Weekly Wrap Up : 10/06/18

Posted On 10 June 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
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I’ve had a lovely week.  Read two books and caught up with a few reviews plus started The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse.  The weather has been lovely and I’m also trying to insert a little more exercise into my day which has been interesting (just an hour’s walking).  So, here’s what I’ve read:

  1. Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  2. The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence #1) by K.D. Edwards

Next Week’s Reads:

  1. The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
  2. Wyntertide by Andrew Caldecott

Upcoming reviews: –

  1. Starborn by Lucy Hounsom
  2. Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
  3. School for Psychics by K C Archer
  4. Noir by Christopher Moore
  5. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
  6. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
  7. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
  8. The Testament of Loki by Joanne M Harris
  9. Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J Hayes
  10. Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  11. The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence #1) by K.D. Edwards

I’d love to know what you’re reading this week.

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Death March (Euphoria Online #1) by Phil Tucker

Death MarchI just recently finished Death March by Phil Tucker and even though I know less about RPGs than you could fit on a pinhead I had a blast with this book.  It was really good.  I found myself liking the characters, it’s a great way of coming up with a convoluted plot and lots of cunning solutions but more than that, now I’ve finished reading I find myself missing the story very much.

So, as you may be able to gather this is a book that falls into the LitRPG genre.  Now, if that has got you feeling like I did initially, that you don’t know much about RPG and therefore this isn’t for you – let me disabuse you of that notion straight away.  I wanted to read this because of the author but deep down I had misgivings, I’m not a gamer – the odd one out in my family apparently – but, the way this is written I really don’t think it’s necessary for you to be clued in.  It’s reader friendly.  Easy to pick up and impressively immersive.

As the book starts we make the acquaintance of Chris.  He’s a school teacher who seems to have had a string of bad luck family wise.  His brother is currently in prison and possibly facing execution (not, I hasten to add, because his crime was heinous but more to make an example of him).  Chris is determined to help and so when his ex-girlfriend offers him a free pass to play in the world’s most exclusive gaming experience, Euphoria, in spite of his nagging doubts about her motives he snatches the offer.  If he survives 6 months in game mode (the equivalent of a long weekend in real life) he can ask for his brother’s freedom as a boon.  You may be thinking ‘hell yes’ to that – but, in order to gain this special reward the gamer must be in ‘death march’ mode so if Chris dies in game – he dies in real life too.  Not an option to be taken lightly but Christ is out of other ideas and he refuses to lose his brother.

Now, the seriousness of death march mode put to one side, you also have to wonder why exactly Chris’s ex-girlfriend has offered him this exclusive pass?  Is something nagging at the back of your mind about ‘hell having no fury like a woman scorned’?

Anyway, Chris is a gamer on a serious level, or at least he was.  However, that means squat when he enters the world of Euphoria.  His stat sheet is the lowest of the low, he could barely run away from a hedgehog without losing strength and so if he runs across any enemies he’s going to have to think fast, a single swipe from a cave troll could kill him outright.  And so begins ‘the grind’.  Gamers will know all about that – a term I’m only familiar with because of the rest of the family.  Basically, Chris needs to put in effort to raise his basic stats, gain points and buy other skills, cantrips, weapons, etc.

Okay, now to the good stuff – sorry if I’ve made it all sound a bit dry with the explanation, I can assure you it’s anything but.  There is of course a little bit of build up and some description of the character mode that Chris chooses and what it all means.  But, rest assured once Chris enters game mode the action kicks off pretty much immediately.

It’s funny but I never imagined myself being able to love a world based on a game world (although Ready Player One) but now I realise how silly that was – the world here is brilliant and more so because being a game, I think, actually frees up so many restrictions or inhibitions that must feel like they bog down the creation of a fantasy world outside of a gaming situation.  It really does feel like anything goes here and with that comes this sense of liberation – you really can go with the flow and accept whatever may be thrown your way.  As it is this feels like a faux mediaeval world to me with a small village and crumbling castle overrun with critters – clearly though this is only one tiny part of the game.

The characters are a whole bunch of likeable too.  Chris is such a good guy that you can’t help but be in his corner and it’s easy to see that eventually he will make friends because of his kindness, sense of humour and compassion.  No surprise that he pretty soon finds himself with a couple of other gamers and the three of them come up with a mission of sorts.  He also makes some other great friends who I must admit have been making me laugh out loud but that I won’t go into detail about here as it will definitely spoil the surprise along the way.

In terms of the plot.  I’d say the first instalment is about setting the scene.  We’re in game mode.  Chris has faced some pretty hairy situations that have required some quick creative thinking where his previous gaming experience has definitely helped and with the aid of his fellow gamers they’ve come up with a way to boost their stats so they can move on.  What could possible go wrong?

On top of this there is the suggestion of something underlying the fun and games – Chris might be in here for one reason but discussion about the AI running the show has definitely got the cogs in my brain whirring and on top of that there’s the added dilemma of what Chris’s ex is really up to.

The writing here is really good which isn’t exactly a surprise as I’ve read this author a couple of times before and like his style.  This is easy to get along with and there’s just the right amount of humour to make it really engaging without being a try hard.

Criticisms, well, there is a little bit of set up – but not much so don’t let that put you off.  And, a cliffhanger – yes, this very much ends on an unresolved note however it simply leaves me gagging for the next instalment. I may have mentioned that I’m missing this now it’s finished and if I had less commitments I would undoubtedly read it again.

I would definitely recommend this – it’s has good pacing, characters that you will become attached to, the world is great and it feels like there are so many possibilities yet to be explored.

Thank you to the author for providing a copy.  The above is my own opinion.

Now check out the cover – I’ve posted it twice just in case you didn’t really check it out at the start – here it is again for your delight:

Death March

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Face Off : Raining Cats and Dogs

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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. This week’s theme:

Raining Cats and Dogs – a cover featuring a stormy sky

Well, I didn’t have any covers in mind for this week’s theme so I scrolled my Goodreads shelves and came up with American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett.  I really enjoyed this book and think the cover fits well:

Fewer choices this week but my favourite is still the version that I owned:

AE1

Check out these links for other bloggers cover choices:

The Bibliosanctum

Books Bones and Buffy

 

Next week – a cover featuring riders

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

15th June – Live in the saddle.  Die on the hog – a cover featuring riders

22nd June -‘Murder most foul, as in the best it is’ – a cover featuring a murder scene

29th June – ‘Lips as red as the rose’ – a cover that is predominantly red

6th July – ‘The north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, ‘ – a cover that is windswept

13th July –‘There’s more of gravy than of grave about you’ – a cover featuring a ghost or spectre

20th July -‘In winter with warm tears I’ll melt the snow’A cover featuring icicles or snow

27th July – “I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams.”  – a cover that is steampunk

3rd August – “Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.” – a cover featuring a starry sky

10th August – ‘…Christine, who have torn off my mask and who therefore can never leave me again! – A cover with a mask

17th August – ‘Knock, knock… ‘who’s there?’ – A cover featuring a door ajar or closed

24th August – ‘To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead, or excessively old!’ – A cover with a title featuring the word ‘legend’

31st August – ‘“Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy’ – A cover featuring a goblin or dwarves

7th September – ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall – A cover featuring a queen

14th September – “He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.” – A cover featuring a wolf or wolves

21st September – ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ – a cover featuring clouds

28th September – Eyes wide shut – a cover featuring eyes

5th October – “He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.” – A cover that is ‘noir’

12th October – “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”  – A cover for a mystery novel

19th October -“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”  – A horror cover

26th October – Trick or treat – A halloween inspired cover

2nd November – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,’ – A cover inspired by Bonfire Night

9th November – ‘All right! They’re spiders from Mars! You happy?’ – A cover feturing a critter of the eight legged variety

16th November – There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.’  – A scary cover

23rd November – ‘The child is in love with a human. And not just any human. A prince!’ – A cover featuring a mermaid/man

30th November – “..the children of the night. What music they make!” – a cover with a vampire

7th December – ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

14th December -“Heavy is the head that wears the crown”  – A cover featuring a crown

21st December – ‘ho, ho, ho’ – A seasonal cover

28th December – A freebie – choose one of your favourite titles and compare the covers

2019

4th January – A cover that is fresh – New beginnings for a New Year

11th January – ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

18th January – A cover featuring an Amulet – either in the cover or title

25th January – ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

1st February – A comedy cover

8th February – ‘Hi little cub. Oh no, don’t be ssscared.’ – A cover with snakes

15th February – A heart – for Valentine’s day past

22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th april – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

#SPFBO : The Crimson Queen (The Raveling #1) by Alec Hutson

Posted On 7 June 2018

Filed under Book Reviews

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the crimsonThe Crimson Queen is my eighth read from the finalists of the #SPFBO leaving me with just one more book to complete the competition.  The Crimson Queen was a very entertaining read with a compelling plot and intriguing characters.  It’s quite easy to see why this book is achieving such high praise.

One of the first things I will say about TCQ is it gets off to a really good start.  The hook is virtually immediate.  The way the characters were introduced was intriguing and left me eager to read on and find out more.  We are introduced to a young boy, Keilan, who has a strange knack for knowing exactly the right spot to fish, a particularly helpful ability given that he’s the son of a fisherman.  It doesn’t make him popular with the others in the village though and being a small and superstitious bunch they’re beginning to eye Keilan askew which isn’t good in a world where magic is despised and has all but been stamped out.  We also meet up with Janus (Jan).  His story is something of a mystery because he seems to have forgotten most of it.  He’s been living a regular life until something happened that brought about an ‘awakening’.  Jan is immortal.  He doesn’t recall anything of his previous life but there is a need within him that compels him to start searching for answers.  Senacus is a Paladin of Ama, one of the Pure who seek out magic users in order to ‘cleanse’ them.  Magic is greatly feared, many years ago it was used widely but unwisely and caused devastation beyond imagination.

We’re introduced to the characters fairly quickly and we alternate between different view points.  I enjoyed all the storylines.  There’s plenty to engage with and hold the attention and there’s a good supporting cast.  I particularly like the way that the Crimson Queen doesn’t really come into the story until almost the last third (or quarter).  It helps to build the feeling of suspense.  You’re never quite sure if she’s one of the good guys or not.  There is one particular character, who I won’t elaborate upon, who is very tricksy.  A piece of work indeed.  Strong with magic, manipulative and a character who has no remorse or guilt.

The world building is really intriguing.  We’re given a brief picture of historical events that shaped the world as it now stands.  Of course, history has a way of skewing events and the real nature of what took place is slowly revealed during the course of the story. It’s a a fascinating place with lots to explore, different cultures, ruined cities, religious fanatics, schools of magic and shadowy assassins to name but a few.

On top of this the writing and dialogue are really easy to enjoy in fact I’m really surprised that this is a debut.  It has a quality to it that I would have put down to experience.

In terms of criticisms.  I think the only things that stopped this from being a perfect read were, firstly, the abundance of tropes.  I’ve said it before but one more time can’t hurt – I like tropes, most people do, otherwise they wouldn’t become so overused.  However, providing they’re written well, creatively and maybe with a little bit of something extra they’re great in any story.  I think the author manages to make these tropes work well, due to the strength of writing and the layout of the plot but I thought it worthy of mention.  There is also a slight feeling of deja vu to certain elements.  Jan, for example.  I just couldn’t help picturing the Highlander when I was reading about him – which isn’t to say I didn’t like his character but that train of thought definitely sprung to mind.

Overall I have to say this was a very enjoyable read.  It was easy to engage with, it has a strong plot and is well constructed.  The characters really worked their magic on me and on top of that it remains mysterious and even now, after certain elements have been revealed, there is still the promise of more yet to come.

I would rate this book as 8.5 which equates to 4.25 on Goodreads and would have no hesitation in recommending it.

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

 

#SPFBO : The Way Into Chaos (The Great Way #1) by Harry Connolly

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wayintoThe Way into Chaos is my seventh book of the finalists from the #SPFBO leaving me with two final books to review to complete the competition.  WiC was a very pleasant surprise, an easy read and an epic feeling fantasy that I felt brought something new to the table.

The book gets off to a quick start with the introduction of a number of characters all making ready for a big event.  The Evening People are due to visit.  Using a portal this race of beings visit Peradain (I think annually although I’m not 100% on that) and dependent upon whether the visit goes well and the events are well received the Evening People bestow a ‘gift’.  These ‘gifts’ are then used and adapted to achieve various forms of magic.  Of course the people in Peradain are anxious to please, they sit at the heart of the kingdom and are a force to be reckoned with due to their magical prowess.  Until the latest visit, when instead of the Evening People coming through the portal a swathe of monsters breaks through and runs amok killing people, destroying the city and murdering the King and Queen.  Named ‘Grunts’ these beasts resemble bears to a certain extent but they are much quicker and stronger and their killing ferocity is impossible to resist.  A few people manage to escape the massacre and from there forward the story really begins.  A sort of cat and mouse chase really.  A group of survivors trying to reach other cities and warn others of the threat which now looms.  Monsters running amok killing in an almost, what feels to be random fashion and, unfortunately, at the same time, politics and back stabbing rearing their ugly heads when other Tyrs (Lords) of the Kingdom decide to use this as an opportunity to amass power.

The story follows two main characters.  Tyr Tejohn Treygar, became a Lord for his services to the kingdom.  He’s an older guy with a wealth of experience and a rather no nonsense manner that has earned him the nickname ‘Stoneface’.  He owns no land due to his humble beginnings and acts as bodyguard/fight master to the Prince.  Cazia Freewell is a scholar in Predain.  She’s actually a ward, a hostage to good behaviour following a failed rebellion by her father, but she’s lived at the Court, taking part in lessons with the Prince for so long, that she is completely loyal at this point.  The two escape from the City in a flying machine, accompanied by the Prince, Cazia’s brother and a number of others amongst them an Indregai Princess, betrothed to the Prince, known as Ivy.  The characters then split with both taking different routes.  Fortunately I enjoyed both of these storylines for very different reasons and felt like the supporting characters were also really good additions.  Particularly the Princess.  She’s only 12/13 but she’s such a good character to read about – I loved her background and the maturity she showed under such duress and for me she made that storyline carry more of an emotional impact that actually changed the way I felt about Cazia.

The world feels like a standard fantasy style setting but with the addition of magic (gifted) that allows things such as healing stones, and flying machines.  The magic comes with a cost and those magicians that become too ambitious can find themselves ‘hollowed’ out – which does sound rather unpleasant to say the least.  We don’t really get a lot of information about the Evening People, have they too been massacred by the Grunts or is this part of a bigger plan?  These things remain unanswered at this stage.  The Grunts themselves are one of a number of very interesting creatures.  Their own development is a twist I didn’t see coming to be honest and it felt very unique in this sort of story.  There are plenty of other fascinating beasties which I won’t delve into here so as not to spoil the surprises along the way.

In terms of criticisms.  I think the pacing was a little inconsistent. As mentioned the story bolts out of the starting gates with great fervour, it then dithers a little and almost has a feel of repetition until again, around a third of the way in the action picks up and with two different threads there is plenty to spark the interest.  Also, be aware that this is very much the start of the series.  There are no resolutions at the end of the book and so if that’s a pet niggle you might want to bear it in mind.  As it is, it makes me keen to see what comes next.

I enjoyed this, it kept my attention really well, apart from an initial pacing blip, and I found myself becoming invested in the characters.  It has an older style fantasy feel in that I wouldn’t describe it as ‘grimdark’ – there is plenty of killing and bloodshed but it feels a little more old school and a little less visceral, the language is also kept clean by the invention of some creatively clean cursing.

Overall I rated this 7.5 – not quite sure how that translates on Goodreads – 3.75 I suppose.

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

 

 

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