Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Posted On 6 May 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Can't Wait Wednesday

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

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

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

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

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

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

Expected publication : September 2021

Top Ten Tuesday : My Ten Most Recent Reads

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

My Ten Most Recent Reads 

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

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

Drowned City

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

BlackStone

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

suchprettythings

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

LastMem

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

TwoFacedQueen

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

Mirrorland

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

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

LostWar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 4.5 stars

 

 

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last week:

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

Next Week

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

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

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

Forthcoming Reviews:

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

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

Discworld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

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

Friday Face Off : A series that you love

FFO

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

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

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

Feast your eyes on these little beauts:

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Two

Three

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Four

Five

Six

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

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

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

2021

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

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

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 8.5

#SPFBO Review (8): The Combat Codes (The Combat Codes Saga #1) by Alexander Darwin

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

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

The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin is the finalist put forward by the Fantasy Book Critic and you can find their review here.

I have to say I had a really good time with this one.  To be fair, going into the read I thought it might not be for me, I’m not always keen on books that are particularly reliant on fight scenes but I confess that this pulled me in very easily and the author’s clear knowledge and love of the subject shines through.

I will start out by addressing a bone of contention with this particular book and one that has given me plenty to think about as I was reading.  This is a story that is fairly low key in terms of the fantasy elements and it also feels quite sci-fi centric.  That being said I feel like it’s a strangely satisfying combination of both genres and it was a book that won me over with relative ease.

The concept of the story is pretty much stated in the title.  This is a world where single combat is used to settle disputes, ranging from small to great, and thus dispelling the need for war.  Although this is an ideal solution to prevent massive bloodshed, over the years the concepts have become muddied and less adhered to and the warriors themselves rely more on body enhancements through stimulants and drugs to create faster, stronger champions (which to some feels a little like cheating).  One of the characters from the book is a scout, always on the lookout for new raw talent from what are more or less underground fighting arenas.  Here he becomes aware of a young orphan who shows definite promise.

What I really liked about this was a combination of things.  I think the writing is good, I definitely formed attachments to the characters and I liked both the gladiatorial feel to the ‘below’ world elements and the combat school and rivalries of the ‘above’ world.

The first character we encounter is Murray.  He’s the scout, former Grievar Knight, now relegated to hunting for up and coming talent.  I liked Murray.  He’s a bit of a no-nonsense character, gruff, tough, something of a loner and definitely a person who prefers the ‘old’ ways of doing things.  He’s definitely not a popular guy with the other Grievar scouts or the hierarchy that controls the combat school and knights.  I’m just going to say that I’m not entirely sure what Grievars really are – obviously they’re bred to become the fighters of this world and in the current iteration there’s a lot of dabbling with drugs and the like to enhance particular characteristics, but I don’t know if there’s anything more to them in terms of family or heritage.  What I can say is there is definitely a lot of elitism taking place here with purelights  being highly privileged whilst lacklights are barely suffered to breath the same air.  Cego is the other central character, both lacklight and underdog.  In fact really the story is almost a voyage of self discovery for him as he has no real memory of his past – although he recalls snippets and he has cleary received training in both combat and the codes that dictate behaviour.  I liked Cego – he reminded me a little of Sanderson’s Kaladin in that he’s a character who manages to pull together a band of characters that are essentially the down trodden and give them both confidence and hope.  Of course there’s also the standard ‘bully’ of the piece.  Shiar, and of course, he becomes the predictable thorn in Cego’s side.  This character felt a little flat and obvious for me but not enough to be too off putting.

The world building is perhaps a little on the skimpy side.  I think the author has been careful with his descriptions, which in one respect I think is quite clever because there’s nothing like a good description to really ‘age’ a novel.  But, it does make it a little difficult to really envision the place.  What I got from this first instalment was a dark, dingy, smelly, under or below world where people live pretty harsh lives and another completely different life for those that live above in the sweet smelling air where shortages are unheard of.  This is without doubt a world that is futuristic, the rings where the fights take place seem to have huge screens that display the fighters vital stats, there are simulated programmes used in the schools to test the students and there are definitely other scientific elements that I’m not going to discuss here.  Then there are the unexplained elements such as the spectrals, small glowing lights that seem to attach themselves to certain characters (I couldn’t help being reminded of the Spren with these), they definitely feel magical and give off an aura of ‘choosing’ characters to gravitate towards.   The fighting takes place on specially created rings that have strange alloys mixed into them that can influence the fighters – make them feel invincible, want to take risks, want to please the crowd, etc.

Overall, I can’t really discuss too much of the plot for fear of spoilers.  Like I said above this feels very much like a ‘finding youself’ type of story for Cego.  It has something of a set up feel with Cego finding himself part of a group of firm friends, being trained at an elite school with a gruff but not unkind mentor and five more years of schooling and battling to look forward to which will no doubt be enjoyed in future instalments.  If, like me, you feel a little sceptical about a book that has plenty of fight scenes I can say that these are particularly well described and easy to visualise.  Again, not particularly strong in terms of typical fantasy elements but I enjoyed the mix and would definitely read more from this world.

My rating 4 of 5 stars or 8 out of 10

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

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last week:

So this week.  I’ve finally caught up with the first Discworld book – just need to put some thoughts down for that one and settle down to discuss it with my buddy.  I haven’t managed to get back to The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner because I’ve been concentrating on my SPFBO books (it being the last week – no, I’m not panicking).  I’ve completed The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin – my review for which should be posted tomorrow (fingers crossed and all going to plan) and I’m about 20% into Justin Lee Anderson’s The Lost War.  I think I’m on track although the finish line is fast approaching.  I’ve also made a start on The Girl and the Mountain which I’m about halfway through.

 

Next Week

Complete The Lost War, The Girl and the Mountain and The Light of the Midnight Stars.  Doddle.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. The Two Faced Queen by Nick Martell
  2. Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  3. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
  4. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  5. The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin

#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #8

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here .

During Stage 2 I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  As with previous years I have given each of the 9 books a number and randomly selected a reading order.  Today’s post is to highlight the eighth book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.  My second book was The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming which I posted my review here.  My third book was Shaun Paul Steven’s Nether Light, my review for which can be found here. My fourth book was a Norse myth inspired story called Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin and my review is here.. My fifth book was A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree and here is my review.  My sixth book was Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher, reviewed here. My seventh book was Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw and my review can be found here.  Today, I’m posting details of the eighth finalist – The Combat Codes (The Combat Codes Saga #1) by Alexander Darwin. I’ve already made a very good start on this one and hope to post my review on Monday.  Here are the details:

The Combat Codes is the finalist put forward by The Fantasy Book Critic.  Here’s a little more information:

CC
“We fight, so the rest shall not have to.”

In a world where single combat determines the fate of nations, the Grievar fight so that the rest can remain at peace.

Cego is a mysterious Grievar boy forced to fight his way out of the slave Circles into the world’s most prestigious combat school.

At the Lyceum, Cego will learn a variety of martial arts from eclectic teachers, develop deep bonds of friendship and fight against contentious rivals to climb the school’s rankings.

But, Cego will find far more than combat studies at the Lyceum. He will find the mystery of his past unraveled by forces greater than he could ever imagine.

adAuthor Information:

Alexander Darwin is a fantasy / science fiction author with an unabashed reverence for combat sports. He spends his days getting humbled on the mats, staring at the unwritten pages of his next novel, and questioning the dumb luck that landed him his wonderful wife and two daughters.

Website :
Twitter :

Friday Face Off : Your Current 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:

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

Hopefully this week’s theme should be fairly easy (although sometimes with newer books there aren’t always lots of cover to compare).  This week, and the book I’m currently reading, has two covers so this will be a face off.  The book in question is The Girl and the Mountain (Book of the Ice #2) by Mark Lawrence, and here are the two covers:

vs

Girl2

I find it really difficult to choose between these two tbh.  I like both of them for entirely different reasons.  I love the first one with the dark background and the font colour that really pops.  Then the character wrapped up in all those furs against the cold.  The second one is almost completely different in terms of overall feel with a much lighter tone and the character walking towards the rather foreboding mountain (whereas in the first cover she’s walking away from it – I had to take a second or third glance because the mountain in the first isn’t immediately obvious). I have veered between the two covers, and so perhaps my final choice is based more on familiarity but my favourite this week is:

Girl1

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

2021

April

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

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Posted On 22 April 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 3 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : This was a mixed experience

MirrorlandOkay, here’s the thing, I actually enjoyed this, it’s quite a compelling read, unusually dark, twisted and, well, strange.

For the avoidance of doubt this is a thriller.  Two identical twins, one of them missing, suspected drowned in a boating accident.  El and Cat haven’t spoken for years, they were so close as children but past events have driven them apart and they haven’t seen each other for quite some time.  With El’s disappearance Cat returns to her childhood home, something of a gothic monstrosity that holds many unusual memories.  She never expected to return and although her visit is at first a little on the reluctant side she soon enough finds herself becoming embroiled with the investigation, especially once she starts to receive strange threats and even stranger secret clues.

Now, I can’t really talk about the plot because it would be so easy to give things away so this is probably going to be a little bit of a teaser of a review.

Where to begin.  Let’s start with the characters.  So, obviously Cat plays a key role, El is absent but through flashbacks to the two’s childhood we gradually build up a picture of their relationship and trust me when I say their childhood was not the most straightforward.  Ross is El’s husband, handsome and charismatic, distraught about his missing wife and anxious that the police are about to give up the search.  Now the thing here is there’s a ‘history’ between these two – but I won’t say more.  We also have a few peripheral characters, friends to El before she went missing that serve to illuminate that maybe everything in the marriage was less than perfect.  Gradually, we start to build up a picture and it’s a little bleak.

Setting.  This is where things become a little bit surreal.  We do spend the majority of the time in the girl’s childhood home, a lot of that time in particular through flashbacks and it can feel a little surreal.  Let me be clear, this is not magical realism – or at least it isn’t in my mind – what this is about is escapism and childhood imagination working overtime to block things out (although clowns?).  On top of this there’s a certain aspect of unreliable narrator taking place here not to mention some squashing of memories which helps to spin an overall sense of confusion.

In terms of criticisms.  I think that there is definitely an element of feeling confused at certain points with this one, part of that is there is also an element of busyness and part is the slow reveal of things past and present.  On top of this there are certain aspects to the story that definitely made it difficult for me to connect to a couple of the characters.

All that being said, I did enjoy this.  It was a quick read, it was gripping and original and undeniable twisted.

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

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

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 Wolf Den by Elodie Harper.  Here’s the description:

the wolfdenSold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For as a she-wolf, her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken.

By day, she walks the streets with her fellow she-wolves, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked.

Expected publication : May 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

This week my word is:

AMPHORAE

An amphora is a type of container with a pointed bottom and characteristic shape and size which fit tightly against each other in storage rooms and packages, tied together with rope and delivered by land or sea. The size and shape have been determined from at least as early as the Neolithic Period.

This is a word taken from a recent read that I really enjoyed: Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint:

Ariadne

Top Ten Tuesday : Colorful Book Covers

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 :

Colorful Book Covers

I realised looking back through my blog that I’ve not really been posting TTT posts for a while, which was more about an attempt to try and get back on track with reviews and not wanting to over saturate my blog so something basically had to give.  But, I couldn’t resist this week’s theme.  Here are a few lovely, colourful covers for you to feast your eyes on, i’ve basically just chosen ten covers that immediately stood out (a mix of books I’ve read and books I’d like to read) – I could have chosen many, many more but think I’ve shown remarkable restraint.

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

My Five Word TL:DR Review : No middle book syndrome here!

TwoFacedQueen

The Two-Faced Queen is everything that I hope for in a second book and then some.  This is one crazy ride of a story, full of yet more intrigue and deceit involving immortals, serial killers and a continuing fight for the throne.

I’m not going to recap The Kingdom of Liars here (there are plenty of reviews already out there for that purpose but I would just mention that if you haven’t read the first and intend to do so then this review may contain spoilers.

We start off with a very handy synopsis of what took place in book 1 kindly and considerately provided by the author.

As the story sets off Michael Kingman escaped execution by the skin of his teeth after being taken on as apprentice to Dark of Orbis Mercenary Company.  Nobody would willingly risk bringing down the wrath of a mercenary company let alone one that is so well known.  However, this temporary reprieve doesn’t totally eliminate the risk to Michael.  There are no shortage of people who have himl in their sights, the Two Faced Queen being perhaps the most formidable.

Following the death of her father, Princess Serena (aka The Two Faced Queen) is overcome with the desire to punish Michael.  She doesn’t believe that the King took his own life and is hellbent on revenge. Meanwhile, outside the city gates the rebellion continues to brew.  Refugees begin to flood the city and to complicate matters further a serial killer, known previously as the Heartbreaker has returned to the Hollows and to say the plot thickens would be to seriously underplay the issue.

What I loved about The Two Faced Queen.

The writing is excellent and the story is superbly plotted.  There’s so much going on here and I can’t deny that I needed to really stay focused  in order to keep up with all the intrigue and characters.  This is one tricksy number with no shortage of action or twists.  I was absolutely hooked and constantly wanting to read just one more chapter.

The characters are fascinating, flawed and truly compelling.  I can’t deny that there’s a very busy cast that sometimes means keeping everything clear in your mind can be difficult but I genuinely loved so many of these.  Michael has come on leaps and bounds since the first book.  He isn’t in such a dither now but is much more focused.  Dark is truly fascinating as is the Orbis Mercenary Company, who we get to meet more of.  I must say I loved the apprentice trial that Michael was put through and more than that the outcome – what a surprise.  There’s also a great sense of family here with Michael’s mother being recovered and the family returning to the Kingman Keep.  The Royals and the Kingman family share such a complicated past and that is explored much more in this instalment.  It seems that Serena and Michael may have strong feelings for each other.  Naomi and Trey both return and play outstanding roles and seriously, I just can’t help feeling so impressed by the way everything comes together.  That ending.

The Two Faced Queen is a sequel that seriously builds on the foundations of the first book.  The Kingdom of Liars was indeed well named, so many lies, so much deceit and none of it helped when you consider that the nobles and royalty all suffer gaps in their memory as a result of too much magic use. There’s no shortage of history or family backstories and I loved the final resolution which makes me super excited for the next instalment.  Plus, a murder mystery that feeds into the plot so beautifully.

Overall, I have no criticisms, I had an excellent time reading this and was absolutely gripped.  I can’t wait for more.

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

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Booking Ahead/Weekly 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:

Past two weeks:

I missed last week’s wrap up post so I’ll post two week’s worth today. Surprisingly, given the last week I had I’ve been reading quite a bit – I find that concentrating on a book takes my mind off other things.  I do need to catch up with blog hopping and comments though because all of that has gone straight to hell in a handcart.  I’ve finished my buddy read of a Darker Shade of Magic this past week.  I can’t deny I didn’t love this as much as I hoped and my review will be up soon.  I’ve also made a start on the first Discworld book that I’m also buddy reading. Early days but just up to chapter 4.  I also read Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone, The Two Faced Queen by Nick Martell, Ariadne by Jennifer Saint, Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw and started The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner.

Next Week

Hoping to complete The Light of the Midnight Stars.  Possibly one of my two remaining SPFBO finalists and The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. The Drowned City by KJ Maitland
  2. Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher
  3. Such Pretty Things by Lisa Heathfield
  4. Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  3. Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone
  4. The Two Faced Queen by Nick Martell
  5. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

#SPFBO Review (7): Last Memoria (Memoria Duology #1) by Rachel Emma Shaw

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

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

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw is the finalist put forward by the Weatherwax Report and you can find their review here.

LastMemoria

I have such mixed feelings for this particular finalist.  I really enjoyed certain elements of the story and the memoria is such an interesting idea, on top of which this was a quick read with a very unexpected conclusion.  But, on the other hand, I felt the plot faltered in some respects and whilst the ending was very twisted it left me, at the same time, feeling a little staggered and not totally in a good way.  Now that all sounds very negative so I’m going to lighten up and focus firstly on the aspects of this that I really liked.

The writing.  It’s good.  I think the author took some risky choices with this but for me they worked out.  For example, as the story begins we meet Sarilla and her brother, on the run, in the forest.  The introduction very much assumes that readers will hit the ground running.  There’s no build up or polite dilly dallying while we get comfortable and to be honest I liked it.  I’m not saying I’d want all my books to throw me into the story in such a ‘feels like i’ve missed the start whilst making a cup of tea’, way, but, yeah, in this instance, consider me hooked.  The author also takes the unusual step of switching narrator part way through and again, considering the nature of this story I have to applaud the decision.  I think it really lends itself well to the ideas playing out and also really does highlight just how very unreliable both narrators can be.

The characters.  This is one of the areas that I do have issues with.  I don’t think that enough attention is given to many of the supporting cast, I can’t remember the name of Sarilla’s brother for example, or the King and so this makes it very difficult to have any real feelings for them when anything bad happens or the author is trying to create tension for ‘near death’ situations.  For me I experienced a definite lack of emotions on the part of most of the cast until the final few chapters when everything changed dramatically.  I mean, to be fair, I didn’t dislike Sarilla or Falon but I didn’t really warm to them either and perhaps that’s just one of the pitfalls when reading about one character who keeps her own counsel and another who is suffering massive memory loss.  Sarilla is very bitter, and not without good reason.  Her life has been difficult and as we make her acquaintance she’s running away from a situation where she’s been held captive and forced to use her abilities in terrible ways.  She’s very secretive and gives little away.  She also doesn’t feel like she has a lot of agency being pushed and pulled in lots of directions by various people.  Falon is hunting for his lost memories accompanied by a couple of friends.  Now, one of his friends is actually one of the good guys and a character that I did like.  The other comes across as a bit of an ass and gives me pause for thought about Falon himself if he has such terrible taste in companions. 

The plot is another slight area of concern for me although I’m deliberately trying to not give too much away about what takes place because of the possibility of spoilers.  In a nutshell this is about two people in search of something.  One has no memory and doesn’t really know what he’s looking for, just that he has gaps in his brain where there shouldn’t be any.  The other has so many memories that her thoughts and actions are confused and she struggles to stay in the present (as a memoria Sarilla can take a person’s memories through touch, she can also return those memories.  Having spent so long being pressured into this duty she believes herself to be a monster and has also come to realise that everyone lies – herself included).  I think my main struggle with both characters is that they seemed to lack strong motivation, direction or the good sense to come up with a plan.  But then they’re both suffering their own problems.  So, dilemma.  

I enjoyed the creativity in terms of the world building.  The Memoria people are really intriguing.  I would have loved a little longer to explore their way of life.  I enjoyed the forest with all it’s dangers and the Blackvine was a particularly cool idea.  However, I don’t feel like I spent enough time getting a feel for the place.  The ending was incredibly fast paced, the reveals coming thick and fast, but again, I think the shock ending might have had more impact for me if we’d spent a little more time getting to know the Memoria and their way of life.  As it is, the ending was a little abrupt and left me feeling oddly deflated which was a real shame after all the fast paced drama that preceded it.

Anyhow, in spite of some reservations I have to say that this is an author that I would definitely keep an eye on.  I thought she made some really excellent choices with Last Memoria not to mention coming up with some impressive ideas. 

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

My rating 6.5

Friday Face Off : Double Whammy

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:

Cartoonish or graphic and a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

So, I had a terrible week, my little dog passed away and so I missed last week’s Friday Face Off – plus a full week of other things including visiting blogs, etc.  You may be wondering why I’m posting today – basically, I’m trying to keep my mind distracted, if I stop and sit around for more than two minutes at a time – well, things go to hell in a New York Minute.  People are avoiding me – because if they look my way I pretty much have a conniption.  *awkward*

Okay, Having missed last week’s theme I’ll post a double this week.  First, Cartoonish or graphic: I’ve gone for a book that I loved and can’t deny that I would be happy to find out more books were planned in this particular world.  Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson.  Now, this isn’t a cartoon cover as such but for me it has a graphic novel feel:

Not a lot of covers for this one.  One is more or less a mirror version and the other just a slight underplaying of the colours.  I have to say that for me there’s no competition – this cover is just beautiful and dramatic:

Sor1

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

2021

April

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

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

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #7

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here .

During Stage 2 I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  As with previous years I have given each of the 9 books a number and randomly selected a reading order.  Today’s post is to highlight the fifth book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.  My second book was The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming which I posted my review here.  My third book was Shaun Paul Steven’s Nether Light, my review for which can be found here. My fourth book was a Norse myth inspired story called Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin and my review is here.. My fifth book was A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree and here is my review.  My sixth book was Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher, reviewed here. My seventh book is Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw (I would mention that I have now finished reading this one and will be reviewing it very soon).  In the meantime here are the details:

Last Memoria is the finalist put forward by The Weatherwax Report.  Here’s a little more information:

LastMemoria

A character driven and heartbreaking, dark-fantasy thriller about flawed people making flawed decisions. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Joe Abercrombie.

Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories. Everybody lies.

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories, but the king forces her to take them to keep his subjects in line. She wants to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon.

Falon has a six month void in his memories that he’s desperate to restore. He doesn’t know why they were taken or what they contained, nor why the man he loves is acting so cagily about what happened during that time. He hopes to use Sarilla to get back his stolen memories and doesn’t care what she wants or why she’s desperate to escape. She will help him get them back, whether she wants to or not.

Author info:

Slytherin author with a Hufflepuff soul. ❤

https://linktr.ee/RachelEmmaShaw

RESRachel Emma Shaw is a London based author. She started writing as an escape from her PhD in neuroscience and has never stopped. She lives in a house slowly being consumed by plants and loves being outdoors. She will frequently attempt to write her books in local parks, only to inevitably end up falling asleep in the sun. If you want her to hurry up and write more books then wish for rain. Her best work is done when it’s stormy outside.

Her debut novel is Last Memoria, a story about love, lies and memory thieves.

Her website: https://rachelemmashaw.wordpress.com/

Her e-mail newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/b736c7485e1c/rache…

Her Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rachelthesto…

Her Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachel_emma…

Her Pintrest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/paintedre…

Her Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelEmma_Shaw

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Hidden by Melanie Golding

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 Hidden by Melanie Golding.  I loved Little Darlings and so have been waiting to see what the author would come up with next and The Hidden has an excellent description:

Melanie Golding’s newest folkloric suspense is a spine-tingling twist on Celtic mythology.

One dark December night, in a small seaside town, a little girl is found abandoned. When her mother finally arrives, authorities release the pair, believing it to be an innocent case of a toddler running off.

Gregor, a seemingly single man, is found bludgeoned and left for dead in his apartment, but the discovery of children’s toys raises more questions than answers.

Every night, Ruby gazes into Gregor’s apartment, leading to the discovery of his secret family: his unusually silent daughter and his mentally unstable wife, Constance, who insists that she is descended from the mythological Selkies. She begs Ruby to aid in finding the sealskin that Gregor has hidden from her, making it impossible to return to her people.

DS Joanna Harper’s investigation into Gregor’s assault leads her to CCTV footage of the mother-daughter pair from town. Harper realizes she knows the woman almost as well as she knows herself: it’s her estranged daughter, Ruby. No matter the depth of Ruby’s involvement, she knows she will choose her daughter over her career.

Steeped in local legend and exploring the depths of what it means to be a mother, Melanie Golding’s newest novel is a lyrical and atmospheric folktale for the modern age.

Expected publication : November 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

This week my word is:

TARADIDDLE

A taradiddle is a petty lie or pretentious nonsense.

What a lovely sounding word it is. I had a little look into the word.  It may have first been used in the 18th Century although the origins aren’t known.  There are a few myths out there about where and when the word came into use but it appears that these rumours are ‘taradiddles’ in themselves.

If you break the word up –

Tara – is an exclamation; and

Diddle – can be to cheat or swindle

So, put the two together and you have a cheating exclamation!  Which could be a little lie if you think about it.

Whilst I was looking into this I also came across an interesting little snippet for Harry Potter fans.  Apparently the word was used by Cornelius Fudge in JK Rowlings Order of the Phoenix “‘We haven’t got time to listen to more taradiddles, I’m afraid, Dumbledore.’”

Anyway, the book I was reading when came across this word was The Drowned City (which I enjoyed, my review here) by KJ Maitland:

Drowned City

Such Pretty Things by Lisa Heathfield

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Dark Depiction of Overwhelming Grief

suchprettythingsSuch Pretty Things is a slowly unfolding horror story that speaks more of dealing with grief and the dark thoughts that haunt a person after suffering loss than the actual physical manifestation of ghosts.  As the story begins, two children, Clara and Stephen, are being taken to their aunt and uncle’s house to be cared for.  Their mother has suffered a terrible accident and their father is unable to cope with work and all the other responsibilities and so has asked the family to step in for a short while.

The children are dropped off and, after their father almost breaks his neck rushing to get out of the place, the strangeness of the situation really starts to set in.  The children have never met their aunt and uncle before.  They live in a large remote house, the family home in fact, kept in absolutely pristine condition by their aunt who seems a little obsessive about rules and cleanliness.  The two share a bedroom that has been set up like something from a fairytale with ribbons on the curtains and freshly sewn clothes hanging in the wardrobes.  It’s a little too perfect and the children are unsure how to behave.  Their aunt has many rules and although they don’t meet their uncle it’s clear that he is unhappy with the arrangement and his disapproval seems to hang over them all causing a feeling of dread.

Slowly but surely things begin to unravel.  Their aunt may long to hear the patter of tiny feet but her daydreams bear little resemblance to the reality of actual looking after children.  Particularly two children who are themselves coming to terms with the fact their mother may not survive.  The two misbehave, they break things and cause a mess, they don’t eat properly, their manners leave something to be desired and they can be unintentionally cruel.  The strain between the three is quite intense in the first few chapters.  The children frequently sneak out, unsupervised, to explore the grounds and their aunt’s dwindling grip on control is stretched to breaking point.  Then things begin to shift.  Clara is a teenager and openly rebels against her aunt, refusing to wear plaits in her hair and pretty dresses with frills, as the two embark on a strange contest of wills Stephen’s loyalty begins to shift towards his aunt.  He’s much younger than Clara and wants to feel the familiar embrace of adult care.  His gradual shift only adds to the tension, Clara is jealous of his affection and their aunt feels empowered by the turn of events, inflicting more punishments on Clara until eventually the two siblings are split up on an almost continuous basis.

There really is a lot to like about this book.  The writing and descriptions are fantastic.  Heathfield’s ability to create a densely oppressive atmosphere and ever growing sense of dread is simply superb.  I thought all the characters came across well and the setting with the large house and gardens really played into the sense of isolation lending credibility to the way of life depicted.

However, in spite of their being so much to love here, the large house and estate with plenty of secrets waiting to be discovered, the superb atmosphere that is almost suffocatingly tense and the clear unravelling of the aunt’s mental stability I found myself not as enamoured with the latter half of the book as the first and I’d love to pin down why that is.

I think in a nutshell there’s a slight over ambition taking place here or perhaps a cluttering of too many ideas.  The start is just brilliant.  It’s really well set up.  You can feel the aunt slowly becoming more and more unstable and there are also a few indicators here and there about one of the children (though I won’t point out which one).  But then, I felt like the plot became too convoluted.  One of the aspects I’d already guessed at but for the final few chapters it felt like there was a bombardment of ideas taking place and, although I was still absolutely gripped, some of the reveals felt unnecessary, like the set up and the mental health issues that were clearly escalating out of control, were enough by themselves. I have to confess, although I didn’t particularly like the ending, I think it veered into too much horror for my liking, I admit that I couldn’t drag my eyes away.  It was perfectly horrible.

I certainly didn’t dislike Such Pretty Things but I think it reminded me less of Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House and more of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.  The aunt undoubtedly put me in mind of ‘the other mother’ and gave off a sinister vibe, at first sugar coated with perfection but slowly revealing a dreadful instability that pushed her to dark extremes.  I certainly wouldn’t discourage others from reading this, it’s very easy to read and I will undoubtedly look out for more work by this author.  I think it was maybe a little too much ‘horror’ for me and I didn’t love all the eventual reveals but that could very easily be an ‘it’s me not you’ type of occurence.

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

My rating 3 out of 5

#SPFBO Review (6): Black Stone Heart (The Obsidian Path #1) by Michael R Fletcher

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

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

BlackStoneHeart

Black Stone Heart is the finalist put forward by The Queen’s Book Asylum whose review can be found here.

I’ve been longing to read this author for some time and in fact have a copy of Beyond Redemption sat glaring at me from the bookshelf.  Given friends and other bloggers reviews I think I picked this one up with exactly the right expectations.  I expected grimdark and Fletcher delivers that in spades.  He also kicks off his story with one of the most intriguing beginnings to a character that I’ve experienced for some time.

Khraen is a man newly awakened as the story begins.  Well, I say a man but I’m not entirely sure at this point, let’s just run with that for now for the purpose of simplicity.  This is a character who seems to have sprouted fully grown from the earth, he has no memory of who he is or why he is here.  He feels drawn to travel in a certain direction, along the way becoming stronger as he progresses from eating insects and grubs to small animals as he becomes more adept. I confess that this opening grabbed my attention completely.  I was fascinated by the character from virtually the first sentence and could barely put the book down and, in actual fact I completed the read in two days if not less.

In terms of the plot, we follow Khraen on a voyage of discovery.  He travels the country seeking pieces of his obsidian heart.  A heart that seems to have been broken into pieces and scattered to the four winds, now being  carried by numerous characters.  Khraen is drawn to the pieces like a moth to the light and with each newly recovered piece he discovers a few more memories from his former life.  Now, you may be thinking, surely the recovery of these pieces of heart involves the death of the character carrying the piece – and yes, you would be right in thinking that.  It appears that there can be only one – or at least that is the case for Khraen – some of the other characters seemed more content to remain incomplete and were living happy enough existences, giving Khraen a wide berth.  Alas, Khraen has other ideas.

What I found fascinating about this is that as we set off on Khraen’s journey he possesses a certain naivety that makes his story enjoyable to read, which isn’t to say that he doesn’t commit crimes along the way, more that he has doubts, his memories are not exactly pleasant and definitely give him pause for thought and yet he continues with his pursuit.

Along the way he is massively influenced by two other characters.  Shalayn, a young sellsword who takes Khraen under her wing and initially shows him the ropes until the two form an attachment.  Shalayn seems to provoke in Khraen the desire to be better.  He struggles with his need to find the rest of his broken heart, knowing that he may become a person she can no longer abide and he definitely keeps secret some of the memories he experiences, not wanting to scare her away.  Henka is a different character entirely.  A necromancer who, for a large portion of their time together, hides the lengths that she goes to in order to maintain her body.  Henka is a driven individual but she wraps up her desires in a need to please Khraen.  She comes across as loyal, almost like a puppy in the way she seeks his affection and approva but I also find her manipulative.

I love the world building here.  We don’t spend great amounts of time in any one place as Khraen searches out his heart pieces but it’s none the less a fascinating place with a long history and I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface.  There is magic, magic towers and schools, necromancy and demons to name a few, but what felt refreshing for me were some of the smaller elements such as the strange abandoned castle that Khraen was transported to during part of the story and the friend that he becomes reacquainted with.  I don’t want to say too much as this point but this particular ‘friend’ definitely turns things on their head a little, as he’s quite unexpected.

Let’s talk about the characters.  Well, I liked Shalayn, I can’t deny it, she appealed to me immediately.  Henka, well, no.  I confess, she didn’t win me over.  Nor did she try to.  She is unremorsefully herself, a necromancer, and even though she almost starts off with small steps, to gently ease us into her true character, it pretty soon becomes obvious that she’s pretty hideous.  Or is she.  She’s dead, she has no heart, she does what she does to survive.  Although, I guess what I would ultimately question is the fact that she goes to a lot of trouble (by which I mean she murders a lot of people) to maintain a body in pristine condition and to give the impression of a warm blooded living being.  Ultimately I didn’t like her and in his favour I wasn’t totally sure that Khraen was always enamoured.

Khraen?  He’s like his own worst enemy.  He is relentless in his search for heart pieces and memories – even though with each new piece he finds new reason to doubt what he may eventually become.  He doesn’t seem able to resist and the memories are undoubtedly having an impact.  Actions that he would have found abhorrent as he started his journey become more commonplace and easy to accept.  It’s like Fletcher slowly feeds us a character that does more and more horrible things, and yet we seem almost oblivious to just how bad he’s really becoming.  Like he can be redeemed.  It’s your basic ‘frog soup’ really.  Put a frog in hot water and it jumps out, warm it slowly and it sits there never imagining what’s about to happen – much like us unsuspecting readers. (for the avoidance of doubt – I’m going to say that no frogs were hurt, during the writing or reading of this book, or this review for that matter).

Criticisms.  Not a lot to be honest.  The writing is good, the pace is good, the journey is fascinating and thought provoking.  There was definitely an element of predictability to one aspect of the plot, but I don’t find that a real problem.  I did experience maybe a slight change in feelings towards the read around the middle mark, it’s difficult to put my finger on other than I was having doubts by then myself about Khraen which made me ultimately question just how bad he’s eventually going to become.  That being said, this feels like a natural progression and I only mention it because it momentarily seemed to slow me down somewhat (although, given I read this in two days you would be right in thinking this was a temporary blip).

Overall this was very easy to read.  It is very dark so you may want to be aware of that before making your mind up whether to read it or not.  But, it’s also fascinating and aside from all the food for thought what really compels me with this one is that I’ve become as curious as Khraen to find out what he will eventually discover and more to the point, to understand how he found himself buried in the first place with no memories to speak of whatsoever.

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

My rating 8.5 out of 10 (4 out of 5 stars for Goodreads)

RIP Dude : June 2005 – April 2021

Posted On 8 April 2021

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 19 responses

My beautiful little dog has passed away.  I’m so indescribably sad that I have no words.  He has been my constant companion for almost 16 years.  I don’t know how I’ll ever get over the loss.

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The Drowned City by KJ Maitland

Posted On 5 April 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 5 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Great start to historical series

Drowned CityWell, I say this is a great start, because I’m hopeful there will be more books with Daniel Pursglove seeking answers, so fingers crossed that this book receives the praise it deserves and more books are forthcoming.  I’ve long wanted to read Maitland and in fact I’m not quite sure why I’ve not delved into her work sooner.  I enjoy a good historical novel and the period for The Drowned City was a particularly fascinating time.

The story takes place a little time after the Gunpowder Plot has been discovered, King James first sits on the throne and times are turbulent when it comes to religion with those of the Catholic persuasion being forced into secrecy.  The plot here takes place after disaster strikes the Bristol channel causing rumours of witchcraft, or the hand of God taking revenge, to run rife.  James, already of a nervous disposition following the threat to his life, is eager for an investigation to be held to quell such rumours before they take on a life of their own.  It’s believed that one of the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot, Spero Pettingar, escaped detection and fled to Bristol which, in the throes of chaos is not only the perfect hiding place but is also a hotbed for spies and conspiracy.

Now, enter the scene Daniel Pursglove.  When I say enter the scene I mean let’s take a look inside Newgate Prison because that’s where Daniel is currently residing – and I don’t mean in a voluntary manner.  By all accounts Newgate was a pretty hideous place and Maitland paints it here in quite hideous but appropriate terms.  Pursglove is the perfect candidate to send into Bristol.  His background lends itself well, and you will discover this as the plot is uncovered, and so, he’s given a chance at freedom, go to Bristol, report back, and, if favourable, be released.  The stakes are high.

So, what did I like about this.  Well, it’s a fantastic period of history, rife with intrigue.  Everyone was backstabbing everyone else and this comes across clearly here.  The writing is just gorgeous.  You can practically sink into the place.  I love the attention to detail.  The place depicted is a hot mess which you would expect after such a catastrophic event – and even to this day it appears there are arguments about whether or not this was an immense storm surge or a tsunami.  Basically, whatever it was that took place, it caused massive devastation and that becomes clear on every page.  Bristol isn’t just dangerous in terms of the criminal element or the undercover conspiracies, the physical landscape is dangerous by virtue of the disaster.

On top of this Daniel is a great character to follow.  I found myself enjoying his story very much.  He’s basically a good guy, he’s not above taking action, he knows what’s what, and he isn’t naive by a long stroke of the imagination, but he’s basically a likable person and I could quite happily follow more of his adventures.

In terms of criticisms.  Not much from me to be honest.  I think this isn’t a book that you’re going to race through. This is a period of time that was messy and convoluted and sometimes it’s difficult to grasp all the subtle nuances. Also, Daniel sometimes seems to follow a strange path in his search for answers and not necessarily a path that’s easy to follow or understand.  Basically he seems to spend his time in any number of drinking establishments listening to gossip or seeking out shady characters.  There definitely is a slowing down of pace at certain points not to mention a slightly first in series feel but I have to say that none of these things were a problem for me.

On the whole, I had a really good time with this and I would love for the series to continue.  I think this could become a wonderfully dark and mysterious series.

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

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 has been fairly quiet.  I read three books and also made more progress on a Darker Shade of Magic.  I’ve done some more catching up with blogging and blog hopping and slowly but surely I’m making progress.  In fact I like this slowly slowly approach – it’s definitely less stressful (if I’ve not caught up with you yet – I will be doing so very soon :D).  So, what did I read.  I finished The Drowned City by KJ Maitland.  I also completed my SPFBO book Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher.  And, finally I managed to squeeze in a book I was keen to get to that was a bit off plan – although not really – psychological horror Such Pretty Things by Lisa Heathfield. 

Next Week

Well, I quite enjoyed mood reading this last week – one of my books was very dark fantasy, one historical fiction and one horror/psychological.  I mean all the books are on my review list so it’s all getting me to the same end eventually.  With that in mind this week.  Well, I’ll be reading more from A Darker Shade of Magic, I’m also starting my first Discworld book, part of my Around the Discworld in 41 books – that I’m joining with Louise over at Lou’s Book Stuff.  On top of that, in terms of review books I’d like to pick up Mirrorland and make a start on the Two Faced Queen by Nick Martell which I’m also excited after reading positive reviews already.  Finally, I will be reading one of my next SPFBO books.  Okay, that seems very ambitious, but, in my defence I also appreciate that this probably won’t all happen – gotta have plans though:

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. The Fall of Koli by MR Carey

TheFallof

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. The Drowned City by KJ Maitland
  3. Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher
  4. Such Pretty Things by Lisa Heathfield

What’ve you been up to the past week

Friday Face Off : A train or tram – travelling down the track, could be old style, futuristic, overhead, down below.

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 train or tram

I have no idea what I had in mind this week.  I could come up with a couple of books with trains, or tunnels or tracks but I’m so puzzled that I didn’t go for some sort of holiday theme.  Anyway.  I’ve gone for a book that I’m fairly certain I’ve not used before – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (the 10th in the Hercule Poirot series).  Here is a very small selection of covers focusing on mainly those that fit the theme.

I like a few this week:

I like the first one for the iconic font for the author’s name.  The middle feels very typical ‘murder/mystery’ and makes me think of Cluedo for some strange reason.  The final cover has more muted tones which are easy on the eye and I like the angle of the train smoke that fills the top of the cover. But my favourite, which feels like a modern cover with an old fashioned nod in terms of the font for the author’s name, is:

AC1

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 –Cartoonish or graphic

2021

April

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

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

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

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

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

The Fall of Koli (Rampart Trilogy #3) by MR Carey

My Five Word TL:DR  Review : A Love Story in Disguise

TheFallofOkay, that might not be totally correct but you’ll just have to trust me.

The Fall of Koli is the final instalment of the Rampart Trilogy and brings to an end the strangely satisfying, if somewhat bittersweet, adventures of the titular character.

I would just point out that being the third in series it’s quite likely that this review will contain spoilers for prior instalments.  Also, I would also mention that this is not a series that you can dive into randomly.  The books need to be read in order, not just to give the full weight to the character growth that takes place during the series but also because you need the background story.

The first book of Koli is really an introduction to the world and characters.  Koli lives in a small village where each person must play their part in order to survive.  The village is effectively run by one family, known as the Ramparts, who are in control of all the ‘old tech’.  Each year the newest adults in the village undertake a trial to see if the tech will ‘wake’ for them.  This is an exciting and hopeful time for the villagers although to date the ability remains within the one family.  The first book is more about the revelations and truths that Koli uncovers that result in him being cast out of the village and see the start of his journey to seek lost London.

The second book breaks into two narratives that follows Koli and his little group of friends (and they are a really great bunch of characters) and also flits back to Koli’s village so that we can see what is happening there since he left.  I enjoyed this book more than the first to be honest.  I liked the split narrative, I enjoyed seeing more of the world and there were a couple of revelations.  The villagers, for example, are starting to become more aware of the duplicity that surrounds them but at the same time still need to remain united in order to survive.

The third book is also a huge revelation.  Koli and his group have found what they were looking for, at the same time, they’ve also discovered that the threat to the world might not yet be over.

There’s plenty of action in this instalment and both storylines seem to split in the way they feel.  Koli’s storyline almost feels unreal, like we’ve stepped into a strange sci-fi nightmare.  Meanwhile the village are facing a total wipe out that brings plenty of action and fighting to the story.

What I really liked about this series is that taken as a whole it’s much more than the sum of its parts.  It’s not simply a post apocalyptic book about survival and the depths that people sink to in order to stay alive – although there is obviously still elements of that.  This is more a story of hope to be honest.  It highlights that there are still people who want to help others and will go to great lengths in order to do so.  More than this it has to be the most unlikely love story you’ll ever read – and to be clear, this isn’t a romance in the typical sense of the word – I won’t say more on that.  And, on top of this there’s the whole debate going on here about AI – can humans trust artificial intelligence or, perhaps on the flip side, can artificial intelligence trust humans.

I like a book that makes me think and the Fall of Koli certainly achieved that.  Plus, all this food for thought is wrapped up in a tense story that highlights the struggles that the characters from both narratives are undertaking to not just survive but to stop a bigger threat.  And I really appreciated that both storylines involved a fight to survive.  On the face of it the village faced a dire threat with lots of fighting and strategy.  Koli and Co  seemed to be involved in a much smaller conflict on the face of it and with less dynamism involved in terms of action and war faring, but, in fact their storyline had the potential for much greater impact in the long term and certainly felt more sinister.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing much here except I felt a slight slowing down during the time Koli and his friends spent on board ship (trying not to give anything away here).  To be fair, I think that might just be me though – I found myself enjoying the second narrative slightly more which is probably down to all the action.  Again, though, there are moments during this part of Koli’s story that really made my jaw drop.

Overall, I think this was a very good conclusion.  I’m tempted to say bittersweet but I’m not entirely sure that’s the most appropriate phrase.  Having really thought about it I think Carey has given the most unusual, but perhaps strangely fitting, conclusion that you could imagine. (Also, massive spoiler alert: highlight if you want to read this :

The clue really is in the title)

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

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

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 Women of Troy by Pat Barker (I loved The Silence of the Girls by the same author.)

TheWomenofTroyFrom the Booker Prize-winning Pat Barker, author of The Silence of the Girls (“An important, powerful, memorable book” –Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey), a retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of the women who endured it

Troy has fallen and the victorious Greeks are eager to return home with the spoils of an endless war–including the women of Troy themselves. They await a fair wind for the Aegean.

It does not come, because the gods are offended. The body of King Priam lies unburied and desecrated, and so the victors remain in suspension, camped in the shadows of the city they destroyed as the coalition that held them together begins to unravel. Old feuds resurface and new suspicions and rivalries begin to fester.

Largely unnoticed by her captors, the one-time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles’ mistress, now belonging to his companion Alcimus, quietly takes in these developments. She forges alliances when she can, with Priam’s aged wife the defiant Hecuba and with the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.

Expected publication : June 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

I’ve not made a note of any particular words this week but instead I’m taking inspiration from the title of a recent book – A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop.

This week I’m looking at collective nouns:

‘In linguistics, a collective noun is a collection of things taken as a whole. Most collective nouns in everyday speech are not specific to one kind of thing, such as the word “group”, which can be applied to people or dogs or other things. ‘

A Murder of Crows originated in the fifteenth century during which time it became popular to give ‘poetic’ collective nouns for groups of animals and birds, for example a gaggle of geese or a pride of lions.  The noun was usually a reflection of the perceived qualities of the animal/bird, etc.  Crows were associated with death.  They are scavengers and so would often congregate at the site of death, such as battlefields, and so became known as harbingers or omens of death.  Crows were also, in folklore, believed to sit in judgement of other crows, gathering together to decide the fate for one that had committed wrongs.

Murderof

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

Haha – still playing catch up.  I’m doing quite a bit of visiting blogs but still have updating on my own blog to get round to.  I’ve read one book this week, The Fall of Koli and also made a good start on The Drowned City by KJ Maitland which is proving good so far.  I’m about 60% in to my SPFBO book and by the end of today should be around 50% into my buddy read, A Darker Shade of Magic. I also posted an interview with husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews this week which focused on their latest release from the Kate Daniel’s world.  Blood Heir is the first in the Aurelia Ryder series and got off to an excellent start.  My review is here and the interview is here.

Next Week

Complete The Drowned City by KJ Maitland and make a start on The Unbroken by CL Clark.

I’m also hoping to complete my next SPFBO book that I just posted about here and start the next one which I shall be posting about soon.

BlackStoneHeart

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers

TheLadiesof

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. The Fall of Koli by MR Carey

What’ve you been up to the past week

Friday Face Off : A Picture Within a Picture

FFO

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

A picture within a picture

Well, I’m still playing catch up but I have been spending time visiting other blogs  to see what’s been going on.  I’m also almost caught up with reviews. Just need  to work on my own blog now in terms of comments and then I’m back up to speed.

I had a couple of specific books in mind  for this one but I’ve eventually gone for a book that’s on my kindle that I haven’t read yet.  The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.  Have any of you read this one??

And my favourite this week:

I’m going for the one I’m most familiar with and it just happens to fit the theme perfectly:

1

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

2021

April

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

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

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

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

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

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : Feral Creatures (Hollow Kingdom, #2) by Kira Jane Buxton

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 : Feral Creatures (Hollow Kingdom, #2) by Kira Jane Buxton – because I loved Hollow Kingdom and I was so happy to discover there would be a book 2!  Here’s the description:

FeralCreaturesIn this stunning follow-up to Hollow Kingdom, the animal kingdom’s “favorite apocalyptic hero”is back with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, ready to take on a world ravaged by a viral pandemic (Helen Macdonald).
 
Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T. . . .
 
When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.
 
That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity’s last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what’s a crow to do?
 
Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that’s what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.

Expected publication : August 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

I’m sure that I’ve read some worthy words to highlight this week but unfortunately I haven’t made a note of any so nothing from me today but stop over to Elza Reads to see what word(s) she’s discussing and check out the other links.

The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Sometimes a book just delivers

TheLadiesofI had high expectations for this book.  The cover and the description worked their magic for me and added to that my love of fiction that includes circuses, magical realism and anything diabolic – well, I was quite simply transported.

The story gets off to a great start.  We meet Lara on the eve of her wedding, literally making last minute adjustments to her dress through the use of magic and this captivating start sets the scene for the rest of the story.  Unfortunately, Lara’s husband-to-be, Todd, is a no-show, and his strange disappearance and abandoned car, at the same spot where 30 years ago someone else went missing, provokes Lara into an unusual magical adventure.

Told in three distinct sections that allow us to get to know Lara before she travels to Paris and then back again in search of answers, the world building and settings are beautifully depicted.  The secret circus itself is wonderfully described, fantastically creative and utterly fascinating.  Only visible to those who have been invited, guests step into the circus via a huge devilish mouth that sets the scene for what they can expect.  On top of that we step back in time to Paris of 1925.  A place of creativity and passion where artists and writers mix with the glamorous ladies of the circus sparking passion and jealousy along the way.

Fundamentally, this is a story of family, of family ties, history, curses, revenge and coming home told through a combination of current day accounts involving a murder mystery that takes us to a magical realm where nothing is what it seems.  I mean, yes, on the face of it, there is a lot going on here but it all works so incredibly well.  The pacing is excellent and the final denouement nothing short of breathtaking.

On top of this the characters were good.  Lara was easy to like and I really enjoyed the family backstory.  Enough so that I was worried about her safety at certain points.  Always a good sign that the author has worked their magic.

Overall, this was a great read for me.  The combination of fascinating family and mysterious murder mystery worked a treat and I could barely put this down.  I definitely want more from Constance Sayers and I will be checking out her backlist as well as looking forward with enthusiasm to whatever she pens in the future.

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

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Author Interview : Ilona Andrews

Today I’m absolutely thrilled to post an interview with Ilona Andrews.  I recently read Blood Heir  (the first in the Aurelia Ryder series) and loved it and in fact took part in the blog tour that took place pre-release.  My review can be found here – spoiler alert – there may be an abundance of enthusiasm.

BloodHeir

Blood Heir is a new novel, set in the incredibly popular Kate Daniel’s world that focuses on one of the other characters.  The book was so good that I was left with burning questions so I requested an interview.  Just imagine my surprise and joy when the answer came back as a yes!  So, without further ado let’s get to the Q&A:

Firstly, my thanks to Ilona and Gordon and a heart felt welcome to my blog 😀

Q. For readers who haven’t read from this world yet – can you give me a quick description that captures the essence of Blood Heir?

A. Blood Heir is about coming home after a long absence.  Things have changed.  People you knew are different. Your childhood friend is now aiming at the throne of Beast Lord, Uncle Stupidhead, otherwise known as Knight Protector of Atlanta, is having an affair with someone you would never imagine in a million years, and your surrogate uncles had a child and didn’t tell you.

(Well, Uncle Stupidhead is a new keeper)

Q. I’m curious about writing as a team (*readers – I’m sure you all already know but just in case, Ilona Andrews is a pseudonym for husband and wife writing team). I’m sure you will have answered similar questions before but how do you keep everything so streamlined. Do you decide ahead who will write individual scenes or are you responsible for individual characters? Tricky question – who has the final say??

A. We write together, meaning that one of us is at the keyboard and the other one is dictating. So everything that goes into the file is a compromise. Gordon has the final say over male characters.  I have the final say over female ones.

Q. In terms of the above, being married and working together how do you manage to take a real break without reverting back to ’talking shop’?

A. Why would we not talk shop? What is this thing you speak of? On a serious note, there are moments when something occurs and one of us will turn around in some random place, like a car service center, and tell the other, “We should just kill him. We can disembowel him and hang him off a pole.  It would be a good shock moment.”  But mostly we try to respect our time off. Writing eats up so much time and emotional energy and we have many other things to talk about like books, movies, games, politics, and our kids.

(NGL – right now I’m imagining the expressions on the faces of the car service centre staff if they overheard that conversation).

homer

Q. I have a particular love of covers – it may seem fickle to some but the cover is the first thing to draw the eye. I love the cover that Luisa Preissler created for Blood Heir.  It’s stunning.  How did you discover the artist and how much input did you have in the process.

A. You know, I don’t remember. I tried to look through my email and it seems that the first time we worked together was on the collector edition of Kinsmen from Subterranean in 2018. Luisa is an incredible artist to work with and she reads our books, so our input is very light.  We describe the character, provide a few relevant paragraphs from text and some reference images for specific things like the type of hair, for example, and she does the rest. Covers are vital to the book’s success. They are what grabs the reader, so I feel very fortunate to work with Luisa.

Feast your eyes on this beauty people:

BH

(Also, for more information about Luisa Preissler check out her site here for some stunning artwork)

Q.Seeing a long series coming to an end must be emotional for both you and your readers?   Blood Heir is a new start but also a return to a ready established world and old friends.  Can you tell me about where the idea came from for the Aurelia Ryder series and more importantly how did you decide which character to use? Also, how did you decide which other characters would make a return (and how does fan/reader pressure play into these decisions, if at all)?

JulieA. We planned for a continuation of Julie’s story before we finished Magic Triumphs, because we knew that a lot of plot threads would be left dangling. We tied up most of them to deliver a conclusion our readers found satisfying, but there was no time to resolve Julie and Derek’s relationship for example or Erra’s future.

The plans for this book stalled when we were hit by a surprising amount of Julie hate from the fanbase. There is a small but loud group of fans who hate Julie. Julie is written as an authentic teenager, with a will of her own and snark, and some women in particular really wanted her to be a “perfect” child who always does what Kate says, never talks back or takes initiative, and fits into the mold of that wide-eyed teenage protagonist who is nice to everyone and beloved by everyone. I’ve given up on figuring out why that is. The vitriol was loud and proud and we tabled the book.

Writing in the age of social media and email is a double-edged sword. People are extremely quick to offer their opinions on fiction and characters to authors who created them, and they often do so in a less than tactful manner. At the core, writing is an attempt to communicate with the world and when you get too much feedback – negative or positive, that communication falters. You become overloaded.  It’s especially bad when a fictional world has many books in it.  I’ve had people scream at me through email in all caps that I’ve ruined their life because of something minor a character did. This gets old very quickly.

Honestly, the Kate World was on a permanent hiatus and would’ve remained there but then COVID happened. People started reaching out, and we realized that everyone desperately needed a distraction. So we threw out some scenes with Julie, because it was easy to write.  We had thought out the novel and we know the world. From there we moved on to weekly installments and then the novel grew into a full-length book.

Wow – that was a close call, we nearly missed out on all the Aurelie Ryder goodness (by the way, the above is a picture of Julie pictured with her Princess of Shinar ‘hat’ on)

Q. What are the pros and cons of working in an already very well established world.  How do you balance what to include for new readers while at the same time not retreading old ground for established readers?  And how do you keep track of everything?

A. We have a series bible which our copyeditor put together. As to the recap, Blood Heir was a very careful balancing act because we had to refresh the series in the minds of long-term readers, who want to know everything, but not overwhelm the new readers. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, so we must’ve done something right, but if you hand me that book right now, I would still likely tinker with what we chose to include.

(Oh yes, you definitely did a lot of somethings right)

(Here are the covers for the KD series just to give you an idea of exactly why that ‘bible’ is needed:

Q. In Blood Heir we get the entire story via Aurelia and are able to see how she thinks.  I’m curious as to whether her physical and magical transformation has also affected her consciousness (more precisely, is the eye altering her thoughts without her knowledge)?

A. I don’t think that the eye altered her thoughts. I think that intense education in Shinar customs and royal duties had more to do with it.

Kate is not very good with organized environment; she prefers to be a free agent.  She chooses her own cases and sees them to the end, but as the series showed, when she is forced into a structured environment, like the Order or the Pack, she bucks. Kate’s childhood was extremely structured.  She had very little personal freedom and growing up was a series of challenges and tests she had to overcome.

Julie grew up on the streets in chaos.  She craves structure, and she desperately wants a family to belong to and a clarity of purpose. She found that family with Kate.  She knows her general purpose – she wants to save as many people as possible as the world falls apart.  But it took Erra’s guidance to really lay down the framework of how exactly Julie would go about saving everyone. Erra gave her a set of conditions: this is what a princess of Shinar does and doesn’t do, and in a sense, she saved Julie from herself.  Instead of trying to right every individual wrong she sees, Julie now focuses on wider issues, which in the long run will help a lot more people.

Q. For Blood Heir you made the decision to self publish.  I have been reading your blog so I’ll try not to go over old ground.  How difficult a decision was this?  What has your experience of self publishing been? Also, were there any issues regarding character and world rights due to the Kate Daniels series being traditionally published vs the Aurelia Ryder books being self published?

A. Once your contract with the publisher ends, you become a free agent and have the luxury of publishing whatever you want. Ace doesn’t really have any dibs on our future work, even though they published the original series.  We can write a novel with Kate as a protagonist right now, and self-pub it without any legal issues.

So the question really was, do we sell the novel or do we release it ourselves?  We chose to self-publish for three reasons: first, selling the novel would mean the readers would have to wait about 18 months for its release; second, self-publishing allows us to keep a larger percentage of the proceeds, and third, we really wanted to retain control over our auxiliary rights, such as audio.  It is almost impossible to sell a novel currently without giving up audio, foreign, and film rights, and it was important for us to keep those.

We are waiting for our first month’s sales to land in our account – should be any day now – but according to our agent, we did quite well, so we are likely to continue.

Q. I’m curious in particular about New Shinar.  Aurelia has a foot in two camps.  Will she return to New Shinar in future novels?

A. She would have to, wouldn’t she?  Just to see her grandmother.  😊

(Ooh, interesting ^^!!)

Q.There are hints that there is much more to Derek than meets the eye and he has himself undergone change. Will Derek be making a return in books 2 and 3?

A. Absolutely.  ::rubs hands:: There will be stuff!  Exciting stuff!

Be still my beating heart *faints*

Q. After the resounding success of Blood Heir’s release you are now planning two further books.  Is your plan to complete Aurelia’s story during those two books or will you be reassessing in the future with the possibility of more instalments? (hope so)

A. We don’t know yet.  Our plate is a bit full.  We need to get the second Iron Covenant book out. That will mean two books in KD’s world close together. Once we get that and the next Aurelia done, we will reassess how the plotline develops. I am not trying to be vague, I just don’t know exactly how many books it will take to wrap this up.  Right now we are aiming for two more.

Q. Can you share anything with readers about where you see the series heading next.

A. Well, the battle for the Pack is the obvious next thing for Aurelia.  For Hugh and Elara, there is the struggle with Elara’s heritage. So we’ll see what happens. 😊

Finally, thank you so much for answering all my questions.  I’m so excited for the next book – and I can’t deny I wouldn’t mind reading a bit more about Derek *waggles eyebrows*.

IASo, a little information to conclude:

Regarding the Kate Daniel’s series (you know you want to) look here.

For the Aurelia Ryder series check out this link.

Author Info :

Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas. They have co-authored two series, the best selling urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge.

Website
Twitter

ILONA ANDREWS’S BLOG

Credits to Luisa Preissler for the Blood Heir/Aurelia artwork used in this piece.

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 busy week this week.  I’ve made a start on blog hopping which is going well and I’m catching up with reviews also.  I need to catch up with comments and then hopefully I’m all up to date with only two outstanding reviews to post.  I managed to complete the Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers (which I loved) and I’m a third of the way through The Fall of Koli.  I’ve also read a quarter of my buddy read book, A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab.

Next Week

Will almost be a reiteration of last week.  Complete The Fall of Kolia and start The Unbroken by CL Clark.

I’m also hoping to make a start on my next SPFBO book that I just posted about here.

BlackStoneHeart

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
  2. Children by Bjorn Larssen

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  2. The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers

What’ve you been up to the past week

Children (The Ten Worlds, #1) by Bjørn Larssen

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Norse Mythology, dark and brutal

ChildrenI’ve thought long and hard about this review.  In fact, I think I can safely say that this review has taken me longer to write than almost any other I’ve ever written and this boils down to a couple of things.

Firstly, and this is one of the measures that I gauge the success of a story by, is the amount of extra reading that the book provoked me to undertake once I’d finished.  Basically, you could fit my knowledge of Norse Mythology onto a pinhead!  I mean, I have a scattering of bits and pieces but it’s not something I’ve read up extensively about and that is something I would like to amend (throw your best recommendations my way please).

Secondly, this is not particularly an easy read, and definitely won’t be for all readers (in fact the author makes quite plain, before the read even commences, that there will be areas that might upset some readers).  Larssen doesn’t hold the punches and this is a dark story, brutal, and difficult to read in parts, that takes an unflinching look at Norse mythology and turns some of the stories on their heads.  So, basically, whilst I enjoyed this retelling, it’s not the type of story that you come away from bandying about words such as ‘enjoy’ or ‘fun’.  For me, this was an interesting read, made more so by the fact that it uses a lot of well known elements of Norse mythology to construct a tale of perhaps lesser known characters from the pantheon.  It’s an interesting story from a time that was indeed harsh.  These days we might think of this period as cruel or barbaric but this was a more simple time when people believed in magic and strived to achieve greatness through their deeds in life and this often led to bloodshed.

In terms of  the story we see the world through two characters.  Maya, adopted daughter of Freya and Magni, son of Thor.  As with each new generation children are the seed of change and Maya and Magni are no exception in they balk against the demands of their parents.  The gods in this story are powerful and beautiful, but they’re also unkind, manipulative and scheming and their children are pawns that they use mercilessly – until the children rebel that is.  Both characters come together to form a friendship of sorts in what is ultimately a retelling of the ‘The Fortification of Ásgard’ legend.

What I really enjoyed about this was the world building.  There’s a lovely simplicity to the way the author builds a picture in your mind starting with an excellent Index of the Nine Worlds  followed by an introduction to the Gods themselves and their children.  Seriously I loved this and found it incredibly helpful – particularly that the author had the foresight to put this at the front of the book instead of the rear! (I know that probably sounds a bit pedantic but I can’t describe how frustrating I find it to discover such helpful tools at the end of a read).  Both children spend time in both the mortal realm (Midgard) and in the home of the Gods (Asgard).  You could be forgiven for thinking Asgard the superior place, it knows no want and the food of the Gods is something you can only imagine in your wildest dreams whilst Midgard suffers all manner of scarcity and depravity, and yet both worlds are cruel and difficult places in which to live and given the rather pampered world of the Gods I can’t help coming away thinking that they’re much worse than humans.

I would say that both Maya and Magni are complex characters and are a little difficult to get on board with – but I think that’s a necessary part of the story.  They’ve both suffered at the hands of the Gods and their childhoods contained unpleasantness that informs their adult characters.  I really liked that they ‘found’ each other though and this attachment turns into something protective that helped me to connect with them as the story progresses.  In terms of other characters you may be pleased to hear that the more familiar characters such as Loki and Freya play significant roles, the first in his customary trickster role and the second being her beautiful, vain but also scheming self.

In terms of criticisms.  I think this is well written and I really enjoyed the way Larssen reinvents an old myth giving it enough elements that are well known and comfortable while at the same time giving it a new spin.  However, I think I liked the first half of the book better – even though it was perhaps more brutal.  I felt a slowing down of pace in the second half although not enough to make me want to stop reading.

Overall, if you love Norse mythology I would definitely recommend this first book in the Children world and I will definitely pick up the next retelling that Larssen imagines.  A pretty and beautiful tale this may not be but it is, I feel, a good representation of an era that was the epitome of grimdark.

I received a copy for review purposes.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating: 7 out of 10 (or 3.5 of 5)

Friday Face Off : Ruin or derelict, old and worn, could be the book itself, a building, a place

FFO

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

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

Firstly, sorry I’ve been so behind blog hopping.  Lots of work and whatnot.  I am now trying to catch up with everyone’s past posts  I mean I wouldn’t want to miss anything and a good book slip by unnoticed now would I??

I”m not entirely sure what I had in mind for this but I’ve gone for a book this week that I haven’t yet read even though it’s been on my kindle for a long time.  The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard.  Have you read this – should I bump it up my tbr?

Anyway, set in a post war Paris where most of the buildings are in ruins I thought it would be perfect.  Here are the covers:

And my favourite this week:\

Shattered5

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 picture within a picture

2021

March

26th – A picture within a picture

April

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

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

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

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

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

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Unique and compulsive, psychological horror

TheLastHOuseQuite possibly this is the most unique, unusual and utterly compelling book that I’ve ever read.  At the same time it’s a book that you have to give your brain a little time to adapt to but once you do you won’t be able to pull your eyes away.  It’s horribly fascinating, almost hypnotic in its ability to make you read ‘just one more chapter’ as you desperately seek to uncover the truth.

The story is told by three unlikely characters.  A man who is very detached from everyday life, who lives by himself and is socially awkward.  Ted finds himself the centre of unwanted and unpleasant attention following the disappearance of a young girl from the local lake.  Dee is also a character who struggles to fit in.  Following the disappearance of her younger sister whilst on holiday she has lost everything she holds dear.  Her entire life is consumed by the desperate need to know what happened to her little sister and maybe ideas of revenge.  Olivia is a cat.  Rescued as a kitten she never sees the outside world and spends a lot of time in her ‘safe space’, she also gives readers an alternative view of events as they unfold – even if that view is a little unconventional.

Okay, I’m trying not to give away spoilers and so I’m not going to touch on the plot at all.  As the description says, ‘a serial killer, a stolen child, revenge, death and an ordinary house.  All of these things are true and yet at the same time all of these things are not true.  When is a door not a door?

So, I loved the writing here.  I think it’s safe to say that you might experience a little ‘what the heck’ moment when you first begin on this journey but all I can say is press on.  I would also say that you need to pay close attention to what you’re reading, which I admit is sometimes difficult because some of the content is so mercilessly intriguing that it encourages you to read on at breakneck speed.  Don’t do it.  Take your time and absorb the detail, there are clues here not to mention a certain unreliability in narration about what’s going on together with an overlapping of certain events that gives everything a skewed perspective at times.

This is quite possibly going to be one of the shortest reviews ever considering how much this book affected me but I really don’t want to give away spoilers.  Instead, I’ll discuss my feelings whilst reading this which jumped around like crazy.  I was intrigued,  I was angry, I was desperate for answers, I was shocked, literally ‘mouth opened in a perfect ‘o’ type of shocked that doesn’t often happen and I was horrified.  In fact for me this is a perfect example of sleight of hand.  Ward led me down the dusty path in a masterful display of ‘these aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ and maintained her mind control completely until she was ready to give me the final punch to the gut.  I didn’t see any of it coming.  I pictured exactly what the author wanted from the beginning.  My mind was made up, the doors were closed, and then the doors were blown open in shocking fashion.  Masterfully done.  I applaud you.

I don’t know what else to say.  This was a gripping read.  It was utterly fascinating for me and I take my hat off to Ward for managing to hold all this together so masterfully.

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

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : Sidewinders, (The Fire Sacraments #2) By Robert VS Redick

Every Wednesday I take part in Can’t Wait Wednesday, I’m also hoping to take part in a new meme being hosted by Elza Reads called Wondrous Words Wednesday.  I’ll be combining these into the same posts as they’re both short and sweet.

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 :Sidewinders, (The Fire Sacraments #2) By Robert VS Redick.

SidewindersTwo brothers flee an army of fanatics across a vast and magical desert in this white-knuckle sequel to Master Assassins from Robert V.S. Redick, author of The Red Wolf Conspiracy.

The worst of rivals, the closest of friends, the two most wanted men in a war-torn world: Kandri and Mektu Hinjuman have cheated death so often it’s begun to feel like a way of life. But nothing has prepared them for the danger and enchantment of the Ravenous Lands. This sprawling, lethal desert is the brothers’ last hope, for they have killed the favorite son of Her Radiance the Prophet, and her death-priests and magical servants are hunting them day and night.

But there are dangers even within their caravan. Some of their fellow travelers worship the Prophet in secret. Others, including Mektu, have become obsessed with a bejeweled dagger that seems to afflict its owners with madness or death.

At stake is far more than the lives of two runaway soldiers. Kandri is carrying an encoded cure for the World Plague, a disease that has raged for centuries—while far from the desert, certain criminals have learned just how lucrative a plague can be. Are they using the Prophet, or being used by her? Who, in this game of shadows, can Kandri trust?

He knows one thing, however: they must reach Kasralys, great and beautiful fortress-city of the east. Only there can the precious cure be deciphered. Only there can Kandri seek word of the lover who vanished one night without a trace.

But Kasralys, never conquered in 3,000 years, is about to face its greatest siege in history.

Expected Publication July 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

My word this week is :

OPHIDIOPHOBIA

Ophidiophobia is a particular type of specific phobia, the abnormal fear of snakes. It is sometimes called by a more general term, herpetophobia, fear of reptiles. The word comes from the Greek words “ophis” (ὄφις), snake, and “phobia” (φοβία) meaning fear.

About a third of adult humans are ophidiophobic, making this the most common reported phobia.

Are you afraid of snakes or are you an Arachnophobe?

Anyway, this is the book that inspired the thought process:

TheLastHOuse

Top Ten Tuesday : Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

ttt

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

Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

I love this kind of post.  It gathers my thoughts and helps me to visualise what’s on my plate.  I already posted about my reads for March so I won’t include those so the list below includes books for April and the start of May:

The Drowned City by KJ Maitland

Drowned City

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Mirrorland

With the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is a thrilling work of psychological suspense about twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.

Such Pretty Things by Lisa Heathfield

suchprettythings

A terrifying story of ghosts and grief, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackon’s The Haunting of Hill House and Henry James The Turn of the Screw, in award-winning author Lisa Heathfield s first adult novel.

Clara and her younger brother Stephen are taken by their father to stay with their aunt and uncle in a remote house in the hills as their mother recovers from an accident. At first, they see it as a summer to explore. There’s the train set in the basement, the walled garden with its secret graves and beyond it all the silent loch, steady and waiting.

Auntie has wanted them for so long – real children with hair to brush and arms to slip into the clothes made just for them. All those hours washing, polishing, preparing beds and pickling fruit and now Clara and Stephen are here, like a miracle, on her doorstep.

But the reality of two children their noise, their mess, their casual cruelties begins to overwhelm Auntie. The children begin to uncover things Auntie had thought left buried, and Clara can feel her brother slipping away from her. This hastily created new family finds itself falling apart, with terrifying consequences for them all.

Such Pretty Things is a deeply chilling and haunting story about the slow shattering nature of grief, displacement, jealousy and an overwhelming desire to love and be loved.

The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rosser

TheLight

An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles – and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent – whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars.

When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice – and change the future of their family forever.

For more from Rena Rossner, check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

theendofmen

Set in a world where a virus stalks our male population, The End of Men is an electrifying and unforgettable debut from a remarkable new talent that asks: what would our world truly look like without men?

Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.

The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.

What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.

In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird creates an unforgettable tale of loss, resilience and hope

Hyde by Craig Russell

Hyde

Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.

When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.

He must find the killer, or lose his mind.

A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne

A mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Perfect for fans of CIRCE, A SONG OF ACHILLES, and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS.

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

Shadow

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

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

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

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

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

The lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

TheLights

In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerová– a widow with secrets of her own.

When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travellers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.

After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavice that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

kingdoms

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

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

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

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last week

So, I’ve had a busy week, but not in terms of blogging and reading.  I’ve been out in the garden trying to encourage my plants back into life!  Some of them didn’t enjoy the winter very much.  Anyway, apologies because I’ve been very much out of action in terms of blog hopping but will be catching up in the next couple of days.  I’ve also only read one book this week – that being said, what a book!  Wow.  The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward is, well, it takes a little getting used to but then it gets its claws into you and you can’t resist.  Told with three povs – all of them a little unreliable, this took me down a path I didn’t envisage and defied my expectations.  In other news, I’ve started my latest buddy read with Mayri over at the Bookforager.  This month we’re reading A Darker Shade of Magic – another backlist book that I’m happy to finally pick up.

Next Week

Last week was a bit slow in reading terms so I still have The Unbroken by CL Clark which I’m very much looking forward to.  I did step off track a little and started reading The Ladies of The Secret Service which has me hooked already, about a third into this one and really enjoying it.  I also have the final instalment of The Rampart Trilogy in my sights – The FAll of Koli by MR Carey.

I’m also hoping to make a start on my next SPFBO book that I just posted about here.

BlackStoneHeart

(These plans may be slightly ambitious given I only completed one book last week – still can’t blame a girl for having big ideas)

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. All The Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Children by Bjorn Larssen
  2. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  3. The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

What’ve you been up to the past week

#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #6

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  Stage 1 is now complete and the finalists can be found here .

During Stage 2 I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  As with previous years I have given each of the 9 books a number and randomly selected a reading order.  Today’s post is to highlight the fifth book I will be reading and provide information regarding that particular finalist.  The first finalist I read was Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.  This was a great start to the finals and my review can be found here.  My second book was The Fall of Erlon by Robert H Fleming which I posted my review here.  My third book was Shaun Paul Steven’s Nether Light, my review for which can be found here. My fourth book was a Norse myth inspired story called Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin and my review is here.. My fifth book was A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree and here is my review.  I now have only four books remaining 

My sixth finalist will be : Blackstone Heart (The Obsidian Path #1) by Michael R Fletcher.  This is the finalist put forward by the Queen’s Book Asylum, the review can be found here, and the description is below:

BlackStoneHeart

A broken man, Khraen awakens alone and lost. His stone heart has been shattered, littered across the world. With each piece, he regains some small shard of the man he once was.

He follows the trail, fragment by fragment, remembering his terrible past.

There was a woman.

There was a sword.

There was an end to sorrow.

Khraen walks the obsidian path.

MRFAuthor:

Michael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author, a grilled cheese aficionado, and a whiskey-swilling reprobate. He spends his days choreographing his forklift musical (titled “Get Forked”), and using caffeine as a substitute for sanity. Any suggestions that he is actually Dyrk Ashton in disguise are all lies.

Blog (kinda): http://michaelrfletcher.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelRFlet…

Twitter: @FletcherMR

Instagram: fletcher_michael_r

 

 

Friday Face Off : Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

FFO

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

Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

I don’t really read MG these days but surprisingly I had a number of books to choose from.  This week I’ve gone for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  There are so many covers for this.  I’ve gone for a small selection:

So, lots of covers, apologies if your favourite isn’t here.  My choice this week comes down to these two:

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

2021

March

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

26th – A picture within a picture

April

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

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

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

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

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

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : Mastermind: The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Posted On 10 March 2021

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 11 responses

Every Wednesday I take part in Can’t Wait Wednesday, I’m also hoping to take part in a new meme being hosted by Elza Reads called Wondrous Words Wednesday.  I’ll be combining these into the same posts as they’re both short and sweet.

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is :The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig.

Thebook ofA family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers

Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.

Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.

Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.

And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.

This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another

Expected Publication July 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

My word this week is :

ANATHEMA

Anathema, in common usage, is something that or someone who is detested or shunned. In its other main usage, it is a formal excommunication.[1][2][3] The latter meaning, its ecclesiastical sense, is based on New Testament usage. In the Old Testament, anathema was a creature or object set apart for sacrificial offering and thus removed from ordinary use and destined instead for destruction.[4]

This is one of those words that I always mistake somehow and always have to look it up.  I have a mental block on the meaning for this one so kind of hoping that by highlighting it today the definition might actually ‘stick’ in my tiny little brain.

Anyway, this is the book that inspired the thought process:

AlltheMurmuring

All The Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A dark fairytale, beautifully written

AlltheMurmuringBefore I really get into this review I would say this one thing : keep your expectations in control before you pick this one up. As mentioned above, this is a dark fairytale, a world where creatures exist and bargains can be struck.  It’s beautifully written and maybe even a little purple in places which I realise won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  As it happens, I enjoyed the writing very much, I loved the fairytale elements and I was interested in the O’Malleys and their dire family history.  However, fast paced this isn’t, It can be a little predictable in places although then by way of contrast can be equally surprising in others, and if you’re expecting a story that takes you into the realm of the merfolk then you might want to adjust your expectations. Merfolk exist here, and we catch glimpses of them, particularly as they have a keen interest in the main character, but they’re more an aside or driver of plot than a central focus.

I won’t overly dwell on the plot.  The story revolves around Miren and her struggles to break free of others expectations.  The O’Malley’s have long held wealth and power, it is believed that long ago they struck a deal which helped them to succeed where others could not.  Their seafaring exploits remained untouched by stormy waters and their coffers overflowed.  The family prospered.  But, all was not as blissful as it seemed on the surface as these concessions must ultimately be paid for.  Eventually, one of the O’Malley’s was going to rebel at the price to be paid and slowly but surely their success would gradually drain away.

Miren is the last in line of the ‘O’Malleys and her grandmother has big plans for her to restore their fortunes.  Whether or not these plans are agreeable to Miren is of no consequence whatsoever – except of course, Miren doesn’t like the plans and doesn’t intend to be the sacrificial lamb.

What I really enjoyed here.  The darkness.  This is not a Disney fairytale by any stroke of the imagination.  The O’Malley’s are a cruel family mostly.  The deal they struck has definitely not brought out the best in them. Arrogant, selfish, cold and calculating this is a family where ‘every man and woman for themselves’ could conceivably be their motto.  Miren herself can come across as single minded and quite ruthless when the need arises and I admit that it can take a little while to warm to her and yet I did get on board with her plan to escape.

I think the author has written a story that is incredibly evocative.  This is a world of vivid storms and unexplained things, kelpies, merfolk and witchcraft to name but a few.  There are ghosts and poppets, wise women and intent and, in the way of all fairytales an eventual resolution of sorts.

We find ourselves with not one, but two gothic style mansions.  One on the edge of the sea with secret caves, forgotten gardens and a crumbling interior.  The other secreted behind a thick hedge that hides a sleepy little village within its borders and a dark secret in it’s cellar.  I enjoyed both settings although I was a little thrown at first when we seemed to go from the frying pan into the fire. But I won’t say more about that at this point.

In terms of characters. Miren is really the main focus.  Obviously there are peripheral characters but Miren really does take centre stage.  Is this a character that you will love?  She is undoubtedly painted in various shades of grey and she takes some surprising action on occasion.  Be warned, if you’re expecting a tale of women helping each other out you won’t necessarily find it here.  Miren has to fend for herself, although she does make a few friendships here and there, and a good portion of the other characters are very much self serving individuals – and that includes both male and female.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt that this got off to a really good start and I was immediately intrigued by the O’Malleys and their history.  The house is a place of secrets and lies and murmuring skeletons in closets.  At this point the tale does move very quickly.  I would say that the pace slows a little in the middle whilst Miren seems to enjoy a brief respite from family pressure and then the pace picks up again towards the end.  I would also reinforce that a lot of the characters here are not pleasant but for me, this reinforces the fairytale feel of it all.

Overall I enjoyed this.  I loved the inclusion of all the short stories that helped to reinforce the sense of ‘fairytale’, the writing was lovely and it was wonderfully dark.

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

New Endeavour: Around the Discworld (in 41 months)

Discworld

For some time I’ve wanted to read all the Discworld books in order. I’ve read a few already from the Tiffany Aching series but never quite gathered the momentum to start the series from the beginning and work my way through the lot (in spite of lots of blogger friends recommending their personal favourites).  Then I got talking to a fellow blogger, Louise over at Lou’s Book Stuff (be sure to check out her lovely blog) and, likewise, she also wants to work her way around the Discworld.  So, we came up with a plan to nudge ourselves in the right direction and also to encourage each other to go adventuring and so ‘Around the Discworld in 41 Months’ was born.  As titles go, it’s a little bit of a mouthful but at the same time it feels oddly ‘Pratchett-appropriate’.

Unlike Phileas Fogg we’re not attempting to travel the Discworld at breakneck speed, instead, like the turtle above, this is going to be a very chilled, none-challenge like endeavour.  I find over ambitious plans usually take the route of failure on my part, and sometimes life has other plans for us, so we’re only intending to read one book a month and yes that does mean it’s going to be a rather long trip.  So, we’ve packed our trunks and worked out a travel plan.

Starting on the 1st April we’re going to pick up one book a month until the series is complete.  The aim is to review each book towards the end of the month and compare our thoughts.  Very simple, no stress.  We’re planning on reading the series in chronological order rather than by theme because we want to discover the world in the same way Pratchett wrote it.  If, like us, this is a journey you’ve always fancied making but kept putting off, and you want to join in, then all are most welcome.

The first book in the series is The Colour of Magic and here’s the description  together with one of the many available covers:

Colour3Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell like our own, but which looks completely different. Particularly as it’s carried through space on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown).

If you’re new to the Discworld don’t worry, you’re not alone . . . Twoflower is the Discworld’s first tourist, he’s exceptionally naive and about to get himself into an array of dangerous and fantastical situations on his travels.

And if that didn’t sound fateful enough, it’s the spectacularly inept wizard, Rincewind who is charged with safely chaperoning Twoflower and his Luggage (a walking suitcase that has half a mind of its own and a homicidal attitude to anything threatening) during his visit.

Safe to say chaos ensues…

The Discworld novels can be read in any order but The Colour of Magic is the first Discworld book. It is also the starting point in the Wizards collection, followed by The Light Fantastic.

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

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

Last week

Not a lot to report this week.  The Dude is completely well and happy.  The decorating finished and the house put back into some sort of order.  We also had a couple of nice days which encouraged a flush of gardening. In bookish news.  I’ve read three books this week.  A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree which was my fifth SPFBO book, this reads like historical fiction with very subtle fantasy elements, the writing is very good and the author does a great job of bringing the world to life.  I also read the second in the Others series – Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop.  This was an enjoyable read and I will definitely continue with the series.  My third book was All the Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter.  My review will follow shortly.  I enjoyed this.  A family with a long history of secrets, gothic setting and merfolk waiting for their due.

Next Week

This week I’m hoping to read a couple more books from my March ARCs – hopefully The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward and The Unbroken by CL Clark. I’ll also be continuing with the Black Song which I am enjoying even if it’s taking me a little while – probably because I keep putting it down and don’t give myself enough time to form a solid attachment.

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

  1. Witherward (Witherward #1) by Hannah Matthewson
  2. We Lie with Death (The Reborn Empire #2) by Devin Madson
  3. A Wind from the Wilderness (Watchers of Outremer #1) by Suzannah Rowntree

Forthcoming Reviews:

  1. Children by Bjorn Larssen
  2. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  3. All the Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter

What’ve you been up to the past week

#SPFBO Review (5): A Wind from the Wilderness (Watchers of Outremer #1) by Suzannah Rowntree

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

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

WindFrom

A Wind from the Wilderness is the finalist put forward by the Fantasy Hive and their review can be found here.

I have very mixed feelings for this book which can be loosely summed up as : incredible respect for the historical depiction of a fascinating period, a love of the author’s prose, an almost wonderfully unsettling feeling of quite literally being swept into a period so thoroughly that it sometimes felt like I was witnessing the scenes in person, standing bewildered as battles took place around me and yet, even with all that incredible imagery and impressive attention to the period, I was unable to really connect with the central character and I had a frustrating feeling, even after finishing, that I was missing something fundamental.  So, mixed feelings.

AWftW reads like historical fiction with very light fantasy elements – which although a little on the skimpy side did feel pertinent to the period.  There’s almost a biblical feel to the whole thing that makes me think of brooding skies and smiting!  However, I cannot deny that the start of the book gave me expectations that there would be more sorcery involved when one of our main characters is thrown forward in time.  As it is, the fantasy elements are indeed subtle.  There’s a feeling throughout of events being slightly manipulated by a dark presence that haunts the crusades, one of the characters is driven by prophecy and the final chapters give a promise of darker things yet to come.

Lukas Bessarion is the main character and the one who finds himself thrown forward in time almost 400 years.  For the most part Lukas is trying to return to his family and mindful of that need finds himself marching towards Jerusalem with the allied forces.  He becomes attached to a young woman known as Ayla who is also on her own particular quest.  Ayla seeks revenge for the death of her father.  The two form an unlikely attraction, both keeping secrets that would make them natural enemies.  The third character is Raymond St Gilles, a knight of the crusades whose inclusion gives us a means of following the crusade as the allied forces move slowly forward, battling and strategising.

I will admit that I’m not an expert on this period of history, that being said I really don’t think you need to be because the author has clearly researched this particular period very thoroughly and the story comes across as very well grounded.  The infighting, petty jealousies and difficulties in simply moving such a large contingent, from A to B, really come across well.  There are frustrating times where battles feel on the brink of disaster simply because forces that should be working together are pulling in opposite directions due to lack of true commitment to each other and then added to this is this dark element that seems to stalk the battlefields causing misery and despair.  All told I think Rowntree has done a remarkable job of bringing this particular period to life and giving a fictional account of events that feels like a plausible account

The plot is perhaps something that I felt a little puzzled about.  Lukas is the clear focus for the story and we know that he has a strategy to move forward towards Jerusalem.  This part of the story felt a little loose for me, I didn’t really have a real grip on how Lukas expected to make changes or find a way back to his family – any more than he did to be honest, which is probably why it felt perplexing.  Even as the story ended I’m not sure how Lukas’s story will ever come to a conclusion, I expect that might be part of the bigger plan for the series but even with that in mind I felt like I was missing something somehow.

As I mentioned the writing is really good. The author does a fantastic job of creating a sense of place and time and really bringing events to life – but, I felt like the pacing was slow and I think that links into the slightly floundering feeling that I mentioned above in respect to the plot.  In fairness, the start was intriguing and I really enjoyed meeting Ayla.  She’s a character that stole the show a little for me in fact I found myself looking forward to the chapters in which she appeared.  It’s difficult to put my finger on what slowed this down for me, again I think it boils down to puzzlement about where things were headed which left me at certain points feeling like this was more a historical recounting than anything else.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I mentioned that this feels more like historical fiction with a loose scattering of fantasy.  To be honest that wasn’t particular an issue for me as I like this type of read and I thought the fantasy elements fit well with the story told here.  I think my main problem is that I didn’t really connect with the characters. I didn’t really buy into the romance and think I would have preferred this to remain a friendship, and the ending was very bitter sweet – which is a little ironic as the author makes quite clear early on about the direction that one of the characters is going in – so really it shouldn’t be unexpected – and yet I did find myself unpleasantly surprised.  I also had issues with the pacing at stages which left me conflicted because I was enjoying the way the author told the story but at the same time was finding certain chapters very slow to get through.

Overall, my feelings remain mixed ont this.  On the one hand I’m not sure I’m giving the book all the credit it’s due with this review which feels confused or conflicted at best.  On the other hand, although I loved the way the author writes and think she’s done an incredible job in many respects I still remain very detached in terms of the main character and this gives me a lot of difficulty in terms of scoring this one.

After much internal debate I would rate this as a 7 out of 10.

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

Friday Face Off : Friends, Bloggers, Readers, lend me your eyes

FFO

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

A Roman style cover or a cover with a God or Gods or simply a book about war

So this week I’ve gone for a series.  I read the first book and loved it and would like to complete the series at some point –  I’m  waiting to see if it becomes available electronically which isn’t currently the case (last time I checked at least).  The Shards of Heaven series by Michael Livingston.  Here are the covers:

Well, they’re all quite similar but I think my favourite is:

Shards3

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 – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

2021

March

12th – Middle Grade – choose whatever pleases you

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

26th – A picture within a picture

April

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

9th – Cartoonish or graphic

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

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

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

May

Month of Wyrd and Wonder

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

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

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood

June

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

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

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

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

July

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

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

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

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

August

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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

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

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Even Better Than the First

WeLieWith

Seriously, I had a really good time reading this one, it’s the sort of book that makes me feel happy to be reading fantasy and I am just overawed at the way the author has brought this story on.  Compared to We Ride the Storm, We Lie With Death is much more character focused.  That’s not to say that this is the calm after the Storm but where book 1 was all about the brewing storm and the eventual clashing of swords this is more the contemplation of the aftermath,where swords may not be clashing on the battlefield but the blades are still out and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch these characters as they try to come to terms with the fallout and what it all really means.  

I’m not going to discuss the plot here because I think that would take us down the road of spoilers.  Instead this will be a recap of a few of the characters and their struggles as the story progresses.

Cassandra, Dishiva, Rah, Miko.  We follow four characters in We Lie with Death which is surely enough for everyone to find a favourite.  I can say with absolute certainty that I enjoyed all of them – I’m not saying they were equals so much as making the point that there was no sigh of disappointment when I left a favourite pov to read on from another less liked one.  If I was forced to choose between them I would probably choose Rah because I love his story arc here but then if you asked me tomorrow I might say Cassandra and then again a different answer the following day.

So, Rah.  Levanti warrior.  Keen to protect the traditions of his people.  Refuses to bend the knee to the knew Emperor Gideon and is forced into exile.  What we learn as we follow in his footsteps is that Rah is a little lost.  Does he return home?  A home that was already starting to change? Or does he adapt.  His own storyline takes a most interesting turn that eventually leads him to reconsider things.  He discovers the importance of languages and communication and this leads him to some reevaluation.  

Cassandra is also on a journey of self discovery with some startling revelations.  This is a character where the reader gets two for one, Cassandra usually has another soul on board and her storyline is always entertaining, darkly funny and takes us in the strangest direction.  Seriously, this pov is fascinating, entertaining and pretty much jaw dropping.

Dishiva is a new pov, she appeared in the first book but this time around she has her own chapters.  She protects Gideon and is fiercely loyal.  The edition of this storyline is clearly a means of keeping tabs on what’s taking place in Gideon’s new empire but it is nonetheless a really great addition.  Dishiva’s main dilemma really boils down to protecting Gideon from himself.  

Finally Miko, she feels a little more vulnerable in this book but still remains a strong character.  I was pleasantly surprised at the turn her story takes and I’m very keen to see how this storyline plays out but I can’t really say too much about it without letting the cat out of the bag (for the avoidance of doubt no cats were put into bags during the writing of this review).

I’m going to keep this review fairly short and sweet.  For me, this book surpassed the first.  It’s clever, nuanced, well written, it has great pace and I never had a dull moment.  There are some moments of dark humour that offset the grim reality of events and we also get to travel around this fascinating world that Madson has created.  Without doubt though, the characters steal the show here.  It’s not just that their storylines are full of intrigue and revelations – it’s more the way they’re changing and growing themselves.  There’s a lot of subtle realisations taking place.  Sometimes change is necessary to move forward and meeting in the middle, learning about each other’s differences and adapting is the first step to discovering new possibilities.

I loved it

Finally, I bought the audio copy for this one so that I could part read/part listen and wow – the audio is brilliant.  I highly recommend it and I feel like I’m going to have to await the audio version so that I can read in a similar style for book 3.

Also – I cannot resist – check out these three covers.  They are simply amazing

My rating 5*

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

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