#SPFBO Feedback on my first batch of books

Posted On 27 July 2019

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We’re almost at the end of the first month of the SPFBO competition.  At the start of the month I randomly chose my first six books.  Throughout the month I have been making progress reading at least the first 30% of each of those books and today I’m going to give feedback on my books so far.  I will be eliminating five of those books – with apologies to the authors, it’s not a part of the competition that I enjoy, but as has been said many many times before, there can be only one.  At this point I’ve chosen one book to read fully – I haven’t yet decided if this will be a semi-finalist but at the moment I’m carrying it forward for future reading.

So, without further ado here is my feedback on the first six books (my second batch will be posted at the start of August).

Courier'sThe Courier’s Code (The Kingdom of Bolaji #1) by T.S. Valmond

I’ve read the first 32% of The Courtier’s Code and up to that point I would say it’s an enjoyable read if a little predictable in parts.  We’ve made the acquaintance of Rasha and Lu.  Both couriers who work together and have a perfect record of delivering whatever the job or however difficult it may be. Rasha is actually a princess from one of the kingdoms but gave up her life of privilege and instead decided to stand on her own two feet.  Lu is her trusty companion although at the start of the story he takes a job that is going to be very trying indeed and may possibly put everything Rasha has worked for at risk.

It’s difficult to say too much about the world – Bolaji is divided into ten kingdoms and the Prince of the first realm is due to marry.  The Princesses from the other nine realms will all be potential marriage material and one will eventually be chosen – however, there is a lot of rivalry between the kingdoms and all the princesses could face great danger before the final choice is made.

I don’t really want to give away too much about the plot to be honest – obviously there is the delivery of the ‘package’ and clearly there is going to be adventures and mishaps along the way.  I’ve read the first third and so firstly I can’t speak with confidence about where the story is leading and secondly I don’t want to spoil this read for others.  What I can say is that this seems to be heading in a certain romantic direction although I can be totally wrong on that front.

I wouldn’t say that The Courier’s Code is particularly a book for me but I think readers of YA romance may enjoy this.

Dissident.jpgDissident (Forbidden Things #1) by Nikki McCormack

Dissident is a book that seems, so far, to be based around two central characters.  Indigo and Yiloch both from opposing kingdoms and with very different backgrounds.  Indigo is the only surviving member of her family and lives in disgrace (her father having been executed as a traitor).  She has regained some normality by becoming engaged to one of the nobles although the relationship is an abusive one and she trains to become a healer using magic known as ascard.  Secretly Indigo hides her talent and has done from a very early age.  Yiloch is a Prince, sent into exile by his own father.  He is held in a strange and almost hell-like land where demon-like hounds roam.  By a strange fluke he is able to appear to Indigo and seeks her help in escaping his imprisonment.

Again, this was quite an enjoyable and quick read to the point at which I left off (31%) but I had a number of issues that really prevented me from liking this as much as I wanted.  Firstly, the world building.  I’m puzzled about the world in a number of respects.  I don’t really get a feel for the place.  In some ways it feels very modern, there are no strait laced ideas of propriety – for example, Indigo lives with her fiance, there are no outdated ideas of chaperones, etc, and yet the modes of transport seem quite old-fashioned such as carriages and horses.  This isn’t really a problem as such – just that there doesn’t seem to be enough description of the place for me to form a picture in my mind.  On top of this there are some very obvious tropes.  Indigo is just incredibly beautiful and the constant mention of her beauty is a little bit over the top – which, when coupled with the fact that her magic is stronger than anything that seems to have been seen before, all labours the ‘chosen one’ element a little too much.

I liked the writing and the story has a lot of promise although it clearly shows signs of proceeding along an obvious romantic route, again not a problem as such, but the romance to this point was a little rushed for me.

The characters – hopefully they will be more developed as the story progresses.  I had a certain sympathy with Indigo and the circumstances that led to her rather hideous engagement – and I wanted to smack her fiancee by the way.  I can’t say I really liked Yiloch at the point I left off.  He was insufferably arrogant and everything felt as though it was all about ‘him’.  He didn’t really have any conscience about using others for his own needs and I thought he treated his friends and Indigo quite badly.  But, he’s clearly the handsome, rakish character of the piece – hopefully he improves as the story goes along.

Issues aside this was an easy read and I think readers of fantasy who enjoy a serving of romance might enjoy this one.

GhostGhost by Jordan C. Robinson

I really liked the description for Ghost but it didn’t work out quite as well for me as I’d hoped mainly because it feels a little fantasy-light to the point I broke off reading.

The story is told from three POVs.  Paul, who has recently been released from prison and is on probation.  He longs for his old job and his old life – having been committed for a crime he didn’t do – he really did lose everything and is trying to regain some normality – which isn’t easy given he’s discovered he has supernatural powers.  Lindsey, who when we first meet her despairs of ever meeting ‘Mr Right”.  Lindsey is a teacher who longs to move away from her current life – particularly to escape her mother who she really doesn’t get along with.  The other POV is Will, who is one of the characters from the Portland Institute of Special Persons – who are hopefully going to save the world.

So, Paul and Lindsey meet and have a mutual attraction.  Both of them are insecure though and to the point I read up to they were trying to get to know each other better, whilst playing it cool and also finding out about the future threat to the world as we know it.

On the one hand I think the relationship being developed between Paul and Lindsey is developing very well and at a nice patient pace, on the other hand the way the future threat is dealt with and the whole ‘the world is going to be invaded by monsters, magic and demons’ feels really rushed and under explained, particularly the casual acceptance of it all.  For me, this didn’t feel like the fantasy elements were given enough time, certainly not as much time as the relationship which is developing very well,  It leaves me feeling that maybe the author hasn’t fully gathered how to proceed with the supernatural aspects, they simply feel under-developed somehow.  Of course that could change as the book progresses but at the point I’ve read up to, this wasn’t really pulling me in which is a shame.  I suspect this is going to go down the route of the ‘super hero’ saving the world and winning the girl – hopefully with a little help from said girl!  At the moment though I feel like the fantasy elements are failing to compete with the story of Paul and Lindsey’s budding romance which seems to be the main focus with the potential threat feeling a little lacking in either tension or danger.

This didn’t quite pull me in but it might work well for readers who want a contemporary read that is more light in terms of fantasy – although having only read the first third the rest of the book could of course be crammed with monsters so bear that in mind.

Childrenofthe.jpgChildren of the Different by S.C. Flynn

Children of the Different is a post apocalyptic style story set in Australia.  This is a world where most of the population was decimated by a disease known as ‘The Madness’.  Pockets of survivors remain and mixed in amongst them are people known as ‘ferals’.

As the story begins we meet twins, Arika and Narrah who live on a settlement in the wilderness totally absent of any modern technology.  Arika has entered into a state known as the ‘Changing’ which I would describe as a dreamlike reality with challenges along the way.  The person in the Changeland can sustain injuries or even die and once they come through the ‘Changing’ they will be altered either becoming one of the feral or emerging with their own special abilities.  The Changing seems to affect all young people as they move into puberty and is something that they all live a little in fear of – never knowing or being able to prejudge the outcome.  Each experience is different and so it’s difficult to forewarn those that haven’t yet experienced it about what to expect exactly.

I actually thought this got off to a very good start, the writing certainly drew me in and I was intrigued by Arika’s experiences, especially when she becomes trapped and her brother enters this ‘other world’ to try and help her.

To be honest I haven’t, at this point, got any real criticisms for this book.  It was intriguing and had enough going on to immediately draw me into the story.  The only thing that I would mention is that at certain points it comes across really quite young in feel.  Obviously I haven’t read the whole story but at this point I would say this might appeal to a slightly younger audience.

TheNarrowsThe Narrows by Travis M. Riddle

The Narrows is a book that I actually almost read 45% of.  It’s well written and spends a lot of time on characterisation which is probably why it easily pulled me in and kept me reading long past my usual cut off point.  I have to say, that this is a book that I was really enjoying and it was a very close decision between this one and the eventual book that I’ve chosen from this batch of books.

A little about the story.  We early on meet the main characters of the story Oliver, Sophie and Davontae.  They’ve all returned to their home town following the death of a former friend, Noah.  There is a lot of reminiscing and casting back to childhood memories.  All of the characters are well sketched although Oliver is the main character that we follow.  There is a good deal of guilt and anger felt by all, Noah had drifted apart from the other three and actually committed suicide which has left all three of them with different levels of emotion and regret.  Oliver in particular dwells on the death of his friend and blames himself a little for giving up on their friendship.  He’s haunted by guilt and finds himself returning to the spot where the suicide took place and this is where he starts to encounter some very strange goings on.

To be honest this has a great sense of anticipation building as the read goes on.  The author manages to build the tension very well and there are a couple of creepy moments that gave me a King/Lovecraft horror vibe.

So, why isn’t this the book I’m taking forward?  I think it boils down to pacing more than anything else.  I enjoyed the book where I read up to which, as mentioned, was almost half way, but, even with the sense of anticipation and the building tension the pacing was slow and to be honest there is very little that really happens in that first half.  I expect that things will really hot up a little down the line from here but this is the point that I’ve had to stop and call it a day – although I may be intrigued enough to complete this later on when I’ve a little more time available.

CryHavocCry Havoc (Jack Frey #1) by Mike Morris

I’m not reviewing Cry Havoc for now as I’d like to read further before making a decision.  At this point I’m intrigued and would like to carry this forward.  I’m not calling it a semi finalist just yet as I really do need to read more and then post a review.

The synopsis is below:

They say when the demons come, you either fight or you die.

The Black Dogs know this all too well. For three hundred years, the warrior priests have sacrificed their lives to keep the island nation of Abios safe from the flesh-eating Nostros, while the rest of the world fell under the demons’ savagery. However, an armada now stands poised to invade mankind’s last bastion.

Child thief Jack Frey is saved from the gallows and joins the mysterious order. Trained with the bullet and the blade, Jack finds himself on the front-line of a centuries-old war.Across the Angel Sea, Lin is fighting for her life. As a slave of the Nostros, she knows death can strike at any time, either at the hands of her masters or her fellow humans.
Little do they know mankind’s fate lies in both their hands.

*Other SPFBO posts:

My Process

My 3 covers for the cover competition


32 Responses to “#SPFBO Feedback on my first batch of books”

  1. Zezee

    Despite the slow pace, what you’ve said about the Narrows really appeals to me.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I read a lot further than I intended because I was quite pulled into what was going on and I thought the characters and sense of anticipation were really well done. This is another book that I would like to try and finish at some point just to see how the second half plays out. I have this feeling things are going to go all out crazy.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    This stage was probably the most fun but also most stressful of SPFBO when I did it, but you’re right about pacing and how a book will need to grab you right away to have a chance at being carried forward since it’ll be competing with hundreds of other books. I like the way you’re tackling it, and I agree with your selection process!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks – I do find this hard, it feels so mean or ruthless and I don’t really like to be either of those things, but, I can have only one after all so I have to do it. And, I think reading 30% is fair really, if the story hasn’t worked it’s magic by that point then it’s had its spot in the limelight – although I do realise that sometimes the first part of a book can be slow and then it can turn around and absolutely grab you by the throat.
      Lynn 😀

  3. S. C. Flynn

    Thanks for considering Children of the Different, Lynn!

    • @lynnsbooks

      No problem – I thought it was a good read where I read up to, it pulled me in quickly, it just felt a little bit young for me is all, but, if I do get time I aim to try and complete it. Just not making any promises this year because last year three of the books I was hoping to review I didn’t end up having time to do which made me feel very bad.
      Thanks for competing though – it takes a lot to put your work into a competition like this.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Off The TBR

    I’ve got The Narrows in a list to read sometime in the next couple of months. I’m glad you think it’s worth continuing to read. I may now need to add a couple of others to my TBR.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I hope to complete it because I’m definitely intrigued and also connected to the characters now.
      Lynn 😀

  5. sjhigbee

    This sounds like a really promising list. I’m so impressed that you continue as a judge in this really awesome competition – I would tie myself up in knots about choosing the books to make the cut… Thank you for sharing your thoughts, which are so measured and considered:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      I do get a little tied up myself – I can’t deny it. But, I enjoy taking part.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        It would be a miracle if you didn’t get tied up – but huge respect for the time and energy you devote to the competition and the entries that you read and judge:))

  6. vacuouswastrel

    *is startled*

    Good gods, the inexorable passage of time. We’re onto the next year of this already?

    (don’t mind me)

    The header image is nice, though to be honest I though last year’s had more character…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yep, time is ticking.
      And, yes, I also liked the image last year – it had a little more going on but I do like the dragon.
      Lynn 😀

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  10. waytoofantasy

    And so it begins! I’m intrigued by the two you mentioned lean more toward romance, because that does tend to be my type of thing, so I might have to check those out. Good luck with your next batch!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks – romance doesn’t tend to be my thing – although in fairness I’m not totally averse to it, providing it’s not the sole focus of the story.
      Lynn 😀

      • waytoofantasy

        I could go either way with romance in stories since I tend to read a lot of romance genre anyway. Still has to be well written though and make sense for the story, which can be difficult when combining genres.

      • @lynnsbooks

        I know what you mean, sometimes though, the chemistry and romance do just wow you whether it feels like your normal type rad or not. So, I’m always saying I don’t particularly read romance but then I read most of the Outlander books, I love the Bronze Horseman and more recently Polaris Rising.
        Lynn D

      • waytoofantasy

        There’s always those things that we don’t particularly love but can in the right circumstances. I don’t particularly enjoy grimdark, but I loved Best Served Cold! 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        Eek – still haven’t read it! And I do love grimdark – what is up with me.
        Lynn D

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  19. T.S. Valmond

    Wow! I submitted and totally missed it. Thank you so much for taking the time to read Courier’s Code.

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