Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Flaws of Gravity is available now.
At the beginning of the book, Jude is stabbed in the back by one of her few friends. She already has trust issues, and things like that probably justify her paranoia a little bit. Despite her desire to drop off the grid and stay injury-free for a while, she finds herself joining a group of fairies in an attempt to stop her ex-friend from taking over the Faerie world (and the human one). Of course, now she has a new problem: are her new allies any more trustworthy?
The Flaws of Gravity starts off with a shocking (and rather violent) rush and keeps a fast pace all the way through. Far from giving a slower build-up, there is never more than a pause for breath before Jude finds herself in the next action-packed situation. A start like this is definitely attention-grabbing.
I was a little confused at times, especially toward the beginning, simply because information was doled out sparingly. While I loved the lack of the dreaded info dump, the world seemed so intriguing that I wanted to learn a little more about it early on. I also feel that Aubrie’s betrayal would have been even more emotionally impactful if there had been more background information (or possibly a flashback). That being said, I quickly became invested in the book and was able to infer what wasn’t explained.
The characters were interesting, each of them serving a different purpose and driving the plot forward in new and unexpected ways. Jude was fantastic; a little bit prickly and a large bit snarky. She was also morally ambiguous, a tough balancing act that I love to see written well. Author Stephanie Caye nailed it, making Jude a blast to read. She has quickly become one of my favorite main characters in urban fantasy.
The way the faeries’ powers were written was incredibly creative. I loved Jude’s ability to crawl on walls and ceilings, something I’ve never seen in a book involving fae. It was so cool to read about new and creative faerie abilities. It added to the fun and allowed for some seriously awesome situations.
This bookis a blast. The Flaws of Gravity is a must-read for anyone looking for an action-packed adventure.
Well, another year has come and (mostly) gone. It was another amazing reading year, making coming up with a list of favorites a delightfully difficult task. I kept thinking that I would only write a top ten, but after agonizing over which books to leave off, I told myself, “Self, it’s your blog, dash it all! You can have a top twelve favorites list! No one can stop you!” It was around this point that it occurred to me that I should probably stop talking to myself (although I am a very witty conversationalist) and just write the darn list. Without further ado, and in no particular order, I present my top TWELVE books of 2022.
The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning
“This book was a love story to the wonderful, imaginative things I grew up with, and I enjoyed every moment of it.”
Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Fairy Godmurderer is available now.
Before opening this book, I was already pretty much convinced that I would enjoy it. I happily cheered for the snarktastic, Doc Martens-wearing Gwen, an extremely atypical fairy godmother. Her job as fairy godmother went horribly wrong when her first princess was brutally killed. Gwen can’t let it go (understandably) and ends up trying to catch a serial murderer, rushing in where angels (and your normal fairy godmother) fear to tread.
She doesn’t go alone. Gwen’s best friend, Chessa, is a perky pixie who also happens to be a crime blogger. Gwen’s determination is matched with Chessa’s expertise- what can go wrong? Well, the answer is quite a bit, taking readers on a heck of a ride.
The book splits its time between the present-day and flashbacks. When not done well, flashbacks can be really disruptive to a plot. When done well, like in this case, they add nuance to characters and situations. I liked that this gave me a chance to get to meet Princess Frankie, making her murder more than just the catalyst. It meant more.
The dynamic between Chessa and Gwen was truly a joy to read. Gwen was cynical whereas Chessa was upbeat. They knew how to needle at each other, but like best friends do, they also knew what the other needed and when. They were fun and relatable. Gwen was a fairy godmother with an attitude (I love that I get to write that!), but she was also a bundle of insecurities, grief, and trauma. Her character development was fascinating.
I feel like I shouldn’t be calling a noir involving a serial killer “fun”, but it really was. It was a blast. I loved the world with its unexpected mesh of creatures. I mean, a griffin sergeant! How cool is that? The everydayness of mentioning protests and pandemics (thanks, 2020 on out), combined with the magical, made for an extremely entertaining juxtaposition. I appreciated that the fantastical mixed with the humans, instead of the two layered worlds being completely separate, if that makes sense.
The whodunnit aspect was well done, with clues scattered throughout the book. I didn’t pick up on nearly enough to figure it out but had a “how did I miss that” moment when things were revealed. Knowing that all the pieces to solve the puzzle were there made the ending even more rewarding.
I’m pretty sure that it’s obvious by now that I had no niggles at all. The book is fantastic, and Gwen is an awesome addition to the fantasy noir genre. Fairy Godmurder made its mark in the best of ways.
I am excited to be a part of #SmallPressBigStories, conceived of and led by the awesome Runalong the Shelves! Small Press, Big Stories exists to celebrate indie presses, those wonderful publishers that bring us so many amazing books.
Today, I want to talk a little bit about the Constable Inspector Lunaria Adventures by Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee. There are three books in the series so far and it’s a series that will appeal vastly to fans of urban fantasy as well as readers who enjoy adventure books. There is always something going on, usually complicated and nearly always dangerous.
In book one, Wrath of the Fury Blade, Constable Inspector Reva Lunaria gets a new case- and a new partner. Their relationship (sometimes colleagues, sometimes friends, always well-written) is what elevates this book above many other urban fantasies. Complicated characters will draw me into a book every time, and the world-building kept me invested. The world is detailed and ambitious, pulsing and alive.
Wrath of the Fury Blade is a fabulous mash-up of fantasy and police procedural. This was a new combination for me, but it works incredibly well.
The characters were interesting, and seeing their relationship develop and grow was a ton of fun. They played off each other well, each enabling the character development in the other. I enjoyed Reva in particular, even though (maybe because?) she came across as prickly sometimes.
The series hypes up, with each book building on the last. The situations Reva and her partner Ansee Carya find themselves in run the gambit of creativity, with some truly awesome monsters showing up to impress and creep out readers.
The Constable Inspector Lunaria Adventures continue to entertain and surprise. They’re a thrill ride that somehow also squeezes in a vast world and excellent character development. I highly suggest picking the series up. Go ahead and grab all three books: you’ll want to continue the adventure as soon as you finish the first book.
This series is published by Artemesia Publishing. Purchase link:
Sometimes I read a book that gives me pause, one that is thought-provoking and so unique that my brain takes a while to come to conclusions. Shadow Shinjuku is such a book. It is immersive and detailed, full of dark corners and complex ideas.
I really can’t remember reading another book that even mentions the Yakuza, so everything was new to me. I went into this book with eyes wide with curiosity, and my curiosity was rewarded with beautiful descriptions and fascinating locations.
Shadow Shinjuku is ostensibly an urban fantasy with a splash of noir, set in the unexplored corners of Tokyo. Sato went from living on the streets to killing for the Yakuza family (who rescued him from said streets) but ends up questioning the direction his life has taken, leading to an introspective book that is more inner musing than anything else. That isn’t a bad thing, but it was unexpected. I had to make an “expectation shift”, tossing aside everything I erroneously assumed this book to be.
I have to admit that I didn’t like Sato. His unflinching openness about things I don’t normally read in books was a little off-putting, although it added a layer of grittiness to the book and made him a more complex character. He also failed at the most basic of human emotions, so there’s that. Sato was deeply flawed, which made him interesting. I am one of those people who don’t need to like a character or relate to them to enjoy a book, so the fact that I didn’t like Sato wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.
There was a bit of a supernatural aspect to the book, although at the end of the day it really wasn’t the part of the book that stood out to me. While the magical bits didn’t detract from the book, I would almost say that they aren’t necessary.
A good chunk of Shadow Shinjuku was meandering, taking its time and focusing on an inner journey, rather than on action. The build-up is not rushed, so if you are the sort of person who wants a quick beginning, this book is not for you. This is a book unlike others I’ve read and, while my thoughts on it defy a “like” or “dislike” categorization, I like to think this is what the author was going for.
Gritty yet beautiful, complicated but with common themes of loyalty and what we do for those we consider family, Shadow Shinjuku was a study in contradictions. Pick this up if you like introspective characters, and living, pulsing settings.
Happy almost-Halloween, for those who celebrate! I’m actually not that big on Halloween (I know, I’m weird), but I love the Universal Monsters. I created a book tag revolving around them a few years ago and I’m dusting if off again this year.
Feel free to do your own! Please tag me so I can see your answers. Enjoy!
Dracula- a book with a charismatic villain:
Yes, Lord Soth is a death knight. Yes, he could have prevented a world-ending disaster (a Cataclysm, if you will) and instead mucked it up. Yes, he’s really not a good dude. But he is so much fun to read about! He’s to Dragonlance as Boba Fett was to the original Star Wars movies: a mysterious, hardcore character whose legend builds with time.
The Invisible Man- a book that has more going on than meets the eye:
There are bands that sell out and then there are bands that sell…something. Trust Grady Hendrix to take the idea of an almost-made-it band and combine it with forces dark and sinister. I had to set aside all my preconceptions about We Sold Our Souls. There are twists upon turns and nothing is as it seems.
Wolfman- a complicated character:
Not only is this love letter to 80s fantasy movies absolutely genius, but Jack is also an incredibly complex character. He had a broken relationship with his dad, and both loves and resents the movie world that took up so much of his dad’s attention. He’s angry and grieving, uncertain and sad. His character growth throughout the book is through the roof. Basically, The Shadow Glass is amazing.
Frankenstein- a book with a misunderstood character:
As with all mysteries, everyone has secrets in Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone. There were a couple of characters in the book that were completely misunderstood by everyone else. Of course, I misunderstood certain motives and actions too, which is the point of a mystery. This was a fun one!
The Bride of Frankenstein- a sequel you enjoyedmorethan the first book:
I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy the sequel more thanShadow of a Dead God, but Nectar forthe God took all the (many) things that I loved about the first Mennik Thorn book and added new levels. The stakes were higher, the world became more fleshed out, and Mennik was…even more of a walking Murphy’s Law. Seriously, you need to read this series.
Creature from the Black Lagoon- an incredibly unique book:
The Hero Interviews, aside from being uproariously funny, has an incredibly unique feature: footnotes. Elburn Barr, Loremaster and narrator extraordinaire, interviews heroes throughout the book. These interviews come complete with his tongue-in-cheek observations, given as footnotes that add an extra layer of hilarity to an already hysterical book. The Hero Interviews will be released December first, but you can preorder it now on Amazon.
The Mummy- a book that wraps up nicely (see what I did there?):
Legends and Lattes was a sweet delight. The book was the print version of a nice, cozy blanket. It left me smiling and feeling a little bit better about life. The ending was perfect (in fact, I really can’t think of a single aspect of the book that wasn’t).
Thank you to the authors for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Fear of the Minister’s Justice is available now.
Fear of the Minister’s Justice is the third book in the Constable Inspector Lunaria Adventures, so I might inadvertently give slight spoilers for the first two books. You’ve been warned. You can find my review for book one, Wrath of the Fury Blade, here.
The idea to combine police procedurals with fantasy is a clever one, and it has more than paid off with the highly addictive Constable Inspector Lunaria Adventures. Fear of the Minister’s Justice takes everything that has made the series so enjoyable thus far and ratchets it up. Stakes are higher, with Reva and Ansee racing to stop a mounting body count while dealing with their own personal obstacles.
I love getting to the point in a series where the characters feel familiar, only to have them surprise me as their development adds new levels to their personalities. In this third installment, Reva’s addiction worsens, and work becomes a refuge that she clings to with an unhealthy passion. I love her character. She is raw and stubborn, with a big personality.
Ansee is fantastic, a character that is relatable in many ways. He is loyal and sympathetic and is genuinely worried about Reva. Watching his character grow throughout the series has been fantastic.
There is so much happening! There are some truly evil baddies and I loved to hate them! The story arc itself is complex, with layers to peel back. Every time I thought I had everything figured out, there would be a twist, with something new popping up. I am trying to be vague to avoid giving spoilers because this is a book to experience without preconceptions. Suffice it to say there is never a dull moment.
This has been a great series so far, and Fear of the Minister’s Justice is the best book to date. This is perfect for readers looking for a good adventure with characters worth rooting for.
Mennik (Nik) is back and in even bigger trouble than usual, in the third installment in the Mennik Thorn series. Strange Cargo was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. It was awesome, unsurprisingly.
I am a sucker for books featuring down-on-their luck rapscallions who can’t seem to stay out of danger. Whether it’s a smart mouth at the wrong time, or a penchant for chasing trouble, these kinds of characters keep me smiling and guessing. Mennik Thorn is high on my list of favorite trouble-finders and each book in the series makes me like him more.
After the events of Nectar for the God, book two in the series, Mennik is on the outs with his best (and some would argue, only) friend. He’s also unfortunately on the outs with a group of smugglers. Seeing as they’d happily see him dead, they choose the next best thing and pressure Mennik into a job protecting an item they plan to smuggle into Agatos. Of course, if he ends up dead in the process, that’s just a perk for them, right?
Not only does this “job” not pay, but it’s also incredibly dangerous. Once Mennik learns what it is he’s helping smuggle in, things go from sideways to dangerous. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s a doozy. The stakes keep going up from book to book, keeping me interested and wondering what fresh hell Mennik will find himself in next.
I love that Mennik always has another side problem that he’s trying to solve while the main story arc takes up most of the attention. In this instance, Mennik’s less-than-enthusiastic client is none other than the cranky owner of the crap bar Mennik frequents. Their passive-aggressive conversations entertained me to no end.
Mennik is a brilliant character, a study in contradictions. He tries to do the right thing, but he rarely knows what the “right thing” is. He’s smart-mouthed and mocks pretty much everyone but he is equally mocking of himself. He would probably have a longer life expectancy if he didn’t feel the urge to help people (even when they serve him subpar alcohol), but he can’t seem to stop helping anyway. Oh, and he might as well write Killed by Curiosity on his headstone now and get it over with.
Of course, his character does not exist in stasis. He has grown and changed since book one (Shadow of a Dead God), although he remains delightfully disaster prone. Strange Cargo doesn’t highlight that character growth quite as much because it is shorter (more of a novella than a full-fledged novel). In some ways it shouted “side quest” but it still managed to pack in revelations and world development aplenty.
As always, the writing is phenomenal. Everything is brilliantly described, painting vivid pictures of both Agatos and its inhabitants. The dialogue is witty, and things move at a quick pace. Strange Cargo showcased all the things that I love about the series and made me hungry for more. Book four in the Mennik Thorn series can’t come soon enough!
With a premise that is reminiscent of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, with a hint of X-Men thrown in for good measure, Ordinary Monsters could have easily gotten lost in a crowd of similar books. Instead, its evocative writing sets it apart from so many other “extraordinary children” storylines, while author J.M. Miro confidently subverts expectations.
The plotline seems simple enough: there are two kids with special abilities referred to as Talents, being hunted by a mysterious being. At the same time, there is a duo of detectives (ish) who have been given the task of finding these children and taking them to a special school for those like them (seems pretty similar to Professor X’s school, right?).
Where the book differs from other stories in this vein is its execution. Ordinary Monsters is darkly beautiful, grimy, and gothic with an ugly underbelly that rears its head when least expected. It’s unsettling and thought provoking. I was engrossed and almost repulsed, in equal measure. There’s an undercurrent of hope, even among the bleakest parts of the book.
Ordinary Monsters uses multiple points of view, but it is never confusing or distracting. There are Marlowe and Charlie, two children with Talents. Charlie can glow. Marlowe can heal himself of any physical hurt. Unfortunately for him, the emotional pain isn’t also healed. His introduction was heartbreaking, to say the least. Then there are several other characters who play roles of varying importance. What I loved about this was how even the smallest of interactions could have a profound impact on the personality or choices of a main character.
I definitely had some niggles. The plot could be a little convoluted at times, and there were subjects touched upon that I prefer to avoid (description of rape being the main one that most bothered me). If there was a content warning section in the book, I missed it. However, these unsavory topics were not used for “shock value”, and they weren’t dwelled upon. Take from that what you will.
As in life, things were complex and messy. There was no absolute good or absolute bad. Each character had their own drive and motivation, and many characters were morally conflicted at best. The story went far past surface level, examining what makes people tick.
While the book wasn’t perfect, it was a fascinating read. It impresses with its immersive, gothic atmosphere and its nuanced characters. Ordinary Monsters will worm its way into your head and keep you thinking. Pick this one up if you like exploring the dark corners of the human psyche and are drawn to the mysterious and unknown.
This week marks 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.
Smart and funny, Small Places is a wonderful addition to the fantasy genre. The book follows Jamie, a man who has just found out that his mom has cancer. He goes back to their little village to see how he can help, and falls into an unexpected adventure. As he tries to juggle the ordinary stress with the “what on earth is happening” stress, Jamie is thrown into one logic-defying situation after another. Buckle up, everyone. This is going to be a rave.
I loved everything about Small Places! From the story arc to the characters, everything was fantastic. Author Matthew Samuels has crafted a genius story, one that immediately drew me in. His cast of characters were quirky and creative. There were some of the more common fantasy creatures, but every single one subverted stereotypes and became creative twists on the norm, unique and different. Some were definitely creepy, and others made me laugh way too hard. I ended up reading snippets out loud to explain the snort-laughing. There’s a particular conversation involving vaping that had me rolling on the floor…
Jamie is one of the most likeable main characters I’ve read who also happens to be believable. A little lost, and inundated with some of the harder things in life, Jamie is just trying to make it through, taking each day one situation at a time. He gets drawn into a problem of the fae variety when he agrees to help a witch in exchange for a potion that might help his mom’s health.
The witch in question, Melusine, is cantankerous and snarky. She also kept the story moving smoothly, giving information in a way that made sense but felt natural. There was no dreaded info-dump; instead, knowledge is given throughout the book as needed, which is how I prefer it. I loved her slippery view of morality. I never knew where she would land on any given issue, or how far she was willing to go to achieve her goals.
My favorite character, though, is Merovech. A tinkerer with a child-like sense of wonder, and a penchant for inventing dangerous gizmos; they packed an emotional wallop. I loved every single scene they were in. They also caused what might be my favorite quote in the book (which I will not spoil by sharing here, don’t worry).
I loved the combination of ordinary and flat-out bizarre, the day-to-day grind and the unexpected. In fact, it probably would just be easier to say that I loved everything about Small Places. I am desperate to read book two, and I’m rather peeved that I have to wait (patience is not a virtue that I have in abundance). Matthew Samuels is a talented writer and Small Places is an excellent book.