Self-published Authors Appreciation Week- The Hand of Fire by Roland O’Leary

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Welcome to the second annual Self-published Authors Appreciation Week (#SPAAW), a weeklong event celebrating self-published authors. Please feel free to join in the fun by shouting about your favorite self-published authors on your various platforms. Twitter hashtags: #SPAAW, #SuperSP, #IndiesAreAwesome.

I was fortunate to read The Hand of Fire by Roland O’Leary as a member of team Before We Go Blog during SPFBO8.

Dangerous magic. A realm under siege. Can a mother and son defeat a rising evil?
Danalar Halyas isn’t ready to grow up. Torn between boyhood desire and adult responsibility, the sixteen-year-old heir is devastated after his father goes missing in battle. And when a powerful ally suspected of treachery closes in on their lands, the untried youth worries he won’t be able to protect his territory from war.
Charymylle Halyas stands strong within a storm of chaos and grief. As the fate of her beloved husband remains unknown, she directs the clan while shaping her teenage sons into men mighty enough to lead. But with demonic forces disrupting crucial spells and an emissary arriving with an unwelcome invitation, the troubled regent is terrified she’ll lose all that she loves.
Defying his mother’s commands, Danalar sneaks out with friends to warn a nearby village… only to run into sinister threats. And with the consequences of her decisions raining fire on her people, Charymylle fears she may have led her nation to its doom.
Will the Halyas family fall to darkness, or can they beat back a formidable foe?
The Hand of Fire is the gripping first book in The Essence of Tyranny epic fantasy series. If you like complex characters, vivid imagery, and visionary world-building, then you’ll adore Roland J O’Leary’s soulful adventure.

The Hand of Fire is an ambitious book, with a complex storyline and a vast world. The very beginning of the book started with a lone rider escaping a doomed battle. Based on that, I expected a fast-moving story. Such is not the case. The Hand of Fire is a book that takes its time, getting each detail correct and crafting a well-executed story. While it does pick up toward the end, I struggled to concentrate at the beginning. I think that stemmed in part from the memories that were described. They were there to explain Lady Charymylle’s relationship with her husband, and to highlight her involvement with how things were run. However, they did interrupt the pacing a bit. The last half of the book definitely moved faster, setting up the rest of the series wonderfully.

Danalar’s father, lord of the Halyas, is either dead or taken captive, a casualty of battle. His storyline is a bit of a coming-of-age tale, as he learns to cope with this loss and become a leader. He was very a very believable character and managed to never bore or annoy me. I really enjoyed watching his character grow. My very favorite character, though, was Lady Charymylle. While dealing with her own emotions regarding the disappearance of her husband, she was also the competent and clever leader the people needed. She was never on the sidelines and was a strong character, something I very much appreciated.

The Hand of Fire reminded me a bit of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series by Tad Williams. Willliams’ first book, The Dragonbone Chair, also has a slower pace. In fact, I would argue that the entire book is just setup for the rest of the series. Because the series is so amazing, The Dragonbone Chair is great. But it has to be taken with the rest of the series. On its own, it doesn’t feel like a full story. The Hand of Fire seemed like that to me. If the rest of the series is as well written as the first book is (and I have no reason to think it won’t be), the payoff will be huge, and the series will be a must-read for fans of sweeping fantasy.

I truly hope that I made sense with my wandering explanation there. Roland O’Leary is crafting something with massive potential that I think is going to pay off in a big way. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week:Windward by S. Kaeth

This week is Self-published Authors Appreciation Week! I’m happy to have the opportunity to focus solely on some of the awesome self-published books that I’ve read. Feel free to join in the fun by shouting about self-published books on your various platforms. Twitter hashtags: #SPAAW, #SuperSP, #AwesomeIndies.

When dragons fight, mountains weep. In nests high in the mountains, dragons and dragonbonded share their lives, thoughts, feelings, and ambitions.Palon and her partner, the dragon Windward, are renowned among their nest for their flying skill. Their days are filled with everything she loves, especially riding the wind. Even being tasked with teaching their way of life to Tebah, a rebellious newly bonded teenager, can’t bring her down too much.But when treasures from the dragons’ hoards are found in Palon’s collection, her idyllic life comes crashing down. She battles to prove her innocence, while her every move is cast as further evidence against her. Tebah’s suspicion, homesickness, and defiance would be frustrating even in easy times. With Palon in the spotlight while her rivals smear her name at every turn and stir up plots of revenge, her teenage charge’s behavior proves dangerous.Dragon tempers shorten, and challenges and disputes shake the ground. Palon will have to trust more than just herself if she hopes to once more own the sky. (Taken from Amazon)

Dragons!!!! Books are always better with dragons, in my opinion, and I absolutely loved how they were portrayed in this book. They didn’t take a back seat to the human characters; instead adding an extra layer of awesome. They were very tribal, and had a fully developed hierarchy, which was incredibly creative.

Another win for me with this book is how, instead of the dragons taking on human characteristics, their bonded humans instead became distinctly draconic. The humans each had their own hoards that they were very protective of, and they showed anger and submission just like their draconish counterparts.

The story-line was interesting, the main characters being Palon and her bondmate, the dragon Windward. Palon was impulsive and emotional, which made for an interesting read. She is accused of stealing from dragons in order to grow her own cache of treasures, and she needs to figure out who is framing her- and why. At the same time, she is tasked with training a new dragon-bonded pair.

The dragon Silver Spine, and the new bondmate were my favorite characters. They often gave a bit of a break from focusing just on Palon, just when she was in danger of becoming obnoxious. The differences in their personalities played off each other quite well.

If you like your fantasies distinctly draconic, read this book. It’s a fast read, and highly enjoyable.

Self-Published Author Appreciation Week- The Swordsman’s Lament by G.M. White

Banner credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

Welcome to the second annual Self-published Authors Appreciation Week (#SPAAW), a weeklong event celebrating self-published authors. Please feel free to join in the fun by shouting about your favorite self-published authors on your various platforms. Twitter hashtags: #SPAAW, #SuperSP, #IndiesAreAwesome.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book. The Swordsman’s Lament is available for purchase now.

A dead prince. A grieving king. A legendary swordsman accused of murder.
Loyalty counts for nothing when the king demands blood.
Royal champion, and confidant to the king, Belasko thought he was beyond intrigues and machinations. But when the grief-stricken King demands vengeance for his murdered son, Belasko discovers he is expendable. His options are clear: find the killer or die for a crime he didn’t commit.
This breakneck fantasy thriller is perfect for fans of David Gemmell, Sebastien de Castell and Miles Cameron. Pick up your copy today! (Taken from Amazon)

The Swordsmans Lament is an excellent fantasy filled with swordfights, intrigue, and a warrior whose most dangerous enemy is old age. Despite his aches and pains, the warrior’s mind and sword are both still sharp, making for a book with never a dull moment.

The story follows Belasko, the king’s Champion, a peasant-turned-soldier whose deeds on the battlefield have won him notoriety. He’s grown close to the royal family over the years, going from valued for his skill with a sword to being a valued friend. Until, that is, he is arrested for the murder of the prince. He has to somehow prove his innocence, but the evidence against him is damning.

Belasko is the sort of character that I love reading about. He’s grizzled and experienced, sometimes gets lost in his memories, but is as smart as they come. The decisiveness (and desperation) that lead him to take risks that many people would avoid take the book in unexpected and exciting directions.

At less than 300 pages, The Swordsman’s Lament isn’t a chonker. It makes great use of its length, moving at a quick pace and keeping me entertained throughout. The use of flashbacks during pauses in the action (such as when a certain character is incarcerated) was a clever way to establish both the world, its history and its occupants without the dreaded info dump. The flashbacks were also short, made sense to the story and its development, and- wonderful for my poor eyes- were not italicized (seriously, I cannot overstate how much I appreciate that).

I loved everything about The Swordsman’s Lament, from the plot to the dialogue (there’s an observation on monologuing that had me in stitches), to the well-described fight scenes. This is a world I’m happy to get lost in and a character I’m excited to read more about. Highly recommended!

Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week- The Weather Tag

Banner Credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

This week marks the second annual Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week, where we shout about amazing self-published authors. There are no specific prompts: feel free to join in and talk about self-publish books that you love!

I’m doing a tag today. I don’t do them all that often because I tend to lose track of the ones I wanted to do in the first place! This fun one comes from Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road.

Sunshine: A Book That Made You Smile-

First of all, the main character is a bard! That alone was enough to make me grin. The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True hilariously stomps its way through the fantasy genre, leaving no fantasy trop alone and taking no prisoners. It’s loads of fun!

Rain: A Book You Couldn’t Put Down-

The Mennik Thorn series has been difficult to put down from book one! There’s so much going on and poor Mennik is such a disaster-magnet that I get sucked in immediately. The writing is superb, which just adds even more to the reading experience.

Wind: A Book that Blew You Away-

I will never stop talking about how amazing Dragon Mage is. It’s a bit of a doorstop (over 800 pages) but it flies by because it so darn good! From the characters to the plot, author M.L. Spencer crafted an incredibly compelling novel.

Hurricane: A Tragic Book-

While many books I read have sad parts, I can’t think of a book that I would classify as “tragic”.

Blizzard: A Book You Had High Expectations For-

Several people who have great taste in books loved The Swordsman’s Lament, so I was pretty sure I would too. It more than lived up to my expectations and kept me on the edge of my seat!

*Self-published Authors Appreciation Page Hub Page

Self-published Authors Appreciation Week: The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham


Banner credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

Welcome to the second annual Self-published Authors Appreciation Week (#SPAAW), a weeklong event celebrating self-published authors. Please feel free to join in the fun by shouting about your favorite self-published authors on your various platforms.

Before getting to the review, I have to give a little backstory. My oldest son occasionally allows me to share book reviews that he’s written. Author A.R. Witham heard about that and sent a copy of his book, along with a kind and supportive note, to my son. It meant so much to my son and I am so grateful to the author for this kindness. My son reviewed The Legend of Black Jack as well (you can find his review here).

Jack Swift can remember anything—even the horrible things he’d like to forget. To keep his guilt-ridden memories from haunting him, and to dodge his abusive foster mom, he buries himself in any book he can find, dreaming of his ultimate escape: becoming a doctor.

But fate has another escape in mind.

At 3:33am on his fourteenth birthday, Jack is kidnapped by a monstrous rhinoceros and whisked away to another sphere of existence: the land of Keymark. Though this world is filled with pixies, monsters, pirates, elves, warriors, and all sorts of mythical wonders, it is without healing magic—that magic was stolen by an evil, immortal prince hell-bent on domination. With no understanding of medical science to heal their wounds or illnesses, Jack’s kidnappers ask the impossible of him: use his knowledge to save a life…or be trapped in this bizarre world with no chance of rescue.

Jack doesn’t have secret magic, a great destiny, or any medical experience.

Why do they all expect him to become a legend? (Taken from Amazon)

The Legend of Black Jack is a fast-paced book full of adventure and heart. The novel centers around the most likeable main character, a boy named Jack who has an eidetic memory. After losing his father and bouncing from foster home to foster home, Jack- whose thirst for knowledge is matched only by his desire to become a doctor- finds himself embarking on a new adventure with the most unlikely of characters.

They say he was an outsider. A man with no home, no family, no friend to call his own. The man with nothing left to love. The empty man.”

The beginning reminded me so much of The Name of the Wind, which was astonishing considering the difference in target age. I loved how it was written and I was immediately drawn in. The book continues wonderfully, not only keeping me invested, but keeping my oldest son invested as well. It was awesome being able to talk about the plot and our favorite characters together.

I loved that Jack’s strengths were the things that people might have found odd about him: his fascination with how the body works and bits of knowledge gleaned from encyclopedias. These are not the usual trappings of the hero in a story, and it was genius. He was an incredibly nuanced character, who grew and changed as he experienced new things and dealt with growing fears.

Jack having fears and continuing on despite them made me like him all the more. This is the sort of book that, on top of being tons of fun, middle-grade and high school readers will relate to. Sure, the setting is fantastical, but the things Jack deals with transfers over to real-life fears and doubts. I think the stories that often stick with us the most are the ones that do this.

The creatures and characters that show up throughout The Legend of Black Jack are fantastic! While my son’s favorite character was Chance, I was partial to Rooker the pirate. His relationship with Jack and the way it grew and developed, was wonderful to read.

The world was full of creativity and rip-roaring adventure, which I loved. At the end of the day, though, the relationships were what made me fall in love with this novel. My 14 year old loved the book – and so did I. The Legend of Black Jack is something special.

SPAAW Book Spotlight- N.C. Koussis

Banner credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

Welcome to the second annual Self-published Authors Appreciation Week (#SPAAW), a weeklong event celebrating self-published authors. Please feel free to join in the fun by shouting about your favorite self-published authors on your various platforms.

I’m excited to be talking about The Sword of Mercy and Wrath, by authors N.C. Koussis. This releases on September 16th, and there will be a preorder link at the bottom of this post.

First of all, check out this awesome cover!

Wow!

So, what is The Sword of Mercy and Wrath about? Here’s the book blurb:

Selene wants revenge on the wolf-men that destroyed her family and her body. When the secretive Order of the Golden Sword offers her the chance, she lets go of her past to become a fully-fledged Sword of the Order. Her pain drives her to excel at hunting and killing the werebeasts, drawing the attention of the leaders of the Order.

Renowned hunter and Order Inquisitor, Soren, takes her under his wing. Tempers flare during his extreme training, and as they grow closer, their tempers aren’t the only thing that ignites.

When she discovers that her childhood flame Tristain is one of the creatures she hunts, she must put her feelings aside. She is painfully forced to accept he has become a monster like his father before him. But when she sees him for the first time in years, old feelings come rushing back, and she uncovers the dark secret about the monsters that the Order has kept hidden for centuries.

To preorder:

Amazon

Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week 2022

Banner credit: Fantasy Book Nerd

This week I’m celebrating the second year of Self-published Authors Appreciation Week. Basically, this week I’m focusing on the many, many amazing self-published authors whose books I’ve enjoyed. If you’d like to join in, it’s simple: read self-published books, then shout about them on your blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, etc.

Here is a list of self-published authors I recommend. It’s far from complete. Add to my monstrous TBR by giving me more suggestions!

Anca Antoci- Forget Me Not

Zack Argyle- Voice of War

Sue Bavey- Lucky Jack

Maria Blackrane- Blood, Fire, and Death

Jason and Rose Bishop- The Call

Satyros Phil Brucato- Red Shoes

Angela Boord- Fortune’s Fool

Jenni Buchanan- Coming soon

Lee C. Conley- A Ritual of Bone

Mark Cushen- Little White Hands

J.D. Evans- Reign and Ruin

Sean Gibson- The Part About the Dragon was (Mostly) True

Peter Hartog- Bloodlines: An Empire City Special Crimes Novel

Ryan Howse- Red in Tooth and Claw

Jamie Jackson- Fear and Fury

C.M. Kerley- The Hummingbird’s Tear

Bjørn Larssen- Why Odin Drinks

Marcus Lee- Kings and Daemons

K.R.R. Lockhaven- The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Universe

Krystle Matar- Legacy of the Brightwash

G.M. Nair- Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire

G.E. Newbegin- Pyramidion

Raina Nightingale- Kindred of the Sea

Roland O’Leary- The Hand of Fire

C.T. Phipps- The Supervillainy Saga

E.G. Radcliffe- The Hidden King

Whitney Reinhart- Saving Eva (currently out for BETA and Sensitivity reading)

Thomas Howard Riley- We Break Immortals

Kersten Espinosa Rosero- Burn Red Skies

Patrick Samphire- Shadow of a Dead God

Matthew Samuels- Parasites

Rachel Emma Shaw- Sacaran Nights

Brianna Sinder- Coming soon

P.J. Sky- A Girl Called Ari

Jeffrey Speight- Paladin Unbound

M.L. Spencer- Dragon Mage

P.L. Stuart- A Drowned Kingdom

Todd Sullivan- Hollow Men

Luke Tarzian- Vultures

Marian L. Thorpe- Empire’s Daughter

H.L. Tinsley- We Men of Ash and Shadow

Keith Tokash- Iliad: The Reboot

M.L. Wang- The Sword of Kaigen

L.A. Wasielewski- The Alchemist: Dawn of Destiny

G.M. White- The Swordsman’s Lament

D.H. Willison- Harpyness is Only Skin Deep

A.R. Witham- The Legend of Black Jack

Lyra Wolf- Truth and Other Lies: A Loki Norse Fantasy

Simon Van Der Velde- Backstories: Stories About People You Think You Know

The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne

Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel in the tower, but do you know the story of the witch who put her there? Told from her own perspective, The Book of Gothel is a lush, historical retelling filled with dark magic, crumbling towers, mysterious woods, and evil princes. This is the truth they never wanted you to know, as only a witch might tell it.
Haelewise has always lived under the shadow of her mother, Hedda—a woman who will do anything to keep her daughter protected. For with her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.
Then, Hedda dies, and Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother used to speak of—a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.
But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known…(Taken from Amazon)

I grew up on fairy tales. As a young child, they were the pretty, dumbed down ones with the happy endings and the lack of gore. As I got older, I read the original, often brutal, versions. I guess my love of fairy tales has chased me. As an adult, I am drawn to fairy tale reimaginings or fantasy with that beautiful fairy tale cadence. So, of course The Book of Gothel called to me.

The Book of Gothel is a reimagining of the story of Rapunzel, told from the point of view of the villain. Known as Haelewise in the story, it starts with her as a young woman in a small village and continues on, the conclusion summing up the fairy tale we all know. If you’re looking for a story that doesn’t stray at all from the original fairy tale, The Book of Gothel is not for you.

Haelewise suffers from fainting spells and sensitivity to light. Of course, these things make her a pariah in her village, where such things are seen as unnatural. A daughter of a midwife, Haelewise is really only tolerated because of her mother’s skill with delivering babies. Then, her mother dies and Haelewise is left running from accusations of witchcraft.

While so much of the story happens in her village, I felt like the book didn’t really begin until Haelewise reaches the Tower of Gothel and begins to learn more about who her mother was and who she herself is. The choices she makes and her resourcefulness are what make her into an intriguing character. I wouldn’t necessarily call her likeable, but she is interesting, which is better.

There were things that I wish had been explored further, with less time being spent on others. For example, Haelewise’s almost-obsession with other women’s newborns was such an interesting aside that I wish it had been more fully explored. I would have loved to know more about her almost savage hunger for a child. I could also have done with less from her sort-of boyfriend, who I really truly hated. He was well-written; he was also a spineless jerk who wanted to have his cake and eat it too (just my personal opinion. I’m not sure that’s the effect the author was going for).

I enjoyed seeing bits and pieces from the original tail sneak through into a new narrative. The storyline was so different that these moments would serve to remind me that I was, in fact, reading a fairy tale reimagining. Otherwise, I would have forgotten completely, caught up in an engrossing and creative coming-of-age story. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what The Book of Gothel is. It is a lyrical, pretty story about a girl learning who she is and the power that she has, not as an evil witch or villain but as a woman.

While not what I expected, The Book of Gothel sucked me in and kept me quickly turning pages. It is mysterious and charming, a novel worth getting lost in.

Cover Reveal: A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell by Luke Tarzian

From the mind that brought us Adjacent Monsters and Vultures comes A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell, a novella that addresses the direst of circumstances: a misplaced kettle. Author Luke Tarzian describes it as “a weird, whimsical magical realism fever dream”, which has me intrigued.

Okay, what is the book really about, you ask?

Blurb:

Briefly, a word about order.

Order is the focal point around which existence revolves. Without order there is only chaos. And in the halls of Damnation (pronounced Dam-NAWT-ion, thank you kindly) the first sign of impending chaos is a cup of tea made without the water having first been well and properly boiled in a kettle.

Why is this relevant, o nameless narrator? you ask. Who cares about the preparatory order of tea in the fires of Hell? Lucifer, dear reader. After all, how does one expect to properly greet the newcomers to Hell without having first had a hot cup of tea to bulwark the cold (the first circle is a cornfield of snow)?

Behold the Morning Star, frantic on the annual Morning of Souls, the arrival of Damnation’s newest recruits (we only hand-pick the best)!

Someone has misplaced the kettle.

Luke Tarzian also designed the cover for A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell and it matches the term “whimsical fever dream” perfectly. Are you ready to see the cover? Here it is!

A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell will be available on December 20th.

Preorder link

About the author:

Luke Tarzian was born in Bucharest, Romania. His parents made the extremely poor choice of adopting him less than six months into his life. As such, he’s resided primarily in the United States and currently lives in California with his wife and their twin daughters. Somehow, they tolerate him.

Unfortunately, he can also be found online and, to the dismay of his clients, also functions as a cover artist for independent authors. You can connect with the author via his WebsiteInstagram, and Twitter.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

In a world of everyday miracles, Perry might not have a talent for magic, but he does know Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So, when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry realizes trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

Put on your dancing shoes and…

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