Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up: July 2019

July was a bit of a mixed month. I’ve started my freelancing for real – I had 3 assignments – , I tried to keep up with reviewing (I clearly failed at that), I squeezed in some SPFBO reading and overall managing some related stuff, I also had a bit of holiday, and all the while I somehow tried to find a balance between all of my work, responsibilities and relaxing and doing some crafting. In the end, what had to give was spending time on social media. Of course there were a few other reasons behind my absence than time issues (anxiety, and getting fed up are amongst these), but I’d rather not go into details. Anyway, I’m always available to chat and do look at my messages, but I don’t keep track of people’s posts/tweets as much and probably miss pretty much everything. If you need me, give a shout, I’m never too far away 🙂

All that said, even though I wasn’t really active on social media, the blog was still full of life in this hell of a weather…

Book Reviews

In case you missed any of our reviews in July you can read them by clicking on the title! 🙂 Once again, we read more than we were able to review, but slowly we’ll catch up to ourselves. As for me, I’m pretty damn busy so it takes a considerable amount of time managing to side down to write a review these days. Actually, looking at this months posts, Jen pretty much saved my ass in that regard…

The Ragged Blade by Christopher Ruz – 3.5/5


Jen snatched a copy of The Ragged Blade, which is the first book of the Century of Sand series. Based on her review, she quite liked it 🙂

“The world felt unique and imaginative, alive with people, religion, and dangerous creatures. The atmosphere is just thick with apprehension. I liked it a lot. The uneasiness builds as the story unfolds and because Richard is the source of our information and he was so pushed to the edge throughout, it leaves us feeling unsettled while we patiently wait for him to continue his story, wondering how he came to this point. I liked the backstory the best, so the waiting was hard.”

Red and Black by Nancy O’Toole Meservier – 4.5/5

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We got a review request for this one, and Jen jumped right at it. I think this was her highest rated book this month, so I guess we can say she pretty much loved it 🙂

“I really liked a lot of those in-world ideas and I can see some cool future book possibilities. Also, that costume morphing, etc. which keeps the whole how did they not know each other Lois/Clark Kent type of relationship, making more sense. Really cool stuff.

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford – 4/5

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Back when I still had more time to review, I was eyeing this book, then decided it sounded way too YA to me. Apparently Jen wasn’t phased by that and she did read it.

“The story was quick, lots of fun, with some fluttery first-time love feelings, and a good dose of danger for our heroine to overcome. I liked the first half because of the setting and the sisters, and second half for the characters and the intrigue. The ending felt a tad bit rushed but I enjoyed this book as a whole and blew through it in a few sittings.

Grimdark Magazine #19 by Adrian Collins – 4/5

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Well, at least I contributed something on the reviewing front this month… I always look forward reading GdM Magazine and I’m never disappointed.

“After a well deserved break – Adrian, chief editor of Grimdark Magazine (GDM) got married, congrats once again! – the Nineteenth issue was released with a strong line of contributors. You can read a short stories from Joe AbercrombieTrudi Canavan, Alan Baxter, Michael R. Fletcher and Lee Murray, an interview with Geoff Brown and Syama Pedersen, two book reviews of The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht and Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund, plus an article from T. R. Nepper.


With July 1st, SPFBO 5 officially had begun. You can follow everything that happens with us on my SPFBO 5 page and you can get to know the team better here!


I decided to put these reviews separately, as they are still under updating. I will gather all 4 of us views under one review, but in the time of posting we might not have all of them ready. Thus the overall rating will change too. Please keep checking back on our SPFBO 5 page for further progress!

The Vessel of Ra by Catherine Schaff-Stump – 4.8/10

At this time, we have 3 reviews out of 4 for this one, as follows:

Jen: 4.5/10   Timy: 6/10   Nick: 4/10

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While traveling in Venice in 1837, Lucy Klaereon, in order to save her family’s honor and her immortal soul, decides to commit suicide by drowning herself in the Grand Canal. Unfortunately for Lucy, she is rescued. Her rescuers believe they can separate her from the demon Ra, whom she is destined to fight because of an ancient family pact. 

What Lucy does not know is that her rescuers have their own agenda. Paolo Borgia, head of a deposed magical family, wants to use Ra for his own purposes. Lucy is given an alternative, to separate herself from her demon and family, which she gladly welcomes. When she finds out the truth about Ra, Lucy’s purpose changes from not only freedom, but to righting an ancient wrong.

Octavia, Lucy’s older sister, is in pursuit. She has been trained since birth to kill Lucy when Lucy loses her battle with Ra.. At the ritual to free Ra, the two sisters clash with surprising results. Octavia is possessed by Ra and Lucy is determined to free her sister and keep Ra from reshaping the world in his image.

There is one small problem. Lucy has been murdered. However, she’s not about to let a small detail like that keep her from correcting her mistakes. Lucy will save Octavia, even if it kills her again.


All 4 of us jumped right into slush piling and our spread sheet fills up nicely. We already had some reviews up and a few batch of mini reviews. So far none of the books were eliminated yet, every review or mini review is the judge’s personal opinion, any of the books can still end up chosen as a semi-finalist or finalist.

So, here is how we fared regarding mini reviews (Nick clearly whips our asses with the speed he goes) in the first month of Phase 1:

The First Round of DNFs by Timy

Nick DNF’s his first 4 books

Belle’s first round of DNFs

Nick DNF’s another 4 books

Nick DNF’s 5 more books

Tales from the Asylum

Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…

Honestly, I just love this one, and can’t wait to read even more in future. I also won’t confine it to only SPFBO, I plan to keep it as a once a month feaure when the competition ends.

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Brian D. Meeks writes full-time from a studio apartment on the Las Vegas strip with a great view. Though he’s now writing Epic Fantasy, he also has penned mysteries, satires, science fiction, a thriller and a couple of YA novels. He is most well known, though, for his non-fiction books, Mastering Amazon Ads and Mastering Amazon Descriptions, which get him speaking gigs at author conventions.

Read Brian’s tale!

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Although the author of several local histories, and numerous articles on the topics of American and military history, antiques and collectibles, Henderson’s first love is fiction. Her work in the museum and history fields enables a special insight into creating fantasy worlds. The descendent of a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer, her writing reflects the contrasts of her heritage as well as that of her Gemini sign. Her stories cross genres from historical westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of romantic fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and The Windmaster Novels. In her books, she invites you to join her on travels through the stars, or among fantasy worlds of the imagination.

Read Helen’s tale!

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Joel Spriggs (1982-?) was born and raised in Frankfort, IN. He graduated from Franklin College of Indiana in 2004 with a Bachelors of the Fine Arts in Computer Science and Broadcast Journalism. Joel’s first novel, “Over A God’s Dead Body” was published on the Kindle platform in June 2018 and is the first in a planned series surrounding the same characters and fantasy world. Joel has successfully defended his beard from being stolen 1873 times out of 1877 attempts by his elder brother. On the five occasions he failed, Joel immediately set about growing a new beard and refining his defenses. Joel lives with his wife and three children in scenic Lebanon, IN. He maintains a website and blog at He is also active on Twitter, @joelspriggs.

Read Joel’s tale!

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Paul Freeman is from Dublin Ireland. He is the author of three epic fantasy novels, TribesmanWarrior and Blood Of Kings: The Shadow Mage. A zombie apocalypse collaboration called Season Of The Dead, a general fiction novel about a Dublin taxi driver, titled TAXI and a dystopian vampire novel After The Fall: Children Of The Nephilim.

Read Paul’s tale!

Author Spotlight


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Peter McLean is the author of the fantasy gangster thrillers Priest of Bones, released in October 2018 from Jo Fletcher Books and Ace/Roc, and Priest of Lies (July 2019) . His first novels, the Burned Man series, are noir urban fantasy. He has also worked on game tie-in short fiction for various franchises including Warhammer. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife Diane.

Read the rather long (sorry, but I just had too much fun with coming up with questions) interview with Peter!

Other Bookish Posts

The Questioning

My anniversary celebration event was pretty fun and people seemed to like it, so I decided to make into a monthly feature, just in a smaller scale: 1 blogger and author a month.

Author Edition: David Hambling

Blogger Edition: Noly (The Artsy Reader)

Cover Reveal

When Steven asked me to do his cover reveal I was more than happy to agree. Symphony of the Wind was one of my favorite reads last year and I followed its way through SPFBO where it had been a finalist. The sequel, Wrath of Storms will be available in August, and though I haven’t had the time to read yet, I’m pretty sure it’ll be as good as the first book was.

Check out the cover of Wrath of Storms and learn a bit more about it!

Music Musings

Music Monday

If you missed any of them, give them a listen and read my personal notes/thoughts/ramblings regarding them 🙂

Music Diggin’ Friday

Before I headed off for a holiday, I decided to put together a list of songs that are a must on a road trip. It was supposed to be a top 10 list, but as I went on, I accidentally ran out of numbers, so I had to expand it a little. Oops. Nevertheless, I’m pretty satisfied with this list.

20+1 Songs for Road Trips

I think that’s it for July. I hope to see you all in August!