Friday Face Off : Your favourite book of magic

Posted On 15 October 2021

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FFO

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

This week’s theme:

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
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 4 responses

FFO

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

This week’s theme:

Gives me the chills

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

My favourite

Nothing But Blackened 4c.indd

This cover seriously makes me want to hide.

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

Next Week : Your favourite book of magic

2021

October

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

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

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

19th – Futuristic vista

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

December

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

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

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

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

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