Tag: fantasy

First Lines Friday – 10/04/2020

Welcome back to another First Lines Friday post! Have you any plans for this long weekend? There’s not much we can do exactly, but let’s try and make the most of it right?

In today’s post, I am featuring another book I read and loved many years ago as a teenager. I’m not sure I have ever mentioned having read this book or the rest of the series in fact. Today’s the day we change that!

Can you guess the book from the introduction?

 

At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.

‘Have I got a deal for you!’ the Thiefmaker began, perhaps inauspiciously.

‘Another deal like Calo and Galdo, maybe?’ said the Eyeless Priest. ‘I’ve still got my hands full training those giggling idiots out of every bad habit they picked up from you and replacing them with the bad habits I need.’

‘Now, Chains.’ The Thiefmaker shrugged. ‘I told you they were shit-flinging little monkeys when we made the deal, and it was good enough for you at the-‘

‘Or maybe another deal like Sabetha?’ The Priest’s richer, deeper voice chased the Thiefmaker’s objection right back down his throat.

 

Shall we find out what it is?

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

Goodreads – The Lies of Locke Lamora

In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part “Robin Hood”, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling…

An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.

A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…

 

Purchase links: Amazon UK     Amazon US     Waterstones

 

If you like roguish, non-altruistic characters in a detailed fantasy world setting then I think this is a series that you will enjoy. The Gentleman Bastards series is really entertaining to read. So far, only the first three books have been published. The fourth, The Thorn of Emberlain, is scheduled for publication in August next year. It has been a long time since I picked these up, so I think I will have to refresh myself with a re-read before picking up this next instalment!

Have you read The Lies of Locke Lamora or the series? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Book Review: Circe – Madeline Miller

In today’s book review post, I am sharing my thoughts on Circe by Madeline Miller. I read this book on holiday last October and it’s finally time to share my thoughts on the book! I had heard and read so many great reviews on it, so I was optimistic that I would really love it!

 

Circe – Madeline Miller

Goodreads – Circe

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

 

My Thoughts…

Whilst I did enjoy reading Circe, my perception of the book definitely suffered from the hype it got from others. It’s always a little disappointing when that happens, but it does happen occasionally! This is still a solid 3-star rated read – don’t think I am not saying I didn’t like it! I just… expected a bit more considering all the fuss over it.

I enjoyed the premise of the book and how Circe does not fit in. She makes her own way, and her own mistakes too. Plenty of them, in fact. Her independence is one of her only redeeming qualities in my eyes, however. I found it really difficult to relate to Circe, and that’s why I think my overall feel of the book is a lower rating than normal. Circe is vain, selfish, and really not all that endearing. No character is ever going to be perfect and flaws add realistic dimension, but I didn’t think there was much in the way of development throughout.

Despite my feelings for Circe’s character, I do have to give credit to the author for how well she includes so many of the Greek gods into the story in an uncomplicated manner. If you don’t know much about Greek gods, I’ll tell you this much – there’s a lot of them! I don’t have extensive knowledge of them; I’ve read one book about them (Mythos by Stephen Fry). Even so, I didn’t get lost in the plethora of characters as Circe interacts with them at various stages. Each God is introduced and explained in the narrative where relevant, so I don’t think any background knowledge is needed. Although, I won’t deny it was helpful.

The book itself is written very well. The flow of the narrative and the chapter sizes are very easy to read. I read this within a couple of days on holiday. That is a testament to how easy this is to read. I was able to pick it up and get straight back into the story in between reading breaks.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to, but Circe was still an interesting read and I liked the cleverness of the storyline.

Have you read Circe? What are your thoughts on it?

 

 

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Sunday Summary – 5th April 2020

Good evening readers and welcome back to my weekly update post, Sunday Summary. I hope you have all been able to make the most of the weekend in? I’ve been spending mine cleaning, doing washing, reading, listening to audiobooks and working more on my crochet baby blanket project!

It’s been a busy week too, not just the weekend. I had quite a few posts lined up, so I’ve spent a lot of time working on blog content as well! My first blog post of the week was a review for a book I read at the beginning of the year. I received a copy of These Are Not the Trinity Papers from the author Vale Zalecki and it was finally time to put my thoughts together into a review.

The next post I had lined up was my reading list for April. I can’t believe we are a quarter of the way through the year already… but here we are! In that post, I took the opportunity to review my challenges, as well as set myself an ambitious reading list. I don’t even have to make excuses to stay in to read at the moment… it’s great!

Friday’s Shelf Control post featured a historical fiction novel that I am keen to read. It is part of my Beat the Backlist challenge, so I’ll be reading it a little later in the year with any luck! It’s a completely new period of history to me, although I am hoping from the sound of it that it is reminiscent in tone to the likes of Bernard Conwell’s Saxon Stories (The Last Kingdom) series.

And finally, on Sunday I shared my blog tour review of iRemember by S. V. Bekvalac. Fans of science fiction and/or dystopian fiction should really check out this review (and the book)! I think you’ll really enjoy it. You may have noticed that this Sunday Summary is coming to you a little late – well, this is why!

 

Books Read

Picking up from where I left off in last week’s Sunday Summary post, I did finish The God Game as promised. I blitzed the last part of the book before I went to bed and I am glad I did! It felt good to finish it after having a bit of a slow week otherwise.

The next book I picked up was iRemember, in anticipation of the blog tour I have just taken part in. I spent most of the week reading this and finished reading it on Saturday, just in time to start drafting my review. I really enjoyed the book, but I have been quite distracted and found myself picking it up and putting it down a lot. Not a fault of the book at all – I think it’s cabin fever! As much as I joke about not having to make excuses to stay in and read… I do miss going out.

I started my next read quite late on today and I’ll be reading it before going to bed tonight. Since I am taking part in a blog tour for Magical Intelligence later on this month, I wanted to get prepared. So, I’m reading it nice and early. I’ve only read the first couple of chapters so far, but I’m already hooked on the storyline and can’t wait to see what happens next!

Now normally I report a small amount of progress with the latest audiobook I am listening to, but that’s not the case at all this week! I only typically listen to a couple of hours or so a week, but I have really excelled this week! It’s in part because I am working from home and have been doing some fairly basic and repetitive tasks. I’ve also found them good to listen to when working on my crochet project too – they help pass the time.

This week, I listened to John Scalzi’s Head On in its entirety and around two-thirds of Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. That’s over 15 hours of audio!

 

 

Books Discovered

I read a great review this week for an interesting sounding thriller, due to be published next month. Dear Child’s synopsis caught my eye, and Drew’s review over on The Tattooed Book Geek was so good that I decided to pre-order a Kindle copy. It’s not out until next month, but hey, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of books to keep me occupied in the meantime…

 

Coming Up…

I want to start next week by reviewing a book that I read on holiday in October last year. Doesn’t that feel a long time ago? I doubt there will be any holidays in the near future too, sadly. Anyway, Circe was one of the first books I picked up on the week-long trip. I’ve seen lots of reviews on the book and I’m looking forward to sharing my opinion of it too!

This week I’ll be sharing a First Lines Friday post. I don’t normally have a particular book in mind so early on. However, there is a particular book I read years ago that I loved and want to share with you all now. I hope you’ll enjoy the introduction as much as I did!

Next week my Sunday Summary post will be coming to you on the prescribed day. It’s just as I was taking part in a blog tour this week that it’s a little late.

That’s all for now folks! Enjoy the rest of the week, stay safe, and most importantly… keep reading! Just kidding, stay in and stay safe friends!

 

 

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Reading List – April 2020

I can’t believe it’s the beginning of April already! It doesn’t seem like three months ago I was setting myself targets for this year – but it is! I don’t feel like I am doing too great with one of those either, so I’m hoping to address that in this month’s reading list!

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a couple of challenges – the Goodreads Reading Challenge (as I do every year) and new this year, the Beat the Backlist Challenge. I also said I wanted to borrow from my local library more too.

The Goodreads Challenge is going well – I’m on track for my target of 80 books by the end of the year. It’s the other two challenges I’ve fallen behind in… not for a lack of trying! I’ve picked up 5 Beat the Backlist books, but I’ve had to DNF two of them. So, I’ve only read 3 out of my target 25 books. I suppose the aim is to clear 25 items off this list, but counting DNF’s feels like cheating so I’m not counting them. I have also tried to borrow from my local library electronically for some of the books I am reading, but they just don’t have the ones I am after in their library. Obviously, with everything going on right now the actual library is closed, so my options are limited with this right now.

So, this month I am going to be working a little harder on the Beat the Backlist Challenge, because that I can do! I’ve kept my blog tour schedule nice and light for other reasons – I was supposed to be moving house soon. Clearly, that’s also not happening right now! However, I would be daft not to take the opportunity to catch up with some of the older items on my TBR.

So, what am I planning to read this month?

 

iRemember – S. V. Bekvalac

Goodreads – iRemember

The city of iRemember shimmers in the desert haze, watched over by the Bureau, a government agency that maintains control through memory surveillance and little pink pills made from the narcotic plant Tranquelle.

It looks like an oasis under its geodesic dome, but the city is under siege. ‘Off-Gridder’ insurgents are fighting to be forgotten.

Bureau Inspector Icara Swansong is on a mission to neutralise the threat. Her investigation leads her into iRemember’s secret underbelly, where she finds herself a fugitive from the very system she had vowed to protect. She has to learn new rules: trust no one. Behind every purple Tranquelle stalk lurk double-agents.

A sci-fi noir with a psychedelic twist, iRemember explores the power the past holds over us and the fragility of everything: what is, what once was, and what will be.

 

I actually finished March’s TBR a little early (since I DNF’d Good Omens at 47%) so I have actually made a healthy start on this book already. I am getting the two blog tour reads done first, just in case things do ease off here and the move is possible. I’m not holding my breath, but I don’t want to count on it and then get myself in trouble as a result of being ill-prepared.

As it happens, my blog tour post for this book is due on Sunday, so naturally, this book is the first on my list. I’m really enjoying it so far, and you’ll be able to get my full thoughts on it on Sunday!

 

Magical Intelligence – M. K. Wiseman

Goodreads – Magical Intelligence

When you are a member of Britain’s first team of wizard spies, every mission might be your last. But as the dawning of the 20th century draws ever nearer, magic grows weak. Violectric Dampening, the clash of man-made electricity with the Gifts of magekind, threatens M.I.’s existence. And if that isn’t enough, they’ve now been discharged from their own government. Obsolete. Distrusted.

And now hunted by one of their own.

Myra Wetherby has always feared her so-called fits, strange visions of people and places that she cannot explain. It is the emotional manipulation, however, a strange empathic connection to those around her, which threatens her very sanity. A danger to her family, Myra runs away, falling straight into the hands of the newly ousted Magical Intelligence team. Who just so happen to need an ability like hers.

Which makes Myra one of them . . . whether she likes it or not.

 

This is my second and last blog tour of the month. My post for this book isn’t going live until the end of the month, but I’m still reading it nice and early.

The synopsis sounds really good – and quite unusual! That’s why I wanted to read it and share a review for the tour coming up later this month. It sounds like it blends fantasy with mystery, two genres I really enjoy reading.

 

Boom Time – Michelle Lowe

Goodreads – Boom Time

Bootleggers, coppers, and no good, dirty gangsters! During Prohibition, the parties were wild, the alcohol was flowing, and danger was never far away. Pierce Landcross has been brought to the fast-paced future of New York City, 1926. His abductor, the Trickster, claims he’s hiding Pierce for his own protection, but cutthroats and femme fatales lurk around every corner. Lost in a strange land, Pierce vows to keep his nose clean, but that doesn’t last long when he falls into the bootlegging racket. Pierce has to quickly adapt to a world full of diesel-fueled machines, airships, moving picture shows, and clashes with rival gangs. At the same time, he has to elude a hunter from his own time sent to kill him!

 

I downloaded a copy of Boom Time from BookSirens as I really like the sound of the synopsis. I really enjoyed learning about the Roaring 20’s in history, and this sounds like it takes a lot of inspiration from it! Okay, it’s a very exaggerated version, but why the heck not?

My love of fantasy novels is really shining through in this TBR, and I don’t feel ashamed of the fact either!

 

The Bands of Mourning – Brandon Sanderson

Goodreads – The Bands of Mourning

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metal minds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.

 

My first book contributing to my Beat the Backlist Challenge is The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. You may recall that I have been reading the earlier books in this second half of the series over the last few months. I bought my copy of this book last month knowing I would get to it shortly. It makes sense to pick this up whilst the rest of the series is fresh in my mind!

 

The Thief Taker – C. S. Quinn

Goodreads – The Thief Taker

The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask…

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide.

In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.

 

The Thief Taker is my second BtB entry. I really debated with picking this up in light of its inclusion of plague and current events. I decided to stick with it though because I do quite fancy the sound of it. It’s not like the Black Death is anything like our current epidemic.

I featured this book not that long ago in my Shelf Control series and I have been thinking about picking it up soon anyway. I have a lot of Brandon Sanderson novels on the oldest part of my list for the challenge so I am trying to break them up.

 

The Women’s Room – Marilyn French

Goodreads – The Women’s Room

The bestselling feminist novel that awakened both women and men, The Women’s Room follows the transformation of Mira Ward and her circle as the women’s movement begins to have an impact on their lives. A biting social commentary on an emotional world gone silently haywire, The Women’s Room is a modern classic that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted so blindly and revered so completely. Marilyn French questions those accepted norms and poignantly portrays the hopeful believers looking for new truths.

 

I have a lot of fantasy on this month’s list, so I have decided to pick up The Women’s Room as a change of genre. This is my third and final book contributing to my Beat the Backlist challenge. It is definitely quite a bit different from the books I pick up generally. We’ll see what I make of it!

 

A Dance with Dragons pt 2 – George R. R. Martin

Goodreads – A Dance with Dragons pt 2

The fifth volume, part two of A Song of Ice and Fire, the greatest fantasy epic of the modern age. Now a major Sky Atlantic TV series from HBO, featuring a stellar cast.

The future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.

In King’s Landing the Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister, awaits trial, abandoned by all those she trusted; while in the eastern city of Yunkai her brother Tyrion has been sold as a slave. From the Wall, having left his wife and the Red Priestess Melisandre under the protection of Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon marches south to confront the Boltons at Winterfell. But beyond the Wall the wildling armies are massing for an assault…

On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves. The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all.

 

The second part of A Dance with Dragons is an ambitious addition to the TBR. It’s here as an “if I get through the rest I’ll start this next” book. I don’t expect to get this finished this month as well as all the above. If I get to make a start on it though, I’ll be happy.

It’s the last book of the series (that’s been published so far), so when I finish this I’ll have completed my re-read of the series!

That’s my list for the month! Have you read any of these books? What are you reading this month?

 

 

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First Lines Friday – 20/03/2020

Hi readers and welcome back to another First Lines Friday post!

I’m looking forward to sharing the opening lines of this week’s featured book. I am in love with this book, as well as the rest of the series it is the introduction to. They are books I know I will go back to and read again and again – they will never get old!

Can you guess the book from the introduction?

 

‘We should start back,’ Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. ‘The Wildlings are dead’.

‘Do the dead frighten you?’ Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile.

Gared did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. ‘Dead is dead,’ he said. ‘We have no business with the dead.’

‘Are they dead?’ Royce asked softly. ‘What proof have we?’

‘Will saw them,’ Gared said. ‘If he says they are dead, that’s proof enough for me.’

Will had known they would drag him into the quarrel sooner or later. He wished it had been later rather than sooner. ‘My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,’ he put in.

‘My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,’ Royce replied. ‘Never believe anything you hear at a woman’s tit. There are things to be learned even from the dead.’ His voice echoed, too loud in the twilit forest.

 

 

Shall we find out what it is?

 

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

Goodreads – A Game of Thrones

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

 

Purchase linksAmazon UK     Amazon US     Waterstones

 

Even if you haven’t read the books but watched the series, you probably recognised this by the early reference to the Wildlings. I love A Game of Thrones. I’ll hold my hands up and say I am obsessed because it’s true!

I first bought these books on Kindle in January/February 2012. Based on my order history on Amazon, I must have read this first book and then decided to buy the next few of the series in one go. My first time reading this book pre-dates my Goodreads account, so it’s a best guess. I have actually re-read this book a further two times, the latest in November 2018. I’ve gone on to read the rest of the series again too, with just the last part of A Dance with Dragons to go to complete the re-read.

Do you love A Game of Thrones? Have you read the series at all, or more than once? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Blog Tour Review: Tooth and Blade – Julian Barr

Welcome to today’s blog tour review for Tooth and Blade by Julian Barr. I hope you are having a lovely weekend?

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you about this book. When Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources circulated the book and tour details, I was immediately drawn in by the combination of Norse mythology and fantasy. I’ve read a few books with elements of Norse mythology in them, such as Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories (aka The Last Kingdom) series. I really enjoy reading more about it and was curious to see how these elements would come together.

As always, thank you to Rachel and to the author Julian Barr for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

 

Tooth and Blade – Julian Barr

Parts 1-3 of the legendary TOOTH AND BLADE series together for the first time!

Two worlds. One destiny.

Dóta has dwelled sixteen years among the trolls. She knows nothing but the darkness of her family’s cave. Her mother says humans are beasts who would slay them all. Yet the gods of Asgard whisper in the night: Dóta is a child of men, a monster unto monsters.

To discover her human side, Dóta must take up her bone knife and step into the light above. Secrets await her in the human realm—beauty, terror, the love of a princess.

Soon Dóta must choose between her clan and humankind, or both worlds will be devoured in fire and war.

A monster sheds no tears.

Norse mythology meets historical fantasy in TOOTH AND BLADE. Step into a realm of haunted meres, iron and magic.

 

Purchase Links – Amazon UK     Amazon US     Books2Read

 

My Thoughts…

Dóta is a daughter of two worlds. Born to human parents but raised by trolls, she is a unique character. Until she is permitted to go up to the surface and experience the world for herself, Dóta lives a sheltered life. Only her mother and brother’s stories about her past and the world above feed her curiosity, until one day she is sent above to hunt for herself.

Tooth and Blade is a tale of magic, discovery, identity and conflict. As I expected, I really enjoyed the Norse mythology element. I am still a novice when it comes to knowledge of Norse mythology, however, I know the basics. The gods and concepts of destiny and fate were present consistently throughout the book, so it definitely has a significant influence on the narrative.

At 288 pages, these three novellas together are an excellent length to establish an interesting world and allow for plenty of action and character development. I actually read Tooth and Blade in a couple of days. The story and writing style flow so well that it makes for an easy read to pick up and enjoy.

Tooth and Blade has many elements that wouldn’t typically be put together into one narrative, and yet it all gelled perfectly. The narrative has a solid plotline that cleverly brings all the characters and their different backgrounds together. Dóta is my favourite of all though. She is a truly unique character who doesn’t strictly fit in. She’s fierce and a fighter, and after all the turmoil of discovering who she really is, she decides to carve her own path instead of letting others decide what role she should play.

Dóta isn’t the only strong female character. There are other female warriors, trained to protect the King no less. My experience of Norse/Viking novels is that lead characters are very young, alpha-male personalities. Men. Tooth and Blade showed a completely different perspective, which is refreshing!

If you’d like to read more about Tooth and Blade, you can check out some of the other blog tour posts – details below.

 

Author Bio

Julian Barr first fell in love with all things ancient and magical in childhood, when he staged his own version of I, Claudius using sock puppets. After his PhD in Classics, he did a brief stint as a schoolteacher, hated being called ‘sir,’ and dived into storytelling. Although he remains open to the possibilities of sock puppet theatre, historical fantasy is his passion. He has published scholarly research on Roman medicine and the gastronomic habits of Centaurs, but prefers to think of himself as an itinerant bard. He is also the author of the Ashes of Olympus trilogy.

Social Media Links –

https://twitter.com/jbarrauthor

https://www.facebook.com/jbarrauthor/

https://jbarrauthor.com/

 

First Lines Friday – 06/03/2020

Welcome back to another First Lines Friday post! It’s the end of another week and we can all look forward to a fabulous weekend!

Before that though, it’s time to share the opening lines of another brilliant read. This is a book I read a long time ago. I took the notion when drafting last week’s Sunday Summary post to feature a book that I read before I started my blog. I’ve wracked my brains and I think I’ve come up with a great feature for you today.

Can you guess the book from the introduction?

 

It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamour one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of the night. If there had been music… but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.

Inside the Waystone a pair of men huddled at one corner of the bar. They drank with quiet determination, avoiding serious discussions of troubling news. In doing this they added a small, sullen silence to the larger, hollow one. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint.

The third silence was not an easy thing to notice.

 

 

Shall we find out what it is?

 

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Goodreads – The Name of the Wind

Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.

The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.

A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

 

Purchase Links –  Amazon UK     Amazon US     Waterstones

 

I loved reading The Name of the Wind as a teenager and I can’t wait for book three, Doors of Stone, to be published. I’ll have to re-read these when it does though – it’s been a long time since I read these.

Did you enjoy today’s First Lines Friday post and extract of The Name of the Wind? Is it on your list to read as well? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Reading List – March 2020

I can’t believe it is the beginning of March and I’m writing my reading list post already! Last month just flew by. I know it’s a short one, but still! I’m happy with my reading progress last month given that I had a few bits on. I didn’t quite finish last month’s reading, so I am carrying one book over.

Shall we take a look at the books on this month’s TBR?

 

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Goodreads – Good Omens

‘Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.’

People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?

You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.

It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon now finds themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist…

 

Good Omens is my carryover. I only just started reading this at the end of last week, so it’s hardly surprising I’ve had to carry it over to this month. That said, I’ve managed to make a good start over the past day or two and I am enjoying the book so far! It’s definitely got the flavour of Terry Pratchett’s humour I love so I can see myself finishing this book pretty quickly!

 

Songbird – Karen Heenan

Goodreads – Songbird

Bess has the voice of an angel, or so Henry VIII declares when he buys her from her father. As a member of the Music, the royal company of minstrels, Bess grows up within the decadent Tudor court, navigating the ever-changing tide of royals and courtiers. Friends come and go as cracked voices, politics, heartbreak, and death loom over even the lowliest of musicians. Tom, her first and dearest friend, is her only constant. But as Bess becomes too comfortable at court, she may find that constancy has its limits.

 

My first blog tour related read of the month is this historical fiction novel. I love the Tudor period of history and I haven’t picked up a book on it in ages! Also, books with politics in them really interest me, which is funny because I hate politics! At least, I hate ours!

 

Helene – Karl Drinkwater

Goodreads – Helene

Dr Helene Vermalle is shaping the conscience of a goddess-level AI.

As a leading civilian expert in Emergent AI Socialisation, she has been invited to assist in a secret military project.

Her role? Helping ViraUHX, the most advanced AI in the universe, to pass through four theoretical development stages. But it’s not easy training a mind that surpasses her in raw intellect. And the developing AI is capable of killing her with a single tantrum.

On top of this, she must prove her loyalty to the oppressive government hovering over her shoulder. They want a weapon. She wants to instil an overriding sense of morality.

Can she teach the AI right and wrong without being categorised as disloyal?

Lost Tales of Solace are short side-stories set in the Lost Solace universe.

 

I’m definitely reading more in the way of science-fiction than I ever have before. I have been fortunate to have picked up some great books recently, which means I keep gravitating back to the genre.

I love the premise of this novel. Artificial Intelligence is definitely relevant right now and there are plenty of people sat on the fence about its benefits and drawbacks. It sounds like this book might touch on that, so I can’t wait to read it and share my thoughts with you in the upcoming blog tour!

 

Tooth & Blade – Julian Barr

Goodreads – Tooth and Blade

Parts 1-3 of the legendary TOOTH AND BLADE series together for the first time!

Two worlds. One destiny.

Dóta has dwelled sixteen years among the trolls. She knows nothing but the darkness of her family’s cave. Her mother says humans are beasts who would slay them all. Yet the gods of Asgard whisper in the night: Dóta is a child of men, a monster unto monsters.

To discover her human side, Dóta must take up her bone knife and step into the light above. Secrets await her in the human realm–beauty, terror, the love of a princess.

Soon Dóta must choose between her clan and humankind, or both worlds will be devoured in fire and war.

A monster sheds no tears.

Norse mythology meets historical fantasy in TOOTH AND BLADE. Step into a realm of haunted meres, iron and magic.

 

I love the idea of a mash-up of Norse Mythology and fantasy. Honestly, it’s so unlike anything I have read before that I wanted to give it a try.

 

Shadows of Self – Brandon Sanderson

Goodreads – Shadows of Self

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.

This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.

 

I really enjoyed reading The Alloy of Law back in January and I am keen to make even more progress with this series. It’s been on my TBR for a long time so it’s overdue! I honestly love every single Brandon Sanderson book I have ever read. The Alloy of Law was brilliantly reminiscent of the previous Mistborn trilogy, yet so much more! The change in setting and characters really worked for me. I can’t wait to get back to their adventures!

 

The God Game – Danny Tobey

Goodreads – The God Game

You are invited!
Come inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
It;’s fun!
But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?

As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.

God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.

 

I was very lucky to receive a copy of this from Gollancz in exchange for a review. Again, I love the science-fiction vibe. If asked what my second hobby was (because reading is my first, obviously),I’d say it’s gaming. I don’t have anywhere near as much time as I used to spend playing games on my laptop, but I do enjoy it now and then!

The premise of The God Game combines my two favourite hobbies, so I have very high hopes that I’ll enjoy it. It reminds me of another book I received by Gollancz and reviewed last year – Ctrl+S by Andy Briggs. That particular book blended these two together, as well as included virtual reality and I really enjoyed it.

So, that’s March’s TBR taken care of. Have you read any of the books on this month’s list? Have any of them caught your eye? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

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Shelf Control #15 – 28/02/2020

In today’s Shelf Control post I am going to be discussing a book that has been on my TBR for literally years. I have previously devoured another series by the same author a long time ago. I couldn’t even tell you when exactly, because it pre-dates my Goodreads account which I set up in December 2014.

As a refresher, Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

Shelf Control posts allow me to look in more depth at the books I have added to my TBR and listed as keepers in my Down the TBR Hole posts. It’s a great chance to talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I have actually deleted a few books doing this sweep. I don’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them. I’ve also gone on to read a couple of the earliest books on the list, so this mini-series is proving useful!

Shall we check out today’s featured book?

 

Red Sister – Mark Lawrence

Goodreads – Red Sister

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

 

Purchase Links – Amazon UK     Amazon US     Waterstones

 

My Thoughts…

Mark Lawrence is arguably the author that introduced me to dark fantasy/grimdark. His The Broken Empire series is absolutely fantastic. Whilst I can’t say for sure when I read them, I’m pretty sure I read them one after another in a short space of time. My favourite thing of the series is the main character, Jorg. He’s selfish, nasty and lands himself into trouble more often than not. He cannot be described as altruistic in the slightest, and yet I couldn’t help but get behind him. As readers, I think we are drawn to characters with blatant imperfections. Most people are quick to name their flaws than their talents. So, despite the nature of these characters, I think we see a little of ourselves in them and that’s what helps us bond to them.

From what I have read about Red Sister, it does have a different vibe to The Broken Empire series. That said, a nunnery teaching girls to become assassins sounds pretty damn amazing to me! The concept of magic and science combined, as well as the setting of the book, hold a lot of promise for me that this is a fantasy series I will love! I can’t wait to get stuck in!

Have you read Red Sister or any other books by Mark Lawrence? Would you recommend them? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Book Review: The War Within – Stephen Donaldson

I was very fortunate to receive a copy of The War Within by Stephen Donaldson last year from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. The synopsis caught my eye right away as something I would enjoy – and I did!

Before I could read The War Within though, I had to catch up with the first book in the series. I read Seventh Decimate in May last year when I found a copy at my library. If you haven’t checked out that review yet, catch up with the first instalment of the series here.

 

The War Within – Stephen Donaldson

Goodreads – The War Within

It has been twenty years since Prince Bifalt of Belleger discovered the Last Repository and the sorcerous knowledge hidden there. At the behest of the repository’s magisters, and in return for the restoration of sorcery to both kingdoms, the realms of Belleger and Amika ceased generations of war. Their alliance was sealed with the marriage of Bifalt to Estie, the crown princess of Amika. But the peace – and their marriage – has been uneasy.

Now the terrible war that King Bifalt and Queen Estie feared is coming. An ancient enemy has discovered the location of the Last Repository, and a mighty horde of dark forces is massing to attack the library and take the magical knowledge it guards. That horde will slaughter every man, woman, and child in its path, destroying both Belleger and Amika along the way.

With their alliance undermined by lingering hostility and conspiracies threatening, it will take all of the monarchs’ strength and will to inspire their people into defiance…

 

Purchase Links: Amazon UK     Amazon US     Waterstones

 

My Thoughts…

The War Within is on a completely different scale to Seventh Decimate. Where the first book in the series follows a very personal quest by Prince Bifalt to assure the safety of his nation, The War Within has a grander focus on the fictional world as a whole. A larger plotline and conflict involving multiple nations open this story up significantly, and with that, we are also introduced to multiple perspectives.

The War Within was a bit of a slow starter for me. Getting through the first quarter of the book (150 pages) took the longest. But, once I got that far, I read the rest of the book in a week. I think because this book was so different to the first, and set so much later, it took a bit of time for the author to fill in that time gap to get us up to speed with events in between. It also wasn’t what I expected based on the first book, but it actually turned out better once I got into it!

Books written in the third person and from multiple character viewpoints are my favourite. I find it’s easier to get a lot more depth about a character, setting etc without any bias. For fantasy novels where there isn’t any form of intrigue, I like that. Bias has its place and if written well can add to a story. It wouldn’t have really fit into this novel though.

As a result of the stressful situations Bifalt has had to deal with, he’s actually difficult to get on with. His demeanour has completely changed from the first book to the point where he isn’t all that likeable anymore. It’s fitting with what has happened and I like that the author hasn’t been too protective over his characters. Books that have you worry about what could happen are a lot more entertaining than ones where you feel characters are “safe” because they are the hero of the narrative.

I’m interested to see how the story concludes and the character conflicts resolve themselves. There is a lot of potential for an epic conclusion – let’s hope it’s delivered!

 

 

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***Please note this post contains affiliate links, meaning that I will earn a small commission on purchases made through them. If you like what you read and are interested in purchasing a copy of the book(s) featured in this post, please consider using these links and supporting a book blogger!
Thank you!***