#SPFBO Review : The Throne of Ice & Ash (The Runewar Saga #1) by JDL Rosell  

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The Throne of Ice and Ash by JDL Rosel is the final book I picked up from my fourth batch of books.   I have now completed all 15 books and will be posting an update soon.   My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first, second and third batch of books here, here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

TOIAA

TToIaA is an excellent start to series and a book that I really enjoyed.  This is high fantasy with a Norse setting and a background that feels somewhat familiar at the same time as leaving it’s own mark.

As the story starts (after a rather tantalising Prologue) we are immediately introduced to Bjorn.  The third son of the jarl of Oahharrow.  Bjorn is more inclined to be sat with a book than swinging a sword and is ill suited to the role that he will soon find himself in. Bjorn’s sister Aelthena also rails against the path that she will eventually be expected to follow, a path ordinaed by those who have long since departed and yet continue to dictate the way her people behave (apparently a woman’s place is before the hearth’).  Both of their unwanted paths are about to be shattered following an attack on Oakharrow that leaves the people reeling.

As a result of this shocking attack the two siblings part ways.  Bjorn, leading a small band of men, travels into the mountains seeking answers and (on Bjorn’s part) vengeance.  Aelthena remains behind and steps into the role of leader that she has sought for so long.

What did I really enjoy about TToIaA?  It’s very easy to read, it’s a book that, without doubt, grows in strength and confidence as the pages turn and the two central characters go through such trials and tribulations, experience things that challenges everything they know and basically make mistakes that lead to a real sense of change in both.

Strangely enough, as the story set out, and apart from (wrongly) thinking I knew which direction it would ultimately go in, I seriously expected to enjoy Aelthena’s role the most.  I love the idea of this young woman desperately trying to forge her own path in life and ultimately finding it’s actually much harder than she ever imagined.  Apart from anything else, even during the throes of disaster people will scheme and that’s the beauty of this particular storyline – it takes us back to Oakharrow where we witness the treachery and backstabbing first hand.  Obviously, not only does this give us sight of both scenes but it gives something of a welcome relief to the fighting and grimness of Bjorn’s storyline.  However, and this is the point I was trying to get to in a very long winded fashion, was that I actually found myself favouring Bjorn’s storyline.  Not just because of the action, the travels, the strife and the fighting, but, well, one, I was so puzzled about where this was going, but two, I found his story arc equally fascinating.  Both siblings are joined in their stories by a companion.  Frey is a guardian, or bodyguard for Aelthena and Yonik is a priest who accompanies Bjorn. Both of these characters play important supporting roles although Yonik is probably the most fascinating of the two and I would love to know more about him.

Bjorn, is his own worst enemy.  He constantly berates himself for being a coward, I can’t deny that I wanted to slap him on occasion because, bear with me, if a big angry bear was charging towards me – I’d want to run.  Come on already, this is not cowardice, it’s natural (probably foolish as well I realise – running from an animal – but still, natural instinct).  Standing in the path of that bear is not really bravery – it’s foolishness.  I joke of course (I mean, obviously I wouldn’t run, nope, not me).  But, yes, Bjorn is not your typical Viking warrior.  He doesn’t want to die in battle.  He’s as far from the viking stereotype as you can possible get to in some respects.  He also has hidden abilities but I won’t elaborate on that at this point.

The worldbuilding is also really good. I loved that this takes inspiration from the familiar at the same time as giving it a twist.  The setting is easy to imagine, the history of the clan is really well delivered and there are other aspects that feel well explored but are original.

In terms of criticisms.  Okay, I thought the action took a little while to get established.  Personally, I don’t mind a some set up but this was a little slow to get really started and that leads to my next slight issue which is the plot feels a little thin, in a way I’d say this has a set up feel but at the same time I don’t feel overly negative about that as it is intriguing. More that I would mention that by the time this book concludes, and although it does have the next path clearly laid out, I would still say I don’t really yet have a handle on what’s going on here – is that a bad thing? No, not really, but I really do feel still a little in the dark.  And, of course, this ending, although it has a sense of completeness in terms of a natural break off point – does still leave threads unexplored.

On the whole, I had a good time with this one and would certainly pick up the next in series to see where the author goes next.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.

My SPFBO reviews to date:

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens
  11. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater
  12. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska
  13. Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
  14. Out of the Dust by Joe Coates

Friday Face Off : Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

The book I’ve chosen this week is a fairly recent read and the second book in a series – in fact it was a great read and I enjoyed it even more than the first in series. Not many covers for this week’s book which is The Two Faced Queen (The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings #2) by Nick Martell:

Ilike both of these covers but my favourite is:

queen 154304266

Do you have a favourite?  And, did I miss a favourite book of yours?

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 : Must be gothic

2021

October

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

Friday Face Off : Your favourite book of magic

Posted On 15 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags:

Comments Dropped 3 responses

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Your favourite book of magic

In the spirit of the month of Halloween I’ve gone for witches this week – because, MAGIC. Also in the same spirit I thought I’d go for lots of books!!  A little medley of witchyness:

Do you have a favourite?  And, did I miss a favourite book of yours?

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 ‘Queen’ in the title

2021

October

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Beautifully written, dark circus tale

AGirl

I have slightly mixed feelings about a Girl Made of Air.  On the one hand I think the writing is absolutely beautiful.  Hetherington manages to give an almost whimsical feel to what is essentially quite a dark tale with some very deep and sometimes disturbing themes.  However, I think the plot felt a little flimsy and I found myself liking the first half of the story more than the second half.

As the story begins we meet our pov – ‘Mouse’.  Known as The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived.  She is telling her story to a journalist following an interview and is using old journals and memories to bring the past back to life.

Mouse was born to two circus performers who basically had no interest in their child.  She was left to her own devices and often neglected until another performer joined the circus and took her under her wing.  Serendipity Wilson is the character with the flame coloured hair who became Mouse’s protector, teacher and mother-like figure and who eventually taught Mouse how to walk the tightrope and perform in the circus.

I actually really liked this part of the story.  It doesn’t particularly focus on the glamour of the circus so much as the grubby undertones that keep it functioning day to day.  Many of the circus performers live poor lives, lonely and often a little sad. We see Mouse’s parents, no longer at their best, ageing and depressed, Serendipity herself experiences depression after an illicit affair leaves her with a baby and eventually this child is also lost which leads to the second half of the story where Mouse leaves the circus and instead becomes a performer at Coney Island.

To avoid spoilers I’m not really going to discuss the plot but discuss my thoughts and feelings instead.

As I already mentioned the writing is really a thing of beauty.  It quite belies the true nature of the story which far from being a tale of whimsy or magical realism is more a haunting tale steeped in folklore and powerfully sad back stories.  In this respect the book went in a direction I never foresaw, in fact I think I was expecting a little more fantasy amongst the pages than was the case but I didn’t feel disappointed in that respect.  More that I needed to adjust my expectations and realise that the magic contained in these pages was much more illusory and contained more smoke and mirrors than anything else.

In terms of the characters.  Mouse is a strange one.  She had a very unusual upbringing being unwanted and unloved.  Her parents desperate passion for each other left very little room for anyone else and she was frequently ignored becoming almost feral, sleeping with the circus animals and often going unfed.  It’s little wonder that she’s not the easiest character to get along with and she certainly makes mistakes as the story progresses, in fact you can see things unfolding and going horribly wrong and you almost want to reach out and tell her to stop, but then this would have been a completely different story.  So, things go wrong and the consequences are dire.  Serendipity was actually my favourite character.  She’s probably the only character who bought a semblance of humanity to the tale.  She wasn’t as self absorbed as the others, she took the time to bring Mouse up providing her with some love and companionship and along the way she regaled us with fascinating stories from her own childhood.

In effect this is a tale of one woman’s search for answers, not just in relation to the missing child but also a voyage of discovery for herself.

In terms of criticisms I found myself less engaged in the second half of the story when Mouse’s fame and fortune really took off.  If anything this part of the story felt a little lost and maybe even a little rushed.  That being said I was equally as keen as Mouse to find answers and so pushed forward easily.

I think this is definitely a book that you need to be in the right frame of mind for.  There are dark themes here that took the story in a direction I never anticipated and I would say this has a more ‘historical’ feel than anything else, especially given the period and the inclusion of elements such as WW2 and the holocaust.

Overall, whilst I didn’t absolutely fall in love with the storyline or the characters I was really impressed by the author’s ability to conjure such gorgeous prose and I will definitely look out for future books with anticipation.

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

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars.

#SPFBO Review :  Out of the Dust by Joe Coates  

Posted On 11 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 2 responses

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Out of the Dust by Joe Coates is the second book I picked up from my fourth batch of books.   My update post will be up soon but I want to post all three reviews first.  My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first, second and third batch of books here, here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

OOTD

I got off to a slightly shaky start with this one but eventually found myself enjoying it.  The writing is good and very easy to get along with and I really liked the western feel.

The story follows a gang of cattle rustlers who are committing one last crime before going their separate ways.  The brains of the outfit, is Viggo Shaw and he is joined by his brother and sister Ylva and Destin.  Viggo is hoping to settle down with the love of his life, Erika, who is expecting their first child.  Unfortunately, as with most of the best laid plans, things go horribly wrong.  Viggo finds himself captured by a blast from his past, a vicious man who hates Viggo and unfortunately has the power and resources to do something about it.  Cormac Latrell is the bastard son of the Viceroy Corbin Cadmael who all but rules the Northern Isles in place of the senile king.  Father and son both have a fascination with a magic ability that has all but died out and Latrell is hunting for a woman who wields elemental magic.

So, I mentioned above that I got off to a slightly shaky start and this is primarily because I found Viggo and his siblings a little difficult to get along with at first.  This is a brutal gang, they kill first and ask questions later.  Without doubt the Southern Isles play second fiddle to the prosperous Northern Isles being used to provide cattle and produce at low prices, the farmers are underpaid and worked hard and the majority of the profit is pocketed by the northern nobility who rarely lift a finger.  Definitely this is an unjust world, not to mention a world that is slowly turning to dust due to wildfires and scorching heat.  I can certainly see why the people of the Southern Isles would feel disgruntled but nonetheless I didn’t really like the gang’s casual violence or the way they dish out death.  That being said I soon found myself becoming immersed in spite of my earlier reluctance.

I don’t want to give away spoilers so will avoid too much elaboration about the plot. Viggo and his gang become embroiled in a race to find the woman who wields magic before Latrell can find her.

The author does a really good job of providing background for the characters. We easily slip into snapshots from the past where we start to get a feel for the history between Viggo and Latrell and what shaped them into their current iterations and this helps the reader to see that nothing is ever as clear cut as it first seems.  Viggo had a harsh family background that left him protective of his brother and sister.  Latrell also had a hard upbringing facing the constant disappointment of the Viceroy who frequently resorted to violence.  Things became more complicated when the two began to vy for the attention of the same woman and from there their differences became irreconcilable.

I really enjoyed the setting.  I find myself enjoying western style fantasy and would definitely like to read more although the fantasy elements here are a little subdued (that being said this is the first instalment so the fantasy aspects could be stronger in later editions). I would mention that this is definitely both grim and dark so be aware of that before picking this up.  There is death, torture and unbridled violence contained in these pages, I wouldn’t say that this was gratuitous but it was certainly dark.

In terms of the characters.  Well in spite of my earlier feelings I found myself reluctantly rooting for Viggo and his companions.  They are definitely characters with a shady past but their stories help you to see past some of that and their genuine feelings for each other definitely shine through.  These are not black and white characters and I enjoyed the complexity of their personalities, even Latrell who definitely shapes up to become a really horrible monster.

Criticisms.  Well, as I mentioned this is fairly light on fantasy.  There is an element to the plot that is, well, let’s just say overused – the death of a certain person becoming the motivator for everything that follows. There is also a little foreshadowing here that definitely made it easy to foresee certain aspects and the way they would play out.  Plus a slight feeling of Viggo and his crew going from place to place with disaster following swiftly on their heels. It started to feel like they were never more than half a step in front of their pursuers and frequently led mayhem to those who tried to help or offer shelter.  But, all that being said I would, without doubt, like to read more.

Overall, in spite of my initial reluctance I fairly swiftly found myself becoming immersed in this world and enjoying the author’s style.

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

My SPFBO reviews to date:

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens
  11. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater
  12. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska
  13. Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last Week

This week I’ve managed to post four reviews and read three books.  Obviously, something had to give and I’ve done little blog hopping but will continue to catch up today and the following week.  At least I’ve made something of a dint in my reviews which were seriously stacking up.  I didn’t totally stick to my reading plans however.  I did read Mastermind by Andrew Mayne which was very OTT indeed and I loved it.  I also read two further books that I’m not going to elaborate on further at the moment because that will give away possible spoilers.

Next Week

I’m going to revert back to last week’s plans.  I’d  like to read Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie and Given to Darkness by Phil Williams.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
  2. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  3. Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis
  4. Horseman by Christina Henry

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington
  2. Out of the Dust by Joe Coates
  3. The Throne Of Ice and Ash by JDL Rosell
  4. Mastermind by Andrew Mayne
  5. SPFBO Review
  6. SPFBO Review

Friday Face Off : Gives me the Chills

Posted On 8 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Gives me the chills

Okay, there are a few things that I just find scary – clowns, puppets, dolls – to name but three.  Spiders as well but they maybe don’t scare me as much as the other three.  However, in choosing a book cover that gives me the chills this week I’ve gone for a book that I haven’t yet read – Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw.  This is a book that I’ve spotted frequently round the blogosphere and the covers gives me the chills.

My favourite

Nothing But Blackened 4c.indd

This cover seriously makes me want to hide.

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 : Your favourite book of magic

2021

October

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

Horseman (A Tale of Sleepy Hollow) by Christina Henry

My Five Word TL:DR Review: I think I misled myself

horseman

To be fair to the author, I will immediately hold up my hands and say that my own secret wishes and desires led me a little down the garden (or forest) path with this particular book.  I’ve already read a couple of books by this author and really enjoyed them and so, basically, when I saw this book (with that cover) my tiny little brain went into overdrive and frankly pulled a number on me. What I was really wishing for was a blood soaked retelling of the Headless Horseman’s story – and let’s be clear here – this is certainly the right author to give us that book.  I wanted to return to Sleepy Hollow and for Henry to give us a blood curdling shock or two.  In actual fact this doesn’t promise to be a retelling at all but a continuation of the  original story – so there you go, my bad.  I also confess that given the month of October, Halloween approaching, and all things creepy generally pervading the air like a virus, yes, I wanted a good dose of the chills – again, my expectations kind of got the better of me in that respect – so, my bad, AGAIN.

So, the above confessed, the air cleared, I can say that I loved the storytelling voice here, I really like Christina Henry’s style.  But, and of course there was going to be a but, this one just didn’t really work for me and I can’t help feeling all naffed off (much more than the actual story warrants) because I feel like a retelling of Sleepy Hollow could have been so good, particularly in the hands of this author, and so now I feel kind of cheated.

As I said, this is a continuation from the grandchild of Brom Bones, Ben Van Brunt.  Ben and her friend frequently play in the woods surrounding the village until one day a body is found, the hands and head are missing and this gruesome discovery is then followed by the finding of another, similarly mutilated body.

Ben has always had a love of the woods, she imagines herself to be watched and almost protected by the idea of the Horseman.  This is oddly out of sync with the rest of the village who fear the forest and are still deeply suspicious.  There’s very much a ‘small village’ type of mentality shrouding Sleepy Hollow, it hasn’t moved forward with the times and is still cloaked in mystery.  Outsiders don’t seem to stick around and there is an overall feeling of sadness that seems to permeate the place.

Like I mentioned above.  I did love the writing here.  I got a good feel for the place and the people.  There’s a constant yo-yo ing of affection between Ben and her grandparents as each of them seem to vy for attention.  Ben adores her grandfather, partly because (I think) he feels so big and strong, people defer to him naturally and he also makes Ben feel accepted just as she is.  Basically, Ben wants to be a boy, and this is a theme that plays a large role in the story here but, personally, I’m not sure it was really well explored and I’m struggling to define why that is.  I guess, at the end of the day, it feels like there’s more telling than showing and in some ways it feels like the emotional side of the story overshadowed all the other aspects.  It just feels out of balance somehow or as though the author maybe lost focus with too many different ideas trying to fill a relatively small space.

In terms of the overall plot and the eventual reveal.  I’m sorry to say that my overall feelings were ones of confusion and disappointment.  There is more than one monster in these woods – imagine that, it could have been so good – but, the final reveal felt a little lacklustre.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers here which is why I’m struggling to make my feelings clear but I guess overall I think both ‘monsters’ fell a little flat.

I think I’m going to end this review here.  My ideas are a bit of a mess and I’ve had a real dilemma writing this review, rewriting it a couple of times already, so I’m going to call it a day and quit now.

Basically, I think my own ideas got in the way of this story’s success.  I wanted something that was never actually promised and so ultimately I was disappointed.  If you fancy a continuation of the legend of Sleepy Hollow this might be just what you’re looking for.  Unfortunately it didn’t work it’s magic on me although I love this author and will very much look forward to her next book.

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

My rating 2.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Sundial by Catriona Ward

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 : Sundial by Catriona Ward:

sundial

Sundial is a new, twisty psychological horror novel from Catriona Ward, author of The Last House on Needless Street.

“The new face of literary dark fiction.” —Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

You can’t escape what’s in your blood…

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. Far from her childhood home, Sundial, hidden deep in the wild Mojave Desert.

But beneath the veneer, Rob is terrified for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

Running from her past has led her directly back to it — what’s buried at Sundial could never stay a secret forever, and Rob must risk one last trip out there to protect her family, and her future.

Expected Publication : March 2022

A Slightly Different Review : The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

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

Slight spoiler alert – this book was brilliant.  All I can say – to myself that is – is what was I thinking leaving this so long before picking it up.  Obviously it has rave reviews and loads of love – I sometimes think I’m simply afraid to be happy.  This is now corrected though because I loved this and can’t wait to continue.

Similar to our previous buddy reads this review will take the form of our chat back and forth.  This time round I will be posting the opening chapters and Mayri will be posting the conclusion – so don’t forget to stop by and see our concluding thoughts.

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

The conversation below follows weeks 1 and 2:

theblade

Week 1 – The End to An Offer and a Gift (inclusive) 

Mayri: And everything about this book grabs my attention! Logen’s frying-pan-to-fire beginning, our introduction to Glokta and his work, even Jezal’s utter shittiness. I think it’s the humour that makes Logen and Glokta kind of likeable even though evidence suggests they’re not. As for Jezal, I’m enjoying laughing at him (especially now that we’ve encountered Ardee!). 

Lynn: Yes, I feel like I’ve totally fallen on my feet with this one already,  I think, all things being equal I’m going to like Logen, but here’s the funny thing, I equally think I’m going to like the others – which is really weird considering one of them is a torturing so and so. 

Mayri: Yes, yes, yes! I agree!

I’m kind of aware that a plot is brewing in the background, but have been enjoying just meeting everyone, so I’m really hoping I haven’t missed anything vital so far. I’m intrigued by Logen’s ability to talk to the spirits and why Bayaz wants him/what Bayaz wants him for. I’ve got Foreboding Feelings about Glokta’s work for Sult (although maybe I should be more worried for Sult?) And Bethod’s emissaries are bloody terrifying – I think the Union is seriously underestimating the King of the Northmen. But then it wouldn’t be very interesting if they weren’t, would it? Ha ha!

Lynn: Yes, I don’t think I could confidently discuss the plot at this point. Clearly something is ticking over nicely and I feel like there are going to be various strands that eventually pull together but I don’t think you’ve missed anything *she said confidently, hoping all along that she hasn’t missed anything!* The spirit-talking is fascinating and especially why there are less spirits – well, not really I suppose, there’s already been a discussion on how there is less magic in this world so clearly the spirits are giving up the ghost! (hah! I’m here all week).  

Mayri: *laughing so hard over here*

Lynn: I like Bayaz already, the way he sent that snivelling Princeling away with his tail between his legs (take that).  I literally have no idea if I’m supposed to like these guys or not but the brain wants what the brain wants I suppose.  

Mayri: Yeah, Bayaz is incredibly satisfying so far – wonderfully un-wizard-like, tells it like it is, bit of a dude. I hope we’ll get lots more of him.

Lynn: I think Sult is scary in his manipulative scheming way, but I think Glokta is more scary in his totally dispassionate ability to carry out orders to the letter no matter how distasteful they might be – I wonder if he will rebel at some point? 

Mayri: This is exactly what I’m hoping for! I feel like he’s being set up as a scapegoat, but I think Sult is seriously underestimating our friend Glokta! A dangerous man to be on the wrong side of, methinks.

Lynn: It was interesting that he was dreaming about his earlier life and in particular Ardee – I wonder if she will be a particular weakness for him?  Speaking of Ardee – what do you think she’s got tucked up her sleeve (apart from a clean hankie).  She’s definitely a clever one and seems to be working her womanly wiles on Jezal.  She literally has him wrapped around her little finger nail.

Mayri: I’ve no idea what Ardee might be up to (yet), but I think we’re going to really enjoy finding out!

Lynn: Those emissaries – well, they certainly stopped everyone in their tracks.  Wow.  Just wow.  I am scared – and they’re fictional characters!

Mayri: Heck yeah! Terrifying! Abercrombie writes incredibly well, don’t you think? He had me feeling sorry for Logen’s cook pot when he left it behind at the lake side and I was all like, whoah, this dude can write! Dagnabbit! 

Lynn: Oh yes. I love his writing. He just has this incredible ability to pull you in almost from the first page – how on earth can he make you have feelings for a cook pot!  It’s ridiculous but it felt like he was abandoning a newborn pony instead of a shaped iron pot.

Mayri: *snort giggles*

Lynn: Basically, so far so good. I have such a good feeling about this one. Can’t wait to start week 2.

Mayri: YASSS! All signs point to awesome so far! Onward!

Week 2 – The King of the Northern to Barbarians at the Gate (inclusive)

Mayri: OK, so wow, tons to unpack in this next section *rolls sleeves up*:

Logen has history with Bethod; Bethod has a witch; Dogman and company survived and I don’t know about you but I like them a lot, but they think Logen’s dead *sad face*; Jezal is getting mixed messages from Ardee, and meets the decidedly odd Yoru Sulfur; Glokta brings down the Mercers guild and we meet a couple of new characters: Ferro and Yulwei, who I’m bursting to know more about! Oh, and Bayaz, Malacus and Logen have reached the Agriont, thanks to fancy dress costumes! 

Lynn: (I loved the fancy dress).

I’m so happy that I’ve read these chapters again.  Obviously – all the above – then on top of this I just adore the banter and the dialogue.  It just makes me smile.  I recall reading the chapter where Jezal and Ardee have an argument.  She gives him a good dressing down for being a whining kid (which has partly been brought on by boredom on her part and also being snubbed by the other nobles and their wives, etc), as Jezal storms off he’s thinking in his head that she’s a bloody commoner who should be grateful that he gave her any attention – it’s only a small thing but it makes me smile because he’s thinking exactly what Ardee has just accused the other nobles of – he either wasn’t listening (highly possible) or he just didn’t understand her point (also highly possible). Also,  I can’t help seeing this guy whenever I’m reading about Jezal (I’m sorry it’s just stuck in my brain now and I can’t unsee it):

Jezal

Mayri: Yeah, this book is totally my cup of tea!  

Lynn: Me too

Mayri: I love Glokta’s new base of operations and his relationship with Practicals Severard and Frost (they got him a chair and a stool. With a cushion. Aww!). In fact, I really like Glokta in general – his internal voice is just so perfect – dry, sarcastic, occasionally self-mocking, unflinching. He’s a horrible, terrible man and I love his story so far!

Lynn: Yes, such a strange character – I mean he’s a torturer, and he seems by all accounts to enjoy his work!  I feel like I should be absolutely repulsed by him but his internal thoughts are so intriguing.  

Mayri: And I’m so glad we get to meet Dogman! And Tul Durham Thunderhead, Black Dow, Grim, Three trees and Forley the Weakest – all names to conjure with, eh? – I really enjoyed this brief introduction to Logen’s crew and thought Abercrombie did a great job of very quickly sketching in their relationships to one another and the gap left by Logen’s “death”. Yet more evidence of Abercrombie’s masterful style.

Lynn: Again, spot on. Abercrombie seems to be able to draw a character – or a few characters to be fair, within one fairly short chapter and give you a good feel for them. It’s remarkable really. This meeting of Logen’s crew was also a really great way of giving us more food for thought about Logen. Clearly he had the respect of these men – some of them very tough by the sounds of things – and this tells it’s own story.

Mayri: Nicely put.

Lynn: I loved the chapter with Logen, Bayaz and Malacus sat round the campfire discussing plant names and properties – and then Logen asks what potion Bayaz is cooking in the fire pot – only to find out it’s tea! (And Logen thinks it smells like feet! How very dare). I was also really happy that this chapter gave us an explanation for the name of the series – the First Law – that it is forbidden to speak with Devils. 

Mayri: Hmm, I’ve a nasty feeling Bethod is going to be far more dangerous than I first thought. I loved the way Bayaz handled his meeting with the King of the Northmen, although Logen’s fear had me worried. The bit later with Blacktoe also made me uneasy – Logen used to be Bethod’s champion? The Feared was possibly created by the witch Caurib? And Blacktoe now works for Bethod – there doesn’t appear to be anyone resisting Bethod and I’m not sure the Union will stand up to the Northmen. These people are … brutal.

(Blacktoe’s death actually brought a tear to my eye too – although that’s happening a lot at the moment,  so I might just be particularly squishy at the moment!)

Lynn: That scene was a bit gutting to be honest.  

Mayri: Wow, Bayaz’s magic! That was frigging awesome!

Lynn: Yes, and I was particularly intrigued that Logen could sense the magic before it struck – does this mean he has magic abilities, obviously we already know he can speak to the dead but this feels new.

Mayri: Ooo, I didn’t notice this, but have just gone back to reread it and yes, you’re absolutely right. That’s very intriguing!

I’m interested in Ferro and Yulwei 

Lynn: (also known as Old Bastard – lol)  

Mayri: lol. I can’t help but wonder about the similarities between these two and Logen and Bayaz. Two fighters and two magicians … what are the odds on them being on the same side, I wonder? 

Lynn: That’s such a good point – and I seriously hope they’re on the same side.  It feels like things might be going in that direction or I could just be reading that wrong or I’m putting my own hopeful interpretation on things – because I think they would make an awesome crew.

Mayri: Heck yes! They’d be unstoppable! 🙂

Also, what’s an Eater? I suspect we’re not going to want to know.

As for Jezal, I still like him the least, but I like seeing him mucked about by Glokta and Ardee … and Glokta has reflected on how he was once in Jezal’s position. I don’t know why, but that unsettles me. It doesn’t really suggest that Jezal will improve with time, does it?

Lynn: Yes, I think this storyline is perhaps not quite as gripping – but then in other ways I wonder about Ardee and where that particular train is heading.  She’s clearly clever and it feels like she’s definitely up to something.  I guess we’ll see.

Mayri: Yeah, I’m very curious to see what Ardee is up to!

Finally, I really didn’t like seeing Logen in the city, being seen as stupid and brutish. I hadn’t realised how fond of him I am, but I feel quite protective of him and Jezal’s image of him gawking at the fountain made me so angry. (Won’t be sorry to see Jezal squashed under Logen’s little finger!) I  was also shocked that Logen’s so big – I thought he’d reflected on his own comparative smallness back in the first few chapters (can’t find it now), so having him seen as a great hulking brute by Jezal ruined my mental picture. 

Lynn: As you said above, I loved the way they got into the city in fancy dress. Too funny.  I also hadn’t thought of Logen as big – or tall – I’m not sure why that is because as soon as he reaches the city he definitely stands out and some of that seems to be that everyone thinks he’s a huge northern brute.  I’m waiting for the moment that Jezal realises that Logen has a brain inside that thick looking skull and that he knows how to use it.

Mayri: Ah, that makes me feel a bit better! I shall anticipate Jezal’s embarrassment!! Ha ha!

(and as for Malacus Quai, he really is a useless drip isn’t he?) *shakes head in despair* 

Lynn: lol – I loved the scene from above where he’s on a horse running away from capture and he’s described as ‘bouncing’ – I could picture him so vividly just with that one word and it does lend itself to his overall ‘uselessness’ – although it does give Logen somebody close to hand who constantly needs rescuing.

Mayri: Ha! Poor guy – ‘your role in this story is to make the other guy look good. You will be rescued regularly!’

So, that completes our thoughts on weeks 1 and 2 – now stop over to Bookforager to check out our final feelings.

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Well, I just loved it

Scales

Stephanie Burgis is one of those authors that I seem to always be able to rely on to write an enjoyable novel and Scales and Sensibility is no exception in that regard.  Clearly, given the title, this is a series that takes influence from Austen and so as a lover of both authors this was an absolute no-brainer for me and to be honest I think Burgis manages to perfectly nail down the combination of Regency romcom and fantasy.

This is a story that centres around a character called Elinor Tregarth.  Like many of Austen’s characters the Tregarth family have experienced financial ruin followed by dreadful loss.  Elinor and her two sisters found themselves orphaned and in dire straits and were eventually sent to different members of the family.  Elinor resides with her aunt,uncle and cousin Penelope at Hathergill Hall, unfortunately as ‘the poor relation’ she is treated rather badly by both Penelope and her uncle (and her aunt has little to say on the matter having been browbeaten by the two over the years).

As the story begins we meet Penelope as she prepares for her ‘coming out’ ball and witness her bad behaviour as she abuses her recently acquired dragon.  Okay, by way of background dragons have recently been rediscovered, little is known about them and in fact one of the supporting characters is undertaking research looking into their finer points during the course of the book.  The dragons in question are small creatures that can perch on a shoulder or sit curled in a lap and for some reason, a little like handbag dogs, they have become the most recent fashion accessory ‘must have’.  If you don’t have a dragon, in fact, you’re doomed to social failure.  Unfortunately, after one too many tantrums by her cousin Elinor flees the Hall clutching the abused dragon known as Sir Jessamyn.

Now, I don’t wish to go overboard about the plot, suffice to say that Elinor finds herself in the most unusual situation that involves her returning to the family seat but, lets just say, in disguise.

There are plenty of elements to this story and they all come together in a lovely way. There’s the family dynamic that relies on a typical Austen theme of certain parties becoming reliant on others. There’s the class element that takes a look at the ridiculous gap between the ‘have and the ‘have nots’ that particularly feeds into a storyline involving one of the downstairs maids.  There’s the romantic element involving a handsome young man who himself has ‘designs’ in mind (although is far too nice to see them through).  There’s the introduction of a glamorous brother and sister who seem to love gossip and enjoy interfering, and of course there’s Elinor, hiding in plain sight and being pulled in different directions whilst maintaining a cool head.

In no particular order what I particularly enjoyed about this.

The plot builds slowly but surely to a very satisfying and dramatic finale.

The central character is really easy to like and is a warm and caring female who finds herself in an absolute pickle of a situation.

The dragon is a wonderful element to the book and the fantasy element is so seamlessly woven into this Regency story.  Forget bonnets and ribbons – dragons are it (and seriously who can blame anyone – I would love a little affectionate shoulder dragon).

There are plenty of satisfying hints of Austen and yet enough originality to give this a slightly more modern feel with more accessible language and a few twisted tropes.

I loved the particular element (that I won’t mention) that finally gave the Aunt enough backbone to stand up to her tyrannical husband.  I loved the route this storyline went down and the final way it played out. Huzzah!

The writing is excellent.  What more can I say, Burgis is a lovely storyteller.

In conclusion, a fun, sometimes crazy always enjoyable, Regency romance with a delightful dash of dragons.

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

My rating 4 of 5 stars

#SPFBO Review :  Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

Little White Hands by Mark Cushen is the first book I picked up from my fourth batch of books.   My update post will be up soon but I want to post all three reviews first.  My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first, second and third batch of books here, here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

LWH

I found Little White Hands to be an entertaining story, very easy to read and well paced. I would suggest that this is aimed at a younger audience (maybe MG even- but I’m sure the author will let me know if that’s completely off kilter) but even with this in mind I think this is a book that adults would happily get along with and it would make a lovely book to read to/with children.

The story revolves around a young kitchen boy called Garlan who dreams of one day becoming a knight.  Garlan becomes involved in an adventure that takes him across land and sea in order to prevent the threat of perpetual war sweeping across the land.

The story takes place in a kingdom known as Faeland and Garlan’s adventures take him into all manner of settings with unusual critters aplenty.  This has a coming of age feel and I think will appeal to readers of fantasy who enjoy The Hobbit/The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Arthurian style stories. There are echoes of all of these books throughout, particularly with the ‘winter’ aspects of the story and the young protagonist gave me Frodo vibes – that being said, I want to be absolutely clear that this book stands on it’s own two feet quite comfortably.

I enjoyed the writing and the set up.  The descriptions are enough to give a good feeling for the place without being overly cumbersome.  I liked the main character but probably enjoyed his companion, Oldface, even more – a strange floating piece of wood that is enchanted?  Perhaps not the right word but I think if I over elaborate it will spoil the eventual reveal – but this unusual companion acts essentially as a guide for Garlan.  On top of that I think the story was well thought out, there’s a backstory here regarding the four seasons and a falling out many years ago involving winter.  I don’t want to go too deeply into the plot as I think it would be easy to spoil certain aspects that are best discovered as you go along.

In terms of criticisms. Not too much to be honest.  I think the story might have more ‘all round’ appeal if it had more of a female presence (so,maybe if Oldface had been female for example). I also think a little adult style humour thrown in (not inappropriate for children but that adults will understand and enjoy) although this is just a personal preference.

Overall though, this was an easy and enjoyable read that I practically read in one sitting.

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

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens
  11. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater
  12. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska

Booking Ahead/Weekly/Monthly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last Week

This week I’ve managed to read The Bone Ships Wake by RJ Barker which I loved.  I also read Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis which was an enchanting and fun Regency fantasy with shades of Austen and dragons.  I also completed the Horseman by Christina Henry. So, I have plenty of reviews to pull together and I think the blog will be very busy next week.

Next Week

I have started Mastermind by Andrew Mayne which I imagine will be a very fast paced number. I’d also like to start Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie and if I can fit it in Given to Darkness by Phil Williams.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley
  2. The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington
  2. Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
  3. Out of the Dust by Joe Coates
  4. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  5. The Throne Of Ice and Ash by JDL Rosell
  6. Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis
  7. Horseman by Christina Henry

My Monthly Update:

Here’s the books I read the past month:

Friday Face Off : A Halloween read

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

A Halloween read

I can’t wait to see what everyone picks for their Halloween read.  I’ve gone for a book that I’ve not read yet but will be reading and reviewing this month.  This is a new release and it’s perfect for this week’s theme.  Horseman by Christina Henry – a retelling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow – what could be better for a Halloween read?  Here are the two covers:

My favourite

I actually like both of these.  The first one has a dark and ominous feel, the second maybe a little less ominous but I love the design.

If pushed I’d probably pick:

Horseman2

Perhaps not as dark as the first cover but there’s something about it that just appeals to me.

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 : Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book

2021

October

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 Bone Ship’s Wake (The Tide Child #3) by RJ Barker

Posted On 30 September 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 6 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A fantastic ending to series

BoneShips Wake

I have to say that The Bone Ship’s Wake could possibly be one of the most satisfying, slightly bittersweet and tear inducing endings to a series that I can recall reading.  Put bluntly, and if you don’t have time for the rest of this review – this series is superb.  If you’re already familiar with this particular author through his Assassins (Wounded Kingdom) series then you’ll know he can write some addictive fiction loaded with lovable characters and compelling plot.  He manages to find a winning balance between light and dark through the use of great dialogue, emotional impact and humour and his characters quite simply take on a life of their own.  I never quite expected to fall so hard for a seafaring story, in fact it felt a little risky in some respects to take such a step away from the fantasy ‘norm’ but the author pulls it off and then some.  In fact, towards the final chapters I was actually cursing out loud – ‘give these characters a break for pity’s sake’ – but, my pleas went (mostly) unheard. This is an author who will pull on your heartstrings relentlessly and who refuses to take the easy option.

I don’t intend to go into the plot much here although there may be some unintentional spoilers for the earlier books so if you haven’t yet started this series take heed (also take my advice and dive into this series soon).

A year has passed since Call of the Bone Ships concluded.  Meas is captive, held who knows where and tortured cruelly.  Joron now commands the Tide Child, although, for reasons that I won’t reveal, refuses to be named Shipwife instead becoming known as the Black Pirate.  He’s not proud of many of his actions since Meas was taken and is becoming desperate to find her before the truth will out and her chances of survival disappear.  This is truly a race against time as Joron is slowly being eaten away by Keyshan’s Rot.  You could be forgiven for thinking this a tale of revenge with one man at the heart of the story relentlessly chasing what seems an unachievable goal and going to terrible depths in order to do so but, in fact, it’s much more than that.  At its heart this is a story of hope, right and wrong and the sacrifices that people make to live decent lives free of tyranny.  Also, who am I kidding, there are sea dragons, tentacled beasts, mystical foggy waters that are believed to be haunted, dark, stormy and impassable seas and impossible chases.

Predominantly this third instalment spends a good proportion of the time on the high seas.  There are chases, fantastically described as these tall ships cut through the waves, nail biting skirmishes with sea critters and lulls where the Tide Child creeps silently through foggy seas hoping to avoid detection.  There is also a dramatic return to land and a daring plan of rescue fraught with betrayal and reveals.  In fact there are so many twists and turns that as a reader you eventually start to mistrust everything and doubt everyone – this is not easy to achieve and it’s so good because it creates an enormous amount of tension as you’re reading and keeps you glued to the page and constantly on edge.

The absolute, hands down, winning element is of course the characters and the amazing character arcs that have been experienced throughout the series.  Joron makes for excellent reading. He has committed atrocities and suffers accordingly.  Surprisingly for me, particularly with Meas being such a compelling character and so easy to love, I actually found Joron and Gullaime stole the show in this final instalment – and in fact I would say that the crew of the Child Tide reached the same conclusion as I did.

The other winning elements to this.  Well, the writing is superb.  Barker seems to have crafted his very own nautical language that is both easy and immersive.  I loved the time aboard ship and the ease with which we slipped into tension and danger and then escaped barely by the skin of the teeth.  On top of this I think the way the author has taken Meas and Joron and effectively turned them into, what would appear in simple terms to be stereotypical pirates with peg legs, eye patches, talking birds perched on shoulders, etc, but then actually managed to defy convention and make them so defiantly original – well, what can I say.  It’s impressive.

Any criticisms.  Well, apart from being sad that the adventure has concluded, I confess to moments of anger at the author’s relentlessly harsh treatment of the characters (*shakes fist*)!  The only other thing I would mention is that this is a series to be relished.  It takes it’s time to become established, to grow and reshape.  Basically, patience is not only a virtue but a requirement.  This isn’t a speedy read but to quote an old adage ‘all good things to those that wait’.

In conclusion, a stunning series not to be missed.

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

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Given to Darkness by Phil Williams

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 : Given to Darkness by Phil Williams.  Here’s my review for the first book Kept From Cages.

Giventodarkness

Ikiri demands blood. Whose will it be?

A malevolent force stirs from the heart of the Congo. One child can stop it – but everyone wants her dead.

Reece Coburn’s gang have travelled half the world to protect Zipporah, only to find her in more danger than ever. Her violent father is missing, his murderous enemies are coming for them, and her brother’s power is growing stronger. Entire communities are being slaughtered, and it’s only getting worse.

They have to reach Ikiri before its corruption spreads. But there’s a long journey ahead, past ferocious killers and unnatural creatures – and very few people can be trusted along the way.

Can two criminal musicians, an unstable assassin and a compromised spy reach Ikiri alive? What will it cost them along the way?

Pick up this exciting conclusion to the Ikiri duology today, for a supernatural thriller that will keep you hooked right to the finish.

Expected publication : October 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Plans

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 :

Freebie -therefore I’m going for my reading plans for the next couple of months

Now, I may have mentioned that I’ve had a strange few months which has left me in this constantly yo-yo’ing positing of getting behind then catching up then getting behind, then not catching up.  There have been many hiccups – fingers crossed things are returning to a more even footing however this leaves me with a number of commitments to catch up with at the same time as juggling the other books I have on my tbr.  So here are a few of the books I’m  hoping to tackle in the very near future (not including the two books I’m currently reading:

Mastermind by Andrew Mayne

Mastermind

Horseman by Christina Henry

horseman

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

OnceUpon

The Lighthouse Witches by CJ Cooke

TLW

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Vespertine

Spirits of Vengeance by Rob J Hayes

Spirits of

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis

Scales

Given to Darkness by Phil Williams

Givento

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

ThePariah

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

LastGirl

The Empire’s Ruin (Ashes of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley

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

Empires

Wow, just wow.  What can I say.  Would another wow suffice?  I loved this book.  I really did.  It’s epic-y goodness, fantastic characters, adventure, danger, conflict and such a book of emotion.  This is a book that I would simply love to read again.  One of those books that you can have at the side of your bed and just pick up every now and then and read a little more, dive straight back into the world, meet up with your favourite character/s and become immersed all over again.  I am in love.

To be honest, I feel woefully unprepared to write this review because this book is so good I don’t see how I can possibly do it justice.  What I plan to do instead is gush uncontrollably.  You have been warned.

I think I will mostly stay away from the plot because there are some excellent reviews already out there that elaborate in a far better fashion than I could.  If you want something of an idea then here’s the description from the cover (I don’t usually cut and paste these but this is spot on so why reinvent the wheel?)

‘The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used.

In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates.

But time is running out. Deep within the southern reaches of the empire and ancient god-like race has begun to stir.

What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever. If they can survive.’

There you have it – in a nutshell.

Now, to my thoughts and feelings.

I guess it’s all about perspective but the main winner of any book for me is the characters, you can have a great plot, lovely writing and a stunning world BUT if I don’t connect with the characters then you’ve pretty much lost my attention.  I can’t engage if I don’t feel anything.  So, this story follows three characters.  I would say the main character is Gwenna – and I loved her.  To be honest I can’t conceive of the idea of anybody not loving this character.  It just doesn’t compute.  Ruc is the next pov and this is a character that I’ve very happily met before in Skullsworn (for info – I think this is a book you could pick up fresh but I personally enjoyed the fore knowledge of Dombang and its inhabitants and their violent tendencies).  Finally we have Akiil.  I would say that Akiil initially comes across as the least exciting of the perspectives but don’t be fooled.  His story brings with it some fascinating ideas and some rather breathtaking scenes.

So, why did I love Gwenna so much, you might reasonably ask.  Put bluntly, she made me feel good, I felt uplifted when I was reading her chapters.  She’s prickly, tough, makes mistakes and swears like a trooper but she’s also fundamentally good.  Staveley certainly puts her through some trials and some very low periods.  Some of her chapters make for difficult reading.  But, at the same time, I just couldn’t get enough of them.  She’s such a ‘full of life’ character.  Over the top you might be forgiven for saying.  Her chapters are quite simply exhilarating and I couldn’t get enough of them.  We travel to jungles with unspeakable monsters, places that will slowly poison the mind and body.  There is so much to make you gasp.  The Kettral, which are fundamental to Gwenna’s story are fantastic, huge birds, used for war, gigantic, magnificent birds of prey.  I mean, just, everything.  The time at sea and the tribulations they encountered, then taking on board a rather feral young girl known as ‘rat’.  The whole idea of the deformed creatures within the jungle – some like a strange combination of animal and insect, impossibly fast, strong and hideous. What more could you ask for – abandoned towns? Check. Impossible scenes of bravery? Check.  Monsters aplenty? Check.  Fighting aplenty? Check.  I could go on.

Ruc.  A monk for the Goddess of love and his love interest Bien.  Ruc has a fascinating story that involves the swamps that surround Dombang.  His current God of choice, in fact, couldn’t be further from those of his upbringing.  The two of them also share a fantastic story arc that eventually sees them meet up with a surprise character (who I can’t or won’t unveil here) and puts them into a gladiatorial style arena where, in spite of their ‘loving deity’ means they will either fight or die.  I loved this.  Again, this will give you highs and lows, make you gasp as you read – I mean, the concluding elements of these chapters, not to be a tease or anything, are amazing.  Amazing I tell you – but don’t take my word for that – pick up the kent kissing book and find out for yourself.

Finally, Akiil.  I feel a bit grim on this character because he gets a little bit of a bad rap comparatively speaking.  His chapters feel sedate after the excitement of Gwenna and Ruc but, don’t be misled, these chapters are integral to the story so don’t be in a big rush to skim forward.  Yes, I found these a little slow at first.  Akiil is something of a monk turned con artist.  He’s trying to charm some gold out of the Emperor but eventually he has to take action – possibly life threatening.  He’s bragged about his abilities to travel through ancient portals – fatal to some – and so eventually he has to take that leap of faith.  From here his story gathers pace – but I’m also not going to share any of it here.  Because spoilers.

I don’t think I can add much more.  To conclude I can confidently say this will be one of my top ten reads of the year.  It was fantastic.  If you love fantasy you simply have to read this book, I implore you to do so.  Pretty please even.  What more can I say?  Come for the fantasy, stay for the characters, prepare to be gobsmacked and read in wonder.

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

My rating

5.5 of 5 stars – I know, it’s not possible but let’s just say I’ve been in the jungle and my mind has gone a little crazy.

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last week:

Well, I’m slowly starting to catch up.  I’ve started visiting all my lovely blogger buddies slowly but surely and my motto of the moment is ‘little by little’.  In big news I’ve finished my SPFBO books – all fifteen of them.  I’ll be posting reviews and an update very soon.  I’ve also finished my buddy read book and absolutely loved it.

Next Week

This week I will be focusing on some of the review books that I’m behind with – I have some catching up to do!

Friday Face Off : A favourite thriller

Posted On 24 September 2021

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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’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

This week’s theme:

A favourite thriller

I had a serious number of choices for this week’s theme but in the spirit of highlighting more recent reads I’ve gone with an author that I’m enjoying very much at the moment: Lucy Foley and her last book The Guest List.  Here are the covers:

My favourite

GL4

To be fair this feels almost ghost-like which isn’t really the vibe for this book, but, I would definitely pick this up, I just like it, what can I say.

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 Halloween read

2021

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Posted On 22 September 2021

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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 Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley – because I’ve loved her last two books and can’t wait to read more.  Here’s the description:

TheParisApartmentJess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

Expected publication : February 2022

The Women of Troy (Women of Troy #2) by Pat Barker

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A unique point of view

the womenof

I loved The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.  A retelling of the fall of Troy from the perspective of Briseis who is given to Achilles as a battle prize.  I fell for this story so hard.  The writing was gorgeous, the sense of place and descriptions utterly bewitching and Briseis’ voice so easy to get along with – especially given the violence and bloodiness of the story which could have easily become dark and depressing.

To be perfectly honest I had no idea that this was to be a series and so I was madly happy when The Women of Troy popped onto my radar and to cut a long story short – this doesn’t disappoint.

This story picks up where the first left off, and for the record, I highly recommend you read the first because Briseis is such a compelling point of view.  The Greeks may have won the war but they have become marooned on the beach, unable to set sail for home due to strong winds that seem to bode ill.  Are the Gods displeased?  The Greeks certainly seem to think so and nerves within the camp start to fray with individual factions forming.  Each group hopes to place blame elsewhere and ultimately sacrifices will be called for.

Meanwhile the women of the camp seek to come to terms with their captivity and enforced enslavement as they ride the tides of anger roiling off the Greek warriors.

The Women of Troy is appropriately named as this time we spend much more time with the captive women, watching as they form attachments, sometimes watching with horror as they seem to be coming undone and ultimately hoping that their lives will calm down some.  Briseis is the key pov, Achilles may be dead but carrying his child, and married to one of his close confidantes, she shares an almost elevated position if you will – or if it’s possible to say such a thing given the horrific circumstances in the first place.  I really liked the relationships that slowly formed, and I admit I had palpitations at certain points given the actions of some of the women that Briseis was trying to help and protect.

Also in this instalment we meet Pyrrhus (Achilles’ son).  He is one of the povs along with one of the Prophets Calchas.  Pyrrhus suffers from an inferiority complex living in his father’s shadow.  He is often ashamed of his own actions although he hides this behind bluster and deceit.  He is not the nicest of characters to be honest but I couldn’t help feeling pity for him at certain points.

The absolute winning element for this book for me though was the writing.  It’s so atmospheric.  You could feel the cloying intensity of the camp, the fear, the anxiety.  You could taste the salt from the sea and hear the wind howling.  I absolutely love the writing.  To be fair, the plot itself plays second fiddle a little here.  This is a story that is small in scope and deep on emotional impact.  And it was excellent.

I don’t think I can say too much more to be fair.  There is an element of this story that may trigger certain readers so be aware of that.  The women here are taken by force but this isn’t graphic or sensational, simply part of the story of war.

If I didn’t get the message across already I loved this story.  And, I’m fairly hopeful that more will be forthcoming so happy days.

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

Posted On 19 September 2021

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Sunday Post

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

Last week:

Last week I missed my update so I’ll double post this week.  As per usual I am behind at the moment as a result of travelling to see family and friends.  Still, good times – just, I am fed up with myself sometimes!  Anyway. The past two weeks I’ve been pressing on with my reading although I need to sit down now and catch up with some reviews and blog hopping.  The week before last I read By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska and also The Women of Troy by Pat Barker.  I’ve also read A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington, continued with my buddy read of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law (75% into this one now) and read one of my SPFBO books – Little White Hands by Mark Cushen.

Next Week

This week I’d like to complete my buddy read, read Wisdom of Crowds and pick up another SPFBO book – of course, we all know what ‘they’ say about the best laid plans.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

#SPFBO 7 : My Fourth/Final Batch of Books

Posted On 18 September 2021

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SPFBO71024_1

SPFBO 7 is now into its third month and today I’m highlighting my next batch of four books.  To date I’ve read and reviewed 12  books and my updates for Batch 1, 2 and 3 can be found here, here and here.  I am a little late posting my final batch of books but I have already completed one of these and so hopefully will finish the final two books by the end of the month.

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

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

This month the three books that I will be reading from my fourth and final batch are:

***

Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

LWH

Almost five hundred years have passed since the Seasons were at war. Half a millennium since Winter defied Spring, and lost.

Generations have come and gone, not knowing the bitter freeze and howling snows of Winter ever existed.

But now, after centuries of silence, the participants in this ancient struggle have resurfaced and reignited their feud on the doorstep of an unassuming little kitchen boy.

Garlan’s dreams of being just like the knights he idolizes may not be as impossible as he has always been led to believe, when he is chased from his home and thrust headlong into the kind of adventure he had only ever read about in books.

Setting out on a journey that spans the entire kingdom of Faeland, Garlan will traverse impossible mountains and stormy seas and battle terrible monsters, all to keep the world he knows safe from an enemy who will stop at nothing to bring about a never-ending winter.

With a cast of fantastical characters to aid him in his quest, can Garlan overcome his self-doubt and find the courage he needs to rise above his humble station and become the hero he always dreamed of being?

The fate of the world rests in his hands.

About the Author

***

The Throne of Ice & Ash by JDL Rosell

TOIAA

A throne in peril, a tragic betrayal, two heirs struggling to save their land, and a prophesied war threatening to engulf the world…

Bjorn, youngest heir to the Mad Jarl of Oakharrow, has always felt more at ease with a quill than a sword. Yet when calamity strikes his family, he must draw a blade and lead a company of warriors into the cold, deadly mountains in pursuit of a mysterious foe. Though he seeks vengeance, an ancient power stirs within him, and the whispers of prophecy beckon him toward an ominous destiny…

Aelthena, Bjorn’s sister, was born with the aptitude to lead, and she’s eager to prove it. But her society’s rules for women, and her love for her brother, restrain her efforts to command. As she walks the fine line between ambition and virtue, enemies of both mankind and myth rise against Oakharrow’s throne, and even her allies question her right to rule…

A harrowing tale of the struggle for power and the dawning heroes who rise above it, The Throne of Ice & Ash is Book 1 of the Norse high fantasy, coming of age series The Runewar Saga. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of the Rings, and The Wheel of Time won’t want to miss this new sweeping epic fantasy!

About the Author

J.D.L. Rosell is the internationally bestselling author of Legend of Tal, Ranger of the Titan Wilds, The Runewar Saga, The Famine Cycle, and Godslayer Rising. He has earned an MA in creative writing and has previously written as a ghostwriter.

Always drawn to the outdoors, he ventures out into nature whenever he can to indulge in his hobbies of hiking and photography. Most of the time, he can be found curled up with a good book at home with his wife and two cats, Zelda and Abenthy.

***

Out of the Dust by Joe Coates

OOTD

There are few things more dangerous or more destructive than a bad man who thinks that he is doing a good thing…

The Aska Isles are burning. An unseasonable drought is slowly killing the land; crushing it in a patient and merciless fist of rising fire and dust.

On the prosperous Northern Isle, King Taavi Fulbright, senile and raving, edges closer to death while his Viceroy, the flint-hearted Corbin Cadmael, continues with his plans for subjugating the South and bringing the contemptible, stinking peasants that farm it under his yolk.

On the beautiful and brutal highlands of the Southern Isle, an outfit of desperadoes, bandits and cattle-thieves, led by the infamous Shaw siblings, is in the midst of murdering a team of the Crown’s cattle drovers and nicking their stock. It’s a final payday before the head of their crew, Viggo Shaw, leaves the road-life for good and settles down to fatherhood. Viggo cares little for the fate of the many, being concerned only with the lives of those closest to him; his sister and brother, Ylva and Destin, his lifelong love, Erika, and their unborn child.

That is until the delightfully psychotic Cormac Latrell comes strolling back into their lives after a decade-long absence. Latrell is a monster and, like all good monsters, is a monster of Viggo’s own creation. Once a polite and conscientious young nobleman, Latrell is the bastard son of Viceroy Cadmael and has been twisted by a love unrequited, the scorn of those he wished only to help, and the revulsion of a father who only ever saw him as a disappointment.

Latrell is hunting Erika’s sister, Fenella, who is rumoured to be endowed with powers long believed to be lost to legend. They are the powers of the Empathy, an elemental magic that could bring the Aska Isles back from the brink of the fire –– or cast it into the flames.

Now, Viggo and his band find themselves inexorably drawn into a choking world of revisited childhood sins that have sown the seeds from which fiends grow, soul-ripping jealousies, false prophesies, and blood-soaked feuds that promise little in the way of relief for any of them.

Viggo Shaw must face a trifecta of hard questions and an even tougher choice; is the saving of his world, the keeping of a final promise and the defeating of a monster he helped mould worth becoming a monster himself for?

Or should he just do what he aches to do, and surrender to death?

Or perhaps, Viggo might learn on his journey that the human heart is a torment and a masterpiece.

About the Author

***

Good luck to this month’s authors.

Friday Face Off : Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

Firstly, you may have noticed a lack of content on here recently, or the fact I’ve been somewhat missing – I haven’t taken a hiatus, I’m not burnt out – I’ve been travelling and seeing people, kind of catching up after all the isolation and lock down from Covid and it’s quite simply been busy.  So, I’m yet again behind both with reviews and blog hopping – apologies everyone.  I’m hoping to get back on track now after a funny couple of months.

So, books with ‘murder’ in the title.  I did have a few in mind for this one but I certainly didn’t want to go over again with books I have already used.  Instead I’ve gone for a fairly recent read that was a buddy read with Lisa at Way Too Fantasy – of course I was a bit of a washout even though I was enjoying the series!  Anyway.  The second book, A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (The Others #2).  Here are the covers:

 

My favourite

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

Next Week : A favourite thriller

2021

September (RIP event)

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books – Update

Posted On 11 September 2021

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SPFBO71024_1

Today I’m posting an update for my third batch of SPFBO books (which can be found here).  This year I’m teaming up with the lovely ladies from the Critiquing Chemist and we split the batch of books equally – which gives me a little more time this year.

This month I read and reviewed all four books from my third batch and today I’m providing my feedback on which books will be cut or rolled forward.  At this point I’m not making any decisions on semi-finalists as the semi finalists will be decided by both blogs before agreement on a finalist is reached. We will each put forward hopefuls and then take it from there.

I would mention that this is ultimately the most difficult part of the competition for judges and authors.  I don’t find making cuts easy to be honest however it’s the nature of the competition.  There can be only one. I would also like to thank the authors of the books that are highlighted today for taking the decision to throw their hat into the ring.  It can’t be easy and I definitely applaud you for taking this step.

Without further ado here is my feedback from the third batch of books:

Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation #1) by Phillip Blackwater

Rising Shadows

As tension rises between the southern and northern nations of the small continent of Exitium in the world of Anteris, the Elves turn to their eastern neighbors, the Humans, for help. They wish to learn the ways of combat, which they are not accustomed to, for they have always wielded a power far greater than forged steel. The Shards of Creation, mystical artifacts of great and virtually infinite power, have always been their prized weapon, but times have changed. They now face the same threat as the Humans: the southern nation known as the Ethula.

Wariel Ritch, general of the Human army, will take upon his shoulders this burden. But when a shadow of a past long forgotten threatens what little stability is left in the world, he will have to leave everything behind to stop it. Medregal Tergrast, an Ethulan king, dead for a thousand years, plans his return to the world of the living to gain back his former glory and finally fulfill his destiny by gaining control of the Shards of Creation. But is he really the threat people make him out to be?

In the meantime, in the bowels of the Human Kingdom, the reign of Dana Crystaloak is put into jeopardy when people around her start questioning her decisions. If she falls, war could break out across all lands.

My review is here.

In a nutshell: Rising Shadows is a quest style fantasy story involving a number of characters, racing against time, before an army of souls is released to fight for a King who has returned from the dead.  There are a number of different threads to the story that all provide their own element of added threat.  I didn’t struggle to read this but I did have a few issues and whilst this might not have totally worked for me it could be a gateway into fantasy for readers new to the genre

Conclusion: Cut

***

By the Pact (Pacts Arcane and Otherwise 1) by Joanna Maciejewska

Bythepact

High mages lied: Veranesh, the demon who destroyed the continent is still alive. And it’s up to their former student to expose the truth—even if it means another Cataclysm.

When Kamira, a once high mage student turned arcanist, discovers an imprisoned demon in underground ruins, she is forced into a pact that grants her powerful magic, but also ties her to the very demon that once devastated the continent… and Veranesh wants his freedom.

With one friend by her side, Veelk, a mage killer bound on protecting her, Kamira will have to outwit the archmages, other demons, and possibly her own demonic benefactor to survive. Her chances are slim, but with Veelk’s ever-present sarcastic repartee, Kamira might just pull through.

Plots and schemes, power and means—sometimes the price for victory is choosing which friend will die, but when you only have one friend, the choice is… easy?

My Review is here.

In a nutshell: I enjoyed By the Pact.  It has some new (to me at least) notions around demons and magic that I haven’t seen explored before.  I enjoyed the central characters and apart from a few issues related to editing (as opposed to the story itself) I would undoubtedly like to read the next instalment.

Conclusion: Roll Forward

***

Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens

Iarr

ON THE NIGHT THAT HE WAS BORN, THE DEVIL CAME TO KILL HIM The son of a farmer in Iron Age Britain, Nuadhu finds himself thrust into a destiny he is ill-prepared for. After his king murders his parents, he and his brother are forced to flee into the Roman Empire under the protection of the archangel Anael. Meanwhile, a plague of the undead is sweeping across Europe from the east, raising their slain enemies as new allies. Their goal is not the conquest of one tribe or nation, but the subjugation of all humanity. Can one warrior-in-exile, hungry for vengeance, build a force to repel this existential threat?

My review is here

In a nutshell: This was a short but enjoyable story about a man who is born to be the ‘champion’ of the people, a protector from evil if you will.  Set in the Iron Age we follow a young man as he trains with a celestial being.  My only problem here is that I felt the length of the book worked against it in terms of the author really being able to draw a picture of the way of life, or to really given strength to the characters.  As it is it felt like a fairly quick, episodic narrative that quickly sees the main POV grow up and finally face the threat he’s been training for.  I think readers who like a quick read and fast pacing might enjoy this one.

Conclusion: Cut

***

Carrion by Alyson Tait

carrion

The Rook legacy: duty at all Costs. Regina’s family are the last living members after a long line of magical families. Their heritage is a promise to the world; they can be trusted to keep magic from corrupting power hungry witches — In doing so they keep an unearthly evil from crushing humanity.

When Regina Rook’s mother dies a sudden, violent death, the living coven members come from around the world to attend the funeral, and begin breathing down her neck as next in line to lead. Trying to find a balance between her own goals and her family’s demands, all the while keeping her recent nightmares hidden where she becomes the very thing they fighting.

But when those things become intertwined, can she do anything but watch as the world around her crumbles to ancient horrors?

My review is here.

In a nutshell: Carrion is a story about a coven of witches who use their magic to protect the world.  When the coven’s lead witch dies it falls to her eldest daughter to pick up the reins.  The eldest daughter however has long rebelled against the coven’s ways and traditions and with a new threat emerging this could spell trouble for the world we know.  Again, this is a very quick read and a fairly short novel. I found myself struggling to really connect with the main character though and that could simply be because I wanted more backstory.  I admit that shorter stories often leave me wanting more detail so this could potentially appeal to other readers who want something a bit more snappy.

Conclusion: Cut 

 

My thanks again to the authors.

I will be posting my final batch of books very soon.

Friday Face Off : Kings or other Emperors/rulers

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

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

So this week I’ve gone for a book from a series that I know I’ve highlighted before – so, why this book, well I don’t think I’ve used just this one book alone because at the time it didn’t have quite as many cover options.  So King of Thorns (The Broken Empire #2) by Mark Lawrence.  And here are some of the covers:

My 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 : Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

2021

September (RIP event)

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 : Scales and Sensibility (Regency Dragons) by Stephanie Burgis.

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 :Scales and Sensibility (Regency Dragons) by Stephanie Burgis.  I love this author.  Plus this title and the cover!!  I can’t wait.  Here’s why:

Scalesandsensibilit

Sensible, practical Elinor Tregarth really did plan to be the model poor relation when she moved into Hathergill Hall. She certainly never meant to kidnap her awful cousin Penelope’s pet dragon. She never expected to fall in love with the shameless – but surprisingly sweet – fortune hunter who came to court Penelope And she never dreamed that she would have to enter into an outrageous magical charade to save her younger sisters’ futures.

However, even the most brilliant scholars of 1817 England still haven’t ferreted out all the lurking secrets of rediscovered dragonkind…and even the most sensible of heroines can still make a reckless wish or two when she’s pushed. Now Elinor will have to find out just how rash and resourceful she can be when she sets aside all common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll even be impractical enough to win her own true love and a happily ever after…with the unpredictable and dangerous “help” of the magical creature who has adopted her.

A frothy Regency rom-com full of pet dragons and magical misadventures, Scales and Sensibility is a full-length novel and the first in a new series of standalone romantic comedies.

Expected publication : October 2021

#SPFBO Review : By the Pact (Pacts Arcane and Otherwise #1) by Joanna Maciejewska 

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By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska is the fourth book from my Third Batch of books. My update post will be up soon and I shall be posting further information about my final three books asap.   My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first and second batch of books here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

Bythepact

By the Pact is a tale of demons and mages, sand and sorcery, I confess that I liked the way the author turns certain tropes on their head a little and I also found myself connecting quite well with the central duo.

As the story begins we step into a sort of Indiana Jones type adventure with two characters searching the desert for an old ruin and a valuable artefact.  Of course, you could be forgiven for immediately suspecting traps and trickery and you’d be spot on, up to a point – however, this particular trap has been laid by a demon. Imprisoned many years ago by archmages and believed to be dead by the majority of the world following a cataclysmic event, Veranesh is very much alive and not entirely happy at having spent the last few centuries entombed in crystal beneath the sand. The only way for the two to escape alive, albeit a temporary reprieve, is for one of them to make a pact.  Ultimately Veranesh wants freedom but how can anyone justify releasing the very monster who caused such widespread death and destruction?  Regardless, a pact is formed and the two main characters buy themselves a little time in which to think up a Plan B.

Now, I would point out that as I started this I felt a little overwhelmed at first, well, perhaps not overwhelmed so much as in the dark a little.  There were lots of references about past events, mages, highmages, archmages, demons and their ranks not to mention arcanists and mage killers.  So, yes, at first I was trying to figure out all the whys and wherefores at the same time as wondering if I was being incredibly dim witted.  As it happens, I think that you simply have to run with this because the author does a great job in gradually bringing you up to speed with the world, the characters and the demons and their own hierarchy – so, be patient.

The two central characters are Kamira, who potentially gave up a promising career as a highmage following a dispute with one of her teachers and turned instead onto the path of the arcanist and her friend and adventuring partner Veelk who is a very capable warrior and mage killer. Alongside this there are a couple of other plotlines involving certain characters.  A queen whose lands have been taken over by an army of demons following an unlikely pact between four stronger demons who has been forced to flee and seek refuge.  Her people have become dependent on magic that they thought kept them protected, they’re also addicted to the essence of magic that has been constantly available to them through a structure or relic that is now destroyed.  The other storyline involves one of the Archmages who seeks power and is constantly trying to manipulate those around him.  As these three storylines develop the nature of the demons and the role they play is revealed and it definitely turns things on their head a little in a rather surprising way.

I found By the Pact very easy to read.  I may have got off to a slightly hesitant start but as the story progressed I found myself forming attachments to the two central characters.  They have clearly been on a lot of adventures together and obviously care about each other and this comes through in their banter.  I also really appreciated the twist on the demon trope.  Don’t get me wrong – the demons are still, well, demonic, but at the same time they have their reasons for behaving the way they do, the pacts they form are usually beneficial to both parties and there is a well thought out element to why humans really need them (probably more so than the reverse). That’s not to say I’d be rushing to make any pacts myself but I think what basically comes to light is that, as with any race there are elements of good and bad and so whilst I wouldn’t say that you’re going to get any soft and fluffy demons here you do encounter those that live by a certain code of conduct – (although even those might rip your arms and legs off if you annoy them too much). Just saying.

In terms of the pacing.  Well, certainly this seemed to gather in strength as the story got underway.  The author steadily adds layer by layer to the characters.  We find a little more of their back stories and definitely in terms of Kamira her character arc was really quite pleasing as certain traits were teased out of her.  Veelk was perhaps a little less well drawn.  He came across like a Conan the Destroyer type warrior, hench, rushing into the fray with a smile on his face like a killing machine and womanising on his days off.  I didn’t dislike him, I enjoyed the friendship he shared with Kamira but he was a little bit predictable. Veranesh? Well, I ‘m not going to say I liked him – he’s a demon, can you really trust him? I mean, your basic definition of ‘demon’ is ‘an evil spirit or devil’ – however, he definitely added a certain something here even if I don’t buy into his ‘nicey-nicey’ side.

Criticisms.  Well, a slightly slow start whilst I was getting used to all the dynamics. One of the central characters could use a little more fleshing out, but, I think the only issue I really encountered was quite a number of mistakes or perhaps typos.  I mentioned in a previous review that I don’t usually mention such things but this one felt like it needed another once over with a red pen and whilst it didn’t spoil the read I think it could very easily annoy other readers.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens
  11. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater 

#SPFBO Review : Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater 

SPFBO71024_1

Rising Shadows by Phillip Blackwater is the third book that I picked up from my Third Batch of books.  I’ve actually completed all four books now so will be posting my final review and update post very soon.  I then have three books remaining to be read which I shall elaborate on very soon.  My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first and second batch of books here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

Rising Shadows

Rising Shadows is a return to old school fantasy in many respects.  Set on the continent of Exitium the story centres on the ongoing war between North and South and the eventual pacts that will need to be forged between humans and elves in order to hold back the forces of Ethula.  The world of Anteris has many different inhabitants (at least those we viewed from this first instalment, humans, elves and dwarves to mention a few.  There are also some fantastical creatures such as griffins and wendigoes.  The magic of this world is provided through the Shards of Creation – most of which seem to reside within the world of the elves who, to all intents and purposes, misuse them greatly relying on their magical qualities simply to live comfortably within a beautifully carved city.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Wariel Ritch, general of the human army.  Summoned by the Queen, Dana Crystaloak, Wariel is sent on a mission to train the Elves in swordsmanship following an agreement reached by the Queen and the King of the Elves.  It is hoped this sharing of knowledge will help to create a strong alliance between the two.  At the same time, Medregal Tergrast, once the proud king of Ethula but dead these past thousand or so years, seeks to return to the land of the living.  He needs five keys to unlock the realm of the dead and flood the world with his army of souls.  Finally, during Wariel’s absence, the ruling Council seek to undermine the Queen’s rule, plotting to replace her with a more pliable alternative.  Eventually, the quest to find the keys overrides all other instructions as Wariel and Medregal race to find the pieces.

In terms of the characters.  Wariel is the main focus.  He is joined on his journey by a number of others including two brothers who seem to share some genetic makeup with the tall warriors of the Northdran race and a woman fighter who joins the group for personal reasons, her identity remains hidden for a good portion of the story and so I shalln’t elaborate further at this point.

The setting will be familiar to fantasy readings.  It has a typical mediaeval feel to it in terms of weapons, mode of travel etc.  The author succeeds in showing readers quite a good portion of this particular continent as we follow the quest for the keys.  We obviously travel to the main Elven city, we visit the dwarves in their mountain and risk the cold heights where the Northdran live.

For the most part I found this an easy read.  It put me in mind of a strange mash up of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, but, I don’t think it shares the complexity of those novels.  Not necessarily a bad thing as this could work as a gateway novel for some.

Personally, I had a couple of issues.  Primarily relating to language.  Firstly the dialogue which felt too modern.  Without going into particular examples the word ‘sure’ is used a lot.  And, I know it probably sounds a bit trivial but it actually pulled me out of my reading wormhole on a number of occasions.  There were other modern terms used but ‘sure’ is the one that immediately springs to mind.  The second element relates to some of the ‘naming’ elements, such as ‘the Human Army’ – I couldn’t help thinking that giving the army a name might have worked better somehow – but that’s obviously a very small personal preference. Perhaps the author is going for a very easy to access novel that won’t put off ‘new to fantasy’ readers.and I confess, I wasn’t expecting lots of olde worlde language – but this really struck a chord with me and unfortunately it wasn’t one that I really enjoyed.  Now, on top of this, I have mentioned that this has an old school feel and that leads to my other issue.  This felt too familiar.  Sometimes that familiarity is a source of comfort and so it could be a ‘mood’ experience as much as anything else, but, I didn’t really feel like this tested some of the overused tropes or brought anything new to the fantasy scene.

Little quibbles aside, I had no problem reading through this one and I think it could appeal to new readers, plus, I don’t think there was any (that I can recall) profanity or other issues such as an overabundance of violence (although there were clearly a number of fight scenes) or sexual content (which I think occurred off page) making this quite a clean read (although, I could be wrong – such things don’t always jump out at me so check with the author first!)

My thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last week:

Last week I was absolutely determined to finish reading The Empire’s Ruin plus another of my SPFBO books and I’m pleased to report that I stuck with the plan.  I loved Empire’s Ruin – yes, it took me a while to get through it but that wasn’t due to lack of enjoyment just that I was savouring it and it was a book that was very easy to step back into.  I’m now almost half way through my fourth SPFBO book – I’ll then be onto my final three books – woot.  I am a little behind and that’s why I’ve not been posting additional extras such as interviews and guest posts – I just want to forge ahead at the moment and catch up with my reading commitments and blog hopping.

Next Week

This week I’m hoping to complete my current SPFBO read and hopefully read The Women of Troy by Pat Barker.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

Friday Face Off : noir detective

Posted On 3 September 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags:

Comments Dropped 4 responses

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

1920s feel, noir detective

I literally have no idea what I wa thinking this week so I went with a series that I started, enjoyed, but unfortunately didn’t find time to continue.  The Ray Electromatic Mysteries by Adam Christopher:

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

2021

September (RIP event)

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

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 Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn.  This is a book set in a village riddled by plague in 1665 and is a fictional story based on true events.  

Hemlock

It is 1665 and the women of Eyam keep many secrets.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about Wulfric, the pious, reclusive apothecary.

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her father’s rage if he discovers what she keeps from him. Like her feelings for Rafe, Isabel’s ward, or the fact that she studies from Wulfric’s books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae will place them both in unimaginable peril.

And meanwhile another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all . . .

Based on the real history of an English village during the Great Plague, The Hemlock Cure is an utterly beguiling tale of fear and ambition, betrayal, self-sacrifice and the unbreakable bond between two women.

Expected publication : February 2022

Feral Creatures (Hollow Kingdom #2) by Kira Jane Buxton

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Knocked it out the park

FeralCreatures

Wow – mind blown.  With dubious feelings I picked up Hollow Kingdom just shy of a year ago and managed to completely fall in love with a strange crow known as ST.  Such a unique concept, an apocalyptic world, destroyed by humans, or mofos as we are known in the Hollow Kingdom, and a story told by animals as they try to survive.  A world where nature is slowly reclaiming her lost territory, until further changes and abominations begin to slowly surface.  I really enjoyed this strange mix of refreshingly original, darkly funny and sometimes slightly horror soaked storytelling and I highly recommend it.

Again, with a dubious heart, I picked up Feral Creatures.  Dubious simply because, well, firstly, I wasn’t expecting a second book so it was a surprise – a very welcome one of course – but then, let’s be honest, sometimes second books suffer the dreaded Middle Book Syndrome and I had such good memories of the first in series – anyway, hold the phone because this book was even more of all the goodness that made Hollow Kingdom such an excellent read.  More animals, more emotion, more fantastic writing.  I loved it.  Now, I know you’re all super excited and want to pick this one up right now, but, listen to my wise words – if you haven’t already read the first then pick that up before reading this- also spoilers may be present for book one so be warned, if you haven’t yet started the series, stop reading now.

Feral Creatures starts almost immediately where Hollow Kingdom left off.  ST is looking after a young human nestling, a baby if you will, known as Dee.  Between ST and the owls they take care of this fragile little human who seems to attract wildlife and nature with apparent ease.  In certain respects you could call this a coming of age tale, also a tale of a parent letting go of their beloved child.  This is a dangerous world and ST doesn’t want to let go, he wants to run and hide with his beloved mofo.  Dee has other ideas.  She thinks she’s part crow, part owl, part bee, well, basically she’s a carefree and wild young woman simply trying to win the approval of her strange family. At the same time as all this ‘coming of age’ tale is taking place the world is changing, humans are changing, and the nature of the wild is in danger.  Dee could be the key to maintaining balance but ST, having already lost two beloved family members, is more intent on keeping her hidden and out of harm’s way.  At the end of the day ST is about to come to terms with the lesson that most parents eventually learn – your children grow up, they want to become adults, they want you to be proud but they want to make their own choices.

In one word I can tell you what I loved about this: everything.  The story itself is again intriguing.  The author manages to bring to you a story of family and the difficulty of letting go of your fledglings.  Dee is a fantastic character but she’s supported by a wonderful cast of animals and birds that simply makes the goosebumps stand up on your arms.  Imagine being beloved of such a range of critters.  It gives me happy feelings.  Then Dee.  Desperate for acceptance, longing for approval, making bold strides forward when ST simply wants to hide her under a rock.  I just loved this dynamic.  How on earth can we have a post apocalyptic world of, quite possibly the strangest make up I’ve ever read, and yet have a completely domestic, family feel between such a discordant bunch of characters. It’s absolutely mind blowing and I loved it.

Now, add to this the writing.  Oh my giddy aunt.  The writing is beautiful. It’s funny  There are references aplenty.  But, more than that, the writing is simply bewitching.  Like, every little bit of what is on the page feels ‘animalistic’ or ‘birdlike’ or from the realm of insects.  It’s simply wonderful.  I feel completely in awe of the writing because every element feels as though it was chosen to help you delve into the wonder of nature.  The animals and their movements are described with a charming simplicity but on top of that all the descriptions have a natural feel to them that brings another element to the story.  Also, wow, so clever.  Don’t be thinking to rush through this because although it is actually a quick read – you need to pay attention or else you will miss so many of the little plays that are going on and they’re just delightful.

My emotions ran riot.  I did actually cry whilst reading this and that is not something that I do lightly or actually admit to very often.  It was the emotional impact of what was going on.  I just couldn’t help myself. There’s a beauty to this, a simplicity and at the same time it just resonates.  How that can actually be possible? I don’t know.  Basically the author has tapped into something here about all creatures and the roles they play.  It’s touching, it’s familiar and it’s insightful.

And of course there are still the horror elements.  This is a world altered beyond recognition.  The beauty of this story is that we don’t really follow or reflect on the human struggle as such and that’s what makes this so gloriously original.

Look, I’m going to stop here.  I think I’ve quite possibly gushed enough.  Frankly I think this will  be one of my top reads of the year.  It certainly surpassed the first and if there is a further instalment, which I suspect might very well be a possibility (please make it happen), well, consider me here for that. In fact just give me the book, now.  Pretty please.

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 Post

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

Last week:

Another slow week –  in terms of reading and blogging (hectic in other ways) – but, although I’ve only completed one book this week it was such a good book that it has me on a book high at the moment.  I picked up Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton and it was absolutely brilliant.  Better than the first imo – which I don’t see how it’s even possible but there we go.  I actually cried.  And the writing – wow.  Review to follow very soon.  I’ve also been continuing with The Empire’s Ruin which is also an amazing book, I’m about 75% in so should finish that this week.   I will also be completing my third SPFBO book – which does put me a little behind, to be honest I was hoping to do some reading this weekend but after a trip to the dentist my past three days have been all about the migraines! Not very pleasant and definitely no good for reading.

I need to finish my current SPFBO book and pick up the fourth in the batch.  I will be primarily concentrating on these for the next few days so that I can put together my update post.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton

Friday Face Off : Sunbathing or on the beach

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Sunbathing or on the beach

This week I’ve gone for a book that I read a long time ago and loved.  It was recommended to me by a colleague who to a large degree, without doubt, swayed my reading tastes and definitely influenced my future reading, The Beach by Alex Garland.  I loved this book, a lot more than the movie (NGL) but regardless of that here is a very small selection of the 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 : 1920s feel, noir detective

2021

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

#SPFBO Review : Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens

Posted On 26 August 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 2 responses

SPFBO71024_1

Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens is the second book that I picked up from my Third Batch of books that I’m aiming to read and review this month which will then be followed by my update post.  After this batch I will have three books remaining and will post my fourth and final batch of books during the following month.  My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first and second batch of books here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

Iarr

Iarraindorn took me a little by surprise because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this one and it fairly quickly managed to intrigue me with it’s unique style.

As the story begins three Druids, under the cover of night, make an animal sacrifice to the gods and watch for a sign.  Unfortunately, what unfolds as the storm clouds gather is the last thing they expected.  They are beset by demons like beasts with red eyes and sharp teeth who storm the village.  At the same time, in an inconspicuous mud hut a man and wife (Caiside and Genovefa) await the birth of their first son (Nuadhu).  The timing of these events is no coincidence and it soon becomes apparent that the attack on the village was driven by an enemy eventually known as the Great Adversary and his army, the Sons of Cain, who seek the newborn child.  The warriors make a good stand and eventually, with some divine assistance the village succeeds against this deadly threat.  The Archangel Anael came to their aid, her mission to protect Nuadhu who becomes known as the Champion of Man.

From there onwards we follow Nuadhu through the years and observe his training and relationships with his parents, his younger brother Pwyll and Anael.  Eventually the villagers begin to resent what they see as a potential threat and Nuadhu’s position becomes a little more difficult until one day the King of the tribes visits the village.  He has heard of Nuadhu and has made the decision that the risk he poses is to great and his life is forfeit.  Anael manages to escape the village with Nuadhu and Pwyll after their parents are murdered and the brothers are determined to seek revenge.

I must admit that the early chapters were probably my favourite parts of the read with Nuadhu and his brother growing up and training – however, I would point out that these chapters move at a rapid pace with little time spent on descriptions and the like.  To be honest this is another fairly short read at a little shy of 200 pages and so there’s a lot to get through and I guess it could have become quite wieldy if the author dwelled too long.  As it is, we are fairly soon introduced to an adult Nuadhu – a young man who plans to bring down his enemies.

In terms of setting.  The story takes place during the Iron Age, I think towards the latter years as we have the inclusion of the Roman army as the story unfolds.  I’m certainly not an expert though so I could be wrong on that score.

Overall I found this an easy read, it went in a direction that I hadn’t seen coming at all and was a bit shocking but at the same time I have a little light bulb at the back of my head about where the story might go next and I am intrigued enough to want to see what actually happens.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I hate to sound like a broken record, but, I think that the length of this is perhaps my biggest issue.  I think with a little extra the characters could have had a lot more impact and felt more rounded, the same really with the setting which was very thinly drawn with little detail about everyday life thrown into the mix.  It is an interesting concept but I would have liked to have a better feel for the people and place is all.  Obviously this is a personal preference and short and sweet works well for some readers.

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

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Origins of Iris by Beth Lewis

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 Origins of Iris by Beth Lewis:

theoriginsofAuthor of the critically-acclaimed debut The Wolf Road, Beth Lewis returns with her brand new novel The Origins of Iris where Wild meets Sliding Doors.

‘I opened my eyes and the woman wearing my face opened hers at the same time.’

Iris flees New York City, and her abusive wife Claude, for the Catskill Mountains. When she was a child, Iris and her father found solace in the beauty and wilderness of the forest; now, years later, Iris has returned for time and space to clear her head, and to come to terms with the mistakes that have led her here. But what Iris doesn’t expect in her journey of survival and self-discovery is to find herself – literally.

Trapped in a neglected cabin deep in the mountains, Iris is grudgingly forced to come face to face with a seemingly prettier, happier and better version of herself. Other Iris made different choices in life and love. But is she all she seems? Can she be trusted? What is she hiding?

As a storm encroaches, threatening both their lives, time is running out for them to discover why they have been brought together, and what it means for their futures.

An important, searing novel about one woman’s journey in fleeing an abusive relationship and confronting the secrets of her past

This is literally just published (about five days ago) – and I’d completely missed this so I’m very excited to find out it’s already out there on shelves.  Can’t wait to go buy a copy 😀

#SPFBO Review : Carrion by Alyson Tait

Posted On 24 August 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped one response

SPFBO71024_1

Carrion by Alyson Tait is the first book that I picked up from my Third Batch of books that I’m aiming to read and review this month which will then be followed by my update post.  After this batch I will have three books remaining and will post my fourth and final batch of books during the following month.  My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first and second batch of books here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

carrion

As the book begins we meet Riley Rook.  Riley is the coven matriarch of the Rooks – basically a long line in witches who protect humanity against evil.  Riley is in the process of observing a young witch who is not part of the coven and trying to decide whether this young woman can be persuaded to join the Rooks rather than facing the alternative, which is to control this youngster by any means necessary before her power runs out of control.  Unfortunately, Riley meets with a dreadful accident which makes the decision a moot point.

Regina Rook is the first daughter of Riley, her sister Renee being slightly younger.  As such she is expected to step up and serve the coven in her mother’s place.  The problem is that Regina has rebelled against the nature of herself and her family and taken to living alone wanting no part of the magic.  Unfortunately all of the family are unaware of the threat that looms.  The young girl that Riley watched is more powerful than they suspected and another person of interest also seeks power.

To be honest I expected to enjoy Carrion much more than I did as stories of witches and covens are basically my catnip and, I must say that this gets off to a very good start with the opening chapter introducing us to Riley.  However, with Riley’s death Regina takes the lead role and for some reason I found her a difficult character to connect with.

So, as mentioned, the Rooks are basically a coven of witches.  They have worked their magic for many many years but unfortunately due to dwindling numbers they are less powerful and more vulnerable than ever as the story begins.  The setting here is contemporary, easy to imagine without much description and we flit primarily between the family home, the morgue and the graveyard as ancient rituals must be observed following the death of a coven member.

The characters.  Well, as I mentioned above the main pov is Regina and unfortunately I did find myself struggling to get on board with her.  Don’t get me wrong, I can understand her rebelling against the family, it’s traditions and the responsibilities that are being put upon her shoulders, but, for me she came across a little unfeeling and somewhat difficult and I couldn’t really get a grasp on why that was the case.  Her mother dies at the start of the story yet I never really got a sense of any emotion from her and this is something that persisted throughout even during times of stress and danger.   The other characters only played a periphery role including Regina’s sister Renee – who I would have liked to spend more time with.  In terms of the antagonist – Sasha is the rogue young witch with the excess of power, again, I didn’t really feel that her motivations came across – apart from one episode where she rails against the coven and the way they fail to use their power – I think I wanted something a little more in depth.

The writing is actually very easy to get along with although there were quite a lot of errors.  I wouldn’t normally raise that as an issue but it did kind of stop me in my tracks quite often and probably contributed to my inability to really connect.

To be fair to the author this is a relatively short story with probably just over 100 pages and so a very quick read. I admit that short stories and novellas often fail to work their magic on me because I feel myself wanting more and I think that’s the case here.  I feel like I came away from this not really understanding the nature of the coven or their magic, having very little understanding of their adversaries or really what they would eventually face if their magic failed and so whilst this could possibly work for others as a short introduction to this world I felt like I wanted more information (although I do appreciate that this might be forthcoming in future instalments).

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

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Posted On 23 August 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 6 responses

Sunday Post

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

Last week:

I’m very bad at the moment I must admit.  I just seem to be so busy that the blog, catching up and reading are going very slowly.  This is not deliberate, nor am I going on hiatus I just simply don’t have enough hours in the day at the moment.  I’ve kind of written August off and now remain hopeful that September will be much better for me.

This past week I read and enjoyed The Maleficent Seven and took part in the blog tour (thank you Angry Robots books).  I also completed another of my SPFBO books (so almost on track – phew).  I picked up Velvet Was the Night – as you may be aware (or not) I love the author but at the moment I’m struggling to get into this one.  I think it’s probably linked to my current weird and hectic August so I’m not giving up.  I’ve continued to read and love The Empire’s Ruin and I also started The Infernal Riddle of Thomas Peach – NGL – this is kind of hard work at the moment as it mimics (very well) the style of writing of the period in which it’s set.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of classics and enjoyed them but it can be difficult to get back into this form of writing.  We’ll see.  I think I’ll try something different this week.

I’m still going to be reading review books and also another SPFBO book.  But, I’m going to go for something a little different.  I have two review books that I’m really looking forward to – Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton and The Women of Troy by Pat Baker.

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  3. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens

Friday Face Off : Dressed to kill

FFO

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

Woot – wifi is restored.  I will be catching up with comments and blog hopping slowly but surely 😀

This week’s theme:

Dressed to kill

This week I’ve gone for a very recent read by an author I’m really enjoying reading.  Being a new book there aren’t a lot of covers but I feel like the book and the covers really fit the theme – of course you’d need to pick up a copy to find out why that is.  Don’t be fooled by the character’s seemingly sweet and respectable appearance – she is anything but.  A chilling read that takes you into the mind of a serial killer.  This is also a book with two different titles – which do you prefer:

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 : Sunbathing or on the beach

2021

August

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 Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston @angryrobotbooks #themaleficentseven

Today I’m very happy to be joining the book tour for Cameron Johnston’s very aptly titled ‘The Maleficent Seven’ (check out the banner below for all the dates and details).

M7

I would start out this review by saying that this is a bloody, no holds barred, grim and dark murderfest.  Over the top much – just a tad!! There is plenty of squick and a little bit of nasty not to mention some colourful cursing.  If that doesn’t appeal to you, well, you’ve been warned.

I must admit that having read some of the superb reviews I think I was expecting a good deal more belly laughs with this one, but, I guess that’s the thing with humour, it’s all rather personal at the end of the day, and yet, regardless of the number of laughs this elicited it is undoubtedly an entertaining, fast paced read with a twisted ending and some very vibrant characters.  To be honest it’s a clever story because it completely turned me around and I thought the ending was brilliant.

As we set off on this journey we witness Black Herran, dreaded demonologist and fearsome general, on the brink of success, as she abandons her army.  Forty years later she returns and starts to reassemble the warriors that captained her army.  As you might imagine, the six warriors in question were none too pleased about being left in the lurch just as glory stood within reach, add to that the level of mutual mistrust, disgust and general hatred that they mostly feel towards each other and this will give you a loose idea of the magnitude of the endeavour.  Why did Black Herran disappear and why has she come back to reunite her old squad some 40 years later.  I won’t broach the first part of that question because there lies the land of spoilers.  The reason for this new summons is Black Herran is trying to protect a small,almost insignificant if you will, village, against a religious fanatic who is currently terrorising the country, destroying the peace and killing all those who refuse to worship his chosen deity.

For the most part, the plot itself is fairly simple, collect together a curious, ragtag band of warriors and incentivise them enough to join together.  Then shore up the village defences and wait for war to approach.  It seems fairly basic on the face of it but there is more to this than at first appears to be the case.  Also, let’s just get out of the way the play on the title and the ways in which it relates to the similarly named Magnificent Seven.  Firstly, the fundamental difference between magnificent and maleficent is enough to clue us in that this is not a band of reluctant heroes in the making here.  These are a bunch of nasty mofos who have come together for totally selfish reasons.  Never doubt that.  We have the small village under attack and the outrageous odds of seven, albeit very capable characters, standing up against what feels like inevitable defeat.  The villagers of course idolise them, even though they’re afraid and a number make a good stab (not sorry) at trying to learn the basics of survival.

To the characters.  Obviously Black Herran, general and demonologist, feared by all.  Her captains are Maevan – a necromancer with revenge and rescue in mind. Lorrimer Fella – a vampire who wants to restore his land. Tiarnach – a demigod who lost his status when his worshippers were all killed and sought solace in finding the bottom of many bottles.  Verena Awildan – a pirate Queen who demands loyalty from all her brethren and is accompanied by a curious animal that offers her strage protection. Amogg – a female Orc who has succeeded in gaining renown and status due to her strength and fighting abilities. Finally, Jerak Hyden – an alchemist with a warped and deviant sense of right and wrong.  To be honest, at first, I struggled to like any of them.  And, I think that may be intentional on the part of the author.  However, as the book progressed I realised that I had quite easily found myself liking Amogg – she’s a very simple character in many respects, honourable, fierce and says things the way they are, she takes on the training of a bunch of women and Penny in particular is a character I liked and would like to see more of.  I then found myself warming to the vampire even though his early penchant for bloodletting and what felt like cruel torture turned me off a little at the start.  I found myself rooting for him.  Go figure.  I even came round to the booze soaked demigod and his ridiculous antics.  What is going on here – these characters ‘snuck’ up on me when I wasn’t watching.  I never got on board with Jerak – in fact remove one of the vowels in that there name and I think you have a more apt moniker for him.  Again, though, I think this is deliberate on the part of the author.  There are no shortage of characters and without doubt you’ll find yourself on somebody’s team.  To be fair I liked the pirate queen as well.  The demonologist and necromancer are a good match for each other – I won’t say more because there are a few surprises up Cameron’s sleeve in this respect and I have to give a shout out to the way he managed to turn me around, give me characters to shout for or shout at

The writing is very easy to get on board with.  There aren’t hefty descriptions weighing down the story and yet at the same time there’s a good enough feel for the place and I felt like all the characters had their time in the spotlight.  In fact the characters are the shining grace here really because they undoubtedly went through something of a development arc for me anyway.  Well, the characters and the final chapters where we finally get some answers – don’t get me wrong, there are little reveals along the way but the final denouement is the real winner for me.  That and the epilogue which I hope means that there will be at least a further instalment.

Overall, this one got off to a little bit of a slow start for me.  I think maybe I picked this up with the wrong expectations in mind and so that put me of course for a while.  However, once I got back on track I found myself forming attachments and rather impatiently reading towards the end to see what was really going on.  And that ending, well, it holds plenty of promise.   What can I say?  Be patient, the author has a cunning plan in store, so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox.  Again, this isn’t for the faint of heart but if you fancy a good grimdark, blood soaked, over the top story with characters that will give you varying degrees of emotions then what you waiting for?

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

Here’s the blog tour dates – don’t forget to check out the other reviews:

The Maleficent Seven book tour

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

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 : Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

Reckless Girls

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.

Expected publication : January 2022

Mrs Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott

My five Word TL:DR Review : Jane Eyre, a contemporary retelling

MrsRochester'sghost

I enjoyed Mrs Rochester’s Ghost, probably more than I expected given how much I loved the original.  I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily ground breaking but it was easy to engage with and an entertaining read.

In terms of plot, this doesn’t exactly mirror the original, which to be fair I wouldn’t expect given the modern setting, but it does manage to include a lot of references.

Jane, in this retelling, is a young woman whose mother has died recently, she’s lost her job and her relationship has ended badly.  She can no longer afford to rent her flat and so when her cousin gets in touch with an offer of a rent free cottage she has little option but to accept.  Of course, everything is not quite as peachy as first seems to be the case.  Her new employer, Evan Rochester, owns Thorn Bluffs Estate, as well as other property around the world.  Money is not something which he is short of – although he is investing heavily in a new endeavour that places much of his wealth at risk.  Rochester’s wife died recently, drowning in a tragedy that some felt was suspicious and tongues still wag about whether or not he needed his wife’s money.  Evan is a surly man, he doesn’t particularly take to strangers and he only agrees to Jane using the cottage on the condition that she tutors his teenage daughter – but also stays out of his way as much as reasonably possible.

The case/suspicions against Rochester continue, mainly fuelled by his wife’s brother who is convinced of his guilt and is pursuing further evidence.  The locals are also not averse to a bit of gossip and strange occurences at the house, plus the rather veiled stories of the other staff all fuel Jane’s suspicions of what really happened and lead her to start her own cautious investigations.

What I liked about this.  It’s an easy read.  The writing is good, the pacing is fast, the descriptions and backstory are well integrated and there are no cumbersome info dumps.  It’s definitely an entertaining read and one that I had no problem swiftly turning the pages with.

The setting is well done, the author manages to ramp up the gothic appeal with swirling sea mists adding to the atmosphere and rumoured hidden passageways and secret escape tunnels add to the strange eeriness of the place.  Jane’s cottage is also rather creepily remote from the house – beautiful view not withstanding – and the quirky insecurity of the place add to the overall disquiet and make it easy to see why ghostly apparitions are easy to imagine.

The characters.  I think this is one of my main quibbles with the story.  Don’t get me wrong, I did like Jane.  Rochester I felt a little indifferent to and the supporting cast really didn’t make an impression at all.  Then we have the alternate pov chapters told by Rochester’s wife Beatrice.  Beatrice was stunningly beautiful, hauntingly so.  A former supermodel she eventually was forced into early retirement because of her swift temper and mental instability.  I enjoyed her chapters because although she came across as fragile and a little unstable her perspective delivered a version of accounts that cast doubt on the current inhabitants of the bluff – whilst also coming across as unreliable enough to make you jump backwards and forwards between the husband’s stories and the wife’s. However, and this is my first real issue – I didn’t think that Jane or Evan really shared any on page chemistry.  I didn’t buy into their feelings and didn’t really think the relationship came across as credible.  This is a problem because if you don’t buy into the love between these two characters then the retelling is fundamentally flawed imo.  I also struggled to feel any particular emotion towards Evan which makes it difficult to care about him or have any sympathy with regards to his situation, his experiences with his wife or his financial affairs.  I just couldn’t connect to him at all.

The setting.  As I already mentioned.  I liked the setting and thought the author managed to use it to full affect in terms of gothic atmosphere.  However, and this is just a personal whim, I think placing the estate in a coastal setting, and having the wife’s story revolve around drowning – well, it felt like the waters were muddied and I couldn’t help, more often than not, feeling that the author was channelling Daphne DuMaurier as much as Bronte.

I would say that if you’re a fan of Jane Eyre then you probably need to temper your expectations a little and in some respects I think I would have preferred this to be a story that stood on its own merit with original names, places, etc. but, as it is I would say this is an entertaining read that I completed with ease and enjoyed well enough to blast through at a good clip.

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

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last week:

Okay, supposedly my internet is restored.  Hopefully I will slowly but surely be catching up.  Yay.

I got off to a good week of reading.  I read Mrs Rochester’s Ghost.  I also read one of my SPFBO batch.  I continued with Empire’s Ruin and I’m onto the final straight and I also started the Maleficent Seven and I’m a quarter of the way in.

Continue with Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley, also complete The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston. If I manage to complete those two then perhaps start Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  What you all reading this week ??

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. Mrs Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott
  3. Carrion by Alyson Tait

Friday Face Off: A favourite holiday read

Posted On 13 August 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

FFO

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

Okay, I still have no internet.  But.  I am going travelling in the next week so things might improve.

This week’s theme:

A favourite holiday read

Okay, this week I’ve gone for a book that i read some time ago. This is a book that was given to me by a colleague that I ended up loving.  The book I read was known as Cross Stitch but this has more popularly become known as the Outlander series.  This week I’ve simply gone for two covers:

My favourite:

Out1

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

2021

August

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

Paper and Blood (Ink and Sigil #2) by Kevin Hearne

Posted On 12 August 2021

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 2 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Mixed feelings for this one

PandB

Paper and Blood is the second of the Ink and Sigil books by Kevin Hearne.  This is a series that is set in the same world/universe as The Iron Druid Chronicles and is therefore a contemporary setting with infinite supernatural possibilities.

I really enjoyed the first in series, primarily because of the characters.  Al MacBharrais is a blast of well needed fresh air in the urban fantasy genre.  He’s over 60,a widower and also suffering from a curse that prevents him having any real relationships with others, on top of this he’s a sigil agent which means he can wield magic through the use of symbols drawn onto paper with special ink.  There are a number of sigil agents scattered across the world and in this instalment a real threat is posed to Al’s counterpart from Australia who has gone missing.  Al immediately travels to Victoria to investigate and within fairly short order the body count escalates.

Now, I mentioned in my five word review that I had mixed feelings so let me start there.  What this series really has going for it is Kevin Hearne’s fantastic sense of humour.  I’ve written before about this author and the fact that he clearly enjoys himself when he’s writing and this shines through on the page.  His books are always a good deal of fun and he can create lovable characters with apparent ease.  In fact, as I also mentioned above, the characters are what really hooked me in the first instalment.  I also mentioned in my review of book No.1 that the plot felt a little scattered and wasn’t the winning element of the book for me and I think I had similar feelings in the case of Paper and Blood, which to be fair isn’t to say the plot here is bad (because it isn’t) so much that it, again, wasn’t my favourite part of the story.

I liked the setting with Al and his companions travelling through the bush encountering all sorts of creatures and traps as their journey progressed.  There’s an action adventure feel to this one, quick pacing and plenty of skirmishes, but, at the same time, I think I would have preferred to spend more time with Al in his Scottish setting as that’s something I really enjoyed in the first book and missed a little here.

To the characters – which I think was probably one of my main issues with this instalment.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention here that Atticus (of the Iron Druid Chronicles (IDCs) and his two trusty dogs join Al for this encounter.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Atticus very much and his dog Oberon is quite possibly my favourite fictional pooch – but, for me, it felt like Atticus stole the show a little, or more to the point Al seemed to take a back step and felt much flimsier than in the first book.  In fact, in some respects this felt like an attempt to bring some closure to the IDCs, maybe not even closure now I really think about it because it still felt like certain issues remained unanswered. I think what I’m trying to say in a roundabout fashion is that this felt more like a way to bring Atticus back into the picture and whilst I think IDC lovers will enjoy his role here, the fact that new readers didn’t need to be familiar with that particular series felt like a bonus at the time and so this instalment muddies those waters a little in my opinion.

Overall, this is a series that I would like to continue with but I’m hopeful that Al will recapture the feelings he inspired from Ink and Sigil and regain some of the agency that he seemed to lose a little here.

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

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last week:

Another week of naff internet and a post a day late – my life at the moment!.  My blog looks like I’ve gone on holiday.  I’m not responding to comments or blog hopping and in fact this post is a day late!  I keep being given reassurances that things are in motion – but basically, they lie!!  I’m beginning to have a general feeling of being ‘fobbed off’.  Oh well, worse things happen.  I’ve not read much this week because I’ve been busy with other life things.  I did manage to complete Paper and Blood by Kevin Hearne – I think Iron Druid fans can also prepare to be happy with this one  I’ve also continued with Empire’s Ruin.  I feel like this is taking me a long time to get through and yet this isn’t a reflection of my enjoyment.  It seems a much chunkier book than I realised.  I absolutely love the characters.  I shall continue with this this forthcoming week but also pick up a couple of others.

Continue with Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley – I will finish this even if it feels like it’s turning into a saga.  I’d also like to pick up Mrs Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott and perhaps the Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston. What you all reading this week ??

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. Paper and Blood by Kevin Hearne

Friday Face Off : The Motel

FFO

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

So, I may have mentioned last week that my internet was pants?  Well, that situation continues with the old ‘we sent somebody out, didn’t they arrive?’ chestnut.  No they didn’t.  Therefore I’m still operating on my mobile data and doing very little other than posting.  I will catch up as soon as somebody (please, anybody) gives me my wifi back. I’m glad I didn’t hold my breath for things being resolved the past week, I’d be stone cold dead by now. On a more cheerful note –

This week’s theme:

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

This week I’ve gone for a book that came highly recommended.  I practically pulled something rushing to buy a copy of this one, okay, I may not have read it yet but I will do so very soon.  The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James.  To be honest, this is the very book that I had in mind for this week’s theme so let’s look at the covers:

My favourite:

Motel1

Do you have a favourite?

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

Next Week : A favourite holiday read

2021

August

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

Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce

My Five Word TL:DR Review: One Word Will Suffice: Brilliant

Triflers

Fairly recently I was delighted to discover Camilla Bruce when I read her excellent debut You Let Me In so I was so happy when I saw her most recent work Triflers Need Not Apply (or, In the Garden of Spite as it is also known) become available.  To be honest, the two books couldn’t be more different if they tried but one element they undoubtedly share is excellent writing and the ability to hold you gripped, mesmerised even.

Firstly, I have to hand it to the creator of both titles because they’re  so pertinent.  If pressed I’d probably say In the Garden of Spite is my favourite simply because it resonates in more than one way for me in terms of the story but both have their logic.

Moving on, this is a reimagining of the life of a notorious serial killer known as The Black Widow of the Midwest.  To date it is unknown exactly how many people fell victim to her schemes but Bruce does an amazing job of bringing her story to the page.  It’s like watching a disaster unfold – it’s horrible, grisly, bloody and twisted but at the same time creepily hypnotic, you’re simply unable to drag your eyes away.

We start our story with Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset, a young woman born into poverty and hardship.  Her family are unable to afford land instead working the farms of others.  Brynhild has bigger dreams but unfortunately her schemes backfire and she almost dies when she is viciously attacked.  Living in Norway becomes impossible for Brynhild and with help and some hard work she finally escapes to America, reinventing herself in the process and changing her name to Belle.  Belle moves in with her sister Nellie and her husband and child until eventually marrying herself.

Here’s the thing, I’m not going to go any further with the plot.  I think Bruce has done a fantastic job in researching this story and it clearly shows in the attention to detail both in terms of true events and the historical descriptions provided.

So, characters.  Well, Belle is an unusual character.  Being inside the head of a serial killer is not a pleasant experience, quite rightly so, but she certainly is intriguing to read.  I mean, you can’t like her, she’s monstrous, and I didn’t like her, if anything she scared me but there was just this horrible fascination with her thought processes. Strangely enough I usually struggle to read a novel where I don’t like the central character and yet I had no difficulty with this one. There are moments where you feel you can perhaps see how she found herself on this terrible path and there’s a clear demonstration here of the argument of nature vs nurture.  Belle has not had an easy life in many respects.  That being said, as we follow her sister Nellie’s chapters it does become apparent, fairly early on, that something is not quite right with Belle and as we continue to read her chapters you can’t help but see that she is different, and not in a good way, perhaps psychopathic even –  she doesn’t seem to feel remorse or regret, she seems emotionally detached and yet at the same time she integrates into society with ease coming across as virtuous and kind.

Belle’s sister Nellie, as mentioned above, provides alternating chapters which is a positively inspired choice.  Firstly, it gives a little respite from Belle’s twisted line of thinking and roller coaster emotions.  Secondly, it serves to ratchet up the tension as the story moves along and Nellie becomes increasingly worried about her sister’s actions but is too afraid to confront her.

At just shy of 500 pages this isn’t a short novel but I seriously didn’t feel that this was drawn out.  I think I was enjoying the writing, the setting, the details that helped pull me into the time and place and the stylish delivery so much that it never felt over long to me.  Maybe the fact that this is a serial killer that I wasn’t familiar with also helped with that.  I was hooked completely and in fact it was only on reading the author’s note after completion that I realised this was based on a true character. Mind = blown.

Overall, this was a fascinating reimagining of real life events that even to this day remain shrouded in mystery.  And, whilst I realise that this is a fictional account I loved the way the author portrayed the character of Belle.  Positively chilling.

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

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