The Qwillery | category: SPFBO2016


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!

Melanie's Week in Review - July 24, 2016

Melanie's Week in Review - July 24, 2016

I am sure you will be glad to know that summer has landed in the UK. This week was 'scorchio'. Tuesday and Wednesday had temperatures in the 30Cs. It was fantastic. Maybe not so fantastic on the tube but I refuse to complain after so many weeks of grey, gloomy days with rain, rain and more rain. This lovely weather meant that I got to spend some time outside reading and watching back to back episodes of Grace and Frankie which I think it is hilarious. So what did I read in the sunshine?

Melanie's Week in Review - July 24, 2016
It was another book from SPFBO2016 with Shadows Bear No Names (The Blackened Prophecy Part 1) by Oganalp Canatan. This was a bit of a change for me as it was science fiction and all of the other books I have been reading for this competition have been fantasy. I quite enjoyed this change in genre and the tale of the reluctant hero Ray.
Ray just wants to live his ordinary life as a freighter captain delivering goods around the Consortium but fate has other ideas. After the loss of his crew and the destruction of his ship Ray is determined that he must make amends. However, an elderly priest is just as determined that Ray fulfills his destiny as the new found saviour of mankind. Meanwhile a covert organisation has infiltrated the Consortium and one of it's special agents is on the hunt for Ray. Flight and fight across the galaxy as Ray tries to escape his destiny and not get murdered in the meantime, all in the backdrop of an alien race trying to take over the universe. A hair raising science fiction adventure with a dash of Indiana Jones and healthy sprinkling of Star Trek Voyager.

I quite enjoyed Shadows Bear No Names which is pretty good going for me as I don't always enjoy reading science fiction. I thought that Ray was a believable character and thought he was well supported by Brother Cavill, Sarah and the ancient Ga'an. I also thought that the alien invasion plotline and search for the tools to banish them from the galaxy was interesting. This was a sound debut novel and well done to Canatan. Where I thought it needed improvement was during the battles scenes. These were just too long and I found myself partaking in a bit of skim reading. Had Canatan tightened these chapters up a bit more I think he would have had a fantastic debut.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 24, 2016
Book number 2 for me this week was Inspector Hobbes and the Blood by Wilkie Martin. Let me just start off by saving that I LOVED THIS BOOK AND IT WAS HILARIOUS.  Yes, I am shouting...why you may ask? This was the first book in a long time that I really loved reading. It was also one of the first books in even longer that I have read that I laughed out loud while reading even on public transport!

Andy doesn't realise that his life is about to change when he is sent on assignment with Inspector Hobbes. A veritable crime wave has hit the small Cotswold town and the larger than life Inspector Hobbes is on the case. Following ...quite far behind... is the slovenly, unfit and bumbling Andy Caplet. It's not long before Andy is living with the mysterious Inspector and his tooth collecting housekeeper Mrs. Goodfellow, who both scares Andy and delights him with her sumptuous meals. When Hobbes goes missing Andy is determined to fight his fear and find the Inspector. Armed with a leg of lamb and accompanied by an extra large dog Andy is on the case of lifetime.

What more can I say? This is a fantastic read and hats off to Martin for writing such hilarious characters in such hilarious situations. Andy is so inept that you can't help but cheer him on. Book 2 is next on my list and I can hardly wait to read it.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 24, 2016
I have been remiss in not telling you about another great book I read a few weeks ago - The Ghoul King by Guy Haley. This is the second novella in the Dreaming Cities series. This instalment is set a few weeks after the events of book 1 and finds the Knight Quinn down on his luck and on the wrong side of the angels. The story is retold by Jaxon, a local healer. Through Jaxon's memories we travel with Quinn and Jaxon as they search for the means of fixing an enigmatic woman's robot. What they find is sooo much more.

I apologise for not telling you much more than that. What I can say is that I loved this book. From the first page there is a huge reveal and by the end your eyes are almost popping out with all the secrets that have been uncovered. I can HARDLY wait for the next instalment. All this plus a great cover

That is it for me for this week.  I had a really good week this week and looking forward to next week where I will hopefully continue the trend. Until then - 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 - August 28, 2016Melanie's Week in Review - July 24, 2016SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by TrinitytwoMelanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016

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