Tag Archives: Marina Finlayson

The Top 10 Cheap Reads of 2016


          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!


Twiceborn-Marina Finlayson

Twiceborn-Marina Finlayson


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

Twiceborn is everything I wish adult fantasy was. The protagonist is a believable adult, the action is exciting, every scene and interaction either moves the story forward or builds character, and the plot had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

Kate O’Connor is merely going through the motions of living. Now that her son has passed away, the strangeness and mysteries of her life doesn’t bother her. She doesn’t care that people trail her as she makes deliveries for the costume shop she works for, nor that the deliveries themselves are highly suspicious. None of that seems to matter until she returns from a rush delivery job with no memory of the event and blood under her fingernails. That one lost memory catapults Kate into a war of succession between the dragon queen’s daughters, involving every mythical creature known to man, most of which now want Kate dead.

Twiceborn is a breath of fresh air in so many respects. I absolutely love contemporary fantasy, but I’ll admit that it has its fair share of clichés and worn-out plotlines. This book does a great job bringing new ideas and material to the genre, which I especially think is impressive seeing as it’s intended for an adult audience.

I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of adult fiction. It usually alternates between dime-a-dozen gritty thrillers, sex-crazy romances, a mix of the two, or some type of literary fiction. While there’s always exceptions, and I do really do enjoy literary-type fiction, I’d really like to see more adult characters deal with adult problems with all the fun, excitement and creativity of YA.

That’s where Twiceborn comes in.

Action, adventure, magic, all the stuff that makes fantasy fun, takes up a majority of the story. It’s not interested in being “adult” by being saturated by fan-service sex, shallow romance, and unnecessary over-the-top gore. While there are definitely traces of those elements, they’re downplayed and work to serve in character development and driving forward the plot. The real mature aspect of Twiceborn shines in Kate and her personal development, which makes the story “adult” in a deeper way.

The loss of her son plays a key role in Kate through the entirety of the novel.  It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to watch and feels real, despite the fantastic situations Kate now finds herself in. The same can be said of her dealings with her ex-husband, whom she blames for their son’s death, and trying to sort out her feelings for her friend Ben in the context of her grief. I feel like YA has been able to tackle real-world themes, struggles, and humanity in the face of the fantastic for some time now, so I was excited to see an adult fantasy do the same with ideas and themes more relatable for an older audience.

Finlayson’s world building is also pretty great. For one, I can’t say I’ve ever seen dragons play a key role in contemporary fantasy. On top of that, the way she integrates them into the modern setting is brilliant. She works with the classic dragon tropes in their haughtiness, love of luxuries, and danger, but their personalities and cunning ploys for power fit perfectly in the twenty-first century. It’s also great to see such a diverse range of fantasy creatures play key roles in the politics of this secret world, especially since Finlayson introduced a few that I’ve never seen or heard of before. The possibilities of what creatures could appear in contemporary fantasy really are endless, so I really enjoyed seeing a writer take some advantage of that.

Unfortunately, the world-building is a bit of a double-edged sword. While most of it is wonderful and creative, certain elements fall apart. It feels like there are too many rules that are set up only to be broken a few pages later. While this problem didn’t take away from the overall feel or excitement of the book, it did break my suspension of disbelief every once and a while.

Finlayson’s great writing is icing on the cake of all the good stuff. When I first noticed that the story was going to be told by two separate people I rolled my eyes. Using two first-person narrators is hard to pull off and many rarely work out, but Finlayson’s use was flawless. Thank goodness because this story really benefited from it. If she hadn’t been able to pull it off, the entire book might have fallen apart. The second part of the book blew me away in particular, so if you’re interested in writing with multiple first-person narrators, I highly recommend checking this book out.

Whether you’re a fan of YA, adult, NA, or all three, Twiceborn is a fun, creative, wild ride. It’s a rare, refreshing book in the adult fantasy genre, the world building is great, with a few bumps here and there, and the writing is brilliant. So, if you’re looking for something new or want some great YA action without sacrificing adult characters, head over to Amazon and give Twiceborn a try.