Friday Face Off : As pure as the driven snow

FFO

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.

I’ve added themes in below. For information, I’m trying out some new ideas so along with coming up with particular items for book covers I thought we could also look for certain elements contained within the book or that play a large part in the story – this really broadens things out because I have plenty of more ideas with this – I’ve gone for a few of the Tough Travel Themes (so a book with that theme – just choose any book – the theme isn’t necessarily on the cover, then compare covers), also, I’ve thrown in some genres and some colours.  Hopefully this will open things out a little and give us some more freedom to come up with new books.

This week’s theme:

As pure as the driven snow – a cover that is white

This is a difficult choice to make because I like both sets for different reasons.  I love the stark imagery of the black and white covers.  They’re simplistic and something about the tone speaks of the grim times within the pages.  I also love that the imagery blends traditional fantasy elements with something new and modern which is very much a reflection of the changing times depicted.  The second set of covers are also amazing.  The artwork is outstanding.  If you really scroll in past the central images and take a look at everything that’s going on.  Again, they have imagery that shows the turbulent times of change and the colours make them absolutely pop.  It’s so difficult to choose a favourite so I’ve gone for a favourite cover from each series:

I love these two – the first feels like traditional fantasy imagery but the extra details like the broken chains, and are they little spatters of blood?  I love that cover.  The very colourful cover for a Little Hatred has a fantastic skyline with chimneys belching out smoke – it’s a real reflection of the changing times.

Do you have a favourite?

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  – Like a fine wine – a sci fi book written on or before 1975

2022

Jan – Vintage Sci-Fi
21st Like a fine wine – a sci fi book written on or before 1975 –
28th In space nobody can hear you scream – murder mystery in space
Feb The month of romance
4th  brooding and dull like a cloudy sky – a cover that is grey
11th Sealed with a kiss – lips, or the impression left by a kiss
18th Tough Travel Tropes – Hate to Love
25th Made for each other – interpret this any way you please
March
4th Genre – Gadgets and airships – a book that is ’steampunk
11th The most recent book you’ve read that has covers to compare
18th – Somewhere over the rainbow – a very colourful book cover
25th – A book of few words – a one word title
Apr
1st Spring forward – compare the covers for two books you’re excited about
8th – Fresh and Green – a cover that is predominantly green
15th Genre – a book or series that is urban fantasy
22nd – Tough Travel Tropes – unknown magical ability
29th – Long/pointed ears
May the Month of Wyrd and Wonder
6th All about the women – kickass moms, daughters, grans, etc
13th A favourite book to film
20th Sunny and bright  – a cover that is predominantly yellow
27th Books with ‘You’ in the title
Jun
3rd  Under the Sea – anything you like
10th Sparkling like the sea – a cover that is turquoise
17th So pretty – exactly what it says
24th Daddy Dearest – a book with a strong father role
Jul  
1st Genre – epic – any book that fits into the genre
8th Hazy and hot – a cover that is predominantly orange
15th Tough Travel Tropes – Snarky sidekick
22nd Off the TBR
29th Gigantic – monsters, giants, buildings,insects – anything at all
August
5th Tough Travel Tropes – out for summer – school or academic setting
12th Dark/sky/navy  – a cover that is blue
19th Scantily Dressed
26th Tough Travel Tropes – Vacation time – the quest
September RIP
2nd Fallen leaves – covers that are brown
9th Armour/Protection
16th Rage against the machine – anything, cogs, clockwork, AI
23rd Tough Travel Tropes – Coming of Age
30th Genre – horror
October – Horror/Dark
7th Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?
14th Witches vs warlocks
21st Tough Travel Tropes – Good vs evil
28th  Covers that are black
November – Scifi Month
4th Red skies at night – Covers that are red
11th Tough Travel Tropes – The gang
18th Genre – Swords and Sorcery
25th Genre – And they all lived happily ever after – fairy tales retold
December
2nd Tough Travel Tropes – Assassins
9th Tough Travel Tropes – Darklord
16th Genre – Grimdark (most recent/favourite, etc)
23rd Decadent and rich – a cover that is purple
30th Completions – a satisfying conclusion to a book or series

A Slightly Different Review : The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Today is another slightly different format for a review.   This is my third buddy read with Mayri at the Bookforager blog.  If you haven’t visited Mayri before I heartily recommend you do so, she’s a wonderful blogger. Our first buddy read was Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, our second A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab.  .

Slight spoiler alert – this book was brilliant.  All I can say – to myself that is – is what was I thinking leaving this so long before picking it up.  Obviously it has rave reviews and loads of love – I sometimes think I’m simply afraid to be happy.  This is now corrected though because I loved this and can’t wait to continue.

Similar to our previous buddy reads this review will take the form of our chat back and forth.  This time round I will be posting the opening chapters and Mayri will be posting the conclusion – so don’t forget to stop by and see our concluding thoughts.

Also, before I start, I would mention that given the nature of our ongoing conversation during our read this post will contain spoilers so if you’re planning on reading this book you might want to avoid both posts.

The conversation below follows weeks 1 and 2:

theblade

Week 1 – The End to An Offer and a Gift (inclusive) 

Mayri: And everything about this book grabs my attention! Logen’s frying-pan-to-fire beginning, our introduction to Glokta and his work, even Jezal’s utter shittiness. I think it’s the humour that makes Logen and Glokta kind of likeable even though evidence suggests they’re not. As for Jezal, I’m enjoying laughing at him (especially now that we’ve encountered Ardee!). 

Lynn: Yes, I feel like I’ve totally fallen on my feet with this one already,  I think, all things being equal I’m going to like Logen, but here’s the funny thing, I equally think I’m going to like the others – which is really weird considering one of them is a torturing so and so. 

Mayri: Yes, yes, yes! I agree!

I’m kind of aware that a plot is brewing in the background, but have been enjoying just meeting everyone, so I’m really hoping I haven’t missed anything vital so far. I’m intrigued by Logen’s ability to talk to the spirits and why Bayaz wants him/what Bayaz wants him for. I’ve got Foreboding Feelings about Glokta’s work for Sult (although maybe I should be more worried for Sult?) And Bethod’s emissaries are bloody terrifying – I think the Union is seriously underestimating the King of the Northmen. But then it wouldn’t be very interesting if they weren’t, would it? Ha ha!

Lynn: Yes, I don’t think I could confidently discuss the plot at this point. Clearly something is ticking over nicely and I feel like there are going to be various strands that eventually pull together but I don’t think you’ve missed anything *she said confidently, hoping all along that she hasn’t missed anything!* The spirit-talking is fascinating and especially why there are less spirits – well, not really I suppose, there’s already been a discussion on how there is less magic in this world so clearly the spirits are giving up the ghost! (hah! I’m here all week).  

Mayri: *laughing so hard over here*

Lynn: I like Bayaz already, the way he sent that snivelling Princeling away with his tail between his legs (take that).  I literally have no idea if I’m supposed to like these guys or not but the brain wants what the brain wants I suppose.  

Mayri: Yeah, Bayaz is incredibly satisfying so far – wonderfully un-wizard-like, tells it like it is, bit of a dude. I hope we’ll get lots more of him.

Lynn: I think Sult is scary in his manipulative scheming way, but I think Glokta is more scary in his totally dispassionate ability to carry out orders to the letter no matter how distasteful they might be – I wonder if he will rebel at some point? 

Mayri: This is exactly what I’m hoping for! I feel like he’s being set up as a scapegoat, but I think Sult is seriously underestimating our friend Glokta! A dangerous man to be on the wrong side of, methinks.

Lynn: It was interesting that he was dreaming about his earlier life and in particular Ardee – I wonder if she will be a particular weakness for him?  Speaking of Ardee – what do you think she’s got tucked up her sleeve (apart from a clean hankie).  She’s definitely a clever one and seems to be working her womanly wiles on Jezal.  She literally has him wrapped around her little finger nail.

Mayri: I’ve no idea what Ardee might be up to (yet), but I think we’re going to really enjoy finding out!

Lynn: Those emissaries – well, they certainly stopped everyone in their tracks.  Wow.  Just wow.  I am scared – and they’re fictional characters!

Mayri: Heck yeah! Terrifying! Abercrombie writes incredibly well, don’t you think? He had me feeling sorry for Logen’s cook pot when he left it behind at the lake side and I was all like, whoah, this dude can write! Dagnabbit! 

Lynn: Oh yes. I love his writing. He just has this incredible ability to pull you in almost from the first page – how on earth can he make you have feelings for a cook pot!  It’s ridiculous but it felt like he was abandoning a newborn pony instead of a shaped iron pot.

Mayri: *snort giggles*

Lynn: Basically, so far so good. I have such a good feeling about this one. Can’t wait to start week 2.

Mayri: YASSS! All signs point to awesome so far! Onward!

Week 2 – The King of the Northern to Barbarians at the Gate (inclusive)

Mayri: OK, so wow, tons to unpack in this next section *rolls sleeves up*:

Logen has history with Bethod; Bethod has a witch; Dogman and company survived and I don’t know about you but I like them a lot, but they think Logen’s dead *sad face*; Jezal is getting mixed messages from Ardee, and meets the decidedly odd Yoru Sulfur; Glokta brings down the Mercers guild and we meet a couple of new characters: Ferro and Yulwei, who I’m bursting to know more about! Oh, and Bayaz, Malacus and Logen have reached the Agriont, thanks to fancy dress costumes! 

Lynn: (I loved the fancy dress).

I’m so happy that I’ve read these chapters again.  Obviously – all the above – then on top of this I just adore the banter and the dialogue.  It just makes me smile.  I recall reading the chapter where Jezal and Ardee have an argument.  She gives him a good dressing down for being a whining kid (which has partly been brought on by boredom on her part and also being snubbed by the other nobles and their wives, etc), as Jezal storms off he’s thinking in his head that she’s a bloody commoner who should be grateful that he gave her any attention – it’s only a small thing but it makes me smile because he’s thinking exactly what Ardee has just accused the other nobles of – he either wasn’t listening (highly possible) or he just didn’t understand her point (also highly possible). Also,  I can’t help seeing this guy whenever I’m reading about Jezal (I’m sorry it’s just stuck in my brain now and I can’t unsee it):

Jezal

Mayri: Yeah, this book is totally my cup of tea!  

Lynn: Me too

Mayri: I love Glokta’s new base of operations and his relationship with Practicals Severard and Frost (they got him a chair and a stool. With a cushion. Aww!). In fact, I really like Glokta in general – his internal voice is just so perfect – dry, sarcastic, occasionally self-mocking, unflinching. He’s a horrible, terrible man and I love his story so far!

Lynn: Yes, such a strange character – I mean he’s a torturer, and he seems by all accounts to enjoy his work!  I feel like I should be absolutely repulsed by him but his internal thoughts are so intriguing.  

Mayri: And I’m so glad we get to meet Dogman! And Tul Durham Thunderhead, Black Dow, Grim, Three trees and Forley the Weakest – all names to conjure with, eh? – I really enjoyed this brief introduction to Logen’s crew and thought Abercrombie did a great job of very quickly sketching in their relationships to one another and the gap left by Logen’s “death”. Yet more evidence of Abercrombie’s masterful style.

Lynn: Again, spot on. Abercrombie seems to be able to draw a character – or a few characters to be fair, within one fairly short chapter and give you a good feel for them. It’s remarkable really. This meeting of Logen’s crew was also a really great way of giving us more food for thought about Logen. Clearly he had the respect of these men – some of them very tough by the sounds of things – and this tells it’s own story.

Mayri: Nicely put.

Lynn: I loved the chapter with Logen, Bayaz and Malacus sat round the campfire discussing plant names and properties – and then Logen asks what potion Bayaz is cooking in the fire pot – only to find out it’s tea! (And Logen thinks it smells like feet! How very dare). I was also really happy that this chapter gave us an explanation for the name of the series – the First Law – that it is forbidden to speak with Devils. 

Mayri: Hmm, I’ve a nasty feeling Bethod is going to be far more dangerous than I first thought. I loved the way Bayaz handled his meeting with the King of the Northmen, although Logen’s fear had me worried. The bit later with Blacktoe also made me uneasy – Logen used to be Bethod’s champion? The Feared was possibly created by the witch Caurib? And Blacktoe now works for Bethod – there doesn’t appear to be anyone resisting Bethod and I’m not sure the Union will stand up to the Northmen. These people are … brutal.

(Blacktoe’s death actually brought a tear to my eye too – although that’s happening a lot at the moment,  so I might just be particularly squishy at the moment!)

Lynn: That scene was a bit gutting to be honest.  

Mayri: Wow, Bayaz’s magic! That was frigging awesome!

Lynn: Yes, and I was particularly intrigued that Logen could sense the magic before it struck – does this mean he has magic abilities, obviously we already know he can speak to the dead but this feels new.

Mayri: Ooo, I didn’t notice this, but have just gone back to reread it and yes, you’re absolutely right. That’s very intriguing!

I’m interested in Ferro and Yulwei 

Lynn: (also known as Old Bastard – lol)  

Mayri: lol. I can’t help but wonder about the similarities between these two and Logen and Bayaz. Two fighters and two magicians … what are the odds on them being on the same side, I wonder? 

Lynn: That’s such a good point – and I seriously hope they’re on the same side.  It feels like things might be going in that direction or I could just be reading that wrong or I’m putting my own hopeful interpretation on things – because I think they would make an awesome crew.

Mayri: Heck yes! They’d be unstoppable! 🙂

Also, what’s an Eater? I suspect we’re not going to want to know.

As for Jezal, I still like him the least, but I like seeing him mucked about by Glokta and Ardee … and Glokta has reflected on how he was once in Jezal’s position. I don’t know why, but that unsettles me. It doesn’t really suggest that Jezal will improve with time, does it?

Lynn: Yes, I think this storyline is perhaps not quite as gripping – but then in other ways I wonder about Ardee and where that particular train is heading.  She’s clearly clever and it feels like she’s definitely up to something.  I guess we’ll see.

Mayri: Yeah, I’m very curious to see what Ardee is up to!

Finally, I really didn’t like seeing Logen in the city, being seen as stupid and brutish. I hadn’t realised how fond of him I am, but I feel quite protective of him and Jezal’s image of him gawking at the fountain made me so angry. (Won’t be sorry to see Jezal squashed under Logen’s little finger!) I  was also shocked that Logen’s so big – I thought he’d reflected on his own comparative smallness back in the first few chapters (can’t find it now), so having him seen as a great hulking brute by Jezal ruined my mental picture. 

Lynn: As you said above, I loved the way they got into the city in fancy dress. Too funny.  I also hadn’t thought of Logen as big – or tall – I’m not sure why that is because as soon as he reaches the city he definitely stands out and some of that seems to be that everyone thinks he’s a huge northern brute.  I’m waiting for the moment that Jezal realises that Logen has a brain inside that thick looking skull and that he knows how to use it.

Mayri: Ah, that makes me feel a bit better! I shall anticipate Jezal’s embarrassment!! Ha ha!

(and as for Malacus Quai, he really is a useless drip isn’t he?) *shakes head in despair* 

Lynn: lol – I loved the scene from above where he’s on a horse running away from capture and he’s described as ‘bouncing’ – I could picture him so vividly just with that one word and it does lend itself to his overall ‘uselessness’ – although it does give Logen somebody close to hand who constantly needs rescuing.

Mayri: Ha! Poor guy – ‘your role in this story is to make the other guy look good. You will be rescued regularly!’

So, that completes our thoughts on weeks 1 and 2 – now stop over to Bookforager to check out our final feelings.

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Wisdom of Crowds (The Age of Madness #3) by Joe Abercrombie

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 Wisdom of Crowds (The Age of Madness #3) by Joe Abercrombie.  I am loving this series and can’t wait to return.  Here’s the description:

Chaos. Fury. Destruction.

The Great Change is upon us…

Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies… while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.

The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together…

Expected publication : September 2021

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

TheTroubleMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Let Them Eat Cake

Okay, that’s only four words and also maybe a strange way to start a review but tbh I think it fits perfectly with the themes in this book (nay, series) – or maybe more apt would be Cromwell’s ‘In the Name of God, go’.

This has to be one of the most appropriately named books that I can think of, at this particular moment in time at least (and funnily enough, looking back at my review of A Little Hatred I said the exact same thing about that book too – has Abercrombie been blessed by the God of Book Naming?

The Trouble With Peace is that people start to realise how dissatisfied they are with the smaller things in life that seemed less important when their lives were threatened by war.  The Trouble With Peace is that it makes heroes dissatisfied with their everyday lives, undertaking mundane tasks that are brushed aside in times of strife, longing for the sword and the blood that follows.  The Trouble With Peace is it makes people feel over confident in their own abilities, strutting around like peacocks, preening their feathers and dreaming of yet more glory (or money).  The Trouble With Peace is people forget just how bloody awful times of war really are and start to look upon such times with fondness and rose tinted glasses.  The (real) Trouble With Peace is that it’s a fleeting notion – wars happen regardless (as history shows us), bodies are hacked savagely, desperate pleas for mercy are cried out amongst the mud, blood and tears and disastrous mistakes are made.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second instalment by Joe Abercrombie.  It builds up a veritable mass of tension.  It’s thick with plots and behind door whisperings, clandestine meetings and murmurs of treason.  Of course, before you get too worried that this is all about political posturing and dastardly machinations, let me reassure you that this doesn’t lack the banter or  battle scenes that this author is renowned for and both are near the knuckle and brutal.

I’m not going to really elaborate on the plot for this one.  I will say that some books in a trilogy suffer from middle book syndrome and act purely as a platform between book 1 and 3 – this is not one of those books.

The characters we became familiar with in the first book in series are here again and this is something that Abercrombie excels at.  I might not love all these characters but I unreservedly love the way they’re written.

Savine dan Glokta is probably one of my favourites.  She is a cold blooded, manipulating so and so – I love her.  Let’s be honest, she develops a slightly more soft and fluffy side here (by which I mean she is still a manipulating so and so, but maybe a touch, a teensy tad bit, more vulnerable).  I did love the relationship that she strikes up (not going to spoil it though, my lips are sealed). It  has the feel of master and pupil to it but regardless I just liked it, it turned me into a mushy crust instead of a crusty crust.

Stour Nightfall. Let’s be honest, here’s a guy who is literally one consonant away from being sour.  This is one nasty pasty – don’t underestimate him.  Ruthless but also maybe a bit blinkered in the nonchalant way he’s drumming up enemies.

Leo dan Brock.  Here’s a character I want to shake.  He’s not a bad guy, really.  He’s downright likable but at the same time by God he’s easily manipulated.  I cannot deny that I like this character and at the same time completely despair of him. Could you be any less diplomatic!!

Rikke.  Another character that I just love to read about – okay, there are parts in this instalment where I was like ‘what?’, ‘NOOOOOOO’.  But, then again, on reflection, perhaps I needed the ‘long eye’ to see my way clear.  Her character arc is brilliant, a joy to read in fact, and probably one of those elements of the series that I should have taken notes – so I could look back and have all the ‘ah hah, I knew it!’ moments during the grand finale even if I knew nothing all along.

Orso.  Another firm favourite.  If anybody is more deserving of sympathy and understanding then I don’t know who it is.  Could he be more misunderstood?  The poor fella seems to get the brunt of everything, I swear that if he said the sea was wet he’d be lambasted and thrown into the stocks..  But, he’s becoming a lot more adept? cynical? – like anyone else I suppose, time and repetition start to make everything seem a little more commonplace and he’s started to get tired of being a small cog in a large machine.

There are obviously more characters but this isn’t a dissertation so I’ll curb my chattiness right here.

Basically, to avoid doubt, yes, I really enjoyed this.  The writing is plain good, the banter and dialogue made me want to laugh and cry, the plot is more mixed up than a bag of sand, the characters inspire love and hate, there isn’t a lot of actual fantasy elements, and in some respects it feels more like a snippet of history where the real magic revolved around basic superstition but, what can I say, this was a very fine read indeed.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Trouble With Peace (The Age of Madness #2) by Joe Abercrombie

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 Trouble With Peace (The Age of Madness #2) by Joe Abercrombie (because I loved A Little Hatred).  Definitely a woohoo moment.

Conspiracy. Betrayal. Rebellion.
Peace is just another kind of battlefield . . .

Savine dan Glokta, once Adua’s most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way.

For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye . . . before it kills her.

Unrest worms into every layer of society. The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply.

The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever.

Expected publication : September 2020

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