All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains #1) by Amanda Foody and Lynn Herman

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Took its time, but then…

AllofusVillains

All of Us Villains turned into a book that I really enjoyed.  It did take me a little while to become invested but slowly but surely it worked it’s magic.

For me, and yes, I can see where all the Hunger Games comparisons come into play, this is a strange meshing of a few concepts that actually succeeds in standing on it’s own two feet.  Similar to Hunger Games this book contains a tournament to the death, similar to Red Rising the participants form allegiances and teams but, uniquely, rather than the contenders rushing for supplies and weapons they instead fight over magical landmarks and relics.

This is a book set in a world of magic – think low and high magic.  Most people can perform low magic which is pretty basic and non threatening.  High magic, conversely is much sought after and for centuries seven ruling magical families have fought tooth and claw for the privilege of wielding it.  The tournament is a curse, once it starts seven champions will fight to the death, the last person standing will gain the right for their family to wield high magic for the next twenty years.  It’s almost like throwing seven students straight out of Hogwarts into the mix and see how they fare chucking unforgivable curses at each other.

The setting is a remote place called Ilvernath.  For centuries the tournament has remained hidden from the rest of the civilised world, until an anonymous author wrote about the tournament and turned the place into a media circus.  Most people are shocked by the brutality of the contest, although little can be done to divert the course of the curse, and there are certain government agencies who are definitely interested in what takes place in this small village every twenty years.  You may ask why every twenty years – it’s certainly a long time to wield such power after all, I think that aspect is more about logistics, after all you have to wait for each of the seven families to have had sufficient heirs to be able to choose a viable contender.

There are a number or povs to get on board with but I think the authors do a really great job of bringing each character to life with their own personalities and traits.

Central to the plot is Alistair Lowe (whose family wins the tournament two out of every three times).  The Lowes are disliked intensely.  They have created a dark and menacing aura around themselves and raised their champions ruthlessly to think of themselves as the monsters of the story.

Isobel Macaslan was surprisingly named champion for her family over a year before the contest was due to start.  This was an unexpected development that occurred at the same time as the release of the anonymous book leading many to point the accusatory finger in the Macaslan direction.  Isobel, however, has risen to the challenge well,  Beautiful and accomplished in terms of magical ability she uses the media attention to her advantage.

Briony Thorburn used to be best friends with Isobel but the two no longer speak – I don’t suppose entering a tournament to the death engenders such friendly connections (difficult to curse to death your bff after all).

I won’t highlight the other contenders.  Suffice to say that some of them are more favoured than others and these different expectations drive the story here as each strives to even the odds.

In terms of criticisms. I think the story takes a little time to establish itself so be patient.  There is a feeling of depth to the place and the history behind the contest, plus all the vying for position which takes a little while to set in place.  I think I was a bit keen to get to the tournament to be honest but you can’t rush these things.  Also, the title, ‘All of Us Villains’ – for me, I think All of Us Victims might be more appropriate.  I mean, at the end of the day everyone treats the champions as though they’re blood thirsty maniacs but each of them knows they are entering a contest to the death – there is no two ways around it.  Fight, or be killed.  If it was me – I’d be failing all the magical lessons just to ensure I wasn’t champion – imagine growing up knowing that come your late teens you could enter a contest that there is no walking away from.  So, villains or victims?

Anyway, all in all, slowish start notwithstanding, I enjoyed this.  It’s a great concept and given the ending I think it has the capacity to develop in very interesting ways and I look forward to reading more.

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

My rating 4 of 5 stars

Friday Face Off : Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with hair blowing out in a fetching way

FFO

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

So, firstly, I have a new list for next year – I’ve added the themes in below. For information, I’m trying out some new ideas so along with coming up with particular items for book covers I thought we could also look for certain elements contained within the book or that play a large part in the story – this really broadens things out because I have plenty of more ideas with this – I’ve gone for a few of the Tough Travel Themes (so a book with that theme – just choose any book – the theme isn’t necessarily on the cover, then compare covers), also, I’ve thrown in some genres and some colours.  Hopefully this will open things out a little and give us some more freedom to come up with new books.

Secondly, I meant to post this list earlier but I’ve been busy looking after a friend’s dog this week so that took up quite a bit of my free time, especially as he’s quite elderly and I didn’t want to leave him alone.  Such an affectionate little dog though. Consequently I am a week behind with comments, etc, but should now be able to get back on track.

This week’s theme:

Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with hair blowing out in a fetching way

This week I’ve gone for the first book in a series that I’m loving.  I think I’ve tried to use this cover before but there maybe weren’t the same choice of covers that are now available.  My book today is Trail of Lightning (the Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse.  Check out the covers:

Do you have a favourite

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

2021

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

2022

Jan – Vintage Sci-Fi
7th Simply the Best – A top 10 read of 2021
14th As pure as the driven snow – a cover that is white
21st Like a fine wine – a sci fi book written on or before 1975 –
28th In space nobody can hear you scream – murder mystery in space
Feb The month of romance
4th  brooding and dull like a cloudy sky – a cover that is grey
11th Sealed with a kiss – lips, or the impression left by a kiss
18th Tough Travel Tropes – Hate to Love
25th Made for each other – interpret this any way you please
March
4th Genre – Gadgets and airships – a book that is ’steampunk
11th The most recent book you’ve read that has covers to compare
18th – Somewhere over the rainbow – a very colourful book cover
25th – A book of few words – a one word title
Apr
1st Spring forward – compare the covers for two books you’re excited about
8th – Fresh and Green – a cover that is predominantly green
15th Genre – a book or series that is urban fantasy
22nd – Tough Travel Tropes – unknown magical ability
29th – Long/pointed ears
May the Month of Wyrd and Wonder
6th All about the women – kickass moms, daughters, grans, etc
13th A favourite book to film
20th Sunny and bright  – a cover that is predominantly yellow
27th Books with ‘You’ in the title
Jun
3rd  Under the Sea – anything you like
10th Sparkling like the sea – a cover that is turquoise
17th So pretty – exactly what it says
24th Daddy Dearest – a book with a strong father role
Jul  
1st Genre – epic – any book that fits into the genre
8th Hazy and hot – a cover that is predominantly orange
15th Tough Travel Tropes – Snarky sidekick
22nd Off the TBR
29th Gigantic – monsters, giants, buildings,insects – anything at all
August
5th Tough Travel Tropes – out for summer – school or academic setting
12th Dark/sky/navy  – a cover that is blue
19th Scantily Dressed
26th Tough Travel Tropes – Vacation time – the quest
September RIP
2nd Fallen leaves – covers that are brown
9th Armour/Protection
16th Rage against the machine – anything, cogs, clockwork, AI
23rd Tough Travel Tropes – Coming of Age
30th Genre – horror
October – Horror/Dark
7th Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?
14th Witches vs warlocks
21st Tough Travel Tropes – Good vs evil
28th  Covers that are black
November – Scifi Month
4th Red skies at night – Covers that are red
11th Tough Travel Tropes – The gang
18th Genre – Swords and Sorcery
25th Genre – And they all lived happily ever after – fairy tales retold
December
2nd Tough Travel Tropes – Assassins
9th Tough Travel Tropes – Darklord
16th Genre – Grimdark (most recent/favourite, etc)
23rd Decadent and rich – a cover that is purple
30th Completions – a satisfying conclusion to a book or series

Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins

Posted On 2 December 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 3 responses

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

nanny

Nanny Dearest is a well written and engaging book by an author that I would definitely check out again, however, I didn’t completely love it.

This is a story about a woman in her mid-twenties who bumps into a person from her past that she doesn’t recall.  Sue Keller is a woman in her mid-twenties, lonely and suffering mentally following the death of her remaining parent in a tragic accident. She doesn’t recall the nanny who took care of her when she was a toddler but she’s desperate to hear stories of the time and happy to meet up with Annie to discover more of the mother she lost to illness so long ago.

What immediately becomes apparent is that Sue is desperately looking for someone maternal in her life, someone she can lean on a little. What isn’t immediately apparent is that Annie is equally in need of this connection for her own reasons.

Nanny Dearest is told through two alternating povs, Annies account of events when she first started nannying for the Kellers and current day with Sue first meeting Annie when she’s going through such a bad patch in her life.  I have to say that I do love dual timelines like this and it works particularly well here because all though Sue does sometimes recall certain events, for the most part, it’s Annie that’s giving us an account of what took place way back when – and oddly enough, although I wouldn’t particularly say she’s trustworthy I think she is a reliable narrator here.

For a debut novel I have to say that I’m really impressed with the writing.  Collins can certainly set a scene to perfection and also manages to achieve a steady drip feed of tension as the cracks in this strange relationship begin to show.

So, why did I have mixed feelings.  Well, firstly, this is a slow build of a story – but on this occasion that isn’t in fact a criticism, in fact, to be honest I preferred the first half of the book where there was the expectation of something being revealed later down the line.  The tension and expectation kept me pretty much glued to the page and there was this deliciously easy build up that something was about to happen.  But, yes, I admit that this is a slow burn.  My mixed feelings come more into play regarding the characters.  I mean, I didn’t really like any of them.  Even the periphery characters.  The thing with that is that I think the two central characters are struggling with mental health issues so it feels wrong to say I didn’t like them – but, some of the decisions and actions they made just baffled me.  And, the ending.  What just happened?  There was a feeling that the reveal was working up to something really huge but ultimately it felt a little disappointing for me.

All that being said, I very much think my over active imagination didn’t help with this read.  I think I was expecting a psychological horror where this felt more like a suspense with strong obsessive vibes. As I mentioned I think the writing was really good though and although this particular book didn’t quite work for me I think this author shows great promise.

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

My rating 3 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Girl and the Moon (Book of the Ice #3) by Mark Lawrence

Posted On 1 December 2021

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 3 responses

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 Girl and the Moon (Book of the Ice #3) by Mark Lawrence.  And, here’s why (also two fantastic covers):

The fate of the world hangs from the Moon

The green world overwhelms all of Yaz’s expectations. Everything seems different but some things remain the same: her old enemies are still bent on her destruction.

The Corridor abounds with plenty and unsuspected danger. To stand a chance against the eyeless priest, Eular, and the god-like city-mind, Seus, Yaz will need to learn fast and make new friends.

The Convent of Sweet Mercy, like the Corridor itself, is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz needs the nuns’ help – but first they want to execute her.

The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those labouring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centres on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough.

THE GIRL AND THE MOON is the third and final volume in The Book of Ice trilogy.

Expected publication : April 2022

Top Ten Tuesday : Bookish Reminiscing

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 :

Bookish Memories (Share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!)

So, for this week’s theme I thought I’d do a little recap of my reading journey – in a very compressed form!  Here goes:

1. My earliest memory of a book I owned (well two books actually) were a couple of story books.  One was a traditional book of fairytales, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, etc.  The second book was a book of totally unusual stories that I absolutely loved.  It wasn’t a picture book but there were little sketches every few pages.  I’d never read anything like it and I think that (and the fairytale book) shaped my reading in terms of speculative fiction.  You can’t go wrong with a bit of Grimm (although this isn’t the book from my childhood):

Fairy tales

2. One of my early teachers also had a big influence on my reading.  I was probably aged 8 (or thereabouts).  I wanted to read but didn’t always know what exactly to pick up and she was always giving us suggestions such as the Borrowers, Wizard of Oz and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

3. My Dad’s books made up a lot of my reading, he had lots of collections and I slowly but surely made my way through them.  I was older at this point – early teens perhaps.  So I read a lot of classics during that period.  The Brontes, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, a little Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, etc before finally stumbling on a book that I loved and still love in fact.

4. Lord of the Rings.  Wow, did I have a crush on Aragorn?  Oh yes I did.  Another book crush at the time, and you couldn’t really get further apart in terms of style was Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind.  I devoured that book.

5. By the age of about 19 I was starting to run out of books on my dad’s shelves – well, certainly ones that I was interested in reading.  So I realised my brother had some books.  I don’t think he was a massive reader but he had a bookshelf and so off I went to explore.  Most of his books didn’t really appeal to me although I did return every now and again and read the odd one.  But on my first visit one book really stood out to me.  The Far Pavilions.  The cover appealed so I packed it off into my bag to read on the way to and from work.  I’d been reading it a few days (and loving it) when I overheard a discussion (or argument) between my brother and dad.  Basically my brother was saying he’d bought a book for my dad’s approaching birthday, put it on his shelves and now it was gone. Yeah, the book currently sitting, a little battered in my work bag, crammed in next to the empty wrappers and hairbrush, oh yes, that was the birthday prezzie. Obviously I had to confess – how we laughed.  In fairness, we did actually laugh and it’s a story that stuck with me.

TFP

6. I had a fabulous colleague that I worked with for a number of years called Caroline.  Every time she read a good book she’d bring it in for me to read to see what I felt.  Caroline gave me the Bronze Horseman to read on holiday and I absolutely loved it. In fact I think I’ve probably read all Paullina Simons books as a result (or a lot of them at least)!  Caroline’s sister also got me hooked onto the Outlander (known as Cross Stitch when released in the UK).  That was another holiday read that I devoured on holiday in Cornwall – I actually went in search of a bookstore so I could buy the second in series because I couldn’t wait until I got home to read the next instalment.

7. Two further influences.  My husband – who set up my blog in the first place. Long story short I was keeping a book diary on my laptop and it was deleted by accident so along came ‘Lynnsbooks”.  Secondly, my OH bought me my first kindle.  I wasn’t very impressed at the time and was stubbornly determined to not use it, then I discovered how easily I could have books at my disposal within minutes, I could take hundreds of books on holiday and still have room for clothes in the suitcase.  My kindle was backlit.  I could made notes.  So many things. Well, consider me a convert. I still love actual physical books but the kindle wins out for most my reading these days.

8. Leading on from there was one of the earliest blogs I can recall interacting with which was The Little Red Reviewer.  So many great books and other blogs came my way as a result of that blog not to mention readalongs and taking part in other reading events.  I still take part in the Vintage Sci-fi event that was originally created by the LRR and undoubtedly it took my SFF reading in a whole new direction. To those who recommend great books – I salute you.

9.  Another blogger who influenced me a lot was Wondrous Reads. I met the host of WR in a bookstore and we got talking about books, we had such a lot to say we started meeting and exchanging recommendations regularly.  Those were some very good times.  We live many miles apart now so rarely meet up – especially with all the Covid restrictions over the past couple of years – but we will get together again eventually I’m sure.  In the meantime – I Am Legend – that is all.

IamLegend

I will leave the 10th spot free for you to tell me a story about your reading influences.

The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire #2) by Andrea Stewart

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A solid second in series

BoneShardEmperor

The Bone Shard Emperor is a very strong second instalment in The Drowning Empire series by Andrea Stewart.  This is such a unique concept with excellent world building, strong characters, plenty of twists and great writing.

Before I start this post.  Firstly, this review may contain spoilers for book 1 so if you haven’t started this series yet then keep that in mind before continuing.  Secondly, this is not a series that you can easily jump aboard half way through (imo).  The first book established a lot in terms of the history of the place and the central characters so if you dive straight in here then I think you will missing a lot of context.  Thirdly, I won’t be elaborating on the set up because I covered a lot of that in my review of the Bone Shard Daughter and I don’t want to repeat it here.

Instead, lets focus on events that take place in No.2, look at character arcs and hint at developments.

This instalment once again brings to us a number of povs so plenty here for everyone to enjoy (I think).  The story picks up almost immediately following the Bone Shard Daughter.  Lin is Emperor but her rule is fair from secure.  Rogue constructs roam the islands attacking people and causing chaos and Lin needs to travel around the empire to try and gain support for her rule from the Governors.  Lin and Jovis begin to form an attachment of sorts but this is also hampered by the number of secrets both are keeping. Primarily Lin, having a very personal secret that if it was discovered would have disastrous consequences, plus she’s also struggling to come to terms with all the hidden secrets in the palace and the lack of knowledge she actually has about ruling an empire. Jovis, no longer a smuggler but given control of Lin’s army also keeps secrets which could see him executed were they discovered.  What I really enjoyed about seeing these five different povs is the insight into the other character’s way of thinking.  Of course, sometimes, this can also be frustrating because you can sometimes see how much easier things would be if they simply opened up.   I really enjoyed Phalue and Ranami’s chapters this time around.  It felt like they really grew and in fact I found myself really looking forward to their storyline (much more than in book 1).  Again, I  think that the companion talking critters are undoubtedly show stealers here and I suspect will be absolute favorites.

There are a lot of twists and turns with this one.  Spies, construct armies, the return of the Alanga, the nature of Lin herself, strained relationships, politics between the islands, scheming and some pretty cool reveals.  In fact with this instalment I felt like I came away with a much better understanding of the place and the interactions between all the different factions.  There is, without doubt, a lot to unload but fortunately this episode gives enough time for all the aspects to unfold naturally and with enough attention to prevent confusion.  Also, did I mention sinking islands?

In terms of slight reservations.  There is a little bit of going back and forth in some respects.  Plus a feeling of slight frustration with Jovis with a number of his decisions, but, neither of these caused any issues for me and I found the pages turning with ease.  Also, there are a number of open threads at the conclusion of this one that have me jumping up and down for the next book (no pressure at all!)

Overall I have to say that I am really enjoying this series.  It’s very easy to get along with.  The writing is confident and the world is so wonderfully creative.  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.

Friday Face Off : A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

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 Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

This week I’ve gone for a book that I’ve used before – to be honest this is a tough theme so I hope you all did better than I did (although I confess that sometimes it feels good to revisit a book and give it some more of the spotlight).  The Ring by Kōji Suzuki:

Let’s take a look at the covers:

In other news I’ve come up with a new list for next year, it needs a little switching around and polishing so will publish it this weekend if it’s all complete to allow people to plan ahead. This list is slightly different in that I’ve gone for a lot of book themes, so, still a cover face off but a little bit more flexibility which hopefully will give a new boost to the FFO.  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  – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

2021

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Triple Whammy

Posted On 24 November 2021

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 4 responses

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 I’m very excited to have a triple whammy in that (1) this is a book I’m looking forward to; (2) It’s a cover reveal plus information about the new Angry Robot logo; and (3) this fits in perfectly with Sci-Fi Month.  Bigbadaboom!  Multipass is me.

scifimonth

For more information about sci-fi month check out this link.  I’ve been a little tardy with my reading this month so I’m very excited to be able to provide information about a forthcoming sci-fi book before the event comes to a conclusion.  If you’ve not taken part yet there’s still time 😀

So, to the description for a little bit of information about the book:

Even in a technologically-advanced, Kennedy-Didn’t-Die alternate-history, Brooklyn Lamontagne is going nowhere fast. The year is 1975, thirty years after Robert Oppenheimer invented the Oppenheimer Nuclear Engine, twenty-five years after the first human walked on the moon, and eighteen years after Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives to stop the alien invaders.

Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated…

***

So, this title is due for release in May 2022.   I won’t keep you waiting any longer, (imagine a drum roll about now), here is the cover:

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

Mercury Rising Front New Logo-1

Title: Mercury Rising
Author: R.W.W. Greene
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Cover Designer: David Leehy

Finally, Angry Robots have been doing a little revamping, they’ve come up with a new logo, designed by Kate Cromwell and in fact this cover reveal is part of the celebration for this new branding which includes a revamped website where books can be purchased direct:

Angry Robot Books Full Logo

For more information check out angry.robot.com

Top Ten Tuesday : Characters I’d Love An Update On

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 :

Characters I’d Love An Update On

I would actually really like to know what happened to the nameless woman who was the last survivor of a pandemic in Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift.  This was a fairly recent read that I picked up this year and although I had reservations prior to picking up (having been living through a time of Covid and lockdown and this being about an even worse pandemic) I can say I was very easily turned around.  So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence with this one, because it perhaps feels to close to home, the main pov is a very easy to like character with a wonderful story telling voice.

Lastone

Pounce and Ezra from Day Zero by C Robert Cargill.  I loved this book, a prequel to Sea of Rust (which I also loved).  It’s probably a little strange to say that I’d like to know more about these two characters because having already read Sea of Rust I pretty much know what’s in store – however, with my ‘glass half full’ hopefulness I’d like to think we could find out more about what happens to these two.  Perhaps there’s something more yet in store for this world, I’d like to think that the author still has a couple of surprises for us because these two books so far have been wonderful.  As scary as AIs are often portrayed in fiction I seriously want me a plush and loyal tiger AI.

Day Zero

Omat and Brandr from The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky.  Ahh, how I loved this book.  The characters, the setting, the story itself.  Perfection to be honest – in fact here is the concluding paragraph from my review ‘This is a fascinating, superbly written, captivating, emotional rollercoaster of a book.  I loved it and want more.  I’m going to say that this was a perfect read and that I had a wonderful time with it.’  I do want more – this was written as a standalone (I think) and so the ending was complete but I can’t help longing to go back and see what adventures these two take part in next.

The wolf

Vianne from The Strawberry Thief (Chocolat #4) by Joanne Harris.  I just adore this author and the Chocolat books are so special.  The Strawberry Thief was a beautifully written tale and I would love to think something more is forthcoming from this world and this family.

ST

Elisabeth and Nathaniel from Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson.  This is a book that left me on a high note – and, the ending definitely made me think (that although this is a standalone) there is definitely the possibility to return.  I don’t want to say more because of the potential to give away spoilers.

SoT

Dr Greta Helsing – three books in a series with the same name by Vivian Shaw. I loved this series and although I appreciate it when an author has a plan and sticks to it leaving the world before everyone becomes a little jaded I must admit that I still think there’s plenty more that could be explored here and I would definitely pick up more instalments if the author ever has thoughts to revisit.

Helga Finnsdottir who appeared in Kin and Council by Snorri Kristjansson.  I really enjoyed both these books.  Murder mysteries set in a time of vikings.  Long before detectives were ever thought of Helga is simply a young woman who pays attention and observes what goes on around her. I hope for more from this resourceful woman and this dark world.

Kin

The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp. This is a book that was such a lot of fun.  Monstrous vampires and over the top adventure with the most flamboyant character named Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang.  I would love for Ben Tripp to write more with this world and these characters.

FifthHouse

Scarlett and Rhett from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – okay, this one is definitely the odd one out in this little bunch.  But, I couldn’t resist.  Now, I’m pretty certain that there has been a sequel written for this (probably more than one), however, what I would have loved was to know how Margaret Mitchell would have finished this tale.

That’s it – eight books in my list this week, two free spots.  Any suggestions?

#SPFBO – Not a Review : Finalist Reading Schedule, Book #1

SPFBO71024_1

Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is now complete and Stage 2 has now commenced.

During Stage 2 The Critiquing Chemist and I will read, review and score the remaining 9 finalists as will the other judges until a winner is revealed.  We have randomly selected our reading order and have already started reading.  These ‘Not a Review’ posts are my way of shining the spotlight on each of the Finalists as they become our next read.  Today, I’m posting details of our first finalist: The Mortal Blade (Magelands Eternal Siege #1) by Christopher Mitchell.  The Mortal Blade is the Booknest’s Finalist and below is a little more information about the book:

Mortalblade

A city ruled by Gods, a mortal champion, a misfit girl and a disobedient dragon…

Stolen from his home, Corthie Holdfast has arrived in the City of the Eternal Siege as a new Champion.

He must fight alongside the Blades, whose lives are dedicated to the defence of the City against the hordes of monstrous Greenhides; or die at the hands of the Gods who rule.

Maddie Jackdaw, a young Blade, faces her last chance. Thrown out of every unit defending the City, either she takes on a new role, or she will be sent to the Rats, a company of misfits given the perilous tasks beyond the Great Walls.

Her new role, if she takes it, will bring her face to face with her deepest fears, for beneath the walls, in a secret and hidden lair, lies a dragon, imprisoned and waiting…

CMAuthor Information

I love deserts, which is too bad as I live in Scotland, but the mountains, glens and lochs more than make up for it. My other love is Greek Tragedy, especially Euripides, and I also read history, science, fantasy, and pretty much anything about the Beatles…

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Friday Face Off : Futuristic Vista

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:

Futuristic Vista

This week I’ve gone for a book that I read a few years ago.  Artemis by Andy Weir (I’m not sure if I’ve used this title before – I don’t think so)  Here are the covers:

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 Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground

2021

November – Sci Fi Month

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

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente 

Comfortme

What can I say.  I’m literally a little (okay a lot) puzzled about how to start or form this review in fact I’ve been sitting looking at a blank screen for some time just figuring out what to write.  The long and the short of it is that I loved this.  It’s actually rather brilliant and the only reason I’m really perplexed as to what to put in this review is that I don’t want to give away spoilers. This is a strange tale that is strangely compelling.  I had no idea what to expect and yet it managed to defy any expectations that my subconscious had secretly formed and it’s the sort of book that makes you want to read it again, and probably again after that, I mean a fourth read would probably help to pick up those few pesky clues you missed in your haste to reach the end.

Firstly, I think that any book that makes me go away and try to discover more about whatever the heck is going on within its pages is a winner for me. I like books that make me think and this is definitely one of those books.  Don’t get me wrong, the only reason I go away to look for answers is I’m ridiculously curious and I like to check out the origins and meanings of certain things – this is a personal thing – and happily there were a number of things here that I had to go away and look up. Colour me happy.

Secondly, for such a short book (which, conversely, is not usually my thing) this packs one heck of a punch.  I mean, it really made me sit up and pay attention.

Thirdly, I love this author’s writing.  She has been blessed by the God of Books with the power of words.  I swear she must have her very own muse. Everything in this book is meaningful.  There is literally nothing wasted amongst these pages and yet you could read this story completely differently from the next person who picks it up. The beauty is that, on the face of it, it’s simply a mystery (with a little pinch of horror thrown in for good measure) – and you could read it as such and go away very happy – because that ending!  There are hints of The Stepford Wives, I was thinking Bluebeard – surprisingly just about everything but the true origins of this one sprung into my tiny brain at one point or another.  There are delicious flavours of fairytale and something sinister that constantly nibbles away at the back of your mind firing you up into a hot mess and making you devour the pages in one sitting.

The real stunner about this book is it certainly isn’t a new or unfamiliar story and yet it had me guessing throughout, leading me down rabbit holes, casting out lines and reeling in red herrings.  I was absolutely intrigued – to the max.

Anyway, I’m going to end this review here. I don’t want to talk about the plot, the characters or the setting.  You can discover all these for yourselves.  I suppose this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is a little unusual but to be honest, given the length, give it a try and see if it grabs you – I think it will.  At the very least it will give you food for thought.  The other thing I would say is pay attention to everything,  I mentioned below that Valente is a wordsmith and that is evidenced here by the bucket load – everything here is relevant so don’t skip anything.  All will eventually be revealed.

Apologies that this is such a tease but I think it’s for the best.

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

My rating 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Stringers by Chris Panatier

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 : Stringers by Chris Panatier.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting Chris Panatier’s next book since reading and loving The Phlebotomist.  I’m so excited for this, here’s why:

Stringers

Ben isn’t exactly a genius, but he has an immense breadth of knowledge. Whether it’s natural science (specifically the intricacies of bug sex), or vintage timepieces, he can spout facts and information with the best of experts. He just can’t explain why he knows any of it. Another thing he knows is the location of the Chime. What it is or why it’s important, he can’t say.

But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble, as a trash-talking, flesh construct bounty hunter is on his tail and looking to sell him to the highest bidder. And being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice won’t be enough to get him out of it.

Expected publication : April 2022

Top Ten Tuesday : If You Love/Loved ‘X” You’ll Love ‘X’

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 to Read If You Love/Loved X 

This week I’ve come up with a list of books all from this year’s reading and these are all books I loved and recommend.  I hesitate to make too many comparisons between authors and books so take these comparisons with a grain of salt – but definitely check them out:

1. Mask of Mirrors – Well, I loved this start to The Rook and Rose series by MA Carrick and for me it had a flavour of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards but a female version.

Mask

2. Shiver bt Allie Reynolds.  If you fancy a locked room mystery set atop a freezing cold mountain with a small group of friends who all seem to have their own secrets then this is for you.  Will perhaps appeal to fans of Lucy Foley.

Shiver

3. The Echo Wife by Sarah Galley – if you like Stepford Wives you might enjoy this strange little story.  Two wives, one dead husband and a lot of unexpected scientific developments that come with their own moral dilemmas.   Described as ‘Big Little Lies meets Black Mirror’

Echo

4. Witherward by Hannah Mathewson – a magical book with not one but two Londons.  Compared with good reason to a Darker Shade of Magic and Six of Crows, I really enjoyed this story and  it is described as ‘perfect for fans of VE Schwab’.

Witherward

5. The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin – futuristic, dystopian world where champions fight in the arena to prevent the need for war.  I think fans of the Hunger Games or Red Rising would enjoy this.  It’s quite unique with excellently described fight scenes and a good master/student vibe.

CC

6. The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman- packed with fantasy elements jostling alongside the occasional dose of horror and full of humour and grimdark(ness).  I really enjoyed this.  I think if you like adult fantasy with a touch of the grim. some colourful cursing and great characters, I’m thinking along the lines Abercrombie/Eames/Remic – then this might work well for you.

Blacktongue

7. Come With Me by Ronald Malfi- psychological thriller/horror, chilling with light supernatural aspects. Think a strange mash of Silence of the Lambs meets Gone Girl.  Definitely a chilling story that is totally addictive.

Comewithme

 

8. The Women of Troy series by Pat Barker- if you enjoy Greek myth and the story of the Trojan War this is a retelling told from the females who survived the sacking of their city.  Highly recommended.

Silenceofthe

9. Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis- Regency rom com a la Austen style with a delicious dollop of dragons, magic and romance – you’re welcome.

Scales and

10. The Hidden by Melanie Golding – a great blend of dark atmosphere, mystery and folklore – I think if you enjoy authors such as Alice Hoffman and Kate Atkinson you will enjoy Melanie Golding.

idden

The Red Monarch (Brontë Sisters Mystery #3) by Bella Ellis

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Yet another winning detectorist novel

Riseofthe

The Red Monarch is the third novel by Bella Ellis and is a story that. again, easily captured my attention.  This time the three sisters, accompanied by their brother, make their way to London to help a friend who finds herself in dire straits.  Lydia Roxby (formerly Robinson) finds herself alone and destitute.  Lydia has been disinherited by her family after eloping with Harry.  The two live in poverty in London and Harry is driven by circumstances to a life of crime. As the story begins Harry is taken by notorious crime lord, Noose, having stolen a valuable jewel.  Lydia has a week to return the missing item or both will suffer the consequences (involving lead boots and a watery grave perhaps).  Anne is the only friend that Lydia can turn to and consequently the family soon find themselves travelling to the Capital to help.

As with the Diabolical Bones I’m not going to elaborate on the plot.  Instead, I will again focus on those elements of the story that worked really well for me.

Firstly, the setting.  This time we are taken away from the wilds of Howarth and the moors that inspired their works. We find ourselves in a London roughly around the year 1846 (the sisters having recently published their poems).  London was a place of extreme contrasts.  Home to royalty, nobles and the upper class with their opulent lifestyles and extreme wealth but on the opposite side of the coin overpopulated by those suffering deprivation and poverty.  This is a city with a seething criminal underbelly. Dirty and unsanitary, people lived in dilapidated slums and were driven to lives of crime.   Ellis uses the period well utilising the infamous slums of the period known as the Rookery.  A seething mess of alleys and a twisted warren of streets where unsuspecting visitors could easily become targets for pickpockets and much worse.  We spend a good portion of time in a theatre where Lydia and her husband lived  in a small apartment.  I just loved this setting. The theatre is an inspired choice, it almost has a world of it’s own contained beneath the stage and seating.  Twisted corridors, rickety staircases leading to the precarious heights of the building and below the bright lights a warren of secret tunnels created for the rich and famous as a way to come and go in secret.  It’s a wonderful contrast between the gilded public side of the building and the worn and dark interior that hides many secrets.

Ellis manages to take the siblings into the very heart of danger as they explore London looking for answers.

Secondly, the characters.  Again, the family are really well portrayed.  The love between them all is apparent even as their differences shine out from the pages.  All the sisters have alternating chapters but Emily in particular enjoys the limelight.  Their characters really stand out, Charlotte’s shy yet bold nature, Emily’s complete desire to follow her own singular route, Anne, just maturing enough to have her own voice and Branwell who comes across even better in this instalment as he enjoys a period free from other influences.  On top of this we make the acquaintance of two very enigmatic members of the theatre who help the family stay safe and guide them through the perils of London.  These two characters really play into the story, particularly the actor Louis who is undoubtedly being portrayed as inspiration for Emily’s future writing.  The Machiavellian underworld has some very seedy characters that come from all walks of life, stooping to despicable acts and taking life without thought or regret.

Again, I loved the writing. Ellis manages to really conjure the period, her pacing is great and after a little set up I found myself glued to the page.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I haven’t elaborated on the plot for good reason.  I would say it’s fairly obvious what is going on here in many respects, but, I don’t really think that’s a negative to be honest – you have to remember the time and the characters themselves.  Reading from a different and much more cynical period it’s much easier to think the worst unlike these genteel and sheltered young women.

Overall, I’m loving this series.  There’s the mysteries, the period, the amazing characters and some small fantastical elements that play into the sensibilities and superstitions of the period.  My only quibble is (knowing the short lives of the Brontës I worry how many more novels we can expect and enjoy (hopefully at least a couple 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

Friday Face Off : A book with ‘star’ in the title

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

A book with ‘star’ in the title

I had a number of books that I could have used this week but I’ve gone with a fairly recent read and an author that is on my favourites list for very good reason.  Only two covers for this one but they’re both good.  This week I’ve gone for the first book from Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ice: The Girl and the Stars:

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 : Futuristic vista

2021

November – Sci Fi Month

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 Quicksilver Court (Rooks and Ruin #2) by Melissa Caruso

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Oh What a Tangled Web

QuicksilverCourt

The Quicksilver Court is the second book in the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso and was another entertaining instalment that managed to balance both light and dark elements at the same time as packing an emotional gut punch.

Before starting this review I would say that this will contain spoilers for book 1 so if you haven’t yet read The Obsidian Tower then you might want to make a hasty departure right about now. This is not a drill people – get out of here!  Also, this is not a series that you can jump in part way through.  Reading the first book is essential in my opinion if you’re to have any chance of understanding the dynamics at play here.

So, The Quicksilver Court picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of book 1 and shoots straight out of the gate with impressive pacing.  The Rookery sets off on a journey to the Loreician court, on the face of it they’re searching for a missing demon (Hunger) who may well be infiltrating the Summer Palace, in reality they’re in search of a missing artifact, basically a weapon of mass destruction, politics being as they are though, this is all wrapped up with court etiquette, scheming and guarded conversation – well at least it’s all sugar coated for a little while, until everything goes swiftly downhill.

To be honest, the winning element of both books in this series so far is the characters (in fact the plot plays second fiddle to the characters imo) and in this particular instalment we’re due to learn a heck of a lot more about all of them.  Be prepared.  Caruso manages to include plenty of food for thought here particularly with the inclusion of demons that are not totally bad and humans that are certainly not totally good.  All the Rookery are back, a number of demons that escaped that I won’t name here, other than Hunger of course who we met in No.1.  Severin once again plays a key role and the relationship that started to develop with Ryx gathers pace in a beautifully measured way.  And, Whisper, the enigmatic more-than-a-cat and Ryx’s grandmother, The Lady of Owls.  To be honest there’s such a lot to like here that it would be difficult to pin down a favourite.  Of course Ryx and Severin stand out and the Lady of Owls steals the show a little every time she makes an appearance.

On top of these already familiar characters we have the Queen and her advisor, I don’t want to say too much at this point but expect the unexpected.   Finally, the Zenith Society who have teamed up with Hunger/Aurelio.  The Zenith Society are already known to the Rookery and in fact this particular thread leads to a number of reveals that shine a new light on this previously happy-go-lucky team.

The setting.  Well, we’ve moved to the Summer Palace – I couldn’t help think of the elaborately decorated Palace of Versailles with it’s ostentatious rooms dripping with gilt work and ornamentation.  The setting couldn’t be more different than the Obsidian Tower.  Where Gloamingard is all about the twisted passages and dark mystery the Summer Palace is a place of extreme beauty (although of course it’s about to play host to some despicable beings undertaking despicable acts). I’m going to confess that the setting is one of the elements of this instalment that gave me slightly mixed feelings.  In one respect the setting was well drawn and easy to envisage and in fact really adds an extra layer of creativity to the events that take place BUT – and this is a slight spoiler, this story is contained, or restricted to the one setting (not so much locked room as locked palace). Okay, this is a Palace with extensive grounds but it started to feel slightly repetitive and perhaps even a little incredible in terms of the good guys escaping notice and avoiding trouble in such an enclosed space.

Slight hesitation aside.  What I also really enjoyed here, apart from the characters, twists and turns and the emotional rollercoaster that followed is the strange mix of dark and light -not just in terms of the characters as outlined above but more the jump from humour to horror and back again.  Ryx is a great character to follow.  She isn’t all kickass, unbeatable ‘here I come to save the day’ so much as flying by the seat of her pants, improvising all the way barely staying alive by the skin of her teeth.  What also makes her really good is the real sense of vulnerability that is on display.  She now has friends, and potentially a romantic love interest and whilst this makes her ridiculously happy (when she’s not simply trying to stay alive)  it also places her in the position of having things that she can now lose.

In terms of criticisms.  Apart from the ‘locked palace’ element. This ends on a cliffhanger.  Personally I don’t mind a good cliffhanger although they do make me very anxious to have the next book in my grabby little hands.

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

My rating 4 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Elektra by Jennifer Saint

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 : Elektra by Jennifer Saint.  I was so excited to see this book due for publication next year – I really enjoyed Ariadne and can’t wait for more. Here’s the description:

ElektraThe House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them, and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

Expected publication : April 2022

The Lighthouse Witches by CJ Cooke

Posted On 9 November 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags:

Comments Dropped 9 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Gothic, atmospheric and cunningly compelling

TLW

I was so happy to be approved for a review copy of The Lighthouse Witches, I’d previously read and enjoyed The Nesting and loved the author’s style, she can certainly create a story with plenty of atmosphere and so when I saw this book, hailed as a ‘chilling gothic thriller’ that takes place on a remote Scottish Island – well, colour me happy.  Slight spoiler for the rest of the review.  I really enjoyed this – it’s one of those books that is set to stealth mode.  It teases you with an intriguing prologue, it then stalks you, hidden from view until finally it pounces and you’re held firm in its grip.

So, following the prologue we are swiftly introduced to mother of three Olivia (known as Liv) and her daughters, Sapphire (Saffy), 15,  Luna 9, and Clover aged 7.  The year is 1998 and Liv has brought her daughters to Lon Haven, to a Lighthouse known as the Longing.  Essentially, Liv is running from something (all will eventually be revealed) and has taken a commission to paint a mural for the lighthouse’s new owner.  The family arrive late on a blustery evening and are introduced to their cosy keeper’s bothy but any romantic notions about the lighthouse are immediately dispelled when they are introduced to the grim interior.  A stark granite cone that covers something sinister from the Island’s past.

The Story is told from a number of POVs.  Primarily, Luna in 2021.  Pregnant, involved in a slightly rocky relationship and still trying to come to terms with the sketchy memories she has of the time spent on the Scottish Isle.  What she does know is that two of her sisters went missing and she was abandoned by her mother so it’s a huge shock when she receives a call to say that her sister Clover has been found – and she doesn’t appear to have aged a day.  We jump back to Liv in 1998 as she begins to get a feel for the Island.  It’s a close knit place rife with superstitions and a turbulent history that culminated in a witch hunt of a number of women who were eventually tried and executed.  Other stories abound – talk of wildlings and missing children run rife and it soon becomes apparent that Lon Haven has experienced more than its fair share of sad events that have undoubtedly led the islanders to harbour some strange beliefs.  The final pov is Sapphire, also from 1998.  Saffy’s pov includes excerpts from an old Grimoire that she found in the bothy and is slowly making her way through.  I won’t elaborate but these excerpts helpt to tie the time jumps together and give a feeling for what took place on the island back in the 1600s that eventually led to the brutal torturing and wrongful executions of a number of women.

The writing is really good.  Again Cooke manages to infuse the pages with a brooding and intriguing story, the atmosphere is like pea soup.  There’s an ever increasing sense of foreboding which is only exacerbated by Luna’s pov.  We know that the storyline from 1998 is slowly building up to something terrible and the suspense is huge.  There’s a great sense of family here, and one that is slightly fraying at the edges.  Liv, struggling to raise her daughters following the death of her partner, Saffy, rebelling against the move away from everything she knows and loves, the sisters being at odds with each other and the ever looming presence of threat that is slowly revealed.  There is a slight move into teenage angst at times where Saffy is concerned and I must admit that sometimes I was astounded by how oblivious Liv seemed to be but then I cut her some slack.  She was struggling so hard to hold everything together and barely coping herself.

This story really does move into the realms of fantasy, more so.than the Nesting  I’m not talking about dungeons and dragons but something much more subtle.  The villages believe almost religiously in the story of wildlings (in my mind I’m thinking of these as changelings – fae that mimic human children, stealing the children away and taking their place in the home).  There’s also the Grimoire and the fascinating story it relates that eventually provides answers to the mystery of Lon Haven.  I won’t spoil the final reveal, this took me in a direction that was completely unforeseen and one that I really enjoyed.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t have very much to be honest.  I did find a few elements, particularly in relation to Clover when she was eventually found and released to her much older sister – a little doubtful – but given the route the story takes I think I was much more willing to give it some leeway.  I think I probably also had questions about the nature of what was taking place here but, to be fair, I think the author’s style of ‘less is more’ was probably more fitting than any attempts to really define what was actually happening.

Overall this was a gripping tale.  I admit that I enjoy stories with alternating timelines.  I also love anything related to the fae which wildlings sound suspiciously akin to and the whole idea of this cursed island where the islanders have bought into their suspicions and fears so strongly, that they go to terrible lengths in order to keep any darkness at bay – coupled with the great gothic setting – well, as I already said, I was very happy to pick this one up and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

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

My rating 4 stars

Friday Face Off : An early science fiction 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 earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

My earlier reads are all pre blogs and therefore no reviews and I think the earliest book I can recall that meets this week’s theme was The Time Machine by HG Wells.  I’m guessing I was probably around 13/14.  This was a time when I was slowly reading through books on my dad’s shelves, usually skulking away in my bedroom.  Here are the covers:

Do you have a favourite?

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

Next Week : A book with ‘star’ in the title

2021

November – Sci Fi Month

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

Mastermind (Theo Cray and Jessica Blackwood #1) by Andrew Mayne

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Ridiculously over the top fun

Mastermind

This isn’t my first Andrew Mayne book and certainly won’t be my last.  I loved his Naturalist series and Professor Theo Cray has to be one of my favourite fictional characters.  With this new start the author brings together two of his favourite characters with the crazy professor teaming up with Jessica Blackwood (Angel Killer being the first book in which she makes an appearance.  A book I definitely want to read).  On top of this crazy combo he also brings into the story an evil mastermind that he has previously written about known as the Warlock.  Let the shenanigans begin.

To be honest I hardly know where to begin with this one.  It is a fun ride for sure and is completely over the top madness.  As the story sets out, well, how can I put this, New York City seems to disappear!  Surprise!!  Yes, I was surprised, fear not, it hasn’t literally disappeared, even though it seems to be little more than a dark hole,  NY has been plunged into darkness with no electricity, no services, no nothing.  FBI Special Agent Blackwood is called to the scene and immediately has her own thoughts on whats taking place here – although she seems to be at odds with those in charge.  Queue a risky rescue and getaway and Professor Cray is brought into the fray and not a moment too soon as the nightmarish attacks seem to be spreading to other cities.

These two are a force to be reckoned with for sure.  With Theo’s remarkable thought processes and Jessica’s street smarts the two make a scarily unpredictable yet effective team and this is just as well as they certainly get into a lot of trouble.

I don’t really want to give the plot away so won’t elaborate.  What I can say is this feels like the start of a very entertaining partnership.  I think there’s an element of trust here, both on the part of Jessica, who has to go with Theo’s outlandish lateral thinking, and on the part of the reader, who may be used to one or other of these characters but not used to the two together.  However, as ever with one of Mayne’s books I practically inhaled this story.  The pacing is just off the scale, there is a constant barrage of fascinating places and scenarios and I literally couldn’t put the book down.

Criticisms.  Well, one of the feelings I had relates not so much to this book as the slightly lacking feeling of completion with the Naturalist series.  Admittedly the author does a great job of rounding up where the professor went next and what he got up to but I still have a slightly bewildering feeling of incompleteness somehow.  The other slight issue is a feeling of rushing to bring both these characters into a relationship together.  I actually didn’t feel it at all.  Maybe it was too quick.  And I can completely understand the desire of the author to go down that route, in fact I think it’s a good plan, it just felt rushed.  The chemistry wasn’t strong enough and it feels like it should have been teased out a little more.

That being said I can’t deny that I am strangely addicted to Mayne’s body of work.  With his imagination I wouldn’t want to get on his wrong side.  This author seems to make everything possible and the way he explores the impossible is just a little jaw dropping.  

I would say for new readers, you don’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy this one. Personally, however, I think it might help to have a feel for both characters before delving into this one – just to gradually get a feel for things.  But, that’s a personal choice as I intend to go back and read the Blackwood series. 

As it is, if you want an over the top, slightly crazy, intelligent, madcap adventure involving two characters that make a rather formidable team as they tackle the slightly OTT Bond style villain and his plans to take over the world – then here you go.

Slight reservations aside I can’t wait for the next book.

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

Rating 4*

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Priest of Crowns (War for the Rose Throne #4) by Peter McLean

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Priest of Crowns (War for the Rose Throne #4) by Peter McLean.  I am loving this series and can’t wait for this.  Here’s the cover and description:

Priestofcrowns

‘Praise be to Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows, and blessed be the Ascended Martyr.’ Those were the words on lips of the faithful: Blessed be the Ascended Martyr, and woe betide you if you thought otherwise. The word Unbeliever had become a death sentence on the streets in those days.

Gangster, soldier, priest. Governor, knight, and above all, Queen’s Man.

Once, Tomas Piety looked after his men, body and soul, as best he could. Then those who ran his country decided his dark talents would better serve in the corridors of power.

Crushed by the power of the Queen’s Men and with the Skanian menace rising once more on the streets of Ellinburg, Tomas Piety is forced to turn to old friends, old debts and untrustworthy alliances.

Meanwhile in the capital city of Dannsburg, Dieter Vogel is beginning to wonder if the horror he has unleashed in the Martyr’s Disciples might be getting out of control.

With revolution brewing and tragedy and terrorism running rife in the cities, Piety and Vogel must each weigh the cost of a crown.

Expected publication : April 2022

The Hidden by Melanie Golding

Posted On 2 November 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 12 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Even better than the first

The Hidden

So, Little Darlings was (I think) Melanie Golding’s debut and it absolutely caught my imagination with it’s compelling and strange blend of mystery and dark magical realism.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, the writing was excellent, the story was tense and creepy, and Golding excels at relationships and mental anguish.  As you might imagine when I saw that Golding’s next novel took inspiration from selkie mythology to say I was bouncing up and down with excitement is something of an understatement.  I had a serious case of ‘grabby hands’ for this book and I can start this review by saying not only did this exceed my expectations but it also wowed me even more than the first.  I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next.

The Hidden is a wonderful collection of threads that come together in quite possibly the most satisfying way I’ve read for a while.  We begin the story with a little girl lost, or abandoned, in a small seaside village.  We have a man found in his flat, suspected dead.  Meanwhile, we read of a woman who seems to abandon life by running out into the sea and yet another woman who races against time to an unknown destination.  Now, all these events take place fairly early on in the story but at this point I don’t want to give anything more of the plot away.  Instead, I will talk about the characters, the writing and the overall feel of the book.

Funnily enough we have a character making a return appearance in this book.  DS Joanna Harper is looking into the investigation involving the man left for dead in the bath of his flat.  I would point out for readers that you don’t need to read the first book in order to read this one – although I did like the character and was very happy to read more about her (and I would certainly encourage you to pick up Little Darlings).  The man in the bath is called Gregor who appears to be a serious young businessman who keeps himself to himself, however, DS Harper’s investigation soon begins to uncover things that indicate that Gregor did not live alone but had a wife and daughter, both now missing.  Finally, we have a young woman, estranged from her family, lonely and isolated and desperate for friendship.  (I can’t help wondering whether Joanna will make further appearances. in a series of thrillers that take inspiration from the supernatural – please let it be so).

I confess that having started this review with no wish to give away spoilers I find myself in the difficult position of not wanting to delve too deeply into the characters. What I will say instead is this book contains strong family themes as well as domestic violence (both physical and mental – not gratuitous at all) . It takes a look at possible mental illness and delusion.  We have a seriously nasty character among the pages here who is an intensely plausible sociopath of despicable proportions who has no compunction about taking the life of others. Okay, I will say no more about the characters.  My lips are sealed.

The writing.  I just loved it.  Golding has the ability to create both atmosphere and tension to such an extent that I found myself sitting bolt upright on the chair at certain points.  I was literally gripped as she delivered the kind of fear that compels you to shout at the characters as you fear for their safety.  On top of this she’s taken an ancient myth and created a contemporary thriller that is not only satisfying in terms of the mystery and police elements but at the same time delivers a real sense of authenticity in terms of the original stories.  She treads a fine line between ‘did that really happen or did I imagine it’ that I think will appeal to readers of both crime and fantasy.  I hesitate to say this (because I don’t love comparisons as a rule) but in some respects her style is reminiscent of a strange cross between DuMaurier and King because of her ability to conjure credible characters and heart pounding fear.  (To be clear, I’m not comparing this to any of the above mentioned authors’ works – just a certain flair here and there that really caught me by surprise in the most satisfying way and brought them to mind).

Put simply, this was an excellent read that grabbed my attention from the first few pages and from there kept me glued to the book into the early hours of the morning.  I’m not sure I can really do this justice, all I can hope is that I’ve given you a brief teaser of what’s contained within, enough to convince you to give it a shot.

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

My rating 5 stars

#SPFBO Finalists – Cover love

Posted On 1 November 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Comments Dropped 10 responses

SPFBO71024_1

Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is now complete and Stage 2 has now commenced.

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet, purely a look at our ten finalists, well, a look at their covers for now.  No descriptions today,  I’m simply highlighting all ten book covers (with links to Goodreads because I know you’re going to want to check them out). Seriously, this is a handsome batch of books. I know, you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but, at the end of the day this is the first step in tempting you to pick them up.  A thing of beauty is a joy forever, so, without further ado, feast your eyes on these glorious beauties::

Norylska Groans

Norylska

We Men of Ash and Shadow

Wemenof

Legacy of the Brightwash

LOTBW_FNL_PRINT_6x9

Burn Red Skies

BurnRed

Shadows of Ivory

Shadows

The Iron Crown

TheIron

Hall of Bones

hall

Reign & Ruin

Reign and

The Forever King

The forever king

The Mortal Blade

Mortalblade

Do you have a favourite??

Finally, good luck to all the authors during Stage 2.

#SPFBO Finalist Announcement

Posted On 30 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

SPFBO71024_1

Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is almost complete and today Team LB=TC2 will announce their Finalist.  For more information about the competition and to keep an eye on the finalist board check out this link.

I’m not going to drag this post out, I know that this is a nerve wracking time for the authors and so I’m going to cut to the chase.  After much deliberation the Finalist for LB=TC2 is (also, check out the Critiquing Chemist’s review here)

*

*

*

*

*

 

hall

Our four Semi Finalists:

My congratulations to Tim Hardie.  Commiserations to the other authors.  There were no easy choices with this group but unfortunately there can be only one.

Thanks to all the authors who took part for making this competition possible.

All my SPFBO reviews are posted below:

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens
  11. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater
  12. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska
  13. Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
  14. Out of the Dust by Joe Coates
  15. The Throne of Ice and Ash by JDL Rosell
  16. Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater
  17. Hall of Bones by Tim Hardie
  18. Subversive by Colleen Cowley

#SPFBO Review : Ten Thousand Stitches (Regency Faerie Tales #2) by Olivia Atwater

SPFBO71024_1

Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is nearly complete and team LB=TC(Lynnsbooks and the Critiquing Chemist) will be posting final reviews for the semi finalists before making a finalist announcement this forthcoming Saturday.  This week I am therefore aiming to post my thoughts on the three SF’s put forward by my teammates.

ten

Today I am reviewing my final book for Stage 1 of the competition and I have to say this is a great note to end on.  Ten Thousand Stitches (Regency Faerie Tales #2) by Olivia Atwater is a positively charming Regency Romance that uses inspiration from two classic fairy tales to bring to readers an unlikely romance  and a little social commentary regarding the period all tied together with a dollop of humour.

Stitches is the second book in the Regency Faerie Tales series but for the record I am given to understand that reading the first (which I’m sure the author would suggest is a prodigiously good idea) is not absolutely essential in order to enjoy this one.  That being said, having had such a good time with this particular story I’m quite up for a return to the earlier book that started the series.

So, as the story begins we meet Euphemia Reeves (aka Effie). Effie is an overworked and underappreciated maid at Hartfield House.  Like the rest of the staff they play a constant second fiddle to the whims and ill nature of the Lady of the house who at best is completely oblivious to their existence and at worst, when they do garner notice, are usually the recipient of a tirade of abuse or a well thrown object.  Effie is about to fall hopelessly in love with Mr Benedict Ashbrooke who has just returned to the family home following his tour of Europe.  After unwittingly treating Effie as a human being rather than a strip of wallpaper it’s inevitable that she will develop feelings for him – although maids simply don’t marry the gentry – or perhaps they do if they find themselves their very own Faerie Godfather.

I will say that although romance isn’t really my ‘go to’ in terms of  reading I would practically snatch your hand off if you mention the words ‘fae’ or fairy tale retelling – those two phrases for me are like (insert your very own form of catnip here) – they’re like ice cream on a hot day.  Refreshing, delicious and so many flavours to choose from.

So, here we have a young housemaid, fingers worked to the bone who makes a deal with one of the fae (tut tut – don’t we all know how tricksy the fae can be?).  Well, that’s something that Atwater managed to subvert a little.  Yes Effie made a deal but the fae in question (one Lord Blackthorn) knows little of humans and their ways and is interested in learning more, so although he strikes a deal with Effie it doesn’t have terrible consequences should she fail to meet the terms.  In fact it’s this lack of knowledge or understanding of human ways that leads to the amusing misunderstandings that usually result whenever Lord Blackthorn tries to help.

I’m not going to elaborate further on the plot.  This is a regency romance with comedy value that takes snippets of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and weaves them into a new pattern.

The characters were enjoyable and easy to get along with.  I was a little puzzled by Effie and her unexplored ability to manipulate feelings by either sewing or singing.  I would be interested to see if this was explored fully or is Effie’s story now complete?  Regardless, this particular ability served to stir the feelings of the household up into something of a frenzy which added weight to the plot.

The world building sticks mainly to the countryside and the family home with a few little jaunts (for example a particularly memorable visit to the world of the fae in search of some very special material).  This is another twist on the original tales.  Effie is given two gowns but rather than rely simply on the beauty of the dresses these items are magically imbued to influence the people around her.  The period here is one where the time of families running extensive family estates is coming to something of an end.  Diminishing wealth makes running such estates costly in the extreme and corners are cut in order to make ends meet – inevitably the corners being cut only serve to exacerbate the hard times of the serving staff while the Lords and Ladies of the manor try to keep up the pretense of wealth.

I thought the writing evoked the period well and can genuinely say this was a very quick and easy read.

In terms of criticisms, I felt like the ending was a little rushed and it lost some of the comedy value for me. I think in a way there is an element to this that puts me in two minds.  There is the fun regency romp and the idea of providing a deeper look at some of the social divides of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that this story looked at some deeper issues but, I think it needed a little more length in order to do so. It certainly wasn’t a deal breaker though.

On the whole I had a good time with Ten Thousand Stitches and would happily continue with the series to see what the author comes up with next.

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

Friday Face Off : Must be Gothic

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:

Must be Gothic

Today I’ve chosen a book from a favourite author who really can write a gothic tale.  Laura Purcell’s Silent Companions:

Perhaps not the darkest of the covers but I love the attention to detail and that eye looking through the keyhole brrr *chills*.

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 earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

2021

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 : Subversive (Clandestine Magic #1) by Colleen Cowley

SPFBO71024_1

Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is nearly complete and team LB=TC(Lynnsbooks and the Critiquing Chemist) will be posting final reviews for the semi finalists before making a finalist announcement this forthcoming Saturday.  This week I am therefore aiming to post my thoughts on the three SF’s put forward by my teammates.

Subversive

Today I will be reviewing Subversive (Clandestine Magic #1) by Colleen Cowley.

With only one or two issues I found Subversive to be a very easy to read and enjoyable story.  It has an alternate history feel and blends romance and magic in a very entertaining way.

As the story begins we meet our two central characters and learn swiftly that this world is quite different from ours.  Magic is a very real element to the story and only being wielded by men has quite changed the shape of the world as we know it.  Female emancipation has been much slower and women are in fact second class citizens.  We meet Beatrix Harper as she is strong armed into working for the local, newly returned to town, wizard, Peter Blackwell and this gives us an immediate idea of the power that such magic users wield.  Peter has returned to his hometown under something of a dark cloud.  He keeps his purpose secret but the agency he has left behind are on his trail and keeping him under observation.  Meanwhile Beatrix plays a role in the League for the Prohibition of Magic.  Her younger sister is rallying the cause and things are reaching a climax and this element of secrecy from both characters helps to create a lovely confusion between the two as they suspect each other of all kinds of wrong doing.

Peter and Beatrix already knew each other.  Peter was the only boy in town with magical ability and left many years ago to be trained.  Beatrix became responsible for bringing up her younger sister Lydia after their parents died, effectively putting aside her own ambitions in order to earn money and send her sister to college. Lydia has now become a strong voice in the movement and the magic community are starting to take notice of her – which is potentially dangerous.

This brings us to the world building which is one of the issues that I had with the story.  As I was reading this I was picturing the time as early 1900s in my head and so I was very confused when it became apparent that this was much closer to the current period.  Okay, to be fair. I understand that the author was trying to create the whole idea of women being kept back from achieving things  due to their lack of magic but I think in some respects I would have preferred to not have the more modern elements of the story – they felt perplexing to me, but that is clearly a personal preference.  This also brings me to the other issue I had.  I found it a little difficult to get on board (and there is a slight spoiler ahead so avert your eyes now if you don’t wish to read it) with the fact that women had never discovered their own magical ability and that this was a secret that the Government were aware of and kept tight control over.  Surely, purely by accident, over the course of time, women would have made this connection?  Anyway, those were my two little niggles that kept chirping at the back of my head when I was reading.  But, and I would state this in the strongest terms – neither of these issues stopped me from enjoying Subversive or reading it at an obscenely fast pace!

I really enjoyed the writing and the sexual tension that Cowley manages to achieve between the two central characters.  They definitely have a love/hate relationship that makes for some very funny scenes between the two and although there is an element of this that comes about through a magical contract which takes us into the area of being compelled unwillingly I actually thought the two were destined for each other regardless of the pacts they signed up to.  

I also liked the characters.  I think Beatrix and Peter came across really well, I liked that the author showed the darker side to both, the way they mistrusted each other and went down the wrong path in terms of their suspicions.  I thought Beatrix was well drawn. It would have been easy for her to come across as a bit too ‘good to be true’ so the fact that she at times felt resentment towards her sister, who seemed to be achieving everything her heart desired while Beatrix remained in the background, made her feel flawed and much more real as a result.

The magic system was well imagined.  The magic itself has to be learned, potions are drawn up with strict rules about measurements and quantities and the magic itself is fuelled by leaves.  This felt really unique and the fact that there are alternative methods of fuelling magic, that have been kept secret, was also a really intriguing aspect to the story with sinister undertones that I think will be explored in future instalments.

On the whole I found subversive to be a very enjoyable fantasy romance. I think Cowley has managed to blend the fantasy elements into the story in a really clever way that don’t feel like they’ve been tacked on simply to appeal to a certain audience but are firmly rooted elements of the story.  I would certainly like to read more from this world and see what these two characters manage to achieve next.

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

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson #13) by Patricia Briggs

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 : Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson #13) by Patricia Briggs.  I can’t believe this is up to No.13 – wow.  Anyway, here’s the description of what to expect next:

SoulTaken

Mercy Thompson, car mechanic and shapeshifter, must face her greatest fears in this chilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

The vampire Wulfe is missing. Since he’s deadly, possibly insane, and his current idea of “fun” is stalking Mercy, some may see it as no great loss. But when he disappears, the Tri-Cities pack is blamed. The mistress of the vampire seethe informs Mercy that the pack must produce Wulfe to prove their innocence, or the loose alliance between the local vampires and werewolves is over.

So Mercy goes out to find her stalker—and discovers more than just Wulfe have disappeared. Someone is taking people from locked rooms, from the aisles of stores, and even from crowded parties. And these are not just ordinary people but supernatural beings. Until Wulfe vanished, all of them were powerless loners, many of whom quietly moved to the Tri-Cities in the hope that the safety promised by Mercy and Adam’s pack would extend to them as well.

Who is taking them? As Mercy investigates, she learns of the legend of the Harvester, who travels by less-trodden paths and reaps the souls that are ripe with a great black scythe. . . .

Expected publication : March 2022

#SPFBO Review : Hall of Bones (The Brotherhood of the Eagle #1) by Tim Hardie

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Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition is nearly complete and team LB=TC2 (Lynnsbooks and the Critiquing Chemist) will be posting final reviews for the semi finalists before making a finalist announcement this forthcoming Saturday.  This week I am therefore aiming to post my thoughts on the three SF’s put forward by my teammates.

hall

Today I will be reviewing Hall of Bones which was a very enjoyable Norse inspired saga that brings us Vikings, clans clashing spectacularly, betrayal, magic and a narrator who simply pulls you in from the prologue.

As the story begins we meet Rothgar, youngest son of the chief of the Raevesburg Clan.  Rothgar is imprisoned and slowly dying and has plenty of time to reflect on the chain of events that brought him to this sorry state. To be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve read a book that started in this way but  I can genuinely say that I was immediately drawn in by Rothgar’s voice and confess to being hooked from the first page! 

From this rather grim, but effective, opener Rothgar takes us back to happier times within Ulfkell’s Keep, this may be the seat of power for the clan but it is also the family home and the love and warmth shine through as he recounts his tale.  Rothgar is but a boy, still young, innocent, desperate to be more like his brother and completely unaware of the cruel twists of fate that lie ahead of him.  Even in these earlier chapters there is a jostling for power between the five clans but the hatred for the Vorund clan (their shared enemy) helps to strengthen their bonds. The chapters quickly pass as do the years, tragedy strikes and allegiances swiftly turn until a much greater threat, rooted in evil, begins to take shape.

I don’t want to elaborate on the plot in this review so will instead focus on my thoughts and emotions during the read.

I loved the start.  Rothgar has a wonderful storytelling voice that keeps the pages turning swiftly.  His life in these early chapters is intriguing and helps the reader to firmly understand the politics between the clans.  I really enjoyed reading about the family and their lives together and think Hardie perfectly judged the amount of detail to pass onto readers whilst maintaining a decent pace.  I found myself easily forming attachments to the family and other characters as they became firmly rooted in my mind until, with a few cruel strokes of his pen, the author ruthlessly turned everything on it’s head.

The world building is another strong aspect.  To be fair, with the viking feel (and vikings being so very popular at the moment) I think I would have been able to conjure the place with ease even if the worldbuilding had not been so good.  There’s a really interesting blend of the ‘already established’ and new elements such as the history of the place, the warring Gods and the Fallen Age that almost made me feel like I was actually reading a novel set in a place from the past – there’s just a ‘realness’ to this that stands out – although I’m not really describing it very well (and this is why I’m a reader with no ambitions of writing whatsoever).  

Moving on.  The characters are very well drawn. I really liked Rothgar, in fact all the supporting cast were equally well defined.  There is definitely an element of masculinity here, the focus tends to shine more often than not on the warriors of the tale, but, I thought there were two female characters who really stood out.  Etta is the ‘wizened old crone’ of the piece. I could imagine her looking into the stormy clouds and shaking her fist at the Gods.  She is like the oldest family retainer ever.  She teaches the boys as they mature but her influence stretches much further than you first imagine.  She is spinning webs and pulling strings with deft like subtlety, I really need to know more about Etta (in fact if Etta dies I may very well spit my dummy out – just saying)..  Nuna is the younger sister. Her role, like many young women from powerful families, was dictated from an early age – she would always be a pawn in the political maneuvering of the clans, used to curry favour and broker peace, and yet I found myself strangely attached to her.  She has a grace and charm that easily shines through and I’m hoping for more from her in the next instalment.

I think Hardie writes, and, probably more to the point, plots, really well,  I loved the change from young boy to young man.  Rothgar really grows during the course of the story and his character arc is easy to believe. Definitely a coming of age type feel to this but the twists that eventually take place really help to give it a fresh take.  And there are twists!  And bloodshed.  This is definitely not a bedtime story so be warned in that respect.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I think that the author walked a very fine line here in terms of pacing on a couple of occasions –  but, to be honest I think he managed to turn the tide both times just as the thought occurred to me.  The other thing I would mention is that given this is epic fantasy with convoluted clans clashing and the inclusion of the whole family saga – well, comparisons to other books of this nature are kind of inevitable.  I thought it stood its ground very well though and I really enjoyed the fantasy aspects in terms of the evil and the magic.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hall of Bones. I think it makes a great start to series and I look forward to reading more.

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

Top Ten Tuesday : Halloween

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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 :

Halloween Freebie

With the exception of one of my chosen topics (the adaptation – which I loved btw and highly recommend) all the books below have been fairly recent reads that have been read during the last 12/13 months.  I was going to go all old-school horror but decided I’d like to use this topic to look at some more recent reads that I’ve enjoyed and are perfect for this time of the year.

Haunting/Ghostly

Later by Stephen King

Later

Favourite Adaptation

Dr Sleep by Stephen King

drsleep

Vampire

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

SBC

Creature Feature

Near the Bone by Christina Henry

nearthebone

Psychological/Thriller

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi

Comewithme

Gothic 

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Shapeof

Slasher Style

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Final

Fictional retelling of true crime

In the Garden of Spite (aka Triflers Need Not Apply) by Camilla Bruce

Gardenof

Horror/Thriller

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Last house

Dystopian horror

The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier

Phlebotomist

#SPFBO : My Fourth Batch of Books – Update/final cuts and Semi Finalist(s) announcement

Posted On 25 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

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

This month I read and reviewed all three books from my fourth batch and today I’m providing my feedback on which books will be cut or rolled forward. I’m also making the decision between all the books carried forward to this point of which will be cut and which will be semi finalists..

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

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

Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

LWH

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fate of the world rests in his hands.

My review is here.

In a nutshell: A very enjoyable coming of age MG story.  Well written and with plenty of adventure.  To be completely honest this is probably a story aimed at a younger audience than I perhaps would normally read but I have to say it’s a really good story and very well executed.  

Conclusion : Cut

The Throne of Ice & Ash by JDL Rosell

TOIAA

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

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

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

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

My review is here.

In a nutshell: I really enjoyed this. A norse style story of two siblings each following a different path.  Very well written and seems to go from strength to strength.

Conclusion: Roll Forward

 

Out of the Dust by Joe Coates

OOTD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review is here.

In a nutshell: I loved the writing for this one, and also the setting. It’s a story that becomes more and more difficult to put down as the characters travel deeper into trouble.

In conclusion : Roll Forward

 

That concludes all my updates and reviews for the first stage of the competition.  All my reviews can be found below: 

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

To date I have rolled forward the following books:

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

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

The Throne of Ice & Ash by JDL Rosell

Out of the Dust by Joe Coates

***

 

So, with the greatest respect to the authors I’m not going to make this a longer process than absolutely necessary.   I had some very enjoyable reads and eventually carried forward the above four books to think about some more.  I eventually put forward books to the Critiquing Chemist for their consideration and likewise they made similar suggestions.  Following discussion we have put forward five Semi Finalists as follows:

Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater

ten

 

Out of the Dust by Joe Coates

OOTD

 

Subversive by Colleen Cowley

Subversive

 

Hall of Bones by Tim Hardie

hall

 

The Throne of Ice and Ash by J.D.L. Rosell

Throneof

 

Here’s the link to the Critiquing Chemist’s post.

During the next few days we will consider these semi finalists further and post further reviews following which we hope to announce our finalist in the next few days.

Our thanks to the authors and good luck to the remaining semi finalists.

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

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

TOIAA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My SPFBO reviews to date:

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

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

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

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

Ilike both of these covers but my favourite is:

queen 154304266

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

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

Next Week : Must be gothic

2021

October

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Friday Face Off : Your favourite book of magic

Posted On 15 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags:

Comments Dropped 6 responses

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Your favourite book of magic

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

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

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

Next Week : Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

2021

October

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

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

AGirl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars.

#SPFBO Review :  Out of the Dust by Joe Coates  

Posted On 11 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
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SPFBO71024_1

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

OOTD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My SPFBO reviews to date:

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

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last Week

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

Next Week

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

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

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

Forthcoming Reviews:

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

Friday Face Off : Gives me the Chills

Posted On 8 October 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
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FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Gives me the chills

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

My favourite

Nothing But Blackened 4c.indd

This cover seriously makes me want to hide.

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

Next Week : Your favourite book of magic

2021

October

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

Horseman (A Tale of Sleepy Hollow) by Christina Henry

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

horseman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 2.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Sundial by Catriona Ward

Can't Wait Wednesday

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

sundial

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expected Publication : March 2022

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

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

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

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

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

The conversation below follows weeks 1 and 2:

theblade

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

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

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

Mayri: Yes, yes, yes! I agree!

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

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

Mayri: *laughing so hard over here*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayri: *snort giggles*

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

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

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

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

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

Lynn: (I loved the fancy dress).

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

Jezal

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

Lynn: Me too

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

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

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

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

Mayri: Nicely put.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m interested in Ferro and Yulwei 

Lynn: (also known as Old Bastard – lol)  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis

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

Scales

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

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

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

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

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

In no particular order what I particularly enjoyed about this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 4 of 5 stars

#SPFBO Review :  Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

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

LWH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booking Ahead/Weekly/Monthly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

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

Last Week

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

Next Week

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

Reviews Posted since last Sunday:

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

Forthcoming Reviews:

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

My Monthly Update:

Here’s the books I read the past month:

Friday Face Off : A Halloween read

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

A Halloween read

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

My favourite

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

If pushed I’d probably pick:

Horseman2

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

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

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

2021

October

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

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

Posted On 30 September 2021

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 6 responses

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

BoneShips Wake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion, a stunning series not to be missed.

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

My rating 5 of 5 stars

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

Can't Wait Wednesday

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

Giventodarkness

Ikiri demands blood. Whose will it be?

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

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

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

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

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

Expected publication : October 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Plans

ttt

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

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

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

Mastermind by Andrew Mayne

Mastermind

Horseman by Christina Henry

horseman

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

OnceUpon

The Lighthouse Witches by CJ Cooke

TLW

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Vespertine

Spirits of Vengeance by Rob J Hayes

Spirits of

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis

Scales

Given to Darkness by Phil Williams

Givento

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

ThePariah

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

LastGirl

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

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

Empires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There you have it – in a nutshell.

Now, to my thoughts and feelings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating

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

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