#SPFBO 2018 : Batch 4, Books 1-3

Posted On 5 November 2018

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As mentioned in my post here as part of the SPFBO competition I’ll be randomly choosing six books per month for the next five months, I will then aim to check out at least the first 30% of each book during that month.  I’ll post information about the first three books chosen at the start of the month and then about the remaining three during the mid way point with a conclusion around the end of the month about which books will be going forward or which will be eliminated.  The conclusion for my first, second and third month’s reading can be found herehere and here Ultimately, the aim is to choose one book from the thirty I’ve been assigned – that chosen one will then be my finalist.

Books 1-3 in my fourth batch of books are as follows:

Clockworld.jpg1. Clockworld by Ben Myatt

The Iron City has stood for thousands of years, but now, dark forces move within her metal walls to bring down her royal family and subjugate her people. Princess Aldreia, heir to the throne, must join with the peasant Tunnel-Runner Mouse to battle against the threats against her city and protect her birthright!

From the darkest cellars of the city Underworks to the skies around its tiers, the battle for the Iron City has begun!

 

 

thebastardfrom.jpgThe Bastard from Fairyland by Phil Parker

The world’s sea levels have risen and washed civilisation away. Survival is a constant compromise, made worse when the Fae invade; a cruel and sadistic race eager to turn humanity into slaves. Robin Goodfellow is an elite Fae warrior with a long life steeped in blood and his loyalty rewarded by betrayal. Now he lives among humans, growing bitter and lonely, and wants no part in the war.

But Robin holds the key to victory for the Fae, the man who betrayed him demands his help and he’s brought Robin’s ex-lover along to ensure his cooperation. Trapped in the middle of the conflict and despised by both sides, Robin races across a flooded English landscape to rescue the two children who can help him make a difference.

What he doesn’t know is that powerful members of the Fae are manipulating him to succumb to his psychotic alter-ego, Puck, who’s ready to cause even more bloodshed.

 

Sorcerers'Isle3. Sorcerers’ Isle by DP Prior

Centuries ago, the Isle of Branikdür was mysteriously abandoned by the ruling Hélum Empire. Ever since, rival clans have battled for supremacy at the bidding of their sacred sorcerers.

During the once-a-year armistice for the Festival of Proving, the gifted warrior Snaith Harrow aims to leave his mark in the fight circles before marrying his childhood sweetheart. But following a freak accident, he discovers a terrible secret about the girl he loves:

Tey Moonshine is a daughter of suffering, and she has fallen prey to the things that stalk the netherworld. Under the influence of a demon that hides within her marrow, she gouges a magical codex into her flesh, believing it will make her the greatest sorcerer the isle has ever known.

Maimed from his accident and no longer able to fight, Snaith is apprenticed to the clan sorcerer, Theurig, and Tey is sent away from the village.

As Snaith is thrust headlong into a sorcerer’s world of misdirection and control, Tey must master the darkness that possesses her, if she is to stand together with him against the coming storm.

For the ripples of forbidden magic have roused the sleeping might of the Hélum Empire.

War is coming.

A war the clans can never win.

And the fate of Branikdür lies in the hands of a warrior turned wizard and a deranged girl who grows more deadly by the day.

Sorcerers’ Isle is a shocking tale of dark fantasy from international bestselling author D.P. Prior.

 

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#SPFBO End of Month Update

Posted On 2 November 2018

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blackThe third month of the SPFBO has come to an end which means that I’m now over half way through my books.  As with the first and second month I chose a further six books at random to check during the course of October with the intention of reading at least 30% of each one.  As the month got underway I posted about the books chosen and you can find out more information about them and their authors here and here.  The aim of today’s post is to provide an update on my reading progress and also to decide which books have been chosen to stay in the contest after the second month.  I really don’t like this part of the competition, I don’t like cutting books and I feel so bad for the authors of the books that are being cut but this is a competition and I only have one space.  So, these are my thoughts this month with deepest apologies to all the authors whose books have been cut to date, I can’t deny that these were really difficult decisions.  I’ve provided ratings for the books, but these are based on the first third of the book and therefore could be subject to change.

For this particular batch of books I’m rolling two books forward.

The next 4 books that I will be cutting are as follows with a short review of my thoughts on each:

a wizard's forgeA Wizard’s Forge (The Woern Saga, #1) by A.M. Justice

I made a good start on this and I have to admit I’m intrigued with what I’ve read so far (about 35%).  The writing is good and very easy to get along with.  The main protagonist is Victoria.  After succeeding in her goal to become a scholar, travelling from village to village sharing wisdom, Victoria is unfortunately abducted, along with a number of other villagers and sold into slavery.  Her new owner/master is manipulative and obsessive.  His aim is to completely possess Victoria, body and soul and as the story progresses she is undoubtedly falling under his sway.  I’m not really going to share too much more of the plot at this point but just discuss my thoughts so far.  I did enjoy this and it’s a book I’d like to return to, complete and review when the first stage of the SPFBO is out of the way.  As it is and up to the point that I read up to the only real issues I would note are that this seems very ambitious at the point I broke off, by which I mean there is a lot going on and plenty of ground to cover, as a result we seem to have jumps forward in time – which isn’t something I have a problem with as a rule but it felt here like the jumps left me feeling not quite as invested in Victoria as a I felt I should be somehow.  Of course, I’m only just over a third into the book so there’s plenty of time for things to develop but at just slightly over my cut off point I wanted to feel a little more attached. I would rate this 3.5 out of 5 stars.

llightdawningLight Dawning by Ty Arthur

Light Dawning is a very dark story, or so it seems from what I’ve read so far.  The story takes place in Cestia, once renowned for its opportunities it has been occupied by enemy forces who took over the city approximately three years ago.  There is a rebellion movement although it’s chances of success seem slim.  The occupying forces are brutal indeed and think nothing of slaughtering and raping those citizens who have managed to stay alive so far.  Most of the survivors believe there is little hope and I’m inclined to agree with them.  The main characters I read of up to the 32% mark were Myrr, who was, at the time of introduction, hiding in a safehouse from the knighthood, there is more to Myrr than originally meets the eye.  Erret is a missionary who seems to be using the occupation and the rebellion to stir up more trouble – all in the name of encouraging more converts to join his flock. Casterley who, in spite of his family being terrorised and broken apart by the enemy believes the rebellion can make a difference.  At this point all the characters come across in shades of grey – neither fully bad or fully good, which is something I do like.  I think my main issues with Light Dawning is that it really does come across in the first third of the book as maybe too bleak or dark for me.  There are dark forces at play, something demonic maybe – although I don’t have a clear take on that at the moment.  I think with the casual way in which the ruling forces kill and slaughter it feels like pretty soon there won’t be a city left to rule – and maybe that’s not something that concerns them, they’re looking for something in the city after all.  I guess I’m puzzled why they’re leaving people alive in the first place because they have very little regard for the remaining population.  This could work well for others, it just felt a little to grim for my tastes, more a case of ‘this is me not you’. I would rate this 3 out of 5 stars.

darkof

Dark of Winter by Christopher Percy

Dark of Winter is another of the stories that definitely intrigued me and I think I will have to read more because I’m incredibly curious.  I think I got off on the wrong foot with this one and didn’t find myself really enamoured at the start of the read but that changed with the introduction of the village and people of Sumner.  This is such an unusual race of people.  They seem to have suffered in the past and most of the villages have some kind of deformity, I’m not entirely sure why at this point.  Other villages stay away from them completely.  What I found pulled me into the story was the introduction of a character named Hidden.  At the start of the story Hidden has encountered a monster outside the village which he captures and returns with (I would point out if you’re thinking of picking this up that there is a particularly gruesome scene at this point).  This definitely portends evil and the approach of darkness.  At the same time, the village is unaware of the fact that a contingent of soldiers is marching through the wilds with the intent of wiping them out.  Things certainly seem bleak for Sumner.  Alongside this, a young girl has gone missing from the village and in the freezing conditions is unlikely to survive long, are these all just coincidental or is something bigger at play?  Search parties are dispatched to try and find her before it’s too late.  What I liked about this – as I said, the village and it’s occupants are quite fascinating, the talk of monsters and the dark is intriguing and a village where the dead can talk and give you advice is definitely something to take notice of.  Hidden also seems like a character that I’d like to get to know better. So, I got off to a slow start with this one but it had started to win me over.  This is a book that I would like to return to and review fully.  I would rate this 3.5 out of 5 stars.

How to go to Hell in 10,000 Easy StepsHow to go to Hell in 10,000 Easy Steps by Douglas Todd 

This book is very different indeed and actually quite compelling for that reason.  It’s one of those stories where everything becomes very unusual very quick.  The main character, Valerie, is fed up of life and has decided she wants to trade her soul for a better life – after all, she won’t need a soul once she’s dead will she?  Unfortunately, Hell is having a few problems of it’s own at the moment which makes this trade off a tad unlikely – actually, Hell stopped trying to tempt souls with offers of fame and fortune a while ago, it seems they have plenty of people on the way down into the inferno of their own volition and don’t need to make such deals – of course Valerie wasn’t aware of that fact before she made her attempt and like it or not she’s garnered some unwanted attention, especially as she’s now had a brief stint in hell and didn’t like it. This is such an unusual book and another of my batch that I will definitely return to.  In terms of criticisms so far.  I wasn’t convinced by Valerie’s desire to trade her soul – that part of the story felt too rushed, I didn’t really feel her despair and it took a while to warm up to her.  She’s quite a singular character and not one that I immediately liked.  On top of that there is definitely oddity here and at least one part of the read that felt almost uncomfortable to read.  But, I would like to read more, I can usually handle oddity quite well and I’d like to see how this concludes.  I would rate this 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The two books I am rolling forward are:

Cover share #SPFBO #SpooktasticReads

Wyrd&Wonder

Image credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today, I’m really pleased to be sharing with you some book covers.  The Bastard of Fairyland by Phil Parker is one of my books for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  I haven’t read this book yet but it will be coming up on my read list shortly.  The author has recently had his covers reworked and has posted about it here.  I figured this would make a great time to highlight this series as part of Wyrd and Wonder’s #Spooktasticreads because this is dark urban fantasy which I love and I think it fits perfectly for this time of the year.  Plus, I’m all about the cover love.  So, without further ado check out the covers (with info re the book below):

bastard from fairyland

Renegade

The Vengeance

He’s Robin Goodfellow to those he knows. Puck to those he’ll kill. He’s lived among humans for centuries, they think he’s a demon. The teenagers he’s forced to protect, despise him.

The Fae may have banished him, to live among humanity where isolation has made him bitter, where he’s been persecuted because of his sexuality. But now they want him back. They’ve declared war on the humans and Robin is vital to their success, so long as he’s prepared to release Puck.

The Bastard from Fairyland is a dark, urban fantasy. It’s where A Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Game of Thrones.

#SPFBO 2018, Batch 3 books 4-6

Posted On 15 October 2018

Filed under #SPFBO, Book Reviews
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As mentioned in my post here as part of the SPFBO competition I’ll be randomly choosing six books per month for the next five months, I will then aim to check out at least the first 30% of each book during that month.  I’ll post information about the first three books chosen at the start of the month and then about the remaining three during the mid way point with a conclusion around the end of the month about which books will be going forward or which will be eliminated.  The conclusion for my first and second month’s reading can be found here and here.  Ultimately, the aim is to choose one book from the thirty I’ve been assigned – that chosen one will then be my finalist.

Books 4-6 in my third batch of books are as follows:

Dark of Winter by Christopher Percy

darkofwinterThe people of Sumner are odd. Their village, far to the north where the weather is worst, is lost to a world of snow and ice and freezing death. No one trusts Sumner. No one goes there.

Until now.

King Fialsun’s soldiers are battle weary. They have spent years carving an empire that starts from the south and rises up like an inexorable branch, twisting east and west and now to new territories in the north.

Despite growing dissent, Fialsun’s power remains absolute and his might infinite. But one village remains outside from his sovereignty: Sumner.

Fialsun sends one hundred of his soldier veterans to find and to decimate the village. To bring an end to its stigma and to quash the dreaded infamy of its most lethal warrior: Threecuts.

But strange events have been unfolding in Sumner. A girl has gone missing and warriors deem they have captured a creature from mythology. All the evidence leads to the conclusion that an ancient evil is coming.

In one night the fate of Sumner will be decided. If the King’s soldiers do not reach them first, then the creatures of the Dark of Winter will.

Author Page

twitter: darkofwinterbk

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

How to go to Hell in 10,000 Easy Steps

 

How to go to Hell in 10,000 Easy Steps by Douglas Todd 

Valerie wants to sell her soul. But it seems like Hell doesn’t want it, which is a real disappointment.

Actually, Hell is having some serious problems, and it looks like Valerie is going to get ensnared in them whether she likes it or not. Along the way, she’ll meet a lot of colorful and interesting people, most of whom are immortal, many of whom aren’t very nice, some of whom would like to see her dead.

She’ll also experience some truly horrifying things because, no matter how nice some of the people in it are, when it comes right down to it, Hell just isn’t a very pleasant place.

Author page

Forsaken Kingdom

 

Forsaken Kingdom by JR Rasmussen

At his kingdom’s darkest hour, the lost heir returns. A pity he can’t remember who he is …

To save his people and the forbidden magic they’re sworn to defend, Wardin Rath surrenders his birthright and his past. For seven years he’s held at the court of his deadliest enemy, oblivious to all he’s lost. Until one day, the spell that stole his memories begins to crack.

On the heels of a harrowing escape, Wardin’s quest for answers leads him to the last magistery, where he studied magic as a boy. But he’ll find no safe haven there—or anywhere. Plagued by threats and suspicion, hunted relentlessly by the king who will stop at nothing to crush him, Wardin is soon battling for his life, his home, and the survival of magic itself.

And this time, the enemy will take no prisoners.

Author’s Page

#SPFBO Interview with Andrew Einspruch, author of Purple Haze

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purpleToday I’m pleased to welcome to my blog Andrew Einspruch, author of Purple Haze.  Purple Haze was one of the books I rolled forward from the first month of the competition (you can check out the first chapter here) and my update for the first month of SPFBO reading is here.

Hi Andrew, thanks for agreeing to take part in an interview.

I was checking out your social media places earlier. You’ve already got an impressive amount of books under your belt.  Your author page mentions a number of books for primary age readers and I think Purple Haze is your debut (into the fantasy YA market).  How did the two compare in terms of challenges??

My publishing career has had two distinct phases. Starting in the mid-90s and going up to a few years ago, I had traditionally published around 120 children’s books, mainly for primary-aged readers in the education market. These books were done, for the most part, to publisher specification. The challenge there was to make the reading interesting, while still meeting all the criteria they wanted the book to meet—the number of words per spread, trying to get a particular set of words used in the book, making sure the difficulty level was right, and avoiding taboo subjects and references that would make the book unsellable to conservative US book buyers. Plus, I’d end up writing on topics I knew nothing about, like Christmas Island red crabs or the quirks of Australia’s different state and federal proportional voting systems, so there was a lot of research involved.

This year starts a new phase: publishing novels. You’re right that The Purple Haze is my debut into the world of humorous YA fantasy. The challenges are very different. First, there are all the words. The Purple Haze, book one in the  Western Lands and All That Really Matters series, is around 125,000 words long. That compares to the primary readers I wrote that might be 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 words long. The next challenge is telling a story that’s engaging and fun, and to realise that if you want the character to be at a particular place facing a particular problem, you have to write your way there, write it, and then write your way out of it. Then there’s the matter of the lack of boundaries. A text that needs to be 1,500 words long on the first indigenous Australian to start in an NBA game and which uses a set number of “-ing” words has a lot of boundaries. With my novels, all that went out the window. I had to learn the discipline of putting a story together, and meeting even modest word count goals to make sure things marched forward and didn’t bog down..

Purple Haze has a decidedly amusing feel and I’m thinking it’s going to subvert a few tropes and maybe be a bit tongue in cheek??  Humour can be tricky in books, not to mention some people are mood readers!  What made you take the choice to go down that particular route?

The reason I made the choice to go down the route of humour is… (I hope you’re sitting down for this… ) that’s what came out.

I trod the boards as a comic for years, doing improv comedy and also sketch comedy in a show with my wife. My hope and intention is that my books bring a smile and make people feel uplifted and better. The world needs more of that right now.

Reading the first chapter of your book I’d say it comes across as though you enjoyed yourself writing Purple Haze, how important is that do you think to the success of the book?

I’m loving writing this series. It is definitely fun to do! And yes, I do believe this affects the success of the book because an audience will feel it. If it is fun for me to write, then it will be fun to read.  The vibe will be upbeat, and people will pick that up.

I understand that you run an animal sanctuary along with your wife and daughter? I checked out your blog of course which is fascinating but could you share with readers how this all began?

Red Moon and Equinox

Photo used with permission

Our farm animal sanctuary, A Place of Peace, is the largest in Australia, with around 460 souls (mainly cows, sheep, horses, goats, dogs, cats, and geese) who’ve found a forever home with us. It is the boots on the ground, compassionate action arm of our charity, the Deep Peace Trust (deeppeacetrust.com). My wife, Billie Dean, and I have done rescue or animal care in one form or another since we’ve been together, starting with a puppy we took sight-unseen from a pound in the late 1980’s. My wife is an animal psychic and has a huge, wonderful, open heart, which makes it difficult to say “no” to animals who call to her for help. Sadly, there’s an infinite supply of animals in the world who need help, and we can only do so much. Our sanctuary is basically full, so we put our energy into education, to help people get a closer connection to animals and nature, and to foster the understanding that we won’t have peace on the planet until we expand our circle of compassion to the non-humans who share the earth with us.

Do you have any amusing stories about the sanctuary?

Every animal here is an individual, with a history and a personality. They love their families, and unlike most farm animals, get to live with them for their entire lives. So yes, lots of stories.

For example, the first sheep we ever took on was Sarah. She came to us from a farmer. Her mother had died, and he couldn’t raise a poddy. Sarah was brought up in the house and loved it when I played piano. She’d come up close and sit at my feet like a dog. She adored classical music.

When Sarah started living outside, she chose a life among the goats, and was most offended if you asked her to hang out with other sheep. She thinks of herself as a goat, not a sheep, because that’s who she was raised with. But her fondness for the house remains — every night she comes to the kitchen door where we sneak her a treat.

Willow and Sarah

Photo used with permission

Sometimes, the animals just surprise you with what they’ll do, and if you’re lucky, you can catch it on camera.

A kitten eating a banana? Sure: https://youtu.be/33ZcXms6jy8

A goat kid climbing a tree? You bet:

How have your experiences played into your writing?

I like to think I have a great empathy for all species, and can treasure their similarities and differences. Animals feature prominently as equals in the Western Lands and All That Really Matters series, and that willingness to include other species in the action and decisions of the fiction world stems from my interactions with them in our world.

What do you hope for in terms of the future – both in writing and the sanctuary?

I’m at the start of my novel writing career, and my hope is my books will find their home in the world and lots and lots of people will read and enjoy them.

As for the sanctuary, in the short term, my focus is helping the animals here make it through the worst drought in living memory (https://chuffed.org/project/drought2018). In the long run, we’d like to have have a green, verdant, peaceful place for the animals to live out their lives in happiness, and for everyone, everywhere to treat animals as the feeling, sentient beings they are.

Andrew, thank you so much for taking part.  I love the sound of your sanctuary and the way you look after, respect and treat the animals and I can’t wait to finish your book.

All the best with the SPFBO.

For more information about Andrew check out the following links.

Email: andrew@wildpureheart.com
Web: https://wildpureheart.com
https://andreweinspruch.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/einspruch
Facebook: http://facebook.com/wildpureheart
http://facebook.com/andreweinspruch

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