Blog Tour Review: Raven Lord – J.C. Duncan

In today’s post, I’m excited to feature the sequel to Warrior Prince and share my thoughts on this second instalment of The Last Viking series! You may recall, I also read that book as part of the blog tour, and I’m back again and launching the tour for Raven Lord! No pressure…

Before I get into the book and my review, I always take the opportunity at the start of these posts to thank both the author, J.C. Duncan, and Rachel at Rachel‘s Random Resources for the opportunity to take part. It’s a pleasure to be able to read some fantastic books and share my honest thoughts with readers. With any luck, I’ll convince you to pick up this fantastic book!

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

 

Raven Lord – J.C Duncan

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 352

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: 22 Mar 2024

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – Raven Lord

 

Mercenary. Exile. Warlord.

At the edge of the world, the clouds of war are gathering…

1034AD

Cast out from the Kyivan Rus, Harald Sigurdsson’s quest for fame and fortune takes him to the far reaches of Europe; the lands of the Eastern Roman empire.

The empire is dying the slow death of decay and corruption. In desperation to fend off a myriad of foes, the emperor turns to the legendary Varangian guard for salvation. These deadly warriors from the far north, famed for their fearsome steel and battle skill, have become the empire’s greatest protectors.

From the golden gate of Constantinople to the holy waters of the river Jordan, Harald will march with the emperor’s finest. Joining their ranks promises him all the gold and glory he can desire, if only he can survive the desperate battles, the hostile land, and the ruthless ambition of a vengeful queen.

The fascinating next book in the extraordinary tale of Harald Hardrada.

Perfect for fans of Matthew Harffy, Peter Gibbons, Bernard Cornwell and Christian Cameron

 

Purchase Link – https://mybook.to/ravenlordsocial

 

My Thoughts

 

Plot

Raven Lord picks up after the events of Warrior Prince and spans Harald’s next three years of adventures.

With an intriguing, action-led plot with political motives underpinning the action, there is plenty for readers to dive into. Whether you enjoy detailed battle scenes or digging into the machinations of those in power, both are in abundance in this book. I enjoy both of these elements, and they were perfectly balanced in this narrative. Whether you are a fan of one, the other, or both, there is something for all readers.

Harald and the crew are out to make a name for themselves and secure a fortune to go and win the throne back from the usurpers back in the North. It’s a long, epic quest and not one without its hardships. With danger around every corner, we readers are kept on a blade’s edge wondering if those we have come to love in the narrative will see it through, or pay the ultimate price.

 

Characters

The series is made up of a handful of main protagonists, together with a fantastic supporting cast. Naturally, our narrator Eric, as well as Harald Sigurdsson (aka Harald Hardrada), feature heavily in the narrative. I enjoy both their character arcs and the development we see of both individuals in this second book of the series. That the tale concerns Harald and his journey to becoming a strong leader is undisputed; we see this growth throughout.

Admittedly, Harald wouldn’t be the man he was without his followers. There are characters we have come to know and love from the previous book, as well as new faces. The familiarity is comforting whilst new characters add a fresh flavour to the narrative and help build upon what has gone before.

 

Setting

Something I talked about in my review of Warrior Prince, and I will talk about again here, is the Eastern European setting. It’s quite common to find fiction of this time period and genre set in Britain. However, I really enjoyed this alternate setting. There is far more scope for travel, and it’s a pleasant break from reading the same narrative over again. Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of the genre and I don’t get tired of it, but I do appreciate when something different like Raven Lord comes around.

This change gives us more of an idea of the people as well as the chance to look at some European history. There is some travel that takes place in the book, but it easy to follow what is going on when.

I especially enjoyed this as it gives us the chance to explore more of a multi-cultural narrative. In this second narrative, we build upon the characters and cultures already introduced and add Muslim representation as well. I really enjoyed how each of these cultures is featured and how they interact with each other. Naturally, some of the conflict in the book centres around this, and it was exciting to read!

 

Narrative Style

The narrative is told by Eric, who was Harald’s right hand man on campaign. This storyteller format is one I have read and loved time and again in books (I’m incidentally reading another one already). It lends a casual and conversational style to a narrative. It’s easy to read and imagine that you are sat around the fire and listening to the story for yourself.

What I also like about the style is that it lends some intimacy to the tale. We get hints about how characters are feel about events, not just the pure fact of what happens.

Naturally, the majority of the narrative is the retailing itself. However, I enjoy the brief flashbacks to present day that break up the narrative, and give Eric opportunities to look back in hindsight at what has happened in the course of his and Harald’s life. It is a unique perspective, and one I will not tire of!

 

Summary

If you enjoy Viking era historical fiction, and are looking for a slightly different premise and setting, The Last Viking series is one I would strongly recommend picking up. Full of both action and intrigue, this unique narrative has plenty to offer any historical fiction fan!

 

Author Bio

James has a 5 book historical fiction series ‘The Last Viking’ about the extraordinary life of Harald Hardrada being published with Boldwood books starting with ‘Warrior Prince’. When he isn’t writing or doing his full-time engineering job, James is happiest being an amateur bladesmith, forging knives in the shed he built in his garden.

Social Media Links –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JCDuncanAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JCDuncanauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/j.c.duncan/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/JCDuncanNews

 

2024 Reading Firsts Book Tag

Given I’m sharing a review later this week, I wanted to post some light and fun content. When I saw Misty’s version of this tag on her blog, I knew I wanted to take part!

One book is repeated on this list, but overall there’s a good variety showcasing the different genres and styles I’ve picked up so far in 2024!

 

First Book Read In 2024

The first book I completed in 2024 was Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. It’s the sequel to Illuminae and I started the book at the very end of 2023.

I knew I was going to love Gemina as the first book in the series bowled me over. It shouldn’t be too long before I conclude it, but I’m glad 2024 got off to such a good start!

 

First Review of 2024

The first review I shared this year was for a book called Leadership and Culture by John and Katie McCann. I picked this book up last year from NetGalley as a means of working on some personal development. With the review outstanding on the site, I wanted to box this off quite early in order to improve my rating and potential acceptance for further books on the site.

If you are an aspiring, first time manager or someone looking for a practical refresh on leadership tips, please check out my review as you may find that or the book useful.

 

First Debut Read in 2024

I loved listening to the audiobook of Unmasked by Ellie Middleton. This is the first book Ellie has published, but I’m excited to say it’s not looking like the last. I noticed on Goodreads there is a book due to publish later this year. Based on my experience of Unmasked, I will be picking this one up too.

Whilst the book is a somewhat useful means of exploring what it is to be neurodivergent, but it also has a lot of Ellie‘s own experiences. This personal angle, coupled with some of the facts around the subject, made for a really interesting read! Whilst in some senses I do relate to Ellie, I decided to read the book as a means of understanding what it is like so I can be more accommodating and understanding for any neurodivergent individuals in my life.

 

First “New to Me” Author of 2024

I first explored Diana Wilkinson’s writing in The Girl in Seat 2A.

If you like mysteries or thrillers, Diana has published several for you to choose from. I’ve only read the one of hers so far, but I really enjoyed it and I’ve liked the sound of others she has published too.

If you’re interested in my review of The Girl in Seat 2A, here’s a link.

 

First Book of 2024 That Slayed Me

Obviously it was highly likely that Gemina was the front runner for this as I loved the book so much! I had high hopes for it after really enjoying the first book, and it didn’t disappoint!

 

First Book of 2024 That I wish I Could Get Back the Time I Spent Reading It

This question was a difficult one to answer, because I haven’t read any books that weren’t for me this year. They have all gotten at least a three star rating.

However, for the purpose of providing an answer to this question, I have decided to pick the book that was rated one of the lowest and also didn’t suit me most as a target audience. With this in mind, I chose The Black Coats.

The only reason I’ve chosen is because it is written for a younger audience, and that reflects in the narrative. I enjoyed the feminist angle of the storyline, but felt it was a little bit more ‘teen’ than I expected for the subject matter.

 

First 5 Star Book of 2024

No prizes for guessing which book features once again here – Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman!

 

 

I’m not going to deliberately tag anyone in this post, as I don’t want to bombard people. However, if you have read this post, like the look of it and want to take part yourself, then consider yourself tagged.

If you do choose to take part in this tag, I would love to see what answers you give to these questions. Let me know by tagging me in that post and I’ll take a look!

Thanks for checking out this 2024 reading firsts post! Have you read any of the books on this list?

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Sunday Summary – 17th March 2024

Good evening all and welcome back to another weekly update, a.k.a. Sunday Summary from me. Before I get into how my week has gone, I hope you’ve had a great one yourself! This week has been steady in terms of the blogging schedule and reading progress. Shall we take a look?

On Wednesday I shared a discussion post featuring recommendations for alternative books for fans of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series. I’ve read around the genre quite a bit and know of plenty of similar books to get stuck into if that’s your thing! If you’re interested in those, check out that post!

On Saturday I shared a review of At the Stroke of Midnight by Jenni Keer. I read this book last week ahead of the tour and there is plenty to like! At the Stroke of Midnight, at heart, is a cosy mystery that uses a Groundhog Day theme to play out its mystery. Fans of Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will enjoy this book as they are comparable but with their own uniqueness. At the Stroke of Midnight also includes a well developed female lead and a touch of romance for those of you that look for that in your fiction. I hope you can take a look at my review if you haven’t already!

 

Books Read

Raven Lord

As of last week’s Sunday Summary, I had only just started Raven Lord. I couldn’t say too much as I was only a chapter or two in. This week I’ve been prioritising the book and I have made enough progress to share more about it.

Raven Lord is as full of action as I expected it to be. Warrior Prince paved my expectations of this book, and this sequel does not disappoint! There are detailed battle scenes, as well as political intrigue driving the actions of the armies for us readers to get stuck into. Whilst the events of Raven Lord and the series are about the adventures and advancement of Harald Sigurdsson, we still see plenty of the story focusing on his companions and the band as a whole rather than just the individual. It’s a well rounded narrative so far and I’m still yet to see some of the conflict set out come to a head.

As of this post, I’m 54% into the book. I’m reviewing it next week for the blog tour, so I’m looking to finish it in the next day or two.

 

The Atlas Six

I’ve made a little more progress with The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake this week.

Whilst not groundbreaking, I have picked up the audio twice and listened to about an hour across those two sessions. I’m honestly just happy that I’m picking it up at all. I got out of the habit of audiobooks, but I’ve not kicked myself to listen this week so I’ll take that as progress on building the habit back.

I’m on annual leave from work next week and I imagine I’ll be working on a cross stitch project for some of that time. I can listen at the same time; it’s a great pair.

 

Books Discovered

No news is good news again. I’ve behaved and added nothing new to my reading list 😊

 

Coming Up…

My blog schedule is a little wacky once again as I have another review coming up toward the end of the week. If I post them in my own time, I generally do those earlier. However, it’s a blog tour post and a commitment is a commitment, so I’ll have to deal with it!

I’m sharing something fun to start the week – a book tag about my reading firsts of 2024. I saw this over on Misty’s Book Space and I want to have a go. I’ll share that in the next day or so.

Friday is the day I share my review of Raven Lord. Naturally, the immediate priority is to finish reading it. I already have positive things to share about the book and can only imagine the conclusion will add to that!

My final post of the week will be my usual Sunday Summary to wrap up reading progress and goings on throughout the week. Let’s hope for a week of reading and relaxation during my holiday 🤞🏻

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Blog Tour Review: At the Stroke of Midnight – Jenni Keer

In today’s post I’m excited to share my views on a fun historical fiction novel. I found it very reminiscent of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. If you like cozy mysteries with a Groundhog Day theme, a rich array of characters and a touch of romance, please read on about At the Stroke of Midnight!

Before I share details of the book and then my review, firstly I’d like to thank Jenni, Boldwood Books and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources. It’s always a pleasure to be able to to read and participate in these blog tours. A lot of hard work goes into organising them! I appreciate the opportunity to read these books around release and feature them here. I genuinely enjoy them as much as I do the chance to share them with you!

So, I suppose that takes me on to my final note before getting into the book. The opinions expressed in this review are, and always will be, entirely my own.

Now, let’s dive in!

 

At the Stroke of Midnight – Jenni Keer

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 357

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: 12 Mar 2024

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – At the Stroke of Midnight

 

It’s 1923 and in a decade that promises excitement and liberation, Pearl Glenham and her father are invited to a mysterious country house party on the Dorset coast, by a total stranger.

Her father claims not to have any prior association with Highcliffe House, but upon arrival, it is apparent that he has a shared history with several of the guests, although he won’t admit it. Belatedly discovering that her father was blackmailed into attending, Pearl’s worries are compounded when their host fails to arrive…

Intimidated by everyone at the party, she escapes to the nearby cove and stumbles upon a mysterious mercury clock hidden in a cave. This strange encounter sets in motion a series of events that will culminate in an horrific house fire, claiming the lives of all the guests, including Pearl herself.

But then Pearl wakes up back in the cave, seemingly destined never to live past midnight. She can repeat the day. But can she change its outcome?

 

Purchase Link – https://mybook.to/strokemidnightsocial

 

My Thoughts…

Plot

I am sure you are familiar with the concept of Groundhog Day. At the Stroke of Midnight unravels a mystery that results in just this occurrence. That is, until protagonist Pearl gets to the bottom of it!

What makes this an intriguing novel is that at the start of the book, we have no idea what historic events have brought these seemingly different and unrelated characters together. They all seem to have a past and secrets to hide. Pearl is seemingly the only guest with no agenda or understanding of what has happened before present day. She comes out of her shell as she finds the courage to start asking difficult questions, even of those she loves.

In At the Stroke of Midnight, we have a set of core events that take place once, some that occur if timeline isn’t altered too much, and then we have some variation where alterations do occur. If that sounds like a lot to take in, I promise you it’s not! We see enough loops in the timeline that we are able to identify what sits where and recognise patterns in actions versus consequences.

I really enjoyed the mystery element to this story, and the resolution of the same fitting nicely with expectation, even if I didn’t predict it. The revelations that occur in the story are intriguing once teased out. Nothing is quite as it seems and we readers are left guessing up until the end how everything ties together.

 

Characters

Pearl undergoes quite a bit of character development throughout the book. At the start of the story, she is a quiet, meek girl who has grown up running a household and taking care of her working father. Keeping house and waiting to be wed to a man so that she can run his household instead are her future prospects.

The events of this book change her life trajectory completely. Without the same constraints of modern day life, Pearl starts to reinvent herself. Free of the consequences of not being able to take back her actions, she becomes far bolder and explores what it is like to live in the shoes of others. The freedom this grants her gives a taste of what it is like to be more than a wallflower, and it suits her.

Whilst Pearl is the main character of this story, she cannot come to be without the supporting cast. The group also invited to the party come from a diverse background and they all have a unique flavour. Some personalities are stronger than others, but each are distinct and enjoyable in their own right!

If a touch of romance in your mysteries is something you enjoy, then the dynamic relationship that forms between Pearl and Ellery is one to look out for. Whilst I’m not especially one for romance, I found their relationship touching given Pearl’s background and encouragement he gives her to come out of her shell.

 

Setting

The vast majority of events in At the Stroke of Midnight take place in Highcliffe House. The books is set in an exclusive, well cared for location with elusive owners and a sketchy past. It definitely has us readers asking questions early on. What is this place, and who are the owners? What relationship do the characters of present day have to these people?

This setting and the tension created by the plot make for an intriguing setting. The Groundhog Day element of the story, coupled with this particular setting, cemented the comparison for me with The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. There are differences in these two books clearly, but it is reminiscent enough that fans of either book will enjoy the other.

There are some small deviations in setting which add some variety and opportunities for character development. However, I broadly enjoyed this exclusivity; I wanted to focus on the events taking place at this recurring party and the aftermath. This is the aspect of the book I enjoyed the most. In my opinion, the execution of this fit in perfectly with the period and setting set out at the beginning.

 

Narrative Style

The style of At the Stroke of Midnight is compulsively readable and easy to digest. I personally felt the chapter lengths were perfect to convey action without unnecessary detail. That said, there are hints of detail if you are keen enough to pick them up. Consequently, if you like to try and work out the mystery as you go along, then At the Stroke of Midnight will appeal.

I picked up this book in the evenings whilst sat cosy at home, and even in my lunch hour at work. As my experience shows, it is a perfect book to pick up and put down as and when time and opportunity suits.

 

Summary

If you enjoy cosy mysteries or books with a historical setting, At the Stroke of Midnight is a book I strongly recommend. With a compelling storyline and complex characters to unravel, together with a protagonist who finds in herself an inner strength she didn’t know she had, there was plenty here for readers to enjoy.

I thoroughly enjoyed picking up At the Stroke of Midnight. It is quite a quick read if you are invested in finding out what is going on in the storyline, as you’ll always be picking up just one more chapter.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s review, and if you go on to read and enjoy the book, I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Author Bio

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who lives in the Suffolk countryside. Her lifelong passion for reading became a passion for writing and she had two contemporary romance novels published in 2019. She has now embraced her love of the past to write twisty, turny historicals, and The Legacy of Halesham Hall was shortlisted for the Romantic Historical Novel of the Year in 2023.

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennikeerwriter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenniKeer

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennikeer/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/JenniKeerNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jenni-keer

Discussion Post – Books to Read if You Like The Last Kingdom

I read a lot of historical fiction. I’ve got two books on my current reading list in the genre, and one I’m reading at the time of drafting this post. You’ll hear more on that later. They are the inspiration for today’s discussion post.

There are books, genres and themes that I go back to again and again. Vikings is one of those. If you’re a fan of the historical fiction genre and the conflict of this period, there are a number of series I can recommend. If you’ve been reading or watching The Last Kingdom series and want to try something new, you are in the right place!

 

Recommendations

 

Eagle of Mercia Chronicles

A series I’ve been reading for a couple of years now, and will be picking up again soon, is M.J. Porter’s Eagle of Mercia Chronicles.

Like The Last Kingdom, Eagle of Mercia has a unique protagonist driving the storyline. Instead of being split in terms of loyalties, Icel is unique in that he does not relish his role as a warrior. In fact, going back to the first book, it is hard to believe that Icel ever becomes a warrior at all. He is a healer and places far more value on life as opposed to death.

Broadly the backdrop of the series is very similar. Of all the books in this discussion post feature, I would say this is the closest to The Last Kingdom. Just like that series, we have a lot of conflict and political intrigue set in the backdrop of a divided England.

Reviews:

Son of Mercia   Wolf of Mercia   Warrior of Mercia

Eagle of Mercia   Protector of Mercia

 

The Saxon Warrior

I started the The Saxon Warrior series a bit over a year ago now. It’s a more recent one than Eagle of Mercia, but it is no less captivating.

I really enjoy this series as the protagonist, unlike Icel in Eagle of Mercia, is a very keen warrior. Beornoth has been to hell and back after Vikings invade his homeland. He lost everything. Now he is determined to fight back the horde and take revenge!

With a protagonist who naturally gravitates towards the front line, we get a lot of action and even a bit of graphic detail in this series. If that doesn’t disturb you then I strongly recommend picking this up! Whilst there are elements of politics in the underlying actions, Beornoth is a far more pragmatic and action-driven character. Naturally, more of this comes through in the narrative as a result.

Reviews:

Warrior and Protector    Brothers of the Sword

Sword of Vengeance

 

Warrior Prince / Raven Lord

I have enjoyed reading Warrior Prince, and I’m currently enjoying reading Raven Lord, for its variation in setting. The Last Kingdom and other books I have featured on this list so far are notable for their Viking influence on British soil. Warrior Prince and Raven Lord differ as events instead take place in Eastern Europe.

It’s a different historical context, but we have the same backdrop of Vikings beyond their borders and looking to make a name for themselves. The protagonist in these books is quite a character as well. There is plenty of action, drama and conflict, so fans of these elements throughout The Last Kingdom series will enjoy these elements in this series too!

Reviews:

Warrior Prince

 

Wolf of Wessex

Wolf of Wessex is the first book in a series written by Matthew Harffy. As of this post, I have only read the first book. However, I enjoyed this book and its slightly lighter tone compared to books like The Last Kingdom.

Wolf of Wessex was compulsively readable and focused on a limited set of characters so as not to convolute the overall story. I think this could be an approachable series for anyone looking to explore the genre for the first time, or to pick up something similar, but not quite so heavy. Not that I think the likes of The Last Kingdom is heavy, but there are a lot of elements that come together in the wider story. Wolf of Wessex feels simpler.

 

Dunstan

If you are looking for more of a standalone in order to read around the genre a bit, then Dunstan by Conn Iggulden is an option I’d recommend.

If you are interested in this book more specifically, you can find a link to my review below. This review goes way back on my blog to the first year I started. The style is quite different to reviews I publish nowadays. However, I hope it still proves useful to you. Dunstan may be an ideal book to read as it’s set in the general backdrop of this time period but has a little less focus on the Viking element and more on English/Saxon religion and politics.

Reviews:

Dunstan

 

Summary

Regardless of what you are looking for, in your Viking era fiction, I have shared a variety of books that should scratch that itch.

Also, I am sure that there are many more that I am yet to read for myself and so have been unable to recommend them in this post. That is where YOU come in!

Have you read any books in the genre/period you would like to recommend either to me or to fellow readers?

 

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Sunday Summary – 10th March 2024

Good evening reading gang! It’s that time of the week again; in today’s Sunday Summary I’ll catch you up on what I’ve been reading and talking about this week. Although it’s still Sunday, this post is going live a smidge later than usual as I have spent the day with my lovely Mum (and family). Happy Mother’s Day to all you fabulous women out there, but especially my mum. Biased? Absolutely. And unapologetically so!

My first blog post of the week was my reading list for March 2024. In the first couple months of 2024, I’ve set myself ambitious reading lists to spur myself on. I’m changing tack slightly this month by instead sharing the bare minimum I need to get through in March. Anything I read above and beyond that is as yet unchristened, although I do have some ideas as to what I want to pick up next.

On Friday, I featured a sequel I’m excited to read in my First Lines Friday post. It is also a rare book for me and that I pre-ordered this ahead of release, which is something I don’t do very often at all. Maybe you’ll recognise the book if you’re a regular reader. Otherwise, you’ll have to go and check out that post and see it for yourself.

 

Books Read

 

At the Stroke of Midnight

I left off in last week’s Sunday Summary update having made 15% worth of progress in At the Stroke of Midnight by Jenni Keer.

I continued to read and finished this book over the course of this week. I shared in my previous Sunday Summary that it reminded me of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and the theme remained throughout. The book has some differences to that, but anyone who has enjoyed that book should enjoy this one too!

I’m not going to go too much into detail as to my thoughts on this book as I will be reviewing it next week in full. Just know that I enjoyed it (rated 4*), and that I’m looking forward to reviewing it on my blog next week.

 

Raven Lord

I only started Raven Lord last night, so as of this Sunday Summary, I don’t have too much to report. I appreciate that this book has a preface refresher of what has taken place in the first book, Warrior Prince. That came in very useful in bringing me back up to speed to pick up events in the current book.

I really like the structure of how the story is told. The daring and exploits of the protagonist, Harald Sigurdsson, are told via storyteller. It is a trope I have enjoyed time again, and it does not disappoint in these books either.

I’ll share more about my experience of this book as and when I make more progress. Given that I’m reviewing this later in the month, it’s my reading priority for the next few days. Therefore, I expect to share more about it in next week Sunday Summary.

 

The Atlas Six

In my reading list post shared on Tuesday, I expressed a desire to keep going with this audiobook. I have let listening to audiobooks slip by the wayside a little. With this in mind, I’ve made a conscious effort to start listening to The Atlas Six again.

This week, I have listened to 2 and three-quarter hours of this audio, bringing me to a total of 45% progress. The narrative is starting to feel a little more developed now, but I still have no idea where events are going to take us. I actually quite like this ambiguity as I will be surprised whatever happens! I’m also enjoying the politics going on between the protagonists and how the conflict is creating tension between them.

I still have a good way to go, so I will continue to make the effort to pick up this audio more frequently than I have been of late. Again, keep me accountable to that please!

 

Books Discovered

It’s been a quiet week in terms of the reading list. As I’ve been picking up blog tour reads and also adding nothing new, there is no change to the reading list count.

In this Sunday Summary anyway, I’ll never make any promises for future weeks!

 

Coming Up…

My first post of the week will be a discussion post. Although, as of this Sunday Summary, I haven’t christened the subject. My schedule is a bit off kilter given that I’ll be sharing a book review later in the week.

On Saturday I’m due to share my thoughts as part of the blog tour for At the Stroke of Midnight. I really enjoyed picking up this book and I’m looking forward to sharing my full review with you very soon. I hope you can check out that post!

You know what’s coming next! My final post of the week is a Sunday Summary post to catch you up on all my bookish goings on.

Until my next post, happy reading!

 

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First Lines Friday – 08/03/2024

Welcome to the next instalment of my First Lines Friday regular feature series.

As soon as I started planning today’s First Lines Friday post, I knew I wanted to feature today’s book. It’s a book I recently obtained a copy of, and it’s the one and only pre-order I have been waiting on for a good few months now.

It’s not very often I pre-order books I must admit, but this was an exceptional case! Let’s see if you can guess the book from the introduction.

 

The dead boy opened his eyes.

All was still and silent, he among it, and most of all. A statue he was, his only movement in the yawning of his pupils, the soft parting of his bloodless lips. There was no quickening of breath as waking claimed him, no deeping drumbeat beneath his porcelain skin. He lay there in darkness, angelic and bare, staring at the timeworn velvet canopy above, and wondering what had woke him.

 

 

 

Empire of the Damned – Jay Kristoff

Genre: Gothic Fantasy

Pages: 756

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 29 Feb 2024

 

 

Goodreads – Empire of the Damned

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Nevernight Chronicle, Jay Kristoff, comes the much-anticipated sequel to the #1 international bestselling sensation EMPIRE OF THE VAMPIRE.

From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hands sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.

Gabriel de León has saved the Holy Grail from death, but his chance to end the endless night is lost. Drawn into an uneasy alliance with the mysterious vampire Liathe, Gabriel must now deliver the Grail to ancients of the Blood Esani, and learn the truth of how Daysdeath might be finally undone.

But the Last Silversaint faces peril, within and without. Pursued by terrors of the Blood Voss, drawn into warfare between the Blood Dyvok and duskdancers of the frozen Highlands, and ravaged by his own rising bloodlust, Gabriel may not survive to see the Grail learn her truth.

And that truth may be too awful for any to imagine.

 

My Thoughts…

My original plan was to re-read Empire of the Vampire in February so that I was in a position to pick up Empire of The Damned this month. That’s not worked out, but Empire of the Vampire is high on my upcoming reading list. Technically it is not on my March reading list as I’ve changed the way I’m structuring those. However, it is very likely to be the next book I pick up after I complete March’s reading.

I am very excited to pick up this sequel, even if I wholly admit that I need to go back to the first book as a refresher. I read this book in 2022, but I also had covid at the time. I may have been on holiday, but the circumstances of reading this when I was ill has definitely impacted my recollection of events… if not how the book made me feel overall.

It would also be very rude of me not to pick up and read my special edition copy of Empire of the Vampire that my sister kindly gifted me…

Have you read Empire of the Vampire or any other books by Jay Kristoff? Do either of these books appeal to you for their dark and gritty nature? I would love to talk about these books, so let me know in the comments!

Thanks for checking out today’s First Lines Friday feature and I’ll see you again soon!

 

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Monthly TBR – March 2024

My monthly TBR for March is going to be less ambitious than the lists I set myself in the first two months of the year. I am on track still to read 60 books by the end of the year, so I’m bringing this TBR to a level where I’ll keep pace with that reading goal rather than try and exceed it.

That tactic worked for me in January, but didn’t in February. Admittedly I had a lot of other things to juggle in February and this is more likely to become the norm. Therefore, I’m not going to pressure myself by setting too high expectations and feeling like I’m always falling short. Instead, I’ll set myself something much closer to the minimum, and if I manage to achieve more than that, it’s a bonus!

This Monthly TBR includes three reads I need to pick up for blog tours in March and the very beginning of April. In practice, I’ve already started reading these, and they will be my priority ahead of the rest of the books on this list.

Shall we take a look at the full list I hope to get through in March?

 

At the Stroke of Midnight

At the Stroke of Midnight is my first read of March given that I am taking part in the blog tour in a couple of weeks time. It is the first of my obligations this month and I’m already enjoying the book as of this post.

At the Stroke of Midnight appealed to me as it is a mystery very reminiscent of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. If you haven’t read that book, it is a mystery that involves events at a property, repeating themselves. It’s very groundhog day in nature. Where the books differ is that the perspective stays the same in At the Stroke of Midnight, whereas in the book I’ve compared it to, the perspective changes for the reader each day and we see how the narrative unravels through different characters.

So far, I’m just getting into the section of the book where the day starts to repeat itself, and the protagonist Pearl is trying to work out what is going on and why. There are a lot of unexplored elements to this narrative so far, but I’m looking forward to delving into as time and the day repeats itself.

 

Raven Lord

Raven Lord is the next book I’m reviewing for the upcoming blog tour, and that review is due on the 22nd of the month. With this in mind, it’s the book I’ll be picking up second.

I read the first book of the series, Warrior Prince, and reviewed that on my blog last year. I enjoyed the alternate setting of this series as I usually pick up Viking-based fiction where the setting is around Britain. I’m looking forward to picking up the second instalment in the series and seeing where and how events unfold further. If it is going to be anything like Warrior Prince, it will be full of action, intrigue, and vividly described battle scenes.

I’m looking forward to it!

 

Enemies of Mercia

Back into more familiar territory, a second historical fiction novel I will pick up in March is Enemies of Mercia by M.J. Porter.

I’ve reviewed each book in this series on my blog so far, all as part of blog tours organised for each launch. My favourite thing about this series is the protagonist Icel and his unique perspective. Whereas books in this setting are often told from the perspectives of bloodthirsty and vengeful warriors, Icel is a bit of a reluctant hero.

Whilst he has developed considerably since the first book in the series, he does not thrive on his duty to protect his people by picking up his seax. His preference by far would be to heal instead of harm. Whilst he does get some small opportunity to do that instead of defend, he is often thrown into situations where he must act with others interests instead of his own preferences.

I don’t know much about this latest book in the series, because as soon as I saw the title, I knew I wanted to read it regardless of the focus. Some books have been very Viking-battle focused, whereas as others have been quieter and more political. I’m honestly happy with either take, so I’ll have to read it to check out which side of the story this latest instalment leans into.

 

TBR Jar – Master of Sorrows

Last month I pulled Master of Sorrows by Justin Call out of my TBR jar. I’ve been a little little behind with these books in the past, so I’ve made the decision not to draw a book this month and catch up with Master of Sorrows. I’m hoping then that I will be reading these on a monthly basis as they are pulled out and I stay on top after that.

As the only physical read on this list that I don’t strictly have an obligation for, it comes behind the previously listed three physical books in terms of priority. That said, there’s no reason why I won’t be able to pick this up by the end of the month at minimum, although I’m hoping to finish it before then! I’ve heard great things about the book and have heard great reviews of it from fellow bloggers I trust. I’m letting that motivate me to finally get to the book!

 

January Insta Poll – The Atlas Six

The Atlas Six remains on my reading list, as it’s still an ongoing listen as of this post.

I have the benefit of having already started this audio, so I just need to pull my finger out and get into the listening habit once again. I’ve done my usual in letting this slip, and for no good reason. I am enjoying this audiobook and the setup I’ve listened to so far.

If anything, I find that if I’m going to put headphones in, I’m more inclined to listen to music rather than audiobooks. It’s not that I don’t have the time to listen, because that’s not true at all! I am most likely to listen either when I go for a walk at lunchtime, or if I’m around the house doing cleaning. Not the most fun jobs in the world, which is why I turn to music as a motivator. I also often listen to audiobooks when I’m doing craft related projects, but even I’ve been doing a bit less of that lately.

I just need to give myself a kick, so hold me accountable if I don’t readers! Please!

 

Summary

If I succeed in getting through the reading list I have set myself officially in this month’s Monthly TBR, I have several books in the pipeline that I’ve not got to in previous months that I will be looking to pick up.

Fool’s Errand, The Icepick Surgeon and Empire of the Vampire are in the pipeline and so it will be prime opportunity to start one of these!

Thanks for taking the time to read this monthly TBR!

Do you like the sound of any of the books I feature in today’s monthly TBR? Have you read any of them for yourself? As always I’d love your thoughts!

 

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Sunday Summary – 3rd March 2024

Good evening friends! It’s good to see you once again for another Sunday Summary update! If you’re curious to see what I’ve been reading and posting this week, you’ve come to the right place!

Before we go over this week’s reading, let’s recap the blog posts I’ve shared so far this week. My first post of the week was a discussion post that talked about how my reading tastes have changed since I was a teenager. It was fun to look back and not only compare my reading now to them, but also how my reading has changed even since I started blogging. If you’re interested to look at that post, there’s a link here for you to check it out!

Next, I shared my monthly wrap-up on Friday. February was lighter on progress than January, but that’s hardly surprising given January was a mad month. I’m still on target to read 60 books by the end of the year, but I did lose a little bit of the lead that I’d give them myself in January. If you want a recap of the books I’ve read in the last month, that’s the post to go and take a look at.

 

Books Read

 

Hogfather

As of last week’s Sunday Summary post, I had already made progress up to 37% of Hogfather. This week, I continued with this read in dribs and drabs up until completing the book late yesterday.

Hogfather was a decent read, but not my favourite book by Terry Pratchett. I liked the themes and the messages that are covered in the storyline, as well as the characters within. However, I felt a little of the magic that makes these books sparkle was missing. Ultimately, I only rated the book 3 stars because it was good, but it wasn’t brilliant.

I’m still glad I have continued reading progress in the discworld novels, and I will be looking to keep up momentum with them. It had been a little while since I picked one up!

 

At the Stroke of Midnight

After finishing Hogfather reasonably late on last night, I then picked up my first March read, At the Stroke of Midnight. I am reading this book for a blog tour later this month, and it is the first of two that I will be reading for this purpose this month.

So far I am only a few chapters in. That equates to 15% progress, which is a decent start given that I only picked up the book for the first time yesterday, and I’ve been out most of today.

Obviously, being so early in, I can’t say too much about the book at this stage. What I can say is that the plot is very reminiscent of The 7 1/2 Lives of Evelyn Hardcastle, which is why I picked it up in the first place! I’m looking forward to seeing if the plot line goes down the same kind of route as I progress through the book!

 

Books Discovered

I received my pre-ordered copy of Empire of the Damned in the post this week. I’m really excited to pick this up, but I’m not doing so until I’ve re-read Empire of the Vampire.

I had hoped to pick this up in February, but I’ll shelve it for a future date.

 

Coming Up…

My first blog post of the week will be my Monthly TBR. I still haven’t fully decided on that reading list yet, but I have a few books to get me started in the meantime. I’m reading one of those already! 

On Friday I’ll feature my next First Lines Friday post. I’ve already decided on what I’m featuring this week, but no spoilers for you. You’ll have to check out the post on Friday.

Lastly, I’ll be back with another Sunday Summary update post. As always, I’ll catch you up with the books I’ve read over the week, as well as what I’ve been posting. 

Until then, have a great rest of your weekend, if any is left of it!

 

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Monthly Wrap-Up – February 2024

I’m back again with my second monthly wrap-up post of 2024. Somehow we’re already two months into the year and honestly, I don’t know where that time has gone!

I was raring to go in January, with the new year excitement and all that. As you’ll see below, February’s reading tapered off somewhat. That’s okay though, because I’m still on track for my 2024 reading goal. I’ve just lost the lead I earned last month!

Shall we dive into this monthly wrap-up and take a look at what I’ve picked up this month?

 

Books Read

 

The Black Coats

The first book I read in February was The Black Coats by Colleen Oakes. The feminist slant on the synopsis caught my eye and I added the book to my reading list for that reason.

The story ended up being quite young adult in nature, but I still enjoyed the overall reading experience. It is a little far-fetched, but that shouldn’t be too surprising. I enjoyed the time I spent reading this book, and overall I rated the book 3 stars. I would recommend this for a younger audience than myself as the characters are more likely to appeal and be relatable. On the other hand, the storyline does get a little bit dark towards the end, and so readers should be on the mature side of YA.

 

Heart of the Sun Warrior

The next book I picked up, and admittedly I was reading for a while, is Heart of the Sun Warrior by Sue Lynn Tan. This book is the sequel to Daughter of the Moon Goddess, which I read in December 2022. This series is a duology, meaning that once I finished Heart of the Sun Warrior I was done with series and could tick it off my list.

Reading progress was a little slow as I picked up the book on my phone. This is because I borrowed it digitally from my library, and it’s easier to download it that way. It’s also more comfortable than reading on my iPad. It’s not my preferred method though, and that definitely played a part in the reading pace.

It was great to revisit this series and pick up on events from the first book. I was intrigued to see how the narrative would go and I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the love triangle for most of the book. However, the ending sold me. I expected it to go one way and honestly, I would’ve been a bit disappointed if it did. That wasn’t the case at all. I got something I didn’t expect, and that really improved the overall experience for me!

I also really enjoyed going back to an Asian inspired fantasy. I read a lot of westernised fantasy, so as a change, I loved reading something with Asian mythology and culture embedded throughout!

 

The Queen’s Gambit

In February, I also picked up my Instagram poll runner up, which was The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis.

I added this book to my reading list after enjoying watching the Netflix series a good few years ago now. The timing of picking up this book actually worked out quite well. Because it has been some time since I watched that series, I wasn’t so familiar with the portrayal on TV that I drew comparisons between the two. I still had the benefit of knowing roughly what happens in the story. But, it wasn’t too fresh in my mind either. I was able to read the book and enjoy it for what it was.

The Queen’s Gambit is only a short book, but it feels like the right length. I understand if readers may be put off by the heavy emphasis on chess in the storyline. However, you don’t really need to have any prior knowledge or understanding of the game in order to appreciate the book. It doesn’t go into that level of detail. It’s not required. I don’t doubt that it could inspire readers to go on and learn about it for themselves if they wanted to, but that’s not essential.

 

Hogfather

As of this monthly wrap-up post, I am currently making my way through Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. At the end of the month, I made it to approximately 50% through the narrative. I wish I had the foresight to pick this up in December as it is a fun festive read, poking fun at Christmas, seasonal characters and belief. Never mind though! I wasn’t waiting until this December to carry on with the series as that’s not one of my reading goals.

Hogfather is every bit the novel I expected it to be. It’s been a little while since I read anything from this series and I’m glad to get back into it. They are fun and fairly lighthearted reads. Yet, at the same time, they do have serious underlying messages if you want to read into them that much.

Personally, I am enjoying the lightheartedness of this book, and I’m having a great time reading it. Like with Heart of the Sun Warrior, I have borrowed a copy of Hogfather from my library digitally, so once again I’m reading on my phone. Again, not my favourite and it’s definitely contributing to the book taking longer to read. However, I chose to borrow it knowing this so I just have to get on with it!

 

The Atlas Six

The last book to feature in this monthly wrap-up is The Atlas Six. I have listened to and made some progress with The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake in February. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to audiobooks much this month. I tend to find this with audiobooks; I go through a phase where I will listen to them quite a lot, and I will make a good deal of progress. But then, other times I hardly touch them at all. Although I like listening to audiobooks, I would say it is my ‘least’ favourite way of reading.

It really depends on the type of book I’m listening to, but overall I would say that books read in this format don’t stick in my head the same as physically reading them. Also, more often than not, I decide to listen to music over audiobooks when I have the opportunity. It’s a conscious habit I have to be in, and I have let that slip this month.

This isn’t a reflection on my experience of The Atlas Six, because I am enjoying what I have read (listened to) so far. I’m intrigued by the setup of the book and how characters will interact with or conflict with each other. I don’t really know what to expect from this book so far and I am genuinely looking forward to finding out what happens.

I just need to get my butt in gear and start listening to it again.

 

Summary

I may have read fewer books in February than I did in January, but I have enjoyed the experience just the same. Life has been at a different pace this month and I’ve had to adapt. I picked up some great books in February, and I’m looking forward to continuing with my ongoing reads, and setting my reading list for March, very soon!

Thanks for checking out today’s monthly wrap-up post!

Have you read any fantastic books recently that you would like to recommend to me or your fellow readers? As always, I would love to hear from you!

 

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