The Qwillery | category: SPFBO2


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Melanie's Week in Review - August 28, 2016

 Melanie's Week in Review - August 28, 2016

This is a unique WIR as I am writing it 10,000 metres in the air. I am writing this on my flight over to Canada going to my nephew's wedding. I didn't want you to miss out finding out what I read this week. So what did I read?

I was back to reading books from SPFBO 2016 and I am going to start with the book I enjoyed the most. I have found it interesting how many of the books that I have read during this contest are written for younger readers. I wonder why that is. Could it be that newer authors think that it is easier to market to tweens and teens or that they think it is easier to write for this audience. Anyway musing over.

 Melanie's Week in Review - August 28, 2016
The book I read that I enjoyed the most this week was The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree by Birgitte Rasine. The story is set in Guatemala where the eleven year old Max is on trip with his parents who are researching the local bee population. It's not long before Max befriends the local girl Ixtal and learns more about her community, the rainforest and more importantly about the cacao bean and chocolate production. After a few minor adventures Max and Ixtal end up angering one of the mystical beings of the rainforest when they inadvertently disrupt one of the ceremonies the elders perform to celebrate the cacao bean. Max, Ixtal and their new rainforest friends have placate the local gods before the cacao harvest is destroyed.

It is was obvious that the The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree was a labour of love for the author as it was so well researched and very well written. I did think it was a bit slow in parts and perhaps written is a more mature voice than what an 11 year old would have but I did enjoy it. I also enjoyed the free Spanish lessons that the author provided and the history lesson on the origins of chocolate.

 Melanie's Week in Review - August 28, 2016
Book 2 was Tayta's Return by Teagan Kearney. This was the story of the orphaned Tayta who was raised by her aunt. When the aunt takes ill with a mystery disease Tayta has to spend a lot of time in the hospital and in the company of the vampire Vance, who she hates. As the story progresses we learn that Tatya has special abilities that a part demon/vampire wants for himself. Tatya must team up with Vanse in order save herself from becoming the demons's slave.

I can't really say I enjoyed this book. It was a mix of boring and stereotypical. The protagonists were all very uninspiring and quite weak. Tatya flipped from hating vampires one minute to loving them the next. It felt like the author picked bits from different vampires novels and tried to mix them together. Everything seemed too familiar and quite frankly dull.

 Melanie's Week in Review - August 28, 2016
I am sorry to say that my third book Sebasten of Atlantis and the Forgotten Goddess by Olivier Delaye was a DNF. Again this was fantasy for a younger reader but this time neither the main character or setting captured my attention. I got 50% through but couldn't face finishing it. I think that SPFBO has impacted my ability to finish books that don't engage early on. I just can't rationalise spending time reading books I don't enjoy. Perhaps if I was a younger reader I may have enjoyed this story.

That is it for me this week. I will be missing next week definitely as I won't get much read next week and can't excuse myself from the wedding to write a post. I know crazy! Until next time Happy Reading!

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo

Trinitytwo / Tracey reviews 5 of the novels that The Qwillery is assigned for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016.  With the exception of a few novels that we knocked out early upon a read of the first few chapters we are reading all of the novels though some end up not fully read even after initial interest. We will recap all of this in a post announcing the novel we are putting through .... soon.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
A Facet for the Gem
The Tale of Eaglefriend - Book One
by C. L. Murray

Orphaned and unwanted, sixteen year old Morlen has never fit in with the citizens of Korindelf. Morlen's one unlikely friend is the king's advisor, the wizard Nottleforf. As Morlen prepares to leave his birth city behind, the unthinkable occurs. The dying king learns of his son Felkoth's many treacheries against his kingdom and their loyal allies, the Eaglemasters. The king denies him the crown and the depth of Felkoth's malevolence is revealed. Felkoth seeks the mystical powers of the Goldshard to secure his bid for absolute power but is enraged to discover that Nottleforf has beat him to the prize. Before Felkoth can recover the shard, Nottleforf entrusts it into Morlen's care and helps him to escape to the magical Forbidden Isle. it is only when Morlen reaches the Forbidden Isle that his quest to discover his true self can begin. Meanwhile, Felkoth's tyranny has only begun.

C.L. Murray's tale of a young man fleeing for his life and running straight into the arms of destiny is a top notch epic fantasy adventure. Morlen is a likeable hero whose strengths and weaknesses hit all the right marks. The villain, Felkoth is the quintessential megalomaniac. Each heinous act he perpetrates adds to the desperateness of the hero's situation and greatly accelerates the plot. The budding friendship between Morlen and the eagle Roftome is a definite highlight . I also enjoyed learning the secrets of both Morlen's and Felkoth's heritage. My biggest complaint is that there is only one strong female character and although I admire Valeine's bravery, I didn't really connect to her.

I enjoyed the mythos of Murray's world and learning about some of its history. Packed with marvelous creatures, exciting action sequences and a journey of self-discovery, I wholeheartedly recommend A Facet for the Gem to any lover of fantasy.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
Dance of the Goblins
Goblin Series Book One
by Jaq D Hawkins

In a post apocalyptic world, humankind reacts violently when it is discovered that goblins live close by. Fear and blind hatred breed an angry mob that sets out to eradicate the presumed goblin threat. Only Count Anton and his community of magicians seeks to maintain peaceful relations with the goblin race. Count Anton works with goblins Hagruf and Talla to prevent a prophesy of potential death and destruction for all. Only by working together can they bring a balance and an understanding between the two races.

Dance of the Goblins piqued my interest with the promise of Goblin mythology. Hawkins sprinkled her story with information of their habits, ethics and way of life that captured my imagination. I was delighted to learn that there are more than one type of goblin and how each type fits into the goblin society. However, as the story progressed, Hawkins became preachy about humanity's endless list of faults. Hawkins' endless call outs of the human race for their arrogance, vanity, disrespect of women, and worshiping a sterile God, just to name a few, made for some tedious reading.

Count Anton was a bit too perfect for my tastes. A handsome, powerful shape shifter, he is one of the only reasonable humans in a world tainted by ignorance. I rooted for his endeavors but didn't feel much of a connection. The goblins, as I believe the author intended, were more to my liking and I enjoyed reading about Hagruf's and Talla's back stories immensely.

Dance of the Goblins has some interesting themes but because I felt bombarded with a constant negativity toward the human race, it raised my hackles. Although this is the only fault I find with this story, for me it is a major one. I enjoyed Hawkins' goblin history and really liked the fact that out of the three main POV's, only one was human. Unfortunately, I was not drawn into the dance but there were moments when I enjoyed it just the same.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
The Mighty
Book One of The Druid's Guise
by Michael J Sanford

Fifteen year old Wyatt is unique because he lives in two worlds. On Earth, Wyatt's grandmother and caretaker is hospitalized and he is sent to Shepherd's Crook, an institution for troubled children. He avoids dealing with the trauma of his situation by immersing himself in his imagination, naming himself Wyatt the Mighty and hurling fireballs, lightning, and ice spears at his enemies. Life is unbearable, until with the help of his pendant made of jade and driftwood, Wyatt is mysteriously transported to Hagion, a world where magic abounds. But Hagion is dangerous and Wyatt finds himself in peril almost immediately upon his arrival. Rescued by Rozen, a female warrior of the Draygan race, he is befriended by Mareck and Gareck, a duo from a benign race called the Children. As they teach Wyatt about his new environment and the ways of the Mother, Wyatt learns firsthand about the violent reign of the brutal Regency and boldly vows to free Hagion's inhabitants from their cruelty. For all Wyatt's blustering and assurances of his magical Druid's power, he is still a clumsy fifteen year old; can he really save them?

I feel somewhat ambivalent about The Mighty. The protagonist, Wyatt is not very likeable. I found it difficult to feel sympathy for him, and his habit of sloppy smiles and pushing up his glasses irritated me. However, I kept reading because I wanted to know what was really going on with this troubled teen. Sanford's technique of allowing the reader only brief glimpses into Wyatt's earthly situation will appeal to mystery lovers. Wyatt is clearly emotionally disturbed but although The Mighty contains numerous clues, Sanford leaves unanswered the very real question of Wyatt's sanity

I also really liked Wyatt's odd assortment of friends when he was transported to Hagion. Sanford's characters are really well written and practically burst from the pages. Although I didn't find Wyatt likeable, he was three dimensional. I also enjoyed the cast of supporting characters who were diverse and interesting. The gradual blossoming of Wyatt's relationship with his newfound friends as they encountered a multitude of obstacles on their quest is near perfect.

Problematic are the transitions from chapter to chapter. I was often confused and had to reread passages to figure out where Wyatt was or how he got into certain situations. I feel that some of this is intentional but at other times is not. The story is largely dark and rape, suicide, and mental illness are some of the stronger issues that make up this tale. I would only recommend this YA to older teens as I feel it's too disturbing for younger readers.

The Mighty reminds me of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story but without the emotional connection to Wyatt that I felt with Bastian. As this is only book one I am not sure where Sanford is taking Wyatt, but I fear that the story will get even darker and sadder. Frankly, I'm still on the fence about whether to continue reading future books in the series.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
The Music Box Girl
by K. A. Stewart

The Music Box Girl opens as a young man seeks his fortune at the famous Detroit Opera House. Tony is grateful to be hired as a stagehand but he aspires to one day sing on stage. A mysterious cloaked woman promises to give him voice lessons with the stipulation that she remains anonymous. Tony agrees, believing her to be the mysterious ghost that the other stagehands have warned him about. Though odd, Melody's musical knowledge and talent is undeniable and he honors her request as he hones his skill. Tony gets his big break when the temperamental star tenor walks out on the production and he triumphantly steps in. Bess, a close friend from Tony's childhood, happens to be in the audience and the two quickly get reacquainted much to his tutor's displeasure. This complication begins a series of events leading to mayhem, murder and a mechanical monster.

The Music Box Girl is a delightful steampunk adventure that features a few of my favorite things: secret passages, automatons, a dirigible, and a very interesting love triangle. Tony, the would-be tenor, is a genuinely good guy with a heart of gold. He has strong feelings for both the dangerously single-minded Melody, and Bess, the bold explorer. Stewart's third person narrative showcases these characters' wildly diverse motivations and left me hard-pressed to pick a favorite.

There are plenty of action sequences that ramp up the excitement. My favorite is a game of cat and mouse in the many secret passages of the old opera house. Stewart's antagonist garners some sympathy which, coupled with the entertaining descriptions of the backstage antics and inner workings of the opera house, serve to enhance the complexity of the plot. I highly recommend The Music Box Girl; it's a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable adventure that I found difficult to put down.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
Yesterday's Prince
By HD Lynn

Yesterday's Prince intrigued me with its opening. While on campaign against his uncle, the wizard Arniel Gains, prince Uther wakes disoriented and tied up in an unfamiliar marshland. As he struggles to escape his bonds, he is discovered by one of his loyal soldiers, yet Brinn looks upon him with hatred. Confused, he chances to glimpse his reflection in the water and realizes he has been somehow cursed to inhabit his uncle's body. Brinn attempts to take him back to camp for execution but the fae intercede on his behalf. He is brought to the home of Malmordra, a fae of exceptional powers, to recover. But how does one recover from a curse?

Yesterday's Prince is a solid fantasy. Lynn does a good job of conveying Uther's range of emotions. Trapped in his uncle's body, he alternates between being scared, frustrated, angry and full of despair. I like the idea of a curse that forces the young prince into his uncle's much older body and allows Arniel to inhabit his nephew's form and easily rule in Uther's stead. Uther's best friend Septimus is also a wizard and although young and nowhere near as powerful as Arniel, he is smart enough to realize that something is wrong. At the start of the story, Septimus is interesting and well-rounded but unfortunately as the story progresses he becomes rather flat and predictable.

There are some continuity problems as Septimus starts out as a wizard who is afraid to perform real magic but once in danger leaps full bore into some pretty grisly blood magic. His spells compel other humans to essentially become his puppets. Lynn mentions at one point near the end of the book what a powerful wizard Septimus is which confused me. When did that happen? Yesterday's Prince needs a bit more editing as typos also abound.

The parts that really drew me in and kept me reading are Uther's interactions with the fae. Malmordra and her daughters and their nonhuman way of thinking kept me entertained and turning pages. I hope Lynn plans on revealing Malmordra's past association with Arniel which is alluded to often in the course of the story. I am also quite attached to the goblin, whom Uther names Rosebud, and think that her relationship with the cursed prince is simply adorable.

Yesterday's Prince has some great fantasy elements and I think readers will root for Uther and his companions. Regrettably, the story lost steam near the end and didn't have much in the way of resolution. However, it shows promise and I'm definitely interested in reading about Uther's further adventures after some of the editing problems get worked out.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016

Hello everyone. I hope you are having a great summer. My family keep sending me emails saying how hot they are with the temperatures in the 30C (86F) while we are not enjoying the glumest, coolest summer in years. I am writing this on one of the only days I have been able to comfortably wear shorts all day.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016
I am still very busy reading self published fantasy for SPFBO but decided to have a read of last year's winner Michael McClung's The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids which won the first SPFBO and is now published by Ragnarok Publications. I really enjoyed the story of Amra Thetys, the thief with a heart. When Amra's friend and fellow thief Corbin leaves her with an ugly toad-like statue right before being brutally murdered. Amra decides to get revenge for her friend. This isn't an easy task especially when she discovers what and who she is up against. Sorcery, magic and a great murder mystery all rolled up into this first instalment of the Amra Thetys series.

It was a relief to read an originally self-published book that I actually enjoyed since I have not had much luck with the ones I have read for SPFBO2016. Amra is a great character and despite the fact that she is part of the criminal element she does live by a strong moral code and dedicated to her friends. There are a number of great characters in this story and McClung has created an interesting world/society for Amra to live in. In fact, I am hard pressed to say anything negative about this book. It was only a few minutes after finishing instalment one that I had instalment two downloaded

Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016
The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye starts not long after the events of book 1. The gods are looking for a hero....and basically to mess around with a couple of humans and look no farther than the thief Amra and her mage friend Holgren. Amra agrees to help Holgren search for the lost city of Thagoth to find the secret to immortality. Waiting for them in the lost city are the twin gods Tha Agoth and Anthagos whose elicit affair is as damaging as it is dangerous. Amra and Holgren might be pawns of the gods but when a mad sorcerer wants to use the twins to gain enough power to take over the world the thief and the mage know exactly what they need to do....whatever the risk.

I enjoyed book 2 as much as book 1 and despite its rather more serious tone it was quite amusing in parts. We also got to learn more of Amra's past and how she came to be a thief. There was also a significant development in Amra and Holgren's relationship that helped to make these two more believable as characters. This instalment was a lot more fantasy than book 1 but just as enjoyable. I enjoyed it so much that I was really looking forward to piling into to book 3, The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate, and I will have a review copy soon!

Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016
Back to SPFBO2016 and I picked up Purge of Ashes by Joel Minty. I am afraid dear reader that I didn't make it past page 20 of this high fantasy story. I tried to give it a go as I don't like giving up on a book after so few pages but I couldn't do it. Purge of Ashes was not the book for me.  I don't enjoy flowery, verbose prose, 10+ main characters or short stilted chapters in which you have no clue what is going on.  This is a DNF for me.

That is it for me this week. I have 1 more book for this round of the SPFBO and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I like it. Come back next week and see what I thought but until then Happy Reading.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 10, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - July 10, 2016

Hello folks.  Hope you had a good week. I am quite surprised at the number of books I was able to read this week. Some were better than others and some shorter than others but I am still pretty chuffed at what I was able to read. I am however only going to tell you about 2 of them.  I read one more book from the SPFBO 2016 that I need to tell you about and another I read a few weeks ago and forgot about (forgetful Melanie!). So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - July 10, 2016
I read Urban Witch by R.L. Giddings who submitted this book to SPFBO 2016 but if I am honest (and I try to be) I wish they hadn't. Read on to find out why. Urban Witch tells the story of Bronte who finds herself moving into a new flat after starting a new job at The Bear Garden. What she doesn't realise is that she will soon be embroiled in a murder mystery that puts herself and many others at risk. She needs to find an ancient relic before it falls into the wrong hands and time is ticking.

I try to balance my reviews and for every negative I try to find something positive - interesting characters, good plot device, interesting world view....something! It is a challenge for me to find something positive about Urban Witch as I just found it a bit too bland and uninteresting. I felt the story, the characters and the dialogue were unchallenging and immature. Several pages were dedicated to Bronte getting the keys to her new flat. I couldn't really understand why the author would find this interesting. I also didn't think the story flowed that well from chapter to chapter and the ending had a huge hole in it - so big that a character who had died actually turned up on the last page with no explanation as to why.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 10, 2016
The second book I want to tell you about is The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle. I actually read this book a few week ago and got caught up in SPFBO and forgot to tell you about it. Tuttle tells the story of Miss Lane who finds herself disillusioned with the Physical Society and as a consequence leaves their employ. With no job and no prospects of finding one she lands in London and on the doorstep of Jasper Jesperson a wannbe detective. Miss Lane is desperate for work so joins Mr. Jesperson as his assistant. Their first case - and possibly their last - involves a somnambulist (a sleep walker for those who don't know...I didn't) and disappearances in London's psychic community. It's a perilous journey ahead for these two budding detectives and luck may not be on their side. Like any good mystery you need to read it yourself to find out 'who dunnit'.

Overall, I thought this book was a solid 'ok'. I was neither gripped nor really bored. I did think it dragged in a few places but rather like Miss Lane, Jasper Jesperson was a bit 'wet'. For those who aren't acquainted with this British saying it means that someone is dull. I did guess who the baddy was and how the plot would work out. I think if I had written this review a few weeks ago I don't think I would have been so generous with my review but in comparison to some of the books I have read recently then this was a a best seller in comparison.

That is it for me this week. Short and sweet! I have an couple of excellent books to tell you about next week so stay tuned. Until then Happy Reading!

Melanie's Week in Review - July 3, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - July 3, 2016

Happy belated Canada Day to my fellow Canadians and happy Independence Day (4th July not the movie!) to all my American friends. I hope that everyone had/has wonderful celebrations. I had a mini celebration this week as the two final books I read for SPFBO2016 were OK. Hurrah! If you read my WIR last week you would know that I didn't have that much success with the books that I read. This week it was much better. So what did I read and what did I think?

Melanie's Week in Review - July 3, 2016
The Berserk Beast by R. Mountebank is the first in the Tales of the Horn series. Mary Horn hates her mundane life stuck in a town that she can't escape from. Reviled by the other teenagers in the town and ignored from her eccentric father Mary has a very lonely life. She is delighted when her brother returns home with a very pregnant wife in tow and close behind them the means to escape her lonely life. However, the escape from the monotony of her life came with a big price when she sacrifice her freedom by becoming the slave of the 'Old Man' in an underbelly of the evil sorcerer's shop. Mary learns some hard truths not just about herself but about her family and being bored doesn't seem such a bad thing as she starts to morph into a monster caused by the Old Man's evil magics. Mary needs to escape before she becomes unrecognisable and before she becomes another of the Old Man's victims.

I quite enjoyed Mountebank's tale and while I didn't really like Mary I thought she was an amusing character.  Mountebank a wonderful imagination and really demonstrated an ability for story telling and world building in his description of the Old Man's shop and the creatures that served him.  Mary's behaviour, actions and dialogue was very true to life - the typical teenager in a very atypical setting. I loved the scenes where she turned into a berserker or as Mountebanks describes her  - ungirl. Mountebank includes nearly every mythical, fantasy and god-like race going.  There were faeries, fomorians, werewolves, elves, Norse gods and even Romulus and Remus (from Roman mythology). There was a war brewing between the various races and Mary is right in the middle of it unfolding. While I enjoyed reading The Berserk Beast I think it did suffer from too many characters (and in fact races). The mix of mythical characters with the various pagan gods seemed too much. It felt that Mountebank was trying to wedge too many races in just to ensure that no one got missed out. This detracted a bit from the story overall. I am tempted to continue this series but not exactly waiting in anticipation for book 2.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 3, 2016
I also managed to finish Alan Ratcliffe's Dawn of the Dreamsmith which is the first in The Raven's Tale series. The story is told mainly through Cole, a young man with the ability to enter another's dreams is on the run, across the Empire trying to save it's people from a murderous cult that are killing and enslaving it's people. Early in his journey he meets the mysterious Raven who has a mission of her own - to get vengeance for her father who was murdered in front of her by this same cult. Together they make an uneasy alliance on this epic journey that takes them to places that even the bravest soldiers in the land fear to go.

Overall, I would say that I liked this story but didn't love it. I quite liked Cole and Raven as characters but I found the story a bit dis-jointed. The book started with Raven as a young girl and describes the events where her village is pillaged, her community either killed or enslaved and her father killed but it didn't return to her POV. I thought that she was the more interesting of the two characters yet we learn relatively little about her in comparison to some of the other characters. I also didn't think that the story moved that smoothly between different characters, different locations or different time periods. This necessitated a couple of re-reads as I tried to figure out where I was. This wasn't helped by my choice of format - note to self - don't try to read a Word doc on your phone. Every mis-swipe of my pudgy fingers had Word thinking I wanted to do a spell check, delete a sentence or two or close the document.  I was forever losing my place. This of course, wasn't the author's fault but invariably it did make it a bit more challenging to get into. I thought this could have been a really good story with a bit of polish and maybe a bit of editing.

That is it for me for this week. I am looking forward to getting a few books off my TBR shelf so fingers crossed I have some quality reading time. Until next week Happy Reading.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016

I think I am going to re-name this post Melanie's Week Reading Self Published Fantasy for the #SPFBO2016. Reading for the blog off and being depressed over the referendum result took up almost my whole week.  So what did I read and what did I think?

Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016
I am going to start with the book I liked the most out of the four I read this week. Call of Kythshire tells the story of the young Azaeli who has trained for years to become one of the knight of the King's elite guard. After a fairly simple mission goes wrong with tragic results Azaeli is determined to solve the mystery that threatens to destroy the peace that the kingdom has enjoyed for centuries. Travelling with her on this quest is her best friend the mage apprentice Rian and a teeny tiny fairy called Flitt.

I thought that Missy Sheldrake had written a compelling story for a specific age group  - specifically 12-14 year olds. While I have enjoyed fantasy for younger readers I found that Azaeli and friends were just a bit immature and the plotline a bit too 'cheesy'. I didn't feel it was helped by Sheldrake's illustrations that were included at the end of several chapters. Normally, I like a few illustrations but I just found the ones in Call of Kythshire a bit too cartoonish to enhance the story. Overall, Sheldrake's story was well written and she is skilled at world building. I think this book would be a big hit with tweenies.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016
If you like fairy tales with a twist then The Seventh Magpie by Nancy Chase is the book for you. Princess Catrin is given a bejewelled book by her mother right before her father sends her away to live in a monastery to grow up. Her mother warns her never to lose the book or she will die. It doesn't take much to guess what happens next - Princess Catrin loses the book (although several years later). Desperate to avoid her fate she embarks on a quest to solve 7 riddles to uncover the seventh magpie. With every riddle Catrin has to risk a bit more and sacrifice a bit more....but is it really worth it? I will leave this with you to decide.

I really enjoyed the riddles the magpie sets for Catrin. They were really hard and the journey that Catrin undertakes is epic indeed. Chase crafted a superb fairy tale but I won't say this is an easy read. Catrin is very much the helpless, innocent who needs a man to come save her and I don't think that her parents exhibited that much in the way of parenting skills. All in all it was a good read right up until the ending which I thought was a let down.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016
Book 3 was The Curse of the Zwilling by Don Sakers which was set in a small town university. After the death of one of the teachers it is left up to a grad student and 4 other students to figure out what has happened and why a malevolent force is after the Department of Comparative Religion's magical artifacts. Enter David and his Scooby gang to solve the mystery and protect their community against the Zwilling.

This may sound harsh but The Curse of the Zwilling is one of those books that it is evident why it was self published. After a rather dramatic first chapter or two the story descends into verbose dialogue, poor characterisation and some rather ridiculous plot points. This is one of those stories that I was pretty convinced the author used a thesaurus to help them. For example, a teenager doesn't clench their 'viscera' - clench their stomach maybe but viscera - no way! To budding authors who want to self publish please do your research and if you need to veer from traditional explanations for events (such as traditional werewolf lore) then please make sure they make sense. This was pretty close to a DNF for me but I preserved but did a lot of skim reading, I will confess.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016
In Raingun Rick Rivoire is one of the magical elite cavalry who can conjure horses made out of smoke. Rick finds that he cannot justify protecting the aristocracy who support slavery and tyranny however, he is determined to emulate the brave soldier Temez who saved him when he was a young boy. Raingun is largely about Rick's fight with his own conscience as much as is a fight against monsters and evil.

I was really drawn into this story in the first two - three chapters. Blackport created an interesting world with the Raingun, the smokemares and people who lose one of their 'gifts' when they reincarnate. Unfortunately, Blackport wasn't able to keep my attention for the duration of the story and I felt it really dragged. Blackport attempted to make Rick well rounded as a character by going back into his past and telling the story of how he became a Raingun after he was was saved by Temez when he was just a boy. I wish that Blackport had chosen to do this chronologically as it was really disjointed to go forward and back in time without there being a triggering event. Overall, this was a book with a number of great concepts but it just wasn't executed in a very interesting way.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016
My final book in my week of self published fantasy was The Lament of Sky by B.B. Wynter. Unfortunately, this is one of my very few DNFs. I really tried to get involved in this story but it was far to convoluted and confusing. Even a few chapters in I still had no clue what was going on or who any the characters were. I found myself having to re-read the first couple of chapters a few times in an attempt to figure it out and when I couldn't I gave up. Sorry folks, this doesn't happen very often.

That is it for me this week. Wish me luck with the remaining books of SPFBO2016. Until next week Happy Reading.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 19, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - June 19, 2016

Hello readers.  I hope you didn't miss me too much since my last WIR post on the 5th June! I did leave you with a review of Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley last week so hopefully that was a suitable replacement.  I haven't been doing as much travelling recently so my ability to read has dwindled a bit but I have plans to pick up the pace over the next few weeks. Enough of the excuses. What did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - June 19, 2016
Amazon very helpfully suggested a new series for me - The Dark Arts by Bec McMaster. Shadowbound, book number 1 in the series, has been released and as I have been reading her London Steampunk series I thought I would give this new one a go.

Shadowbound is described as a Victoriana paranormal romance but for at least the first half it verged more into erotica than romance. The story starts when the lovely Miss Ianthe Martin gains the release of the equally handsome Lucien,  Earl of Rathborne, from Bedlam. She needs his help and his magical abilities to track down a magical relic that has the power to wreak death and destruction across London. Lucien isn't that inclined to help Ianthe as she was the person who put him in Bedlam the year before, after he summoned a demon that killed his father and seriously injured the Prime (head of their magical order). In order to gain his help Ianthe and Lucien make a blood pact that he will help her during the day and he will help himself to Ianthe during the night. This makes for a steamy start to the novel which leads them on the quest for the relic before everything and everyone they loved are victims of its power when in the wrong hands.

I thought that Shadowbound was OK. Despite the fact I have read McMaster's London Steampunk series which has quite a bit of sex in it there is usually some form of 'stop it I love it' that happens first. I think the sex happened way too early in the story to give the later romance much credibility. Ianthe was supposed to be strong and upstanding yet she allows herself to be treated like an object for Lucien's revenge. I thought that as the story progressed that their relationship improved and as a result they became more two dimensional. The story ends on a cliffhanger with a teaser epilogue which felt rushed to me as what happens to two of the characters doesn't make sense. I can't say more without giving the plot away so you will have to read the book to see if you agree with me.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 19, 2016
The Qwillery is very honoured to be part of Mark Lawrence's Self Published Fantasy Blog Off 2016 and I have been reading through some of the entries. I am going to tell you about Aneeka Richins' The Wanted Child. This is the first instalment of the Chaos Gods series which tells the story of the fifteen year old Ki who in order to save her parents becomes a servant of the fallen god Tavk. She has to complete all of his missions and the final one may well and truly be her final one. She is sent to be a the trainer for De, the handsome 18 year old who is fated to be the Hero of the gods. He is also fated to kill 'the wanted child' who is none other than Ki. Caught by her pledge to save her parents Ki is signing her own death warrant by training De.

The Wanted Child is definitely written for the younger reader and I normally enjoy youth fiction as I have read a number of great books in this genre before. I didn't however, enjoy reading Richins' tale of Ki and the fallen gods.  It was almost 50% of the way into the book that we learn anything about the fallen lands, any of the other lands and why Ki's parents need protection. This made it very difficult to get into the story and understand why Ki was in the situation she was in. I never really understood why Ki was the only one who could save her parents and why as fifteen year old she was the only one who could attempt it. She didn't come across as being a credible heroine (or anti-heroine) and De was portrayed as very immature and innocent. The dialogue and characterisation really reminded me of a video game by Bioware called The Jade Empire. It was one of the first RPGs that Bioware developed and the plot-line was very linear, the characters one dimensional and the dialogue fairly basic. I quit playing part way through as it was just a bit boring after playing some of their more developed and sophisticated games. Perhaps if I was a teenager I would have appreciated Ki as a character a bit better but as an adult she just wasn't well written enough to keep my interest and helped me to engage with her struggle to win her parents freedom.

That is all for me this week. I plan to be able to tell you a bit more about the books from SPFBO 2016 next week. Until then Happy Reading.

 Melanie's Week in Review - August 28, 2016SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by TrinitytwoMelanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016Melanie's Week in Review - July 10, 2016Melanie's Week in Review - July 3, 2016Melanie's Week in Review - June 26, 2016Melanie's Week in Review - June 19, 2016

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