#SPFBO My fourth batch of books

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I’m a little late posting my fourth set of books for the SPFBO, purely down to lack of wi-fi.  Thankfully I’ve already started to read this month’s selection.  They’re listed below in the order I’m going to check them out – five books a month for the next six months.  I will choose one book out of each of the six batches and then from those 6 potentials choose one to submit for the final stage.

Without further ado here are my books:

The Soul Guide by Kelly Stock

When university student Sybil is stung by a bee in the middle of a winter snowstorm, she finds herself chosen as the latest Soul Guide. With only a few days to reach the Veil; the place of souls, and complete the Passing Over ceremony, she begins to question everything she ever believed to be true. But dark forces will stop at nothing to prevent Sybil from fulfilling her destiny. Struggling with such a huge responsibility, and afraid for her life, Sybil has no choice but to put her trust in two complete strangers.

Meet Bertram, the Caretaker. Despite his anguish at losing the love of his life, he has a job to do. Sybil is his responsibility now. He must guide her to the Veil – no matter the cost.

Then there’s Alec, who’s drawn to Sybil the moment he lays eyes on her. Overcome by the sudden need to protect her, Alec will risk his life to ensure her safety. Or does he have darker designs…?

Can the reluctant Soul Guide, the grieving Caretaker, and the obsessive stranger work together? Only one thing is certain: the future of both Earth and the Veil hang in the balance, and the dark are rising.

This is a story of loss & grief, of friendship & love and the battle of light versus dark.

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The Apotheosis Break by Josh Rhodes and Mike Rutledge

The life of an airshipman is violent and short, but every sailor still breathing in the clouds has a tale of Anton Mikhailovich.

Vasili, his fourteen year old son, never knew the man. The swashbuckling captain died mysteriously when the boy was five, leaving only tall tales and long shadows. His father’s remembrance ever looming, Vasili wants to leave his tiny frontier village and become a skysailing legend of his own accord.

A charismatic traveler arrives on an airship, a bishop with robes as worn as his smile. He comes to convey a funerary Telling of Anton some nine years overdue. Late but still timely, the traveler hints that his vessel may be looking for a new deckhand. He could put in a good word for the son of Anton.

The twinkling lights of home disappear over the horizon and the boy begins his own adventure, starting his own tale as he learns the truth of his father’s.

But the world and its skies are nothing like Vasili’s books. The serendipitous airship is the famed Apotheosis Break, Anton’s old ship, filled with beguiling shard hunters now at the end of their rope. They have already lost good men looking for Vasili. They may still lose everything seeking the forgotten legacy of Captain Mikhailovich.

Vasili will learn that the memories you try to escape are the ones you will always carry with you. And if half of what his crew says is true, his father’s story was one of loss, betrayal, and madness. If Vasili is to survive in the skies he will have to be as clever as his father and twice as lucky. Otherwise a traveler will return home with a Telling of another Mikhailovich boy.

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Darker Things by Rob Cornell

Craig Lockman—no one had called him that in fifteen years.

Not since his days at the Agency. Not since he was trained to kill creatures that were supposed to exist only in nightmares.

Yet the teenage girl on his doorstep not only knows his real name, she claims she’s his daughter.

Before Lockman can learn how the girl found him, he’s attacked by a black-ops team of assassins. But these aren’t ordinary killers—they’re heavily armed vampires sent by his most hated enemy.

Forced on the run, Lockman protects his daughter from an onslaught of horrors while searching for who betrayed him and why. The investigation leads him to Detroit, where he unwittingly sets a plan into motion that could trigger a paranormal apocalypse and cost him his soul.

For fans of Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, and Laurell K. Hamilton… Darker Things is an 82,000-word urban fantasy loaded with double-crosses, thrilling action, and shocking twists.

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Today is Too Late by Burke Fitzpatrick

A Reluctant Villain Starts A Rebellion

Dark armies burn the greatest city in the world. A girl is born who might end their dominion, but only if a fearsome warrior protects her from the demons of the Nine Hells.

An infamous warlord, Tyrus of Kelnor helped demons conquer a continent, but the birth of a princess tests his loyalties. The child is marked for death, and her fate is in his hands. Old memories haunt him, from before the sorcery and monsters, when honor and service had value. Torn between the empress he loves and the emperor he serves, he defies the empire he helped build.

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Cursefell by C V Dreesman

The coastal town of Stonecrest is an isolated haven for nursing wounds and hiding secrets. It can cure a heart or crush it. When one girl’s secret is revealed, a curse she does not even know she carries, the safe haven becomes her monstrous prison.

Seventeen year old Nathera Currey sees her curse as a death sentence, or at the very least a sentence of exile. But Thera has experienced death before and survived it. She has felt alone the last year of her life and endured that too. Accidentally uncovering her secret, she becomes the cold light of hope for some and a monster to be feared by others. If she wants to save herself and those she holds most dear, she will have to balance the scales of who she is against what she must become and life versus love.

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Let the fun commence. #SPFBO 17

Posted On 1 July 2017

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Today sees the start of the third Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition organised by Mark Lawrence.  Long story short – 300 novels have been submitted, 10 blogs have been allocated 30 books each and in 12 months time 1 book will win the competition.  For me the strap-line for this competition is ‘there can be only one’.

Last year I decided to divide my books up into six batches of five, chosen randomly, and then for the the first six months I would choose a favourite book each month that I would read and review completely.  By the end of the first six months I would then choose my favourite book out of those six to put forward.  The other blogs also submitted their final entries to the second stage of the contest.  During the following six months each blog then read all of the other 9 finalists and reviewed and scored them.  In this way by the end of the 12 months a winner was chosen.  I quite liked the format I used last year and I’m a believer of not fixing things that aren’t broken so I’m going to go with that again.  So, I’ve chosen my first 5 books and will be posting about those shortly.  My aim is to make sure that all the books I’ve been allocated are going to be highlighted in some way over the course of the next six months.

As last year, to get things started there was a cover competition.  Each blogger chose their favourite three covers, and from the 30 chosen we picked our favourites.  The results are in and here are the top three books (1st/2nd/3rd from left to right):

Congratulations to Benedict Patrick’s Where the Waters Turn Black for scoring so many votes.

I will post shortly about my first five books.

 

My Cover Selection #SPFBO 17

I recently posted all the books I’m taking on for the #SPFBO 17 contest.  At the start of the contest we’re holding a cover competition.  Check out this post to see all my book covers.  I think I had some great contenders but I’ve had to pick three and so here they are:

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Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker.  I really like this cover.

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Spark of Defiance by Autumn M Birt. Another great cover – check out that beastie!

LandofGods

Land of Gods by Justin Sloan. Totally different from the first two but I like the sense of movement, the theme and the font.

The SPFBO ’17 : Cover Off

Today is a day for a SPFBO ’17 post methinks.  I’m a little behind with looking at all my books and I haven’t posted an introduction or wrap up piece yet – but I will get there.  However, and not to jump the gun, as last year all the bloggers are submitting three of there assigned books for a cover art contest.  If you’re a bit of a cover tart like me then you’ll love this!  Plus, it gives at least three of your books a shot at winning a ‘best cover’ title – which, considering there are three hundred entries and only one winner, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get a ‘best cover’ award under your belt now would it, not to mention a little bit of extra focus on your book?

So, as last year, my book covers are all laid out below for you to feast your eyes on.  My list of books and authors is at the bottom of the post plus a link to Mr Lawrence’s blogspot for a bit more information.

Here be my covers (with one omission as I don’t seem to be able to find a cover for Wishful Thinking by Jim Beach – if the author wants to point me in the right direction then I’m happy to update.  Similarly – if I’m using out of date covers for any of these and any authors want to change their covers please let me know.)

LandofGods

Which are your favourites?

Justin Sloan – Land of the Gods /
Elizabeth Baxter – Everwinter /
Charlotte E. English – Faerie Fruit /
Ken Lozito – Road to Shandara /
Layla Nash – War Witch /
Watson Davis – The Archbishop’s Amulet /
Aldrea Alien – The Rogue King /
Jenna Elizabeth Johnson – Faeborne /
Tirzah Duncan – Grace the Mace /
Josh Rhoades & Mike Rutledge – The Apotheosis Break /
Alan Tucker – The Devil You Known/
Scott Haworth – Dark Moonlighting /
Jordan R Murray – The Emperor’s Horn /
C.V. Dreesman – Cursefell /
Kelly Stock – The Soul Guide /
Burke Fitzpatrick – Today Is Too Late /
James Jakins – Jack Bloodfist /
Clayton D Baker & Michael H Kuecker – The Saga of Dirt and Poncho /
Patty Jansen – Sand and Storm /
Gayle Torrens  – The Tralls of Nindarry /
Rob Cornell – Darker Things /
Phil Tucker – The Empire of the Dead /
Jim Beach – Wishful Thinking
Anthea Sharp – Feyland: The Dark Realm /
Ilana Waters – The Age of Mages /
Sandy Hyatt James – A Gaze of Flint /
Autumn M Birt – Spark of Defiance /
S.E Burr – Goblin Fruit /
Tiffany Turner – The Lost Secret of the Fairies /
Tom Gaskin – Search of the Lost /
Link to Mark Lawrence’s blog post for further details about the SPFBO.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister is the start of the third series written by Mark Lawrence and I’ll start by saying it’s a great start.

I’ll give a brief overview of the plot.  We make the acquaintance of Nona at the start of the story.  She’s about to be fitted for a hangman’s noose for attempting to murder the son of a rather prominent member of society..  Unsurprisingly, and not a spoiler to say, she never makes her final fitting – that would have been a very short book would it not! Before her execution can be carried out she finds herself rescued, or more succinctly put, stolen away by Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy Convent.  Not yet ten years old Nona is different.  The people of her village knew this, and mostly avoided her – until that cruel day on which she was given away to a child collector to be sold in the City.  Abbess Glass recognises this difference and believes that rather than making Nona something to fear it makes her something special. From them on we spend time with Nona as she is initiated into the school and undertakes a number of trials and tribulations, eventually makes friends and puts the word ‘trust’ to the test.

Now, when I summarise the plot like that it seems, even to me, to be on the sparse side and yet that couldn’t be further from the truth.  There is plenty going on here, we have a story that gradually reveals thing from the past, we have the story as it moves forward in the present and we also witness some incredibly intriguing snippets taken from the future and that compulsion to read forward and find out how all these elements come together is strong indeed.

I confess that coming of age novels are something of a weakness for me and put the characters into a training/school setting and I’m probably ready to be bowled over.  Yes, I loved Harry Potter – as did just about everybody I know – but, don’t pick this up thinking you’re picking up anything like HP – or YA for that matter.  This book is dark, it’s bleak, the world is a slowly dying, cold and harsh place to live and the there is bloody violence meted out by cruel and brutal characters.

There are certainly friendships developed, and indeed that particular aspect is one of the main focuses as the story moves forward but, be in no doubt, these girls are learning, more often than not the hard way, how to become cold blooded killers.  Nona.  Yes, she is an amazing character.  Just to be clear, I don’t think she’s amazing simply because of her difference or her abilities, the power that lies beneath the surface, the simmering belief that she’s going to become kickass or the chosen one – no, I really liked her because of her vulnerability.  Her need to be accepted and the desperation she feels that she never will be accepted because of her differences.  She longs for friendship and this need makes her an unreliable narrator which in turn makes the story even more compelling as you strive to get to the truth.  Put simply she doesn’t want people to truly know her because she learnt the hard way that the truth will drive them away – so she tells untruths.

And there are plenty of other great characters.   The Abbess herself, along with a couple of the other nuns made for great reading.  I also really liked the addition of Zole – a really interesting character who I hope we learn more about.  Not exactly a welcome addition to the Convent when she makes her first appearance but she has a lot to offer and I’m very curious about her.  What I find myself particularly drawn to in books at the moment is character development and this story is strongly focused on the characters.  Lawrence paints them in all their diversity with their fears and hopes, jealousies and ambitions.  Nobody is truly good or bad, there are little shades of everything mixed in there.

In terms of the world – I’m not going to go into great depth.   This series is known as the Book of the Ancestors and I think that tells a story by itself.  Four tribes originally existed, all with different abilities.  Strength, speed, magical ability or the ability to walk The Path.  The blood from these tribes has been passed down but weakened over the years but every now and again a child will display a particular affinity for one of the original tribes.  Nona is descended from the Hunska which means she has incredible speed – or does it mean that everything else around her slows down.  Anyway, as the story moves along we find out a lot more about the magic involved such as the ability to walk The Path.  We also learn that the world here is one that is narrowing.  A thin corridor of habitable land surrounded by ice on both sides, perhaps a possible future envisaged right here in which the sun is failing and the Moon is literally falling from the sky.

The icing on the cake of course is the writing.  This book is just beautifully written.  Lawrence twists and turns and takes us all along for the ride.  He gives us the archetypal ‘chosen one’ stereotype and then proceeds to pull it apart.  He delivers some real moments of betrayal and that ending.  Exactly when is the next book due out?

So, all that said, I admit I really struggled to start this review because having read the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War my first instinct was to start by making comparisons.  It’s natural to do so really and yet at the same time it was, to put it bluntly, simply doing my head in comparing them.  At the end of the day they’re all intrinsically similar, the writing style and the bleakness of the world and yet, in frustratingly Golum like fashion, they’re also fundamentally different.  So, is this Lawrence’s best work?  Is Nona my favourite of his character creations.  I don’t think I could answer that – it’s like when somebody asks you ‘what’s your favourite book’  What? How many favourites can I have?? Surely not just one.  You might just as well ask me which is my favourite child.  They’re all individual and I love them all.

A young girl with potential, a nunnery that trains it’s novices in the art of assassination and uses magic to help fulfil their aims.  Smooth prose, bleak overtones and intriguing twists.  Obviously I loved this.

I received a copy of Red Sister for review – for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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