In a reading slump? Don’t be.

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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 is:

Books to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump

Well, this is all very debatable because everyone is different.  For me, a book that would pull me out of a slump is one with an immediate hook.  I do tend to read a lot of fantasy and some of those books can be long and some very dark so I think something light and fun would probably work best for me.  I’m going to split my list down into different headings because that way I might come up with something for everyone:

Fairytale retellings – you simply cannot beat Sarah Pinborough’s three delicious books, Poison, Charm and Beauty.  They are just brilliant.  On top of being beautiful little books with gorgeous illustrations each one is a mash up of more than one fairytale, they’re not overly long, they’re definitely tongue in cheek and they’re unexpectedly saucy in ways that you simply won’t see coming.  I think these are probably my favourite retellings because I was unable to put them down once I’d started.

Romance – ‘but you don’t like romance’, you may say.  Yes, yes, of course I’m always banging on about not liking romance – and that is in no way, shape or form a judgment on those that do by the way – we like what we like.  But, I don’t mind there being some romance in my books, I just don’t want it to be the main focus.  The Princess Bride by William Goldman – okay, maybe not everyone’s idea of romance but I like the humour so what can I say.  It’s frankly inconceivable that anyone should not like this book.  If you want something a bit more ‘typically’ from the genre but still fantasy then I’d go Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I’ve not read the whole series but the first book was very good.

Crime – I would suggest either Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle.  I love a good murder mystery and tend to find that both of these authors write in a way that just holds you captive.  Plus, the fun is in the trying to evade the red herrings and guess what’s happening following the cookie crumb trail left throughout the pages.

Sci Fi – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  Quirky and fun.  Or, on the other hand, for something that is a bit more emotional – Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.  I love that book so much

LitRPG – Death March by Phil Tucker.  I had a lot of fun with this book.  The possibilities are just mind boggling and for someone who isn’t a gamer and so was maybe a bit concerned as to whether this would be, well, to be frank, easy to understand – it was.  So rest easy and go give some rpg book a go.

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Fundark – okay, maybe I made that one up but I think there are a few titles that could fit the bill.  Most recently I’d say Angus Watson’s You Die When you Die.  I had a blast with that book, of course there was plenty of death and bloodshed but there was a huge dose of hope and characters to love all sprinkled with heaps of humour.

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Edgy/Thriller – The White Road by Sarah Lotz.  This one was a real treat.  I loved the opening scenes and the way that Lotz takes situations that you (1)  probably wouldn’t think to read about – but then makes you love them (2) wouldn’t think would grip you – but then they do (3) think shouldn’t be creepy – and yet she makes them so.   This one will probably give you goosebumps but if that’s your ‘thing’ then pick this up and consider the reading slump over.

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Adventure/Fantasy – three suggestions here.  Kristi Charish has written a great series about an Indiana Jane type character who steals ancient artefacts.  There’s all sorts going on in these books, a bit of romance, snark, all sorts of critters and fantastic settings, great pace and thrilling plots.  What’s not to love?  Or, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.  A series where you can just tell the author loved writing the books.  Lots of great references.  A main character who is highly readable and even more so when you include his dog Oberon – I won’t spoil things but I highly recommend these books.  Or, the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell – OMG, these books are so good.  I defy anybody to stay in a slump – the gauntlet is down!

Scary/Horror – The Family Plot by Cherie Priest.  So, so good. Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – modern day vampires.  Kill Creek by Scott Thomas – a number of horror story writers take part in an event at a haunted house on Halloween – what could possible go wrong?

As I often do – I leave the last spot open for suggestions.

Of course, I realise I’ve cheated somewhat because there are more than 10 books all told – but all the more to tempt you with (queue mad cackling).

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Wrap Up (Double Whammy): 19th August

Posted On 19 August 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
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I didn’t get a chance to post my weekly wrap up last week, and in fairness I’ve been so busy that I’ve done very little reading – even over the two week period that this post shall now cover.  Well, in fairness, that’s not entirely true because I’ve also been making headway with my SPFBO books too which are not listed here.

So, the past two weeks I’ve read three books:

  1. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  2. Temper by Nicky Drayden
  3. City of Lies by Sam Hawke

I’ve also made a start on my SPFBO books reading a good portion of the first three in my batch and also starting the fourth book.  And I feel like I’m making headway with my reviews so all in all I feel like I’m doing okay with my own self imposed goals.

Next week’s reads:

  1. The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah
  2. Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Upcoming reviews: –

  1. Starborn by Lucy Hounsom
  2. Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
  3. Noir by Christopher Moore
  4. The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
  5. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  6. Temper by Nicky Drayden
  7. City of Lies by Sam Hawke

I’d love to know what you’re reading this week.

#SPFBO 2018 : Guest Post – Phil Williams, Under Ordshaw

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As you may be aware I’m taking part, as one of the judges, in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, details here.  I’ve invited all the authors from my selected books to pay a visit to my blog and today I’m very pleased to welcome Phil Williams, the author of Under Ordshaw.  Phil agreed to write a guest post about how the story came about involving a visit to New York, a few jaunts, getting lost, a labyrinthine hostel and possibly discovering a Minotaur under the city – well, just read the piece already.

The Origins of “Under Ordshaw”

Under Ordshaw takes readers to a UK city with more than a few dark secrets. It’s a city that’s at once familiar and unusual, and the core of a series intended to span dozens of books. It’s the result of years spent writing and rewriting interlinked stories, with a great deal of imagining what if…

It’s also the result of my own attempts to explore our world, and quite specifically the time we considered the possibility of a minotaur under New York.

Under Ordshaw has seen four major iterations – once as a novel, twice as a screenplay and finally the version you see today. Originally called Penguins and Seahorses, it had a plot inspired by my reading that penguins and seahorses are rare in nature as the male helps raise their offspring. The latest version has evolved from a simpler concept of an ordinary father facing the unnatural to protect his family, but the collision of ordinary and unnatural remains.

Recognising that collision was where the story really began.

At some point in life, I adopted a hobby of urban exploring. I placed myself in random places within cities and saw where it took me. What better way to come up with random and absurd stories than to visit places you don’t belong? I got a real taste at university, pottering around the graveyards and estates of Nottingham. I’ve fed it in every city I’ve been.

In the spirit of this mindset, in the Summer of 2006, myself, my brother and my closest friend took a holiday to New York City. We planned nothing, assuming that wandering the Five Boroughs with a travel card would take care of itself.

The holiday panned out in untypical ways, with highlights including narrowly avoiding a major crime scene in Queens and getting lost in the middle of Staten Island. As such explorative jaunts into the unknown stirred our collective imaginations, we happened upon the minotaur.

Theseus and the MinotaurWe were staying in a labyrinthine hostel with a kitchen in the basement. Down there, we heard great groans from the mechanics of the buildings. And we asked what if… In particular, what if the next time we heard that noise, someone ran past screaming, “Minotaur!”

In this city that had proved strange and threatening in our ignorance, such a thing seemed possible.

Over the fortnight that we viewed New York through the eyes of outsiders who knew anything was possible, the running joke revealed the minotaur’s lore and the characters that fought or defended it. There was the violent-minded homeless man, perpetually bent on a final showdown with his arch-nemesis: “Rattigan, we finish this now!” (His foe, naturally, the master of the ferocious rodents we’d encountered.) There was the sage Mantis, keeper of secrets. And there was the discovery of scratchitti – urban vandalism, or a way to communicate with the underworld?

This stimulation sowed the seeds that would become Under Ordshaw, after a decade of refining. Similar experiences in different cities added flesh to the tale; the minotaur and the underground fused in my mind, for instance, after watching weary people riding the Prague Metro.

The characters emerged from other moments of inspiration. Darren Barton belongs to the concept of penguins and seahorses; Rufaizu his carefree opposite. Cano Casaria was a necessarily creepy foil in my screenplay Brutal Tower (inspired by research into housing estates, which will live again in Ordshaw Book 5). The criminals of Ordshaw first found life in a school play.

Mid-2016, it clicked in my mind that a shared universe made it possible to connect the many disparate ideas of my contemporary fantasy work that I had never published. Ordshaw was the perfect place to realise it.

When I revisited these stories, and started drawing them together, Pax Kuranes emerged as the character necessary to endure this experience. An outsider to the madness she was about to encounter and, in many ways, an outsider within the city itself. Someone comfortably normal, but drawn to the stranger side of life, open to exploring alleyways at night.

And from this union came Under Ordshaw. A novel that lays the foundations for a lot of work to come, but a story that serves the sentiments of three ill-advised youths who holidayed in New York, intent on seeing it through a different lens.

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***

Thank you Phil for writing this fantastic piece, I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did – apart from the fact that I love discovering the inspiration behind the book – I think what really gave me a smile with this was the ‘what if’ – it’s a favourite phrase of my daughter and I suppose it’s a demonstration of curiosity and imagination at play together.

FYI : Phil can be found at:

www.phil-williams.co.uk  Goodreads page

The link for the book is:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CXYSZVN/

 

 

 

Friday Face Off : Knock, knock… ‘who’s there?’

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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, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – 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. This week’s theme:

Knock, knock… ‘who’s there?’ – A cover featuring a door, ajar or closed

I found this week’s theme a lot easier and had a few potential covers but went with:  Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire.  A book I loved and a series I need to seriously catch up with.

My covers:

That third cover is very different from the other four isn’t it!  I think my favourite, and I realise that these are all quite similar is:

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I like the sun rays and the little specks of light.  I just feel that this cover is more crisply defined somehow.

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover with a title featuring the word ‘legend’

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)

24th August – ‘To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead, or excessively old!’ – A cover with a title featuring the word ‘legend’

31st August – ‘“Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy’ – A cover featuring a goblin or dwarves

7th September – ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall – A cover featuring a queen

14th September – “He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.” – A cover featuring a wolf or wolves

21st September – ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ – a cover featuring clouds

28th September – Eyes wide shut – a cover featuring eyes

5th October – “He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.” – A cover that is ‘noir’

12th October – “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”  – A cover for a mystery novel

19th October -“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”  – A horror cover

26th October – Trick or treat – A halloween inspired cover

2nd November – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,’ – A cover inspired by Bonfire Night

9th November – ‘All right! They’re spiders from Mars! You happy?’ – A cover feturing a critter of the eight legged variety

16th November – There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.’  – A scary cover

23rd November – ‘The child is in love with a human. And not just any human. A prince!’ – A cover featuring a mermaid/man

30th November – “..the children of the night. What music they make!” – a cover with a vampire

7th December – ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

14th December -“Heavy is the head that wears the crown”  – A cover featuring a crown

21st December – ‘ho, ho, ho’ – A seasonal cover

28th December – A freebie – choose one of your favourite titles and compare the covers

2019

4th January – A cover that is fresh – New beginnings for a New Year

11th January – ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

18th January – A cover featuring an Amulet – either in the cover or title

25th January – ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

1st February – A comedy cover

8th February – ‘Hi little cub. Oh no, don’t be ssscared.’ – A cover with snakes

15th February – A heart – for Valentine’s day past

22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th april – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Posted On 16 August 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
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bitter orangeI really enjoyed Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller and so I danced a little jig of joy when I was approved for a copy of Bitter Orange.

Much to my delight Fuller has managed to once again come up with a gem of a novel.  Completely different in terms of style and plot than her debut novel, Bitter Orange speaks of hot summers days during the year of 1969 when a rather introverted woman becomes friends with the decadent couple who share the same building.

Immediately you have a sense of impending doom and that initial suspicion grows, nurtured by the ever increasing sense of tension that Fuller’s prose creates until things come to a dramatic finale.

As the book starts out we make the acquaintance of Frances, now an elderly lady whose health is failing and who as she lies, awaiting death, reminisces with a visiting priest about the Summer of ’69 and the events that took place following the death of her mother.

Frances was 40 when her mother passed away and having spent the majority of her adulthood as a full time carer her life has a feeling of lost opportunity, a certain sadness coupled with the naivety and awkwardness that she now feels in any social situation and reflect her lack of experience.  Luckily Frances receives a job offer which involves her spending a number of months in a dilapidated mansion where she will report back to the owner on any noteworthy architectural finds in the extensive grounds.  Unexpectedly, on arrival, and having believed that she would be the only person residing at Lynton House she discovers another couple already in situ.  Cara, beautiful and exotic, who argues in Italian and loves cooking extravagant meals and Peter, handsome and aloof.  The couple, well Peter, has similarly been employed by the owner to check out the fixtures, fittings and any furniture of worth.  Frances finds herself immediately in awe of the couple and when they seemingly take her under their wing, inviting her to spend her evenings dining with them she becomes a little bit besotted with the pair.  Obsessions, of course, have a way of spiralling out of control and in terms of this little group it soon becomes apparent that something is very much amiss.

The setting for Bitter Orange is just gorgeous.  A crumbling mansion, still with many of it’s original features proudly displayed and with a rich history.  It’s a gothic delight.  The gardens are extensive with all sorts of out buildings, lakes and ornamental bridges all surrounded by overgrown grass, flowers and shrubs just waiting to encroach further and reclaim the space – the whole description just had me wanting to find this place and run around it with abandon trying to discover secrets.

Then we have our characters.  They all have secrets.  There’s a good deal of twisting and turning going on here and coupled with unreliable narrators, good storytellers and a large dollop of wishful thinking things are set to become a hot mess.  I have to give a little shout out to Cara in particular.  The moments when she’s weaving tales of her childhood in Ireland are quite mesmerising and I too could have spent a whole afternoon listening to her whilst partaking of a picnic by the lake.

To be honest, I can’t fault this book at all.  It’s written in a style that I just love, the characters are so easy to picture and the whole ensemble has an almost casual or accidental elegance and the cherry on the icing is that the story is infused with tension that steadily mounts. There are some real quality moments here where you feel either dread, embarrassment or you want to squirm on behalf of one or others of the characters or implore them to stop.

I can’t really say too much more to be honest and so I find this quite a short review which is in no way a reflection on my feelings for the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, it’s not my usual fantasy laden read so be warned of that – this may be a gothic  story set in a run down country house but there isn’t a ghost, or dragon, in sight.

Anyway, I think if you like nuggets such as Rebecca or The Secret History – and to be clear, I am in no way, shape or form, comparing the content, more the literary style – then I think you’ll enjoy Fuller’s work.  For me she’s an author to keep an eye on and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

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

 

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