#SPFBO – My Next Steps

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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 updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.

So, this is slightly new territory for me in that this year I’ve left all my possible books to the final month to read and review and I’ve decided to leave things fairly loose.  To be honest I’d like to read all 10 books before choosing semi-finalists but I’m also conscious that time is moving on and I need to keep on top of things and not leave everything to the last few days.  With that in mind I’m going to provide an update after I’ve completed the first five books, 

And, the following (not listed in any particular order) are the books that I will be reading (slight spoiler alert, in case you’re thinking this seems like a lot to get through I can say I’ve already completed three of these so hopefully my first update will come on swift wings

  1. Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier
  2. Voice of War by Zack Argyle
  3. The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick
  4. The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran
  5. Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley
  6. Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez
  7. The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice
  8. The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe
  9. Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall
  10. Incursion by Mitchell Hogan

On a final note – if any of my authors have audio versions available and would like me to check those out then just leave me a comment.

Good luck to everyone.

#SPFBO : My Fourth Batch of Books : Update

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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,,my second batch of books and update here and here and my third batch of books plus update. Today I will be providing feedback on my fourth batch of books.

As with previous years I will read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% (or approx 100 pages) 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. Below are my thoughts with apologies to those authors whose books have been cut:

Rise of the Forgotten Sun (The Sun and the Raven #1) by Jon Monson 

Riseofthe

Rise of The Forgotten Sun gets off to an interesting start. We meet Prince Aydiin who is travelling solo through the desert on a mission that he volunteered for. Aydiin’s uncle has been committing rebellious acts against the Sultan (Aydiin’s father) and Aydiin is hoping to find his uncle and negotiate peace – or at least that’s what he tells his uncle when he finally encounters him. Instead the Prince captures his uncle and plans to execute him immediately. Aydiin’s father however has other ideas and commands the Prince to return the rebel to the capital for trial and this is when things go wrong.

The Prince has come into possession of a strange gold coin that seems to be a map of the stars directing the bearer to a legendary tower in the heart of the Soulless Desert – nobody who enters the Soulless Desert returns but Aydiin isn’t deterred and he persuades his friend Barrick to accompany him on a treasure hunt. Of course this means deferring his trip back to the capital with his prisoner until he returns. – what could possibly go wrong.

Well, the two eventually find the tower, in spite of difficulty along the way and they discover a magical stone that seems to be absorbed (or transferred into Aydiin’s body) upon his touch. Finally, returning to the capital with their prisoner the train they are travelling on is ambushed and Aydiin’s uncle escapes leaving the Prince to face the wrath of the Sultan.

I found this an entertaining read to the point at which I broke off, it certainly has plenty going on and a fairly consistently rigorous pace. There is almost an Arabian Nights feel to the setting with plenty of imaginative elements thrown in such as intelligent and loyal dinosaurs (well one at least so far), gadgets that make me think steampunk and elements such as trains and guns and items of clothing such as Bowler Hats, which make me place this as a maybe 19th century read (could be very wrong with that guess though).

This very much has a fun style adventure feel at the moment although given the chapters I concluded on I think things are set to change dramatically.

In terms of criticisms. There is a lightness about this, a lack of the sort of detail that sometimes I want and notice when it’s not there. Some of the situations Aydiin finds himself in felt too easily resolved and lacked tension or a real sense of threat. But, as I already said, I think this could be a fun, over the top, fast paced adventure that will appeal to others.

Conclusion : Cut

The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran

Childof

This is going to be quick. I started The Child of Silence and cannot deny my immediate impressions were not favourable in spite of an interesting premise. The writing felt a little bloated and it was slowing down my reading. But, I also can’t deny that as I continued to my allocated cut off point I was becoming hooked as things started to take off and so I’ve decided to continue with this one and see if it continues to work it’s magic on me.

Conclusion : roll forward

Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley

Trial

I have to say that I’m also really enjoying Trial of Thorns at the moment so I’m going to continue reading for now.

Conclusion : roll forward

Emma and the Minotaur (World of Light, #1) by Jon Herrera

Emma

Emma and the Minotaur is (I think – but please correct me if I’m wrong) a MG story about a young girl who goes on a quest with a friend to find the truth about people who are going missing.

To the point I finished reading I found this an enjoyable story (with a couple of slight reservations).

Emma is a spirited young girl with an active imagination about magicians and aliens. Her father is a professor and she seems to take after him in terms of intelligence. Emma takes a liking to a sad young boy at school who is always alone and decides early on that she’s going to befriend him. It turns out that the young boy is sad because his father has gone missing. The two decide to embark on a quest that involves a relentless search of the neighbouring forest.

As I mentioned above this is a good, easy to read, well written story that managed to pique my curiosity. Emma can be a little over zealous sometimes but I put that down to her age and intelligence – she is always coming up with ‘plans’ and they’re not always the most appropriate.

In terms of criticisms – the only thing that gave me a few misgivings was that there were a few occasions where Emma’s recklessness made me wonder whether she was setting a good example for younger readers reading her story – I realise that probably sounds a bit odd but, for example, on one occasion she goes into the forest alone at night, even though she’s been told not to do so – simply because it’s a short cut. On another few occasions both Emma and her friend leave the school premises at lunch time. It just made me worry a little. There’s also the usual trope of the missing parents – this seems to be something that I find is heavily relied upon in fiction and it feels a little overused.

On the whole, little issues aside, I thought this was a good adventure story that seems to have a lot of promise.

Conclusion : Cut

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

Calico

Calico Thunder Rides Again has really impressed me so far. I’ve already read just over half so I won’t be reviewing it at this point.

Conclusion : roll forward

Shifter Shadows by Anthony Stevens

Shifter

Shifter Shadows is another book that surprised me and I found myself enjoying it to the extent that I read over and above what I originally intended. This is an unusual story. As the book begins we go way back when, following a tribe of native Americans – I will just say that my knowledge here is sketchy so I’m not going to elaborate on what period this may have come from – although early parts of the story show the tribe living in caves and also there is mention of cave drawings. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, it was really interesting seeing the people, their interactions and the way that some of them connected to a spirit animal that allowed them to borrow it’s form and shape shift. These earlier chapters obviously provide the background to the supernatural elements and show how history progressed with settlers, etc.

We then jump forward to a modern day setting and make the acquaintance of a number of different people and their stories as they become aware or awaken – to their own abilities – and these storylines eventually come together.

I’m not going to elaborate on all the characters. We are introduced to quite a few, quite a lot of young people coming into their new abilities and finding the limitations of what they can and can’t do. At the same time there is a background feel that things are escalating somehow, and that these shapeshifters are about to be revealed (although I’m not sure if that is the case or not). At the same time there is a serial killer storyline that demonstrates a couple of things – that there are bad people everywhere and that the shifters ‘police’ their own – otherwise their secret won’t last for long.

In terms of criticisms. Some of the jumps in the story felt a little abrupt. In the earlier parts reading from one chapter to the next the timeline would jump forward many years at a time. Regarding the more modern day storyline, there are a lot of people introduced in fairly short order, I didn’t find this a problem although I sometimes felt that the relationships were a little too quickly formed and the Otherkin (shifters) were maybe a little too trusting in some respects – which felt a little wrong given the secrets they must keep.

Slight criticisms aside, I enjoyed reading this and would like to return to the story after the competition to see how things unfold and write a fuller review.

Conclusion : Cut

#SPFBO 6 – Saturday Snapshots : Excerpt – Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

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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.)  Whilst the competition is taking part I’d like to post excerpts from some of the books that have entered the contest.  If you’d like to make use of this space to post a teaser to entice readers then let me know in the comments (and, if you’ve made contact but I’ve not replied, please try me again, I missed a whole bunch of comments that went into spam).

Today’s teaser comes from one of the books in my fourth batch : Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez:

** Excerpt **

The spotlight fell on the announcer in the center ring. His magically-amplified voice boomed through the tent like thunder. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, for our final performance this evening, Strickland’s Circus is proud to present a thrilling spectacle unlike any you’ve seen before.” He paused for a few moments as if to let the audience soak in his words. “Everyone give a warm welcome to the fearless queen of the center ring and her extraordinary winged beasts. I present to you, Grace Hawkins!”

He dragged out the vowels of the name as the crowd broke into applause. A young woman in a short red dress with glittering gold accents entered the ring. Contrary to the popular bobbed style of the times, her long hair flowed free behind her like a dark cape. She flashed a radiant smile at the audience and raised both hands in a wave, then turned around and signaled to the four black-clad men standing just at the edge of the lit area. They stepped forward into the light, and a wave of gasps rippled through the crowd.

Harvey sucked in a breath of his own and watched in awe as two griffins and a dragon were led into the ring. An actual dragon! He hadn’t seen a dragon in any circus for decades, much less one as magnificent as this. The beast’s body was roughly the size of one of the elephants that had performed earlier in the night, though with her tail and long neck, she was considerably longer and not quite as bulky. Orange, brown, and cream-colored scales covered her entire body, and each of her toes ended in a giant, hooked claw that could tear a man open in seconds. Thick ropes—presumably enchanted—bound her wings at her sides to keep her from flying off, but Harvey could imagine how powerful and majestic they might be spread out to their full span.

He looked down at his companion. The boy was equally mesmerized, if perhaps for other reasons besides sheer enjoyment of the spectacle. Harvey could practically see the cogs turning in his mind, plotting, scheming. It made him nauseous, but he shook the feeling off as he again turned his attention to the center ring.

The trainer ran the beautiful creatures through a series of increasingly-complex tricks. The griffins leapfrogged over each other in an almost complete circle around the ring, then took turns flying through a metal hoop the dragon held in its jaws. When they weren’t performing some trick, they stood regally, eagle eyes surveying the crowd like predators considering their next meal. Their cat-like tails lashed back and forth, and occasionally, they tucked their heads to preen the feathers on their chests and wings.

The trainer placed three metal stools in the center of the ring and directed each beast to stand on one. The center stool looked much too small for the dragon to perch on, but she somehow managed to balance there with ease. All three animals then stood up on their hind legs and clawed at the air before them as if to catch the applause of the delighted crowd.

Harvey smiled in spite of himself. Such magnificent creatures. Seeing a dragon this close made the whole night worthwhile. Or it would have, were it not for his unfortunate part in the events that were sure to come.

***ends***

Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page

A link to the author’s page is here.

And, finally, here’s the description for the book plus the cover:

CalicoLadies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Most Fantastic Show on Earth…

Three years ago, the Ban changed everything, outlawing certain forms of magic and bringing about the rise of powerful crime syndicates. Now, speakeasies in every city sell illegal charms and jinxes, and bootleggers traffic restricted potion ingredients across the country. But even in this changing world, the magic of the circus still acts as a wondrous escape and provides entertainment for all.​

Jake Strickland owns one such circus, inherited after an accident ended his career as a rodeo dragon rider. He also inherited the circus’ financial troubles, but since the show became his, he’s slowly managed to turn it into a profitable business once more. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

When a dangerous mobster comes to collect an old debt, Jake resorts to desperate measures to get the money before a strict deadline. With lives and livelihoods at stake, he battles the clock, his responsibilities to the circus, and a longstanding personal grudge that has festered for years. Can he pay back the mob before it’s too late?

 

My thanks to the author for submitting an excerpt.

If any other entrants would like to post an excerpt let me know in the comments 😀

 

#SPFBO : My Fourth 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, and my second batch of books and update here and here.  I’ve now read and updated my third batch of books and also provided an update and today I will be outlining the fourth set of books that I will be reading.

As with previous years I will 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:

 

Rise of the Forgotten Sun (The Sun and the Raven #1) by Jon Monson 

RiseoftheAll I ever wanted was to see the world and maybe discover an ancient civilization or two. A life of scholarly solitude and adventure was more than enough for me. I never wanted to play politics. I never wanted to get married. I most certainly never dreamed of becoming a god.

Yet when I ventured into the depths of the Soulless Desert, I found… something- a power so ancient it has been forgotten by mankind. That day unleashed a chain of events that, once started, cannot be stopped.

It is the Rise of the Forgotten Sun.

It is the beginning of the end.

Author Info

Website:http://www.JonMonson.com/

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The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran

ChildofYou’ve never met a hero like this before.

Born severely disabled, Aiata dal’Pelferta has spent her life despised by her own people simply for who she is. Worse still, she is the youngest daughter of the Empress, making her an Imperial embarrassment. Unable to talk, move or let anyone know she is a thinking, feeling person, she spends her days observing – and learning – from those around her.

Everything changes when she finally discovers a way to communicate and is plunged into the dangers of the Imperial court. With the magic of Songthrust, Aiata’s people can force others to their will, however they are ill-prepared for a popular revolt within their own borders – a revolt that Aiata is dragged into. Abused by her family and surrounded by danger, Aiata will learn that her intellect – not her magic – is her greatest asset, as she fights to save her home from the ravages of civil war.

Yet while all eyes are on the war at home, a far greater threat looms in the dark of the night sky.

Author Info Twitter

 

Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley

TrialIn a ruthless competition of blood and magic, attraction to the enemy may be the biggest weakness of all.

I am Caelynn of the Shadow Court, banished to the human realm for killing a fae prince in my youth. But when I learn my homeland is in peril, I strike a bargain.

The Trial of Thorns will decide a champion to save the realm from a terrible plague, and secure the winner fame and fortune. I could care less about the money or notoriety–I’m playing for freedom. If I win, I will earn a full pardon. And I intend to win.

But I don’t account for Reveln being one of my opponents. We’ve got…history. And ten years later, he’s even hotter than I remember. Oh, right, he also hates me.

Only one of us can win, and Rev will do everything in his power to make sure I don’t make it out of the trials alive.

Because ten years ago, I killed his brother.

And Reveln never forgets.

Author Info

Website : http://www.StaceyTrombley.com

 

Emma and the Minotaur (World of Light, #1) by Jon Herrera

EmmaAll stories are true.

In the forests of Saint Martin, a great power has awakened. Whispers abound of a monster who lurks in the dark as more and more of the city’s residents go missing.

Emma Wilkins is eleven years old and lives on Belle Street. Early in the school year, Emma befriends a boy whose father has disappeared. Together, they embark on a mission to find him. Awaiting Emma in the shadows of Glenridge Forest is a world of magic, secrets, and creatures of legend returning from exile.

During her adventure, Emma discovers the truth behind a power greater still. One who watches and waits, preparing for the day when the world is ready for his return

Emma and the Minotaur is a modern-day fairy tale. It is a love letter to innocence, magic, and fantasy.

Author Info Twitter

Website: http://www.jonherrera.ca

 

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

CalicoLadies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Most Fantastic Show on Earth…

Three years ago, the Ban changed everything, outlawing certain forms of magic and bringing about the rise of powerful crime syndicates. Now, speakeasies in every city sell illegal charms and jinxes, and bootleggers traffic restricted potion ingredients across the country. But even in this changing world, the magic of the circus still acts as a wondrous escape and provides entertainment for all.​

Jake Strickland owns one such circus, inherited after an accident ended his career as a rodeo dragon rider. He also inherited the circus’ financial troubles, but since the show became his, he’s slowly managed to turn it into a profitable business once more. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

When a dangerous mobster comes to collect an old debt, Jake resorts to desperate measures to get the money before a strict deadline. With lives and livelihoods at stake, he battles the clock, his responsibilities to the circus, and a longstanding personal grudge that has festered for years. Can he pay back the mob before it’s too late?

Author Info Twitter

Website: http://www.tahernandez.com

 

Shifter Shadows by Anthony Stevens

ShifterFrom the dawn of prehistory to an apocalyptic day after tomorrow, shifters and their friends have been in the background of every historical event. Shapechangers, healers, hunters, shamans, and great leaders, have always been around. We recognize the legendary ones, but must always keep in mind that Gomer is a good dog.

Author Info

Website:http://www.anthonystevens.co.uk/

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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 (and, if you’ve already left me a comment and I haven’t responded please give me a nudge).