has never experienced before which leaves him warring with the desire to stay with his new found friends and the need to fulfill the oath he has sworn to his sister.  I loved The Bloodsworn, their endeavours and stories made for some excellent smile inducing reading.  Finally we have Elvar.  A woman with a secret past.  Elvar dreams of renown earned through battles and brave deeds.  Taken in and trained by the Battle Grim she finds herself taking part in an adventure that could possibly be sung about throughout the ages (if all goes to plan that is).

The driver of the plot is the missing children but underlying this is the nagging at the back of your brain that these children are being taken for a definite purpose and it’s this undercurrent that really ramps up the tension.

I loved the world building here.  Vigrið is the perfect combination of warm familiarity and uniquely new creation.  There are trolls and other critters living in the woods, creatures that will hunt and kill.  Orka, for example, seems to be bonded to two incredibly strange creatures.  One with a venomous sting that seems to live under a rock and has the creepiest description ever and the other that seems like a tiny flying dragon with a penchant for teeth!  And really, was there a need for Night Wyrms!  Seriously, their particular brand of horror will haunt my dreams for a while yet to come.  Everything about this world just screams epic.  The landscape itself, the dead Gods, magnificent beasts such as Snakes, Wolves and Dragons.  The battleground on which their remains lie buried.  Tree spirits or protectors.  The attention to detail about everyday life that brings the place to life.  The magnificently depicted fight sequences, bloody and brilliant to read.  And the writing which is simply spot on and evocative with little extras such as Svik, one of the Bloodsworn, who likes to tell funny stories.

What I thought was really well done here – is that Gwynne makes you invest in all three storylines, you become attached to the characters and their flaws.  The motivations at play are well realised and there’s an ever increasing sense of dread for what’s about to happen.  And yet, the conclusion also makes you realise that these groups are quite likely to come into conflict in future instalments and for me this felt masterfully executed.  Certainly, one of the groups is truly mercenary, their ‘heroic’ deeds driven by the love of coin as much as the desire to earn fame for their fighting prowess.  Basically, though I had little doubting moments at the back of my mind, I still found myself liking the characters which for me is a testament to how well written they are.  They feel believable.  Flawed, conflicted, motivated, strong, likable, secretive, sneaky, sometimes funny, relatable characters basically.

I think I may have mentioned that this review may be ‘gushing’ in nature and to reinforce that I would just clarify – this book is excellent.  I can’t recommend it enough to be honest.  It has this wonderful old school feel to it that invokes Tolkien, Beowolf and tales of Ragnarok but at the same time it stands on it’s own feet in the most refreshingly unique way.

Masterfully done.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating: Five dazzlingly sparkly stars

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

This week, I was a bit busy so a lot of my best laid plans went askew.  Consequently I’ve still got lots of catching up to do this forthcoming week.  In terms of reading I read The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne – which was brilliant.  Review to follow on Monday.  I also completed the Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso.  I started this some time ago but then put it down and got distracted.  So, I decided to start it again.  This is a very character focused read indeed which is something I love.  I also made a start on my second Pratchett Discworld book and read the first third.  I still need to finish The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter and I’ve also started the Wolf Den by Elodie Harper. 

 

Complete The Helm of Midnight and The Wolf Den. I think I’d also like to make a start on one of my other review books.  Perhaps Day Zero by C Robert Cargill.  And of course continue my Discworld adventure.

 

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
  2. The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence
  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  3. The Shadow of the Gods by John Grynne
  4. The Ikessar Falcon by KS Villoso

Friday Face Off : A Series where the cover changed midway through – which style do you prefer most

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

A Series where the cover changed midway through – which style do you prefer most

May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder so for the FFO themes I’m choosing fantasy books:

W&W

I can’t wait to see what people come up with for this week’s theme – changes in covers mid series can definitely be infuriating for people, especially when they’ve been collecting a series and already own quite a number of the books.  With that in mind this week I’ve gone for the Sookie Stackhouse covers:

Unfortunately for me, when I started the series the top selection of covers were the ones available.  These seemed to be stopped from book 9 onwards for some reason so I was never able to complete the set (although similar covers in different languages were still available).  I think my preference is for the top set, the newer covers feel almost like they’re aiming at comedy, which there is a strange mix of comedy in the books, but the original covers felt more appropriate somehow.  Which do you prefer:

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – The start of Wyrd and Wonder.  A month long celebration of fantasy. The earliest fantasy you recall reading – or the first fantasy book you really loved, maybe the book that kickstarted your love of fantasy

2021

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

7th – A Series where the cover changed midway through – which style do you prefer most

14th – The earliest fantasy you recall reading – or the first fantasy book you really loved, maybe the book that kickstarted your love of fantasy

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

4th – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Posted On 6 May 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 5 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Two sides to every story

AriadneI really enjoyed Ariadne by Jennifer Saint and was also incredibly impressed to learn that this is a debut novel.  Here we have a reimagining of one of Greek mythology’s most famous stories.  This is a beautifully told story, totally immersive, shocking and ultimately bittersweet.

I would start this by saying Greek mythology is an area that I have only a brief spattering of knowledge of but like most people I’m familiar with the most famous stories, King Minos and the Minotaur being a story that I was briefly aware of although I’d never read about how the Minotaur came to exist so this was certainly an eye opener and another example of the Gods and how they meddle in the lives of those that worship them.

For me, there are two sides to every story.  Throughout history, stories are told from the POV of the ‘winner’ and the other perspective is usually lacking sometimes even completely obliterated over the course of time.  Tales of mythology are similarly dominated by the males of the story, the heroes, fighting wars and gaining fame and status and the Gods, powerful and vain, playing with the lives of the mortals that worship them.  What I’m really enjoying from the recent spate of such retellings is the opportunity to read those stories from a fresh perspective.

So, to be clear, these are not reimaginings, the story and outcomes remain consistent to the original myth, they’re not an attempt to change the fate of the women involved, instead, they gave a voice to those females involved, tell their story and take the focus away from the traditionally male dominated one to the lesser known females of the piece.  And I have to say that I’m loving this trend and would love more such books.

Ariadne is the daughter of Minos and sister to Phaedra.  The tale of the minotaur is particularly grim and in fact really sad and the girl’s early years are blighted by gossip, shame and fear.  I’m not going to dwell on the earlier aspects of the story other than to say it’s told in the most captivating way.  This is a modern story and easy to get on board with and the author does a fantastic job of giving Ariadne a compelling voice.  The two sisters are very close and yet quite different in nature and we have the opportunity to explore this by the addition of Phaedre’s pov chapters.  I’m not going to discuss the plot.  It would be easy enough to check out the stories that already exist, however, if like me, you’re new to the story of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra then I would suggest picking this up without any prior knowledge.  It’s a compelling story that I read with almost indecent haste in my rush to discover the outcome

Through events, lies and deception Ariadne and Phaedra come to live very different lives.  They don’t see each other for many years and when they rediscover each other anew they unfortunately part on poor terms that ultimately lead to sorrow.

Why I really loved this.  I think the way the story is told is superb.  The writing is simply gorgeous.  It’s evocative and immersive.  I really bought into both women’s storylines with equal fascination and mounting fear and dread.  I like the play on the idea around monsters.  Is Minotaur a monster or simply acting in his nature?  Minos certainly acts monstrously and Theseus seems to put himself about, in the guise of a hero, handsome, dashing and brave and yet his actions don’t appear so magnificent when viewed under a different lens.  The Gods themselves play with the lives of ordinary people and themselves behave quite abominably, often taking out their spite and vengeance on those that have done nothing to earn such punishments.  So there is the dilemma that looking at stories through a different perspective delivers.

In terms of criticisms.  I have very little.  Of course the ending was a shock, it felt a little rushed too, like the author was in a hurry to get the dreaded deed done (which I kind of understand to be fair).  And, I confess that I felt sad about the outcome.  But, ultimately, I love that Saint has given both these females their own opportunity to be stood up and counted.  Here they have an opportunity to tell their story, sometimes a little less than flattering but with some excellent motivations along the way not to mention change in psyche that is inevitable, particularly Phaedre who, out of the two, seems to live a very precarious life filled with doubt, unease and suspicion that ultimately leads her onto a misled path of delusion and pain.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and would have no hesitation in picking up more books in the same vein.  Gripping, beautifully written, uplifting at times, sad at others.  A wonderful opportunity to really reimagine what these women’s lives were perhaps like.  To take the bare bones of a story and build a body of work that gives a different angle and voice to the myths.  Beware of certain triggers though, parts of this are quite brutal, although not in a sensationalist or shock value way, and may be upsetting to some readers.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson.  I absolutely loved Sorcery of Thorns and can’t wait to read what this author has come up with next. Here’s the description: 

VespertineFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens comes a thrilling new YA fantasy about a teen girl with mythic abilities who must defend her world against restless spirits of the dead.

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.

Expected publication : September 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : My Ten Most Recent Reads

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic :

My Ten Most Recent Reads 

This list is literally the last ten books that I’ve read.  Some of them I loved, some I liked.  I’ve given a brief intro, linked to my reviews and highlighted my rating.

The Drowned City by KJ Maitland – historical fiction set just after the Gunpowder Plot was discovered and political unrest and uncertainty run rife.  A natural disaster strikes Bristol leading to talk of witchcraft and an investigator is sent to dispel such rumours before they lead to further uprisings. I’m hopeful that this is a start to series as I would certainly pick up more books with this MC.  4 of 5 stars

Drowned City

Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher – a man awakens with no memories at all and embarks on a voyage of self  discovery.  A very grimdark read indeed that questions identity.  I enjoyed this one but would say this won’t be to everyone’s taste due to the brutality and harshness that takes place.  I have the next instalment which I will hopefully be picking up very soon. I gave this 8.5 of 10 so just over 4 of 5 stars 

BlackStone

Such Pretty Things by Lisa Heathfield – psychological horror whereby overwhelming grief drives strong emotions and even stronger actions.  I didn’t love this one as much as I’d hoped, maybe it was a touch too horror filled for my taste.  3 of 5 stars

suchprettythings

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw.  This is a very intriguing concept revolving around the ability to take memories.  This is another dark read where flawed characters make difficult decisions in a struggle to recover who they really are.  I gave this one 6.5 out of 10 which is just over 3 of 5 stars

LastMem

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell (The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings #2) – The Two-Faced Queen is everything that I hope for in a second book and then some. This is one crazy ride of a story, full of yet more intrigue and deceit involving immortals, serial killers and a continuing fight for the throne. 4.5 of 5 stars

TwoFacedQueen

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone –  I did enjoy this. It was a quick read, it was gripping and original and undeniably twisted.  A strange read that takes a little time to reveal its secrets.  3.5 of 5 stars

Mirrorland

The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin – In a world where single combat determines the fate of nations, the Grievar fight so that the rest can remain at peace. I really enjoyed this one. 4 of 5 stars

CC

The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson.  This is the winner of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition.  Great fantasy with a twisted conclusion. I gave this 8.5 out of 10 so just over 4 of 5 stars.

LostWar

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.  The introduction to the madcap world created by Pratchett. A good start to the craziness.  3.5 of 5 stars.

Colour3

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence.  A great second in series.  Wonderful writing, great characters and an intriguing long picture that makes me want the third book right away.  4.5 of 5 stars

Girl1

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl and the Mountain (Book of the Ice #2) by Mark Lawrence

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Let the long game commence

Girl1Two things I have consistently mentioned in my reviews for books by Mark Lawrence.  Firstly, his style of writing is a joy to read and, secondly, he is masterful when it comes to the long game.

That being said, The Girl and the Stars, although I enjoyed it, was not my favourite of his work, although the prose was delicious and we were introduced to a bunch of new characters struggling to survive.  When I say it wasn’t my favourite, of course, I should point out it was still a 4 star read for me so don’t be distracted by my pointing that out.  Unfortunately Mr Lawrence has found himself up on a high pedestal, it’s a precarious place and all I can say is that with great success comes great expectations.

Now, before I start this review I would mention that this being a second book in series this review will undoubtedly contain unintentional spoilers.  I would also  suggest that if you’re intending to read this you should start with the first book in series as opposed to crashing in, in fact I think it might even be helpful to read Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series (okay, it’s not essential that you do so but I certainly got a kick out of the conclusion to this one that was definitely served better by being familiar with that series).

Very helpfully the author provides a refresher before the book begins which I really appreciated. The Girl and the Mountain then picks up almost immediately where The Girl and the Stars left off.  Yaz has escaped the Pit of the Missing but is nonetheless in dire straits in fact you could reasonably suggest that a fitting catchphrase for this book (nay the series) might be ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’.  The friends that accompanied her have a much more perilous journey but eventually all the characters find themselves trapped inside the home of the priests, the Black Rock – which undoubtedly, and rightly, has an ominous ring. Now this portion of the book contains plenty to grip readers.  None of which I’m going to describe.  I would advise you to harden your heart because along with some shocking revelations for the characters there is also a little heartbreak along the way.  So, we discover that much of the way of life on the ice is founded on deception and lies, we already discovered some of that in book 1 but the start of TGatM reinforces it further and also reveals a much bigger conspiracy.

Yaz and a number of companions then undertake a perilous journey in search of the ‘fabled’ green land they’ve heard about.  This section of the story really concentrates on the characters.  Well, don’t get me wrong, there is hardship, danger and action but for me this really cements some of the friendships and helps to show the characters in a different light. Yaz is perhaps most in her comfort zone (if you can describe such conditions as comfortable) and even she loses her way a little as their journey progresses.  This journey is hard to say the least.

The story then takes a most extraordinary leap of imagination which even now is making my head spin.  To be honest I really don’t want to give anything away but it’s at times like this that I have an overwhelming desire to work my way back through some of the author’s other series.  Basically there’s a fusion of sci fi and fantasy here that starts to make me look at other things with curious eyes.  Anyway, I can’t speculate about it because I’m going round in circles arguing with myself about what it all means and trying to figure it out. Watch this space – but don’t hold your breath.

And, undeniably I loved the way that this one concluded.  Yes, it is a cliffhanger but it’s the sort of ending that makes me really anxious to pick up the next book.

What worked really well for me was travelling further afield, uncovering deceptions, greater character development and the promise of future reveals.

In terms of criticisms.  I thought that there was a slight slowing down as Yaz and her friends traversed the ice, but it was only a very slight blip before the author threw in the next crisis.  To be fair I enjoyed this section of the story for the character development that it allowed.

Overall I enjoyed this one.  It’s a book that really takes things forward in a very interesting way and I look forward to seeing where the author takes us next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 stars

 

 

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this last year but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week:

So this week.  I finished the SPFBO competition.  My final read was The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson, which was coincidentally also the winner of the competition.  My review is here.  I also completed The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence which was a very good second instalment and I enjoyed that it took us back to a world that Lawrence fans are already familiar with.  I’ve made a start on John Gwynne’s The Shadow of the Gods which has pretty much already grabbed my attention.  I’ve also made a start on The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter which is interesting. And, I seriously need to catch up with some reviews so hopefully I’ll manage to get three of four out this week.  Finally, I’m hoping to get back on track with blogging and blog hopping and see what I’ve been missing out on.

Next Week

Complete The Shadow of the Gods and The Helm of Midnight.  Also make a start on the second Discworld book and maybe make a start on The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  2. The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin
  3. The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  3. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
  4. The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence

Around the Discworld: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #1)

Discworld

Colour3Today is my review for the first book in the Discworld series and the first step on a journey that Louise over at Lou’s Book Stuff and I agreed to undertake together whereby we read the entire Discworld series in order.

So, The Colour of Magic is our first read and to be honest this is definitely a book where forewarned is forearmed.  As starts to series go this is kind of what I anticipated and a number of people had also mentioned to keep my expectations in check for this one as it isn’t the best that Discworld has to offer.  Like most first books this is a good introduction, it gives you a feel for the world, it introduces a couple of characters that I understand pop up again throughout the series and it demonstrates the madcap, quirky humour so you can get an idea if this will be something for you or not.

I confess that it took me a little while to get into this one, I don’t know why exactly, but I swear that I must have gone back to the beginning at least four times before I finally got on board.  After that little hiccup the rest was a very easy story to get along with although the plot is a little jumpy.  This doesn’t feel so much like a coherent plot as a series of incidents that introduce us to places and characters.

The main characters are Rincewind and Twoflower.  Rincewind is a wizard, although not a very competent one, and Twoflower is a tourist who has a surprising lack of fear for his own personal safety, by which I mean that he’s not so much courageous as simply oblivious to danger of any sort.  I must say that I love that Pratchett starts his introduction to the world with a story that follows a tourist – it’s really just so appropriate because as a new reader of a very well established world I definitely feel like a tourist.  My one wish – how I would love some luggage of the kind that Twoflower owns, luggage that you can’t lose.  These two characters become inextricably linked.  Twoflower hires Rincewind to be his guide to Discworld and whilst Rincewind has notions of double crossing his gullible would-be employer it soon becomes clear that he has instead become responsible for his safety and so the two embark on a series of (mis)adventures that usually involve scrapes with death – and, yes, we are also introduced to Death.

First impressions.  I liked this, I wasn’t totally bowled over but nor was I expecting to be.  I did find myself smiling at quite a lot of the descriptions, characters and humour, I mean, I wasn’t outright belly laughing but I do feel like this is a series that I could see myself really sinking in to.  I have to say that this really put me in mind of Monty Python, just a little bit crazy where it feels like literally anything can, and will, happen.  And, I loved some of the creativity, I mean, there’s a lot of imagination crammed in and little plays on tropes, dragons that only exist if you can imagine them or Gods that can’t be invoked by name.  The other thing that really stood out to me was that, for a book that was written not much shy of 40 years ago, this doesn’t feel like it’s aged badly at all.

Anyway, those are my initial impressions of the first book of the series.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, there doesn’t feel to be a plot that you can really become involved with.  It feels a little flighty and the characters seem to fall into trouble and get out of it with equal alacrity – and yet, although I mention that as a slight issue at the same time it feels fitting in regard to the crazy mixed up nature of the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this.  It didn’t totally wow me and at this point I wonder, if I’d picked this up years ago, or if I’d not already read some of the other storylines and loved them, would I carry on after picking this one up?  I’d like to think the answer to that is yes and I do always like to give the first book in a series some leeway so I’m fairly certain that I would.  I look forward to reading and discussing No.2 this month.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

I bought a copy through Audible and actually really enjoyed the narration.  I have #2 to read on kindle so it will be interesting to compare the two different formats.

Friday Face Off : A series that you love

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

Firstly, I would just mention that I’ve not managed to catch up yet with all your lovely blogs.  I have to confess that I’ve been feeling a bit sad.  I’m sure I’ll get over that slowly but surely, at the moment it feels like it’s going to be very slowly, I’m annoying myself now with all the pesky miserableness (and I keep leaking! – by which I mean crying – don’t panic anyone).  Anyway,I hope this was another easy theme for the week. I think the biggest problem that I had was choosing which particular series to go for.  Anyway, I’ve gone for a series that I absolutely adore the covers of.  In fact I think I never miss an opportunity to display these covers but truly, they are gorgeous. This week I have gone for The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan.  Seriously, these covers – and where did that sneaky 3.5 book come from – what absolute devilry is this?  Anyway, here are the covers in all their beautiful magnificence.  Try to disagree if you wish – but I will come over there – grrrrr!!

Feast your eyes on these little beauts:

one

Two

Three

threepoint5

Four

Five

Six

Do you have a favourite?  I’m not sure I can choose tbh.

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – The start of Wyrd and Wonder.  A month long celebration of fantasy.  The theme: A series where the covers changed midway through – which style do you prefer most

2021

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

7th – A Series where the cover changed midway through – which style do you prefer most

14th – The earliest fantasy you recall reading – or the first fantasy book you really loved, maybe the book that kickstarted your love of fantasy

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

4th – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy

July

2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

December

3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

#SPFBO Review (9): The Lost War (Eidyn #1) by Justin Lee Anderson

Artboard 1

300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here. My previous book reviews can be found here, here, here, hereherehere, here and here. Today I am reviewing my final finalist.

The Lost War by Justin Les Anderson is the finalist put forward by the Booknest and you can find their review here.

LostWarSo, I’m going to start this review in a remarkably blunt fashion by saying it’s my favourite of the finalists. Although, I will say, that as I was reading this one, even though it was good, and although I knew something was coming, it felt a little generic. Okay, you need to stay with me here. Yes, this feels like a typical medieval world, things feel familiar, but at the same time things feel wrong, and, when you reach the conclusion you will know why. Now, I’m not the kind of reader who thinks it’s okay to redeem a story by giving readers a remarkable ending, but what we have here is something different – or more than that – this is a book that gives little hints along the way, a trail of breadcrumbs that leaves you with an overall feeling of disquiet.  It’s  not a book that you’ll second guess, at least I don’t imagine so, but it will be a book that will eventually take you by complete surprise.

So, this is a book that doesn’t let up,  It starts by introducing a few characters in a dilemma and from there the pace is pretty relentless. Aranok is a draoidh, he wields magic.  He travels with his bodyguard Allandria, a skilled archer and he is the kings envoy.  War has been waged, lands have been ravaged and although the enemy has been defeated the threat is far from over.  Aranok,and his companions, are sent on a mission, one in which they don’t entirely trust each other even though they face many foes together.

Okay, I will say, that for a large part of this tale there is a sense of familiarity. We have a typical fantasy setting, characters that feel comfortable and a certain amount of conflict.  The characters we initially meet head off with a mission and before we know it encounter problems.  They’re beset with demons and other foes and every way they turn lies danger.  Like me, you may begin to wonder why anybody would ever travel abroad with so many threats in store and it certainly felt like winning the war hadn’t really achieved a favourable outcome or easy place in which to live. I enjoyed the strong sense of feeling at home with this book.  It felt comfortable to read and easy to get on with.  The pacing is excellent and there was a constant sense of movement coupled with an ever growing sense of unease.

I think it might be best not to discuss the plot too much. There is a mission, there is an overriding compulsion to ignore the mission, and there is much danger along the way.

In terms of the characters, well, I can’t deny I was pretty much on board with them all. I liked them in exactly the way the author intended. There are a few characters involved in the story and you might not initially warm up to them all but they all have their roles to play and I confess that I formed attachments to them all.  Which is quite impressive really. Plus, given the ending I’m looking forward to reading more about them in the next instalment.

The setting feels familiar.  A land that has seen war.  The country is still ravaged.  On top of that plague and other unmentionables still threaten the people. There are demons and undead out in the wilds, not to mention bandits and something else that seems even worse.

To be honest, I don’t want to say too much about this one for fear of giving away spoilers.   This is a book that will make you feel you know what’s going on.  Like me, you may imagine you can guess the eventual reveal, and there certainly are hints along the way, but I never second guessed the actual reveal.

In terms of criticisms.  There is a little bit of build up – but not enough to really be a problem.  I think my biggest issue became the draoidhs.  It starts to feel like there are too many possibilities for their particular talents – like there are literally no boundaries which makes it feel like any situation could be rescued.

This probably feels slightly vague in some respects but I’m trying to keep things under wraps.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 8.5

Next Page »