Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the festive season and have jumped back into the new year with gusto! Here is my first week in review of 2018!
You will notice I’ve given the blog a makeover! I’ve been planning this for a while and I hope that you like it as much as I do!
I’m currently beta reading two books for author friends so I’ve slowed down on my normal reading a little while I work through those beauties, and beauties they are! I’ve also put my writing on hold while I work through these two books. My first book is also with my wonderful editor now as well and I’ve started working on her marketing strategy for her as part of the skills exchange we agreed to in lieu of financial payment.
I’ve hopefully got my asthma issues on the right path to being fixed now. I’ve been given a new inhaler which I’ve been told is particularly good for people with exercise induced asthma who do a lot of exercise, which apparently I qualify for these days! I’ve only been taking it a few days so we will see how it goes but I’m hopeful. I’m now running every day, and back to my classes, three per week and although the asthma is still kicking my butt I’m pushing through.
Yesterday I went to a taster day at a dance studio in Bristol, trying out things like pole dancing, burlesque, and chair dancing. I have never been good at dance, I have no co-ordination, I’m not flexible, and I have no rhythm at all, so I had no idea what this day would be like. Six classes down I’m aching like you wouldn’t believe and covered in bruises but I had so much fun. I can also confirm that I cannot twerk or pole dance to save my life but I was pretty good at burlesque and chair dancing…who’d have thunk it?!
It’s that time of the year again where I have to condense all of my reading into a list of ten. This has been a painful chore and I have agonised over the decisions made here, at the time of writing this I’ve read 203 books this year so narrowing this list to just 10 books is a painful endeavour. I could easily do ten books per genre I read!
There are books I’ve loved that I’ve had to leave off just because I only had ten spaces. Some of these have appeared in my most popular reviews over the last week which I think speaks for how they’ve appealed to a wider audience and that they have not just spoken to me individually. It would have been easy for me to only pick fantasy novels for this list because I find them so memorable, but I forced myself to look at the other genres I’ve read and picked my favourites from those as well. The Top 10 aren’t in a preference order, actually, I’ve put them in alphabetical order to keep things fair 😉
Allison’s Adventures in Underland by C.M. Stunich
This was a real last minute entry as I only read it roughly ten days ago, but it blew me away, it’s also one of two C.M. Stunich books which made it into this list. I have read more of her books this year than any other author so I guess it was inevitable that she would make a double appearance. Underland is a dark, warped, and very sexy shadow of the Wonderland we know from the childhood fairytale. This was basically my perfect retelling, I normally hate retellings, sometimes I think they are OK, but this one nailed it for me giving me all the dark and twisted ideas that run through my own head plus so many more. Stunich surprised me, wowed me, and teased me from cover to cover. I read it in one sitting because I couldn’t even contemplate putting it down and leaving these character and this world for even a minute.
This is an epic book, the main character in this book, Ryhalt is definitely more of an anti-hero. He’s not attractive, he’s an alcoholic, he swears too much, he fights too much and he leads a band of misfits. But my God, did I love this man. He may like to think of himself as going against the grain but he probably had the most attuned moral compass in the whole book. The worldbuilding in this book was vivid and sent you to some dark and lonely places. This was not a world you would want to end up in. You know how sometimes you can imagine living in a fantasy world, despite the wars and evil monsters? This was not one of them! I flew through this book, I loved it and I’m so pleased the story will be continuing with another book.
Wow, what can I say about this book, it’s dark, it’s bloody, it’s pretty much fantasy at it’s gruesome finest. Told from aprx 10 points of view (sorry can’t remember the exact number) we get to know the characters in this book intimately, and not just the good guys. Anna Stephens gets us closer to the bad guys as well, my favourite character in the book was one of the evilest characters and I’m literally chomping at the bit to see how his character develops in the next book. Not only does the book cause pain and suffering to almost every character on every page, with one of the most brutal torture scenes I’ve ever read, but THAT ENDING! Christ, it was one of the most epic cliffhangers I’ve ever read, it would take something huge to beat that I sat flicking my kindle into oblivion looking for more pages that just weren’t there, before I dissolved into fits of WTF, followed by distraughtly messaging Anna Stephens to make sure there was going to be a second book! (N.B. I’ve since met Anna in person and had a good chat with her and she now knows I’m not a complete loon…I think!)
This was my introduction to C.M. Stunich and reverse harem under the guise of reverse harem (I had read them before I just had never heard the term before). So much in this book touched home for me, I’m a rock chick, I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with bands (I used to do freelance music journalism), and I’ve got a lot of baggage in my past that screws with my head. As I started reading Lilith just got under my skin and I fell in love with her, her vulnerability her tenacity and also her free spirit. Then the guys in the band, each one of them an individual but together beautiful and strong. Her and them together it was just meant to be and the way that Stunich wrote it was just stunning, this is a book I will re-read over and over again. I was so deeply connected to these characters, their trauma, their pain, their longing, their love. This book touched me deep at my core and it’s not one I will ever forget.
Everybody needs to read this series, it’s as simple as that. If you like dragons, urban fantasy, and/or magic you just can’t afford to miss this series. Raising Fire is book two in the Ben Garston series, it was probably second in my list of most anticipated novels of the year, I was chomping at the bit to read it and bought it the day it was released. I was not disappointed, in fact it was far better than Chasing Embers because we got to see so much more of Ben’s vulnerabilities and that for me made his character grow and get under my skin even more (and if you’ve been following the saga you will know I’m completely in love with Ben Garston)! There is a lot of violence in this book, new characters, betrayal and some really interesting chinese mythology woven in.
Skullsworn is the first Brian Staveley novel I’ve read, I had no idea what to expect going in but to be gutted from the inside out was not it. Brian Staveley wove together a deeply harrowing fantasy novel which also drew on all those elements I love about romance novels and then left me a quivering wreck at the end. I don’t remember a fantasy novel ever leaving me feeling so emotionally broken before, the writing was exquisite, the world building had me living in the world with the characters and even now six months after reading it I think about that novel and the characters constantly. I will be fitting in some catch-up sessions for Brian Staveley’s back catalogue because I have definitely been depriving myself of this man’s work.
I had high hopes for The Lost Sentinel, actually, I had set my hopes unreasonably and unfairly high. It wasn’t possible for poor Suzanne Rogerson to meet what I was expecting from her second self-published work. Except she did. I sat down to read The Lost Sentinel and she blew my freakin’ mind! What appears on the surface to be straightforward quest fantasy is anything but. Suzanne Rogerson has woven a complex world of magic, treachory, and war. Yes, there is a quest, but there is so much more to this fantasy I got pulled in and became completely absorbed, tears running down my face as beloved characters are killed off and the unexpected just keeps happening. Suzanne Rogerson is masterful when it comes to sculpting a fantasy novel and waiting for the second book in this series is painful!
The Ninth Rain is the first part in a new series by Jen Williams and it didn’t disappoint. Giving us a new world, new characters, new creatures, and even aliens this book was everything I hoped for from Jen Williams and more. I finished and felt that lead weight of “oh hell now I have to wait a year for book two” because all I wanted was to pick up book two then and there. (I’ve just finished reading the ARC of book two and it was so worth waiting for 😉 review to follow in the new year.) I’ve said it before, I will say it again, my collection of Jen Williams books will continue to grow but her writing is addictive, you just want more of it. I would happily read her work 24/7, I love the pace, the flow, the style. It’s emotive and the worldbuilding blows my mind every single time. There is a reason this lady is my favourite Fantasy author, I just can’t get enough of her work!
Tate James came out of nowhere and knocked me on my ass. The Vixen’s Lead is a stunning paranormal/urban fantasy reverse harem and it has every single thing I would want from one of these novels. A kick-ass heroine in the form of Kit Davenport, student by day, master-thief known only as The Fox by night. Then there are her men, an unlikely group of ally’s who save her life and then step in to work with her. They include brothers and a geek (who I’m particularly fond of). The best thing is this is really slow burn so in this first book very little happens in terms of the romance side of things, the main story is being set up, there’s plenty of action and we get to know Kit. This is such a solid story and I was gutted when the book ended, I was just glad that I was a little late to the party so could download the second book straight away (which would have made it onto this list if I’d had space) and pre-order the third and fourth books…yes I may be a bit addicted!
It’s always hard to review a book by a friend, there’s that risk you won’t like it then you have to tell your friend you didn’t like their book (yeah I’ve been there), then you read one like Watching Glass Shatter and you finish it and think “how do I know somebody who can write something like this?” It’s awe-inspiring. Watching Glass Shatter is about a family facing grief, and their own secrets, five brothers and a mother trying to decide what to do with a devastating secret told to her in a letter in her husband’s will. As the secrets her sons hold unravel she has to decide what to do for the best of her sons and the family as a whole. I can’t remember a book affecting me like this one did. I sobbed for two hours solid as I finished the book, got through an entire box of tissues, and I felt as though each and every member of that family was connected to me. I loved them thoroughly, I felt their pain, their joy, and their grief.
Great week this week (hooray!) Monday was all about the books! I went to the Fantasy Faction Grim Gathering in Bath which turned out to be a blast, big up to Marc at Fantasy Faction for putting on a great event. On the panel was Peter V. Brett, Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, Peter Newman, and Anna Stephens. A pretty epic line up I have to say. Having just read and reviewed both Anna and Mark’s releases I was keen to get them signed and say Hi to them both.
The panel discussion was great, lots of talk around, what is grimdark, are their books actually grimdark and what does hope contribute to these books. It was a really interesting discussion and the authors were charismatic and funny. It was also interesting to see the breadth of answers between authors, especially around planning where some plan meticulously where others wing it and just write and see where the writing takes them.
Something quite random did happen, I got myself seated for the panel discussion, and someone came along and asked if they could get into the seat next to me. He got seated and started chatting with the guy on the other side and I thought to myself “he looks familiar” and I heard him mention his publisher to the guy he was talking to. So my head is spinning, thinking he can’t be who I think he looks like surely? Once the panel had finished I started talking to him and shock he was Ed McDonald and the guy he was talking to was sci-fi author Tom Toner.
We all ended up around the corner in a local pub and I had a great night chatting with everyone, there were some absolutely hilarious moments and lots of book talk. I got to meet seven authors, and hung out with four of them properly over drinks so an absolutely great night.
On Friday, I joined a few friends at a rock and metal club night. I used to go to this every Friday night back when I was a wee whipper snapper. This is the first time I’ve been out to a club since I stopped drinking so it was an interesting test of the sobriety. Turns out I had a fantastic time, lots of dancing, laughing, singing and drinking far too much lemonade. I was on quite the sugar high when I got home! I think the plan is for us to go to the next one they run just before Halloween which should be good, I might even dress up!
Here’s the bookish update for this week…
Book of the Month
This month’s winner is a no-brainer, I reviewed it this week but my love of the lead character and the fact I’ve been chomping at the bit to read it for almost a full year meant that it was almost guaranteed a slot in book of the month short of it being a complete flop! Raising Fire by James Bennett was actually better than I expected, completely propelling the main character on from the first book and taking the story onto a new level. An absolutely fantastic read!
Well, it was great taking a week off, my holiday was a bit of a wash out, literally as the tent flooded and we had to come home but these things happen and I’m just glad that we got some time out and managed to get some day trips in.
I’ve combined this update to show what I’ve been reading over the two weeks since my last update so there’s quite a lot here, or not considering it’s been two weeks!
Book of the Month
June was a great reading month for me and it has been really difficult to choose a book of the month, which is why I chose three! I know, I know and I’m sorry but these were three epic books and picking between them was torture so I just didn’t!
Skullsworn was the first novel I have read by Brian Staveley but I will definitely be going back and reading his previous work, it deeply affected me and aside from being a brutal and bloody epic fantasy it was also a heartbreaking read. The Lost Sentinel was the second novel by indie author Suzanne Rogerson, and after her first novel I had high hopes which she completely knocked out of the ballpark. This exceeded every expectation I had and was a superb start to a new series with characters that you become completely entwined with! Godblind is one of the most brutal books I’ve ever read, there are scenes in this book you will never forget. Anna Stephens writing is sublime and haunting and you just can’t stop reading it. There are some awesome characters but that ending, my God, that ending!
Well, what a glorious week! I have to say this weather really has brought out the best in me! I am sorry to all of you who turn into vampires and melt at the sight of the sun but I absolute adore this heat and the sun it’s really quite wonderful and I haven’t slept so well in ages. I hope now the temperature has dropped it doesn’t get all dark and gloomy again.
I started my new book feature on the mental health blog this week, it’s a monthly feature where I will review and spotlight a book with a mental health focus. This month was Boys Don’t Cry by Tim Grayburn. A book where Tim talks frankly and honestly about life with clinical depression, it’s well worth a look.
The TBR Topple book has also been decided and I don’t think it will be much of a surprise that the winner was The Gunslinger by Stephen King, I will be reading it next week so expect a review early July.
I’ll be away for a week after this, I’m heading to Cornwall with the tent and Hubs. I’m hoping to get in plenty of reading time though so will be battling to catch up on the reviews when I get home. There will be one blog tour posting during the week as I signed up before I knew I was going away but otherwise things will be very quiet here.
So, onto my bookish update this week…
What I’ve Read
As though I don’t have enough problems with willpower, I signed up to Kindle Unlimited! I’m doomed!
There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. The Dark Lady and her horde dealt in death and blood and fire.
That time has long since passed and the neighbouring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. The only blood spilled is confined to the border where vigilantes known as Wolves protect their kin and territory at any cost.
But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable.
Vulnerable to the blood-thirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains…
The Red Gods used to rule, it’s been almost 1000 years since The Light Gods banished them and the world became more “civilised”. But The Red Gods are ready to return and seek vengeance and they have an army to help them do it.
This novel is told from different points of view, but there are an awful lot of them to get used to. A whole list and I’m not even going to attempt trying to introduce them all to you here, what I will do is introduce you to the one’s who I felt most drawn to, or who I felt played significant roles.
Corvus is King of Mireces in Eagle Height, the Mireces worship The Red Gods and they are determined to see the Gods brought back to their glory. Now I think I was supposed to not like Corvus, the evil slayer who is set on slaughtering as many as possible but I was immensely drawn to him. I could happily have just followed him for the entire book watching him kill people. I think that probably says way too much about me but anyway! In a book like this you have characters you hold close and pray nothing bad will happen to them and Corvus was a big one for me. I really wanted him to keep his head!
Rillirin is an escaped Mirecean slave but also Corvus’ younger sister (because that’s not complicated!) She’s ended up with the Wolves, who are teaching her to fight so she can fight the Mireces and her brother. I really loved that this girl who had been through essentially torture had so much gumption, she was also very caring and loving, reading her passages were always immensely moving.
Dom is the Wolf who found and rescued RIllirin and is now protecting her, he is also the Wolves Calestar meaning he gets visions of the future and is able to warn them of things that will happen. With the war coming this is pretty handy and a darn nightmare for the poor guy who is being haunted by horrific visions. Dom was your quintessential nice guy except he knows how to fight, what with it being a fantasy novel and all!
Crys is a captain in the army and on the surface is a fun time guy but there are some real hidden depths to this character which we get to scratch the surface of as the novel progresses. He develops a friendship with one of the princes which was unexpected and one of the things that triggers us learning so much more about him. I loved this character dearly he has so much strength and intensity but he’s also immensely vulnerable.
The writing throughout is passionate, and vibrant. This book despite having little standard world building instead focusing on the characterisation and dialogue, to drive the story doesn’t lack at all. What it does have in bucket loads though is gore and violence and I have to say there were moments where I had to hold my stomach contents in, one torture scene in particular I don’t think I will ever get out of my head.
I’ve read a lot of shit over the years about how women can’t write the hard stuff in Fantasy. Those asshats need to pick this book up because if there’s one thing Anna Stephens does it’s give every single one of them the finger big, loud and proud proving once and for all that women can write fantasy just as brutal and bloody and riveting as any man.
I hated how this book finished, I was not ready to finish reading and it was definitely one of those times where I kind of wish I’d waited until all three books were out so I could just binge them because waiting almost a year for the second book is going to be a torture all of it’s own!
A huge thanks to Anna Stephens and Harper Voyager for sending me the eARC via NetGalley so that I could read and honestly review this book.
It’s been a fairly quiet week this week recovering from my surgery and slowly getting back onto my feet. It’s given me plenty of reading time though so I’m pleased with that!
There are still a couple of days left to vote in the TBR Topple poll if you haven’t already. This will determine which book from my TBR I have to read this month! The new poll will start the beginning of July.
So, onto my bookish update this week…
What I’ve Read
I’m very pleased as one of these is one I’ve had on my TBR for almost a decade! It finally got taken from the shelf and I read it really quickly…just goes to show what taking that leap can do!
It’s official I have no willpower, no, none at all!