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

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

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

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

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

LastMemoria

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

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

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

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

Author info:

Slytherin author with a Hufflepuff soul. ❤

https://linktr.ee/RachelEmmaShaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Hidden by Melanie Golding.  I loved Little Darlings and so have been waiting to see what the author would come up with next and The Hidden has an excellent description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expected publication : November 2021

WWW

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

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

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

This week my word is:

TARADIDDLE

A taradiddle is a petty lie or pretentious nonsense.

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

If you break the word up –

Tara – is an exclamation; and

Diddle – can be to cheat or swindle

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

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

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

Drowned City

Such Pretty Things by Lisa Heathfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating 3 out of 5

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

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

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

BlackStoneHeart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIP Dude : June 2005 – April 2021

Posted On 8 April 2021

Filed under Book Reviews

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

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