Well, hello readers! This is my first blog, my first fortnightly blog (Which as you can tell from the title, is way more than two weeks, but, you know, life) where I will be updating you all on the books I am reading, or have read, new ones I have slapped on my ever-growing and terrifyingly large TBR, news about my podcasts and general stuff going on in my life. Hopefully some of it will be vaguely interesting to you. I can try and find a farting unicorn to spice things up if you get bored?
So to entice you all in, let me begin on a bum note. I have Covid. See. Now you really want to read my blog, right? Right?
So anyway, yeah, I was meant to get my last two reviews out for books I read during Ben from Literature & Lofi’s, February She Wrote event (Go follow him, subscribe to his booktube channel, he’s ace), but the illness thou-shalt-not-be-named struck me down and the last two weeks I have been in a world of brain fog. Anytime I opened my laptop to attempt to write, my brain swore at me and shut down my ability to form any semblance of retaliation. I feel better now, so for past tense sake, fuck you brain.
But, here I am on day 10 (or 8, I still can’t pinpoint ground zero, I need the likes of Dresden on the case) I am feeling so much better and I’m typing away at my first blog. So lets talk some books!
February She Wrote
These were my four books for February and I managed to finish three and a half of them during the month, completing Hall of Smoke in the first week of March. You can find my review of ‘The Sword of Kaigen’ here (Spoiler, it’s one of my top 5 books of all time) and my review of ‘Ancillary Justice’ is on Goodreads.
‘Of Honey and Wildfires’ and ‘Hall of Smoke’ were two books I didn’t get time to review as I was so busy during February, then struck down by the illness thou-shalt-not-be-named, so let me give you a pocket review of these, as I really want to share with you what I thought.
‘Of Honey And Wildfires’ was a lesson in how to write beautiful, lyrical prose with deep emotional resonance. The story primarily focuses on Cassandra, the daughter of a famous outlaw, who must protect those she loves from a corporation motivated by greed and power, and Arlen Esco, son of the powerful tycoon who controls shine, a magical substance that alters a person’s appearance as well as other effects and which is also highly addictive. Both these characters discover secrets that will forever change not only their lives, but the lives of those in Shine Territory.
I’m going to be honest and say that this is not usually the kind of fantasy book I would normally go for and its thanks to February She Wrote that I stepped out of my comfort zone and picked this book up. I am so glad I did. As I mentioned, Sarah writes with a melodious hand, the emotion is wrought through every word, the pains and anguish of the characters comes at you like waves of the ocean. It makes for an intense read and not all readers may appreciate that, but it made for an immersive experience for me.
The story is written in a non-linear way, which again, may not be for everyone, but I found this format really added to the narrative. In fact, its essential to the narrative, creating a ticking clock, that time is running out for our heroes. I found myself turning the page, quicker and quicker. I marked this book 4.5/5. It’s really been a step forward into diversifying my reading and introducing me to authors I never would have come across.
‘Hall of Smoke’ by H. M. Long is a Norse inspired fantasy novel set in a world where gods and mortals roam the earth together. That, in itself, was a selling point for me. We follow our main protagonist, Hessa, a warrior priestess of the Goddes of War, Eang. Following the slaughter and destruction of her village, of which Hessa blames herself for, she must travel through the wilderness in search of redemption and revenge. What she does discover is bigger than she ever thought as the gods of the Old World and New World are preparing for war and the mortals are right in the middle of it.
Being a fan of the Norse and Viking periods of history I devoured every element of this book. H. M. Long fed right into my sweet spot. Hessa is a fantastic character with whom the author is not afraid to put through sheer hell and pain. Hessa undergoes and endures so much, but in doing so, begins to understand a world that has been kept from her by her blind faith in her goddess. The gods lie and deceive for their own purposes leaving a trail of mortal blood in their path.
Long writes with wonderful prose which flows along nicely, making for a quick read. I get the feeling that H. M. Long, who lives in Canada, knows the forests and the mountains intimately, as this came across so well. The immersion and atmosphere is beautifully described, you can imagine the smell of pine and the rush of water of a river and the wind over the mountains. This really stood out to me and is one of my highlights.
I give ‘Hall of Smoke’ 4/5 and recommend to anyone who loves a strong, badass female protagonist, immersive world setting and living gods. The next book, ‘Temple Of No God’, is already on my TBR.
March – read and reading
So, on to March. I have read one short story, one novella, one novel and currently reading one too. So lets look at those.
Beth Tabler, from Before We Go Blog, recommended a short story by author Alix E. Harrow called, ‘A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies’. Only about 20+ pages long, this was an absolute delight. A love letter to libraries and librarians, it also, in such a short space of time, commented on race, class and the importance and love of books as escapism, whilst simultaneously facing real world issues. If you have half an hour, give it a read, find a link here
I also read ‘Paladin Unbound’ by Jeffrey Speight. Oh man, this was such a joy to read. Deeply entrenched in D&D ideals, we follow Umhra the Peacebreaker, a half-orc mongrel who has a secret past that, if exposed, could ruin him. He must gather a ragtag group of unlikely heroes and rid Evelium of an ancient, awakening evil which will cover the world in fire and darkness.
I can not tell you how much fun I had reading ‘Paladin Unbound’. Jeffrey writes with a singular enthusiasm and love for this world, bringing his D&D character and world-building experience and skills to bear on a novel that I devoured in a couple of days. Filled with wonderful nuggets of history and culture, great fight scenes and charismatic characters, this is one to read as the perfect palate cleanser between the usual breeze block-sized fantasy books. When I finished this, I immediately wanted to play Skyrim, D&D and dig out my old 80’s Fighting Fantasy books. Follow Jeffrey on social media to support him, he’s a great guy. This was an easy 4/5 for me. More please!
I also devoured novella ‘The Citrine Key’ by L. L. MacRae in a morning’s sitting. You can find my review of it here so I won’t repeat myself too much, only in that it precedes a series of novels which have been immediately added to my TBR – that’s how much I loved it. The Iron Crown is the first full length novel and I will probably save it for #IndieAugust and possibly a buddy read. Check out the front covers of L. L. MacRae’s books, they are gorgeous!
My current read at the minute is ‘The Grey Bastards’ by Jonathan French, recommended to me by the lovely guys at Before We Blog as I asked for a rec to read when feeling like poo and ‘The Grey Bastards’ was a unanimous “READ THIS”. I’m about 15% or so in and already sucked in to the world. I am getting huge Sons of Anarchy vibes, which is a massive plus for me. Imagine half-orcs riding hogs in gangs, taking money for protection in a land where the law is, well, ignored. The humour is hilarious, its very sweary and crude and I love it. I’ll update you on the next blog about that.
I don’t have a huge amount to tell you on this front, since I’ve sounded like an 80 year old, cigar chomping grandma with laryngitis for the past couple of weeks and unfortunately had to cancel or reschedule all my recordings. I missed out on podcasting with author Una McCormack on Make It So: A Star Trek Picard Podcast, which makes me very sad, but my good friend Baz stepped in and did a fab job there. I also missed out on interviewing actress Patricia Tallman, who played Lyta Alexander in Babylon 5, for our Babylon 5 podcast, A Dream Given Form. Really gutted about this, but again Baz, my co-host on this one, did a brilliant job and we hope to have her on again in the future when I can be there too.
So that was kind of a huge downer for me, but I will be back on Make It So hosting on 2×07 in a few weeks and also in the process of rescheduling recordings over the next few weeks.
A new podcast that Baz and I are hosting will be focussing on the new Amazon Prime Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power TV series. That is currently in pre-production and on the run-up to September we will be revisiting the Peter Jackson films as well as looking at the trailers in more detail. Its already divided Tolkien fans, so I am very much looking forward to these conversations.
Until next time…
That’s about all I have to say, I think, about everything going on. This blog is probably a lot longer than what the format will eventually ease into, as I have had to cover nearly two months, whereas I plan to release fortnightly blogs. But I hoped you enjoyed reading my babbling of words. If you did, please let me know and comment, like, or even share this blog. Also let me know if you have read any of the books I have mentioned today, what you thought of them etc. Go follow the authors on social media, they will always be appreciative of that.
I really appreciate the time you took to read this, it means a lot to me and this community I have been invited into is so inclusive and friendly and supportive. Thank you all.
Until next time…revel in the destruction of your TBR
*I’m sorry, no farting unicorns are available to hire at this time, Please try again later*