If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I have been lucky enough to read many indie/self-published. I love the creativity and uniqueness often found in self-published books. Last year was the first ever Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week, during which I was joined by many amazing bloggers, podcasters, and Youtubers, all sharing their appreciation for great self-published authors. Well, guess what? We’re doing it again this year!
This year Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week will run from July 24th-30th. How can you get involved? Read self-published books, review self-published books, shout about great self-published authors. You’re welcome to use the above banner (created by the awesome Fantasy Book Nerd) and if you tag my Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB, I will add your posts to a blog hub and share those posts on my Twitter. On Twitter, you can the hashtags #SPAAW, #SuperSP, and #IndiesAreAwesome.
Start with a mystery, throw in a dash of the spooky, and add a bit of romance and you’ve got the premise for A Lesson in Vengeance, a fast and entertaining read. This book is available for purchase now.
The book is told from the point of view of Felicity Morrow, a girl just returning to school after witnessing a horrific accident that resulted in a death the year before. Only Felicity knows something that other people don’t: her girlfriend was murdered, and Felicity knows who did it.
While the premise in and of itself isn’t anything new, the execution is very different. Felicity struggles with both feelings of guilt and embarrassment over her mental illness diagnosis. I could relate a little to the second thing. No one should feel embarrassed about having a mental illness, but I did for many years because of the stigma that comes along with it. Author Victoria Lee has a Ph.D. in psychology, which she put to interesting use here. Felicity was a fascinating character, partly because of her struggles, although I really didn’t like her.
In fact, I didn’t like any of the characters. That didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book at all; if anything, it made me more curious about what secrets each of them was hiding and who they really were underneath their shiny exteriors. There are four other characters that Felicity interacts with, each of them a roommate in her dorm, a dorm that is steeped in legends of murder and witchcraft. Felicity is drawn to these legends and to the supposed magic that comes with them. What role magic plays in this story is a discovery I’ll leave to the reader, so as to avoid spoilers.
While A Lesson in Vengeance was good, there were some things about it that I didn’t love. The pacing felt choppy, with more time spent on developing the plot than seemed necessary, and not enough time spent on the climax. I would have loved for the ending to be stretched out a little more, and it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I also wonder if the very end of the book was a late addition because it really didn’t fit the tone of the story. Then again, I’m the sort of person who likes endings to be a little less…. finished, so maybe I’m not the best judge here.
A Lesson in Vengeance was a fun read, and would be great paired with a cozy blanket, a stormy night, and a favorite warm drink.
The Hawthorne Legacy is a sequel to The Inheritance Games ( you can find my review of that book here) and there are some unavoidable spoilers to book one below. You have been warned!
Ah, where to start with this book? After finding The Inheritance Games to be a rollicking good treasure hunt complete with riddles and double-crossing, The Hawthorne Legacy was left with some pretty big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me.
While the spirit of the series was alive and kicking, a good chunk of the book seemed a little disorganized. After solving the riddles and thwarting the plots in book one, Avery is left trying to navigate the newfound “responsibilities” that come with her fortune, while at the same time trying to find Tobias Hawthorne. He seems to have vanished into thin air, leaving very little in the way of how to find him. Meanwhile, there’s a new mystery involving Avery’s mom, and then Avery’s dad shows up…see what I mean about it being a little disorganized? Some of the threads end up tying together while others seem to fade into the background without there ever really being a resolution.
The mystery was not particularly compelling to me, simply because the reveals were often found in letters etc, as opposed to being cleverly puzzled out. The reader wasn’t given all the clues needed to solve the puzzles along with the characters, which was a bummer for me. I love getting the solution and having a “Why didn’t I see that?” moment. I didn’t really get the chance for that here.
That’s not to say The Hawthorne Legacy didn’t have its fun moments. It most definitely did. Avery’s best friend became a larger part of the storyline, which I loved. Her spunk and individuality were a breath of lighthearted fresh air and her interactions with Xander in particular were a lot of fun. She also gave us a window into the thoughts of the other characters, as she would demand details that wouldn’t otherwise have been given. She pushed the story along when it seemed to start to falter.
The relationship complications became more of an issue, which is most definitely not my jam. The love triangle might actually appeal to a lot of readers because it was done in a pretty classy way, considering. It’s just not my thing.
So, what did I think of the mystery? I felt that, while it was creative and led to lots of tense moments, the way it was done changed this book from a mysterious puzzler to a thriller. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it was unexpected. The Inheritance Games had a bit of a Knives Out vibe in my opinion. The Hawthorne Legacy went in a much different direction.
While it ended up not quite being my thing, the book is still well written and the characters are still interesting enigmas. Avery’s best friend Max stole the show, but there were plenty of great moments with the other characters too. We are shown more of the relationship dynamic between the brothers, particularly between Jameson and Grayson, which I thought was fantastic. Even though they are extremely competitive and often work at cross purposes, it was clear they care about each other.
The Inheritance Games is a blast to read and I still recommend it. The Hawthorne Legacy was a bit of a letdown, but I might be in the minority in my final takeaway. I suggest you give it a go yourself and tell me why my opinion is wrong.
Horror aficionado Lanie Adams should be thrilled when two eighties-era ghosts materialize in her bedroom. Yet after a fainting incident unbecoming of a horror nerd, she would rather her haunting just go away—the ghosts’ waterlogged voices and ice-cold auras are more terrifying than any movie. Enlisting the help of Ryan, an entirely-too-cute stoner, she makes it her mission to put the spirits stalking her to rest.
Some sleuthing reveals that their sleepy Connecticut town is host to a shadowy, decades-old conspiracy. If Lanie wants to say a final goodbye to her ghosts, she’ll need to keep digging. But it’s important to tread carefully. The culprit is still in town—and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried. (taken from Amazon)
I was fortunate to be a panelist for the 2020 BBNYA competition organized by @The WriteReads tour team. As always, all opinions are honest, and my own.
BBYNA is a yearly competition that highlights the many talented indie authors. Books are read and scored by book bloggers from all over the world.
If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be a part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also, remember to read the terms and conditions).
BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society , (which has the most beautiful books I’ve ever drooled over), and the book blogger group The Write Reads.
Equal parts mystery and ghost story, Specter kept me engaged from start to finish. It follows teen horror-lover Lanie as she tries to unravel the secret behind her new…guests. Lanie was a lot of fun. I can even forgive her for thinking of 80s clothing as “old” (my poor, ancient, arthritic heart was a little broken at that part). She’s smart, but obviously in way over her head. I love it when a character realizes just how far out of their depth they actually are. She never gives up, though.
Her sort-of boyfriend, Ryan, annoyed me. That’s a good thing, though. It meant he was well-developed enough to elicit a gut reaction from me, even though my gut reaction was dislike. He added a lot to the storyline and served to keep the book on track toward what was a very surprising climax.
There is a little detail that I have to point out because it was just so great: our teen sleuths didn’t get lucky and stumble upon the answer right away. They had to work for it. Some of what they discovered ending up being useful in and unexpected way, or even not all that important. They had to sift through what they learned to find what was pertinent. I loved that. It made the answer a big payoff.
There were all kinds of surprises! The ending made perfect sense, but it was definitely not where I thought the book was going, which was pretty darn cool. The climax ratcheted things up to a breakneck pace. This was a fun read, one that I recommend to readers of YA ghost stories who like great characters along with their spooks.
Well, this has been an… interesting year. If you can name it, chances are it’s happened. I’ve learned a lot about the strength many of my acquaintances possess. I truly wish they hadn’t needed to use so much strength and determination to make it through the year, but if wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steak. Anyway, I digress.
While the year has been all kinds of horrible for most, the books I’ve been fortunate to read were amazing. I rounded up my favorites but there is absolutely no way I can rank them in order from one to ten. Instead, they’re here with zero rhyme or reason, just a huge amount of appreciation. Without further rambling, here are my top ten 2020 reads:
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
This book was absolutely brilliant. I went into it with ridiculously high hopes, and they were more than fulfilled. There was a tension throughout that had me riveted, and Turton’s fantastic writing style kept me hooked from start to finish. Review
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Holy guacamole, this book is awesome! My last book of the year (I might finish the sequel in time, but that’s a big might); I totally went out with a bang. The Queen of Blood had me riveted from start to finish. I should apologize probably to the family for all the things I didn’t get done while I was ignoring the real world to read this. Review
The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart
This was a skillful and unique twist on questing fantasy. I loved all of the characters, each of which brought their own struggles and strengths to the group. This felt like a wonderful throwback to the type of book that spawned my love of the fantasy genre. The sequel was equally fantastic, and you can find my reviews for both books here: The Ventifact Colossus and The Crosser’s Maze.
Knight’s Ransom by Jeff Wheeler
I truly loved Knight’s Ransom. It had an Arthurian feel to it that I found engrossing. While larger things are going on in the world, the book followed mainly one man and focused on his character growth. There was no Big Bad poised to destroy life as everyone knows it, but the world still felt big, and the personal stakes felt just as important. Review
The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn
This book was just flat-out fun. Ardor Benn, ruse artist extraordinaire, was an entertaining character, and his partners in crime were just as great. I particularly loved the heists they planned since they never ever worked out as expected. Review
Hollow Road Dan Fitzgerald
Hollow Road was extremely good. Its sequel, The Archive, made me tear up. That doesn’t happen often at all. This is an incredible series and I am dying to continue it. My review for Hollow Road can be found here. My review for The Archive can be found here.
The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold
Both this book and its sequel, Dead Man in a Ditch, were phenomenal. Gritty detective novel meets fantasy in this series and works extremely well. I loved the main character, Fetch Phillips, who is drowning in both regret and alcohol. His narrative voice was wonderful and I can’t wait for the next installment in the series. Review
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
If not for The Write Read Blog Tour that I took part in, this book wouldn’t have been on my radar. That would have been a shame, because it was so enjoyable. It was a bit like the movie Knives Out sans cable knit sweaters. I really liked going along with the main character as she tried to solve the mysteries presented to her. Review
Feathertide by Beth Cartwright
Feathertide was gorgeous. I really could stop there. The prose sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. It’s a masterpiece and I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t love about it. Review
How to Rule an Empire and Get Awaywith It by K.J. Parker
This book was flat-out fantastic! It was the perfect combination of witty and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this one. I loved it so much! Review
So, there you have it. This was an extremely difficult list to narrow down. Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? Here’s to many more wonderful books in 2021!
I read a pretty broad variety of books, both in age range and genre. I’ve already talked about great gifts ideas for both middle-grade and picture book readers. Today I’m moving on to young adult readers. Whether you’re looking for a gift, or shopping for yourself (totally allowed), I think these are some of the best of the best.
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Thanks to the Write Reads on Tour, I was able to read an ebook of this before its release. I loved it so much that my husband surprised me with a physical copy. Full of puzzles to solve, and characters with questionable motives, this mysterious scavenger hunt of a book was a blast to read. You can read my original review of The Inheritance Gameshere. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery.
The Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake
Oh, how I love this series, the first book of which is Three Dark Crowns. Led by a cast of strong female characters, these books center around a desperate struggle between three sisters to be Queen Crowned-because only one can survive to rule. Each sister has a different power (my favorite is Katharine, the poisoner), and the way they’re used is incredibly creative. The world is large and complex, and the characters are complicated and three dimensional. I especially appreciate the high stakes in the series: no character is untouchable. As a huge bonus, the series is already finished, so there’s no waiting impatiently for the next book to release.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
This is the first book in the Great Library series. It imagines a world in which the Library of Alexandria did not burn down. Instead, it became a controlling power, banning the ownership of books. The only books allowed to be read have to be okayed by the Library itself and we all know the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Enter Jess, a smuggler of books who finds himself in an accidental rebellion, together with a fantastic group of characters. This book is fast paced and full of action and intrigue.
Two Like Me and You by Chad Alan Gibbs
I read this book due to a glowing review by another blogger, and it introduced me to a fantastic author. Edwin is reeling from a bad breakup when he is assigned a group project with a new student. Somehow they end up “breaking” a WW2 veteran named Garland out of a nursing home. The three of them go on a madcap race around France, in search of Garland’s long-lost love. On the way, Edwin himself learns a little bit about love and an awful lot about life. Both heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is on my “everyone needs to read this” list.
Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
I have actually mentioned this book on another list: books to read after (or instead of Harry Potter). Now, bear with me: this book is only like Harry Potter in the vaguest of ways: there’s a school for magic users, a main character who is always attracting trouble, and two best friends/partners in crime. That is where the similarities end. This is full-on fantasy, in a completely (and fully developed) fantasy world. It is not geared toward children or middle graders, and the characters aren’t kids. The writing is amazing, which is to be expected from author Tamora Pierce. You can’t go wrong with anything she’s written.
So there you have it. Any of these books would make great gifts for the YA reader in your life. What are some YA books that you think would make excellent gifts? You can find these great books, and more at Bookshop.org , which supports indie bookstores instead of Amazon. That’s pretty nifty. I’ll also get a little kickback at no extra cost to you, if you use my link (above).
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.
A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.
To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive. (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to Dave at the Write Reads for including me in this blog tour. I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.
Riddle me this: what book is full of mystery, puzzles to solve, possible murder attempts, and a plot that keeps you guessing? The answer is obvious! It’s The Inheritance Games, of course!
This book was so much fun! It follows Avery, a wildly intelligent girl who has been struggling to make ends meet. She learns that she has been left a large fortune by Tobias Hawthorne, an obscenely rich tycoon. She would be overjoyed, but she can’t overlook one fact: she’s never even met the deceased man. Question number one? Who is she to him, and why did he leave her his fortune, excluding his relatives?
This book features a cast of unique and not necessarily trustworthy characters. There’s Avery’s older sister who has a connection to a skeezy guy; Skye and Zara, Hawthorne’s daughters; Zara’s husband; and Tobias Hawthorne’s grandsons, who were very close to Tobias and were pretty much a lock-in for the massive inheritance. The grandsons are: Nash, a self-made cowboy who has a thing for saving people; Xander, the youngest who seems less-than-interested in everyone else’s machinations; Jameson, who is incredibly helpful (but who knows why?); and Grayson, who feels that Avery has somehow taken advantage of Tobias Hawthorne. There’s one catch: in order to claim the inheritance, Avery has to live in the late Tobias’ estate with these people of questionable ethics. Everyone in the book has their own motivation, and secrets abound.
There were so many great things about this book! First of all, I loved that the riddles weren’t obvious, and neither was the solution. I was guessing and figuring things out right along with Avery, which was a blast. There was one “reveal” which I figured out early on, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book. Instead, I had a major fist pump moment (“Yes! I knew it!”) and every other solved answer was completely out of the blue for me. Another thing that I enjoyed was that, even though it would have been easy to slip into the tried and true mystery tropes, the author neatly avoided falling into that trap.
There was the whole complicated love triangle doomahickey but, seeing as it was part of the game and possibly just a clever redirection, it didn’t really bother me. It was also kept in the background of the story instead of taking priority, which I appreciated. Avery had a good head on her shoulders and was not as easily hoodwinked as I think certain characters were expecting. No spoilers from me, I promise.
I fairly flew through this book of mysterious happenings, and I loved every minute! I’m incredibly happy to know there will be a sequel, since I’m not ready to leave Hawthorne Manor and its inhabitants behind. Do yourself a favor and read this book as soon as humanly possible.
Every once in a while, a book character comes along and changes things. Not just for one reader (although that is also a huge accomplishment), but for society in general. This character moves from the page to everyday culture. This is what has happened with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Phrases like, “The game is afoot,” and “no s***, Sherlock” are ubiquitous. Almost everyone at least knows who Sherlock Holmes is. Now, the question is: why? Sherlock himself is actually a very unlikable character. He’s too smart for his own good, is constantly making everyone else look less-than-competent, and is less demonstrative of his feelings than others often are. So, what makes this unlikable character so darn likable?
I think a good chunk of his charm is the way he was written. Arthur Conan Doyle was fantastic at bringing his characters to life. He could also craft a mystery like no other. Even though some of the conclusions Holmes comes to border on the impossible, Doyle makes the reader want to suspend disbelief. We like thinking that there is someone out there who can solve the difficult problems and can bring the bad guy to justice. Of course, it does bear mentioning that literary Holmes did not, in fact, solve every case. That only serves to make him an even more interesting character. Contemporary mysteries almost always end with “good” prevailing. Seeing know-it-all Holmes be wrong every once in a while only serves to make him a more three-dimensional character.
Whatever the reason, Doyle’s famous detective has given birth to many books, movies, plays, and TV shows that all aim to do one thing: show their love of Sherlock Holmes. There are books that are at least partially inspired by Holmes, such as Jackaby by William Ritter and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro; books that include their own versions of the actual characters, such at the Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andy Lane and Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (although, I would never have thought of Mycroft in the way he’s written); and of course, more TV and movie adaptations than you can shake a stick at. Basil Rathbone’s version, and the incredible BBC TV show happen to by my favorites on screen.
At any rate, I’ve noticed something rather odd: it seems that more people are enjoying the things based on Sherlock Holmes than reading the original itself. Honestly, though, I think it’s important to read the original Conan Doyle stories. Aside from the fact that they are fantastic, they will bring a deeper appreciation to the other versions that we all enjoy. If, like me, you have a love of the one and only Sherlock Holmes, I’ve listed a few new takes on the famous detective below. However, if you haven’t read the original Sherlock Holmes, I implore you to give them a go.
– A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
–The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Thodora Goss (I haven’t read this one yet) -The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams
–Moriarty by Anthony Horrowitz
–Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
–Jackaby by William Ritter
– Young Sherlock Holmes by Andy Lane
–Sherlock Holmes- The Improbable Prisoner by Stuart Douglas
Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words―something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.
So everything is okay―until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her―and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed. (taken from Amazon)
This was an oh dear book for me. The premise – a small group of friends, and the murderer is one of them – seemed interesting, but it lacked something in the execution. I’ll try to put my issues with this book into words, but please bear with me. My train of thought often jumps its track.
I will say that the author made a gutsy choice: not a single character is remotely likeable. I’m pretty sure that was deliberate. It was tough to read a book filled with horrible people, though. The closest thing to a decent character is the main character’s sister, Maggie. Unfortunately, she was side character who wasn’t in the book nearly enough to balance the feeling of ick the other characters ooze.
As horrible as the characters all are, the main character is the absolute worst. Her internal dialogue is filled with scathing insults of her “friends,” she starts fights, frequently thinks about ways she can make people mad, and is flat-out horrible. One line in the book reads, “Nah, she wouldn’t kill herself. No way. She’d find some other way to get revenge.” How flipping awful is that? I think that line was the breaking point for me. I can’t stand when books imply suicide-as-revenge. That trope needs to go. I kept reading in the hope that one of the characters would grow a moral compass, but it never fully happened.
In this book, a group of privileged, bored teens take turns breaking into each other’s houses on a dare. They steal from their rich parents and get a rush out of it. Eventually, that starts to bore them too, so they decide to steal from someone outside their clique. That leads to murder, and suddenly anyone in the group could be next. The final motive felt a little forced to me. I couldn’t figure out what the impetus was, everything switched up so quickly.
I will say that the author’s idea was an interesting one. It just really didn’t work for me. As much as I can understand why this book might be enjoyable for many people, there were too many things that rankled at me. I won’t go out of my way to read anything else by this author, although I wish her the best of luck with this book and her writing career.