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Friday, June 30, 2023

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

Official Author Website
Buy Legends and Lattes here - U.S | U.K

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Review: Ebony Gate by Julia Vee and Ken Bebelle


Official Author Websites: Julia Vee and Ken Bebelle
Buy Ebony Gate HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Julia likes stories about monsters, money, and good food. Julia was born in Macao and grew up in Northern California. She is a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop.

Ken Bebelle studied Cybernetics at UCLA and has practiced prosthetics for over twenty years, specializing in upper limb prosthetics. He writes science fiction and fantasy with his co-author, Julia Vee. Their debut novel, Ebony Gate, an Asian-inspired urban fantasy, will be published by TOR in summer 2023.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Review: The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin

Official Author Website
Buy The Combat Codes HERE
Read Shazzie's Review

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Alexander Darwin is an author living near Boston with his wife and three daughters. Outside of writing, he teaches and trains martial arts (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). He’s inspired by old-school Hong Kong action flicks, jRPGs, underdog stories and bibimbap bowls.

Outside of writing fiction, Alexander has written for publications such as Rolling Stone Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style and SF Signal. His latest piece, The Lost Diary of Anthony Bourdain, was a featured piece in Rolling Stone’s January 2022 Issue.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Book review: Star Splitter by Matthew J. Kirby


BOok links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matthew J. Kirby is the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of the middle-grade novels The Clockwork Three, Icefall, The Lost Kingdom, Infinity Ring Book 5: Cave of Wonders, and The Quantum League series, the Dark Gravity Sequence, and the Assassin’s Creed series, Last Descendants. He was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start, he has won the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, the PEN Center USA award for Children’s Literature, and the Judy Lopez Memorial Award, and has been named to the New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing, and the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults lists. He is also a school psychologist, and currently lives in Utah with his wife and three step-kids.

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (April 25, 2023) Print length: 320 pages 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Burnings by Naomi Kelsey (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: The Burnings by Naomi Kelsey

the burnings by naomi kelsey

Buy The Burnings here
Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Lucky Girl How I Became A Horror Writer by M. Rickert (reviewed by Daniel H.)


Official Author Website
Order Lucky Girl HERE
Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Book review: Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman review

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHORAustin Grossman is the author of three novels: SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE, YOU, and CROOKED.

PublisherVintage; 1st edition (June 5, 2007) Print length: 338 Formats: ebook, audiobook, paperback, hardback

Monday, June 19, 2023

Twin Landing by Rex Burke (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: Twin Landing by Rex Burke

twin landing by rex burke

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Orphan Planet, book one in the Odyssey Earth series here

Buy Orphan Planet, book one in the Odyssey Earth series here

Pre-order Twin Landing, book two in the Odyssey Earth series here

Sunday, June 18, 2023

SPFBO 9 (2023) Interesting Titles Spotlight Part II


Continuing from yesterday, here is part II of the SPFBO 9 (2023) Intresting Titles (in random order). We would like to reiterate that both these lists are in no way an indicator of our choices (& other judges’ choices) going forward in the contest. These simply lists titles that we (at FBC) are INTRIGUED by and WOULD like to read (time & fate permitting).
Saturday, June 17, 2023

SPFBO 9 (2023) Interesting Titles Spotlight Part I


Over the past, few years, with the start of every SPFBO edition. We have been raising a spotlight on a few of participating titles that caught our eyes. The books we highlight within today's and tomorrow's posts have caught our interest due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential plots. Some we have read, and reviewed, and hence are on this list.
We would like to state that this list is IN NO WAY an indicator of our choices (or the other judges) going forward in the contest. However, simply lists titles that we (at FBC) are INTRIGUED by and WOULD like to read (time & fate permitting). 
Therefore, without further ado, here is part 1 of the noteworthy titles (in random order):

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Interview: Stacey Thomas, author of The Revels

 Interview: Stacey Thomas, author of The Revels

stacey thomas author photo

Buy The Revels here

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The stage is set and the witch-hunt is about to begin…

‘I am no witch. I have not sold my soul to the devil for powers. What I am has never openly been whispered of, yet it is enough that people would hang for it.’

England, 1645.
After his half-brother dies, aspiring playwright Nicholas Pearce is apprenticed to Judge William Percival, an infamous former witch-hunter who is under pressure to resume his old profession.

In a country torn apart by civil war, with escalating tensions between Catholics and Protestants, Royalists and Roundheads, and rumours of witchcraft, Nicholas hides a secret: the dead sing. He hears their secrets, but will he find the courage to speak up to s
ave innocent lives, even if it means putting himself in great danger?


Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi everyone, my name is Stacey Thomas and I’m a civil servant by day and a writer in whatever spare hours I can find. The Revels is my debut novel. I’m also a serial hobbyist and have tried everything from taxidermy to Renaissance dance. I’ve just started archery and I’m hoping this will be the one that sticks.  

the revels by stacey thomas

How would you describe your book to our readers in just three adjectives, and then in just three sentences?

Witchy, wintry and gothic.  

In a country torn apart by war and rumours of witchcraft, a young man hides a secret: the dead sing.  

From your presence on social media, it is clear that you love delving into history. How did you work on including historical aspects in your book, and what amount of effort and research did that take? 

I’ve always loved history and studied it at university. If I’m being honest, I find the research more enjoyable than the writing. Or at the very least less painful! 

I had the idea for The Revels during lockdown and would have been lost if it wasn’t for my library which posted down the books I needed for my research. I spent about six months reading everything I could about 17th-century England, including the witch trials; witch-hunters of the day, including Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General; clothing; medicine; the English Civil War and biographies of leading figures from King Charles to Oliver Cromwell. 

I also read pamphlets and plays published in the 17th century. My protagonist is an aspiring playwright and I wanted to tap into the rhythm of the language of the time. I also read a biography about John Taylor, The Water Poet, who was a rare example of a working-class writer who was able to live off his writing, despite the disdain he received from the literary elite. Even while writing my story and going through edits, I continued to research the period and would watch historical dramas and listen to history podcasts. Looking back, I can see I probably did too much, but I wanted my story to feel as authentic as possible in a world where my main character can hear the dead sing.  

Can you name the least and most well known historical events included in your book? What do you think most people would be shocked to learn about them?

The Pendle Witch Trials of 1612 is probably one of the most well-known historical events in The Revels. The testimony of nine-year-old Jennet Device was used to secure the convictions and deaths of her family and neighbours for witchcraft. Least known is the witch-hunt that followed twenty-one years later when Edmund Robinson claimed to have been abducted by witches. His father took him on a three-month tour of the local areas to point out his kidnappers. Their search ended in the imprisonment of seventeen people. Fortunately, a growing scepticism led to the case being reopened. Edmund confessed to making the whole thing up and his father was found to have blackmailed women for money in exchange for ensuring his son wouldn’t denounce them as witches. I think people would be shocked to learn that the accused weren’t automatically released from prison. In the 17th century, you had to pay for your time in prison and many of the accused were too poor to pay the fee. Years later, some of them were still languishing in the dungeons of Lancaster Castle, including Jennet Device who played such an integral role in the infamous witch trials just two decades before.  

I also think people will be shocked by how commercialised witch-hunting was. In the 17th century, there was a huge profit from selling accounts of alleged witch trials. They were written in English, rather than Latin – the language of the educated elite, and cheaply priced to ensure a wide readership.  

It might just be me, but I was very shocked by the story of Christian Caddell – Scotland’s only female witch pricker, who earned a living identifying the devil’s mark on accused witches. The devil’s mark was proof that a witch had sold her soul to the devil and people believed it wouldn’t bleed if you pricked it with a pin. Of course, what was kept quiet was that Caddell and other witch prickers used a retractable blade to condemn as many witches as possible in exchange for a high fee. There’s an inherent misogyny in witch-hunting and it can be easy to define the witch-hunts in terms of men vs women. My research showed me it was more nuanced than this and I was inspired to explore this in my debut.  

Your book is written in first person, and present tense. There seem to be some opinions online about this being a “no-no” zone. How did you decide to use it, and what additional impact do you think it brings to the narration of your book?

The heated first-person, present debate! In the past, I’ve played around with different viewpoints, but the first person has always felt the most natural for me. My personality is quite contained (ok, introverted) and the most common critiques beta readers have shared are that my characters can be a bit emotionally closed off. Writing in the first person helps me to go more method. I can tear down the walls between myself and the story and react to events as though it's happening to me. This helps the narration to feel more immediate and personal.  

On Goodreads, you say, “ The Revels was born from the books I've read that capture so much of what I love about historical fiction from Stacey Halls' The Familiars, Bridget Collins' The Binding, Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and Ronald Bassett's Witchfinder General.”. Do you think readers would find nods to your influences in your book?

I hope so! When I first started writing The Revels, I wanted to explore the witch-hunts from the perspective of the villain. But as the story evolved, I became more interested in exploring the vulnerability of my protagonist who’s both a witch and a witch-hunter as opposed to an all-out villain. But anyone who’s read Ronald Bassett’s Witchfinder General will find nods to his wonderfully menacing depictions of witch-hunters in my villains John Rush and Clements.  

This might be presumptuous considering how amazing their books are, but I hope that readers will see the influence of Bridget Collins and Maggie O’Farrell in the sense of atmosphere I try to invoke in my debut, along with the yearnings my characters feel for a sense of connection with people. Although The Revels is told from a male perspective, I hope that readers will pick up on how much Stacey Hall’s depiction of strong women inspired my female characters Althamia and Grace.  

I also hope readers will pick up on my love of Clarke’s speculative approach to history in my debut where King James who instead of becoming jaded with the witch persecutions set up a commission for witch-hunters.  

Given all the work that needs to be put into historical fiction, has it changed how you react to other historical books as a reader, and how?

The best historical fiction effortlessly transports you to the past. I had no idea how hard this was until I started writing The Revels. It’s a constant balancing act between making the period come alive, but also wearing the research lightly so that your story doesn’t read like a textbook.  

How I read historical fiction has changed since getting a book deal. I still get lost in the story, but I find myself paying more attention to the period details and how authors use it to set the scene. I also tend to re-read books a lot more. The first time as a reader and the second as a writer trying to uncover the writer’s tricks.  

The months leading up to a debut launch must be really harrowing. How are you dealing with this time, and what’s helping you work on your next work? Is there anything about your WIP that you’d like to share?

The lead up to publication has been amazing, stressful, strange, surreal! On one hand I’m fulfilling a lifelong dream. But the other side of that is realizing that publishing is a business with a mix of highs and lows. I’ve dealt with this by being more kind to myself and not getting too caught up in things I can’t control. 

When I first got my publishing deal a well-known author advised me to enjoy the process as I only get to be a debut once. I’ve been following their advice with a vengeance these past few weeks and have been having fun interacting with readers, bloggers and booksellers. I’m also part of a debut group and have really enjoyed becoming friends with other writers and cheering them on as their debuts launch.  

I’m currently working on my second book at the moment and if I’m honest I had a crisis of confidence as I was so worried that my agent and editor would think my idea was terrible. Luckily, they’re very excited about it and this, plus deadlines, is helping me to plough through my draft. The working title is The Debs and it’s set in London, 1958 which was the last year the English debutantes curtsied to the queen. I’m very much inspired by the real-life figures who shaped upper-class society such as Isaac Brown who created a role for himself as a society fixer. I’m having a lot of fun creating a story that explores the allure of high society and the lengths people will go to reach the top of that world.   

Before we wrap this up, I want to talk about you as a reader. What are you currently reading, and which of your recent reads made a positive impression on you? Are there any that you are looking forward to, or anything that’s already published that you hope to squeeze into your reading, and how do you discover these books?

I recently visited the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth where I spent a few days researching the Brontës and immersing myself in their stories. I read Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, etc at school, but it's only now that I’m older that I can appreciate how wonderful their books are. Mr Rochester’s proposal scene gets me every time.  

I love Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and I can’t wait to read Silver Nitrate when it’s out. I’m also looking forward to Anna Kopp’s graphic YA The Marble Queen. 

After putting it off for years, I read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life a few weeks ago. It’s beautifully written, but emotionally devastating and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m therefore trying to self-medicate with something whimsical like Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries.  

In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

I just wanted to say thank you for having me on your blog. If readers are interested in learning more about the European witch persecutions, I highly recommend the Witches of Scotland podcast where the hosts interview a range of experts about the witch persecutions, including historians, authors, midwives, etc. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Poisoned Empire by Elyse Thomson (Reviewed by Lena)

 Book Review: Poisoned Empire by Elyse Thomson

Buy Poisoned Empire here

Monday, June 12, 2023

STEP INTO THE CIRCLE BLOG TOUR: The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin (reviewed by Shazzie and Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Pre-order The Combat Codes over HERE (U.S. | U.K.)

Interview: C. E. McGill, author of Our Hideous Progeny

 Interview with C. E. McGill, author of Our Hideous Progeny

C. E. McGill author photo

Buy Our Hideous Progeny here - U.S. | U.K.

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Our Hideous Progeny here
Friday, June 9, 2023

Review: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson

Official Author Website
Order The First Bright Thing HERE
Thursday, June 8, 2023

Book review: The Haar by David Sodergren

The Haar by David Sodergren

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug.

Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies. Not much has changed since then.

Since the publication of his first novel, The Forgotten Island, he has written and published a further five novels, from slashers to gialli to folk horror to weird westerns. He is currently working on several more novels, including a trilogy of violent revenge stories to be published in 2022. 

Publisher: Paperbacks and Pugs (May 20, 2022) Print length: 220 Formats: ebook, paperback, hardback

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Yellow Sky Revolt by Baptiste Pinson Wu (Reviewed by Lena)

 Book Review: Yellow Sky Revolt by Baptiste Pinson Wu

Yellow Sky Revolt by Baptiste Pinson Wu

Buy Yellow Sky Revolt here

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Book review: Three Grams of Elsewhere by Andy Giesler

Three Grams of Elsewhere by Andy Giesler review 

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When Andy was ten, he wrote his first book.

Attack of the Dinosaurs was seventeen pages long, variously single- and double spaced, with rough cut cardboard backing and a masking tape and white yarn binding.

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Evergreen Heir by A.K. Mulford (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Book Review: The Evergreen Heir by A. K. Milford

Buy The Evergreen Heir here

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Graphic Novel: Decorum by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Huddleston

Decorum by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Huddleston review

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman (born September 3, 1972, South Carolina) is an American comic book writer and artist. He is known for creating the Image Comics series The Nightly News, The Manhattan Projects and East of West, as well as working on Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four, FF and S.H.I.E.L.D. titles. In 2012, Hickman ended his run on the Fantastic Four titles to write Avengers and New Avengers, as part the "Marvel NOW!" relaunch. In 2013, Hickman wrote a six-part miniseries, Infinity, plus Avengers tie-ins for Marvel Comics. As of 2015, he is writing the crossover event Secret Wars.

Publisher: Image Comics (May 3, 2022) Page count: 408


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