#SPFBO : My Fifth/Final Batch of Books – Update

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1, batch 2, batch 3 and Batch 4 by clicking on the  links:

As with previous years I will read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% (or 100 pages) and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist. 

This batch of books made for good reading and some very difficult choices.  Unfortunately I can’t carry all the books forward so as ever there will be cuts with my sincere apologies to those authors.   

Long Stories

Long Stories: Early Immortals and the Birth of Death by) by Evan Witmer 

This is an unusual story primarily focusing on Death.  Basically, God created Death to kill the Immortals.  Primarily these immortals are made up of vampires, but there are also witches, and others that are swelling the numbers of long lived bodies down on Earth. Death teleports round the world finding his next victims and eliminating them swiftly before burying the bodies. 

Eventually, all the immortals bar one have been eliminated.  Lucy.  Lucy is a very strange case, over 100 years old but she is still a child and Death finds it impossible to kill her.

Unfortunately this one didn’t quite work out for me.  I struggled to get a feel for the characters or understand where the story was going.  To the point I read up to it felt like a series of anecdotes that jumped back and forth in time relating Death’s encounters. There’s a tongue in cheek tone and a very surreal feel and I’m surprised that this didn’t work out for me given all the fantasy elements but I was unable to connect with it.

Conclusion : Cut



Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier

I’m not reviewing Tuyo at the moment as I’ve decided to carry this one forward.

Conclusion: roll forward



Voice of War by Zack Argyle

I’m also not reviewing Voice of War as I want to read further.

Conclusion : roll forward



The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

Again, no review at this point as I would like to continue reading.

Conclusion : roll forward


War Bringer

Warbringer by Aaron Hodges

I must say that I enjoyed reading War Bringer to the point I read up to.  This is a world inhabited by creatures known as the Tangata.  The Tangata seem intent on destroying mankind, they are strong, fast and feral and they are gathering their forces to launch what feels like a final attack.

The story has three clear threads.  Romaine is a warrior.  His homeland has been invaded and destroyed by the Tangata.  We first meet Romaine whilst he’s on a foray into the wild.  He and his captain and party follow Tangata tracks into the wild where they manage to survive an attack and rescue a woman who is alone in the wild.    Erika is an Archivist for the Queen.  She believes that ancient artefacts are the key to defeating the Tangata and seeks these artefacts out.  Whilst on such a mission Erika finds what appears to be a map that provides the location of other ancient sites.  She also finds a magic gauntlet although it’s unclear what the gauntlet can actually do at this point.  Finally, Lukys.  He’s a new recruit, sent to the frontier.  After surviving a brutal Tangata attack he has decided that his best hope is to seek help from Romaine.

I thought this had a good pace and the three storylines worked very well in taking the story forward.  I enjoyed the style and I’m definitely curious about the history and would like to know more about the Tangata.

In terms of criticism.  The only thing that occurred to me was that considering how deadly the Tangata were Romaine seemed to deal with them remarkably well – which kind of belied the threat a little for me.

Overall I would like to read this one at a later date and review more fully.

Conclusion : cut 




Exile was another enjoyable read.  It has a slightly generic feel with a mediaeval backdrop, castles, nobles and an old school swords and sorcery feel. 

The MC, Aron, is a sell sword.  He gets into bother as the story sets off when he kills a man and is taken prisoner by the local Earl.  The Earl of Nandor’s son has been kidnapped and is being held hostage by their enemy.  Aron has unwittingly killed the Earl’s champion and so finds himself pressed into service as part of a rescue party.

I didn’t have any trouble getting into this story but I had a couple of issues.  Firstly, I was puzzled by the Earl – he sends another noble on the mission to lead the party, but this same noble is hoping to marry one of the Earl’s daughters and basically, if the Earl’s son and heir fails to return, said marriage will result in this noble becoming the next Earl.  This seems like a real conflict to me, surely this man would be more than happy for the mission to fail and if the Earl can’t see this himself then I don’t understand why not.

Also, there are a number of romantic threads so far – which I don’t have a problem with as such – other than it seems that the Earl’s wife and both his daughters are making a play for Aron and it felt a little over the top.  It also gave me misgivings about Aron as he seemed just to go with the flow making out with whoever/whenever.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, I enjoyed the writing and was actually starting to like Aron at the point I concluded reading but it didn’t stand above the other books from this batch that I’ve decided to roll forward.

Conclusion : cut



Mid-Lich Crisis by Steve Thomas 

This was another enjoyable book.  I dual read and listened to this one as I had a copy of both versions and I must say that the audio version is very well done.

I’m not reviewing at this point as I would like to conclude the book and review fully but at this stage I won’t be rolling this forward in terms of the competition simply because this batch has some very strong contenders.

Conclusion : cut


My thanks to all the authors who have taken part. I’ve had some very good books in my lot and will be providing an update tomorrow about the rest of my process going forward.

#SPFBO : My Fourth Batch of Books : Update

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here,,my second batch of books and update here and here and my third batch of books plus update. Today I will be providing feedback on my fourth batch of books.

As with previous years I will read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% (or approx 100 pages) and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below. Below are my thoughts with apologies to those authors whose books have been cut:

Rise of the Forgotten Sun (The Sun and the Raven #1) by Jon Monson 


Rise of The Forgotten Sun gets off to an interesting start. We meet Prince Aydiin who is travelling solo through the desert on a mission that he volunteered for. Aydiin’s uncle has been committing rebellious acts against the Sultan (Aydiin’s father) and Aydiin is hoping to find his uncle and negotiate peace – or at least that’s what he tells his uncle when he finally encounters him. Instead the Prince captures his uncle and plans to execute him immediately. Aydiin’s father however has other ideas and commands the Prince to return the rebel to the capital for trial and this is when things go wrong.

The Prince has come into possession of a strange gold coin that seems to be a map of the stars directing the bearer to a legendary tower in the heart of the Soulless Desert – nobody who enters the Soulless Desert returns but Aydiin isn’t deterred and he persuades his friend Barrick to accompany him on a treasure hunt. Of course this means deferring his trip back to the capital with his prisoner until he returns. – what could possibly go wrong.

Well, the two eventually find the tower, in spite of difficulty along the way and they discover a magical stone that seems to be absorbed (or transferred into Aydiin’s body) upon his touch. Finally, returning to the capital with their prisoner the train they are travelling on is ambushed and Aydiin’s uncle escapes leaving the Prince to face the wrath of the Sultan.

I found this an entertaining read to the point at which I broke off, it certainly has plenty going on and a fairly consistently rigorous pace. There is almost an Arabian Nights feel to the setting with plenty of imaginative elements thrown in such as intelligent and loyal dinosaurs (well one at least so far), gadgets that make me think steampunk and elements such as trains and guns and items of clothing such as Bowler Hats, which make me place this as a maybe 19th century read (could be very wrong with that guess though).

This very much has a fun style adventure feel at the moment although given the chapters I concluded on I think things are set to change dramatically.

In terms of criticisms. There is a lightness about this, a lack of the sort of detail that sometimes I want and notice when it’s not there. Some of the situations Aydiin finds himself in felt too easily resolved and lacked tension or a real sense of threat. But, as I already said, I think this could be a fun, over the top, fast paced adventure that will appeal to others.

Conclusion : Cut

The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran


This is going to be quick. I started The Child of Silence and cannot deny my immediate impressions were not favourable in spite of an interesting premise. The writing felt a little bloated and it was slowing down my reading. But, I also can’t deny that as I continued to my allocated cut off point I was becoming hooked as things started to take off and so I’ve decided to continue with this one and see if it continues to work it’s magic on me.

Conclusion : roll forward

Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley


I have to say that I’m also really enjoying Trial of Thorns at the moment so I’m going to continue reading for now.

Conclusion : roll forward

Emma and the Minotaur (World of Light, #1) by Jon Herrera


Emma and the Minotaur is (I think – but please correct me if I’m wrong) a MG story about a young girl who goes on a quest with a friend to find the truth about people who are going missing.

To the point I finished reading I found this an enjoyable story (with a couple of slight reservations).

Emma is a spirited young girl with an active imagination about magicians and aliens. Her father is a professor and she seems to take after him in terms of intelligence. Emma takes a liking to a sad young boy at school who is always alone and decides early on that she’s going to befriend him. It turns out that the young boy is sad because his father has gone missing. The two decide to embark on a quest that involves a relentless search of the neighbouring forest.

As I mentioned above this is a good, easy to read, well written story that managed to pique my curiosity. Emma can be a little over zealous sometimes but I put that down to her age and intelligence – she is always coming up with ‘plans’ and they’re not always the most appropriate.

In terms of criticisms – the only thing that gave me a few misgivings was that there were a few occasions where Emma’s recklessness made me wonder whether she was setting a good example for younger readers reading her story – I realise that probably sounds a bit odd but, for example, on one occasion she goes into the forest alone at night, even though she’s been told not to do so – simply because it’s a short cut. On another few occasions both Emma and her friend leave the school premises at lunch time. It just made me worry a little. There’s also the usual trope of the missing parents – this seems to be something that I find is heavily relied upon in fiction and it feels a little overused.

On the whole, little issues aside, I thought this was a good adventure story that seems to have a lot of promise.

Conclusion : Cut

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez


Calico Thunder Rides Again has really impressed me so far. I’ve already read just over half so I won’t be reviewing it at this point.

Conclusion : roll forward

Shifter Shadows by Anthony Stevens


Shifter Shadows is another book that surprised me and I found myself enjoying it to the extent that I read over and above what I originally intended. This is an unusual story. As the book begins we go way back when, following a tribe of native Americans – I will just say that my knowledge here is sketchy so I’m not going to elaborate on what period this may have come from – although early parts of the story show the tribe living in caves and also there is mention of cave drawings. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, it was really interesting seeing the people, their interactions and the way that some of them connected to a spirit animal that allowed them to borrow it’s form and shape shift. These earlier chapters obviously provide the background to the supernatural elements and show how history progressed with settlers, etc.

We then jump forward to a modern day setting and make the acquaintance of a number of different people and their stories as they become aware or awaken – to their own abilities – and these storylines eventually come together.

I’m not going to elaborate on all the characters. We are introduced to quite a few, quite a lot of young people coming into their new abilities and finding the limitations of what they can and can’t do. At the same time there is a background feel that things are escalating somehow, and that these shapeshifters are about to be revealed (although I’m not sure if that is the case or not). At the same time there is a serial killer storyline that demonstrates a couple of things – that there are bad people everywhere and that the shifters ‘police’ their own – otherwise their secret won’t last for long.

In terms of criticisms. Some of the jumps in the story felt a little abrupt. In the earlier parts reading from one chapter to the next the timeline would jump forward many years at a time. Regarding the more modern day storyline, there are a lot of people introduced in fairly short order, I didn’t find this a problem although I sometimes felt that the relationships were a little too quickly formed and the Otherkin (shifters) were maybe a little too trusting in some respects – which felt a little wrong given the secrets they must keep.

Slight criticisms aside, I enjoyed reading this and would like to return to the story after the competition to see how things unfold and write a fuller review.

Conclusion : Cut

#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books : Update

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:


Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc


Okay, I will start this on an unusual note.  Patrick Le Clerc had a finalist in last year’s competition with Out of Nowhere – a book about a paramedic known as Sean Danet who appears to be immortal.  So, I was slightly puzzled to see another entry with the same character because that seems to be like a second book in series – although it doesn’t appear that way on GRs so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt.  To be fair, I think this could easily be read as a standalone without reading Out of Nowhere.

Sean is immortal.  He’s lived for many, many years.  He’s been a soldier and now a paramedic – a job that allows him to make a difference using his healing abilities without anyone noticing his existence.  As the story begins we are given an introduction to Sean, whilst he’s out on a night shift.  Returning home Sean is paid a surprise visit from his girlfriend Sarah, and this happens again the following day and whilst these surprise visits are very welcome something feels slightly wrong. Initially, Sean is worried that Sarah is losing interest, a thought that chills him as he finally feels like he’s met someone that he’d like to stick around for and get to know better, but, as it happens, more sinister powers are at play and both Sean and Sarah are in danger.

I read my allocated 30% of this one.  It’s a very easy read and this is an author that can be engaging without doubt.  He gets off to a good start, although maybe a little slower than I would expect given the length of the book.  I think that his main character relies heavily on sarcasm and self deprecation and this maybe sometimes doesn’t come across as clearly as it might.

All in all, this was entertaining enough up to my cut off point but it didn’t quite grab my attention as much as I would have liked.

Conclusion : Cut


The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice


I’m not reviewing The Usurper at this point because I enjoyed what I read so far and would like to carry it forward and continue reading. I will make a decision at a later date as to whether or not this will be a semi-finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward


Night Warrior by Jordan J. Scavone


Night Warrior is a really good concept, portal fantasy in reverse if you will.  Instead of the central character being sucked into a fantasy world the exact opposite happens and characters from that fantasy world are pulled into our modern one.  What makes this additionally strange is that all the characters appear to have been created by Viranda’s imagination when writing a new book.

I must say that this got off to an intriguing start.  We meet Viranda whilst she’s in a spot of bother – she’s badly injured and still carries those injuries and trauma as the story really kicks off.  Viranda wants to be an author and since her ‘accident’ she’s been having unusual and vivid dreams.  She starts to write these down becoming totally immersed in the world she is creating.   Then lightning strikes and the characters from out of Viranda’s book start appearing in her world – which can’t be good given that some of the characters are less than savoury.

As I mentioned, this one had a really good start. I was intrigued by Viranda’s situation as the book began.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the next section quite as much although it’s still entertaining.  I think the main issues that really struck me were that Viranda is incredibly accepting of a bunch of sword wielding characters turning up in her life – very calm and collected in fact.  The other thing that occurred to me is that in spite of all these fantasy people running around in our modern world there seems to be very little impact other than the events that are circling intently around Viranda.  I realise of course that other things could be happening off page but I would have liked to have a sense of how things were being affected, and I would definitely have liked a little more emotion particularly from Viranda, not to mention some surprise from the fantasy characters at the strange modern world they found themselves in.

On the whole though, this was easy to get on with, I did have niggles but at the end of the day I don’t think I’m the intended audience for this (I think YA?) and my automatic questions and issues got in the way a little.

Conclusion : Cut


Jacob’s War by Mark Hood


This is another entry with an intriguing premise and written in a format that I really enjoy that alternates between diary entries made by Jacob Willlams as he fought in the first World War and later update chapters that take place after the war has ended.

It appears that there is a thin divide between our world and that of the supernatural and some of the points of protection are either weak or failing.

Strange creatures are slipping into our world and only the Fae Defence Society stand between them and certain disaster.

I thought the diary chapters were very good where I read up to and liked the tone and style of the writing – there was an innocence to Jacob at the start of the journal that started to wear thin as things progressed and the rose tinted glasses were removed.  In the alternating chapters we jump forward and watch Jacob and his comrades as they prepare for a forthcoming onslaught of unknown beasts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite enjoy these chapters as much as the journal entries and I think that’s because the divide was too great for me.  One moment we’re reading about Jacob as he heads out to war, the next we’re watching him wield magic and fight hairy beasts.  In fairness, as you read forward these two points will eventually come together but I think I would have liked a smoother transition somehow.

Conclusion : Cut


The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe


Well, The Hammer of the Gods was quite a surprise.  I enjoyed where I read up to and will carry this one forward for further reading.  No review at this point and I will make a decision at a later stage as to whether this will be a semi finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward


The Story of Evil – A Hero’s Downfall (#1) by Tony Johnson


The Story of Evil certainly got off to a furious start.  We begin with a jousting tournament that goes horribly wrong when evil creatures attack the city.

We then make a fairly quick introduction to three characters as they go from one danger to the next.

Stephen Brightflame is a young man with dreams of becoming a knight.  He’s actually jousting when all the trouble begins.

Ty is Stephen’s brother in arms, he rides a flying beast and so when the attack begins he is immediately drawn into the action.

Kari is a young woman watching the tournament who tries to make it back to the safety of her home but becomes embroiled in a fight with one of the beasts.

I have mixed feelings with this one.  It shows promise but I think it is too ambitious at the start.  I read my allocated 30% and by that time we probably only progressed half a day at most – by which time most of the inhabitants of the city were dead and considerable damage had been caused.

Now, all this action and death is without doubt a good ploy to pull the reader immediately into the story, but, without knowing the characters I felt a strange ambivalence towards their fate.  In fact, the way in which everything was being systematically destroyed I began to wonder if there would be any survivors.

I also had a number of issues that just kept pulling me out of the moment.  There is a definite feeling of over explanation here for some of the really small minutiae, on top of this we have flashbacks by way of background – but they felt a little long winded and out of place when the whole city was under attack and being bombarded with monsters and  flying masonry.   One example is Ty, reflecting on his lack of a solid relationship when he’s plunging through the sky – it just felt out of place.

I don’t mean to sound overly critical,  This does show promise but it didn’t really work for me.

Conclusion : Cut



Blog off – SPFBO – Update

Posted On 20 March 2015

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Just a quick update.  I’m taking part in an event details of which are over at Mark Lawrence’s blog.  These are my books:

  1. Noel Coughlan – A Bright Power Rising
  2. R.P Rigoli – Red
  3. Jennifer Bell – A warrior’s legacy: Jamie
  4. Andrew Rowe – Forging Divinity
  5. Melody Taylor – In the Dark
  6. Tavish Kaeden – The Weight of a Crown
  7. David Pedersen – Angst
  8. Adam Lee – Dark Heart
  9. Kal S Davian – Naming the Bane *
  10. Patrick J Loller – Forged by Battle
  11. T.C Pearce – Into the Aether*
  12. Will Kay – Requiem of Innocence
  13. Benny Hinrichs – The Oneironauts
  14. Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto – The Duchess of the Shallows
  15. Nick Marsden – The Light of Theolan
  16. Janice McKonly – Welcome to Mystery Interior
  17. Steve Thomas – Klondaeg the Monster Hunter*
  18. Wayne Miller – The Dung Ball Chronicle*
  19. Amanda McCrina – His Own Good Sword – review here*
  20. Jack Kerr – Tommy Black and the Staff of Light*
  21. Scott Decker – Gemstone Wyverns
  22. Terry Simpson – Game of Souls
  23. Cindy Young-Turner – Thief of Hope
  24. Ruairi Cinead Ducantlin – Verum – Exercitum ex Nihilo
  25. Jake Scholl – Blade of the Broken
  26. JR Karlsson – Escana
  27. Maya Michaels – Iduna

So far, I’ve read and reviewed one book.  I’ve started two others but ultimately they haven’t grabbed me – and yet, I still want to give them more of a chance (although I have read about 40 pages of one of those and probably about 100 pages of the other)!

My main niggle at the moment is that I have a policy of not reviewing books that I don’t finish.  Well, here’s hoping for lots of finished books then.

Titles that iintrigue me: 2, 8, 14, 16, 17 and 21 – although, actually, also 18 – The Dung Ball Chronicle – come on right??

Cover spotlight:

Finally – my books choices are completely random.  I won’t be adding books as ‘currently reading’ on Goodreads or posting to Goodreads as I want to keep an open mind on all the books until the end.

That’s it for me so far.  Happy reading to all the others.