Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to post nearly as often as I wanted to during Self-published Authors Appreciation Week. I have been planning on giving this tag a go for ages, however, so I can’t let the week end without taking this opportunity to finally get it done. I don’t know who came up with the original tag, so please let me know if you do. I’d love to credit them.
These are all self-published books, which goes to show (yet again) that any stigma against self-publishing is completely without merit. I encourage you to read off the beaten path!
Best Book You Read So Far This Year
Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer
This is actually a three-way tie at the moment (I reserve the right to add to this number at any given time), but since I think everyone and their brother should read Dragon Mage, I’m going to go with this one. Aram is one of the most wonderful main characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. I’ve gushed at length about the book here, but there really isn’t a single thing that I didn’t love about Dragon Mage. Definitely read this book, if you haven’t yet.
Best Sequel You Read So Far
The Infinite Tower (Heroes of Spira Book 4) by Dorian Hart
Both my oldest and I are loving this series. From the characters and their relationships, to the world-development and the fantastical creatures, this hits every checkmark on my list of favorite things in fantasy books. It’s quickly become one of my most given fantasy recommendations and for good reason. Not only am I looking forward to seeing what happens next, I am planning on rereading from the beginning of the series before too much longer. You can find my review here.
New Release You Haven’t Read Yet
Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J. Hayes
Why haven’t I read this yet? WHY???
Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year
Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun
I’m not going to say too much because my review is still forthcoming. I’ll just point out that any reader of sci-fi needs to add this to their tbr right now.
Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale by S.L. Rowland
I honestly expected a fun, entertaining little story. I got that and more. It was more violent than I expected, but it was also much more thought-out than I expected. Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale was a blast to read and I’ll be on the lookout for more from this author.
Favorite New Author
I’ve decided that M.L. Spencer could write a book about sandpaper and I’d pre-order it.
Newest Favorite Character – Merovich
Small Places by Matthew Samuels
Merovich was a delight. They were so child-like and sweet, while at the same time they invented the most dangerous of things. I loved that juxtaposition. Honestly, all of the characters in Small Places are fantastic. You can find my review here.
Book that Made You Cry
The Archive by Dan Fitzgerald
I don’t often cry over books or movies. This one had me tearing up, though. Author Dan Fitzgerald used it as a kind of mirror, to show the best and worst in all of us. It was beautiful. Find my review here.
Book that Made You Happy
Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton
Oh, how I loved this book! The mystery was great, the author nailed the characters, and the ending was absolutely perfect. This was a brilliant homage to the foremost Consulting Detective. You can find my review here.
Most Beautiful Book You Got this Year
Sairō’s Claw by Virginia McClain
I mean…look at it! Gorgeous!
What Are Some Books You Need to Read By the End of the Year?
Oh, jeez! My tbr has a longer life expectancy than I do, so this is one of those questions that could be answered with many many titles. I’m looking forward to : A Troll Walks Into a Bar: A Nori Urban Fantasy Novel by Douglas Lumsden, Sacaran Nights by Rachel Shaw, and A Ritual of Bone by Lee C. Conley are a few that come to mind.
The thing about Night Watch is it’s cool, but it’s also a bit problematic. I am still sorting out whether I think the cool factor is enough that I can forget some of the parts that I had issue with. Basically, this review is going to be a rambling mess. So, let me roll up my sleeves and get right to it!
The premise of the book starts with a familiar concept – that of the otherworldly surrounding the everyday- and takes it in a new and creative direction. Anton is a low-level Light magician (meaning he’s one of the “good guys”), talented but not amazingly so. He is also a member of the Night Watch, a group of Others -such as magicians and shape changers- who keeps an eye on the other side (the “bad guys”-cue the menacing music). The other side, the Day Watch keeps an eye on the “good guys” as well. Both sides do this to make sure that everyone is adhering to the uneasy truce that has existed between those of the Light and those of the Dark for ages. Sounds pretty similar to many other books so far, right? From there it goes in an entirely different direction.
In the world of Night Watch, there are humans without a trace of the otherworldly, there are those on the side of light, those on the side of the dark, and potentials. Potentials are “Others” that have not chosen a side. Usually they are newly discovering their powers, but there are also rogues, etc. and sometimes they require the intervention of the Day Watch or the Night Watch. There’s an assumption that the two watches grudgingly work together, but that is only true on the surface. Their quiet war has become one of subterfuge and manipulation, and Anton finds himself squarely in the middle of it.
The pacing is very different than what I expect from a book of this nature, but it works. There is a lot of introspection and musing on the nature of “good” and “evil” and the sometimes blurry way they can be viewed. When does doing something good cause more evil? When is it acceptable to do nothing? Does the long game justify sacrifices along the way? These are questions that plague Anton, making for an interesting main character. While the world is engaging and the tricks and twists along the way are truly fascinating, it is this part of Anton’s character that makes Night Watch truly unique.
So, what did I find problematic? Some of the things the author said when referring to women, people of other nationalities, and lesbians were a bit on the offensive side. It was never quite enough to make me want to stop reading the book, but it did rankle at me. On the one hand, Night Watch was written several years ago, which could very well contribute to certain viewpoints, so it is something I tried not to focus on too much. However, it did bother me.
The creativity in the storytelling and the pondering of choices elevated this book above some of the others of this type that I’ve read. This is a reread for me, although it’s been at least fifteen years since my first time reading it. I think I enjoyed it more then than I do now, but Night Watch is still an enjoyable book, and one worth reading.
There used to a be a bit of a “these people are weird” attitude toward people who enjoyed roleplaying games, such as Dungeons and Dragons. It was pretty funny to hear it coming from readers of fantasy (or any genre, really: you’d be surprised at the similarities that can be found). I’m assuming some of the judgement came from a place of discomfort at older kids and adults using their imaginations. I’m honestly not sure. Fortunately, D&D, and other roleplaying games are becoming much more accepted, which is great because playing can be pretty stinking fun.
As I briefly mentioned, there are similarities between books and roleplaying games. Both require the use of imagination to fill in pictures, both allow for a suspension of disbelief, and both take us to new and unusual places, constrained only by the author (or Dungeon Master).
A ‘character class’ is a profession or set of skills that help differentiate different types of characters in roleplaying. I put a call out for bookbloggers and authors to give their thoughts on D&D classes in books and they answered in a big way! In fact, what I originally thought of as a single post has become a few, each post focusing on two or three of the main character classes. While I have each writer’s link attached to their amazing contribution, please make sure to check out a more detailed introduction to each of them at the bottom of the post. I’ve also included my own ideas here and there, as well as some loose definitions of each character class. Enjoy!
FIGHTER:This is pretty self-explanatory, but also has a lot of room for creativity. A warlord, knight, or rich person’s bodyguard are all different types of fighters. A fighter has a ton of skill with a weapon, and functions as a pretty good meat shield (can you tell I’ve used the fighter in that capacity before?).
“Atae from Kaji Warriors: Shifting Strength by Kelly A. Nix. To the Kaji warriors, being a halfbreed means being weak. Atae refuses to back down and engages in rigorous combat training to stay at the top of her warrior class. Strength and skill in battle are revered among the Kaji, and Atae will do everything in her power to become a true warrior. Trained in both hand to hand combat and weaponry, Atae will cut down her foes without a second thought.”
“Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews: Kate was raised to be a weapon. Forced into fighting pits from a young age, it was hit the ground running or die trying. Any weapon in her hands is lethal, though she prefers her sword. When she unleashes a combination of magic and blade, she is a near unstoppable force.”
“I gave him a smile. I was aiming for sweet, but he turned a shade paler and scooted a bit farther from me. Note to self: work more on sweet and less on psycho-killer.” – Ilona Andrews, Magic Strikes
Ricardo Victoria, author of The Tempest Blades series says: “Here, there is a lot to choose from in Fantasy. I think this is the class most well represented. So I will keep this one short: Boromir [from The Lord of the Rings]. Aside from the fact that he is the character from the Fellowship that needs more love, he is a classical fighter. Knows all sort of weapons, can improvise during a fight, has the Con [constitution] of an Ent (I mean, how many arrows did he take before falling?). He even trains Merry and Pippin. Had he lived to amend for his sole mistake, he would have been Aragorn’s second hand.”
Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub shares an opinion: For me, when I think of the D&D fighter class, my mind immediately goes to Clay “Slowhand” Cooper from Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. He’s a used-to-be-impressive warrior, a member of an elite mercenary group. He has major fighting skills-or at least, he used to. He and his friends come out of retirement for one last impressive feat-one that may get them killed.
“Clay pushed his body off him and mumbled another apology – because, enemy or not, when you hit a man in the nuts with a magic hammer the least you could say was sorry.”– Nicholas Eames, Kings of the Wyld
Barbarian: the simplest way I can think of to describe a barbarian is as a fighter with anger issues. They thrive on violence and chaotic battles (although they may not always crave them). Their anger can give them a berserker state of mind: think an overdose of adrenalin allowing someone to do the nigh impossible.
Ryan Howse, author, reviewer for Grimdark Magazine and contributor for Before We Go Blog, weighs in: “For gamers, barbarians are often some of the most memorable and dynamic characters played. They tend to be chaotic (in earlier editions, being a lawful barbarian was against the rules) and their ignorance of civilized customs provides some obvious comedic fodder.
But barbarians are not fools. They just don’t care about civilization. People who are fools don’t survive the wilds—especially fantasy versions of the wilds, with all the strange new monsters and dangerous terrain that implies.
Fafhrd, from Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, is an iconic barbarian. He’s the bruiser of the duo, and the tank. He’s a massive man from an ice-covered land, and he mostly wants to spend his adventuring loot on women and ale.
The greatest part about these stories is that while they’re classics of the genre, they feel closer to a real tabletop game than even the best tie-in fiction.
In the first chronological story of Fafhrd, he straps rockets to his boots to make a jump down a hill. That feels absolutely like something out of an all-night gaming session where the barbarian has a ridiculous plan and rolls just well enough to make it work.
There’s also a story where Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser die, and end up dealing with Death Itself, which again feels like a DM trying to keep the campaign going after a TPK [total party kill]. (They get better.)”
“And even when we serve, we make the rules. We bow to no man’s ultimate command, dance to no wizard’s drumming, join no mob, hark to no wildering hate-call. When we draw sword, it’s for ourselves alone.”– Fritz Leiber , Sword in the Mist
Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub chimes in: I see Beowulf as the ultimate barbarian. He fights Grendel with near-supernatural strength ( Grendel definitely meets his match), and several other feats of strength are boasted about throughout the epic poem. He feels no fear and isn’t big on laying traps, or making battle plans. Any character that divests a monster of its arm without using a weapon to do it lands in the “berserker” category for me.
Meet the contributors: Behind the Pages is an excellent blog and beta reading site, run by the talented Tabitha. Her reviews are very insightful and incredibly well-written. She has excellent taste and never fails to review books that would have snuck under my radar, adding to my already way-too-long list of books to read.
Ricardo Victoria is the author of The Tempest Blades fantasy series. Book one, The Withered King, (which I highly recommend reading), is available now. Book two, The Cursed Titans will be released this summer and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Ryan Howse is a literary jack-of-all-trades. The author of several books, he also reviews for Grimdark Magazine and is a regular addition to BeforeWeGoBlog. I honestly have no idea how he found the time to contribute to my post, but I’m excited that he did!
Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.
Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.
It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love. (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to the author and to The Write Reads for allowing me to join this blog tour. It is available for purchase now.
White Trash Warlock is a book that is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Ostensibly about a sort-of warlock on a mission to save his sister-in-law from demonic possession, this book uses that platform to tackle themes of acceptance, grief, anger, and family dynamics.
Adam has stirrings of magic in him. He can see and interact with the spirit world, a talent that got him left in a psych ward as a kid. Now an adult, Adam is happily estranged from his mom and brother Bobby (who committed him to the psych ward years ago), eking out a living and trying to find his missing dad. So, getting a call from Bobby is unusual. Doubly so, when Bobby is asking for help with his wife, who seems to be possessed. Adam decides to drive to Denver, figure out what’s going on with his sister-in-law, and hopefully fix it. Then, he’ll go back to his own life, as far away from his brother as he can get. Unfortunately, things are far less simple than Adam expected.
First, I’ll start with the world building. Denver itself is…Denver, a city like any other. However, layer spirit towers, Reapers, and giant evil thingies over it like tracing paper, and you get the Denver of the book. Think “Upside Down” from Stranger Things, and you have the general idea. It was an intriguing concept, and one that worked quite well, taking the everyday and making it just a little…off. I loved seeing the different worlds cross over, like when a car stolen in the real world is used in the spirit world.
Great plot? Check. Interesting world? Check. Fantastic, complicated characters? Triple check. The characters are what elevated this book from good to amazing for me. There was Bobby, with his perfect little house, his perfect little car, and his perfect little life being upended. He wanted to retreat into the familiar and completely ordinary, but was unable to. He was so lost, and blamed Adam for feeling out of place. That he asked for Adam’s help despite their history and Bobby’s dislike of anything he didn’t understand opened the door to some meaningful interactions between the two. The mom didn’t really figure in all that much, but her additions were interesting. There were a few other characters, two of which I’m not going to name, so as not to spoil anything. I liked them both, especially as ways to further the development in other characters.
Then there’s Adam. I loved Adam so much! He was a mix of emotions and reflex-reactions. He so badly wanted to be seen, yet was afraid for anyone to know the real him. His mix of anger over the past, and the strong desire to avoid dealing with that past felt incredibly authentic. Little details mentioned throughout the book really resonated with me. At one point, Adam gets incredibly annoyed at someone for referring to a mental institution as a “loony bin”, which I was nodding at: I’ve spent time in a mental hospital, and it bothers me when people say things like that too. He was competent and willing to sacrifice everything for a sister-in-law he really didn’t know. I cheered for him from minute one, and wanted him to see his own worth.
The story ratcheted up from a bit of mystery (who was responsible for the possession and why?) to a full-out battle involving manticores, Reapers, and a dragon. I do wish the ending had taken a little longer, just because I was enjoying the book so much. White Trash Warlock was a supernatural show-down combined with complicated real-life problems. I loved it and can’t wait to see what happens next.
Thank you to Wyldblood Press for the opportunity to read and review the first issue of Wyldblood Magazine. You can find WyldbloodMagazinehere.
This is a great offering from some truly talented authors. I got sucked into the very first story, and looked up a moment later to realize that I had finished the entire magazine and time had flown by without my noticing.
No one story was like another. Each piece was completely unique and stunningly creative. While I enjoyed all of them, there were two that really stood out to me. The first was Thawing by JL George. This is about the Ice Princess, a frozen statue that stands in the center of a village square. Legend has it that-well, I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just drop a hint about dragons (oh, how I love stories that contain dragons!), and say that Thawing has a perfect mix of legend and the everyday. I would love to see this expanded to a full novel, I enjoyed it so much.
The other story that really stuck with me was Souls of Smoke and Ash by Sydney Paige Guerrero. Have you ever heard someone being referred to as a “soul sucking —-“? Well, this particular entry happens to actually be about a soul sucker. It’s amazing to see an author lay out the scene, personality, and atmosphere that completely so quickly. The tale was told with confidence and ended in a way that I didn’t expect.
Not only are there some fantastic stories, Wyldblood Magazine also features interviews, book reviews, and some very skillful art. All of it added to the magazine, none of it was just filler. I’ve added a few books from the review section to my already overly large “to be read” list.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the layout. Sometimes, magazines are ordered in a way that makes transitions between pieces seem clunky, or gives a feeling of things being incomplete. Not so with Wyldblood. Each piece moved seamlessly into the next, despite every story being unlike the one before it. It’s hard to believe that this is the first issue of the magazine: it feels effortlessly well done. I am incredibly impressed, and I highly, highly suggest Wyldblood Magazine for all readers of fantasy or science fiction.
Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder—a world where women weave illusions of magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. Bound to her family’s circus, it’s the only world Cecile Cabot knows until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate affair that could cost her everything.
Virginia, 2004: Lara Barnes is on top of the world until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. When her desperate search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother’s journals, Lara is swept into a story of a dark circus and ill-fated love.
Soon secrets about Lara’s family history begin to come to light, revealing a curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations. A curse that might be tied to her fiancé’s mysterious disappearance. (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on March twenty third.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus is told from a few points of view: there’s Lara, a woman whose fiancé has gone missing; and Ben, the officer who is leading the search for him. There is another character whose story is told through journal entries, but I’m not going to say much about that for fear of spoiling things. The book starts with a simple premise and the beginning of many a mystery novel- until you realize that Lara and her family have magical abilities, and that there may or may not be a curse involved. Thus begins a story that is both delightful and a wee bit creepy. The Ladies of the Secret Circus is part mystery, part supernatural showdown, and wholly entertaining.
Author Constance Sayers did some things very, very well. Both Lara and Ben are likeable characters, who are easy to root for. I didn’t give a lick about Lara’s fiancé since he goes missing before being developed at all, but she was such a nice person that I was truly hoping for a happy ending. Ben is a no-nonsense detective who is in way over his head, but keeps plugging along anyway. I liked that stick-to-itness. I did find some of their reactions a little odd: for example, they accepted some revelations a lot more easily than I would have expected. Ben accepted the supernatural aspect relatively quickly and Lara seemed a lot more chill about having a killer after her than most people would be (I’m assuming; I’m happy to say that I have no experience in that situation).
The switch-off from mystery to a more supernatural book was a teensy bit abrupt, but the sheer creativity of the supernatural aspect was gripping. The Secret Circus turned out to be rather macabre, with an eerie bent to it that I loved. The history of the circus was enthralling and unlike anything I’ve read before. As much as I enjoyed Lara and Ben, the story of the circus itself was by far my favorite part of the entire book.
I did have a minor gripe: the order of the story seemed a little off from time to time, and some things were sort of left dangling. For example, Lara found out that someone was after her, but not much attention was paid to that until much later in the book, with her being more interested in the provenance of a family painting. There were other occurrences that were a big deal for about half a chapter, but then were left largely alone. It could be a little confusing at times. That’s a small complaint, though, and it’s really the only one I have.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus is fast-paced and a ton of fun. I recommend it to anyone who likes a little bit of a mysterious flair to their urban fantasy.
I’ll start this post by saying the now overused phrase, it’s been a tough year. I kind of think that’s the unspoken assumption at this point: “I’m doing well” (considering it’s a tough year), or “It’s been a bad day” (in the middle of a tough year). The book community isn’t exempt from the “tough year” unfortunately. I could go into the nitty gritty, but smarter minds than mine have already done that. So, this one is for the authors: you are appreciated.
I know it must be a discouraging time for so many of you, either with news you might have received, or just with life in general. Being an author is not for the faint of heart. You do not have it easy. To take the words in your mind and share them with others requires a massive amount of bravery. It also requires being willing to relinquish a little bit of your vision, knowing that the reader will picture your characters differently in their mind than you do. That takes guts.
This year has been full of changes in schedules, jobs, and lifestyle. There has been worry, and there has been loss. I cannot tell you what a godsend it has been to be able to curl up with a book – either an old friend, or a new discovery – and leave it all behind for a bit. From familiar favorites such as Dragonlance and The Night Circus, to more recent favorites, like The Ventifact Colossus and The Deviland the Dark Water, these books have kept me calm(ish).
Authors, what you do is important. So, so important. You aren’t just writing words on a page. Rather, you are building an escape pod. Your words are reminding us that even though we’re all stuck in our homes bunker-style, we aren’t alone. Good still exists and so does hope, laughter, creativity, new worlds, and mystery.
So, THANK YOU. Thank you for all you do. Keep writing. We’ll keep reading.
The path will be forged in sweat and blood. Rune, Grey, the shape-shifter Beltran, and willful vampire, Verida, set out to rescue their friend and mentor, Tate, from the gladiator games. But first they must navigate the perils of Eon and its warring factions. Each of this band of four carries with them a secret that threatens to tear their group apart from within. Rune now bears the mark of the promise she made to save Grey’s life – a nixie bubble lodged in her arm that could call her away to do their bidding or spell her death. Even as their loyalty to their cause and to one another faces its greatest test, Rune’s twin brother Ryker is forging an alliance with their mortal enemy, the powerful sorceress Zio, who has plans of her own for the Venators and Eon. Hearts will be bared, secrets unveiled, and relationships made and destroyed in this stunning new installment of the Venators series.
Thank you to The Write Reads for providing me with this book and the opportunity to join in on this book tour!
For those who have been taking notes, I’ve found this series to be a lot of fun thus far. These books have been full of action and intrigue, and packed with more fantastical creatures than I usually find in one fantasy world. Venators: Legends Rise carries on in this enjoyable vein and is a perfect continuation of the story.
Wow, no one knows how to get themselves into a mess quite like the characters in this story. They can’t seem to catch a break and I love it. I really enjoyed Grey in particular, although I think most of the characters are fun to read (Rune kind of annoys me, I will admit). This book focuses quite a bit more on getting to really understand what makes each of them tick, although there is no shortage of action. There isn’t always a ton of character growth in a series such as this, so I am incredibly impressed by the amount of development each character has.
The direction this particular book went in was a blast. As with the previous books, I quite liked the political maneuvering and the machinations that were half-hidden out of sight. I think there is a lot that is yet to be revealed and I’m curious where certain characters will go in future books (no spoilers here).
This is a fast read, and an incredibly entertaining one. Pick this series up if you enjoy creative worlds filled with fantastical creatures, strong character development, and plenty of action.
If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one. It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake. When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does. To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die. Body bags on standby.
May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England. (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to the Write Reads for allowing me to be a part of this book blog tour. This book is available for purchase now.
I don’t read a ton of books in this particular sub-genre, but I had heard so many good things about this author that I was excited to grab this book and open it up.
Before getting into the thick of it, let me give a headsup: author Josie Jaffrey kindly provided a content warning at the back of her book. I didn’t think to look in the back of the book, so I didn’t know what exactly I was getting into, content-wise. Totally my fault. However, the content warning is there, and I think that is incredibly awesome of her to provide it.
May Day was full of vampiric fun. Start with a vampire detective (I’m thinking more “enforcer” than detective, since she was more concerned about keeping vampire existence secret) who takes on a search for a blood-sucking murderer, and add in a fair amount of relationship drama, and you’ve got the bare bones. I’m not personally a huge fan of the romance aspect of the book, but the rest of it was enjoyable enough that I was able to take my crotchety attitude toward literary romantic entanglements and set it aside.
The mystery itself was my favorite part. It was creative and had layers I didn’t expect. Also, there was a good amount of blood-sucking politics, which I really enjoyed. The plot moved a little slowly at times, which I loved. It gave the set-up and politics the time it needed to be explored and fully developed.
Jack is the main character. She’s a newer vampire and is the youngest member of the Oxford Seekers (the detective-ish agency) and she’s a bit prickly. I never could decide if I liked her or if she annoyed me. I’m thinking it was a mixture of both, which makes her a complicated character. I’m a fan of complicated characters as a general rule, so I guess I like that I wasn’t sure I liked her?
I really wasn’t a fan of the whole complicated love thing, but I never am. It wasn’t done poorly or anything, it just isn’t my trope. However, if you enjoy complicated relationships, you’ll like this one. It’s done well.
MayDay is a great addition to the urban fantasy/mystery genre. If you like vampires or urban fantasy, you’ll love this book.
If you enjoy vampire fantasy, or urban fantasy in general, you’ll enjoy this book. I’d stake my life on it (I’m so punny)!
I think everyone should read off the beaten path from time to time (I feel like that is probably written on a mug somewhere). On the off chance you’re looking for self-published suggestions-and because I like making lists – below are just a few of the fantastic self-published fantasy books that I’ve read over the last couple of years. I’ve also added what I’m reading right now, as well as books I’ve been planning on reading but have yet to get to.
Books I Recommend:
Finance: The lifeblood of any country’s beating heart and the life’s work of Sailor Kelstern — Merchant Banker. While wizards brood in their towers and great warriors charge into battle Sailor is more interested in the price of ore, herbs, and alchemicals carried by the trade ships. But when a spell of bad fortune and bitter rivalry leaves him scrambling to turn a profit on little more than winds and whispers, one such whisper catches Sailor’s ear— a dragon has been seen in the west. Sailor soon finds that the dragons are very real, and not at all what he expected. And they practice a very different sort of economy — one of subterfuge and fire. (taken from Amazon)
Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London. And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control. (taken from Amazon)
Danger. Deception. Secrets. Not long ago, the gnomes’ gem master queen was overthrown and then enchanted to make sure she could never regain her powers. Now, she lives in a cage, guarded by those she once ruled, and her enchanted form disgusts all who look upon her.
When Tyla moved to Elantoth Fortress, she came as a librarian and researcher. As a novice gem user, she hopes to develop her powers, using the former queen’s gems. She never expected to be drawn into a struggle to keep the queen from being moved to a faraway city where sympathizers might restore her to her true form.
Tina Ann was one of the queen’s personal servants. A mutant kitchen worker with a unique ability to sense dark powers, she and Tyla develop an unlikely friendship, much to the annoyance of Tyla’s friends and family.. Tina Ann and her boyfriend Ben join Tyla on a trip to Aberell City that includes a visit to the infamous Outcast district. The troubles they encounter there foreshadow greater dangers ahead. When they uncover a dangerous secret that could plunge their world into chaos, the three friends find themselves drawn into unexpected adventures that could cost their lives. (taken from Amazon)
History cares about kings, but the gods love a buffoon.The hapless young soldier Gelios faces execution for offending his king. Desperate, he accidentally volunteers his cousin to chronicle the coming war.Equipped with only a sword and a stunning lack of judgment, Gelios must keep his cousin alive amid the greatest war of an era. Worse, he must survive the egos of the two most powerful kings in their army.But his deadliest struggle is with his mouth. Can he keep it shut long enough to make it home alive?The Iliad has long been the definitive source of knowledge surrounding the kings, gods, and heroes of the Trojan War. Now, for the first time, readers can experience the clash of two ancient superpowers through the eyes of the biggest jackass in history. (taken from Amazon)
She wants to level up her humdrum existence. But her next quest could spell life or death.
Jen Jacobs’s nights are spent traversing a strange city finding hidden objects, slaying dragons, and tangling with a host of fellow adventurers. And her days are spent counting down the seconds until she can return to the grind and continue racking up tokens and leveling up.
Except Jen isn’t playing a video game.
It’s all real and happening right in New York City.
After a particularly harrowing quest pairs her up with Beatrice Taylor, a no-nonsense and ambitious mentor, Jen hopes she’s on the path to becoming a big-time player. But as she dives deeper into the game’s hidden agenda, she realizes Beatrice has her sights set on the Guild, the centuries-old organization that runs the Questing game. And the quests Jen loves are about to put both of them in grave danger.
Will Jen survive the game before powerful forces cut her real life short? (taken from Amazon)
Alexis is dead. But that won’t stop her from becoming a hair-metal superstar.
When teen metalhead Alexis McRiott is killed in a freak accident, her ghost manifests unexplained magical powers. Thinking she can use them to resurrect herself to the rock-star life of her dreams, she kinda sorta accidentally releases an ancient evil bent on raising an army of poltergeists to slaughter the world of the living. Oops. Party foul.
Racing against the clock, Alexis teams with a badass Asian cowgirl and an overzealous medieval prince to learn the truth behind her mysterious powers and prevent a full-blown paranormal apocalypse. But can this foul-mouthed burnout charm the girl, save the world, and still prove she has what it takes to rock an arena show?
She doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance. (taken from Amazon)
A tale of conquest, dark kings, and daemonic heroes. A spellbinding story that will enchant you with its plot of ambition, love, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption. Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come. (taken from Amazon)
The fate of the world hinges on a forsaken spirit, a mad god in a sword, and 12 mythological beings.
The Limbo is where all souls — human or otherwise — go to after dying. Some don’t realize where they are. Death is a hard habit to get used to. Gods and mythological figures also dwell in the plane, borne from humanity’s beliefs.
A forsaken spirit is awakened and ordered to dispatch 12 souls back to Earth to prevent the apocalypse. Many don’t take kindly to the return. Accompanied by an imprisoned mad god, the spirit must compel them.
Each of the 12 unlocks a piece of the spirit’s true identity. Memories unfold and past wounds bleed again.
The journey will reveal buried truths about gods, angels, humanity, and the forsaken spirit itself.
If you like epic fights, diverse mythology reinterpreted, and surprising plot twists, Limbo is for you. (taken from Amazon)
Break the Code. Shatter the World.
Centuries ago, the murder of a beloved king tore apart the Kingdom of Caledun. The land was plunged into chaos and thousands perished in the aftermath. A new order was established in an attempt to return Caledun to its former glory. It failed, but in its place rose the beginnings of the Code.
During this same period, the mystical caretakers of the Great Wood retreated from the world of Kal Maran, their disappearance an ominous harbinger of the suffering that was to follow. The Great Wood now grows out of control. Cities, towns, and villages have fallen before the relentless march of the forest. Without the former guardians to keep her tame, the wood has become a place of peril, and dark creatures of legend now hunt beneath its leaves.
The summer season is now a time of armed conflict. The fall of the old monarchy has brought about a ceaseless cycle of combat. Grievances are settled by the strict tenets of a binding Mercenary Code and the men who would die to preserve its honour.
However, change is in the air. Political rivalries have escalated, and dire rumblings of a revolution abound. Thrust to the forefront of the shattered land’s politics, a mercenary fights for more than just riches. In the north, a borderland soldier wrestles with his own demons and looks to find his true purpose. And in the shadow of the Great Wood, a young man’s chance encounter with a strange visitor gives hope to a land divided. (taken from Amazon)
How do you kill a shadow?
As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a wounded stranger on the open road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever. With help from a hammer-wielding mercenary, a drifter girl with a heritage of magic, and an eccentric sky pirate, Caleb must find a way to escape the clutches of a shape-stealing demon that refuses to die.
Meanwhile, in the capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm. To assist him, the Queen enlists the aid of the sage, Tiberius Alaran. But the blind old man has secrets of his own—and allegiances that extend beyond the Ember Throne.(taken from Amazon)
A simple shepherd who can see all things invisible, a dwarf who risks his honour to strike the deal of his lifetime, and a clandestine necromancer who somehow manages to do good despite his own worst intentions. This unusual fantasy epic shows how petty shortcomings like jealousy, suspicion and greed can throw up just as dangerous challenges as revealed destiny or the unfolding of evil plans. Set in the deep forests of medieval Svitjod, at the shift between the coming of Christianity and the worship of the old gods, it stands firmly rooted in the muck and mud of the everyday while at the same time revealing a fantastical world of trolls, alfs and magic.When Stig accepts to guide some dwarven miners through the hexed forest only he knows how to navigate, he already has a bad feeling. The payment is far too generous for something supposed to be so simple. With a hungry family at home and still a few weeks before summer would break and end their hardship, he cannot afford to say no. As they set out on a journey fraught with troubles, not only do Stig realise he has gotten himself tangled up into something far greater than he could ever have imagined, the dwarves also slowly learn that Stig is not your average shepherd.The Singing Gold is the first part of a series which follows a poor woodsman and his family through a number of escalating dangers and misadventures, casting them out of the life they knew and finally threatening their very existence. As I wrote it, I set out to create an epic fantasy with a distinctly medieval feel to it. I wanted the characters to think and feel and reason like people from a distant past, not like time-travellers on holiday. I also wanted to show the specific past of the characters and story, not present some kind of historical survey of an era. The high middle ages were such a diverse and exciting time that it is impossible to give more than a glimpse of it in any series of books, as every land, region or even village lived under its own customs, beliefs and conditions. As a backdrop for my story, I picked a time and a place where law was still made by free men meeting at the Ting to discuss and voice their opinions, where the king had to constantly travel the country to make his will felt, and where the weight of a man’s kin, friends and neighbours were still more important than his class. Yet, at the same time, ideas, trade, and beliefs moved fast and far all over Europe. The Church had recently managed to form an organised network spanning from Lisbon to Trondheim to Acre in the far east, even if Jerusalem was again lost to them. Adventurous young men could seek their fortune in war or wager all over the continent. For Stig and his family though, the next dozen leagues of dense pine forest, huddling villages and dearly conquered fields and pastures was the extent of their world. (taken from Amazon)
Gabe thought he had covered all the angles, but it’s tough to plan a contingency for accidentally trapping an evil god in your brain.
Gabriel Delling might call himself a professional con artist, but when walking superstitions start trying to bite his face off, his charm is shockingly unhelpful. It turns out living nightmares almost never appreciate a good joke. Together with a succubus who insists on constantly saving his life, Gabe desperately tries to survive a new reality that suddenly features demons, legends, and a giant locust named Dale—all of whom pretty much hate his guts.
And when an ancient horror comes hunting for the spirit locked in his head, Gabe finds himself faced with the excruciating choice between death…or becoming some kind of freaking hero.
Hero Forged is the first book in the new series, Ethereal Earth, a modern fantasy adventure that challenges the natures of myth, humanity, and what it means to be the good guy. (taken from Amazon)
If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.
It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.
When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.
To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.
Body bags on standby. (taken from Amazon)
Alaric betrayed everything he believed to save Evangeline — and failed.
His last chance to save the woman he loves lies in an ancient Wellstone, a repository of power, buried and lost long ago.
Luck—or something more troubling—leads him to a small group searching for the same stone.
A disgruntled dwarf,
a bumbling wizard,
and an elf with an unsettling amount of power.
If he can gain their trust, they might help him find the cure.
But the Wellstone holds more than he knows, and a terrible evil he’d thought defeated is stirring again, searching for the stone.
Can the companions survive a traitor, a dragon, and their own pasts to reach the stone before time runs out? (taken from Amazon)
It is said that in times of war, the world chooses its own champions.
These are the Landkist. Elemental warriors blessed by sky, river, stone and, in the case of a select few, fire itself.
For generations, the flame-wielding Embers have been the last line of defense against the nightmare creatures of the World Apart.
Now, their light is fading.
When Kole, Ember of Last Lake is wounded by a demon unlike any they have seen before, the wise believe it is a sign of an ancient enemy returned – a powerful Sage known as the Eastern Dark.
While the Valley is plunged into a war beyond reckoning, the land’s greatest champions rise up to meet the coming threat. But even the combined might of the last Embers and their elemental kin may not be enough to stem the tide of darkness.
Kole has never believed in destiny, but with his people hanging on the precipice and his home on the brink of ruin, he must discover the limits of the one power he fears above all else.
His own. (taken from Amazon)
Brothers torn by magic. A sorceress with dragony aspirations. A wolf king, a royal wizard, a squire fleeing with a coveted sword. What could possibly go wrong when they all collide in Highwander, where the very bedrock is formed of the powerful substance known as Wardstone?The Sword and the DragonWhen the Royal Wizard of Westland poisons the king so that his puppet prince can take the throne and start a continental war, a young squire is forced to run for his life carrying the powerful sword his dying monarch burdened him with from the death bed.Two brothers find a magic ring and start on paths to becoming the most powerful sort of enemies, while an evil young sorceress unwillingly falls in love with one of them when he agrees to help her steal a dragon’s egg for her father. Her father just happens to be the Royal Wizard, and despite his daughter’s feelings, he would love nothing more than to sacrifice the boy!All of these characters, along with the Wolf King of Wildermont, the Lion Lord of Westland, and a magical hawk named Talon, are on a collision course toward Willa the Witch Queen’s palace in the distant kingdom of Highwander. There the very bedrock is formed of the powerful magical substance called Wardstone.Who are the heroes? And will they get there before the Royal Wizard and his evil hordes?Whatever happens, the journey will be spectacular, and the confrontation will be cataclysmic. (taken from Amazon)
Self-published fantasy I’m reading now:
A fantasy adventure begins…
Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep the monster at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.
Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.
Dranko is priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.
None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.
What starts with a simple scouting mission soon spirals into something more far-reaching and sinister. The heroes will contest with dream warriors, evil cultists, sentient gemstones, and a devious yet infuriatingly polite gentleman with a perfect mustache, on their way to a desperate encounter with the unstoppable: The Ventifact Colossus.(taken from Amazon)
What about you? What self-published fantasy books are you reading?