Friday Face Off : Double Whammy


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

Cartoonish or graphic and a cover that gave you ‘grabby hands’

So, I had a terrible week, my little dog passed away and so I missed last week’s Friday Face Off – plus a full week of other things including visiting blogs, etc.  You may be wondering why I’m posting today – basically, I’m trying to keep my mind distracted, if I stop and sit around for more than two minutes at a time – well, things go to hell in a New York Minute.  People are avoiding me – because if they look my way I pretty much have a conniption.  *awkward*

Okay, Having missed last week’s theme I’ll post a double this week.  First, Cartoonish or graphic: I’ve gone for a book that I loved and can’t deny that I would be happy to find out more books were planned in this particular world.  Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson.  Now, this isn’t a cartoon cover as such but for me it has a graphic novel feel:

Not a lot of covers for this one.  One is more or less a mirror version and the other just a slight underplaying of the colours.  I have to say that for me there’s no competition – this cover is just beautiful and dramatic:


Do you have a favourite?

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next week – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read



23rd – Your current read (if it has covers to compare) or any recent read

30th– A series that you love – highlight all the books in the series


Month of Wyrd and Wonder

7th – A Series where the cover changed midway through – which style do you prefer most

14th – The earliest fantasy you recall reading – or the first fantasy book you really loved, maybe the book that kickstarted your love of fantasy

21st – The Top Hat

28th – The Hood


4th – The nose boop – any animal, or human, with a close up shot.

11th – A cover that annoyed you and why

18th – Out of Perspective, or make you feel a bit dizzy

25th – Upside down, back to front or topsy turvy


2nd – A book with a landscape you’d like to visit

9th – A Wicked Grin

16th – Books with ‘book’ in the title

23rd – A Black Hole – could be in the universe or going deep into the ground

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


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

13th – A favourite holiday read

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

27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

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

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller


1st – A Halloween read

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

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground


3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up


We Lie With Death (The Reborn Empire #2) by Devin Madson

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Even Better Than the First


Seriously, I had a really good time reading this one, it’s the sort of book that makes me feel happy to be reading fantasy and I am just overawed at the way the author has brought this story on.  Compared to We Ride the Storm, We Lie With Death is much more character focused.  That’s not to say that this is the calm after the Storm but where book 1 was all about the brewing storm and the eventual clashing of swords this is more the contemplation of the aftermath,where swords may not be clashing on the battlefield but the blades are still out and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch these characters as they try to come to terms with the fallout and what it all really means.  

I’m not going to discuss the plot here because I think that would take us down the road of spoilers.  Instead this will be a recap of a few of the characters and their struggles as the story progresses.

Cassandra, Dishiva, Rah, Miko.  We follow four characters in We Lie with Death which is surely enough for everyone to find a favourite.  I can say with absolute certainty that I enjoyed all of them – I’m not saying they were equals so much as making the point that there was no sigh of disappointment when I left a favourite pov to read on from another less liked one.  If I was forced to choose between them I would probably choose Rah because I love his story arc here but then if you asked me tomorrow I might say Cassandra and then again a different answer the following day.

So, Rah.  Levanti warrior.  Keen to protect the traditions of his people.  Refuses to bend the knee to the knew Emperor Gideon and is forced into exile.  What we learn as we follow in his footsteps is that Rah is a little lost.  Does he return home?  A home that was already starting to change? Or does he adapt.  His own storyline takes a most interesting turn that eventually leads him to reconsider things.  He discovers the importance of languages and communication and this leads him to some reevaluation.  

Cassandra is also on a journey of self discovery with some startling revelations.  This is a character where the reader gets two for one, Cassandra usually has another soul on board and her storyline is always entertaining, darkly funny and takes us in the strangest direction.  Seriously, this pov is fascinating, entertaining and pretty much jaw dropping.

Dishiva is a new pov, she appeared in the first book but this time around she has her own chapters.  She protects Gideon and is fiercely loyal.  The edition of this storyline is clearly a means of keeping tabs on what’s taking place in Gideon’s new empire but it is nonetheless a really great addition.  Dishiva’s main dilemma really boils down to protecting Gideon from himself.  

Finally Miko, she feels a little more vulnerable in this book but still remains a strong character.  I was pleasantly surprised at the turn her story takes and I’m very keen to see how this storyline plays out but I can’t really say too much about it without letting the cat out of the bag (for the avoidance of doubt no cats were put into bags during the writing of this review).

I’m going to keep this review fairly short and sweet.  For me, this book surpassed the first.  It’s clever, nuanced, well written, it has great pace and I never had a dull moment.  There are some moments of dark humour that offset the grim reality of events and we also get to travel around this fascinating world that Madson has created.  Without doubt though, the characters steal the show here.  It’s not just that their storylines are full of intrigue and revelations – it’s more the way they’re changing and growing themselves.  There’s a lot of subtle realisations taking place.  Sometimes change is necessary to move forward and meeting in the middle, learning about each other’s differences and adapting is the first step to discovering new possibilities.

I loved it

Finally, I bought the audio copy for this one so that I could part read/part listen and wow – the audio is brilliant.  I highly recommend it and I feel like I’m going to have to await the audio version so that I can read in a similar style for book 3.

Also – I cannot resist – check out these three covers.  They are simply amazing

My rating 5*

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

#SPFBO 2018 – all wrapped up


SPFBO 2018 has finally come to an end – all the scores and reviews are now published and the final chart with links to the different blog sites and other information can be found here.

Huge congratulations to the winner of the competition – Orconomics by J Zachary Pike (which concluded with an excellent and impressive final score) and the final line up looked like this:

Orconomics 8.65
Gods of Men 8.05
We Ride The Storm 8.05
Sworn to the Night 8.00
Symphony of the Wind 7.40
Aching God 6.90
Ruthless Magic 6.35
Out of Nowhere 5.50
The Anointed 5.10
Sowing 4.55

I would like to give a huge thank you to all the authors who took part.  It’s been a great competition with some amazing books.  Thanks also to Mark Lawrence and all the other bloggers for making this such a memorable year.

Below are the 10 finalists, all together, looking absolutely gorgeous:

and finally, here are my reviews of all the finalists:

  1. The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss
  2. Orconomics by J Zachary Pike
  3. Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas
  4. We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson
  5. Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon
  6. The Anointed by Keith Ward
  7. Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe
  8. Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer
  9. Aching God by Mike Shel
  10. Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc

** ‘SPFBO 2018’ signing out **

#SPFBO We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1) by Devin Madson


WeRideWe Ride the Storm is the eighth finalist I’ve read as part of the SPFBO leaving me with only one more book to read and review to complete the journey.  This is a story of war and is a book that is very appropriately named as it brings us three characters who are indeed trying to ride out the storm of war and stay alive. The Kisian Empire has a bloody history, built on war it’s reign is tenuous and this first instalment throws readers into a volatile, Asian inspired story of conflict and survival.

The story is told through three characters, each with very different backgrounds and motivations.  Strangely enough, all three of them find themselves in situations where they are being manipulated by others to achieve a desired outcome.

Captain Rah e’Torin commands the Second Swords.  A nomadic tribe of horse warriors.  Exiled from their own lands and struggling to stay alive they are becoming fractious and discontent.  Rah finds his command under threat, his people becoming less likely to follow him willingly and to be honest, when they’re captured and forced to fight in a war not of their own making you can’t help but think they just may have had a point.  Basically, they have two choices.  They can fight with the Chiltaen army (and possibly die in the process) or they can decline to fight and be executed.

Miko is a Princess living within the Imperial Court.  Everyday she trains to fight and her and her twin brother, Tanaka, dream of ruling together.  This is a complex situation.  Miko and her brother live on a knife edge of fear.  Fathered by a traitor but named as the Emperor’s children it’s a situation where everyone knows the truth but no one dares speak it. At the start of the story Miko’s mother informs her that she is to be married.  A marriage of convenience to unite two warring factions.  Unfortunately the plans go awry somewhat and what started as an attempt to form allies ends instead in war with Miko choosing a most unexpected route.

Cassandra is the final narrator.  A prostitute and assassin – the first certainly helps her to get into certain situations that sometimes makes achieving the second easier!  She has a little bit of a drink problem, usually squandering her hard earned cash on bottles of Stiff – expensive and potent alcohol that Cassandra devours to try and kill the voice in her head!  Yes, Cassandra has a passenger on board, who she refers to as ‘her/she’ – this isn’t her own inner consciousness though, this is an individual entity that very rarely agrees with anything that Cassandra does.  Cassandra comes across as hard, street wise and yet she finds herself, along with the other two narrators, being manipulated in ways that she didn’t truly understand until she’s too far in to turn back.  She also has her own motivation for taking part, the chance to meet somebody who she’s been searching out for a long time.

This is truly a character driven novel and one that feels like it’s only just scraped the surface of what’s really going on.  In some respects it feels a little like a set up novel because when it concludes many threads remain unanswered – I don’t mean that as a criticism though – this is a novel with plenty going on with many ideas waiting to be explored more fully.

The world building.  As mentioned this is an Asian inspired story, the nomadic horse tribes originate from a land akin to the Steppe and the Kisian Empire seems to draw influence from Japanese culture (although I confess I’m not an expert on either so could be totally jumping to the wrong conclusion so don’t quote me).  I would say the world building is not the strongest element of the story.  We spend a lot of the time in up close and personal situations with the three main characters and so we pick up bits and pieces from each but we don’t really take a look at the bigger picture.  I didn’t find this to be a problem.  I had a fairly good sense of place but I wonder if reading the author’s earlier books would have helped more with the set up.   As I said, I didn’t find it an issue.

The writing is very good to be honest.  It was easy to distinguish the characters, the dialogue was a really strong point and the author has a certain flair which really adds to the read.  The pacing was pretty even although I did experience a little bit of a lull, maybe around halfway – to be honest, I was feeling under the weather so it could be ‘me’ and not the book that is the blame for that slight blip.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I would find it difficult to say which of the three characters I liked the best.  They all suffered from flaws in some ways – the dilemma of which is that these flaws, I think, made them more interesting and allowed for a greater character arc.  I only mention it as a criticism because it can be sometimes irritating when reading them.  Rah, for example,  He has a very strong moral compass – in terms of his own beliefs – but, at the same time as applauding this it also made me want to slap him occasionally because he comes across as too rigid.  People change, situations change, and people who can’t bend may just break.  But (of course there’s a but) I also kind of liked his stubbornness and in fact I found myself really looking forward to his chapters.  Cassandra – here is a very intriguing character.  I liked the whole ‘inner voice’ thread and really would like to know more but I didn’t completely buy her as an assassin and things often felt too easy which in turn made them seem a little contrived.  Miko. She definitely made some decisions that appeared strange, but, I don’t really feel like I knew her well enough to say whether they were out of character.  She was probably my least favourite of the three, at the beginning at least, but she definitely improved as the story progressed and her final chapters were a whirl of action.  Actually, my favourite character, one I found really fascinating and would love to know more about – was Leo.  I hope he has more page space in later instalments.  Fingers crossed.

Overall I had a very good time with We Ride the Storm and will definitely continue with the series. I thought this was a solid start to a series that has a lot of promise and plenty yet to explore.

I would mention, as a final point, that the story can be a little bit dark and bloody at points, I wouldn’t say that it was gratuitous, it didn’t make me uncomfortable at all but there are a good deal of people losing their heads here so be warned.  Decapitation is a key element of one of the main character’s cultures, they remove the heads of the dead in order to release the soul – during war times that’s a lot of heads being removed, using a knife – just saying.

My rating for the purpose of the competition is a very strong 8 out of 10 and 4 of 5 for Goodreads.

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

#SPFBO – Finalists No.8 and No.9


Today I’m highlighting the final two books that I will be reading this month for the SPFBO Competition (more details here).  The reviews for the finalists I’ve read to date are below.  My review for Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss will follow shortly.  The purpose of this post is to shine a spotlight on the finalists and give readers a chance to see what they’re all about.  As already mentioned all my books are randomly selected and my final two books will be:

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

WeRideWar built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart.

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder.

As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

Orconomics by J Zachary Pike

Orconomics.jpgBrimming with swords, sorcery, and wit, Orconomics: A Satire introduces Arth, a world much like our own but with more magic and fewer vowels. For the licensed wizards and warriors of Arth, slaying and looting the forces of evil is just a job. The Heroes’ Guild has turned adventuring into a career, selling the rights to monsters’ hoards of treasure as investment opportunities. Corporations spend immense sums sponsoring heroes to undertake quests, betting they’ll reap the profits in plunder funds when the loot is divvied up.

Questing was all business for famous Dwarven berserker Gorm Ingerson, until a botched expedition wiped out his party, disgraced his name, and reduced him to a thieving vagabond. Twenty years later, a chance encounter sees Gorm forcibly recruited by a priest of a mad goddess to undertake a quest that has a reputation for getting heroes killed. But there’s more to Gorm’s new job than an insane prophecy; powerful corporations and governments have shown an unusual interest in the job. Gorm might be able to turn a bad deal into a golden opportunity and win back the fame and fortune he lost so long ago.

Promising fun, fantasy, and financial calamity, Orconomics: A Satire is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga, an economically epic trilogy.


The finalists I’ve read so far and reviewed: