#SPFBO : My Second Batch of Books

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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.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:

 

Burn (Desert Deities, #1) by G. E. Hathaway

Burn ecover - G.E. Hathaway - Vickie L. H.

After a devastating power outage wipes out most of Tucson, survivors Liam, Noah, and Ellie have more than the hot summers to worry about. In the absence of modern technology, ancient spirits awaken and the Sun God and Rain Goddess resume their timeless war over the elements. Friendships are tested and lines between good and evil are blurred as the humans are thrust into a strange and dangerous journey that reveals the mysterious forces ruling the desert. When the Rain Goddess is injured and the temperatures rise, Liam, Noah, and Ellie must find a way to restore power to the city before they all burn.

Author Info : 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ranger’s Oath (Arc of Radiance/Fall of Radiance #1) by Blake Arthur Peel

rangerThe barrier between worlds is broken. Only he knows the truth…

Magic has protected Tarsynium for a thousand years, shielding its people from being ravaged by bloodthirsty demons. When a young ranger’s apprentice named Owyn Lund discovers that the Arc of Radiance has been breached, he tries to warn anybody who will listen.

But legends aren’t supposed to be real.

When a village is mysteriously destroyed, rangers, mages, and rebels all point the finger, blaming each other for the demons’ brutality. However, Zara Dennel, a mage’s ward, has heard Owyn’s tale—and she’s inclined to believe him.

Together, they must prove that friendship is greater than intolerance, unity is more important than division, and that even the most powerful magic can sometimes not be enough.

Failure means the end of all things. A second—and lasting—Doom.

Experience the beginning of a thrilling Epic Fantasy series suitable for all ages. It’s perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J. Maas, and Brandon Sanderson.

Author Infoblakearthurpeel

Website: https://blakearthurpeel.com

 

Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall

KnightmareMagic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

A fast-paced fantasy with magical creatures for those who enjoy the Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera series) by Jim Butcher, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

Author Info:

Website: https://sastovallauthor.com/

 

The Edge of Nothing (The Lex Chronicles #1) by Crystal Crawford

EdgeofAn evil force terrorizes Arameth, but those out to stop it have a serious problem: their prophesied hero is dead.

Centuries ago, a malevolent magicborn overtook Arameth, fracturing their world and unleashing a devastating war between magicborn and their non-magic neighbors. To protect their magical heritage, the Ancients of Arameth sealed themselves off in The Core, wiping all memory of magic from the ordinary people. The remaining magicborns retreated into hiding, unable to use their abilities for fear of inciting the wrath of the Ancients’ dark regime—or the terror of their own neighbors.

Two hundred years later, the damage wreaked by the Fracture threatens to unravel their world. A dark energy from The Core is slowly corrupting once-beautiful Arameth, and the Worldforce, the source of all Arameth’s magic, is destabilizing. The heroes sworn to restore the balance fail catastrophically in their final battle, and tensions peak between the peoples of Arameth. Fluctuations in the unstable Worldforce bring frequent disasters.

But not all of Arameth’s problems come from The Core…

Lex is a seventeen-year-old with no memories before this morning, and no clue why a group of villagers want him dead. Realizing they have mistaken him for a destructive magicborn who slaughtered innocents in their village, Lex flees for his life—only to discover he’s more tangled in the conflicts of the past than he ever imagined. And the mysterious girl he stumbles upon during his escape creates a whole new set of problems…

An epic fantasy / portal fantasy / soft sci-fi mashup, this book is teeming with quirky characters, fantastical creatures, surprises and suspense. With subtle clean/sweet romance, high-stakes adventure, and a strong focus on friendship and second chances, this all-the-feels fantasy debut will keep you flipping the pages.

Author Info: cryscrawford

Website: http://ccrawfordwriting.com

 

Mid-Lich Crisis by Steve Thomas

midlichIs trying to sacrifice your estranged wife to a bloodthirsty demon an irredeemable act of evil? This is the sort of question the Dread Wizard Darruk Darkbringer struggles with. After being called evil one too many times, Darruk sets off to find a new purpose in his life and become a beloved celebrity. Can a dark wizard come to terms with himself and prove to the world that a few atrocities don’t define who he is? You’ll feel guilty for laughing at his twisted tale of self-discovery.

Author Info:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chains of Blood (The Chaos Cycle #1) by M.L. Spencer

ChainsHe thought he was born Rylan Marshall…

…until he found out he wasn’t.

Instead, he was born the son of a demon.

Would that mean he was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps?

Rylan was attacked, his young son murdered, his baby daughter taken. But his assailant left him with two gifts: the gift of magic…and an oath to darkness. Rylan blamed himself, even though he knew it wasn’t his fault.

The life he knew was over.

And war is coming.

A new enemy, stronger and more fearsome than any other, appears out of the night.

Will Rylan use his newfound power to make a stand? Will he learn its use in time to make a difference? Or will his oath to darkness guide him to the enemy?

And when he finds out they’ve taken his daughter…how far will he go to get her back?

Author Info: @MLSpencerAuthor

Website: http://mlspencerfiction.com

 

Once again, good luck to everyone.  If you’d like to visit my blog for a guest post, excerpt, etc, then leave me a note in the comments.

#SPFBO : My First Batch of Books – Update

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The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  My first batch of books post is here.

The aim of these updates is to provide feedback on each batch of books.  I aim to read at least 30% of all my books and then make a decision whether to roll any books forward from that batch.  Any books that I decide to roll forward I will continue reading and provide a review and a decision about whether that book will be a semi finalist.  I will provide mini reviews for the books that are being cut.  I will not rate these books as I think it will be difficult to do so having only read the first third of the book.

Below are my books from the first batch and my decision about which will be cut or rolled forward.  I realise this is really difficult for all the authors and so I want to state plainly that I don’t find these cuts easy to make or enjoyable.  However, I do have to make cuts.  I can have only one finalist by the conclusion of the first half of the competition and so 29 books will eventually be removed.

The Curse of the Jenri by Stephanie Barr

CurseCurse of the Jenri is a high fantasy novel with a pseudo mediaeval feel.  As the story begins we witness a man (Tander) being rescued from prison and torture by his partner (Layla)  Layla is a member of a feared tribe of women known as the Jenri.  The Jenri wield both magic and swords, and have a fearsome reputation.  Unfortunately, it appears that something or someone is stealing the Jenri women using powerful magic and with Layla missing Tander must take control and lead the search.

This is a book that I would say is aimed at a young adult audience, although I’m basing that on the point at which I broke off  (31%) so could be wrong.  My first impressions are that there is no cursing here, the main characters are portrayed as ‘sexy’ but I wasn’t aware of any scenes of a sexual nature and the fights and bloodshed are definitely not graphic.  **Amendment to the above: on the author’s advice I understand this book is not aimed at a YA audience as the content becomes much darker as the story progresses so please be advised accordingly.

The Jenri women are magic users, their magic seems to be assisted by the jewels they wear and some of the women have ‘familiars.  On top of this the history of the tribe can be recounted through an archivist who has the magical ability to cast a scene in a vivid and real way.

In term of my impressions at this point: I would say that the author is going for a good, clean, fun read. It felt a little young for my taste with certain elements feeling almost overly sweet – which is something that gives me pause about the audience this is aimed at. By way of example, unicorns are the Jenri’s steed of choice and a whole litter of kittens seem to have adopted Tander as their human of choice – indicating that he will himself have magical ability that will no doubt manifest as the story progresses. The other issues that I had with this is it feels very light.  We’re told that the Jenri are fearsome but I’m not really picking that up from the read at this point. I  didn’t have any strong issues reading my alloted 30% but it isn’t a book that I will be rolling forward.  **This may appeal to a younger audience who are new to fantasy and want something light, fun and maybe a little romantic with a ‘chosen one’ feel.  I have only read the first third of the book though so I can’t speak for the remainder of the story or whether or not things take a darker turn. – **Again, see the above amendment.  I wouldn’t want to encourage the wrong audience to pick this up and understand that the content turns much darker.  These comments are based on the first 30% of the book only.

Conclusion: Cut

Chains Carried on Wings by Marina Ermakova

ChainsChains Carried on Wings made a promising start and was intriguing and well written to the point at which I broke off.  The story is told through four pov characters.  Ande, is a Kingsman who seems to have been sent out on a quest to investigate the smaller towns looking for signs of sedition.  We have a young woman called Saig who longs to be allowed to do things outside the norm.  Her cousin Auris is all set to be the next headwoman and dislikes Saig’s headstrong behaviour and finally a young man called Trei – who seems desperate to prove himself.

As the story gets underway it becomes apparent that everyone is on edge following the mysterious disappearance of a number of people. As if this isn’t enough the city suffers a couple of random goblin attacks and then an outright attack that forces people to flee into the forest or further afield.

I read quite a bit further than originally intended with this one reading over 40%.  It is an engaging read in many respects. I liked the writing and was intrigued by the people of Running Water and their everyday lives.

Obviously something larger is at play here although at this point I’m not entirely sure what that is.

In terms of magic, this seems to be related mainly to the goblins at this point who can manifest without warning.

In terms of issues that I have so far – I’m not particularly attached to any of the main characters, which isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed what I’ve read.  I think Ande is my favourite character at this point and Saig also shows promise.

I think this would definitely appeal to a YA audience – although, tbh, I’m not an expert at determining these things.  The characters seem quite young (although that’s not always a guarantee) but the cursing, violence and sexual content seems more aimed at that audience (at this point).  It’s difficult to say how the story will develop but I imagine there will be more danger, some sort of elaborate plan and hopefully these characters will eventually pull together in times of adversary.

Conclusion : Cut

Incursion by Mitchell Hogan

Incursion

I have decided to roll incursion forward and read further so no mini review for the moment.  If I read the entire book I will post a full review and at such time will decide whether or not this is a semi-finalist.

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The Five Furies of Heaven by Ashley Capes

The Five

This isn’t the first book I’ve read from this author so I definitely had expectations going into the read and to the point I read up to I would say this was an enjoyable and well written story.  Five friends on a mission encounter a God who changes them and bestows upon them special gifts.  Of course there is an underlying reason, this isn’t just an over generous deity after all.  Trouble is brewing.  War and insects and the very nature of life is going to change – and not for the better.

Unfortunately, none of the friends know exactly what to expect and one of them appears to have undergone no change whatsoever whilst his four friends have all become adult and to say this is something of a bugbear is an understatement.  However, nobody has time for reflection because it appears that an army is marching forth and taking villagers to fight in the war (whether they want to fight or not!).

This is a fast paced story, it has a coming of age type feel with these five friends going on a journey and in fact already encountering a number of dangers to the point I read up to.  There is magic and apparently dragons (although they didn’t make an appearance at the point I broke off (which was approx 33%).

I think this book has a lot of promise although I’m not at this stage proposing to roll it forward.  If I have a chance I would like to pick it up and complete it though.

Conclusion : Cut

 

Beyond the Spire of Navarene by M Warren Askins

Beyond theAs Beyond the Spire begins there is a prologue that takes the form of an account being sent of a battle – well, a slaughter at a village where only the children were left alive.

We then start to make the acquaintance of some of the characters.  Margot and Galahalt.  Sister and brother.  They seem to be in strife money wise and it appears that Margot has been promised as wife to a rather odious man if the debt cannot be paid.

Pietr is born into a family of warriors but unfortunately does not follow in the traditional roles, instead becoming an artist (or architect). It seems that Pietr does have a role, he can reimagine things and draw up plans so that they are improved, he can make sketches from descriptions and generally he seems to have turned the family opinion of him round to something very favourable.

We also meet a few novices – training to be knights.  They’re on the final hurdle and are given one task to complete before knighthood is bestowed, a task that involves them delving into the forest of Fenrirfang with all its dangers.

Finally we meet a ranger who teams up with Galahalt on his quest into Fenrirfang where he hopes to capture a prized beast that will pay off the family debt.

There is certainly no shortage of people and events to the point I read up to in fact this was maybe a little too ‘busy’.  I do think that there were a lot of new characters and jumps back and forth for the portions I read but I expect the narrative will settle down now that Galahalt is on his quest.  At the point I read up to I don’t feel fully enough invested in the characters to roll this forward though.

Conclusion : Cut

 

Heartscale by Lola Ford

Heartscale

 

Finally, Heartscale – I must first make mention of the wonderful cover for this book which is a wrap around and has fantastic detail.

This cover promises dragons and dragons there are.

Basically, this is a story of two characters, from opposite sides of the world who both seem to be chosen by a particular dragon – and the choosing will change their lives.

Graith is a farmer.  He encounters a dragon when it crashes, injured, into his barn after being attacked. He helps the dragon (Azelia) and the two form a friendship (or bond of sorts).  Graith undertakes to help Azelia return to her home and save her eggs.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Nerie has her life set on it’s head when she attends a hatchling and is chosen by one of the dragons (Kiriga)  Rulers are chosen by dragons and so this is rather a shock until it is discovered that Nerie is the illegitimate daughter of the King.

So, at the point I concluded the two dragons and characters have not met – I’m assuming they may do so if the cover is anything to go by??  Also, at this point I’m not entirely sure what direction the story is going to take.  There doesn’t appear to be any imminent threat on the horizon when I reached my cut off point.

The narration has a light touch, it almost feels like an expanded fairytale in the way the dialogue and description is approached and whilst this felt a little young for my own taste it could appeal to a MG or just slightly older reader – particularly as this looks like the first book in series.

Conclusion : Cut

 

I will be highlighting my next 6 books very soon so watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finally, good luck to all my authors.  Also, a quick mention that if any of you would like to post excerpts over here by way of teasers for other readers then just let me know (if you’ve already left me a comment to that effect I’ll be in touch shortly :D)

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Residence by Andrew Pyper

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 Residence by Andrew Pyper – and here’s why:

residenceIn this gripping and terrifying horror story based on true events, the President’s late son haunts the White House, breaking the spirit of what remains of the First Family and the divided America beyond the residence’s walls.

The year is 1853. President-elect Franklin Pierce is traveling with his family to Washington, DC, when tragedy strikes. In an instant, their train runs off the rails, violently flinging passengers about the cabin. But when the great iron machine finally comes to rest, the only casualty is the President-elect’s beloved son, Bennie, which casts Franklin’s presidency in a pall of sorrow and grief.

As Franklin moves into the White House, he begins to notice that something bizarre is happening. Strange sounds coming from the walls and ceiling, creepy voices that seem to echo out of time itself, and visions of spirits crushed under the weight of American history.

But when First Lady Jane Pierce brings in the most noted Spiritualists of the day, the Fox sisters, for a séance, the barrier between this world and the next is torn asunder. Something horrible comes through and takes up residence alongside Franklin and Jane in the walls of the very mansion itself.

Only by overcoming their grief and confronting their darkest secrets can Jane and Franklin hope to rid themselves—and America—from the entity that seeks to make the White House its permanent home.

Expected publication : September 2020

Top Ten Tuesday : Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

ttt

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:

Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

This week is short and sweet.  Ten books that I’m looking forward to reading for the rest of the year.  I’ve already highlighted some of my forthcoming reads fairly recently so I’m going with some of the books from later in the year.  I’m going with titles and covers and I’ve linked to the Goodreads descriptions if you’re curious about any of these:

Afterland by Lauren Beukes –  3rd September

Afterland

It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan –  8th September

Itwill

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart –  10th September

Bone

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – 29th September

Adead

Witch by Finbar Hawkins – 1st October

Witch

The Nesting by C.J. Cooke – 15th October

Thenesting

The Once and Future Witchesby Alix E. Harrow – 15th October

TheOnce

The Factory Witches of Lowell by C. S. Malerich – 10th November

Factory

The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas – 12th November

Thethief

Ink by Jonathan Maberry – 17th November

Ink

 

 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #MexicanGothic @JoFletcherBooks @silviamg

Today my review is part of a book tour – the details of which can be found below along with the poster detailing all the bloggers taking part.

MexicanGothicMy TL:DR Five Word Review : ‘Open Your Eyes’: Read it.

She only went and did it again.  Silvia Moreno-Garcia is positively a wordsmith.  I sometimes feel she writes simply with me in mind and manages to conjure up a book that is full of all my, not so secret, loves.  Mexican Gothic is truly gothic horror at it’s finest.  There’s a fantastic set up where we get to meet our storyteller, a forward thinking and intelligent woman who is not averse to a little romantic thinking.  There’s the light touch of fairy tales intertwined with myth sprinkled throughout the pages and there’s the most gorgeously decadent horror story that brings to us a house in the style of Usher and a family with more secrets than you could shake a stick at.

Set in 1950s Mexico the story begins with an introduction to Noemi.  Noemi is our central character and is very well imagined.  Beautiful, wealthy and a tad spoilt, although certainly not enough to make her unlikable, Noemi is no shrinking violet.  She’s used to the power that her family name brings and the doors it opens and this gives her a confidence that belies her age.  Not content to settle for a suitable marriage Noemi wants to go to University, she wants adventure and so when her father receives a disturbing letter from a recently married cousin Noemi is eager to make the journey and find the root of the problem.  So, suitcases in hand, lipstick in purse, and heels suitably high she sets off across the country to see her cousin and solve the mystery of her recent illness.

To be fair to other readers I’m not going to elaborate further on the plot.  Wild horses couldn’t drag any spoilers from between the lines of this review.  You’ll have to pick up Mexican Gothic yourself to discover it’s hidden secrets.

So, why did I love this?

Firstly, the writing.  This is not a new-to-me author.  I’ve already read and loved a number of her books including the rather brilliant Certain Dark Things, which I never miss an opportunity to wax lyrical about, and I have to say her writing is polished and persuasive.  I swear that this author could turn her hand to any genre and pull it off with ease.  Here she spins a tale that gradually pulls you in.  A lonely house atop a mountain, a family with a dark history and an overall sense of growing dread as a light is slowly shone into the darkest corners to reveal the horrors lurking there.

The main character Noemi is a wonderful creation.  She has a level of intelligence that keeps her thought processes and actions intriguing.  She has been brought up with privilege and this gives her a strength and confidence that would otherwise lack credibility and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself or take action.  Yes, Noemi could be described as vain, but, again, her vanity is never overtly irritating, more that she gives free rein to her desire to dress stylishly and is aware of the effect she has on others. Of course, this beauty can also attract the wrong sort of attention, as Noemi is about to find out.

The story itself reminded me of my love of so many gothic stories whilst at the same time standing on it’s own two feet.  It provoked thoughts of The Haunting of Hill House, Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, The House of Usher to name but a few.  The house itself is like a character.  Perched atop the mountains, High Place is aptly named, chilling, dilapidated and suitably eerie.  It has its own cemetery which hosts the many workers who once worked in the, now abandoned, family silver mine and a family mausoleum.  A thick mist frequently shrouds the house and grounds making it easy to become disorientated and the interior is poorly lit and outdated, not to mention damp and creepily quiet.

As the tension mounts the horrors and family history are revealed – and they’re not pretty.  Here is a family whose wealth and status suffered as a result of revolution but who are stuck in the past like a needle in the groove of a record.  They’re determined to regain the power and wealth of a bygone era and not above marrying into money – and yet this is the least of their transgressions.

In terms of criticisms.  I have very little to mention except maybe a slight disjoint as the pace increased, a feeling that the last quarter of the book was a little more rushed than the rest of the story but it wasn’t a feeling that lingered as I was quickly chasing the words on the page.

Now, as it is I’m struggling to say too much more without revealing spoilers that could ruin the pleasure of discovering firsthand the secrets of this story.  I can warn you that this is gothic horror, it doesn’t shrink away from some cringe inducing scenes and it ventures into an almost hypnotic, psychedelic phase of storytelling as events escalate so be prepared to read things that could make you flinch.  As it is I have to admit that I love the way the author can make me feel such a rush of emotions.  I really felt for the main character as she went from one awful extreme to the next and whilst I could second guess some of the events before they took place I was never sure what the final outcome would be.

I have no hesitation in recommending Mexican gothic.  It was positively gripping, beautifully written, packed with atmosphere and delivered another great read by an author that certainly knows how to push all my buttons.

My rating is 4.5 of 5 stars

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

Finally, today’s post is part of the blog tour organised for Mexican Gothic.  Below are the details of the other blogs taking part so please give them a visit and check out their thoughts and feelings too.

Mexican Gothic_Twitter cards_Blog

 

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