#SPFBO Stage 2

Posted On 5 December 2019

Filed under #SPFBO, Book Reviews
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The first stage of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off is now complete which means we have ten finalists lined up for stage two.  For this stage of the competition I will be assigning each of the nine books I need to read a number from 1 – 9 and then I will use a randomly selected sequence generator to give me the reading order.

Today I would like to highlight the ten finalists.  You can follow the progress of each book here.  Now, feast your eyes on these lovelies – I can’t wait to get started on this line up:

Blood of Heirs (The Coraidic Sagas #1) by  Alicia Wanstall-Burke :


Lidan Tolak is the fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove her worth, but simply to survive.

Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.

Facing an unknown future, and battling forces both familiar and foreign, can Lidan and Ran overcome the odds threatening to drag them into inescapable darkness?

Beggar’s Rebellion (Resonant Saga #1) by Levi Jacobs:


The Councilate controls everything except the truth. I have nothing save my discovery—but with this shall I destroy an empire.

Tai Kulga lost the rebellion and his best friend on the same day, stripping him of his will to live even as a strange power flooded his bones. When the friend returns as a spirit guide, it feels like a second chance—but his friend is not who he was, and the Councilate is not done oppressing his people. When trouble with lawkeepers lands Tai’s surviving friends in a prison camp, he must go underground to find the last of the rebels and convince them to break his friends free.

Along the way he meets Ellumia Aygla, runaway Councilate daughter posing as an accountant to escape her family and the avarice of the capital. Curious about the link between spirit guides and magic, her insights earn her a place among the rebels, and along with Tai’s power help turn the tide against the colonialists.

But as the rebels begin to repeat the Councilate’s mistakes, Tai and Ellumia must confront their own pasts and prejudices, before the brewing war turns them into the monsters they fight.

Never Die by Rob J Hayes – this is the finalist that I chose (already reviewed here)


Ein is on a mission from God. A God of Death.

Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can’t do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.

Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper’s war.

Blade’s Edge (Chronicles of Gensokai #1) by Virginia McClain


Mishi and Taka live each day of their lives with the shadow of death lurking behind them. The struggle to hide the elemental powers that mark the two girls as Kisōshi separates them from the other orphans, yet forges a deep bond between them.

When Mishi is dragged from the orphanage at the age of eight, the girls are unsure if or when they will find each other again. While their powers grow with each season-cycle, the girls must come to terms with their true selves–Mishi as a warrior, Taka as a healer–as they forge separate paths which lead to the same horrifying discovery.

The Rōjū council’s dark secret is one that it has spent centuries killing to keep, and Mishi and Taka know too much. The two young women have overcome desperate odds in a society where their very existence is a crime, but now that they know the Rōjū’s secret they find themselves fighting for much more than their own survival.

Spark City (Spark City Cycle #1) by Robert J. Power


Erroh has a plan. A simple plan. It’ll never work.

Despite his family’s warrior pedigree, he’d rather gamble and drink while living from one tavern to the next. But when his wanderings bring him upon a gruesome slaughter of innocents he is torn from carefree ways.

Spark City is on the horizon and with it the mysterious trials of The Cull. After a life spent rejecting his birth right, the time has come to pick up his sword and accept his destiny.

With an army marching forward, and unlikely companions buy his side, does Erroh have what it takes to stop the coming war?

Spark City is the gripping first novel in Robert J Power’s new epic fantasy series. If you like spectacular combat, unlikely heroes, and  slow burn romance, you’ll love this thrilling tale.

The Sword of Kaigen (Theonite) by M.L. Wang


A mother struggling to repress her violent past,
A son struggling to grasp his violent future,
A father blind to the danger that threatens them all.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?

High on a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’

Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

Fortune’s Fool (Eterean Empire #1) by Angela Boord


A secret affair. A disfiguring punishment. A burning need for revenge.

Kyrra d’Aliente has a bad reputation and an arm made of metal.

Cast out of the safe and luxurious world of silk to which she was born, played as a pawn in a game of feuding Houses, Kyrra navigates a dangerous world of mercenaries, spies, and smugglers while disguising herself as a man.

War destroyed her family and the man she loved.

Vengeance is within her grasp.

But is she willing to pay its price?

Kalanon’s Rising (Agents of Kalanon #1) by Darian Smith


Solve the murder. Stop the war. Save the world.

Sir Brannon Kesh spent years building a new life as a physician, leaving the name Bloodhawk and the war that spawned it behind. But when the King’s cousin is murdered, duty calls him back. The crime scene suggests dark magic and the evidence points to the ambassador of Nilar, an alluring woman with secrets of her own, who sees Bloodhawk as little more than a war criminal.

As bodies pile up and political ramifications escalate, Brannon must join forces with a vain mage, a socially awkward priest, and a corpse animating shaman to solve the murders and prevent another war. But who can he trust when the phases of a bigger plan take shape?

The Risen are the greatest danger Brannon has ever faced. If he and his team cannot stop the killer then all of Kalanon – and the world – will descend into darkness.

A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy


Dumnorix princess and born warrior, Talyn Dynan was the finest fighter of her generation. With her Callanan partner at her side, she was invincible, reckless, a death-knell to their enemies. But after her partner is torn away from her, Talyn is left broken, wracked with guilt and unable to regain the confidence she once had. Could an unexpected mission to the mysterious country of Mithranar, home of the magical winged folk, be the thing that saves her? Or will the danger and secrets she finds there finally break her completely?

The Shadowhawk lives a life in the shadows. Constantly hunted for his criminal exploits, yet desperate to help the human folk of Mithranar who are oppressed by their winged folk rulers, he haunts the streets of Dock City. The arrival of a foreign warrior threatens to upset the carefully balanced life he leads, but when she begins to offer a hope for the humans he’s only ever dreamed of, can he risk trusting her?

And unbeknownst to both, a mysterious foe stalks the dark corners of Dock City. One that answers to a single purpose…


A Sea of Broken Glass (The Lady & The Darkness #1) by Sonya M. Black


Secrets have a price.

After enduring weeks of torture and being convicted of witchery, Ris escapes, only to discover the Darkness and the Lady are hunting her. They need the magic that sings within her.

Creator of all, the imprisoned Lady needs Ris, her last vessel, to find the Heart of Creation. The Darkness seeks to corrupt the vessel and retain his hold on the Lady, and with it, the world.

Ris finds help from a pair of Paladins of Light who aid her in cleansing the evil taint from the lands. As her power grows, so do her questions. How can she restore balance to the world and free the Lady? Should the Lady be trusted or is she as much at fault for the evil in the world as the Darkness? With powerful demons War, Ruin, and Plague at her heels, Ris struggles to stay alive as she tries to unravel the secrets hidden within her before it’s too late.

Secrets that may cost Ris her soul even if she does succeed.


Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Guest List by Lucy Foley

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 Guest List by Lucy Foley – because I so loved The Hunting Party:

The Guest List.jpgA wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Due for publication : February 2020

Tis the season for these sort of stories


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:

Holiday Reads

I’ve gone for wintery reads, classics, murder mystery, fairy tale retellings and a bit of gothic haunting.  Here are my suggestions:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – a tale of redemption for the holiday season and surprisingly, given that Dickens isn’t particularly well known for his briefness a quick and fast paced story. I love this book and have read it a good few times.


The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – a murder mystery that takes part up in a remote and expensive retreat in the Scottish Highlands where the main party become snow bound on New Year’s Eve.  Tempers fray and, well, it wouldn’t be a murder mystery without a dead body and a whole bunch of suspects.

TheHunting Party.jpg

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood – gothic and haunting.  A Christmas story with mistletoe and a malevolent ghost.


The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – a beautiful story of a lonely couple who long for a child. Set in Alaska this is breathtakingly atmospheric, a fairy tale retelling that is a perfect seasonal read.


The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross – a retelling of Beauty and the Beast – no shortage of these retellings and I simply can’t resist, but this is a retelling with a difference – it brings to us the Beast’s perspective. I really enjoyed this and the cold wintry feel of parts of the story make it a great holiday read.


The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis I don’t need to explain this one do I?  The story of a young girl who climbs into a wardrobe and finds a land where winter never ends, a cruel witch – and Mr Tumnus.


White Fang by Jack London – This is the story of a wild animal, part dog/part wolf, based in Canada during the Gold Rush period.  Harsh living, freezing temperatures and a dog trying to survive.


Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett – one of the Tiffany Aching books.  I love this character and this is a perfect seasonal read.


The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, Gilbert Adair – ‘Boxing Day circa 1935. A snowed-in manor on the very edge of Dartmoor. A Christmas house-party. And overhead, in the attic, the dead body of Raymond Gentry’.  Written in Agatha Christie/whodunnit style this really is a seasonal mystery


I’ve left the tenth spot free for your suggestions please?

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

NinthOkay, Ninth House is a review that I’ve been struggling to put together which is why the delay in posting this.  Imagine all the words you might use to describe a book, brilliant, fun, compelling, exciting, enjoyable – to be honest, you really have to remove some of these words because they would feel totally inappropriate.  More appropriate words would be dark, macabre, sombre, cruel, brutal, harsh – you get the gist of where I’m going I’m sure.  Let me explain.

This is a book with a contemporary school setting, it includes a murder mystery that is really a sort of foil for everything else that’s actually taking place.  This is a book of magic, dark occult magic, of privileged youths abusing those weaker than themselves.  It’s a book of secret societies and ghosts and at it’s centre is a young woman, who has had a traumatic start to life.  This is not fun, it’s not enjoyable, it doesn’t pull ANY punches and Harry Potter it most certainly is not.  To be clear, this isn’t gratuitously violent but it contains many elements that will be uncomfortable for some people to read – it even made me squirm a little on one occasion.  Personally, I thought it was brilliant in so many respects.  It’s a book of survival without doubt, it’s highly creative and the writing is excellent.  However, I don’t want anybody to read this review and somehow get the wrong impression.  This is ADULT.  Forget what you’ve read by Bardugo before – THIS IS NOT THE SAME.  You have been warned, but a second warning can’t possibly hurt – this is not YA so don’t be fooled by the academic setting or the name of the author – if you’ve read this author before and loved her work – do not pick this up expecting the same tone.

Now you can see why the struggle.  Approximately 300 words just to give you a warning.

So, I’m not really going to elaborate on the plot because this review could easily become a thing of enormity.  I will just say that the MC is a young woman called Galaxy (or Alex) Stern, as the book starts Alex is a student, Freshman year, at Yale, she is one of their most unlikely students.  She dropped out of school at a young age and lived life on the periphery of society.  Eventually, things spiralled out of control and being the only survivor at the scene of a multiple murder was the final straw.  Things looked very bad for Alex until she was offered a second chance – a place at Yale in exchange for undertaking some mysterious duties.  I’m not going to tell you any more.

There are two elements to the story.  The disappearance of one of Alex’s fellow students (Darlington).  A young man who is part of the inner magical circle and was mentoring Alex with regard to her duties.  And the murder of a young woman, on campus – but seemingly unrelated to either magic or student life.

It’s difficult to immediately like Alex.  She is abrasive. Some of her actions are, let’s just say forthright, and she isn’t a shrinking violet – but she will grow on you.  Her outer shell is something that has developed as a result of years of ‘badness’ and isn’t easily cracked but as the story unfolds and you witness her experiences you will gain a better understanding of who she really is – frankly, she’s bloody awesome and I look forward to reading more books where she plays the key role.  There are of course other characters and they’ve very well drawn and easily imagined but Alex is my favourite in spite of herself.

In terms of the setting.  The majority of the book takes place in the academic setting but this also involves an underworld of secret societies each with their own agenda.  This is a modern day world where the majority of people are blissfully unaware of the magic that surrounds them.  A magic involving the occult and used by many powerful and successful people who have come to rely on the artificial boost it provides. There are monsters here.  Demons that lurk in the shadows and ghosts that can be hungry and vicious or simply sad.

The writing is the only element where I have slightly mixed feelings.  On the one hand I loved the writing.  I think it’s really evocative and highly atmospheric.  The descriptions are perfect and I was easily and fully immersed into this world.  I did have a small element of becoming a little irritated with the slightly over the top academic references that started to feel somewhat pretentious – but, on reflection, I think those references were necessary – if you don’t understand all of them, much like I didn’t, then maybe you’ll have a feel for how Alex felt, floundering around in an elite school system that she was only granted access to because of a rare talent she possessed that has caused her nothing but trouble all her young life.  Aside from this there is a slight pacing issue which really comes about as a result of the sheer weight of information, plot and world building that the reader has to take on.  You are pretty much thrown into this world and things are slowly revealed.  There are no huge info dumps which is a great relief. The information is relayed in an organic fashion that can leave you a little puzzled at first.  There are also flashbacks and a split time line so you really do need to pay very close attention to everything.

So, apart from a slightly weighty feel that means you have to slow your pace out of necessity, I didn’t have any other criticisms and really look forward to reading the next instalment which promises to be very different indeed.

I understand that the audio book for this was very good so I might even try the next in series in that format to compare the two.

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

Rating 4.5 of 5 stars

November : My Month in Review

Posted On 1 December 2019

Filed under Book Reviews

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Well, November just went speeding by.  I’ve been so busy this month, I’ve taken on various ‘projects’ around the house and it seems every time I finish one thing I add another two to the list. I’m exhausted.  On top of that we’re looking after our next door neighbours two dogs which is also an extra chore – I don’t mind really but it is time consuming.  And, well, I’m so tired by the end of the day that I’ve been doing very little reading or blogging.  I’m hoping things will calm down this month maybe and I can chill out – although December isn’t really known as the month for ‘chilling’ is it – chilled maybe!  Plus, there’s no sign of the neighbours returning yet, they said they’d be gone for 5 days, week maximum – it’s now been 10 days and not a hint of a return.  On the happy side of things I have completed Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition and to be honest it’s always a relief to finish the first part – not because I don’t enjoy it but it’s much more pressure than the second half because there are 30 books to be checked out and a winner chosen to go to stage 2 – and this year’s batch was rather excellent, which was good on the one hand, but just heaped even more pressure on in terms of choosing a finalist on the other.  Anyway, enough of that.  I’ve managed to read 8 books this month plus post a whole bunch of reviews and I’m about 30% into The Hanged Man and the God of Gnomes.  My month in covers can be found here and here’s my November in review:

Books read:  this month = 8

  1. Songs From the Deep by Kelly Powell
  2. Dark Pattern by Andrew Mayne
  3. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  4. Never Die by Rob J Hayes
  5. The Blade Withinby Jackson Lear
  6. Vortex Visions by Elise Kova
  7. River of Thievesby Clayton Snyder
  8. Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of the Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin

Backlist books


Unfinished series completed:


Books Bought: 

None – behaving myself before birthday/Christmas 😀

Audio Books Bought:


Review Books:

Not too excessive this month:

  1. Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri
  2. The Assistantby S. K. Tremayne
  3. Dead to Herby Sarah Pinborough
  4. The Shadow Saintby Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
  5. Stormsong by CL Polk

Hope you’ve all had a good month.this

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