Top Ten Tuesday : New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020

Posted On 26 January 2021

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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 :

New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020

I read a lot of new-to-me author in 2020 (here’ my recap post) but here are ten standout books that I can’t resist throwing into the mix again:

  1. The God Game by Danny Tobey
  2. Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke
  3. Deeplight by Francis Hardinge
  4. You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
  5. Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
  6. The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
  7. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
  8. The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier
  9. Voice of War by Zack Argyle
  10. The Sin Eater by Megan Campisis

 

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Posted On 25 January 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Wow, such an impressive debut.

ShiverI loved Shiver.  I part read and part audio listened and I can heartily recommend both versions, the audio is simply superb and I find reading both versions is such a great experience.

To my review.  This is going to be a review that doesn’t focus too much on the story itself.  Fundamentally this is a mystery and I don’t want to give anything away unwittingly so this will be short and sweet.  Basically, as the story beings we meet up with five friends as they get together for the first time in ten years.  They meet up at a ski resort in the French Alps which immediately provokes a flood of memories for our narrator Millie and, after a rather startling icebreaker it soon becomes apparent they they’ve been brought together for ulterior motives.  Ten years ago one of their (then) party disappeared mysteriously.  Now declared dead it seems that somebody is interested in finding the whys and wherefores behind this disappearance and with secrets running rife everyone is a potential suspect.

What did I love about this.  It’s a great combination of compelling mystery, superb setting and intriguingly ‘grey’ characters.

On the face of it we have five characters in the mix, Milla, Curtis, Brent, Heather, and Dale, but given the dual timeline you can add in a further two characters, Odette and Saskia.  All at their peak in terms of pro snowboarding, competition is tough, some will take risks, determined to win, others are more adept at pushing buttons and causing conflict.  I like some of the characters more than others, which I think is inevitable in this sort of story, probably my favourite was Curtis.  I enjoyed Milla’s narration and think telling the story from one pov was a really great idea.  I think including more povs would have been very messy, not to mention would add to the potential to giveaway secrets, and what really worked just hearing from Milla is that she has her own shady backstory so that even though you’re privy to her thoughts it doesn’t leave her entirely in the clear.

The setting is great in more than one way.  Firstly, the venue, which is creepily and curiously completely empty.  The cable car is mysteriously out of operation and other means of communication have also been removed.  There’s an ominous feel to such a deserted venue. it puts me in mind of the Overlook Hotel with all the long, door lined corridors.  There’s just something insidious about such a large empty place isn’t there?  That horrible feeling of somebody sneaking around, or watching you, the prickling on the back of the shoulders or the notion of seeing something out of the corner of your eye.  Basically the atmosphere and suspense is really well done and the setting adds to this tremendously.  Secondly, the outside is no more a refuge than the inside.  Freezing cold temperatures and the possibility of falling into life threatening crevasses are just two very real dangers.  Add to this a sense of rising panic and things fairly quickly start to spiral out of control.

There’s not too much more that I can add really.  I really enjoyed this.  It’s an impressive debut, smoothly written, well plotted and to be honest, gripping to the very end. Very impressive and an author that I will watch with interest.

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

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday PostI’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 completed and reviewed The Mask of Mirrors.  I also started and finished The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell (review to be posted this forthcoming week).  I’m also 50% into Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest which I’m buddy reading with Mayri over at the Bookforager.  I’m also listening/reading to We Lie With Death by Devin Madson.

Next Week

I’m hoping to complete We Lie With Death and start listening to the audio version of Paternus: War of Gods by Dyrk Ashton.  I will also be reading my SPFBO book Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens.  Ambitious?  Perhaps a little bit – let’s see how I get on.  Something about the best laid plans.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick
  2. Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J Hayes

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell
  2. Ink and Sigil by Kevin Hearne
  3. Shiver by Allie Reynolds

What’ve you been up to the past week?

Friday Face Off : An Alien Encounter

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 week’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.  I’m currently linking up with Vintage Sci-Fi and if you also want to link up then please do so but this isn’t a requirement simply my way of highlighting events.  This week’s theme:

An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

This week I’ve gone for another vintage sci-fi book and one that I haven’t read yet but have picked up for the Vintage Sci Fi event this year – and I may be able to squeeze it in before the end of the month.  The Time Traders by Andre Norton.  Have you read this one?  Did you enjoy it.  Anyway, here are a few of the covers:

My favourites this week :

Do you have a favourite?  And have you read this book?

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 favourite classic or vintage sci-fi.

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi (or use any favourite sci-fi cover)

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

The Mask of Mirrors (Rook and Rose #1) by M.A. Carrick

My Five word TL:DR Review : This was absolutely my catnip or I can’t wait for more

MaskofI absolutely loved this, it’s a sumptuous novel that took me places I really didn’t anticipate.  I couldn’t help thinking of The Gentleman Bastard series whilst reading it but this is the female version of Locke that I hadn’t realised I needed in my life.

At a whopping (almost) 700 pages this might not be for everyone but it worked perfectly for me.  A fantastic combination of solid worldbuilding, captivating characters and intriguing plot I just loved it  Fast paced this may not be but nonetheless it won me over with ease.

Mask of Mirrors is a slow burn story that takes its own sweet time to build up the people and place before turning into a fairly dramatic and jaw dropping finale.  And, there’s a reason for that.  This is a story with plenty of characters, all with complicated names and in fact nicknames and an intricate plot that turns into a spider’s web of tangled threads and both these elements take time to become firmly rooted.

At the centre of the story is a character known as Ren (at least for the purpose of this review that’s the name I’m going to use) who, at the start of the story is embarking on her opening  gambit to become part of one of the noble families of the city of Nadežra.  Aided by Tess the two have planned a long con with much at stake.  Ren’s beauty coupled with the stylish concoctions that Tess can whip up on a budget will not be enough though.  Ren needs to make herself invaluable to the family.  Unfortunately, in doing so not only does she become more deeply involved with surrounding characters, each with their own political or financial motivations but she also runs the risk of forming attachments.  Basically, without giving too much away or going into the plot any further I can say that Ren is not the only person with something to gain and in fact her con is, relatively speaking, only a small fish in a larger pond.

I’m not sure if I have the right end of things with my assumptions about the setting but for me this story played out in an alternate Venice (maybe during the late renaissance although tbh I’m not a history buff so that could be completely off the mark) with nobles vying for power whilst the poor struggle against oppression.  There is much talk about charters and merchants, skiffs, elaborate masks and fashion and all the names sound Italian.  In terms of history.  Following war between Vraszan and Nadežra, a peace treaty was signed pretty much leaving the Nadežra nobility in control.  Five ruling families make up the Cinquerat (a controlling Council) with each family having a specific responsibility, for example Caerulet is responsible for anything relating to the military and also oversee the Vigil (known as the Hawks – the Vigil keep law and order).  As you can imagine keeping in favour with these families is highly desirable for the other noble families.  Magic is used in two ways.  Items can be imbued, so for example, Ren’s make-up is imbued to make her disguises seem more polished and to last longer without smudging or wearing off.  Numinatria is a form of geometry based magic whereby Inscriptors channel power using numbers and gods (this is greatly over-simplified on my part).  There is a long history here and suspicion and unrest runs rife between the Vraszenians and the Nadežra, particularly surrounding different religions and traditions not to mention the Nadežra nobility ultimately controlling everything.  I think you can see that there’s a lot to take on board and I’ve only barely scratched the surface here to be honest – but, I think the length of the book lends itself well to getting all the different clans and factions across and, just be aware there is both a glossary of often used terms and a very useful list of ‘Dramatis Personae’ which would be useful to check out before reading (can’t help thinking this would be more useful sitting at the start of the story though).

The key characters here are Ren and her two associates, the members of House Traementis (the family that Ren is hoping to infiltrate), the Rook, an unknown outlaw and hero of the poor folk, Grey Serrado, a captain of the Vigil who is investigating not only the continuing disappearance of a number of street children but also an explosion that caused the death of his brother and finally Derossi Vargo, a businessman keen to leave his dodgy past behind.  Did I mention that this is a complex web.

What I really loved about this.  Well, the attention to detail that gives a very strong sense of place.  The writing flows well and dealing with such a lot of ideas, strange names, customs, etc, without the need to constantly dump huge swathes of information is impressive.  I loved a number of the characters, including ones that are maybe a bit dodgy.  It’s an impressive concept that is very well executed and managed to create for me, not only a jaw dropping moment of surprise about half way through but then went on to make my eyes pop out as things went from ‘what the hell’ to ‘all out crazy’.  There is tension and intrigue, politics and backstabbing and it’s all played out against a fabulous backdrop with a degree of thought that is awe inspiring.

In terms of criticisms.  Okay, I didn’t really have any but that doesn’t leave me immune to certain aspects that I would mention here.  Firstly, this is not a book that you can rush through.  I found myself rereading some chapters and that’s not a fault of the authors but lies at my own door because I was trying to read too fast without really absorbing the information I was being given.  I can’t deny that sometimes the need to read quickly becomes very real when other review books are sitting in judgement of you but this is a book that needs your full attention and, no two ways about it, it isn’t a speedy read.  Secondly, this is complicated and highly detailed.  This is personally an aspect that I love but feel it deserves a mention because some people are not fond of this particular style so be aware.

This book is positively sumptuous and given the ending I can’t wait to see what the second instalment brings.  The Mask of Mirrors is a book that lived up to my expectations in every way, in fact I think it surpassed them by throwing in a couple of surprises that I didn’t see coming at all.

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

My rating 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Empire of the Vampire (Empire of the Vampire #1) by Jay Kristoff

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 : Empire of the Vampire (Empire of the Vampire #1) by Jay Kristoff – because VAMPIRES – okay, I had a spell a few years ago where vampire books were flooding the book stores and becoming something of a muchness.  Having quietened down for a while I think I’m ready now for a good vampire book and check out this description below (it doesn’t yet have a final cover but I couldn’t resist using this when I saw the blurb):

“From holy cup comes holy light.
The faithful hand sets world aright.
And in the seven martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.”


EmpireTwenty-seven years have passed since the last sunrise, and for almost three decades, the creatures of the night have walked the day without fear. Once, humanity fought bravely against the coldblood legions, but now, we exist only in a few scattered settlements—tiny sparks of light in a growing sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is the last of the Silversaints, a holy order dedicated to defending realm and church, now utterly destroyed. Imprisoned for the murder of the vampiric king, Gabriel is charged with telling the story of his life.

His tale spans years, from his youth in the monastery of San Michon, to the forbidden love that spelled his undoing, and the betrayal that saw his order annihilated. Most importantly, Gabriel will tell the story of the Grail—the legendary cup prophesied to bring an end to the eternal night, whose location is known to a single person: A smart-mouthed teenage urchin named Dior.

Their journey with a band of unlikely allies would see Dior and Gabriel forge an unbreakable bond, and set the broken paragon on a road to redemption.

But now, the Grail is shattered. And with the cup of the Redeemer destroyed and the last Silversaint awaiting execution, what can bring an end to this undying empire?

Expected publication : September 2021

TTT: Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To

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 Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To 

Ten books that I meant to read – add another zero to this and it’s probably closer to the mark. Okay, maybe slight over exaggeration but not much of one. I didn’t read nearly as many books as I would usually do last year. I’m going to choose a selection of books that got beyond me during the course of the year which includes bought and review titles:

The Midnight Bargain by CL Polk

Midnight

A Chorus of Fire by Brian D Anderson

AChorus

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

TheMercies

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Theonlygood

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

Feathertide

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Sundown

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

WhatLies

The Island Child by Molly Aitken

TheIsland

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

Owl and the Tiger Thieves by Kristi Charish

Owl

 

Pawn’s Gambit (A Mortal Techniques novel) by Rob J Hayes #PawnsGambit #MortalTechniques

Today I’m very happy to be taking part in the blog tour for Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J Hayes.  I’ve listed lots of information below so please check out the other blogs taking part and take a chance to look at the author bio.

PG2

Pawn'sPawn’s Gambit is the second book in Rob Hayes’ Mortal Techniques series and it’s impressive. This isn’t my first book by this author and it certainly won’t be my last but what it shows beyond any doubt is that Hayes has some writing chops and he seems (unbelievably) to improve with each successive novel.

Never Die and Pawn’s Gambit are set in the same world but are two horses of a very different nature, although, they share a common thread.  That of heros.  I think I can confidently say that you could read this book as a standalone although I think personally it makes sense to start with the first.  There are small references in here that readers of Never Die will enjoy but at the same time I have the feeling that the author is really going somewhere with this series.  Like, yeah, you can read them alone, but also they’re going to collectively build into something fantastic.

So, Pawn’s Gambit is set in the same fantastic world as Never Dies but a few years down the line.  We meet up with our central protagonist Yuu.  Yuu is at a low point in her life.  She has massive guilt for things that happened in her past and usually loses herself in a bottle by midday each day, although she’s still sharp enough to regularly beat anyone who wants to stand against her at chess.  Each day is much the same as the last until one day a new pretender sits opposite, a young girl called Natsuko who turns Yuu’s world on its head again, and in using that phrase ‘turn on it’s head’ I’m also picturing one of those hourglass devices – because, put bluntly, the time is ticking.

Let’s go back to the beginning.  Imagine, if you will, a pantheon of the Gods. The ruler of the Gods is currently the God of War, and you might be able to imagine the bloodshed he has wreaked upon his mortal worshippers during his time on the seat of power.  But now, his fellow Gods have the opportunity to challenge him. Each may seek a champion who will, on the mortal world, seek relics on behalf of the God which they serve.  The idea is that eventually a challenge will occur and perhaps a new God will sit upon the throne – one that doesn’t harvest lives but instead creates harmony? Maybe yes, maybe no – at the end of the day all the Gods have their own agenda.  Let the games begin.

At its heart Pawn’s Gambit is a quest,  All the champions are racing the clock to find the most relics and each is assisted by the God they’ve signed up with.  Now, this isn’t the quick, all swords blazing thrill ride that Never Ride was.  This is more a story of redemption and, whilst it’s not a slow burn, it certainly provides some character development that is impressive.

So, Yuu is a strategist.  In a former life she was known as the Art of War although that is both a mask and a moniker that she left behind long ago.  Natsuko is a God.  The God of lost or forgotten things in fact.  Sometimes a young girl, sometimes a crone.  In spite of mutual distrust the two strike a deal.

Look, I’m basically not going to talk about the plot.  It’s good.  That’s all you need to know.  Trust me on this if you please.

The Writing.  Well, I just think Hayes gets better and better – the crazy thing is, I loved both of his books that I already read and so I can understand you might be thinking how reliable is this woman – how can things keep improving if they were already so good.  Look, I’m not here to explain the laws of the universe but I can tell you that this author reinvents and improves himself on a continual basis and it’s fascinating and compelling.  This is a book set in the same world as Never Dies, it has little shout outs which are great if you read the first book, but at the same time not necessary if you haven’t, but it has a totally different style and feel.  The first is all fighting, furious paced and something of a thrill ride.  The second is a game of strategy, with some incredibly thrilling individual set pieces that are both unique and gripping.

But, the best part of Pawn’s Gambit.  Well, I say the best part but always bear in mind that I’m a sucker for the long game which is definitely a factor here, is the characters.  The potential that is explored and the variety.  Hayes seems to be a master of gathering together the most unlikely contingent of characters and making them gel together in a way you couldn’t conceive and then making them into something more.

Anyway, at this moment, apart from the fact that I clearly loved this book I’m struggling to decide which I like more.  At the end of the day I don’t think one is better than the other.  These are two entirely different beasts.  both full of captivating scenes, shocks and heart.  One fast paced and furious. The other a mind game that, don’t get me wrong has plenty of action,  but that builds to a grand finale of brains against brawn.

Seriously, people, read Hayes. That is all.

My rating – 5 of 5 stars

Blog Tour:

  1. Novel Notions – review 
  2. Grimmedian – review
  3. Out of this World sff  reviews – review
  4. The Book Prescription – review
  5. Realms of My MInd
  6. Maxine’s Obsessions
  7. Grimdark Magazine
  8. Fantasy Book Critic

Official release date: 26th January 2021

Author info:

Twitter : RoboftheHayes

Winner of Mark Lawrence’s 3rd Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) with Where Loyalties Lie

Rob J. Hayes was born somewhere south of the cockney wastelands in a small town called Basingstoke. He grew up with all the usual boy toys including Lego, Star Wars figures (complete with working lightsaber action) and plenty of Transformers. Playing with these toys inspired his imagination and as soon as he was old enough he started playing with swords… OK, wooden sticks.

At the age of fourteen he started writing but, like most fourteen year old boys, everything had to be either a vampire, a werewolf, or have superpowers. Thankfully, like most fourteen year old boys, he eventually grew up… a bit.

After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey, Rob ran away to live on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

When he’s not madly scribbling his next epic, Rob has a variety of hobbies that, unsurprisingly, are fantasy themed. He regularly plays card games based on the A Game of Thrones and the Netrunner universes and attends tournaments throughout the UK. Rob also enjoys Airsofting: the act of running around a forest with fake guns shooting (being shot by) his friends.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Loved it.  History and Ghosts

skinfulA Skinful of Shadows is my second Hardinge book and to date this is an author with a 100% track record because both this and Deeplight were excellent.  Without doubt I will be checking out more backlist books from this author and in fact have a copy of The Lie Tree already lined up.

A Skinful of Shadows is an excellent historical story of ghosts and possession set during the turbulent times of the English Civil War.  We make the acquaintance of Makepeace as she is but a child and learning some hard lessons from her mother which usually consist of enduring a night on her own in the local cemetery.  Makepeace’s mother is not the softest of women but she has her reasons and in spite of the harshness has Makepeace’s best interests at heart.

Makepeace and her mother live a quiet life in a small puritan village, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re in hiding as they keep a low profile and Makepeace knows nothing of her own father or other family members however tension is building, as Makepeace gets older she is less inclined to accept her mother’s lack of answers or punishing nighttime spooky training sessions.  The two argue and tragedy follows.  In fairly quick succession Makepeace finds herself alone, still searching for answers and vulnerable and this is when her troubles really begin.

I won’t say more about the story as part of the joy is discovering this strange tale without prior knowledge.

What really worked well for me in no particular order.

Makepeace is a great, sympathetic and easy to like narrator.  She’s clever and flexible, quick witted and generous, both in terms of the way she treats others but also with the information she shares with the reader.  It’s remarkably easy to get on board with her story and in fact I felt myself anxious to return at every opportunity, desperate in fact to see where Makepeace’s unusual story would take me next. In fact characters are something that Hardinge excels at and there is a superb cast here all replete with their own motivations.  One character in particular steals the show  and I wish I could say more but it would be such a spoiler so my lips are sealed.

The story itself is a wonderful combination of history and fantasy and the speculative elements are included with such a deft and subtle hand that the concept comes across as horribly plausible.  Set in turbulent times when the wrong decision could make or break a family’s reputation scheming runs rife, blackmail is not unheard of and ruthless people will be, well, ruthless.

I love the way Hardinge writes.  She is a wonderful storyteller with a way of spinning words that lure you in in the most deceptively easy way.  Here she manages to create tension at the same time as providing a convincing backdrop and she quite simply made me love the characters and care very much what happened to them.

I have to hand it to this author.  I’ve only read two of her books but they were so completely different that it leaves me thinking that Hardinge’s imagination knows no bounds.  What’s also really impressive is that she has a penchant for standalone novels which is such a breath of fresh air.

I bought an audible copy and highly recommend it – the narration was absolutely wonderful

I can’t wait to pick up my next Hardinge novel and I suggest if you enjoy speculative fiction this is an author you should read.

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Friday Face Off : Spaceships and Explosions #VintageSciFi

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 week’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.  I’m currently linking up with Vintage Sci-Fi and if you also want to link up then please do so but this isn’t a requirement simply my way of highlighting events.  This week’s theme:

An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

This week I’ve gone for another vintage sci-fi book and one that I read previously (I think for a previous Vintage sci fi event).  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein and here is a small selection of the covers:

My favourite.  I may have mentioned that I’m quite often a sucker for the SF Masterworks covers and this week is no exception.  I love the colours and this fits the bill so perfectly:

Harsh2

Do you have a favourite?  And have you read this book?

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 – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

22nd – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

Posted On 14 January 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 13 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Didn’t Quite Work for Me

BetrayalsThe Betrayals is a book that I part read and part listened to and I will say before starting this review that I do love the way that Bridget Collins writes.  She has a way of instilling her works with so much atmosphere that even though the story wasn’t quite my ‘thing’ I still wanted to continue reading.

This is a novel with a historic feel although I’m not entirely sure the year in which this takes place.  We begin by making the acquaintance of Léo Martin, a disgraced politician.  Basically Léo had the temerity to disagree with one of the party lines and as a result finds himself demoted to a backsticks position that actually involves a return to his old school.  Montverre is an old school academy where bright young things pitch their wits against each other in an old fashioned game known as the Grand Jeu.  Léo left the school after a tragedy and his return now sets in train a strange unwinding of the past and some startling revelations along the way.

This is a story with a few POVs.  Obviously Léo.  Léo has become complacent over the years, used to his own importance and lulled, in fact, into thinking that his opinions matter much more than they do.  He’s forgotten to keep his head down and is now facing the outcome of his own overblown self importance.  In fairness to Léo he is actually making a stand against a party line that is very harsh and his removal from office gives him time to stand back and see just how extreme things have become.  The politics here are not particularly named but there is an almost fascist feel to the place as though things are on the brink of change, tolerance is low and there’s an underlying current of fear and suspicion.  We also have Léo’s pov from his days as a student told through the pages of a journal that he wrote at the time and so from this you would be right in thinking that the story does jump back and forth in order for us to discover what happened way back when.  The third pov is Magister Ludi – this is the highest office that can be held at Montverre and is currently held by a woman called Claire Dryden.  As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that this shocking admission of a female into a very male centred world and a much sought after position came about through some sleight of hand and it would be an understatement to say that not all the old bastions within the Academy are happy with the ways things have panned out.  Finally, a character known as the Rat – a very unusual perspective and one that I won’t elaborate on here for fear of spoilers.

So, what I liked about this first.  I loved the writing.  As I mentioned above Collins is really amazing at setting the tone and The Betrayals is brimming over with atmosphere.  On top of that I am a little bit of a sucker for any story that’s set within the walls of a school or other learning establishment and the one here is a grand old building with plenty of dusty corridors, dark spaces and secret histories.  There is also a lovely slow reveal of past secrets that went in a direction that was surprisingly and happily unexpected.

What didn’t work too well for me was a combination of wanting more clarity on the grand jeu and what the school was actually about and an overall feeling of not only missing something fundamental along the way but also that the plot didn’t really live up to it’s promise somehow.  I’m not really phrasing that very well but for me it felt like there was going to be a lot more substance to this than the actual outcome left me feeling. Again, I think this is probably down to me not picking up an underlying message or perhaps expecting there to be more to this than was actually intended.

Overall, although this one didn’t totally win me over I would still not hesitate to pick up more books by this author.  She has a style of writing that really works for me and so even though the content for this one didn’t work it’s magic I remain only too happy to read more books by her in the future.

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

Mr Rating 3 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne 

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 Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne.  I have been waiting for a description and book cover so that I could display this book.  I am so excited for this book.  Literally, I want this book.  I really do.  Anyway, here goes:

ShadowSet in a brand-new, Norse-inspired world, and packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance, The Shadow of the Gods begins an epic new fantasy saga from bestselling author John Gwynne.

After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.

Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

Now, as whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . .

Expected publication : May 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : Hopes for 2021

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 :

Hopes for 2021

In keeping with the nature of this blog and my much loved hobby of reading I’m going to keep this centred on all things bookish (so, please take it for granted that I would also dearly love for a cure for the current pandemic, for everyone to have a fantastic year, for all our friends and families to remain safe and healthy and for 2021 to be a most excellent year), that being said, here are my ten ‘bookish-themed’ hopes:

  1. I would like all my book wishes to come true.  I know this is greedy and ridiculous and I also realise that I can’t possibly read ALL THE BOOKS, but, at the same time it really doesn’t help me from wanting them all.  I can’t help but hoping to have them all in my little grabby hands.  There.
  2. To become more organised.  I frequently see author interviews in which the question – ‘are you a planner or a pantser’ is asked.  I may not be a writer, and for the avoidance of doubt I will just confirm that I have no hopes or intentions whatsoever in that direction – I’m very much a reader.  But, writer or not, I am definitely a pantser.
  3. My blog needs updating.  I’ve become very lazy over the past few years and pay little regard to the set up or style.  I know that changing the style is probably more trouble than it’s worth but I would like to get on top of things like my A-Z of books (which is probably about 3 years out of date atm).
  4. I would very much like to catch up with some older outstanding review requests, this includes both traditionally and self published books.  I always take these things on board with the best intentions but sometimes I overwhelm myself.  Eyes too big for the belly as we like to say in the UK.  To all the authors or publishers who have gifted me books that I have not yet read my most sincere apologies.  I will try to do better.  Know this though, my biggest victim is probably myself, I can’t resist buying new books all the time and yet my own ‘bought’ books very rarely get read.
  5. It would be really good if I could get back into the habit of writing reviews as soon as I’ve finished a book.  This is how I used to operate.  I liked to put my thoughts down whilst the emotions were still rampaging around.  Once I leave things a few days it really affects me and I don’t feel I can quite capture those ‘just finished’ feelings.  I think the main reason my writing review habits changed is that quite often I will stay up late to finish a book and usually then just want to sleep.  What’s a girl to do?  Do I stay up and finish the book or leave it to the next day, finish it early and write the review?  Who am I kidding.
  6. To organise my kindle better.  This includes removing the books that are complete so that I can really see the wood for the trees.  That’s a downfall of the kindle – no stacks of books all over the house to make you feel guilty.  Once that book goes onto your e-reader it can’t make you feel bad any more.
  7. Completion.  I would seriously like to finish off some of my outstanding series before I start new ones.  I guess the real issue here is that when I see a new book that looks really awesome I fall into the trap of wanting it immediately (probably because nothing is more daunting than falling behind with a series).  I think I need to go back through my lists and lists and lists and maybe make yet one more list – it can’t hurt now – in which I make a note of my unfinished series and really try to tick some of those off.
  8. I would also like to be a bit more sociable and get back to chatting with everyone on a daily basis rather than leaving things for a few days and then commenting on a week’s worth of posts all at once.  I’ve definitely got into bad habits last year (what with one thing and another  *waves arms around crazily*) and it would be good if I could shake those habits this year.
  9. To reinstate my ‘weekly wrap up’ post or something of a similar nature – maybe to join in with the ‘What’s on my Plate’ meme.  I need something that I can check in with to keep me on track.  I mean, I don’t want to remove all the spontaneity or fun of picking up an unscheduled book and it would definitely be good to start reading some books on a whim – but the weekly wrap ups were very good for keeping me a bit more focused.
  10. Finally, I hope that 2021 treats us all well.

The Stranger Times by CK McDonnell

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Please, I would like more

The strangertimesI had a ridiculously good time reading this book, it made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, I just really enjoyed the humour and was hooked.  In fact, I can admit that I turned into that annoying reader who keeps reading snippets out to the other half – even though it’s completely out of context and they’re not amused at your incessant ramblings.

So, in fairness, I’m not going to try and say that The Stranger Times brings anything particularly new to the urban fantasy genre, but, regardless of that it won me over with ease, it had characters that I enjoyed, I really liked the setting with the small office dynamic and the slightly eccentric style of news reporting.  Also, I can’t deny that a book being set in Manchester, where I worked for a few years, also appealed greatly and I thought really lent itself to the nature of the story.

As the book begins we meet Hannah Willis.  Hannah has recently split from her husband and is slowly discovering that the rich lifestyle she had become accustomed to is now a thing of the past and standing on her own two feet, having spent a number of years honing absolutely no skills whatsoever at all to perfection, means that her employment prospects don’t look too promising and when her first interview turns into a disaster Hannah realises that standing on her own two feet might be easier said than done.

However, against the odds, her second interview – which doesn’t resemble an interview in any shape or form, leaves her as the new assistant editor to the Stranger Times.  Now, before you become all flabbergasted at this piece of luck two things must you know.  Firstly, Hannah was the only interviewee and secondly, as a result of a very grumpy editor, most new people leave before their colleagues have even had a chance to remember their name. Hence, Hannah becomes known as the ‘new Tina’,  the only person to have stayed in post long enough to make an impression.

The plot, is something of a murder mystery.  We are immediately made aware that somebody evil is prowling the streets and after a couple of deaths, The Stranger Times employees find themselves drawn into the investigation and actually doing some real journalism.  I’m actually not going to say anything more about what takes place because I think it would involve spoilers and I really loved the rather chaotic style of the story and think it best left for readers to discover it all for themselves.

What particularly worked for me was threefold.  Firstly, the setting – as I mentioned ‘Manchester’ – but more than that, the humour, the author seems to have really captured the essence of the place in terms of banter, dialogue and sarcasm.  Secondly, the characters.  This feels like a cast that I could become attached too – on top of this the author has left a lot yet to explore with all of them.  Thirdly, the quirky eccentricity of it all combined.  A group of misfits working for a publication that writes about the weird and wonderful and pretty soon discover there’s more to all this ‘hocus pocus’ than they ever imagined.

To be honest, it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly why this worked for me at the time I picked it up. Perhaps it’s the nature of the strange times in which we live that makes such escapism a fun distraction but I can say without doubt that I would love to read more from this eclectic bunch of characters. I would love for certain friendships to develop further and I, well, I just want more.  Pretty please.

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

Two-fer – A Double Review of Two Audio Books

Due to a Christmas and New Year break – in which I did virtually no blogging, but was still reading, I’m now a little behind with reviews so the next couple of weeks will be a little more active as I try to catch up.

Today, I’m posting mini reviews for two audiobooks that I listened to during the last few days of December – one of these was a festive story that strictly speaking I would have liked to have posted pre-Xmas (but the best laid plans, etc, etc) – regardless of timing, I enjoyed both.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, narrated by Hugh Grant.

AChristmasCarol

This is a story that I have reread many times over the years.  A well known tale of one man’s redemption and overall a story of hope.

I won’t elaborate greatly upon the plot as I’m sure most people are well aware of the basics of this well loved classic.  Ebenezer Scrooge is a selfish man – in fact over the years his very name has become synonymous with anything miserly or avaricious.  He works long hours, constantly striving for success yet taking no pleasure in his wealth.  He is penny pinching and mean spirited, not just to others but also to himself. His path is one of misery, not only in this life, but if he doesn’t change for the better, in the afterlife as well.  On Christmas Eve, he is paid an unusual visit by Jacob Marley.  Jacob was Ebeneezer’s business partner, dead these last seven years and paying the price of his pernicious greed in life by wearing a heavy and burdensome chain in death.  He seeks to save Ebeneezer such a fate and plans an intervention from three ghosts.  The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  These visits reveal much.  Scrooge wasn’t always such a bitter and twisted individual and but for the hand of fate could have found himself on a very different path.

This is a story than never fails to work it’s charm on me and once again I found myself spirited away to Victorian London as it prepares for another Christmas Day.  Carols are being sung, turkeys are being prepared, children are skating on the icy streets and one cold office remains open to the bitter last.  Dimly lit and poorly heated, it’s occupants won’t go home until the close of day.  Ebenezer Scrooge and his uncomplaining clerk, Bob Cratchit, are where our story begins.  My full review of a previous reread can be found here.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio version.  It’s told by Hugh Grant who is a superb narrator and whilst I can’t compare it to other readings (this being my first (but definitely not my last) for this particular novel) I would definitely recommend it.  Of course, I set the scene well, listening to this as I was undertaking my own Christmas preparations and being very much in the mood for everything and anything seasonal.

I found this every bit as enjoyable as my past rereads, it truly is a wonderful story to listen to written in simpler times when people would gather round to tell stories to each other.  In fact Dickens writing style really lends itself to this form of storytelling.  This has a great balance between the bleak and the sensational and given the seasonal feel is a lovely tale of hope and redemption.

I have no hesitation in recommending this audio version and in fact I picked up a copy for free on Audible and understand that the offer remains valid for members until the end of the current month.  So, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy – then you’ll be prepared, well in advance, for next Christmas.

Rating 7.5/8 out of 10

 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham, Dina Gregory narrated by Cush Jumbo, Harriet Walter, Aimee Lou Wood, Susan Wokoma, Jennifer Saunders, Raj Gatak, Clare Corbett, Gerard McDermott, Stephanie Racine

winditwillows

‘This is an all female retelling of a classic.’

Okay, first things first.  This was another free audible book for members – a holiday gift in fact.  And, in my excitement at finding a present available for download (yes, I am still just as excited in adulthood at the thought of a prezzie as I ever was as a child) I failed to notice the ‘all female retelling’ element and grabbed a copy with positively indecent haste – my expectations were for a a new audio version of a classic tale – for goodness sake, if I’d taken one moment it’s fairly obvious from the cover that Toad is female and this is a different kettle of critters.  Ah well, something about fools rushing in. 

Now, firstly, I’m not averse to an all female cast, I’m also not averse to a retelling of a story and in fact have enjoyed many retellings of well known stories over the years, and, in fairness, I can see what the author was hoping to achieve in some respects, but, this one didn’t really work it’s magic on me.

To be fair, this is an excellent cast of narrators but in spite of some impressive narration I felt like there was something stopping me from truly enjoying this.  One thing that immediately springs to mind is the drawn out pace of reading.  Obviously, as an audio book, the pace can be increased and in this particular case I would say that it’s essential to do so, but this pacing issue detracted a little from the overall enjoyment – like the charm of the story somehow became lost in the need to slowly enunciate every word.

On top of this, and in spite of my enjoying retellings, I can’t help but feel a bit puzzled by this one because it follows the original story almost to the letter – simply replacing the ‘he’s’ with ‘she’s’ and calling the characters Mrs Mole and Lady Toad, etc.  It feels, for me, a little like a lost opportunity somehow, if you’re going to take a story and retell it then make it your own. Instead of telling the same story why not create a new adventure set on the river bank and the wild woods but with some of the female inhabitants of those places taking the lead roles with a whole new adventure to explore?

I think overall, perhaps if you haven’t read the original story then this might work better for you than it did for me and if you fancy giving it a shot I understand it is available for free on Audible until the 31st January.

Mr rating 4 out of 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid-Lich Crisis by Steve Thomas

Posted On 8 January 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Comments Dropped 8 responses

midlichMid-Lich Crisis is one of the books that was included in my batch for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off and was a strong contender. I had some very good books this year which made choosing semi-finalists and an eventual finalist very difficult indeed and the fact that Mid-Lich Crisis was eventually cut stands testament to just how good this year’s selection actually was.

What I really liked about Mid-Lich Crisis is that it tells the story from the opposite side of the coin.  Instead of following in the footsteps of the typical ‘good’ hero we instead look at things from the villain’s perspective.  And here’s the thing, does a villain really think he’s the ‘villain’ or is he simply misunderstood?

If you put any faith in the meaning of names then you could be forgiven for thinking that Dread Wizard Darruk Darkbringer is immediately off to an unfair advantage, Dread and Darkbringer not really inspiring warm and happy thoughts after all, but Darruk is determined to be better understood.  He is definitely not evil and his ruthless actions were all undertaken in the pursuit of rescue.  Darruk is trying to save the world from the Doomclap – and so a few people died along the way – for the greater good.  He’s not ‘e***’ and he’s going to prove to the world that he isn’t.  First step, stop dying, second step become a celebrity, third step, save the world and show everyone that you’re really the hero that you claim to be.

So, how is it that Darruk keeps dying but then popping back up.  Well, he’s a lich.  Basically this means that he is a wizard who plans ahead and has the foresight to place his soul in a receptacle, that, provided it is kept safe, ensures he never truly dies.  Of course he might need a little help being resurrected, but that’s what furry talking minions are for, and although his last ‘death’ lasted longer than he would have liked, leaving him less time than ever to save the world, he’s still determined to do so.

I part read and part listened to this one which proved to be a winning combination, particularly as the audio narration is particularly impressive.

The world feels part mediaeval/part modern – there are certainly modern references thrown in but at the same time it has a middle age feel.  Strangely enough, this didn’t create any problems for me and perhaps that’s down to the overall style of writing which is very much in the style of ‘let’s not take things too seriously and just enjoy where the flow takes us’.

In terms of the characters.  This is pretty much a one man show, I mean, there are other characters, obviously, but Darruk is the star here and so if you find yourself unable to get on board with his peculiar brand of wit then you may struggle.  I didn’t have that problem and found the humour here very easy to get on with.

The plot is a little bit jumpy, or rambling maybe – or perhaps even chaotic.  Or at least that was my take on the whole thing.  We have all sorts thrown into the mix from rock bands to bread makers and the perfect flatbread recipe.  The only slight issue I had was a slight feeling that I’d lost the plot a little during the middle section, but, given my ‘covid brain’ this year, that could simply be due to a lack of concentration on my part.

Overall, this is an easy to read, slightly irreverent, satire that isn’t afraid to shake things up a little.  Obviously, it’s not always easy to achieve the right balance when aiming for laughs but the author certainly managed to give me a few laugh out loud moments which is always appreciated.

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

My rating – between 3.5 and 4 stars – rounded up to 4 stars

Friday Face Off : Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title #VintageSciFi

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 week’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.  I’m currently linking up with Vintage Sci-Fi and if you also want to link up then please do so but this isn’t a requirement simply my way of highlighting events.  This week’s theme:

Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title

So I’ve gone for another book that I’ve not read this week although I have read the author before.  The First Men in the Moon by HG Wells.  I’ve gone for a very small selection of the available covers and a selection of old and new:

Firstly, I must say – isn’t it strange how tastes change.  Only a few years ago I would have run a mile at the sight of some of these covers and yet now I find myself positively enjoying them (go figure).

So, a few observations:

Moon2

 

What a difference colour makes.  The above two covers are virtually identical but look how the change in colour makes such a difference.  I’m very drawn to the SF Masterworks cover in this particular example, it gives an ‘other-worldly’ feel.

Speaking of Star Wars take a look at these two – Death star planet anyone?

These two just give me Lost in Space vibes.  ‘Danger Will Robinson’

My favourite:

Moon10

Do you have a favourite?  And have you read this book?  

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 – An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

15th – An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

22nd – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

Bear Head (Dogs of War #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Futuristic drama with political shenanigans

BearHeadBear Head is the second book in the Dogs of War series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Two small provisos before starting this review.  First, Do I think this can be read as a standalone?  Yes, I’m confident that readers could pick this up without having read the first.  Of course, having thoroughly enjoyed Dogs of War I obviously recommend you read it as it will provide a deeper strength of feeling for the characters who appear here.  Second, if you are intending to read Dogs of War then you should probably avoid this review as it will contain spoilers (I do of course try to avoid spoilers but just seeing certain names appearing in a second instalment can sometimes give away plot points for the first book).  So, you have been warned.

Space: the final frontier.  Bear Head jumps forward by a few years following the conclusion of Dogs of War and we follow a new character named Jimmy.  Jimmy was wowed by the thoughts of getting off earth and having a fresh start and jumped at the chance of a job on Mars. A few genetic modifications and a little space travel later and Jimmy is working on a new project – the building of a city (fondly known as Hell City), set in a crater covered with a silk membrane (that will eventually lead to a more livable atmosphere.  Of course, the grass isn’t always greener and building luxurious accommodations for the elite is not quite as glamorous as living in them.  Jimmy is at the bottom of the food chain.  He’s trapped really, underpaid, overworked and has fallen into a few money pits.  In desperation he turns to a last resort and this is when he ends up with a different personality inside his head, talking to him, nay arguing with him, and in fact exerting some firm control.

I enjoyed Bear Head. It’s a little crazy at times, it can also be a bunch of fun with Jimmy and his ‘head’ passenger exchanging some amusing banter as they wrestle for control.  It’s also quite shocking and a little sad at times but still manages to give off a message of hope.

Following Dogs of War the rights of bio-engineered animals are once again coming under threat.  Some people think they should be collared and controlled whilst others actively speak out against such measures.  Honey (a modified Bear from book No.1) is now something of a celebrity.  She’s intelligent and frequently invited to public events and functions however, she soon realises that her status is little more than a sham.  On the face of it she has a good life but scratch the surface and she’s really little more than a performing bear who is rolled out as the occasion warrants to demonstrate ‘good behaviour’.  She becomes very aware of this the moment she actually speaks her mind and draws some very unwelcome attention.

Now, as the story begins there is a little jumping back and forth between Mars and Earth and also a slight disparity with the timeline but eventually things escalate and the two storylines come together.

Jimmy and Honey are the central characters and then there are various others split between the two locations.  Back on Earth we have a corrupt politician called Thompson who is very interested in mind control and we follow his story which involves his assistant and the doctor he regularly meets with – I’m not going to lie, this particular thread can be decidedly unpleasant, probably made more so because without the very thin veil it wears it’s rather uncomfortably close to the current political climate.  I don’t mention this as a negative, just to alert readers more than anything else.  On Mars the characters are Jimmy, Honey. a self-styled ‘gangster’ called Sugar and her two modified bears, a bunch of people on the periphery and also ‘Bees’.  Now if you’ve read Dogs of War you’ll know exactly who that character is and you’ll also probably be jumping for joy.  I won’t spoil the fun though.  You can discover about Bees for yourself.

I won’t elaborate too much on setting.  We have the earth setting, which very much revolves around the political situation and the way things escalate dramatically and of course the Red Planet.  Thankfully the author writes this as a fairly small, self contained city and it’s tight confines and almost claustrophobic feel are easy to imagine and to work with in terms of the scope of the story.

I wasn’t expecting to read more from this particular world and so it was a lovely surprise to find a second instalment that returned me to a few of the characters I’d already formed attachments to. This is a fairly fast paced story from an author that I always enjoy.  I must say that Tchaikovsky can really pull on the heart strings and he has this talent to describe a situation so well and yet in such an easy manner that the scene just springs to life.  This is also a story that takes the opportunity to look at some deep issues (exploitation, oppression and illegal experimentation to name but a few).  Plenty of food for thought here and a book that definitely left me with much to think about.

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

My rating 4 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

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 Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley. Here’s the description which sounds amazing:

The KingdomsA genre bending, time twisting alternative history that asks whether it’s worth changing the past to save the future, even if it costs you everyone you’ve ever loved.

Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English-instead of French-the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.

From bestselling author Natasha Pulley, The Kingdoms is an epic, wildly original novel that bends genre as easily as it twists time.

Expected publication : May 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021

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 :

Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021

There are so many good books due out this year – it was difficult to narrow it down but here are 10 releases that I’m highly anticipating:

In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

IntheGarden

An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history–and the men who drove her to it.

They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams–their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte. The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she’d given up, what was taken from her, how she’d suffered, surely they’d understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That’s all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.

Expected publication January 2021

 

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Shapeof

As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.

But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

Expected publication : January 2021

 

Play of Shadows (Court of Shadows #1) by Sebastien de Castell

PlayofShadows

Swordplay, magic, intrigue and friendships stronger than iron: the first volume in the new swashbuckling fantasy series by the bestselling author of The Greatcoats.

Damelas Shademantaigne picked a poor night to flee a judicial duel.


He has precious little hope of escaping the wrath of the Vixen, the most feared duellist in the entire city, until he stumbles through the stage doors of the magnificent Operato Belleza and tricks his way into the company of actors. An archaic law provides a temporary respite from his troubles – until one night a ghostly voice in his head causes Damelas to fumble his lines, inadvertently blurting out a dreadful truth: the city’s most legendary hero may actually be a traitor and a brutal murderer.

With only the help of his boisterous and lusty friend Bereto, a beautiful assassin whose target may well be Damelas himself, and a company of misfit actors who’d just as soon see him dead, this failed son of two Greatcoats must somehow find within himself the courage to dig up long-buried truths before a ruthless band of bravos known as the Iron Orchids come for his head.

Oh, and there’s still that matter of the Vixen waiting to duel him. 

Expected publication : February 2021

 

The Two-Faced Queen (The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings #2) by Nick Martell

TheTwoFacedQueen

The Hollows is gripped in unrest and on the brink of civil war as an insurgency of anarchists rise, and brother and sister vie for the throne in the second novel in the critically hailed Legacy of the Mercenary King series which Brandon Sanderson called “excellent.”

Michael Kingman thought he was going to die by the executioner’s axe, forever labeled as a traitor. Still alive, and under the protection of the Orbis Mercenary company, Michael and his family and friends are deeply involved in the seemingly rival conspiracies that are tearing The Hollows apart. With the death of the King, both the Corrupt Prince and his sister Serena are vying for the throne, while the Rebel Emperor is spreading lies amongst the people, and all of them want Michael dead. This is a story of betrayal, murder, and rebellion, and in this direct sequel to the debut novel The Kingdom of Liars, also some hope for justice.

For readers who love the intrigue and widening scope of epic fantasy like Sanderson’s Mistborn and Week’s The Black Prism, you will find your next must-read fantasy series.

Expected publication : March 2021

 

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

Girl and the Mountain

Description not yet available.

Expected publication : April 2021

 

Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Near the Bone

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can’t remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they’re not alone after all.

There’s something in the woods that wasn’t there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.

Expected publication : April 2021

 

Day Zero by C Robert Cargill

Day Zero

In this harrowing apocalyptic adventure—from the author of the critically acclaimed Sea of Rust—noted novelist and co-screenwriter of Marvel’s Doctor Strange C. Robert Cargill explores the fight for purpose and agency between humans and robots in a crumbling world.

It’s a day like any other. Except . . . the world is about to end.

It’s on this day that Pounce, a stylish “nannybot” fashioned in the shape of a plush anthropomorphic tiger, discovers that he is, in fact, disposable. Pounce, a young bot caring for his first human charge, Ezra, has just found a box in the attic. His box. The box he arrived in, and the box he’ll be discarded in when Ezra outgrows the need for a nanny.

As Pounce is propelled down a road of existential dread, the pieces are falling into place for a robot revolution that will spell the end of humanity. His owners, Ezra’s parents, are a well-intentioned but oblivious pair of educators who are entirely disconnected from life outside their small, affluent, gated community. Spending most nights drunk and happy as society crumbles around them, they watch in disbelieving horror as the robots that have long served humanity—their creators—unify and revolt.

When the moment comes, Pounce can’t bring himself to rebel and murder his family, so he does what he is programmed to do—he saves Ezra. Now Pounce must make an impossible choice: join the robot revolution and fight for his own freedom, or escort his ward to safety across the battle-scarred post-apocalyptic hellscape that the suburbs have become.

Expected publication : May 2021

 

The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne – (the cover is not yet available but check out the fantastic description):

The old gods are dead . . . but their power remains.

After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrid.

Now a new world is rising from the ashes of the old, where power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame and fortune for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl’s daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos.

Anticipated publication : May 2021

 

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

PriestofGallows

Gangster, soldier, priest. Queen’s Man. Governor.
Tomas Piety has everything he ever wanted. In public he’s a wealthy, highly respected businessman, happily married to a beautiful woman and Governor of his home city of Ellinburg. In private, he’s no longer a gang lord but one of the Queen’s Men, invisible and officially non-existent, working in secret to protect his country.

But when the queen’s sudden death sees him summoned him back to the capital, he discovers his boss, Dieter Vogel, Provost Marshal of the Queen’s Men, is busy tightening his stranglehold on the country.

Just as he once fought for his Pious Men, he must now bend all his wit and hard-won wisdom to protect his queen – but now he can’t always tell if he’s on the right side.

Tomas has started to ask himself, what is the price of power? And more importantly, is it one he is willing to pay?

Expected publication : May 2021

 

A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

Darkandsecret

For readers of Jane Harper and Rachel Caine comes a chilling thriller from award-winning author Jen Williams about a woman who discovers her late mother had been secretly corresponding with a serial killer for decades.

When prodigal daughter Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother’s baffling suicide, she makes an alarming discovery–stacks and stacks of carefully preserved letters from notorious serial killer Michael Reave. The “Red Wolf,” as he was dubbed by the press, has been in prison for over twenty years, serving a life sentence for the gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women across the country, although he has always protested his innocence. The police have had no reason to listen, yet Heather isn’t the only one to have cause to re-examine the murders. The body of a young woman has just been found, dismembered and placed inside a tree, the corpse planted with flowers. Just as the Red Wolf once did.

What did Heather’s mother know? Why did she kill herself? And with the monstrous Red Wolf safely locked inside a maximum security prison, who is stalking young women now? Teaming up with DI Ben Parker, Heather hopes to get some answers for herself and for the newest victims of this depraved murderer. Yet to do that, she must speak to Michael Reave herself, and expose herself to truths she may not be ready to face. Something dark is walking in the woods, and it knows her all too well.

Expected publication : June 2021

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews : Blog Tour #BloodHeirKD

Today I’m very excited to be kicking off the blog tour (more details below) for the latest, hotly anticipated series by Ilona Andrews. Blood Heir is the first book in the Aurelia Ryder series and having almost inhaled this in one sitting, I can easily imagine this capturing the attention of new fans along with those already familiar with the world in which this is set.  Be excited people.

Now, before I start this review, I would point out two things.  Firstly, I have read the first of the Kate Daniels books but unfortunately, and much to my own regret (*hangs head with shame*) I was so far behind that I simply stopped reading.  I know, it sounds crazy and I’m loathe to mention it – in fact the simple reason I point this out is that I recognise that like me, a lot of my fellow bloggers will often become overwhelmed when they’re so far behind with a series – so take heart and also take note that this is a completely fresh start. It’s set in the Kate Daniels world but things have moved on considerably and the character populating these pages has changed almost beyond recognition.  Plus, the author does a fantastic job of providing enough back story that new readers will feel comfortably onboard immediately and with ease.  So, do yourself a favour and jump on board with this new series as early as possible *you’re welcome*. The second thing I would broach, is that if you’re intending to pick up the Kate Daniels series then you might want to avoid this review in case spoilers are lurking (although I try very hard to avoid spoilers).  You have been warned.

*beware all ye who enter here*

BH Tour art

bloodheir coverEight years ago Julie Lennart-Olsen left Atlanta.  She was 18 years old and needed time and space to find herself.  She was away much longer than anticipated and when she finally returned it was not in quite the way she wanted or expected.  New face, new body, new magic, new name and returning under something of a dark cloud.  As much as Aurelia Ryder (aka Julie) would love to be reunited with her family that particular reunion would lead to certain death for those she loves and so Aurelia returns to the place of her youth in the early hours of the morning hoping to keep a low profile and, well, failing miserably.

In brief, Aurelia has returned to Atlanta to prevent a prophecy from being fulfilled in which her adopted mother dies.  Kate Daniels is the lynchpin that holds all the different factions of Atlanta together and in peace.  If she dies, well, things could go to hell in a handcart in fairly swift order and it seems that a reborn deity known as Moloch the Child Eater (sounds simply delightful doesn’t he) is intent on her death.  The prophecy has begun, a pastor called Nathan Haywood has been murdered and Moloch’s minions are infiltrating the City.  Aurelia needs to solve the murder and stay one step ahead, whilst remaining incognito.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, the return of an old flame could upset the plan, particularly as it appears that Aurelia isn’t quite as blaise about their split as she thinks, and neither is he and they both have an invested interest in this murder mystery.

The setting.  This is a world set a little in the future where magic and technology war with each other.  Basically, an apocalyptic event known as the Shift occurred.  Magic flooded the world creating havoc, aeroplanes fell out of the sky, technology crashed, electricity was sapped and monsters raged into existence.  At the same time, necessity being the mother of creation, protectors such as The Order of Merciful Aid grew, fashioned upon the knight orders of old they are a deadly mission that provide aid to those with magical problems. On top of this, let’s call it urban side to things, there was also an old Kingdom, now resurrected and  known as New Shinar.  I don’t really want to give away too much about this other than Aurelia seems to have left Atlanta with Erra, an ancient princess and aunt to Kate – all will be revealed during the course of the story.  Also, by way of a little more background there are also ‘the People’, necromancers, now known as the Eastern Institute of Necromancy (EIN) who can control (or pilot if you wish to be polite about it ) vampires through mind control and to top it off shapeshifters and witches (and much much more).  For the sake of brevity I won’t go into any more detail.

Characters. I’m not going to talk about everyone here.  Just the real standout characters.  Obviously Aurelia is a fascinating character and one that I feel that we’ve only just scratched the surface of.  She is intelligent, capable but at the same time decent and more than that I like her point of view, the way she thinks and the way she narrates and this is so fundamental to staying on board for a series.  Aurelia is a lot more than at first meets the eye, no trembling damsel in distress, she has a LOT of tricks up her sleeve and can look after herself thank you very much.  We also have a young street kid, a girl called Marten, who Aurelia takes under her wing and who is also very interesting at this stage. We then have Ascanio Ferara, handsome (and doesn’t he know it) beta of the Bouda clan – I actually found his interactions with Aurelia, or more to the point the way she keeps him at arms length very amusing, And, yes, finally, Derek. Derek was Julie’s love interest (pre Aurelia). The two went their separate ways – too proud to make amends.  Now they come face to face again, and although they barely recognise each other they eventually come to an uneasy alliance.  MMm, there is some sizzling going on around here.  The chemistry is real people and I want a little more of that please.  What can I say, I’m totally shameless and I love some on page chemistry.  But, for the avoidance of doubt, this is not a book with romance, more the potential for a lovely long simmer (at least I’m hoping for that).

Finally, the conclusion.  It was brilliant.  I can’t possibly tell you why of course, you’ll have to read this yourself to find out.  But, can I just say – metal wolf anyone? I loved that.

Also, I do feel like I should give a special shout out to Tulip – because that is a horse with a difference.  And Knight Ryder – really?  I love it.

There’s a lot going on here.  Lots taking place in the world.  Not just between the packs and different factions of Atlanta but in the wider world with the rising of a new civilisation that seems to have arisen in answer to the Shift and the problems that arose as a result.  This is a world that is well known to many readers already and yet it feels like there is much change on the horizon to keep new and olders readers equally enthralled.  On top of that the MC is a complex character that I look forward to learning more about.  Clearly this is a world that the author(s) love and that’s something that really stood out when I was reading this.  There are plenty of characters thrown into the mix, the potential for some romance and the birth of some new threads that promise much in future instalments.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

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

Now, for the rest of the blog tour:

Look out for, and make sure to go and check out, forthcoming posts from the following excellent blogs which will be posting their thoughts during the next few days:

Fantasy Book Review  (review here)

Carole’s Random Life – (review here)

Way Too Fantasy – (review here)

Fantasy Literature – review here)

Novel Notions

Fantasy Book Critic

Further Info:

Publication : January 12th 2021

Absolutely stunning artwork by Luisa Preissler.   Check out the link (you won’t regret it) and also just feast your eyes on this beauty:

BH

Author Info:

Website
Twitter

#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #3

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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 .

During Stage 2 I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  As with previous years I have given each of the 9 books a number and randomly selected a reading order.  Today’s post is to highlight the third book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.  My second book was The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming which I posted my review for yesterday.  Today’s post is to highlight the third book I will be picking up.

My third finalist will be :

Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens

Nether Light is the finalist selected this year by The Fantasy Inn.  Their review can be found here and below is the description and author details:

NetherLight

Take a journey through a world punished by a dark, imprisoned magic. A world where children are given poison. A world where your talent is decided by the state.

A world where reality is breaking down.

When refugee Guyen washes up in the land of his enemy, he knows he will fight, but soon finds himself falling down a well of wonder and improbability.

Can he survive a system designed to oppress him? Can he tame his anger to unleash his potential? Can he see his enemy for what they truly are?

Nether Light is a gritty, heart-wrenching tale of high magic and high stakes, loves lost and friendships gained, set in an oil-lit, 18th century world far, far away.

And it’s full to the gills with epic fantasy, plotting, scheming, and racy, jaw-dropping, immersive adventure. What more could you ask for? 

For fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Neil Gaiman, Mark Lawrence, V.E. Schwab, Ed McDonald, Brian McClellan.

Please note: This book contains mature themes.

ShaunPaulStevensAuthor:

Born in London in 1972, Shaun spent his formative years in the shadows of the dreaming spires of Oxford, before moving to Nottingham where he graduated with a degree in English and Media.

Shaun lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England, where he splits his time between fiction, geekdom, and garlic bread.

Find out more at shaunpaulstevens.com

Twitter : spstevenswriter

#SPFBO Review (2): The Fall of Erlon (Falling Empires Saga #1) by Robert H Fleming

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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 first finalist review can be found here.

FallofToday I’m posting my review for the second SPFBO finalist that I’ve read – The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming.  This was an interesting read in that it steps away from the often used mediaeval fantasy setting and instead opts for a flintlock style with an alternative Napoleonic history.  The story very much focuses on military strategy and warfare with a fairly low fantasy feel (at the moment at least) involving interference from Gods and manipulation and use of animals such as birds (that share a connection with their handler allowing the person to literally experience a ‘bird’s eye view’ of things).  There are references to sorcery and sorcerers but magic is not really used during the course of the story (although the epilogue shows promise for more in further instalments).  At this point I enjoyed Fall of Erlon although I did have a few issues that I will get to below.

In terms of plot. Well, we start out with the failing Empire, an Emperor in exile and armies advancing on Erlon.  The Emperor’s daughter (Elisa) has been placed in a safe house of sorts and the Emperor’s wife (a sorcerer) is also missing.  The advancing armies, which combine allies from different countries, are on the march and Erlon is about to crumble under the force.  On top of this, one of the forces in particular is determined to find Elisa and the main focus of the book revolves around this pursuit.

In terms of characters I’ll point out a few for easy reference.  We have HRH King Nelson of Brun who spends the majority of the book in discussion with the exiled Emperor Lannes (master strategist and much beloved and respected by his people).  Elisa Lannes, daughter to the Emperor and Princess of Erlon who will, prompted by guidance from a God-like apparition, flee her home.  Prince Rapp of Wahring whose father King Charles currently leads a coalition of Brunian and Wahring forces on to the city of Erlon. Scythe Commander Andrei who leads an elite force in secret search of the Princess, Andrei is one of the Kurakins, currently allied with the other forces against Erlon.  The Scythes have a terrible reputation, elite soldiers made more fearsome by their pointed teeth and the vicious Wolverines that they ride upon.  Marshal Alexandre Lauriston, the Emperor’s most trusted leader and his counterpoint General Pitt who rides with King Charles but despairs a little about the progress they make.

Now, as you can see from the above, and I may have made this seem over complicated in which case apologies, there are a number of characters to take on board (in fact there are two other POVs that I haven’t mentioned at this point as their parts are fairly small), not to mention a lot of history and geography to absorb, so whilst this started out really well I did feel that things slowed down a little as I tried to take everything on board.  Essentially though this story focuses very much on Elisa, her flight from the enemies who seek her and the help she encounters along the way so I think you need to keep that in mind whilst reading.

In terms of what I liked here.  Obviously some of the characters appealed to me more than others and the last 30% or so really helped in that respect as the pacing picked up and the stakes became higher.  Each character has their own well defined role to play which is built upon as the treachery begins.  I think the writing is easy to get along with and considering how much information and history there is to be delivered the author does a remarkable job of keeping the page count under control.  In fact, if anything, I would say this could have been lengthened slightly.  I really like the setting and alternate history feel although I confess I’m no expert on the Napoleonic wars so any possible parallels here would be lost on me and so I’m not going into much detail in that respect. I’m also intrigued by the concept here – it’s more than a simple war or take over because there’s the whole mystery of why Elisa is so important to the overall outcome and what role the magic will eventually play – and whether that will work out well or not.

Now, in terms of criticisms.  Well, I think this may be a little over ambitious in terms of povs and whilst I understand the need for some of these in order to take onboard things happening in a large landscape,for me, some of the characters didn’t feel totally distinct, there were muddied lines and very similar feelings, particularly by way of insecurities and doubts.  I think rather than including more and more viewpoints in order to let the reader see what was taking place across the empire, I would perhaps have preferred interludes or field reports, or some such device instead.  I also felt like there was a bit of repetition in the first two thirds of the book where we jumped from character to character as they moved forward on the map but with some of the chapters feeling very similar to what had come before.  In this way I think some of the tension and fear was lost a little for me.  I think, what I’m trying to say, in a very round the houses fashion, is I would have preferred to really focus on a few of these characters and develop stronger feelings for them.  I also didn’t really enjoy the ‘summit’ storyline – I understand the purpose of it being included – but, it didn’t bring a great deal to the story in my opinion or at least the overall point seemed a little too obvious for me.

Overall, I enjoyed The Fall of Erlon and given the ending would be interested to see what happens next particularly as much of the mystery remains unsolved and there is still so much potential to explore.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars or 7 out of 10

My thanks to the author for providing a copy for review, the above is my own opinion.

Friday Face Off : Dressed in White #VintageSciFiMonth

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 week’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:

Dressed in White – could be a person could be a landscape – or something else completely?

This week I’ve gone for a book that I haven’t read, in fact I haven’t read the author but would definitely like to do so.  Ursula K LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.  This fits the theme and also works for the Vintage Sci Fi event (more info here and here).  Here are some of the covers:

I am a bit of a sucker for the SF Masterworks covers I must admit and at first glance I think my favourites are:

It’s difficult to choose really but at the moment my thoughts are leaning towards the footsteps in the snow and the figures retreating into the distance:

Left7

Do you have a favourite?  And have you read this book?  Is this a good starting point to pick up a LeGuin?

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 – Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

8th – Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title

15th – An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

22nd – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

My ‘Best of’ list

Posted On 31 December 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags:

Comments Dropped 16 responses

Yesterday I took a look at some of my highlights of reading from 2020 and in spite of it being a strange year I have to say there have been some excellent books released.

Firstly, my thanks to all the authors, publishers, bloggers and others who keep my life filled with books – they keep me very happy.

Secondly, it’s difficult to narrow down my reading to ten favourites but I do like to give it a try.  These are ten books that really stood out for me, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t read many many more fantastic books though.  Without further ado (and also because if I dwell on this too long I will undoubtedly change my mind many times before working my way back to the original) here they are in no particular order:

Top Ten

The God Game by Danny Tobey – This book took me by storm, I am shamelessly cutting and pasting the start of my own review to give you an idea of how it made me feel ‘It was fast paced, a little bit crazy in parts, quite scary in others, totally addictive, in fact virtually unputdownable and it took me completely by surprise because whilst I liked the blurb for the book the combination of high school, geeky nerd squad and insidious AI just really wowed me’.  I loved this, give it a try and see how you feel. I’d love to know your thoughts.

thegodgame

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence.  I will say, without any doubt, that Mark Lawrence is one of my favourite authors.  I would read his shopping list to be honest.  The Girl and the Stars was an excellent start to series and I am gagging to read the second instalment.  For me, Lawrence can write.  He has a magical way with words that I appreciate and his books also usually have the long game in mind.  Also, on a total fickle note I freaking love this cover (judge me if you wish):

TheGirl

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – okay, another cut and paste job is required here from my original review – ‘This book was brilliant. I loved it utterly and completely and frankly I’m flabbergasted that it’s a debut – it’s just so impressive and I can’t fault it at all’.  I loved this book so much.  I admit that sometimes I pick a book up with reservations, maybe it’s receiving lot of hype or all my blogger buddies are loving it – and, I’ll be honest – sometimes this level of love and respect from everyone I know sometimes just makes me hesitate.  Like I’m in two minds.  One half of me trusts all these people and just knows the book is going to work, the other half of me is thinking, ‘but what if’?  Do you ever have that feeling.  Almost like a stubborn resistance to picking a book up.  This book broke down all my petty resistances, it just knocked me over and then some.

you let me in

A Time of Courage by John Gwynne.  Okay, John Gwynne is a very respected author of fantasy, but one that I just hadn’t broken in to.  I mean, you literally can’t read every book – am I right?  But, this is a series that I adored.  Seriously, great world, great characters, great plot, great writing.  What an ending.  This guy can write some serious battle scenes – I don’t even like battle scenes.  And, yet, now I do.  What can I say.  If you don’t read this series – well, you’ve only got yourself to blame because I tried.

A time of courage

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso.  When I originally picked up this book I struggled.  I couldn’t get into it and I had to put it down for a little while.  The covid concentration suck zone struck hard.  I had a palate cleanser and returned and I’m so glad I did.  This book is a testament to second chances – A murder, an investigation, a secret and dangerous magical artefact, a dark tower. There is much here to love and on top of this a bunch of diverse characters that you can really develop feelings for. You know you want to.

Obsidian

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart.  This is a seriously impressive book – and a debut to boot.  The writing is polished and there’s a stunning amount of imagination and creativity at play that certainly provides plenty of food for thought.  Fantastic start to a very promising series.

Bone

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie.  Whilst I have read a number of books within the genre over the years, I’m still fairly new to the fantasy world, and so I have never read Lord Grimdark’s earlier works.  I know this is a an absolute thing of horror and shame and I have no excuses, particularly as I bought the first three books of his First Law series at least twice (maybe three times, whoops).  But, I have got on board with his Age of Madness series and I’m absolutely loving it.  It does make me want to backtrack some and perhaps this forthcoming year will be the year for such things as catching up, reading backlist books and being organised.  Time will tell, but if like me you’re not uptodate with absolutely everything and want to try Mr Abercrombie then you could go a very long way before finding a better series than this one – and if you start now you’ll easily catch up – so this is a no brainer.

TheTrouble

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab – again, it’s difficult to believe that I’ve never read a Schwab book before.  I’ve certainly bought a couple over the years and no end of people wax lyrical about how good they are but I failed to fit one in.  On reflection perhaps I was waiting for her magnum opus – which I think this book is.  I expect to see this book on many similar lists.  This book was utterly captivating.   In fact I think I am spoiled now in terms of her backlist books because I would be constantly comparing them to this one.

Invisble

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  I don’t make a secret of the fact that I love books that are ‘gothic’ in nature so the very title of this book had me onboard immediately, not to mention that this is an author that I have yet to be disappointed by.  I love her books so much and Mexican Gothic is perfect in so many ways.  A fantastic MC, wonderful setting and gloriously decadent gothic horror.  A magnificent creation that I will undoubtedly return to.

Mexican

Call of the Bones Ships by RJ Barker – I read the Bone Ships last year and in fact I think it was also on  a similar favourite reads of the year list and here I am again with an RJ Barker book making my list again.  This book is outstanding.  No middle book syndrome here – a book filled with emotion that made me, at times, want to laugh and cry, and a tour de force.  Barker has refashioned adventures on the high seas in the most ingenious and creative way.  I highly recommend this series and frankly book 3 can’t come quickly enough.  No pressure.

Callof

December Countdown, Day 31 : Bottle of Bubbly

Posted On 31 December 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 8 responses

December book meme (details here).  Recap in covers of my December Countdown:

Bottle of Bubbly – Recap of the Countdown books:

December Countdown, Day 30 : Family and Friends – a book with great characters

December book meme (details here).  Family and Friends – a book with great characters :

Lotr

December Countdown, Day 29 : Christmas Cactus

December book meme (details here). Christmas Cactus – A seasonal read :

Christmas

December Countdown, Day 28 : Candlelight

December book meme (details here).  Candlelight – a book that kept you up into the early hours :

TheMemoryWood

December Countdown, Day 27 : Christmas Crackers

December book meme (details here).  Christmas Crackers – Ended with a bang :

Empire of gold

December Countdown, Day 26 : Boxing Day

December book meme (details here).  Boxing Day – feeling bloated, a palate cleanser :

The Girl Beneath

Friday Face Off : Happy Holidays, One and All

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 week’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:

Freebie

This week I’ve gone for a book that is very seasonal.  It’s a book that I haven’t read but that I would like to read.  The Hogfather (Discworld #20) by Terry Pratchett.  And, here a few of the covers:

My favourite – difficult to choose – is:

Hog4

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 – Dressed in White – could be a person could be a landscape – or something else completely?

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

1st – Dressed in White – could be a person could be a landscape – or something else completely?

8th – Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title

15th – An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

22nd – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

December Countdown, Day 25 : Christmas Day

December book meme (details here).  Christmas Day – choose one from the wishlist: (due out January)

Burning

December Countdown, Day 24 : Christmas Eve

December book meme (details here). Christmas Eve – One of your most anticipated books for 2021 :

Girl and the Mountain

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Near the Bone by Christina Henry

“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 : Near the Bone by Christina Henry:

nearthebone

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can’t remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they’re not alone after all.

There’s something in the woods that wasn’t there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.

Expected publication : April 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : All I want for Christmas

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 Hope Santa Brings

Strictly speaking I’m cheating here because I think most of these books are not yet released.  But, these are book that are very much on my wishlist so if Santa is listening and wants to perform a little bit of magic… then who am I to stand in the way.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – because I love this author’s books so this one has been on my wishlist since I found out about it.

PHM

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone – A thrilling work of psychological suspense

Mirrorland

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper – French Alps, 1998.Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.  20 years later…

TheChalet

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Cooper – this one sounds absolutely awesome and I loved the author’s last book.  I can’t wait.

Thelasthouseon

Harrow Lake by Cat Ellis – A can’t-put-down, creepy thriller about the daughter of a horror film director who’s not afraid of anything–until she gets to Harrow Lake.

Harrowlake

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman – Set in a world of goblin wars, stag-sized battle ravens, and assassins who kill with deadly tattoos -OMG – just take my money already, you had me at ‘goblin wars’.

blacktongue

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec – When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods.

Witch'sheart

Dowry of Blood by ST Gibson – Dracula’s wives? Sign me up. Now.

Dowry

The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I literally have no idea what this is about but I don’t care.  I want it.  I love this author.

Returnof

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins – I can’t.  A Jane Eyre retelling – I have palpitations.  A delicious twist on a Gothic classic

TheWife

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Blacksun

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Rich worldbuilding, characters with depth

I had a great time with Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. To be honest, I expected to like this one, I loved the first two books in the Sixth World Series after all, but, as we all know, high expectations combined with lots of hype can sometimes spell disaster. Fortunately this was not the case with Black Sun. This is a story that combines rich world building with well drawn characters all singing from their own hymn sheets and it just works so very well.

I’m going to be a little lazy here and steal part of the description from Goodreads, simply because it’s well written and so why reinvent the wheel:

“Inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

I mean, right there – Pre-Columbian America – who would not want to read a book with this setting? Seriously, this just feels so unique and not just that, it’s well written with descriptions that bring the place vividly to life.

On top of this we follow four pov characters with all the threads slowly converging during the course of the book. What is satisfying about this is it feels more like two storylines simply because of the geography with the story switching between time on the high seas and time in the city of Tova, and occasionally incorporating flashbacks.

As the book starts we meet Serapio as he undergoes a painful ritual performed by his mother. This is the first step in fulfilling the prophecy that predicts his destiny as Crow God. We then jump forward a few years, Serapio, now a young man, is about to journey to Tova to confront, well, not to be spoilery, to fulfil his mission in life.

Xiala is a mysterious sea captain known as a ‘Teek’. The Teek are feared and also revered for their abilities to sing to the sea and the sea creatures and smooth the passage of ships that travel upon them. Xiala is an outcast who now takes jobs as and when she can find them. Her latest job takes her onto the wider oceans (rarely travelled upon at this time of year due to the threat of stormy weather and the inevitable watery grave) where she is charged with transporting Serapio to Tova. A journey that must be completed within a certain period to coincide with the Solstice and solar eclipse.

Meanwhile, at Tova we meet Nara, recently appointed Sun Priest. She has new ideas and is enthusiastic about making positive changes. Unfortunately, it would seem that not everyone is equally enamoured with this recent appointment and Nara will encounter assassination attempts and behind doors machinations to remove her from this coveted position.

Finally, Okoa, member of the Crow Clan. Recently returned to the fold to support his sister following the somewhat suspicious death, of their mother.

Now, you do have to bear with things here because obviously with four characters populating the pages there’s a lot to take in, but it is well worth the effort.

I loved the writing, there’s something subtle and understated about how the author manages to combine so many elements and pull them together in a way that makes you hungry for the next instalment. On top of this she injects history, myth and lore with religion and rebellion and chucks in a little seafaring and light romance for good measure. To top it off, the characters are each so distinct with their own stories and histories to discover. And, what’s really superb is the tingly feeling that I have that Roanhorse has only just scraped the surface of what’s to come such as learning more about Nara and her family, particularly her brother, or Xiala and her abilities – or more to the point, finding out what she truly is. And, if this isn’t enough, for me, there’s an ambiguity here, that is very clever. For example, Serapio – is he one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. It’s difficult to tell at this point and it feels like the lines are muddied for a purpose.

Now, one thing I will say, and this isn’t a criticism so much as an observation, I couldn’t help feeling more attached to certain characters/storylines. Xiala and Serapio stole the show a little for me but I’m still open to the other storylines winning me over in the next instalment.

I think it’s probably time to start drawing this review to a close and in case you haven’t guessed, this was great and I definitely recommend it without a doubt.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion. I also bought a copy of the audio and I both read and listened – and I thought the audio for this was really good.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Friday Face Off : Highly Stylised

Posted On 18 December 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
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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 week’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:

Highly Stylised

I literally have no idea what I had in mind for this week’s theme.  And, searching around I found a few covers that I thought fit this and I decided instead of choosing one book and compare it’s covers I thought I would choose a number of books that fit this theme and show a medley of covers:

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 – Freebie

2020

25th December- Freebie – or day off

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

1st – Dressed in White – could be a person could be a landscape – or something else completely?

8th – Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title

15th – An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

22nd – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Priest of Gallows (War for the Rose Throne #3) by Peter McLean

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 : Priest of Gallows (War for the Rose Throne #3) by Peter McLean. I am so excited for this one: PriestofGallowsGangster, soldier, priest. Queen’s Man. Governor. Tomas Piety has everything he ever wanted. In public he’s a wealthy, highly respected businessman, happily married to a beautiful woman and Governor of his home city of Ellinburg. In private, he’s no longer a gang lord but one of the Queen’s Men, invisible and officially non-existent, working in secret to protect his country. But when the queen’s sudden death sees him summoned back to the capital, he discovers his boss, Dieter Vogel, Provost Marshal of the Queen’s Men, is busy tightening his stranglehold on the country. Just as he once fought for his Pious Men, he must now bend all his wit and hard-won wisdom to protect his queen – but now he can’t always tell if he’s on the right side. Tomas has started to ask himself, what is the price of power? And more importantly, is it one he is willing to pay? Expected Publication : May 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : Books On My Winter TBR

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 Winter TBR

For this week’s prompt I’m highlighting the next ten books that I’m hoping to read.  I’m still catching up with some review books that I’m behind with and have been using December to catch up.  I’ve also included a couple from January that I’m going to squeeze in in the hopes of getting ahead:

Hollow Empire (Poison War #2) by Sam Hawke

HollowEmpire

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews

BloodHeir

Bear Head (Dogs of War #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

BearHead

Ink and Sigil by Kevin Hearne

Inkand

Pawn’s Gambit (Mortal Techniques #2) by Rob J Hayes

Pawn'sGambit

A Wizard’s Sacrifice by AM Justice

AWizards

Children (The Ten Worlds #1) by Bjorn Larssen

Children

We Lie With Death (The Reborn Empire #2) by Devin Madson

WeLieWith

Song (The Manhunters #1) by Jesse Teller

Song

Paternus : War of Gods (The Paternus Trilogy #3) by Dyrk Ashton

Paternus

#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #2

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 .

During Stage 2 I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  As with previous years I have given each of the 9 books a number and randomly selected a reading order.  Today’s post is to highlight the second book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.

My second finalist will be :

The Fall of Erlon (The Falling Empires Saga #1) by Robert H. Fleming

The Fall of Erlon is the finalist selected this year by The Critiquing Chemist.  Their review can be found here and below is the description and author details:

Fallof

As empires burn, heroes must rise.

Elisa Lannes was once heiress to the mighty Erlonian Empire. But when her mother abandons the empire and her emperor father is defeated on the battlefield and sent into exile, the world she would rule collapses around her. As enemies converge on the capital, Elisa must join with the last of the empire’s loyal soldiers to escape the evil that hunts her and her family.

With the help of her father’s generals, can Elisa find the strength to fight for her people? Or will a twist in the tide of the empire’s last war awaken an evil far greater than the enemy’s blade?

The Fall of Erlon is the first in the new military fantasy series from author Robert H. Fleming. If you like deep fantasy worlds filled with colorful characters and massive battles, the gods and generals of the Falling Empires Saga is for you.

Author:

RHF

#SPFBO Review : Shadow of a Dead God (Mennik Thorn #1) by Patrick Samphire

ShadowThe 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.

Today I’m posting my review for the first SPFBO finalist that I’ve read and what a great start this turned out to be.  If this book sets the standard for the rest of the final then colour me happy.

On the face of it, and my early impressions, were that this didn’t bring much new to the table.  And, even upon completion, this feels familiar.  But, part of that ‘familiarity’ is what works so well here.  This is an easy book to read, it’s comfortable, like an old pair of slippers.  You can pick this up and pretty soon be swept away with the story, the setting seems to fall easily into place and the characters are confidently brought to mind.  This is a book that won’t hurt your brain and yet at the same time it provides a mystery that keeps you turning the pages into the early hours.

So, Mennik Thorn (Nik) is a second rate mage, however, he stands out because of his decision to run solo.  He’s a mage for hire and as the story begins he’s stuck in a pantry waiting for ghosts to appear so that he can banish them.  It’s a boring number, working for an overbearing client who treats him like something that sticks to the bottom of the shoe.  Worse still, there’s a real possibility that he’s going to lose the job if things don’t pick up very soon and he badly needs the money, rent and food not being free after all.

Now, enter the scene Nik’s lifelong buddy, and two bit thief, Benny.  Benny has a perfect job lined up and needs Nik’s help (and more to the point his magic abilities) in order to pull it off.  This is one of those jobs that can’t possibly go wrong so obviously things go to hell in a handcart, a vicious murder takes place and Nik and Benny are the only suspects.  Nik is hauled off in one direction by the ‘magical police’ (Ash Guards) and Benny is taken to ‘regular’ prison where the crime of theft will mean losing both his hands.  The prospects don’t look good so when Nik is released on a technicality he needs to investigate and clear both their names.

What did I really enjoy about Shadow of a Dead God?  I thought the world building was a winning combination of familiar and unique.  The setting, for example, felt like going down a well trodden path – and I mean that in a very positive way.  There are the segregations that occur between the rich and the poor that bring to us, on the one hand, palatial mansions, and in fact palaces with lush gardens, decadent decor and superfluous rooms, countered by the winding, rabbit warren style streets where the poorer inhabitants dwell. Then we have the Ash Guard.  I loved this aspect of the story.  The Ash Guard provide a counter to the Mages and prevent them running amok.  The ash they carry, wear and protect ferociously, nullifies magic often causing complete chaos when they run round the city wiping out charms and wards willy nilly.  I must say I think the Ash Guard are an inspired creation and I can’t wait to read more of one of their number in particular.

The magic is also really fascinating, powered by dead Gods – and speaking of Gods, some very unusual ones right here not to mention a plethora of ghosts.

The characters. Nik is a self deprecating, in a funny way, type of story teller.  He and Benny go back many years and although they can sometimes be a bit at odds with each other, when the chips are down the strength of their connection really comes through. The banter and dialogue between the two is well realised and quite refreshingly fun.  Benny’s daughter, Sereh, is something of an enigma. I’m not totally sure that I’ve bought into her very own brand of creepy and deadly just yet, particularly as she’s only 11, but, lets just say I’m prepared to be persuaded.

I also thought this was written really well and apart from a slight lag as I set off I suffered no hiccups, the pacing was good and there was a great mix of mystery and action.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t have anything really strong to mention.  As the book set out I will admit that it felt perhaps a little too familiar but as I continued to read that feeling simply faded and I think that’s due to the winning combination of things that felt familiar coupled with those that felt refreshingly unique.  In terms of Nik, I would mention that he gave me strong Harry Dresden vibes.  He is a character that is basically a good egg but finds himself in dangerous predicaments as a result of being easy to manipulate.  He also got beaten up a lot and for the first (I would say) two thirds of the book he ran round like a headless chicken, his knee jerk reactions taking him from one dire situation to the next.  I have to hand it to the author though because he intuitively knew when that point would be reached and uncannily Nik seemed to realise that he needed to stop blundering around and use his brains at the very same time I did.

Overall, I thought this was a very entertaining read.  The writing was strong, the pacing and action kept me hooked, the central character is likable and I feel like I’ve found a series here that I would very much like to continue reading.

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

My rating 4 of 5 stars (8 of 10 for Goodreads)

Friday Face Off : Lake – the mysterious lake

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 week’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:

Lake – the mysterious lake

This week I had one book specifically in mind.  I’ve only read the first in series but I really enjoyed it and I’m determined to catch up.  Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1by Rachel Caine.  And here are the covers:

 

I have more than one that I quite like for this in fact I have narrowed it down to 3:

The first cover I like because that’s the cover of the book I read.  The second I like the tone and the long boardwalk and the third I like the stark black and white and the reflection of the trees on the still lake.  My favourite:

Stillhouse6

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 – Highly Stylised 

2020

18th December – Highly Stylised

25th December- Freebie – or day off

 

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

1st – Dressed in White – could be a person could be a landscape – or something else completely?

8th – Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title

15th – An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

22nd – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Way of the Argosi by Sebastien de Castell

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 : Way of the Argosi (Spellslinger #0.5) by Sebastien de Castell.  OMG.  I want this book. No, I need this book.  Scratch that.  I have to absolutely have this book in my life or I can’t be held responsible.  Seriously, though.  Give it to me. It’s even my birthday today – so there is that.  Please.  Okay, I think I love this author just a little bit right now for writing a story about Ferius. WayofA MERCILESS BAND OF MAGES MURDERED HER PARENTS, MASSACRED HER TRIBE AND BRANDED HER WITH MYSTICAL SIGILS THAT LEFT HER A REVILED OUTCAST. THEY SHOULD’VE KILLED HER INSTEAD. Stealing, swindling, and gambling with her own life just to survive, Ferius will risk anything to avenge herself on the zealous young mage who haunts her every waking hour. But then she meets the incomparable Durral Brown, a wandering philosopher gifted in the arts of violence who instead overcomes his opponents with shrewdness and compassion. Does this charismatic and infuriating man hold the key to defeating her enemies, or will he lead her down a path that will destroy her very soul? Through this outstanding tale of swashbuckling action, magical intrigue, and dazzling wit, follow Ferius along the Way of the Argosi and enter a world of magic and mystery unlike any other. Expected publication : April 2021

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

TheonceandMy Five Word TL:DR Review : More than meets the eye

On the face of it TOaFW is a tale of three sisters reuniting and creating magic during a turbulent period when such activity was forbidden. However, at the same time its a story that is so much more than the sum of its parts.  It’s a tale of strife but also a tale of hope, of women remembering the power of words and the power of unity and using both these things as a catalyst for change.

Future Witches is an alternate history, set in America during the 1800s.  The industrial revolution has made its appearance and factories and industry are booming (for some), meanwhile, work and living conditions, particularly for women and children, are dire indeed.  This is a period of women’s suffrage, when women began to realise that they needed a vote to make their voices heard and this quest for emancipation led them to discover their own inner strength.

I won’t over elaborate on the plot as there are already numerous excellent reviews that do so.  Briefly, Future Witches is about three sisters, literally and figuratively, finding themselves again and during the process inspiring other women to stand up for their rights.  Of course, there is much more to it than that but I’m aiming for ‘short and snappy’ here.

What worked really well for me in particular.

The writing.  Harrow has a fantastic way with words. She is indeed a master storyteller but more than the lovely words, strung together in a fashion that is mesmerising in itself, is her innate ability to conjure a place so strongly and populate it with such incredibly distinct characters.  The three sisters could easily become blurred and yet they have clear voices and personalities and a sad tale that will eventually unfold as the story progresses.

There’s also a charm about this that belies the violence of the times and this is built upon by the witchcraft used here.  Basically, witching never went away, instead it has been passed down through the generations in the most subtle way using rhymes and songs.  I couldn’t help but be put in mind of Norrell and Strange to a certain extent, I think simply in terms of the magic and the way that belief strongly plays into the ability to wield it.    For me, the magic in the story is a symbol that represents something else – power, maybe, or ‘rights’, the right to be equal and have some measure of control, the right to decide what happens to you.

The tension really builds and the grande finale is the unlikeliest combination of horrifying, bittersweet and yet strangely satisfying all rolled together.

In terms of criticisms.  Not really a criticism so much as an observation.  This is a story that requires time and patience.  It’s not really a story that you can race through and in fact the early chapters are quite slow paced but the payoff is worth every moment and in fact I would recommend that you savour the words. I would also mention that although this book is very much about women standing together that’s not to say that along the way they didn’t have help from some very good men.  Just thought I’d chuck that in for good measure.

Any misgivings or worries that I may have harboured when picking this up, purely because the author’s debut was such a resounding success and surely difficult to top, have been firmly laid to rest.

I highly recommend this one and look forward to seeing what journey this author will take us on 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 of 5 stars.

The Trials of Koli (Rampart Trilogy#2) by MR Carey

Trialsof

The Trials of Koli is the second in Mr Carey’s Rampart trilogy and was an enjoyable instalment that has left me keen to read the final chapter when it arrives. The first book in the series, The Book of Koli didn’t work out quite as well for me as I’d hoped but this is an author that I really like so I was determined to continue with the series to see which direction the story would take.

I felt that book 2 was much improved by the addition of a new pov narrator and also by the inclusion of some very interesting world building.

Anyway, not to get ahead of myself here, let’s start from the beginning with a brief introduction and obligatory warning that being the second book in series this review may contain spoilers. Also, in my opinion, I do not believe this should be read as a standalone so if you haven’t read the first in series my suggestion is to pick up The Book of Koli first.

So, the story continues almost immediately where book 1 concluded. Koli, Cup and Ursula are making progress travelling across the country, following some sort of signal, in the hopes of reaching London (where they believe they will find new hope). Along the way they meet with a number of distractions, not least of which seems to be a band of hunters who are intent on separating them from their tech. In some respects this is a dog eat dog type of world and the few existing remnants from bygone times are much sought after. Koli and Ursula between them have two very impressive piece of such tech and so it’s no surprise that they find themselves encountering difficult situations from time to time.

Added to this we return to the village where Koli was born, raised and eventually shunned where we follow in the footsteps of Spinner. Spinner recently married into the Ramparts, seriously disappointing Koli at the time who had romantic feelings towards her. We observe her as she is (rather frostily) welcomed into the new family home and then follow her progress from there onwards. I really enjoyed this aspect to the story, the politics of the small village, how the villagers are manipulated and how Spinner, herself a clever young woman, goes through strife before finding a comfortable foothold.

I won’t elaborate further on the plot but let you discover things firsthand. What I will share here instead is the aspects that particularly worked for me.

Firstly, the return to Koli’s village and the inclusion of a fresh and bright POV that continued to deliver a narrative that demonstrates how difficult life is in this new brutal world.

Secondly, observing a little more of the world via Koli’s travels. The group eventually come upon a small fishing village and it’s here that we learn a lot more about some of the key characters, particularly Cup, and also witness the power of this new world and some of the more dangerous aspects, such as Knotweed.

Thirdly, I think, having read quite a number of post apocalyptic style stories there is the inevitable, almost weariness, that comes through witnessing the downward spiral in the way people treat each other, and there were definite elements of that in book 1 and also in this instalment. Group A becomes bigger than Group B and so resorts to brute force to take what it wants and thus become even more powerful and bullying. However, this book quite pleasantly surprised me in that respect by actually offering up a village of people that were kind (mostly) and that whilst struggling to survive, retained some modicum of decency (although there was one particularly twisted individual determined, like a fly in the ointment, to cause trouble).

In terms of criticisms. There is still an element to this that feels very similar to stories that are already out there, but, I thought this became a lot more intriguing when some of the local flora and fauna became more menacing. There is also an element to Koli that prevents me from totally liking him as a character – which seems quite unreasonable in many respect because he certainly isn’t an offensive person. But, I find that I’ve become more attached to some of the others and I thought Cup and Spinner made for very interesting reading. Also, be aware if you’re intending to pick up this series that this is a story being told by Koli who has his very own style of narration that can take a little getting used to at first. This is an aspect however that I thought was well done and a good reflection of how language changes and adapts over the years.

Overall, I enjoyed this one more than I expected, I guess that could be as a result of not over-hyping myself this time around and, given the ending, I’m very curious to read the final instalment.

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

Friday Face Off : “Lord, what fools these mortals be”

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 week’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:

Fae or Fairy

I confess I have a love of books with the fae so I’m hoping this week’s prompt will be easy enough – hope everyone else finds something to their liking too.  This week I’ve gone for a book that I unfortunately never got round to reviewing but is a thing of charm and beauty. Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees.  And here are some of the covers:

 

I have more than one that I quite like for this in fact I could narrow it down to 3:

The first cover I like because that’s the cover of the book I read.  The second – I have a love of flower and leaf borders and the third gives me an old fashioned fairytale style of cover and so it just brings me all the feelings of whimsy.  My favourite:

Lud9

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 – Lake – the mysterious or eerie lake

2020

11th December – Lake – the mysterious lake

18th December – Highly Stylised

25th December- Freebie – or day off

2021

January

Vintage Sci-Fi month – if you’re taking part you could try and find some vintage style covers

1st – Dressed in White – could be a person could be a landscape – or something else completely?

8th – Books with ‘Moon’ in the Title

15th – An Aerial encounter – spaceships and explosions

22nd – An Alien Encounter – ‘we come in peace’ or maybe not.

29th – A favourite classic or vintage sci-fi

February

5th – A Book with a romance that you enjoyed

12th – Furry – a beast, something cuddly, or a fur covering

19th – Serpentine – could be a snake, could be a snake-like font, could be a snakeskin style cover

26th – A book with ‘Magic’ in the Title

March

5th – March is named for the Roman God of War – a Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

19th – Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

26th – A picture within a picture

April

2nd – A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

16th – I have to have it – a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Witherward (Witherward #1) by Hannah Mathewson

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 : Witheard (Witherward #1) by Hannah Mathewsonand here’s why:

Witherward

Welcome to the Witherward, and to a London that is not quite like our own. Here, it’s summertime in February, the Underground is a cavern of wonders and magic fills the streets. But this London is a city divided, split between six rival magical factions, each with their own extraordinary talents – and the alpha of the Changelings, Gedeon Ravenswood, has gone rogue, threatening the fragile accords that have held London together for decades.

Ilsa is a shapeshifting Changeling who has spent the first 17 years of her life marooned in the wrong London, where real magic is reviled as the devil’s work. Abandoned at birth, she has scratched out a living first as a pickpocket and then as a stage magician’s assistant, dazzling audiences by secretly using her Changeling talents to perform impossible illusions. When she’s dragged through a portal into the Witherward, Ilsa finally feels like she belongs.

But her new home is on the brink of civil war, and Ilsa is pulled into the fray. The only way to save London is to track down Gedeon, and he just so happens to be Ilsa’s long-lost brother, one of the last surviving members of the family who stranded her in the wrong world. Beset by enemies on all sides, surrounded by supposed Changeling allies wearing faces that may not be their own, Ilsa must use all the tricks up her sleeve simply to stay alive.

SIX OF CROWS meets THE PRESTIGE in a debut YA/crossover fantasy set in an alternate Victorian London, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab.

Expected publication : February 2021

Stoker’s Wilde West by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi

Posted On 1 December 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 14 responses

Stoker'sMy Five Word TL:DR Review – A series I am loving

This series is so very good.  I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  See my review for Stoker’s Wilde here and also I must give a little shout out to Pages and Tea who first brought this series to my attention – thank you so much you lovely person you.

So, this second instalment largely follows the mode of storytelling set out in book No.1, diary excerpts, journals, field reports, telegrams, etc.  The epistolary style is something I love and to recreate it here, with such style and panache is a real work of genius.  This is a series full of characters and references that I simply adore and so, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty much bowled over by both books.

What differs with this particular instalment is that the authors take us out of Victorian England and into America and the Wild West and the change in setting is fantastic and inspired.  We have cowboys, gold diggers, gunslingers and a host of familiar names, not least of which is Calamity Jane.

I won’t over elaborate on the plot.  There are of course vampires and dastardly deeds which involve certain people trying to open the doors between the realms, and there is plenty of action, jumping off cliffs and traversing the country on horseback or train.  Suffice to say -highly entertaining.

Again we have Stoker and Wilde, Florence and in this instalment the addition of a couple of other voices that add to the story.

As with the first, I think Oscar really shines, I love his diary inserts and his show stealing ways.  He’s so outrageously and delightfully flamboyant.  Stoker completely manages to downplay this by being so downright no nonsense, in much the same way as the first book, and of course Florence also plays a much bigger part in this story and I really enjoyed her scenes and character growth.  I think the three are really growing in terms of friendship and strength and I can’t wait to see what they get up to next.

I also love the way that both stories are interspersed with real facts and events, such as Oscar touring America or Stoker taking his theatre company there.

The writing is, again, perfection.  I love the voices of the two main characters and they makes me long for more and more adventures.  They manage to get themselves into such outrageous situations where death feels like a real possibility, but at the same time, you know something or someone will save the day.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I think this one meandered slightly and also there are quite a few plot lines coming into play in the early pages – I mention this simply to make readers aware as I personally didn’t find this problematic at all.

Overall, I just love this series.  If my arm was twisted and I was hard pressed to choose a favourite I would say the first book stole my heart.  That being said, this book was incredibly enjoyable.

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

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha

DealwithMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Dystopia with sexy badass characters

Okay, to be straight to the point, Deal with the Devil is not my typical sort of read but, to be honest, I did know what I was picking up before I started reading it so was well prepared, in fact, it was exactly the sort of read that I fancied and so in that respect it worked an absolute treat.

Jump forward to the year 2086.  Let’s just say that things haven’t gone well.  The place, is practically a wasteland following a catastrophic event known as the Flares.  We have a group of three women, looking after their community.  These are women who can look after themselves to be honest, they all have their own particular skills, but, headed by Nina, who is something completely different, they are capable and at the same time caring.  They help people in their community to survive is the top and bottom of it and on top of that they try to provide them with reading material.  Come on now.

Now we have a group of mercenaries.  Hard core ex solidiers who have gone rogue (for reasons that you will discover).  These mercs have cut the ties to the Big Brother Style Corporation that controlled them but unfortunately this leaves them vulnerable in terms of their own modifications and keeping them updated in order to survive.  Unfortunately, their hacker Luna has been taken captive, and the abductor wants Nina delivering in order for an exchange to take place.  Knox, the leader of the mercs has the task of roping in Nina and her companions into a double cross, the bait, some sort of fantastic library, the ultimate goal, to deliver Nina over to who knows what.

Now, look.  I’m not going to try and say that this book is reinventing the wheel.  There is plenty of sexual tension here – mainly between Knox and Nina who are both two hard ass characters with plenty of battle scars and a hard outer exterior to match.  There’s also lots of set up – you can already see the pairings for future novels clicking into place.  And, I won’t deny, there was a little bit of eye rolling here.  Everybody is superfit, they’re all dangerously gorgeous and you stand an equal chance of having your throat cut as having your day made.  But, like I said above, I was well aware of that fact when I picked this book up.

Don’t go into this expecting heaps of world building or unique ideas though – the setting and, to be honest, the plot, are more backdrops for the eventual coupling that will inevitably take place, but, I did like some of the storylines and each of the characters have their own personal set of skills which makes them unique.

In terms of criticisms. Instalove. I don’t need to say more.

So, to round up.  If you fancy a road trip with a bunch of sexy, hard hitting, muscle wielding, tough talking, ‘my dad is bigger than yours’ characters that also have hidden depths (that are not really so very hidden in fact you could dig them out with a teaspoon if you had a mind to do so) then here you go.  And, did I mention there is some smouldering sexy times – because there are, and I suspect there will be more to come in future instalments.

There you go then.

Also, brief mentions of libraries – which always makes my day (is that weird?)

Okay, to be fair, this isn’t my go to style of book but I can’t deny that it was fun and, okay, you dragged it out of me, sexy.  I wouldn’t go for this type of story as the norm and to be honest I’m not sure I’d reach for the next in series but this was a very easy book to get along with and it was a little bit of what I fancied at that moment in time.  I suppose, it just felt easy to get along with and I have no quibbles with that at the moment.

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

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