Weekly Wrap Up (Double Whammy): 19th August

Posted On 19 August 2018

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I didn’t get a chance to post my weekly wrap up last week, and in fairness I’ve been so busy that I’ve done very little reading – even over the two week period that this post shall now cover.  Well, in fairness, that’s not entirely true because I’ve also been making headway with my SPFBO books too which are not listed here.

So, the past two weeks I’ve read three books:

  1. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  2. Temper by Nicky Drayden
  3. City of Lies by Sam Hawke

I’ve also made a start on my SPFBO books reading a good portion of the first three in my batch and also starting the fourth book.  And I feel like I’m making headway with my reviews so all in all I feel like I’m doing okay with my own self imposed goals.

Next week’s reads:

  1. The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah
  2. Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Upcoming reviews: –

  1. Starborn by Lucy Hounsom
  2. Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
  3. Noir by Christopher Moore
  4. The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
  5. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  6. Temper by Nicky Drayden
  7. City of Lies by Sam Hawke

I’d love to know what you’re reading this week.

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#SPFBO 2018 : Guest Post – Phil Williams, Under Ordshaw

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As you may be aware I’m taking part, as one of the judges, in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, details here.  I’ve invited all the authors from my selected books to pay a visit to my blog and today I’m very pleased to welcome Phil Williams, the author of Under Ordshaw.  Phil agreed to write a guest post about how the story came about involving a visit to New York, a few jaunts, getting lost, a labyrinthine hostel and possibly discovering a Minotaur under the city – well, just read the piece already.

The Origins of “Under Ordshaw”

Under Ordshaw takes readers to a UK city with more than a few dark secrets. It’s a city that’s at once familiar and unusual, and the core of a series intended to span dozens of books. It’s the result of years spent writing and rewriting interlinked stories, with a great deal of imagining what if…

It’s also the result of my own attempts to explore our world, and quite specifically the time we considered the possibility of a minotaur under New York.

Under Ordshaw has seen four major iterations – once as a novel, twice as a screenplay and finally the version you see today. Originally called Penguins and Seahorses, it had a plot inspired by my reading that penguins and seahorses are rare in nature as the male helps raise their offspring. The latest version has evolved from a simpler concept of an ordinary father facing the unnatural to protect his family, but the collision of ordinary and unnatural remains.

Recognising that collision was where the story really began.

At some point in life, I adopted a hobby of urban exploring. I placed myself in random places within cities and saw where it took me. What better way to come up with random and absurd stories than to visit places you don’t belong? I got a real taste at university, pottering around the graveyards and estates of Nottingham. I’ve fed it in every city I’ve been.

In the spirit of this mindset, in the Summer of 2006, myself, my brother and my closest friend took a holiday to New York City. We planned nothing, assuming that wandering the Five Boroughs with a travel card would take care of itself.

The holiday panned out in untypical ways, with highlights including narrowly avoiding a major crime scene in Queens and getting lost in the middle of Staten Island. As such explorative jaunts into the unknown stirred our collective imaginations, we happened upon the minotaur.

Theseus and the MinotaurWe were staying in a labyrinthine hostel with a kitchen in the basement. Down there, we heard great groans from the mechanics of the buildings. And we asked what if… In particular, what if the next time we heard that noise, someone ran past screaming, “Minotaur!”

In this city that had proved strange and threatening in our ignorance, such a thing seemed possible.

Over the fortnight that we viewed New York through the eyes of outsiders who knew anything was possible, the running joke revealed the minotaur’s lore and the characters that fought or defended it. There was the violent-minded homeless man, perpetually bent on a final showdown with his arch-nemesis: “Rattigan, we finish this now!” (His foe, naturally, the master of the ferocious rodents we’d encountered.) There was the sage Mantis, keeper of secrets. And there was the discovery of scratchitti – urban vandalism, or a way to communicate with the underworld?

This stimulation sowed the seeds that would become Under Ordshaw, after a decade of refining. Similar experiences in different cities added flesh to the tale; the minotaur and the underground fused in my mind, for instance, after watching weary people riding the Prague Metro.

The characters emerged from other moments of inspiration. Darren Barton belongs to the concept of penguins and seahorses; Rufaizu his carefree opposite. Cano Casaria was a necessarily creepy foil in my screenplay Brutal Tower (inspired by research into housing estates, which will live again in Ordshaw Book 5). The criminals of Ordshaw first found life in a school play.

Mid-2016, it clicked in my mind that a shared universe made it possible to connect the many disparate ideas of my contemporary fantasy work that I had never published. Ordshaw was the perfect place to realise it.

When I revisited these stories, and started drawing them together, Pax Kuranes emerged as the character necessary to endure this experience. An outsider to the madness she was about to encounter and, in many ways, an outsider within the city itself. Someone comfortably normal, but drawn to the stranger side of life, open to exploring alleyways at night.

And from this union came Under Ordshaw. A novel that lays the foundations for a lot of work to come, but a story that serves the sentiments of three ill-advised youths who holidayed in New York, intent on seeing it through a different lens.

underordshaw

***

Thank you Phil for writing this fantastic piece, I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did – apart from the fact that I love discovering the inspiration behind the book – I think what really gave me a smile with this was the ‘what if’ – it’s a favourite phrase of my daughter and I suppose it’s a demonstration of curiosity and imagination at play together.

FYI : Phil can be found at:

www.phil-williams.co.uk  Goodreads page

The link for the book is:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CXYSZVN/

 

 

 

Friday Face Off : Knock, knock… ‘who’s there?’

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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, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – 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. This week’s theme:

Knock, knock… ‘who’s there?’ – A cover featuring a door, ajar or closed

I found this week’s theme a lot easier and had a few potential covers but went with:  Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire.  A book I loved and a series I need to seriously catch up with.

My covers:

That third cover is very different from the other four isn’t it!  I think my favourite, and I realise that these are all quite similar is:

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I like the sun rays and the little specks of light.  I just feel that this cover is more crisply defined somehow.

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover with a title featuring the word ‘legend’

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)

24th August – ‘To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead, or excessively old!’ – A cover with a title featuring the word ‘legend’

31st August – ‘“Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy’ – A cover featuring a goblin or dwarves

7th September – ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall – A cover featuring a queen

14th September – “He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.” – A cover featuring a wolf or wolves

21st September – ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ – a cover featuring clouds

28th September – Eyes wide shut – a cover featuring eyes

5th October – “He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.” – A cover that is ‘noir’

12th October – “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”  – A cover for a mystery novel

19th October -“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”  – A horror cover

26th October – Trick or treat – A halloween inspired cover

2nd November – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,’ – A cover inspired by Bonfire Night

9th November – ‘All right! They’re spiders from Mars! You happy?’ – A cover feturing a critter of the eight legged variety

16th November – There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.’  – A scary cover

23rd November – ‘The child is in love with a human. And not just any human. A prince!’ – A cover featuring a mermaid/man

30th November – “..the children of the night. What music they make!” – a cover with a vampire

7th December – ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

14th December -“Heavy is the head that wears the crown”  – A cover featuring a crown

21st December – ‘ho, ho, ho’ – A seasonal cover

28th December – A freebie – choose one of your favourite titles and compare the covers

2019

4th January – A cover that is fresh – New beginnings for a New Year

11th January – ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

18th January – A cover featuring an Amulet – either in the cover or title

25th January – ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

1st February – A comedy cover

8th February – ‘Hi little cub. Oh no, don’t be ssscared.’ – A cover with snakes

15th February – A heart – for Valentine’s day past

22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th april – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Posted On 16 August 2018

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bitter orangeI really enjoyed Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller and so I danced a little jig of joy when I was approved for a copy of Bitter Orange.

Much to my delight Fuller has managed to once again come up with a gem of a novel.  Completely different in terms of style and plot than her debut novel, Bitter Orange speaks of hot summers days during the year of 1969 when a rather introverted woman becomes friends with the decadent couple who share the same building.

Immediately you have a sense of impending doom and that initial suspicion grows, nurtured by the ever increasing sense of tension that Fuller’s prose creates until things come to a dramatic finale.

As the book starts out we make the acquaintance of Frances, now an elderly lady whose health is failing and who as she lies, awaiting death, reminisces with a visiting priest about the Summer of ’69 and the events that took place following the death of her mother.

Frances was 40 when her mother passed away and having spent the majority of her adulthood as a full time carer her life has a feeling of lost opportunity, a certain sadness coupled with the naivety and awkwardness that she now feels in any social situation and reflect her lack of experience.  Luckily Frances receives a job offer which involves her spending a number of months in a dilapidated mansion where she will report back to the owner on any noteworthy architectural finds in the extensive grounds.  Unexpectedly, on arrival, and having believed that she would be the only person residing at Lynton House she discovers another couple already in situ.  Cara, beautiful and exotic, who argues in Italian and loves cooking extravagant meals and Peter, handsome and aloof.  The couple, well Peter, has similarly been employed by the owner to check out the fixtures, fittings and any furniture of worth.  Frances finds herself immediately in awe of the couple and when they seemingly take her under their wing, inviting her to spend her evenings dining with them she becomes a little bit besotted with the pair.  Obsessions, of course, have a way of spiralling out of control and in terms of this little group it soon becomes apparent that something is very much amiss.

The setting for Bitter Orange is just gorgeous.  A crumbling mansion, still with many of it’s original features proudly displayed and with a rich history.  It’s a gothic delight.  The gardens are extensive with all sorts of out buildings, lakes and ornamental bridges all surrounded by overgrown grass, flowers and shrubs just waiting to encroach further and reclaim the space – the whole description just had me wanting to find this place and run around it with abandon trying to discover secrets.

Then we have our characters.  They all have secrets.  There’s a good deal of twisting and turning going on here and coupled with unreliable narrators, good storytellers and a large dollop of wishful thinking things are set to become a hot mess.  I have to give a little shout out to Cara in particular.  The moments when she’s weaving tales of her childhood in Ireland are quite mesmerising and I too could have spent a whole afternoon listening to her whilst partaking of a picnic by the lake.

To be honest, I can’t fault this book at all.  It’s written in a style that I just love, the characters are so easy to picture and the whole ensemble has an almost casual or accidental elegance and the cherry on the icing is that the story is infused with tension that steadily mounts. There are some real quality moments here where you feel either dread, embarrassment or you want to squirm on behalf of one or others of the characters or implore them to stop.

I can’t really say too much more to be honest and so I find this quite a short review which is in no way a reflection on my feelings for the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, it’s not my usual fantasy laden read so be warned of that – this may be a gothic  story set in a run down country house but there isn’t a ghost, or dragon, in sight.

Anyway, I think if you like nuggets such as Rebecca or The Secret History – and to be clear, I am in no way, shape or form, comparing the content, more the literary style – then I think you’ll enjoy Fuller’s work.  For me she’s an author to keep an eye on and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

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

 

#SPFBO 2018 : Batch 1, Books 4-6

Posted On 15 August 2018

Filed under Book Reviews

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As mentioned in my post here, I’ll be randomly choosing six books off my list to check out each month.  I’ll post information about the first three at the start of the month and then about the remaining three during the mid way point with a conclusion around the end of the month about which books will be going forward or not.

Here’s the second set of books from my first batch (the first three can be found here) with links to Goodreads, author pages, cover and blurb:

solace lost4. Solace Lost (Pandemonium Rising #1) by Michael Sliter

During times of war, no one goes unscathed. By Ultner, even in times of peace, few can escape suffering. Ardia is on the brink of civil war, though most citizens are woefully unaware of this fact.

Fenrir de Trenton, a disgraced guardsman-turned-ineffective-criminal, is accustomed to taking orders. So much so that, despite the danger, he finds himself neck-deep in the politicking of his current superiors as well as the rulers of the country. The fact that Fenrir’s father would rather see him dead doesn’t help matters.

Emma Dram, a handmaiden of the great Lady Escamilla, hates Fenrir with a fiery passion and with good reason: he lopped off most of her hand. Nonetheless, she finds herself in close proximity to her former lover as she seeks to serve her lady liege in fomenting her own rebellion.

Hafgan Iwan is a Wasmer, a race reviled by humans, who serves the same masters as Fenrir. His efforts to assimilate with human culture only earn him the derision of his own race, and he seeks to find belonging amidst the escalating conflict.

Meanwhile, Merigold Hinter, a serving girl with an unusual power, lives a simple existence, hoping for love, adventure, and to see the world. Her life should be untouched by political maneuvering and war. However, her world becomes a crucible—how much can one woman bear before breaking?

A story of love lost and family destroyed, of bigotry and belonging, of suffering and strength, and of religion and magic, SOLACE LOST grows from a character-driven tale to something grand in scale, perhaps even involving the gods, the

Goodread’s: author’s page

Twitter: @MikeSliter

 

purple5. The Purple Haze by Andrew Einspruch

A slightly OCD princess. A kidnapped twin. A journey to find her.

Eloise is Future Ruler and Heir to the Western Lands and All That Really Matters. Her life is structured by Protocol and full of things that help her get through her day despite her “habits.” But when her twin sister sister is kidnapped, she must leave home for the first time and try to get her back.

Traveling with her champion (a chipmunk), her guard (a human), and their two horses, Eloise follows an increasingly cold trail across three realms in search of her sister. The only way she can go home is if her sister is with her.

The Purple Haze is a humorous YA novel set in a unique fantasy world that features weak magic, equality between species, and töö mänÿ ümläüts. It’s a funny, witty book that’s been called “funny and witty,” as well as “Pratchett-esque.” If you like quirky, clever characters, lively dialog, and a fun fantasy setting, then you’ll love this fabulous debut novel from Andrew Einspruch.

Goodread’s : author’s page

Website: http://andreweinspruch.com

Twitter: @einspruch

 

Kingshold-Kindle6. Kingshold (The Wildfire Cycle #1) by D.P. Woolliscroft

Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.

Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.

Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.

Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.

Goodread’s : author’s page

Website: http://dpwoolliscroft.com

Twitter: @dpwoolliscroft

 

 

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