TTT – Cover Love

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic is:

Books I’ve Read (some at least) That I’d Like on my Shelves

I’ve cheated on this week theme – I’ve not read all of these books (yet) but I wanted to highlight them here today.  This week I’ve gone with covers that are all from self published authors just to highlight some of the real beauties that are out there.  Feast your eyes on these lovelies:

 

 

 

SPFBO – Finalist

For the past few months I’ve been taking part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  This idea was hit upon by Mark Lawrence and brings together 10 bloggers, each undertaking to read 25-27 books submitted by self published authors with a view to putting forward one book from their pile.  The 10 books that are then put forward will then be read by each blogger and scored and eventually an overall winner will be hit upon.  The full details are here.

In today’s post I’m announcing my overall winner.  I’m probably doing things a little back to front here because I haven’t reviewed the book yet (or a number of the other books that I actually completed).  This is simply because I focused on completing the task in front of me and in particular on finding my ‘one’ book.

I can say that this has been a very difficult challenge for me for a number of reasons.  I hate being critical – I really do!  And yet I have a list of books and only one to take forward.  This certainly acted as a motivation in making me focus.  Also, I think writing a book and putting your labour of love forward for an event such as this must be really tough and I appreciate that and don’t want to discourage anybody.

What I can say about the books submitted on my list – I had some enjoyable reads here – in fact probably more than I expected (which was something of an eye opener and a revelation)  Maybe I wasn’t as open minded about self published books as I thought and in that respect I think this challenge has been a learning curve.

In terms of the reading I didn’t complete all the books and this wasn’t necessarily because I didn’t enjoy them but more because I already knew that they would not be the book I put forward for one reason or another.  In total I completed 10 books – I’ve already written a short review for a couple of those plus a full review for one of the others.  The others I intend to write reviews for over the next few days starting with my finalist.  I think I gave all the books submitted a very fair chance but at the end of the day the book I chose just stood out for me as up until that point I was undecided about which book I had enjoyed the most.

I would like to thank all the authors who submitted books for this challenge and hope that none of you are discouraged at all, at the end of the day I had to be fairly hard in terms of elimination.  Put simply, some of the books were not my style, or maybe felt aimed at a younger target audience and some I had issues with the writing style that didn’t particularly work for me.

My finalist for this round:

The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden – review to follow.

The other books that I read fully but have not yet reviewed:

  1. Iduna by Maya Michaels
  2. The Duchess of the Shallows by Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto
  3. Forging Divinity by Andrew Rowe
  4. In the Dark by Melody Taylor
  5. Thief of Hope by Cindy Young-Turner
  6. Blade of the Broken by Jake Scholl

The following three books I’ve already either reviewed or given a short write up of.

  • Naming the Bane by Kal S Davian
  • Klondaeg the Monster Hunter by Steve Thomas
  • His Own Good Sword by Amanda McCrina review here

SPFBO Update

This is my latest update on the SPFBO.  A quick recap.

The next six on my list are as follows:

  • Andrew Rowe – Forging Divinity – checked out the first few chapters and intend to read further
  • Janice McKonly – Welcome to Mystery Interior – an interesting idea, I read about 15% of this but decided ultimately it wasn’t for me.
  • Scott Decker – Gemstone Wyverns – checked out the first few chapters and intend to read further
  • Cindy Young-Turner – Thief of Hope – checked out the first few chapters and intend to read further
  • Jake Scholl – Blade of the Broken, read about 30% of this book and was quite intrigued and may return to it.
  • Ruairi Cinead Ducantlin – Verum – Exercitum ex Nihilo- I couldn’t get into this one unfortunately, I gave it a good shot at around 21% but was unable to really get into the story.

To the authors of Welcome to Mystery Interior, Blade of the Broken and Verum.  Thank you so much for submitting your books for review.  Like I’ve previously said it’s difficult to eliminate certain books off the list and it’s not necessarily because I disliked them but at the end of the day there’s only one book going forward and so I have to narrow down the choices along the way.  The three I will continue to read and review are below with descriptions from Amazon:

Forging Divinity by Andrew Rowe:

Some say that in the city of Orlyn, godhood is on sale to the highest bidder. Thousands flock to the city each year, hoping for a chance at immortality.

Lydia Hastings is a knowledge sorcerer, capable of extracting information from anything she touches. When she travels to Orlyn to validate the claims of the local faith, she discovers a conspiracy that could lead to a war between the world’s three greatest powers. At the focal point is a prisoner who bears a striking resemblance to the long-missing leader of the pantheon she worships.

Rescuing the prisoner would require risking her carefully cultivated cover – but his execution could mean the end of everything Lydia holds dear.

Gemstone Wyverns by Scott Decker

Under Guardian William’s rule, people huddle in castles, dreading the next attack of the Gemstone Wyverns. As Josh Wyrmherd admires a large uncut diamond, which awaits the next king to claim it, a wyvern crashes through the window and steals it from the castle. Accused of assisting the wyvern, Josh is exiled from the kingdom and begins a journey that will change his life.

Thief of Hope by Cindy Young-Turner

Sydney, a street urchin and pickpocket in the town of Last Hope, has managed to evade the oppressive Guild for years, but there is no escaping fate when she’s sentenced to death for associating with the resistance.

After she’s rescued by a wizard, Sydney is forced to accept that magic—long outlawed throughout the Kingdom of Thanumor—still exists, and the Tuatha, a powerful faery folk, are much more than ancient myth and legend. When the wizard offers a chance to fight the Guild and bring Willem, bastard prince and champion of the Tuatha, to the throne, Sydney embraces the cause as a way to find her own redemption.

But Sydney’s fear of the Guild, distrust of authority, and surprising connection to the Tuatha threaten Willem’s success. Can she untangle the strange threads that entwine her life not only to the fate of the kingdom, but also to Willem himself?

Out of 12 books so far I’ve eliminated 8, reviewed one and chosen 3 more to continue reading (and which I will definitely review).  From the number overall I have a further 13 (or 15 if I have time to include the two extra books).

SPFBO Update

I’m currently taking part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off – details of which are here.  I’m going to write a few updates as I go along regarding the books I’ve so far attempted.  Some of the books just simply won’t be my cup of tea but I’m going to give a short write up for those because they may work for others and try and make sense of why they didn’t work out for me. Some I might not finish  Some I might finish but won’t necessarily be carrying them foward.  There are 27 books on my list, I won’t be fully reviewing all of them but I want to be fair to the books and the authors so will give some kind of synopsis plus links to the books and, if it was a book that didn’t work for me, try and outline briefly why not.

Books read so far:

  1. Amanda McCrina – His Own Good Sword – review here
  2. Wayne Miller – The Dung Ball Chronicle – DNF
  3. Steve Thomas – Klondaeg the Monster Hunter
  4. Jack Kerr – Tommy Black and the Staff of Light – DNF
  5. T.C Pearce – Into the Aether – DNF
  6. Kal S Davian – Naming the Bane

His Own Good Sword by Amanda McCrina – This was my first read and a good start.  My review is above.

The Dung Ball Chronicle by Wayne Miller 

Unfortunately I didn’t finish this particular story.  It’s an unusual tale and I’ve cut and paste part of the description from Goodreads: ‘The narrator is John Densch, a frustrated husband, father and low-level technocrat who starts the whole ball rolling with a joke about a “bog monster.” We meet his wife, Doreen, who wants so badly for John to move beyond the imaginary ensnaring him, but finds that everything comes with a price; Bollum, a voice in young John’s head that told him tales of alien abduction and of a technological utopia for humanity, albeit one with an expiration date; and Derek, an abductee trapped on Bug World, at first a character in Bollum’s tales, but in time an alternate existence for John.’

As I said this was an unusual story.  Unfortunately it just didn’t quite work for me, it could be a mood thing on my part but I was simply unable to become absorbed in the story and I was doing that thing where, when you’re not really loving your current read, you become really ambivalent about picking the book back up.  I must admit I don’t like giving up on a story but sometimes you simply have to acknowledge that the book isn’t working for you and that was the case here.  I probably read about a quarter of the story.

Klondaeg the Monster Hunter by Steve Thomas

Klondaeg is a dwarf with revenge on his mind.  When he was a young dwarf his parents were killed by a monster and now he wants to rid the world of all other monsters.  He carries with him a split personality, talking axe called King’s Rest.  In case you were in doubt this is a bit of a tongue in cheek collection of short adventures starring Klondaeg.  Klondaeg flits about from one mini adventure to the next killing all manner of monsters along the way.  He ends up with a strange collection of characters joining him on his travels as he tries to uncover the monster that killed his mother and father and even visits with a God in an attempt to reverse a prophecy.

This was okay and I did complete the book – I’m not going to say I loved it or that I had no issues but it was a lighthearted story with the emphasis more on fun.  If you want to scrutinise the finer detail or are looking for something a bit deeper or with more character development then this probably isn’t for you but if you want a tongue in cheek, fun adventure with a bit of a madcap character then you may like this one.

Tommy Black and the Staff of Light by Jack Kerr

I would describe Tommy Black as a coming of age story – probably aimed at middle graders.  Tommy travels through a number of adventures whilst coming to terms with the existence of magic and his own inheritance in that respect.  Tommy has lived in ignorance of magic, protected by his grandfather.  At the start of the story he’s about to have his eyes opened and from there things are going to become very strange very fast.  Whilst I didn’t actually finish this I will say it shows quite a lot of promise.  I don’t think I’m really the target audience and therefore for me personally I found myself with a few niggles – I read almost half so there’s always the possibility that these could have been all wrapped up by the conclusion but like I said I don’t think I’m really the target audience for this one.  I think my main issue here was that we have Tommy – and then we have people with knowledge that they could pass to him but instead of doing so there was a sort of ‘we need to talk’ statement – usually followed by ‘after you’ve slept/I’ve slept, we’ve eaten’, etc, If that was me – no, you’d be having that talk now.  Like I say, that’s just me, and doubtless that would have been cleared up later in the story but, it wasn’t as though the ‘talks’ were being delayed because everyone was running for their lives, that would be fair enough but to constantly put things off when there seems to be plenty of time to discuss them just feels a bit like a clunky plot device because the author doesn’t yet want to relate those things to the readers – like I said, above – not really aimed at me so my niggles may be unfounded and as I said this shows a lot of promise.

Into the Aether by T.C Pearce 

This is an original storyline that brings together quite a few different elements.  We start with a young girl who can walk into and out of people’s dreams.  We meet a man on a plane who seems to be of interest to more than one different party and finds himself being almost abducted by something that is a bit demonic and we meet another woman who seems to have premonitions of future events.  There’s a lot to tie together with a strange world living hidden alongside our own.

I got off to a good start with this but then ultimately found myself struggling a little – I’ve read just under 50% so I do think I’ve given it a good shot.  I don’t dislike it and in fact may read on just to satisfy my curiosity but I’m finding myself irritated with certain things and they’re just giving me a mental block.  For now, I’ve put it to one side just simply because of the issues that I was finding irritating but I may pick it back up and give it a little more time.  This certainly isn’t a badly written story and it has a fairly original (to me) concept.  I think my main issue is the way that some of the people act which doesn’t always come across as believable but simply convenient for the plot – Lara’s mother is a prime example of this although I sometimes feel that the parents in YA books can often be a bit unreal.  Again, as with the Jack Kerr book above I don’t really think I’m the target audience here so my irritation could be simply that. Like I said I might pick this up later on in the challenge just to see how it finishes and if I do so I will give it a fuller review.

Naming the Bane by Kal S Davian

Daggis is a man cursed from birth and, in a world where the Goddess hunts and kills those that are cursed, his life hasn’t been easy.  At the start of the story Daggis is travelling with his wife and daughter as part of a caravan with other cursed and misfits.  Their life is one of constant movement evading capture until the army finally catches up with them and all hell breaks loose.

I quite enjoyed this and think it shows a lot of promise.  I did have issues with it but I completed it quite easily in one sitting.  However, this is only an excerpt from the world created by Davlan and as such I found myself not satisfied!  I think personally I would prefer to have read a larger instalment where I can get a proper feel for the characters and world and make a more balanced judgement.  As it is we only see a small snippet and whilst things are alluded to they’re not really cleared up here.  I do think this is an interesting world and I’m curious to know what these curses are exactly.  There’s plenty of action and no lack of imagination.  In terms of criticisms I think this could have been strengthened.  There were certain scenes that were too quickly brushed over where I wanted to feel a bit more emotion.  As it is, I thought this was a good introduction to the world – I just wanted to feel more for the characters and didn’t really have a chance to make that connection.

I can’t say I enjoy eliminating books from this challenge but at the end of the day there can be only one.

This is a recap of my progress on the SPFBO for March.  I would like to thank all the authors for allowing me the opportunity to review their books.

 

His Own Good Sword by Amanda McCrina

His Own Good Sword gets underway the first of my reviews for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, brainchild of Mark Lawrence (in collaboration with Bookworm Blues) the details of which are here.

I randomly chose His Own Good Sword to start off with and actually I was pleasantly surprised with this book.  It did get off to a little bit of a slow start but I soon became quite intrigued with the story of Tyren Risto.

This is very much what I would describe as alternative history with the Roman-like Varenos having conquered the Cesins.  This has been far from a smooth occupation and over the years a number of rebellions have flared up.  At the start of the story Tyren, second son to the noble Risto family, has been sent his new commission.  Unfortunately he’s been posted to Souvin, not only an outlying backwater but something of an insult to the Ristos.  It turns out that the Ristos have a long standing history of bad blood with the powerful Marro family and following a spat between Tyren and one of the Marros this Commission is a demonstration of just how powerful that family have become.

There are two strands to the story.  Tyren’s posting in Souvin and the difficulties he encounters there in terms of rebellion and potential uprising and the story of the Risto family and the political maneouvering taking place behind the scenes to undermine not only them but the Senate itself.

I guess I’d call this something of a gentle read and I suppose what I really mean by that is that it crept up on me unexpectedly. Also, although the story involves conflict and bloodshed it’s not particularly violent or gory.  The details of the fighting and injuries are almost delivered in a calm and measured tone.  I don’t mean to underplay it by describing it that way – just that it has a realistic feel but narrated in a non-dramatic style.  I liked, for example, the fact that during battle Tyren does become exhausted and the injuries he sustains have a real impact that knock him out for days and continue to cause him problems even later in the story.

We read primarily from the POV of Tyren with occasional chapters being led by his father Torian and this helps the plot to unfold in a fairly easy to follow style with a view on the bigger picture rather than focusing only on the potential uprising in Souvin.

I would say the story is primarily character led with Tyren being the main protagonist and quite a good supporting cast although that isn’t to underplay the plot which builds subtly to become quite compelling.  The world building is fairly low key – not a problem although I thought it could have been added to a little just to give it a bit more flavour.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, the pacing was a little slow and the dialogue felt a bit unpolished, particularly at the start of the story. Also, I did at times feel a bit put out with Tyren – he certainly didn’t make the best decisions and his lack of foresight and naivety proved costly to quite a few others – I sort of tempered this with the fact that he’s an idealistic 19 year old finding himself in charge of a garrison soldiered by older and more cynical men.  I was also a bit perplexed with Tyren’s sudden liking for one of the rebel women – it just felt like it came out of nowhere and wasn’t entirely believable. I would say it took me a little while to become truly invested in the story but once I did it was definitely a good read and to be honest one that I would continue with.

The other thing I would mention is that if you’re expecting any fantasy elements in terms of dragons, swords or sorcery or unusual characters with pointy ears then you may be disappointed (well, not on the sword front maybe).  This story is fantasy purely by dint of it being completely fictional. In other words it isn’t a work of fiction set in Rome and based on the wars and deeds of that time and place.  The entire place, people and wars are fictitious.

I think that if you enjoy alternate history, particularly when based on the Roman Empire with politics, conflict and underhanded behaviour together with a protagonist who hasn’t yet proved himself but looks set to take events further with plenty of potential for development then this could be for you.  I would continue with the series as I’m curious as to where it will go next.

I think this was a good start to the SPFBO