Friday Face Off : A Black Hole

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:

A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

I had a couple of ideas for this week’s theme but eventually settled onto the second book in the Southern Reach series by Jeff Vandermeer – Authority:

Some unusual covers for this one.  This one – if you look at it for more than a few seconds it almost feels like the black hole at the centre of the face is becoming larger!

Authority6

I think my favourite came down to two covers:

The first cover reminds me off a strange Watership Down dream sequences. The second one I like the colours and at first glance the rabbit seems fairly harmless but when you zoom in things seem decidedly off-kilter.  My favourite:

Authority1

Do you have a favourite?

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 : Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

2021

July

30th – Chaos – maybe too much going on in this one

August

6th – “They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, os so very delicately!” – The Motel

13th – A favourite holiday read

20th – Dressed to kill (could be literally someone dressed to kill, or someone dressed up for a big night out

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller

October

1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

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

The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

My Five Word TL:DR Review : In two minds about this

The Retreat is going to be an unusual review to write because I seriously am in two minds about this one.  On the one hand I loved the writing.  The book is absolutely full of atmosphere.  It’s a locked room mystery.  The setting is excellent and the sense of nature well described but on the other hand I found the ending a little unresolved in some respects and the antagonist lacking motivation or believability.

As the book begins (and after a dramatic opening prologue) we meet Maeve Martin as she arrives at the High Water Centre for the Arts.  Tucked up in the Rocky Mountains is a beautiful lodge surrounded by trees and nature.  The Retreat boasts quiet space, a stunning lodge and small cabins where people can work uninterrupted.  Maeve has taken a two week break and aims to use the time to formulate a plan for her own dance company.  Unfortunately, not long after her arrival disaster strikes.  Ever worsening weather leads to an avalanche and the centre is completely cut off from any means of contact with the outside world.

Without doubt The Retreat excels in terms of the writing.  Mariaffi conjures up a fantastic setting and then proceeds to cloak it in the most creepy and pervasive atmosphere.  In fact the first two thirds of the book held me gripped – I sat up into the early hours reading and I can say that I was genuinely a little freaked out – by which I mean scared!  The final third was where the ploit started to hot up and the body count began to rise.

I think, if memory serves, that there were seven people left stranded following the avalanche, a mix of people, a couple of characters who run the retreat and a mix of creatives including artists, film makers and dancers. Maeve feels a little like an insider as the others have all met previously and she often doesn’t understand the nuances of the group and their inside jokes.  There appears to be rivalry, particularly between certain characters and Maeve’s arrival seems to be the catalyst for things to escalate.  Maeve is coming to terms with a number of things.  She experienced a violent marriage that has now ended and she is also coming to terms with the fact that her dancing career is coming to a conclusion and trying to think of her future.  She’s left her two children in the care of their grandmother although she seemed to have a rocky relationship with her mother that leaves her anxious.  We find out much of Maeve’s history over the course of the story but it’s included in a very natural way and adds to the feelings of tension and fear that Maeve experiences.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I think the plot became a little chaotic in the final quarter (or Day 7).  I wouldn’t say that I came away from the book with all my questions answered and the eventual murderer seemed very thinly drawn to me.  I just didn’t buy into the motivations or reasoning to be honest. I noticed a few reviewers mentioned the over long chapters – I wouldn’t say that I found this a problem but each chapter represents one day and some of the chapters are indeed quite lengthy so bear that in mind.

To be fair to the author, and in spite of my reservations I still came away from this read with more positives than negatives.  I loved the writing and I guess the plot played second fiddle a little to that aspect.

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

My rating – between 3.5 and 4 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Liar’s Knot (Rook and Rose #2) by MA Carrick

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 Liar’s Knot (Rook and Rose #2) by MA Carrick.  I loved the first book in the series, The Mask of Mirrors, and can’t wait to read more.  Here’s the description:

Liar'sknotTrust is the thread that binds us . . . and the rope that hangs us.

In Nadezra, peace is as tenuous as a single thread. The ruthless House Indestor has been destroyed, but darkness still weaves through the city’s filthy back alleys and jewel-bright gardens, seen by those who know where to look.

Derossi Vargo has always known. He has sacrificed more than anyone imagines to carve himself a position of power among the nobility, hiding a will of steel behind a velvet smile. He’ll be damned if he lets anyone threaten what he’s built.

Grey Serrado knows all too well. Bent under the yoke of too many burdens, he fights to protect the city’s most vulnerable. Sooner or later, that fight will demand more than he can give.

And Ren, daughter of no clan, knows best of all. Caught in a knot of lies, torn between her heritage and her aristocratic masquerade, she relies on her gift for reading pattern to survive. And it shows her the web of corruption that traps her city.

But all three have yet to discover just how far that web stretches. And in the end, it will take more than knives to cut themselves free…

Expected publication : December 2021

#SPFBO Review : Berserker (Apocosmos #1) by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris

SPFBO71024_1

Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris is the first book from my Second Batch of books that I’m aiming to read and review this month.  You can find feedback from my first batch of books here and further information on SPFBO here.

Without further ado let’s get to the review (plus check out this fantastic cover):

Berserker

Berserker is the first book in the Apocosmos series that features a rather angry young man called Alex and his young dog, a Corgi known as Louie.  The book is an example of LitRPG (a genre that combines computer role playing games with science fiction and fantasy.

The story gets off to a rather dramatic start as we meet a bunch of characters who seem to be enslaved and forced to fight in violent (gladiatorial style) games.  This is where we are introduced to Alex as he starts to relate his tale to the other fighters. I confess that I’m rather fond of this style of story telling where we have a character casting back to relate his experiences so for me this got off to an interesting start.

From here we discover Alex works for a gaming company in New York.  His best (well, only) friend is called Leo and his closest companion is Louie, his dog.  Alex seems to have suffered a loss that he makes reference to on a number of occasions but this hasn’t been explored in detail other than it has left him feeling incredibly sad.  Anyhow, following a day in the office Alex and Louie leave to get takeaway and head home.  Unfortunately, they get caught up with a group of unsavoury characters that leads to something of an altercation and without warning Alex’s world is turned upside down when he’s pulled into a multiverse of possibilities known as the Apocosmos where our tiny corner of the universe is barely the tip of the iceberg.

The Apocosmos runs parallel to our world (the Cosmos) – fortunately most of us mundane muggles are happily unaware of the existence of this second world that seems to have actually been the inspiration for many stories, myths and legends that we believe to be fictional.  It appears that natives from the Apocosmos are living amongst us, disguised or hidden in plain sight and occasionally they pull an unsuspecting human into their world for one reason or another.

This is how Alex finds himself, unwittingly, begrudgingly even, a part of a much bigger universe.  Fortunately, it appears that Leo is also a part of this universe and so Alex isn’t left completely floundering around, although his natural inclinations to be anti-social don’t exactly help him as he never wants to leave his own domain.  In fact Alex has no desire to become further embroiled in this strange new world and has every intention of avoiding it until he realises that he might be able to make some money by crafting items and selling them on a platform not unsimilar to Amazon but much, much bigger in scale and possibility.  What could possibly go wrong with a ‘lets get rich quick’ idea?

I won’t elaborate further on the plot, suffice to say that this is only the first slice of Alex’s story so the ending doesn’t complete his tale.

What I liked about this.  I think it’s an interesting idea with a lot of potential storylines given the size of the Apocosmos.  The author has already come up with a number of cool notions such as gargoyles acting as postmen not to mention the idea of allowing Louie to communicate as a result of a successfully completed quest.  I confess that I’m not a gamer but to be honest I really don’t think this was a deterrent. The story feels like urban fantasy with a contemporary world with supernatural elements and the inclusion of the gaming aspects.

The characters.  I have to say that Louie was my favourite – I can’t really resist the inclusion of a cute Corgi that can communicate – particularly about his desire to eat bacon.  Also the partner that Alex takes on board – a dwarf called Rory – I did like this character especially as he started to open up.  Alex and Leo – well, Alex I find a little over aggressive.  Which I guess definitely feeds into his fighting character becoming something of a ‘berserker’ and for that reason I could relate a little more to what the author was doing.  However, I found him a bit judgemental of others, he makes quite a lot of remarks about other people that seem unnecessary  and he jumps with almost indecent haste from regular, ‘nothing to see here, just walking my dog’ calm to  ‘I want to knock everyone’s block off, mad as a box of snakes’ insanity. Like I said though – Berserker – the clue is in the title I guess.  Leo, well his inclusion feels a little contrived.  He’s a good friend (although not going to lie – I’m not always sure why), he’s indescribably rich, connected and knowledgeable about the Apocosmos – what were the odds?  Maybe there’s a further storyline about this in the pipeline though in fact it will be interesting to see how his inclusion develops.

In terms of criticisms.  I understand the need to include gaming stats in litrpg but, there is a lot of it here and to be honest I think it pulled me out of the story quite frequently.  Like I said, I do understand the need for this but I think maybe some of the lesser characters could be referred to without as much detail or maybe some of the terms could be elaborated upon in a glossary.  Anyway, it did distract from the story a little for me personally.  Also, there’s a heck of a lot of Alex ruminating about his business idea – again, maybe a bit too much information which felt a little dry and again was a bit distracting.

Overall, I enjoyed Berserker, probably more than I expected given that in terms of the RPG elements I’m not really the intended audience.  I think it had a few blips but it was a quick read and I find myself curious about just exactly how Alex comes to find himself in the slave barracks where we first make his acquaintance.  Plus, I’m worried about Louie – if anything happens to that dog – well, we’ll have another berserker on our hands.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy.  The above is my own opinion.

Books already reviewed for SPFBO :

  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

The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A modern day fairy tale

Thepastisred

I will start this review by saying short stories are not usually my thing, in fact I tend to avoid them because I know I’ll be left wanting more – and strangely enough, I want more of Tetley Abednego, but in this instance it’s not a criticism.  I want more because I can’t get enough of this character, this world, the words on the page, the emotional depth and the hope that is delivered in the final pages.

Valente has managed to write a story that on the face of it appears hopeless and yet she infuses this with her own whimsical style and instead of creating something bleak and full of doom comes up with a character who is so supremely hopeful, who sees the beauty in this strange world that is all she’s ever known and gives us a feeling that perhaps things could be better.

Once upon a time a young girl, was born in Candlehole in a place known as Garbagetown.  Having managed to survive this strange and bizarre world, finding beauty in stories and looking for leftovers from the previous world before everything was covered in water, she became known as Tetley.  For a long period she was hated for a terrible mistake she made, although this was carried out in good faith.  She accepted her punishment, expecting sometimes to die on any given day and eventually she came to live alone – until she discovered she wasn’t alone at all.  The end.

Obviously this is a story with a meaning behind it.  Valente handles this well and it isn’t the type of tale that feels like it’s preaching.  More, the author gives the story a kind of inevitability, the world is underwater, a handful of survivors live a bizarre life on a strange floating mass of waste left over from the days before everything went pear-shaped.  There’s a strange kind of irony that the rubbish from our throw away society becomes the means for life in this unusual story.

This could be such a book of despair and yet it doesn’t go down that route.  For the survivors, they have never known any different so there isn’t the strange nostalgia of the ‘good old days’.  Instead, they have these mementoes from the past and they use them – not only to live but to create stories and myths.

Tetley is a fantastic character to read.  She tells her tale simply, she doesn’t become involved in making excuses or feeling sorry for herself or blaming others.  It is what it is and I just loved her refreshingly direct manner.  I would happily read more in fact I would love to do so.

I loved the writing.  Unlike garbagetown, which is made up of waste, Valente manages to give every word and sentence meaning.  Nothing is wasted here and to be honest she is a magnificent storyteller.  She grabbed my attention almost from the first page and I was hooked from there onwards.  She brings her creation to life in the mind’s eye with an ease that belies the difficulty of such an undertaking.

Valente – I salute you.

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

My rating 5 of 5 stars

« Previous PageNext Page »