#SPFBO Aching God (Iconoclasts #1) by Mike Shel

Posted On 20 April 2019

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Aching GodAching God is the fifth finalist I’ve read as part of the SPFBO.  Aching God brings to us a retired adventurer who receives a summons from the Order he once served and as a result is forced out of retirement to take up a mission that might save his daughter’s life.  I enjoyed this, it’s well written, perhaps a little drawn out in places but overall an entertaining story.

Auric Manteo is the retired adventurer.  He put his relic hunting days behind him and tried to live out a peaceful life although his past still haunts him, particularly of late when his sleeping hours are plagued with nightmares from previous adventures.  The last thing Auric desires is a return to ancient ruins but a strange plague has swept through the City and his daughter now lies in the grips of the disease.  It appears that an ancient artifact maybe at the root of the problem and so the Syraeic Order have deemed that it must be returned to the temple from which it was taken.  This is a more difficult task than at first appears, all records of the mission have mysteriously been destroyed and the original team seem to have been scattered and lost.  Auric and his companions need to hunt down what clues they can and return the relic before more lives are lost.  And so begins this quest.

There were a number of things that stood out for me with Aching God.  The writing is very good and there is plenty of imagination exercised during the course of the journey.  I think Shel has done a great job in creating the world whilst at the same time leaving plenty of issues yet to be explored, the Queen being a really good example of one such mystery.  There were a good number of twists in the tale, particularly during the last quarter and I can genuinely say they came as a surprise to me which I think is a real credit to the writing.

I particularly liked the main protagonist.  He’s an older man, experienced but also a little bit haunted and suffering from self doubt over past decisions that didn’t end well.  I liked that he didn’t overnight become the ‘best thing since sliced bread’.  He struggled and his struggles made him realistic.  He’s also basically a decent character at heart.  Of course he’s made mistakes in the past, his relationship with his daughter has been fractured and he now regrets some of the paths he has chosen.  I would also say that it was so wonderfully refreshing to read a bunch of characters, struggling on a quest, who don’t immediately succumb to each other’s charms.  Just saying.

The story here is a swords and sorcery style quest that follows a linear route.  We move from one adventure to the next along the way and the tension is really ramped up as we approach the concluding chapters.  Shel manages to inject enough horror into the story through the use of flashbacks and dreams that give you a real sense of impending dread about what these adventures are working towards.

In terms of criticisms.  The characters who join Auric feel very flat.  I didn’t really feel enough attachment to them which led to a general ambivalence about their overall survival.  I also think that there were a couple of episodes along the way, well, one in particular, that felt very contrived and felt like it was written into the story just to bring a certain object to bear in future chapters.  I think perhaps my main problem with Aching God was the length.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a lengthy book, in fact I particularly enjoy detail, however, I have to say that it felt like it took a long time to reach the real drama.  Without doubt, the last 25-30% was very gripping indeed and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I think some of the earlier chapters could have maybe been tightened.

Overall, I have to say that this is a really good start to series and I enjoyed the read, even if it felt a little weighty at times.

I would rate this 7.5 out of 10 for the purposes of the competition which would equate to 3.5 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

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

 

 

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One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1) by Mark Lawrence

OnewordIf you visit my blog you’ll know that Mark Lawrence is one of my favourite authors and so I’m very happy today to be reviewing One Word Kill as part of the tour organised by 47North.  Further details are below.

One Word Kill is a slight change of tack and see’s this author taking a sidestep into the world of science fiction.  This is a story involving time travel and friendship and is also something of a shout out to the 80s.

I will confess straight out that I know next to nothing about Dungeons & Dragons, I know – break out the pitchforks and roast me over a hot flame already.  I also admit that science fiction is not my ‘go to’ genre and on top of that, time travel can be a little bit hit or miss for me.  Basically, I guess this book had its work cut out and so I’m relieved to say that this was a very enjoyable read.

As the story sets out we meet Nick Hayes just as he discovers he has cancer.  Nick is a fairly regular fifteen year old, a little bit awkward, doesn’t know how to relate to his mum, thinks girls are from a different planet, has a small group of close friends, doesn’t really fall into the ‘in’ crowd but has no real grumbles as such.  He gets together with his friends at weekends to thrash out the latest stage of their D&D game and the biggest change to his world was the recent inclusion of a girl into their small circle – and then of course the shocking news of his illness.

Then other things start to happen.  Events in Nick’s everyday life seem to be mimicking things that occur within the D&D game he plays with his friends and on top of that a stranger seems to be stalking him.  Not to elaborate on the plot it seems that this stalker needs Nick and his friend’s help for a most unlikely rescue situation.  And, as if you needed more, at the same time it seems that Mia, the recent female addition to the crew, has caught the attention of, in my gran’s words, ‘a thoroughly bad sort’!

So this all comes together in a roiling mess of events that escalate into something crazy before eventually untangling themselves and rushing headlong at a conclusion.

What I thought was really good here – the friendships and banter were very well done.  Basically these are a bunch of nerdy teenagers who get together to geek out.  The language of games overcomes everything after all and the interactions and dialogue flow really well – for me, these characters felt real and behaved the way I would expect.

If you love the 80s you’ll love all the little shout outs and whilst I admit that I probably missed a few along the way part of the fun is spotting those things that resonate  personally.  I enjoyed that this story had a familiar feel, think Stranger Things and Back to the Future but also imagine hints of The Goonies and Stand By Me, yet,in spite of that, it was different from the norm in that, as you would imagine with the inclusion of a seriously ill main character, the story has a serious feel.  There is still that sense of camaraderie that you would anticipate but there’s also an element of sadness that you would expect to accompany such a serious issue.  But, before you become all doom and gloom – there is also hope thrown into the mix so bear that in mind too.

The science fiction elements – well, this is time travel, and I can go round and round in circles with the whys and wherefores.  I think the explanations here are done well, probably a little bit over my head in some respects – all the split, multiple timelines and quantum physics (yeah, straight over the top of this one’s noggin) but to be fair I don’t think there’s too much convoluted E=MC2 going on here so I’m sure most people will find this a fairly easy, maybe even ‘soft’ sci fi read.

In terms of criticisms.  The only thing I would mention, and I do tend to bang on about shorter stories – this feels like it could have used a little more padding.  This is a very quick page count and I appreciate that the brevity gives the story a snappy feel but at the same time it also left me feeling that the ending was a little bit rushed, there was a sense that some things slotted very conveniently into place at various points and also, occasionally a feeling of being ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’.

On the whole One Word Kill is a fast paced adventure, it is a story that compels you to turn the pages quickly to see what will happen next and put bluntly there’s never a dull moment.

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

Details of the other blogs taking part in this tour are below:

One Word Kill Blog Tour Poster .jpg

Friday Face Off : ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’

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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.  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:

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

Schools – I think this has been a past theme but I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with.  I thought this one should be relatively simple and there’s one very obvious choice that we could all use.  My book this week is: Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1) by Richelle Mead

My favourites are :

My favourite this week :

VA4

Which one is your favourite?

Like last week I’ve added a Mr Linky here so that you can leave a link if you wish or please leave me a link in the comments so we can all visit and check out each others covers.  Thanks

I’ve updated the list and included themes through to the end of 2019 – I’ve also included events that I’m aware of so that you can perhaps link your themes up where possible (if you know of an event you’d like to share that let me know in the comments).  I also have a list prepared for 2020 and so will set up a separate page soon for forthcoming themes.  As always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment.

Next week – A cover featuring a sunrise/sunset

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

2019

26th April “The sunrise was the colour of bad blood” – A cover featuring a sunrise/sunset

(May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder – details here, Twitter: @wyrdandwonder)

3rd May  – “How sweet to be a cloud, floating in the blue” – A cover that is predominantly blue

10th May  – “As full of spirit as the month of May” – A cover featuring a festival/party/celebration

17th May –  “The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow!” – A cover featuring a fantasy beast

24th May – “bibbity, bobbity, boo” – A cover that features ‘magical things’

31st May –  “simples” – A favourite fantasy cover 

7th June  – “One swallow does not make a summer” – A cover that makes you think of Summer 

14th June – “Coraline opened the box of chocolates. The dog looked at them longingly.” – A cover featuring something sweet

21st June – Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year – Pagan rituals/standing stones/blazing suns – a cover with your own interpretation

28th June – “And who decided which people wore the striped pyjamas” – A cover that is striped

5th July – “The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe… has been answered” –  a cover featuring something/somebody historic 

12th July – A wrap around cover

19th July – “You can’t choose between life and death when we’re dealing with what is in between.” – A cover that is grainy or looks like ‘white noise’

26th July – “Ludo ….. down” – A cover that is Upside Down

2nd August – “There are children here somewhere. I can smell them.” A cover featuring children

9th August – “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request.” – A cover featuring Pirates

16th August – “The haft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagles own plumes” – a cover featuring feathers

23rd August – A cover that is a movie tie in

30th August – “I wandered lonely as a cloud” – a cover that is predominantly yellow

6th September “Warm September brings the fruit” – a cover that is seasonal for Autumn/Fall

13th September – Friday the 13th – unlucky for some!  A cover with ‘curse’ in the title

20th September – “Your hair is winter fire,January embers.” – A cover featuring hair

27th September – Freebie

4th October – “Feed me Seymour” – A cover that is 60s horror

11th October – ““And, though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same.”  – a cover featuring an Inn

18th October – “It’s your favorite scary movie, remember? He had on the white mask, he stalked the babysitters.” – A cover featuring a scream

25th October – for Halloween – pick any scary cover you like

(I’m hoping that November will once again bring to us SciFiMonth – Twitter @SciFiMonth)

1st November – A cover that is predominantly grey

8th November – “big badda boom” – a cover that features an explosion

15th November – “No thinking thing should be another thing’s property, to be turned on and off when it is convenient.” – a cover featuring a robot

22nd November – A cover that is Futuristic

29th November – “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.” – a cover that is 60s sci fi

6th December – Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this sun of York”  – a cover that puts you in mind of winter

13th December – A cover that features a temple/or religious icon

20th December – Longest Night –  a dark and foreboding cover

27th December – the festive season – a cover that is glittery or sparkling

(2020 – January is Vintage SciFi month so I’ll be including possible themes to take that on board.)

The Binding by Bridget Collins

Posted On 18 April 2019

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ThebindingThe Binding is a book that I’d been looking forward to picking up for quite some time.  It has an intriguing description that tells us this is “An unforgettable novel of enchantment, mystery, memory, and forbidden love, The Binding is a beautiful homage to the allure and life-changing power of books—and a reminder to us all that knowledge can be its own kind of magic.”  I really enjoyed this for the most part.  It’s a beautifully rendered love story with a historic backdrop and a low fantasy feel.

As the story sets off we make the acquaintance of Emmett a young man who works the land on his family’s farm.  We soon learn that Emmet has been unwell, he seems unable to complete his regular duties and is burdened with feelings of guilt and self-doubt.  Returning home from a day in the fields Emmett hears his parents arguing about a letter they’ve just received – a letter that summons Emmett to become an apprentice book binder.  Books are forbidden and the local binder is thought to be a witch – and yet, Emmett’s parents submit to the request and he’s taken off to begin his apprenticeship.  The first part of the story is really well done.  I found myself easily pulled into the pages and the way of life. There’s enough description of the time and place to create a vivid picture and the entire first part is loaded with tension and mystery.  There is a good deal of significant looks, brimming with meaning, and whispered conversations and just as I was about to explode with the mystery of it all we moved into the second part.

To be honest, it’s difficult to continue the review after this point without giving away spoilers.  Basically the second section of the book takes us back to an earlier period and shines a light on all the secrecy alluded to in the first part.  I loved these chapters.  They had a wild unkempt feeling that put me in mind of Wuthering Heights.  I could envisage the farm and the way of life, the secrets, the forbidden meetings.  Obviously I could see in which direction things were going to go but it all added to the tension and fear for the characters themselves.  Very evocative indeed.

The third section is the part that I struggled with a little and I’m not sure I can completely put my finger on why that is. These chapters take on a very dark and gothic feel, almost Machiavellian in the scheming and intrigue and packed with some pretty nasty characters.  I mean, in some respects I can see what the author was aiming for here and I absolutely love the idea of it.  The sense of despair, of things being too far out of control.  The difference in tempo moving the story out of the country and into the city, the sense of grime, the disparity between the rich and the poor, the exploitation.  It felt almost Dickensian in contrast to the Bronte feel of the first two parts. I guess, for me, it felt a little jarring and maybe a little over the top in terms of what was going on.  I think it could have been calmed down somewhat whereas as it was it felt a little scattered and chaotic.  I think if a little of the busyness had been stripped from this final third this could well have been a perfect read for me.

I can’t tell you too much more about the plot.  The central concept here is one of memories and the power they hold over a person.  It’s not something I’ve really ever considered before and this story definitely gave me some food for thought.

I really enjoyed Collins writing, I thought she had a lovely way with words and I enjoyed the historical feel.  I would say that the fantasy and magic behind the whole aspect of ‘book binding’ is very light and I wouldn’t say that I had a really strong understanding of the binding or how it works.  In fact, I would say that you probably just need to go with it and don’t look too hard for explanations.

I think given the nature of how this story is written readers will likely have very different experiences when they read this.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some readers love the third part and find the opening chapters a little too drawn out.  Overall, I had a good time with this.  I didn’t love the concluding chapters as much as I’d have liked but I found the first two parts of this very intriguing indeed and I confess that I read the whole story in two sittings I was so gripped.

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

 

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

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 : Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell.

SongsfromthedeepA girl searches for a killer on an island where deadly sirens lurk just beneath the waves in this gripping, atmospheric debut novel.

The sea holds many secrets.

Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process. With townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, and their own secrets threatening to unravel their fragile new alliance, Moira and Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.

Due for publication :  November 2019

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