In this blog post, I’ll be addressing one of my 2018 thingies. I’m not going to use the word that rhymes with “besoplution,” because using that word basically sabotages goal-setting from the start.
The thingy in question is my blogging schedule, which has been all over the place ever since the day I started blogging. In fact, for all intents and purposes, I have not had a blogging schedule until now. But since I’ve started a regular podcast, I feel the need to bring a little sanity to the rest of my online postings. I feel no need for sanity anywhere else in my life, particularly in my fiction writing.
I’m going to start putting book reviews on this side every Friday. They will primarily focus on indie books, though I may throw in a review for a traditional book every now and then if I feel like it. I was originally going to post podcasts on Mondays, but I’ve decided to switch those to Wednesdays. Mondays will be when I release regular updates and announcements about my writing projects, or sometimes interviews with other authors.
So, Mondays: Kyle’s Weekly Report and/or Author Interviews, Wednesdays: Podcasts, Fridays: Book Reviews. We good? Excellent.
That said, I am now bringing you a totally unscheduled and utterly insane post, in which I will be reviewing all the books I’ve been promising to review for the past several months. I’ve opted to do this instead of making people wait for me to write an individual post for every single book, as some of these reviews are time-sensitive with regard to release dates (or woefully overdue).
So hold on to your socks and get ready for a whole bunch of book reviews. Here we go.
I’ve never read anything from D.J. Edwardson before, but The Last Motley has cemented him as one of my favorite indie authors. This book was captivating from beginning to end, and an excellent example of Christian fantasy done right. While I don’t complain about the many fantasy novels built around romantic relationships, I did find it refreshing that the central dynamic in this story was between a father and a child he essentially adopts as his son early in the book. The main protagonist, Roderick, is happily married and not at all your usual candidate for an epic quest. All the same, he embarks on one anyway out of love for a little boy named Jacob, whom he is determined to save from a power that threatens to destroy him–and the world as well. A delightful romance does still feature between two side characters, but I won’t say too much about that to avoid spoilers. The supporting cast is great (especially Nagan, who’s hilarious), the world is detailed and immersive, and the magic, which plays an unusual role in the story, is fascinating. Special mention must be made of Edwardson’s breathtaking writing style and the clever plot twists he introduces near the end. The end is so satisfying that it leaves you wanting a sequel without feeling that the story has been cut short in any way. This is a book you should place very high on your 2018 TBR list.
The Last Motley will be released in ebook format on February 6. Print readers are in luck, however, as the paperback version is already available. Follow the link below to pre-order the Kindle version or order a print copy.
This is one I’ve been eagerly looking forward to ever since reading the excellent first book. It did not disappoint. Daley Downing is one of the most clever and talented authors of Christian fantasy in today’s indie-publishing sphere. Book 1, Masters and Beginners, had a startling conclusion (which I won’t spoil) that left the characters in an interesting conundrum. Book 2 builds on this in a highly satisfying way, introducing new twists and expanding the rich universe of the Twelve Tribes series in fun and surprising ways. Downing expertly juggles multiple characters and subplots without making the reader feel lost or skimping on details. Everything comes together in a gripping conclusion that answers many questions from Book 1 while introducing new and exciting prospects for future stories. There’s massive spin-off potential in this world. I’ll use this review to officially put in my request for a story (or stories) about Avery and Prince Crispin. Also, Book 1 was notable for its gracious handling of characters on the autistic spectrum, and this aspect is even more prominent in Book 2. Sequels are hard, but Downing has knocked this one out of the park, and I can’t wait to see where she takes the series next.
Full disclosure: I beta-read this and designed the cover. I regret nothing. Rulers and Mages is available now on Barnes & Noble.
A masterfully-written work of dystopian sci-fi in a bleak but captivating universe. J.E. Purrazzi quickly draws the reader in with a cast of well-developed characters and a thrilling plot. This is smart and carefully-crafted science fiction, which is a rarity, especially on the indie market. Difficult ethical questions are handled with care, and without preachiness. The plot builds to a shocking finish that leaves the reader uncertain to what will happen next, but very eager to find out. There’s a strong undercurrent of intensity and darkness to Malfunction, but I didn’t find it jarring. It’s the kind of book that has to be dark. Fortunately, Purrazzi has not made the typical mistake of populating a gritty world with unlikable characters. The main cast here is made up of people whom you can root for, and there are even welcome moments of humor (particularly from Cowl, who was probably my favorite character). I’m very anxious to find out what will happen in Book 2, given the dilemma the characters are left in. Definitely a series to get started on as soon as possible, since it’s being regularly expanded with prequels and sequels.
Malfunction is available now on Amazon.
A short–but not too short, thankfully–prequel to Malfunction. This story centers on Cowl, one of the three main characters of the original novel, and how he came to meet Bas, who also plays a primary role in the other book. Cowl was the highlight of the excellent Malfunction for me, so I was happy to read a story from his viewpoint. This novella was highly satisfying, and adds a lot of worthwhile detail to Cowl’s backstory. Recommended for anyone who enjoyed Malfunction, or even for those who are new to the series.
Revelation is available now on Amazon.
A story with strong Supernatural vibes, though it never feels like a rip-off. Like the powerhouse TV show, there are two brothers chasing paranormal phenomena here, but they’re very different from Sam and Dean. First, their backgrounds are completely different from the Winchesters. Second, they’re stars of a ghost-hunting “reality” show rather than secretive vagabonds living out of an Impala. And third, one of the two has vanished without a trace. Ghost-hunter Kyle ( 😀 😀 😀 ) and his long-suffering assistant Hannah find themselves trapped in a hotel by a homicidal wraith as they grapple with the mystery of Kyle’s brother Tyler’s disappearance. I love a good ghost story, and this is most definitely a good one. It doesn’t skimp on the creep factor and really dials it up to eleven in the final scenes. The storyline isn’t quite resolved in the conclusion, but as this is just the first episode of a serial work, that’s to be expected. I’m impatiently awaiting the next installment. This series is already one of my new favorite indie things.
The Strawberry Lane Hotel is now available on Amazon.
An enthralling, and very dark tale of a young woman pursued through a macabre old house by a ruthless and otherworldly threat. There isn’t much hand-holding here–many details about the bizarre events and paranormal forces at work are kept ambiguous, but that actually works well with this kind of story. It’s essentially a horror novel, and that genre isn’t always my cup of tea, but despite the darker elements I wouldn’t describe this one as “depressing” overall. That’s usually what makes me dislike horror, and I was happy to find that it wasn’t the case here. The scares of the book leave their mark on the characters, but there’s a sense of justice to how it all plays out. Also, the scenes of violence and creepiness don’t feel gratuitous, and Aria E. Maher's plotting and characterization are intelligent and believable. Recommended for those seeking a read that doesn’t sacrifice smarts and quality for the sake of scares.
The Tangle is currently available on Amazon.
The only negative thing I have to say about this book is that it gets off to a somewhat slow start. The first chapters take a little too long to establish the book’s central conflict and unique identity. But–and I cannot stress this strongly enough–the excitement ratchets up very quickly after that. The story develops into a fascinating contemporary sci-fi adventure with Christian allegorical elements woven in. These faith-based themes are handled in an engaging, non-preachy fashion that won’t put readers off, and they lead to some powerful moments in the book’s denouement. The characters are well-developed and intriguing, both the heroes and the villains. I was particularly impressed with how Pierce handled the character of Dion, especially with regard to the Christian themes–wish I could say more about that, but this is the kind of book you don’t want spoiled for you in advance. There are multiple startling and clever plot twists. In summary, Two Lives, Three Choices is a skillful work of YA sci-fi, as well as a fun and gripping story. I hope K.L. Pierce writes a sequel soon. She’s a talented indie author whom you should definitely keep on your radar.
Two Lives Three Choices is currently available on Amazon.
This is one of a series of prequel short stories Hannah Heath is releasing for her upcoming novel, The Stump of the Terebinth Tree–and if the future stories and books are going to carry on the high standard of this release, then we fantasy readers are in for a treat. This is a short but satisfying tale that introduces a fascinating world of warring elves. Color, as indicated by the title, plays a significant and intriguing role. Out of all the story’s impressive qualities, the characterization was what I enjoyed most. I felt immediately invested in the plight of the main character, Wanderer, as well as the family he’s desperate to protect. Also, Heath’s style is a joy to read–there’s a quotable line on every page. I did feel a little bereft when I’d finished the story, since it was just a tiny taste of a larger whole, but I realize that was intentional. I’m adding the Terebinth Tree stories to the list of indie projects I’m eagerly following in 2018.
Colors of Fear is available for pre-order on Amazon, and will be released on February 2.
This is Mollie E. Reeder’s debut in published fiction, and it’s a terrific start to her career. Given its time-travel themes, it’s basically sci-fi, though genre and timey-wimey mechanics are the last thing on the reader’s mind while engrossed in this story. The thing you’ll care about most is the heartwarming–and at times, heart-wrenching–journey of its main character, Jack. An accident forces him onto a Dickensian journey along his timeline, bringing him face to face with his past, present, and future. The Sixth Christmas put in me in mind of the Eleventh Doctor’s famous line, “We’re all different people, all through our lives…remember all the people that you used to be.” It’s difficult to tell a Christmas story without allowing it to become maudlin, but Reeder expertly avoids that here, delivering a conclusion that is uplifting yet earned. She also weaves in Christian themes in a gentle, non-intrusive manner. I was blown away by this novelette, and I’m eager to read more of Ms. Reeder’s work.
The Sixth Christmas is currently available on Amazon.
Whew. I have done it. I am officially up to date on my TBR. I never thought this day would come.
Be sure to buy and read all these wonderful books! (Full disclosure: All Amazon links on this page are affiliate links.) This coming week, I’ll be interviewing Hannah Heath about her Terebinth Tree stories on Monday, releasing Episode 3 of the Fearless Fiction podcast on Wednesday, and reviewing the Blades of Acktar series by Tricia Mingerink on Friday. Stay tuned!