Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Top 10 Cheap Reads of 2016

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          Happy New Year’s everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the last day of 2016! In case you need some help getting started on your 2017 reading list, here are the top ten books I had the pleasure of reviewing this year. Since the books cover such a broad range of genres and styles, I figured it would be better to list them alphabetically by the authors’ last name. If a title catches your eye, be sure to click on it to read the full review. Let’s check them out!

1. Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton

rarity           An android crashes outside a rural Appalachian town and offers to cure young Lacey Dawn’s family. In exchange, Lacy Dawn must save the universe.

          Between the zany characters, outlandish scenarios, and heart-breaking believable tragedy, “Rarity” stands out as one of the most memorable and unique books I’ve ever read. I’ve been informed that Mr. Eggleton has revised certain aspects of the book, so the version you read might be a bit different than the one I reviewed, but I promise it’s still well worth your time. Please note the content warning on the review.

 

2. Twiceborn by Marina Finlayson

51IKBSPYMHL          Kate O’Connor does her best to continue living after the death of her only son, but when she winds up in a battle for the dragon crown, her efforts to live a normal life gets put on the back burner.

          “Twiceborn” blends the action, magic, and adventure of YA fantasy and the personal struggle of more adult-centered fiction. The resulting story is an exciting journey that you won’t be quick to forget or put down. I personally enjoyed the wide array of folkloric creatures that prowl the pages. It’s rare that an author includes so many diverse beings without the book feeling crowded, by Finlayson does a great job.

 

3. Indiana Belle by John A. Heldt

51xlqnu7xml         Cameron never imagined that time travel was possible, until a college professor shows him that it is, giving Cameron the opportunity to save the love of his life.

          John A. Heldt is such a treasure. I’m not usually a fan of romance, but he’s easily one of the best authors I’ve discovered this year. “Indiana Belle” really showcases his strengths, making it my favorite novel of his that I’ve read so far. He brings the past to life with pinpoint accuracy and vibrate scenery, his characters are charming and memorable, and the stories are impossible to pull away from. If you love romance and/or history, “Indiana Belle” is a must read.

 

4. This Crazy Infection by Kaylim

51dudwx5ydl-_sy346_        Interstellar playgirl Myrha is just looking to get away a while. A cooky host, weird campers, a hot android, and flesh-eating zombies weren’t part of her promised vacation package, but that’s what she got.

          I love this novella so much. When ever I’m feeling down, I always come back to it. The writing is great, the story is hilarious, and the characters are a lot of fun. It also includes a great gay protagonist, which I feel is rare when looking for cheap self-published works. So, if you’re a fan of works like “Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy,” or are looking for more LGBT+ representation I highly recommend checking this one out.

 

5. Heart of Earth by Mark Laporta

511litsn4ml          After selling top-secret information to intergalactic warlords, Ixdahan Daherek is exiled to Earth and doomed to live as a human teenager. Just as he’s getting used to humanity’s strange customs and walking on two legs, his mistakes come back to bite him.

          This is another one that I absolutely love. Between watching Daherek adjust to Earth and his efforts to save the world, this book is a lot of fun. Laporta knows how to craft a story that’s equal parts hilarity, adventure, and heart. I can’t wait to see more of Daherek in the coming years with the continuation of his series.

 

6. Let There be Linda by Rich Leder

LetThereBeLinda      Life gets hard for brothers Mike and Dan when their mother dies suddenly. A girl claiming to breathe the dead back to life seems like the answer to their problem, but dealing with the colorful cast of characters that come with her, including a comedian cop, a coked-up dentist, and a reanimated poodle, just might be too high of a price.

       Rich Leder is easily on of the best authors I discovered this year. His books are zany, hilarious, creative and human in surprisingly equal measure. “Let There be Linda” showcases that all perfectly and I can’t wait to have the time to read it again. If you like darker humor or are looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, Leder is definitely your guy, whether you decide to go with “Let There be Linda” or one of his many other works.

 

7. Moonchild by Kate L. Mary

519zBDCvYyL          All Scarlett wants to do is survive, but when her best friend is kidnapped, she has to put her own safety and that of her friends aside. When she enlists a band of airship pirates for help, including the dashing Asher Kimura, her years of solitude and single-minded survival begin to fall away.

          I don’t even know where to start with this book since there’s so much to like. The story is captivating, the world building incredible, and the characters are a lot of fun, especially Asher. I also love that it has enough action and adventure for any YA fantasy fan, but it’s mature enough to capture New Adult readers as well. It’s a unique and enjoyable read and I highly recommend it to fans of either genre.

 

8. Twice Upon a Time edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

61wy8hnhlzl          Fairy tales often have dark roots and fables can sometimes end in tragedy. These roads and many more, most which are as dark as they captivating, are explored at great length in this collection of short stories by writers both experienced and new.

          I love folklore and fairy tales. The hold so much possibility depending on who decides to reinterpret them and which angles they decide to explore. “Twice Upon a Time” does a brilliant job collecting stories that breath life into timeless tales and new ones that could one day be timeless. It’s a great read for those who love darker fantasy and/or shorter fiction.

 

9. Pilgrimage by Carl Purcell

51xzcodflgl          Roland and Griffith are probably the most unlikely companions in Australia. One is a young optimistic man claiming to be a sorcerer and the other is a washed up loner who wants to drink his days away in peace. When they start making magical enemies, however, they’ll have to worth together to survive their road trip to Salem.

        Between it’s complex characters, simple yet fun plot, and exciting blend of magic and adventure, “Pilgrimage” is definitely one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year. It blends elements of fantasy with believable real-world dilemmas to create a unique read for any adult who grew up reading magical adventures.

 

10. Mutation by Nerys Wheatley

Mutaion          Just as the world is recovering from the horrors of the zombie virus, a new strand threatens to bring humanity back to a halt. It’s up to Alex, a virus survivor, to put an end to it before it spreads beyond his city.

          You might be burnt out on zombies by now, but trust me, “Mutation” is worth shaking off the zombie-frenzy fatigue and checking out.  The writing is superb, the story is exciting, and the characters are thoroughly enjoyable. Even the ones off their rockers. Even if you’re not a fan of zombies, “Mutation” is such a fun ride even if you’re a fantasy/sci-fi fan in the least.

 

  So, there they are, folks. I hope you found a title or two to take with you into the New Year. I know I already have a few.

  Thank you everyone who found this little blog and gave it a chance. I’ve learned a lot since April and can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store, both in terms of books and this blog itself. Happy New Year!

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Things in books that should be left behind in 2016 — That Bookshelf Bitch

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Hey, everybody. Sorry, no review today, but as we go into 2017, I thought this was an important article to share. Personally, I’d like to see all these tropes disappear in 2017.

Hi there, everyone! A little over a week ago, I publicly released my first ‘Shealea says’ post that talked about what it’s like to be a woman in 2016. In that particular piece, I discussed the problematic culture of victim blaming and internalized misogyny. Today, however, I want to bring something else into light. With […]

via Things in books that should be left behind in 2016 — That Bookshelf Bitch

Bad Bloods: November Rain– Shannon A. Thompson

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Bad Bloods: November Rain– Shannon A. Thompson

Plot: 4/5       Characters: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 4/5

“Bad Bloods” is a solid work of dystopian YA that will delight any fan of the genre. It also includes an angle that is too often overlooked by other authors in the category.

Serena was born a bad blood–a person with strange unique powers. In the city of Vendona, that’s an automatic death sentence. Before Serena can be executed, a prison guard helps her escape, setting into motion a chain of events that will determine Vendona’s political future and every bad blood’s right to be seen as human.

While I can’t say “Bad Bloods” is particularly original–we’ve seen a lot of stories like this in the past ten years or so–I think it still works. The plot is engaging, the characters are interesting and the bad bloods’ powers are unique. What really sets “Bad Bloods” apart is a world building aspect many dystopian YA seem to forget:

The political climate of “Bad Bloods” is eerily similar to our own.

This past election year has been hard on everyone and I don’t want to focus on it too much (this is a book review, after all), but it’s hard to deny that the question of who gets what fundamental rights has been front and center lately. When I realized that “Bad Bloods” dealt with a very similar dilemma, I got chills and made me want to read on.

I’m not sure if Thompson meant for the major conflict to come across like that, but that’s how I interpreted it and I think it makes “Bad Bloods” stand out in the dystopian YA genre for the better.

If you liked books such as “Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” or even James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride,” I’d definitely say you should check out “Bad Bloods.” It has all the things dystopian readers love about the genre, plus an extra kick. So, if you’ve got some free time over the New Year’s holiday, head over to Amazon and check out “Bad Bloods” for yourself.

Indiana Belle–John A. Heldt

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Indiana Belle–John A. Heldt

Don’t miss your chance to get Indiana Belle for free on Chirstmas on Amazon!

Plot: 4/5       Characters: 5/5       Writing: 4/5       Entertainment: 5/5       World Building: 5/5

This is the second novel of Mr. Heldt’s that I’ve read and I’m beginning to think he can do no wrong. His dedication to portraying history in all of it’s nuances, layers, difficulties, and beauty is admirable and his ability to craft brilliant and unique stories shines across the lines of genre and time alike.

When Cameron Coelho began his doctoral dissertation, he never expected to find a photograph of the beautiful Candice Bell, nor did he expect to fall in love with her. The possibility of stepping back in time to save her from an untimely death in 1925 never even entered his wildest dreams until he met her distant cousin, Geoffrey Bell, who just so happens to know how to time travel.

When I first read the description for this book, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. As some one who doesn’t usually like romance, I didn’t expect much. I figured Heldt’s world building would be just as good as “The Mine,” but the plot would be a passable indie love story as best.

Oh, boy. Was I ever wrong.

I was right about the world building, at least. Heldt continues to floor me with his expertly crafted depiction of the past. Not only does he paint wonderful, creditable scenes with his words, but he captures the 1920’s in it’s entirety. Yes, the Roaring Twenties were new and exciting, but it wasn’t all jazz and flapper dresses for everyone. I don’t want to give anything away because I really want everyone to check out this book, but as someone who’s biracial–White and Black–I really appreciate the other half of my heritage being acknowledged in this time period. I feel like the experience of Black Americans is often over-looked when talking about history outside of the Civil Rights Era, so I really appreciate that Heldt included that experience and handled it well.

Not only is the history well done, but it’s woven in with the story beautifully. The two work together to create a unique and unforgettable narrative with plenty of twists, turns, and a climax that will have your heart racing and pages turning.

And then there’s Candice. Oh my days, is Candice Bell a delight. Anytime she’s in a scene she absolutely steals the show. She captures the sense of independence that the 20’s are so often associated with, but still stands out as her own own character, making her the strong female protagonist romance novels so often try to create, yet so often fall short of doing, in my opinion. In fact, if you writing romance, or if you find you struggle to write women regardless of genre (which is a longer conversation for another day), check out Indiana Belle for Candice alone. She’s worth it.

So, whatever you usually read–romance, historical fiction, mystery, sci-fi, you name it–take a break and get whisked away to the 1920’s with Indiana Belle no time travel required.

Emerald Child (Kalika Magic Book 1)–Karen Hughes

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Emerald Child (Kalika Magic Book 1)–Karen Hughes

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 4/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 4/5

Fun, whimsical, and just a tad nostalgic, Emerald Child is a great fantasy adventure for young readers.

Far away on a secret island, Indie as grown up in hiding surrounded with burning questions and no questions. When smoke starts to rise from a mysterious chest, Indie thinks it must hold more questions, but it actually holds all the answers: who she is, where she’s from, and, most shockingly, the role she plays in saving a magical kingdom.

Hughes has done a brilliant job crafting a story that no doubt will capture young fantasy lovers and their parents alike. Indie is a wonderful, strong, capable girl–something I’m always excited to see in books meant for young readers–her supporting cast is fun and memorable and the adventure whisks you away from start to finish.

It reminds me of all the Studio Ghibli movies I watched as a kid, which is what make me think kids today would really enjoy it. It’s clean enough to be age appropriate, yet just dangerous enough to feel like there’s real weight behind characters’ choices. It’s whimsical and fun, but clever enough to treat kids like they’re smart.

If I really had to nit-pick, I’d say my only real complaint is that type of narrative Emerald Child goes on a well-worn path. It’s one that’s been used in a ton of fantasy novels, both for children and adults, over the years, which made it a bit predictable. However, given that it’s a book for kids, odds are they haven’t been as exposed to all the tropes yet, so they’ll still enjoy it well enough. Even if they can see what’s going on, there’s enough fun stuff here for them to still enjoy the ride.

So, if you have a young one in your life that loves to read, or you want to introduce to the love of reading, Emerald Child might make a good gift. It’s fun enough to get them to pick the book up and exciting enough to convince them to never put it down.

The Mine–John A. Heldt

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The Mine–John A. Heldt

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 3/5        Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 5/5

Well researched and brilliantly executed, The Mine is a vivid, memorable step back in time with a love story that could rival The Notebook (Pen Possessed).

In the year 2000, Joel Smith enters an abandoned mine in Montana out of simple curiosity. Thirty minutes later he emerges in the year 1941. With a band of colorful friends at his side, including his 21-year-old grandmother, Joel must carve a new life for himself or find a way home, but when a beautiful young woman named Grace walks into his life, making that decision becomes far more difficult.

Overall, I would say that The Mine works. The characters are believable and interesting enough to care about, both Joel and Grace are likable people, so I really did want to see them together, and with WWII right around the corner, how could you not be on the edge of your seat waiting for the other shoe to drop? My only real complaint was there wasn’t enough of that other shoe, so to speak. The Mine had a ton of potential thanks to number of well-written characters and the conflicts they’re bound to face and, as someone who loves history, I would have loved to see more about how they faced them. But, at the same time, I realize The Mine is a romance, so it’s only natural that the focus is more on Joel and Grace than the others, so the complaint really is a personal one rather than any sort of shortcoming on Heldt’s part.

And, speaking of history, that’s really where The Mine shines. The attention to detail and the obvious research that went into this book is remarkable and had me hooked more than the story itself. In fact, if you’re a writer and need to work with world building at all, whether via realism or fantasy, I highly recommend checking this book out, even if it’s not your typical genre. It’s a brilliant example of how to pull it all together and just how much it lends credibility to your story. When Joel is in 1941, it really feels like he’s in 1941.

So, over all, The Mine is good. While I would have liked more from the side character’s thoughts and experiences as WWII closes in, it still held my attention and the construction of America in 1941 is brilliantly done. Some of the other reviewers have compared The Mine to Nicholas’ Sparks works, so, if you’re a fan of romance, or a fan of history, definitely add it to your list and take a trip with Joel through The Mine.