Weekly Wrap Up : 19th January 2020

Hey everyone. Hope you’ve all had a lovely week.  I seem to have been very busy and yet I don’t think I could say exactly how or why.  In none bookish news I’m trying to be good and healthy, do more exercise and drink more water so we’ll see how this goes. I’ve actually made a plan for a full month – can I stick to it?  Well, I think so, we’ll see.  In bookish news I’ve read three books and also caught up with a couple of reviews. I went a little off plan but not much. In SPFBO news I read my first book, and loved it, obviously I’m a little behind but I’m not worried, I’m hoping to fit at least one more book in this month if not two.

Here’s my week in books:

  1. The Other People by CJ Tudor – which was excellent and my review will be posted tomorrow
  2. The Woods by Vanessa Savage
  3. Blood of Heirs (The Coraidic Sagas #1) by Alicia Wanstall-Burke – my first SPFBO book and an excellent 9* read.

What I’m reading next week:

  1. Crownbreaker by Sebastien deCastell
  2. The Bard’s Blade by Brian D. Anderson
  3. Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Upcoming Reviews

  1. King of the Road by RS Belcher
  2. Queenlayer by Sebastien DeCastell
  3. The Absinthe Earl by Sharon Lynn Fisher
  4. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
  5. King of Assassins by RJ Barker
  6. The Other People by CJ Tudor
  7. The Woods by Vanessa Savage

I’d love to know what you’re reading this week.

#SPFBO Semi Finalists and Finalist Announcement

Posted On 27 November 2019

Filed under Book Reviews
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Today sees, for me, the completion of Stage 1 of the SPFBO competition.  I’ve really enjoyed the first stage and I have to say I had some incredible books in my batch.

Firstly, the following books are the ones I’ve completed fully and reviewed (I’ve provided mini reviews for my other books as I went along.

Cry Havoc by Jack Frey

Healer’s Ruin by Chris O’Mara

The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court(Yarnsworld #4) by Benedict Patrick

Never Die by Rob J Hayes

Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin

Vortex Visions by Elise Kova

The Blade Within by Jackson Lear

River of Thieves by Clayton Snyder

From the above I have chosen five Semi Finalists, to be fair to the authors I would stress that all of these books were very good and I definitely recommend them all.  And in fact I am hoping to be able to go back and read fully some of the other books from my batch – time allowing.

My five semi finalists:

 

And this is where the really tough decision kicked in and kicked me to the floor (not at all dramatic)!

I’m not going to deny that it’s been very difficult to choose a finalist.  The nine books above were all very good and I recommend them – narrowing that list down to semi finalists was tough enough – going further and choosing just one – well, it was stressful and if it made me feel like that then I can’t even begin to imagine how all the authors feel.

Basically I narrowed my choice down to three.  I made a list of all sorts of pros and cons and was then left with two choices – which I really couldn’t choose between.

I don’t always score my books but I rated different aspects of both books in this case to try and find a score for each and see if that would help. Even with that in mind it’s been difficult to stick to one decision and there has been lots of to ing and fro ing and a tiny bit of dithering.  In the end I’ve chosen my finalist but I would stress that this was a really difficult decision.

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My finalist:

NeverDie

My congratulations to the author 😀

 

I would also like to put forward under the ‘Senlin Safety Net’:

TheLoreof

 

My apologies to the other authors from my batch.  I’ve had a fantastic time reading all these books and I wish that I could choose more than one but that’s the nature of the competition.  Thank you so much to all the authors for taking the time to enter and for taking the risk to put forward your work.  You definitely get my round of applause.

 

 

River of Thieves by Clayton Snyder

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RiverofRiver of Thieves is one of the titles on my list of books for the fifth SPFBO competition and was one of the books that I decided to roll forward after having read the first 30% with the idea of reading and reviewing fully.  In this respect this is my final review from the books I rolled forward. My next post, hopefully Wednesday, will reveal my semi finalists and finalist. So, straight to my review of River of Thieves.

River of Thieves kicks off to an immediately intense start.  One of the characters is cursed – and although the very nature of a curse is to be something bad – he and his partner Nenn seem to have turned it into something advantageous.  Although, I can’t deny it’s not the most pleasant scheme that they’ve come up with! There is stabbing, blood and plenty of ick.

Cord and Nenn are the two central characters, and Nenn is our storyteller.  They’re always on the lookout for that ‘one last job’ that will really set them up.  Although, at the same time they barely seem to care about money.  Cord eventually lands upon that ‘one thing’, he has a plan in mind, a heist, the king of heists in fact.  The two set off, Nenn barely knows what’s going on from one day to the next, Cord keeps his cards close to his chest, but the first step is to gather other members to their little crew before setting off to find trouble.

Again, I’m not really going to go into the plot, it’s best discovered whilst reading.

So, what I really liked about this book.  It’s harsh, it’s dark, it’s grim but it has some great banter to bring some light relief between events.  Cord and Nenn make a great pair and just continually snipe at each other.  It’s highly entertaining – in between the other goings on.  The start is fast and furious, it pulls you in immediately and leaves you in no doubt that you must continue to find out what’s going on.

It’s very imaginative, in fact a little bit horror filled and gory – but this is offset somewhat by the funny aspects and constant references – which I’m sure I missed a good deal of.

The writing is also strong.  I’ve not read anything by Clayton Snyder before but I would definitely love to read more and hopefully from this series?  I’m not sure if more books are intended but I have my fingers crossed.

Without elaborating on the plot the action is split into three distinct sections, each dealing with different adventures which keep the story fast paced and intense.  Briefly, monsters, pirates, unusual spiders! magic, corruption and the fight to do right – even if it’s kind of wrong at the same time.

In terms of criticisms. Well, the only issue I had was I think I kind of lost the plot a little bit in the middle, I still don’t quite understand how or why but I seemed to lose the thread.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew what was happening  with each of the individual sections but kind of lost the bigger picture.  That’s my bad to be honest and I feel like I should go back and reread what was going on.  To be fair – I did not skim any part of this but maybe I was just reading it too fast with that dose of eager anticipation that sometimes occurs when you’re all cranked up as a reader.

Overall, I had a really good time reading this.  It’s dark humour and quite near the knuckle but it feels really fresh, like the author just thought ‘what the hell, I’m doing this and lets see what happens’ it’s a little bit liberating in some respects and shocking in others but it works.

The strangest tale of not-heroes, they’re out their righting wrongs and injustice, kicking ass and getting themselves into a lot of danger.

I also absolutely have to call attention to the cover – which is awesome.

I received a copy courtesy of the author for which my thanks.  The above is my on opinion.

 

 

 

#SPFBO Review of Vortex Visions (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #1) by Elise Kova

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VortexVisionsVortex Visions is one of the titles on my list of books for the fifth SPFBO competition and was one of the books that I decided to roll forward after having read the first 30% with the idea of reading and reviewing fully.  In this respect I have 2 more reviews to follow which I’m hoping will be in fairly quick succession followed by a post to reveal my semi finalists and the book I will be taking to stage two of the competition.  So, straight to my review of Vortex Visions.

Firstly, I would point out that I haven’t read the Air Awakens series by Elise Kova, I understand that Vortex Visions is a book that can be read without having read the previous series however, it is possible that if you plan to read the first series this book and review could contain spoilers so please be aware of that.

As the book begins we meet Vi Solaris, heir to an empire. although she has never lived at it’s heart.  Little more, it seems, than a pawn in a political game of power.  From the ruling south she has been placed in the north as a means to keep peace.  That being said, Vi has led, to all extents, a happy existence, even though she dearly wants nothing more than to be reunited with her family and twin brother.

Great expectations rest upon Vi’s shoulders, particularly with regard to her magical abilities which seem, as the story commences, to be lying almost dormant.  She’s not unhappy in her situation although she deeply desires to return to her family home.  When a delegation from the South arrives it brings with it mixed tidings.  Vi’s friend and deliverer of messages from home, Jayme, returns with not only tidings from her family but also a new acquaintance. Andru, he seems to be an envoy from the South sent to judge Vi and her worthiness to rule.  Of course this puts Vi on the backfoot somewhat as she tries to go about her regular life whilst being observed and trying to make a good impression, but, meanwhile, Vi’s magic will awaken and far from giving her comfort it only serves to heighten the unusual predicament she is in.  She has strange visions, is able to make contact with an unknown entity and on top of all that her life is under threat.

Vortex Visions got off to a really good start.  I loved the writing style and became easily immersed in the world.

Vi finds herself a ward of sorts.  This was an unusual situation for me to come to terms with because I guess I’m more familiar with wards being taken by the rulers from the defeated as a means of forcing compliance.  In this case Vi is taken to the North (following their defeat) as a means of pacifying the Northerners that the heir of the Empire will be brought up sympathetically to the other realms.  There is more to this than at first meets the eye though so you do have to read further to discover more.

As the story begins you immediately feel Vi’s longing to return to her family, an event that is long overdue and you start to feel her doubts about why she hasn’t been recalled sooner.  She personally feels it’s her lack of magical ability and this new person, sent to judge her, certainly isn’t going to help her abilities manifest or help her to gain confidence.

Okay, I got off to a very good start with Vortex Visions.  It really is a strong start.  You get an immediate feel for the main protagonist and her situation, her desires and hopes.  You’re also introduced to the people surrounding her, one being a best friend.  Vi, Ellene and Jayme have a close friendship, the three enjoy all sorts of nonsense and gossip and they’re about to go on an adventure, a release for a few days as part of a celebration for Vi’s birthday.  This is where things start to change.

So, yes, a really good start to this, I was intrigued.  The writing is good, it’s an easy read with decent pacing.  I had my doubts about certain characters which I won’t reveal for the sake of spoilers (although these are only my own speculations and I have no real idea if they’re correct or not at this point).

I’m not entirely certain I understand everything about the world here.  Other than there seems to be a north/south divide.  Vi lives with people who live high in the trees,  The place sounds quite lovely and almost put me in mind of a Tolkien landscape of elves – but that’s probably my own imagination running riot.

The plot is really quite good, there’s more to Vi than meets the eye, plots are afoot and strangers are going to make some rather unannounced appearances and upset things somewhat.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt the first half of the book was the more gripping part of the story.  The latter half felt a bit more easy to second guess and didn’t really move things forward in the way I’d expected.  Also, Vi.  I couldn’t help feeling she bemoaned her situation much more than was necessary.  Of course I understand that she missed her family and felt abandoned or stranded a little but to be honest she was still incredibly pampered and privileged and so I couldn’t help but feel a little irritated sometimes by her thoughts.  Particularly as she wasn’t treated badly, she wasn’t a prisoner, and in fact the heir to the North’s own daughter was her best friend.

On the whole, I had a good time with Vortex Visions.  The writing is really strong and persuasive, it had a little bit of a ‘set up’ feel for the next instalment but I imagine this would only increase readers eager anticipation, particularly in terms of the romance that seems to be budding.

I would like to thank the author for the copy of ‘Vortex Visions.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

#SPFBO Review of From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court (Yarnsworld #4) by Benedict Patrick

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ShadowofFrom the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court is the fourth book from Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld and is a book that can be read as a standalone.  This is one of the titles on my list of books for the SPFBO competition and was one of the books that I decided to roll forward after having read the first 30% with the idea of reading and reviewing fully.  In this respect I have 5 more reviews to follow which I’m hoping will be in fairly quick succession followed by a post to reveal my semi finalists and the book I will be taking to stage two of the competition.

The story follows two main characters, Nascha and Bradan, both will find themselves on a magical journey and their paths will eventually cross as they try to help each other through the forest.  Nascha serves in the castle, she has developed an unusual friendship with the Queen’s daughter, Princess Laurentina, although it’s a fragile friendship at best.  Nascha has her own secrets, for example, every month she takes poison, it’s not exactly clear whether this is something that is forced upon her or is taken willingly but what is clear is that Nascha is hiding and the reasons why soon become apparent and place her in danger.  Nascha’s only option is to flee the castle with the aid and protection of a stranger called The Gentleman Fox.  You could say out of the frying pan and into the fire and you wouldn’t be far short of the mark.

Bradan lives in the forest, his father has assumed some of the magic of the Magpie King and he protects the people of the forest.  The magic he has taken on his slowly poisoning him and he is slowly descending into madness and rage.  Bradan lives in the shadow of his father, he is desperate to be able to help and relieve his father but no parent would want that for their child and Bradan’s father is no exception.  He keeps Bradan away from the magic but this doesn’t keep Bradan from seeking other ways and means of gaining power for himself.

I won’t go into the plot further, both Bradan and Nascha will face danger and both will make difficult choices.

This is a story that is full of atmosphere, I enjoyed the writing style and the time spent in the forest which is a foreboding and cruel place to live.  I think the really winning elements to this story are the arcs that both characters enjoy and the way the story is sprinkled with folktales that pull the story together.  I loved these tales, they’re so imaginative and work really well with the overall storyline – I confess I eagerly awaited each new story.

The writing is really good, it has a certain simplicity that allows the world here to shine through, the forest is a scary place, full of different magics quite often competing with each other.  BP has a certain way with words that easily brings the forest to mind.  On top of that this is a confident display, it’s creative and strangely alluring, sexy for want of a better word.  I would just throw in at this point that there is a wedding scene that has to be one of the most unusual things I’ve ever read – you’ll know when you read it exactly which scene I’m referring to.

In terms of criticisms, I don’t really have much.  I had a slight dip in the middle of the read but not enough to really slow things down for me.  I wouldn’t say that we really spent a lot of time in the Owl Queen’s Court but then again this is called ‘In the shadows of’ so that explains that and to be honest I far preferred the time spent in the forest.  I do think that this would have been even better had I read the other books from the Yarnsworld series.  To be clear, this can be read as a standalone, but I think it maybe lacks a little of the fullness or complexity that comes with reading all the books in a series.

Overall, though, I thought this was a really good read and I will certainly read more of this author’s work.

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

 

 

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