Blog Tour: Ravencry – Ed McDonald Review

Today I am incredibly lucky, as I get to share my review of Ravencry for the ongoing Blog Tour. Firstly, a huge thank you to Stevie, Gollancz and of course Ed McDonald himself for all the hard work!

 

Ravencry

Goodreads – Ravencry

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Synopsis

Four years have passed since Nall’s Engine drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but as they hurl fire from the sky, darker forces plots against the republic.

A new power is rising: a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady manifests in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power even as the city burns around them.

When Crowfoot’s arcane vault is breached, an object of terrible power is stolen, and Galharrow and his Blackwings must once find out which of Valengrad’s enemies is responsible before they have a chance to use it.

To save Valengrad, Galharrow, Nenn and Tnota must venture to a darker, more twisted and more dangerous place than any they’ve walked before: the very heart of the Misery.

RAVENCRY is the second book in the Raven’s Mark series, continuing the story that began with the award winning epic fantasy BLACKWING.

 

About the Series

Blackwing, the first book of the series, is one of the best debut novels I have read to date.

The Raven’s Mark is an Epic Fantasy series set in a magical, semi-postapocalyptic world. Magic has destroyed the landscape now known as the Misery.  Vicious monsters roam that poisoned land, scoured by the Nameless identified only as Crowfoot. Anyone roaming the Misery can fall victim to any of the creatures that lurk there.

Ryhalt is Blackwing and bound to serve Crowfoot. In between he takes mercenary jobs, chasing deserters and preventing them from crossing the Misery to convert to the Deep Kings. It is a long war, but Ryhalt soon finds his involvement is about to get a lot deeper.

Events in Ravencry take place four years after Blackwing. Whereas Ryhalt isn’t a particularly changed man, Valengrad has moved on from the events of the first book. The devastation is still evident though. The Bright Lady, who first appeared at the pinnacle of disaster is making appearances again. A new religion is founded under her visage and the preachers proclaim her return to save them in their darkest hours…

 

My Thoughts…

One of the things I really enjoyed about Ravencry is that the narrative isn’t identical to Blackwing. Having read Blackwing only a couple of weeks prior, it was clear that events were progressing. The setting and characters are familiar, but what has transpired before has changed them. Ryhalt’s cynical perspective on life is as humorous as ever, although in this book we get to see a slightly less hard-faced side to his personality. Shaped by the experiences of his past, we get to see the man he could have been… if the Nameless and Deep Kings hadn’t intervened with their war, that is.

I have always been a fan of magic with roots in scientific realism. Brandon Sanderson is particularly good for this, basing his magic on alchemy (Mistborn series) or around light (Stormlight Archives). In this series, magic centres around the filtering of light. The ability to wield magic isn’t granted to everybody, thankfully. Light spinners manipulate the light from the moon into stored energy. There are larger and darker powers too, more vast than we can imagine – known only to the Nameless and Deep Kings. Personally, I enjoy magic systems this way as it brings that world just one step closer to reality.

There is plenty of world-building throughout these books; Ed McDonald reveals the backstory gradually as the narrative continues to grow and evolve. With such a rich history, it would be easy to reveal too much too quickly. A lot of Ryhalt’s character is conveyed here, but details are divulged at the right time to compel you to read on.

Ryhalt, (or Captain Galharrow) is the perfect character to lead the narrative; he is inseparably entwined with the magic manipulating the world. Servitude to Crowfoot leads him down dark paths and lends him a depth of experience to draw upon later. Even when Ryhalt reflects on his own life, the narrative is not even for one second dull. He recognizes his flaws, doubts himself, laments his mistakes and lets us into his thoughts uncensored, proving he is as human as we are. None of the characters fall flat on the page.

I would even go so far as to call them friends.

 


 

About the Author

Ed McDonald has spent many years dancing between different professions, cities and countries, but the only thing any of them share in common is that they have allowed him enough free time to write. He currently lives with his wife in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration, where he works as a university lecturer. When he’s not grading essays or wrangling with misbehaving plot lines he can usually be found fencing with longswords, rapiers and pollaxes. You can find out more about Ed by visiting his website or following him on Twitter (@EdMcDonaldTFK) and Facebook.

***Profile originally published on Gollancz’s website

Sunday Summary

Sunday Summary – 1st July 2018

I cannot believe we are at the beginning of a new month already! June has flown by. So, with it being the end of the week and end of the month, I have a fresh Sunday Summary and some new artwork to put together – all very late on a Sunday evening… oops.

That being said, I did publish my reading list earlier on today. I think I can be forgiven. Two posts in one day isn’t a regular occurrence for me!

This week has been a busy one really – on Monday I published some hints and tips about what to expect going self-hosted. I think that turned out to be a useful read for a few people. If you haven’t checked that out already, I would be grateful if you did. When putting the post together I wanted to relay advice I hadn’t come across on other blogs on the subject. Maybe someone will benefit from the post anyway.

Next, I featured Stephen Spotte in a guest post on Wednesday, followed by my review of his book, A Conversation with A Cat on Thursday. It is a reasonably quick read – it is remarkably funny and if you like a little history told from a new perspective, this is for you!

 

Books Read

Last week I had put Death in Dulwich aside (for a short while) to read Ravencry by Ed McDonald for an imminently upcoming Blog Tour. I carried on where I left off there, reading Ravencry and practically devouring it as quickly as feasibly possible. I am currently using quite a *small handbag, so I have had a few chuckles with my copy of Ravencry practically hanging out of it this week.

*anything accommodating less than the kitchen sink is defined as small

I finished Ravencry on Friday night in the only way that felt acceptable… with “half a buzz on”, as Ryhalt would say.

Death in Dulwich is now back on schedule, making further progress on reading that this week. I am hoping to have that read in the next couple of days. That way I can move on to The Girl in the Gallery in good time before the tour for both books.

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I have been listening to Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. Considering the length of time, I haven’t lost the storyline at all. (I would say I haven’t lost the plot, but I can’t say that with any conviction. Some may disagree as well!)

 

Books Discovered

Getting paid is always dangerous. I knew that I wanted to impose a bit of a spending ban for the next couple of weeks, so therefore I went and had a splurge beforehand. I bought three omnibuses; nearly 2,850 pages of small typeset narrative to get through… in future, anyway.

Perhaps I have a problem…

I haven’t read any of Mercedes Lackey’s books, however, I really enjoyed the very brief snippets I flicked through whilst I was in Waterstones.

When it comes to epics, I just can’t help myself! As I have shown through my love of the Discworld novels, I love books set in the same world or Universe, even if they are not directly linked.

 

Also, I found something a little different this week. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of making notes about books after I read them. It’s easier to review them when you have some thoughts fresh in your head. To help me, I bought this little book for that exact purpose. I should be able to keep track of my reading; it’s a perfect place to keep my notes in an organised way! Win-win!

If anyone would benefit from something similar, the link to the item on Amazon can be followed by clicking the picture.

So that’s me, spending ban starts now.

 

Coming Up…

I mentioned an imminent Blog Tour coming up for Ravencry by Ed McDonald. By imminent, I mean my post goes live tomorrow! I really cannot wait to share my thoughts with you on this book! Admittedly, it will be a little strange (and it hurts my OCD slightly) because I haven’t published my review of Blackwing yet. I’ll just have to get on with it.

If anyone is yet to give the series a try, then please, please, PLEASE do!! I cannot recommend it highly enough! If you are looking for an MC that isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, is aware of his own flaws and cusses like the best of us, you’ll get on famously with Ryhalt. I sure did. If you want to know more, please check out my post tomorrow.

 

down the tbr holeA couple of weeks ago I posted my first Down the TBR hole post in about six months. I don’t plan on letting that slip again. I’ve already left it too long untended. So, on Thursday I will be re-visiting my TBR and reviewing the next ten books on my list to decide whether they stay or go.

 

Sunday SummaryAs ever, my week will have it’s my usual round-up on Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

What have you been reading this week?

Reading List - July 2018

Reading List – July 2018

By the beginning of July last year, I had read 30 books – which is an amazing achievement! This year, I’m a little bit slower on 25, but I am still more than happy with that! Bearing in mind that I am now self-hosted and trying to write better quality posts, I think the tradeoff is worth it!

Reading fewer books this year has definitely given me that opportunity to put more of the necessary time into my blog. It does mean, however, that some of the books I planned to read this year weren’t even touched. Therefore, I am dedicating July to tying off some of the loose ends and reading books I should have gotten around to sooner:-

Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery (London Murder Mysteries #1-2)

Goodreads – Death in Dulwich

Goodreads – The Girl in the Gallery

I’m starting July exactly where I left off last month because I have a blog tour coming up for this series. On the 14th July, I’ll be reviewing both Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery. I’ve run over on these because I had a wonderful opportunity to read and review Ravencry by Ed McDonald for Gollancz. However, with a shorter deadline than these two books, I had to put them aside temporarily to fulfill all of my obligations.

I’m currently over half way through Death in Dulwich, so I did manage to get a fair amount of this read last month. The narrative is reasonably easy to follow and Beth is a well-developed character. I am yet to decide if she is a particularly reliable narrator, or just an overzealous woman desperate for the truth. All will pan out in due course, I am sure.

A Darker Shade of Magic

Goodreads – A Darker Shade of Magic

Back in February this year I vowed to pick up A Darker Shade of Magic and experience the writing of V.E. Schwab for myself – only, never got to. This is a series I feel I could really get into, so I need to take the plunge and get reading. I am not putting this off any longer.

The premise of magic and the idea of multiple realities, without really being science-fiction is really interesting. If the ratings on Goodreads are anything to go by, I don’t think I’ll regret reading this book. We’ll just have to see if it lives up to expectation!

Children of Blood & Bone

Children of Blood & Bone

Children of Blood & Bone

Children of Blood and Bone is one of my April cast-offs. Conversations are still being had about this book on the likes of Twitter and other social media platforms, and I am intrigued by the magic in the narrative. I have waited too long to pick up this book, and can only hope I enjoy reading it as much as I want to.

There has been a lot of buzz about the book highlighting issues experienced by ethnic minorities. In an interview on Mashable with Toni Adeyemi, she explains that there are references to police brutality and racism within. I’m also really looking forward to seeing a different culture. Reading Children of Blood & Bone will be an entirely new experience for me.

The Mansions of Murder

Mansions of Murder

Goodreads – The Mansions of Murder

March of the ARC’s (aka, my March reading list) was a reasonably long list, and I didn’t get around to picking up this one. This is my last Netgalley read, so once I have reviewed the book I am going to close my account.

This is not the only reason I want to read the book though. I am enjoying a few mystery reads at the moment. Combine this with its historical theme and there you have a book with promise. In my eyes anyway… and that’s what counts, right?

The Eye of the World

the eye of the world

Goodreads – The Eye of the World

This poor book has been on my TBR since 2014 and I STILL haven’t gotten around to it! I’ve re-read the first chapter sample several times. The writing really interests me, but I just can’t seem to commit to picking up the book. I have sampled the audiobook book before to get around this subconscious aversion I have. Unfortunately, I don’t like the narration. I will prefer reading myself for sure. I am now on a mission to read this (at least this year) because my friend Rachael devoured the series herself and recommended it to me.

I’ve already given myself a back-out clause for this month though. I know, I know. Call me awful, whatever, but I have a busy month coming up personally. I have over a week booked off work, but I am visiting family for some of that time. As a result, I can’t promise I’ll spend that time reading.

Obviously, I am going to try to read as much as I can though. Pinky promise.

What is good is that I already have most of these books (I think I only need to buy The Eye of The World), and I am pretty much on a spending ban until then. I’ve already bought myself a few books to make myself feel better about the prospect…

Which books are you picking up this July?

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Book Review: A Conversation with a Cat – Stephen Spotte

 ***I was kindly provided with a free copy of this book by OpenBooks in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

A Conversation with a Cat is a great introduction to the lives of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony, especially for those without the opportunity to learn about these remarkably powerful historical figures.

 

A Conversation With A Cat

Goodreads – A Conversation with a Cat

 

Synopsis

Stephen Spotte’s imaginative novel recounts the tales of a scroungy former alley cat named Jinx, whose memories aren’t just his own but those of other cats who existed before him, one of which was Annipe, Cleopatra’s pampered pet. Through Annipe’s eyes the ancient Mediterranean world of Cleopatra and her legendary lovers, Caesar and Antony, spread before us in all its glory, pathos, and absurdity. Jinx reveals these stories telepathically one night to his stoned and inebriated owner just home after gall bladder surgery. Annipe’s memories are bookended by Jinx’s own that detail his early scavenging days in bleak urban alleys.

“Could not stop reading this unique and curious account of a major period in history. Viewing events that shook the ancient world through the eye of a feline makes one want to view today’s news stories through the same lens. Never read a book with such a unique perspective. And it was fun.”—Edward R. Ricciuti, author of Bears in the Backyard

 

My Thoughts

Prior to reading the book, my knowledge of Cleopatra came from Shakespeare. To be honest, my understanding of Shakespeare is sketchy. It always has been. Studying Antony & Cleopatra without a consistent teacher – I had no chance really. Sigh.

I was as good as a complete newbie to this topic. Did I find it interesting? Absolutely! The details don’t bog the story down at all, but a lot of research has gone into the novel. The historical superpowers use their brains and brawn (amongst other things) to vie for power. The kind of things that cause salacious gossip and disgruntled wives. The lavishness and decadence of the ruling class are both enticing and beautifully described; Stephen ensures each scene is deliberately picturesque.

The book is cleverly written to pull off its conversational tone.

A commentary is given by Jinx, (in addition to narrating Cleopatra’s life from Annipe’s memory) which is interesting and charismatically witty. Jinx is a feline with “cattitude” and it definitely shows in the narrative! Naturally, the concept of a cat striking up a conversation with you telepathically is far-fetched. However, the story and circumstances are set up humorously so that it pushes boundaries, but isn’t unbelievable.

 

The perspective offered in this book is truly a unique one. Jinx reminisces about Ancient Egypt, as cats historically were held in higher esteem there. They were worshipped like Gods – unlike him, who finds his freedom and virility catnapped in one fell swoop, as we learn later. You can imagine his tail twitching in agitation even now. The balance between the present day and recounting Cleopatra’s reign is perfect. I would even go so far as to say that even somebody who doesn’t love historical fiction as much as I do could get on with it.

A Conversation with a Cat is funny and approachable to read. I personally really enjoyed the book – the fact that I read it in only two days speaks volumes.

Guest Post Stephen Spotte

Guest Post – Stephen Spotte

I was delighted when Kelly from OpenBooks advised me that Stephen Spotte wanted to contribute a guest post to my blog. I recently read A Conversation with a Cat, his new novel – for which I am writing a review very soon!

Today, the spotlight is on Stephen himself. In his post, Stephen gives us an enjoyable introduction to the novel by telling us about the paws behind the cause. I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I did!

 


Stephen Spotte

My wife Lucia and I occupy a beach house on a barrier island off Florida’s southwest coast where we share space with a large black cat named Jinx, a selfish creature who alternately ignores us and demands our attention. Cats are world-renowned sack-out artists. The average domestic cat is fully awake about four hours of every twenty-four, and Jinx is no exception. A cat can fall asleep almost anywhere, but most have preferred napping sites, one of Jinx’s being my desk beside the computer. There heat from the desk lamp puts him into a soporific state aptly described as cat-atonic. Having zonked out, Jinx stretches and twitches as I struggle to write, maybe dreaming of plump, slow-footed mice or one-night stands after an evening of dumpster-diving during his former life as a virile tom, king of the urban alleys.

Jinx the cat - Stephen SpotteOccasionally he creates sentences of his own when an errant paw paw comes to rest inadvertently on the keyboard. These usually appear on the screen as zzzzzzzzzz or eeeeeeeeee. Interesting, although not exactly literary keepers. Such episodes of somnolent creativity are disrupted by intermittent arousal when he sits up to blink away the sleep and gives me a raspberry. Once I was prepared and snapped his picture.

We know nothing of Jinx’s kittenhood and early adolescence, having obtained him several years ago at a local animal shelter. No other visitors had shown interest because black cats are considered bad luck, another of those inane superstitions like belief in ghosts that persist no matter the sophistication of our cultural development.

No one working at the shelter could recall exactly how long Jinx had resided there among the dozens of unwanted cats. On the day we visited the record stated only that Animal Control trapped him in an alley. Soon after arriving he was de-balled, de-wormed, de-ticked, de-loused, vaccinated, and put up for “adoption,” an ambiguous term where cats are concerned. Dogs in their slavering servitude look forward eagerly to being “owned,” a concept universally disdained by cats. As solitary and basically anti-social creatures cats accept human companionship only if the arrangement is personally beneficial and doesn’t trample on their self-respect.

At one time in at least one place that respect was returned with astonishing reverence. Egyptians from the first century BCE (before current era) given a glimpse of contemporary American society would be alarmed and confused by how far domestic cats have fallen in the esteem of ordinary citizens. Sure, you can log into social media and see thousands of cute cat pictures, but cats no longer possess the lofty status they enjoyed in Cleopatra’s day.

 

A Conversation with a Cat

A Conversation With A CatMy new novel titled A Conversation with a Cat features and juxtaposes the lives of Jinx and an imaginary pet cat of Cleopatra’s I call Annipe (daughter of the Nile). Jinx gives us his memoir in chapters that bookend Annipe’s tales. As she reports, “Cats were sacred in ancient Egypt, represented by the cat goddess Bastet and worshipped at temples dedicated in her honor. . . . Even when an ordinary household cat died all human members of the family were required to shave their eyebrows as a sign of mourning, and when the head of a household passed away and was mummified his cat was killed and mummified too. Tradition also called for embalming a few mice so the cat would have snacks in the netherworld.” Although cats have become the most popular pets in the U. S. (dogs trail a distant second), they don’t receive universal respect in any modern country, and certainly nobody today worships them. Don’t take this on my word, just ask any cat you meet.

To hear Annipe tell it, “That cats were worshipped and temples dedicated to [Bastet] is certainly no less than we deserve. And the citizens protected us with a fervor to make Bastet proud. I’ll give an example. When Mistress [Cleopatra] was still a young girl a Roman official visiting Alexandria killed a cat accidently, whereupon a mob of enraged citizens attacked him and ripped him apart. Even earlier, in 525 BCE, the Persians led by the general Cambyses III invaded Egypt only to be stopped at the city of Pelusium. Cambyses ordered images of Bastet painted on the shields of his soldiers, at which point Egyptian resistance collapsed. Think of it: the Egyptians surrendered their country rather than see their cats disrespected. How many times has that happened in human history?

“It should come as no surprise that we cats have always considered ancient Egypt the apex of human development and agree unanimously that after Egypt fell to Roman hands your species underwent a steady regression, a reverse cultural evolution. Romans were arrogant. They thought that anyone who didn’t speak Latin was a barbarian, but to Alexandrians they were the barbarians. And through the centuries others followed. Want proof? Look around at the state of the world and don’t blame us cats for what you see.”

Just as Jason sought the golden fleece, perhaps every cat’s ultimate dream is to capture a rodent with gold-colored fur. I say this despite knowing that cats have bi-chromatic vision and therefore are color-blind. Nonetheless Jinx seems to come alert when he sees President Trump pontificate on television, and I must admit that as the president climbs the stairs to board Air Force One the back of his head does resemble the south end of a golden hamster heading north.

 


About the author

Stephen SpotteStephen Spotte, a marine scientist, was born and raised in West Virginia. He has been a field biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station (Vicksburg, Mississippi); curator and later director of Aquarium of Niagara Falls (New York); curator of the New York Aquarium and Osborn Laboratories of Marine Science (Brooklyn, New York); director of Mystic Aquarium (Mystic, Connecticut); executive director of Sea Research Foundation and research scientist at the Marine Sciences and Technology Center, University of Connecticut (Groton, Connecticut); principal investigator, Coral Reef Ecology Program (Turks and Caicos Islands, B.W.I.), and adjunct scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory (Sarasota, Florida).

Dr. Spotte has a B.S. degree from Marshall University, a Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi, and is author or coauthor of more than 80 scientific papers on marine biology, ocean chemistry and engineering, and aquaculture. Field research has encompassed much of the coastal U.S., Canadian Arctic, Bering Sea, West Indies, Indo-West Pacific, Central America, and the Amazon basin of Ecuador and Brazil. His popular articles about the sea have appeared in National Wildlife, On the Sound, Animal Kingdom, Explorers Journal, and Science Digest.

Dr. Spotte has also published 18 books, including three volumes of fiction, a memoir, and a work of cultural theory. He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist of The Wildlife Society and also holds a U.S. Merchant Marine officer’s license.

Dr. Spotte now lives and writes from his home in Longboat Key, Florida

 

Purchase links: OpenBooks     Amazon

Three Things Noone tells you about going self hosted

Three Things no one tells you about going self-hosted

Migrating a blog hosted via WordPress (wordpress.com) or Blogspot to a self-hosted site is a rite of passage. At least, it felt that way for me anyway. It’s a huge step for bloggers alike, but it comes with added responsibility – and a bit of work to get it there in the first place.

I spent a lot of time researching how to migrate a blog before I took the plunge and found plenty of information out there. Confident I knew everything there was to know, I took the first step to make my blogging dreams come true.

A common expression is that you don’t really learn to drive until you have passed your test… and I found this process to be much the same thing. Each and every one of us will have a different experience. In my research, I was never really told what to expect once my blog was successfully migrated. If you are looking to find out a little more on that subject, then you’ve certainly come to the right place!

My experiences are written from the perspective of migrating a site from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. Whilst one the points I am going to make you aware of is exclusive to WordPress, I think the other advice is non-platform specific. I hope it is of some use to you. 

 

Transferring a domain is not an overnight process

Throw laptop frsutration
Source: GIPHY

Whilst this piece of advice is certainly out there, I was stubborn to accept it. I tried everything I could to try and get my website live once the transfer of my domain had been processed. The transfer in itself took a couple of days to process, during which time my blog was still live via wordpress.com. Once I had authorised WordPress to action the transfer, however, I had to wait a couple of days for the DNS server to update before my domain would show as a live website.

There really is no way around this. Believe me, I tried. Try to set up your website before these settings have updated and you’ll find yourself up against a brick wall. Sure, it’s new and exciting and OH MY GOSH… but you’ll have to rein it in for a day or two.

I repeat. No. Way. Around. This.

Patience, friends. I wasn’t and the temptation to make my laptop pay the price was unreal.

 

WordPress Import software is flawed

Anger, frustration girl
Source: GIPHY

Finally, your website goes live. It has no content, but, FINALLY, it is live. Once you have installed the necessary software to get your blog up and running, the next step is to export your old blog or website. Once you have the export, you are going to need to import that file into your new dashboard.

But there’s a catch. I referred to numerous sources when encountering the glitch personally and it appears to be a long-term problem. I found that the WordPress importer software didn’t import ANY of my media files. So, I had to import them all again manually.

Doesn’t sound like too much of a problem, until you realise that all your blog posts are trying to link to media files that are no longer located where they used to be. Thankfully the WordPress dashboard has a means of detecting broken links, and this monitors everything for you. After my initial import failure, I had just over 300 broken links to fix. I still have just about 200 left to fix. It’s not a small task, but it isn’t difficult either.

My advice, set aside time for unexpected IT technical issues. Even if you don’t particularly have the know-how, the internet is a wonderful thing. The greatest commodity you can have in the first few days of setting your new site up is time.

 

Spam Comments

You’re going to start noticing lots of comments. Great, right?

Not necessarily. A lot of these (and I really mean a LOT) are going to be spam. Thankfully, there are some great plugins that can filter out the vast majority of spam comments. Some are still flagged in your spam box, so you will have to review/delete them yourself.

By way of example, in two and a half weeks since going self-hosted, this is the number of spam comments I’d had:-

 Akismet Spam Comments

Realistically, I’ve only had to manually review and delete a further 12-15 or so comments, so a lot of the hard work is done for you. At present, I am only using the free version of Akismet, but depending on your blog content, you may have to opt for a paid subscription to cover you. If you are looking for coverage yourself, as ever the best thing to do is shop around. There are plenty of options out there.  

If you have had an issue that I haven’t mentioned above, or any other advice, please let me know in the comments! There are so many different sources out there; it can be difficult to know where to turn.

 

Sunday Summary June 2018

Sunday Summary – 24th June 2018

Good evening folks! Another week draws to a close and it’s time to share my weekly progress (aka Sunday Summary) with you. I anticipated that this week was going to be less productive than my previous week, because:-

  • Last week was a good week for me, by any standards
  • I have had a redecoration project planned

 

I had a couple of days of work this week (yay!), but due to redecorating, they were FAR from relaxing!. As a result, I can’t say I managed to read as much as I hoped to. I’ve also been doing my fair share of writing blog posts, so I suppose I can claw that time back in the next day or two instead.

 

Books Read

My week began with finishing Blackwing by Ed McDonald – and what a way to start a week. I devoured this book in about two days, which speaks volumes about how much I enjoyed it! With a page count of approximately 380 pages, I am actually pretty impressed with myself on this one!

I swiftly moved on to Death in Dulwich by Alice Castle, first of two books in the London Murder Mysteries series I am reviewing next month. So far I am 28% through the book, which isn’t horrendous progress, but I would have liked to have read a little more on this one. Perhaps next week will be more fruitful.

My review copy of Ravencry arrived this week and I haven’t been more excited for a book in a little while. As I am due to be reviewing this early next month rather than mid next month, I started reading this as well. Admittedly, this is why Death in Dulwich was put on the back-burner – a girl has to prioritise somehow! I’ve acquainted myself with the first 45 pages or so, but after this, I had to prioritise redecorating, so I’m no further than that.

All in all, this isn’t the worst week I’ve had reading – actually taking the time to look at it properly; it doesn’t seem as bad as I thought it was. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

 

Books Discovered

I’ve added Bard – The Odyssey of the Irish by Morgan Llewellyn to the TBR on the recommendation from a friend. We were discussing our mutual interest in historical fiction books when he told me about it. Since Ireland is close to home, it’s only fair to learn how and by whom the country became inhabited.

I read a fantastic review of The Court of Broken Knives by The Tattooed Book Geek today; such a good review that it makes me want to read it for myself. I want to try and read more from the Dark Fantasy sub-genre and this seems like a good place to start!

 

 

Coming Up…

Three Things Noone tells you about going self hostedI already have tomorrow’s post prepared for you – which is a rarity on my part! It’s a topic I decided to write about a couple of weeks ago. You may know that I recently transferred my blog from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. After researching and completing the process, I felt there wasn’t much information out there about what to expect after going self-hosted. Hopefully, my post tomorrow will give you a few pointers about what to expect.

 

I’m really looking forward to sharing Wednesday’s post as it was kindly contributed by the author of A Conversation with A Cat, Stephen Spotte. I was recently provided with a copy by OpenBooks in exchange for a review. Stephen has prepared a humorous insight into his book and the top cat that inspired his work, Jinx.

Naturally, my review of A Conversation with A Cat will follow on Thursday. I hope you can take a minute or two out of your day to check out my thoughts.

 

Sunday Summary June 2018My Sunday Summary will take usual pride of place – and I hope to be sharing news of a more productive week.

 

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Book Review: The Irrationalist – Andrew Pessin

***I was kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author and OpenBooks in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

The Irrationalist

Goodreads – The Irrationalist

Who would want to murder the world’s most famous philosopher?

Turns out: nearly everyone.

In 1649, Descartes was invited by the Queen of Sweden to become her Court Philosopher. Though he was the world’s leading philosopher, his life had by this point fallen apart. He was 53, penniless, living in exile in Amsterdam, alone. With much trepidation but not much choice, he arrived in Stockholm in mid-October.

Shortly thereafter he was dead.

Pneumonia, they said. But who could believe that? There were just too many persons of interest who wanted to see Descartes dead, and for too many reasons. That so many of these persons were in Stockholm—thanks to the Gala the Queen was throwing to celebrate the end of the terrible Thirty Years’ War—made the official story all the less plausible. Death by poisoning was the unofficial word on the cobblestone.

Enter Adrien Baillet. A likeable misfit with a mysterious backstory, he arrives just as the French Ambassador desperately needs an impartial Frenchman to prove that Descartes died of natural causes—lest the “murder” in Lutheran Sweden of France’s great Catholic philosopher trigger colicky French boy-King Louis XIV to reignite that awful War. Baillet hesitatingly agrees to investigate Descartes’s death, knowing that if—or when—he screws up, he could be personally responsible for the War’s Thirty-First Year.

But solving the mystery of Descartes’s death (Baillet soon learns) requires first solving the mystery of Descartes’s life, with all its dangerous secrets … None of it is easy, as nearly everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted. Nor does it help that he must do it all under the menacing gaze of Carolus Zolindius, the terrifying Swedish Chancellor with the strangely intimidating limp.

But Baillet somehow perseveres, surprising everyone as he figures it all out—all the way to the explosive end.

 

Introduction

The Irrationalist is perfect for fans of historical fiction, particularly if you like the dish detailed and with a side of pretty gruesome violence.

Adrien Baillet, an impartial Frenchman, investigates the death of Rene Descartes on the orders of Zolindus, second in command to the Queen of Sweden. So long as his findings report death by natural causes, he will be spared a prickly fate himself. With nowhere to turn, he begins his investigation… but the evidence points to anything but a natural demise. With nearly everyone a suspect, Baillet can trust no one. Piece by piece, he unravels the mystery.

 

My Thoughts

I feel sorry for Adrien Baillet. Finding himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, he has to “investigate” Descartes death. He cannot afford to refuse if he wants to keep his head, but without the funds to return home, he can’t escape Sweden either. Young and lacking experience in the ways of court, he is the perfect puppet for Zolindus to manipulate.

I like how flawed Baillet is as a character. Despite having noble intentions, he is weak – cowardly even. What he lacks in strength he makes up for in intelligence. In that, Zolindus underestimates him. A lot of books paint protagonists to be the best of the best, but this is unrealistic. These characters are human and by nature, are not perfect. Baillet’s fear and inability to stand up for himself helps raise the tension of the narrative. With murder and subterfuge lurking around every corner, it is easy to understand his paranoia.

The plot is well developed, which is necessary given the complexity of the murder investigation. Baillet considers the potential motive of every character, but the conclusions drawn aren’t forced in order to make everyone a suspect. Every motive is well explained and backed-up, which I imagine is a very difficult thing to achieve. It would take a lot of knowledge and research to make this novel work so well, which Andrew Pessin has accomplished effortlessly.

Within the narrative of the investigation are chapters that look back into the past life of Rene Descartes, before he makes it to Sweden. Not only do these provide a lot of insight into his relations with other characters, (usually outlining why there was bad blood), but they change the pace of the book to make a refreshing break from the heat of the moment in Sweden.

 

Conclusion

Honestly, I didn’t anticipate the ending at all – which is a measure of a good mystery to my mind. We come to our own conclusions about the murder; but there is nothing like a good 11th-hour plot twist to keep us on our toes.

down the tbr hole

Down the TBR Hole #10

Having looked back, I haven’t actually written a Down the TBR Hole post and cleared out any unwanted books for over six months now. It’s no wonder these things get out of control!

For anyone who doesn’t know how this works, the meme was created by Lia @ Lost in a Story:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m going to be looking at the next ten books on the pile since I’ve neglected the pile for so long! Shall we jump right in? After I left off in my last post – with Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (which I have now read!) I added a number of classics. I know I want to read these and frankly, they aren’t up for debate. For the sakes of making a more interesting post for you, I have decided to skip those.

 

Gilead – Marilynne Robinson

Gilead

Goodreads – Gilead

Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows “even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order” (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.

Having read the synopsis again, I can’t really remember why I added this book to the list. I must have been inspired by something, but if I was it’s long gone now. Whatever the circumstances, I’m not convinced that this is something I would really love to read, so I’m going to pass on this one.

Verdict: Bin

 

Voyage in the Dark – Jean Rhys

Voyage in the Dark

Goodreads – Voyage in the Dark

‘It was as if a curtain had fallen, hiding everything I had ever known,’ says Anna Morgan, eighteen years old and catapulted to England from the West Indies after the death of her beloved father. Working as a chorus girl, Anna drifts into the demi-monde of Edwardian London. But there, dismayed by the unfamiliar cold and greyness, she is absolutely alone and unconsciously floating from innocence to harsh experience. Her childish dreams have been replaced by the harsher reality of living in a man’s world, where all charity has its price Voyage in the Dark was first published in 1934, but it could have been written today. It is the story of an unhappy love affair, a portrait of a hypocritical society, and an exploration of exile and breakdown; all written in Jean Rhys’s hauntingly simple and beautiful style.

I know why I’ve added this book to the list.

When it comes to books about love, passion, heartbreak, I am very choosy. The historical setting is why I have added this book to the list. Right now, I’m not really in the mood to read 170 pages of someone else’s relationship problems. That probably sounds really harsh, (because it is), but I don’t see the point in picking up a book I doubt I’ll enjoy.

Verdict: Bin

 

Never Let me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Never let me go

Goodreads – Never Let Me Go

As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance–and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro’s finest work.

I was torn about this one.

Whilst I am kind of intrigued by the story and the characters, I’m not really feeling it. Not that I think I won’t enjoy the book, but I can’t say I definitively will either. I have so many other books on the list now, I’m inclined to pass.

Verdict: Bin

 

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself – David McRaney

You are not so smart

Goodreads – You Are Not So Smart

An entertaining illumination of the stupid beliefs that make us feel wise.

Whether you’re deciding which smart phone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic, but here’s the truth: You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us–but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human.

Growing out of David McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart reveals that every decision we make, every thought we contemplate, and every emotion we feel comes with a story we tell ourselves to explain them, but often these stories aren’t true. Each short chapter–covering topics such as Learned Helplessness, Selling Out, and the Illusion of Transparency–is like a psychology course with all the boring parts taken out.

Bringing together popular science and psychology with humor and wit, You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of our irrational, thoroughly human behavior.

Non-fiction books don’t often feature in my TBR, but this one is staying firmly on the list! Psychology (and precisely how the brain works) is one of my favourite subjects; I think this is something I will find both informative and humorous. I don’t like being wrong, so this may just be an eye-opener!

Verdict: Keep

 

The Wages of Sin – Kaite Welsh

The Wages of Sin

Goodreads – The Wages of Sin

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

 

I barely have to think about this one. Adding it to the TBR last year is not something I have changed m mind about. I expect I will really enjoy reading this. Historical fiction, (and dark themes within) are right up my alley. It’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: Keep

 

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See

Goodreads – All The Light We Cannot See

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

 

I added this book to my TBR with the intention to read along with another blogger. But, with so many books and so little time, it didn’t happen.

This would usually be a go-to genre for me, but I’m not sure this is something I would enjoy reading by myself. Whilst beautifully written, it is apparently difficult to get into. Without the motivation of reading with others, I fear I’d end up putting this down all-too-quickly.

I have to say no to this one, on this occasion.

Verdict: Bin

 

The Shining – Stephen King

The Shining

Goodreads – The Shining

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

This isn’t even up for debate. It’s staying. I really love the Stephen King books I have read so far. Whilst based on the film, this “story” comes highly recommended by my parents. On the list, it remains.

Verdict: Keep

 

The Floating Theatre – Martha Conway

Floating Theatre

Goodreads – The Floating Theatre

In a nation divided by prejudice, everyone must take a side.

When young seamstress May Bedloe is left alone and penniless on the shore of the Ohio, she finds work on the famous floating theatre that plies its trade along the river. Her creativity and needlework skills quickly become invaluable and she settles in to life among the colourful troupe of actors. She finds friends, and possibly the promise of more …

But cruising the border between the Confederate South and the ‘free’ North is fraught with danger.

For the sake of a debt that must be repaid, May is compelled to transport secret passengers, under cover of darkness, across the river and on, along the underground railroad.

But as May’s secrets become harder to keep, she learns she must endanger those now dear to her.

And to save the lives of others, she must risk her own …

 

I remember purchasing a copy of this book last year, so I guess that is a good a reason as any to read it. I love theatre, so combine this with a historical theme, add some civil unrest and I am SOLD.

Verdict: Keep

 

The Destroyer – Michael-Scott Earle

The Destroyer

Goodreads – The Destroyer

After untold centuries of absence, the evil Ancients have returned. Their magic appears unstoppable and their hunger for conquest is insatiable. To protect the country of Nia, Duchess Nadea and Scholar Paug make a desperate journey to find a human legend: A man known to have destroyed these Ancient foes with a powerful army.

But legends can lie.

When Paug and Nadea revive their hero from sleep, his virtue is far from clear.

Is he really their Savior or their Destroyer?

 

I think I downloaded this book whilst it was on some kind of free promotion. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t pay for it, because I am less enthusiastic about it than I evidently was at the time. That’s not to say I won’t like it at all, but it just isn’t screaming at me to read it really. I’ll keep it because I have it.

I can’t help but sneak a look at the reviews when I do this; a couple of the comments made worry me. Once I got to that point I stopped reading. Maybe it’s a book to read and take with a pinch of salt?

Verdict: Keep

 

The Borgia Bride – Jeanne Kalogridis

The Borgia Bride

Goodreads – The Borgia Bride

Vivacious Sancha of Aragon arrives in Rome newly wed to a member of the notorious Borgia dynasty. Surrounded by the city’s opulence and political corruption, she befriends her glamorous and deceitful sister-in-law, Lucrezia, whose jealousy is as legendary as her beauty. Some say Lucrezia has poisoned her rivals, particularly those to whom her handsome brother, Cesare, has given his heart. So when Sancha falls under Cesare’s irresistible spell, she must hide her secret or lose her life. Caught in the Borgias’ sinister web, she summons her courage and uses her cunning to outwit them at their own game. Vividly interweaving historical detail with fiction, The Borgia Bride is a richly compelling tale of conspiracy, sexual intrigue, loyalty, and drama.

Perhaps unconventionally, my interest in the history of the Borgia family came about as a result of featuring in the Assassin’s Creed games (the Ezio storyline, for anyone interested). Those to date remain my favourite of the franchise… because I love the setting and storyline. The controversy of the family appears to be founded from their real history – with that being the case, I am really looking forward to reading this!

Verdict: Keep!!!

 

So there we are!! I don’t think that’s a bad cleanse of the list! Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What do you think? As ever, I would love to hear from you!

Sunday Summary June 2018

Sunday Summary – 17th June 2018

Since today is Father’s Day, it won’t be a surprise that I have been spending the day with my Dad. I do every weekend. Not only is Sunday a family day (at least it is here) – it’s also an opportunity to look back and reflect. So firstly, happy Father’s Day Dad! I wouldn’t be half the person I am without you!

(literally)

Whitney Houston not funny

ANYWAY… shall I just get on with what I’ve been reading this week? Yes. Alright. Good.

 

Books Read

Many books have been read this week, my friends.

I’ve been reading The Irrationalist by Andrew Pessin for the past couple of weeks or so and it was great to see this wonderfully detailed novel through to its unexpected conclusion! It took little longer to read because it requires full concentration. As a historical fiction fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its twists and turns.

The next book I picked up was A Conversation with A Cat by Stephen Spotte. I kid you not, I think I read it in two sittings within 24hrs… or near as dammit. Sticking with the historical fiction genre, this book looks back at the life of Cleopatra from a unique perspective. As a period of history I haven’t really had the opportunity to study, I devoured the content of this book. My experience of Cleopatra comes from reading “Antony and Cleopatra” in GCSE English. An essay was garbled together. Somehow. Sorcery must have been performed, because to this day, I have very little recollection of what happened. I can’t read Shakespeare for love nor money – I keep threatening to teach myself.

Anyone regularly reading my updates may notice that this week, I haven’t included Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. It’s more by chance than conscious decision I haven’t listened to the audiobook at all this week. Instead, I ended up picking up a book not on my list at all! Since I have been making great progress in reading the books on my TBR this month, I felt a little break from the routine was required as a reward. Having recently obtained a copy of Blackwing to review by Gollancz, and with Ravencry due to release shortly… I couldn’t resist picking this up! I have only been reading it this weekend (well, yesterday really) and I am already just over 200 pages in. Who knows how much longer it will last until I’m done? I give it a day, at this rate.

 

Books Discovered

 

This week I’ve been pretty good, and by that I mean I’ve added the books to my list without actually dipping my hand into my pocket. Yet.

Payday is eagerly awaited this month, so I am trying to avoid spending where possible for the next week or so. I’ve got a bit of a redecorating project next week, which turned out to be a little pricier than I anticipated… but oh well. If a job is worth doing and all that.

I have enjoyed reading Brandon Sanderson so far; after spotting The Rithmatist as a suggestion on Amazon, I had to add it to the list.

Eve of Man seems to be doing a few rounds of social media lately, which coincidentally began after I saw the book in a local store. I love the idea of the dystopian type theme, but I’ll admit I have a reservation over the implied love-interest/conflict, which I probably won’t like. I’m a hard-hearted soul! For the moment I am adding this to the list and keeping an eye out for reviews before I get myself a copy. It may not be my cup of tea after all.

I pre-ordered a copy of Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor this week and I was reminiscing over my love of Strange the Dreamer. I decided there and then that I COULDN’T POSSIBLY wait until October for Muse of Nightmares to be released, so I am going to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone this summer. I’ve also heard nothing by praise for this, so I am looking forward to it already!

 

Coming Up…

I refuse to eff this up this week.

down the tbr holeIt’s been a while since I looked at my ever-growing TBR pile, and I really feel I need to tame that monster.  Whittling the list down is hard work, but someone has to do it. I began using a meme, originally hosted by Lia at Lost in a Story and I’ve had moderate success so far. So, I’ll be writing another Down the TBR hole post on Tuesday.

 

The Irrationalist

I want to go ahead and review The Irrationalist whilst the book is fresh in my mind. I am awful in the sense that I don’t really make notes when I read (a bad habit I am trying to remedy). Since there are a few things I really want to cover in my review, it’s best that I write it sooner rather than later. With that in mind, I’m looking to publish my review on Friday this week.

 

 

 

So that’s all from me for now folks! Enjoy the rest of your weekend and I hope to see you all around very soon!