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Mini Reviews! Sci-Fi Short Stories (by E.B. Dawson)

You guys. I recently read the most INCREDIBLE short stories by E.B. Dawson. Part of what’s incredible? Most of them are genres like dystopian or sci-fi that aren’t “my” genres and yet these kept me utterly transfixed. I ADORED THEM.

So here are mini reviews for six short stories, ranging from a Beauty and the Beast retelling to dystopian thrillers to Moby Dick in space to a beautiful tale on another planet.

Whether or not you are a sci-fi fan, you need to check these out!

  • Author: E.B. Dawson (WebsiteAmazonGoodreadsFacebookTwitterInstagram)
  • Genre: Sci-fi / short stories
  • Date read: April 8, 2019 (except for Beast in the Machine, January 28, 2019)
  • Source: I received free ebook copies of these stories either for review or free on the author’s newsletter, except for Nomad of the Emirates which I purchased on Amazon.
  • Note: Thanks to the author for free copies of some of these. I was under no obligation to write positive reviews and all opinions are my own.

Voyage of the Pequod

5 stars • Science Fiction / Retelling (Moby Dick) • AmazonGoodreads

This is Moby Dick in space. That idea is as perfect as it sounds and YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE. *collapses* I’m not even as familiar with the original Moby Dick story as I could be, and sci-fi isn’t my usual genre, but I absolutely adored this short story! I suppose I knew enough to appreciate it as a retelling (though others might appreciate it more), but either way it was a brilliant story and totally captured me. I was instantly absorbed in this unique and fascinating tale. Electronic space whales! The remains of a war between man and machines (scary AI machines are soooo creepy! And the hints of backstory are absolutely fascinating). A battered space ship going out into the unknown. And the character interactions with the little crew, which I loved — there’s the new boy, and the old sailors, and of course the enigmatic captain Ahab and steady first mate Starbuck. They have a sort of buddy relationship going which is fantastic. It’s also one of my favorite things: a ship story (whether that’s nautical, piratical, space-ships, or airships. There’s just something classic about that and it was brilliant in this). It was just all so good, in such a short space! (No pun intended.) It was so intense I totally forgot to breathe! (Also I need a sequel! O_O) HELP. So, SO good! I don’t even know why but I loved it so very much I can’t put words to it! This is truly magnificent science-fiction.


Nomad of the Emirates

5 stars • Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

This story was so incredibly beautiful, help. What even are words? How can I describe it? It was intriguing from the start, and it’s very strange if you think about it (like sci-fi can be). But somewhere along the way, before I really knew what had happened, it stole my heart. This first-person story of a misfit girl from Earth who finds her place on another planet where she’s technically not supposed to be, and yet it’s where she’s most supposed to be of all places. The way she made a way in this foreign place and made it her home, how she’s a nomad, how she touches the strange cultures of the alien beings and makes a place there because of her openness and her heart for others and her willingness to understand those who are other, and what comes of it. That there is a place for those who haven’t found it yet — that it’s out there. I just love this story so much. It makes my heart ache and just — I don’t even know. It touched my soul. I don’t really know exactly how but it totally captivated me and I’m so glad I picked up a copy! And I laughed a couple of times, like with the hammock scene. Thinking of this story always makes me smile. I’m not sure, but I think this may be what sci-fi is supposed to be, a window to new worlds and a way to look outside to where the heart can reach — which can go even beyond things we know. Beautiful, beautiful!


Government Man

5 stars • Dystopian / Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

That was SO INTENSE. Oh my goodness! So, I’m not a big fan of dystopian type stories, but this one was super fascinating and kept me very intrigued the whole time. ACK. It was so well-written and fascinating (I know I keep using that word for this author’s stories, but I can’t help it because it’s true). I loved Caleb, our point of view undercover character. It’s set in a dystopian society with some of the usual things, but somehow unique too, and I loved some of the new spins on it. Especially Caleb’s personal story and what he does about it after . . . things happen. He’s absolutely the most epic person. 😀 Sometimes it felt like a cozy contemporary, like the bits in the coffee shop with Sarah, and other times like a mystery thriller, and then a dash of sci-fi with certain . . . er . . . developments (spoilers!), and all in a vaguely dystopian society. I just — I really loved it! Even though it was scary and super intense. I couldn’t stop reading, and loved it, and I was so happy to discover there was a sequel short story, which I promptly devoured too. It’s such a delightful mix of genres that I can’t quite pinpoint it, but whatever it is, it’s an excellent short story which I really enjoyed and couldn’t put down!

Note: You can currently read a free copy of Government Man and three other cool short stories if you sign up for the Phoenix Fiction Writers newsletter. PFW is an epic group of speculative fiction authors and you can check it out HERE.


Shadow Figure

5 stars • Dystopian / Science Fiction • AmazonGoodreads

This is a direct sequel to Government Man (I love that idea! Sequel short stories!) and I can’t talk too much about it because of spoilers for the first one, but it was another fascinating story. It delves further into the dystopian world introduced in the first, but from a new perspective, a certain heroine this time. It was intense too and I especially loved the “Shadow Figure” and all the things related to it. It’s heartwrenching in a sense, but full of possibility too (that I’m really excited about), and I somehow loved it. I definitely want to read more about these characters!


Gifted

4 stars • Urban Fantasy / Superpowers / Sci-Fi • AmazonGoodreads

What a fascinating story! I wasn’t always sure what was going on, but I knew I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. This story had layers and it was so interesting to find each one behind the other. It’s some sort of Urban Fantasy mixed with superpowers and fist fighting in a ring, but it’s much more than that, somehow. I was so intrigued by Spencer and his story, and these other interesting people he meets. It was very vivid and I never wanted to stop reading, even if I didn’t necessarily “get” everything. It went in an unexpected direction, and definitely left me curious to know more.


Beast in the Machine

5 stars • Science Fiction / Retelling (Beauty and the Beast) • Goodreads • (This is part of a collection called Once Upon a Future Time, so if you’re interested in it, go check out the Kickstarter project, through June 22!)

Beauty and the Beast is my second-favorite fairytale, so the idea of a sci-fi version fascinated me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. What I found was an enchanting blend of an old-world-feeling setting, in a charming sea-village where I could almost taste the salty breeze, with just a dash of futuristic technology to spice it up. I absolutely loved the writing and the feel of this one! Isabelle was a great heroine and brought such a strong personality to the story, drawing the reader into the story. Throw in a mysterious and occasionally unhinged young man named Sebastian Prince with a dark past, a mansion with a lab and a library, dream experiments gone wrong, and an adorable little robot named Cog (I loved Cog!) and you have the perfect recipe for a fresh take on a classic tale as old as time. I absolutely adored this retelling! It was my first E.B. Dawson story and from the very first page, I knew I had to read more from this author. It felt so COZY, though with a dash of peril and excitement, of course. Even if you’re not a sci-fi person, the sci-fi flavors are subtle in this, and any fans of Beauty and the Beast will find it as enchanting as I did!


So, I binge-read five sci-fi-ish short stories from this author and my overall impression was one of complete awesomeness. If I don’t watch out, E.B. Dawson is going to make me addicted to sci-fi! 😉

Are you a short story or a sci-fi person, or like me do you rarely dip your toes into those waters? I’m definitely planning on trying this genre more often — I used to a bit more when I was younger, and I clearly need to revisit it.

Do these stories intrigue you? Let me know in the comments — or if you have a top sci-fi book to recommend to me!

Mardan’s Mark Fantasy Series! (by Kathrese McKee)

Today I’ve got some small reviews of two books and two novellas in an exciting fantasy series I’ve been enjoying lately!

Mini Reviews:

The Mardan’s Mark series by Kathrese McKee

(Find Kathrese McKee online: WebsiteAmazonGoodreadsFacebookTwitterInstagram)

Mardan’s Mark (#1)

  • Date read: May 29, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2014
  • Pages: 384 (paperback)
  • Source: Won in a giveaway
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

An exciting tale of pirates and princesses, friendship and siblings and romance, survival and adventure! I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this book. 🙂

I feel like there’s a lack of sibling stories out there, and it was neat that our heroine, Princess Srilani, ends up on this adventure with two sisters and a brother. I also particularly loved the friendships—really good, believable ones which start out rocky sometimes. There are so many relationships in this, which I loved seeing develop over the course of the story of these young people on a journey of survival together, from a pirate ship through the wilderness. Just—FRIENDSHIPS.

Aldan is my favorite character—he’s the absolute best—and I loved him and his “brothers,” Sam and Linus. I also really liked how Srilani and Aldan both take charge in their ways and are such strong main characters, but also have to learn to work together and lean on each other’s strengths. And the tension between Srilani and Sam was so well done, too! I just love aaaall the relationships in this—siblings, friendships, buddy-stories, and of course an adorable romance in there somewhere. My favorite thing is definitely the characters and dynamics—and how there’s a bit of humor slipped in there sometimes!

I also loved the journey and survival and just what a solidly good adventure it was. There’s always some bit of tension or excitement or danger, drawing the reader breathlessly along through the story. Whether it’s pirates or the villainous “temple guardians” in pursuit, or simply the question of what the characters will eat next, it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

A Christian Fantasy story, the world feels nearly like Kingdom Adventure, without any usual fantasy elements (though there is miraculous healing, a vision of an angel-type being, and a couple things like that). So if non-magical fantasy or adventure stories with a dash of Christian allegory are your thing, you need to check this one out. The world had such a unique feel to it, too; a little more tropical than usual fantasy stories, with pirate ships and rivers, swamps and alligators, prairies and forests and dusty towns and castles! With just a dash of politics and an almost-18th century feel, at least to me. It was neat and felt fresh.

It’s a bit long, which is the main reason I put off starting it for longer than I’d care to admit, but I was totally pulled in once I did start. The continued over-stressing of being “proper” for a princess, not being allowed to be around guys (but I mean, it’s a survival story, so hello?), and all of that, got a little tiresome, just because it was such a big deal in the story. And I had one or two other quibbles (like a bit of grittiness and my problem with healer-stories and being squeamish. XD), but these were very minor.

On the whole, I had a blast reading this! I finished it in just a few days and as soon as I read the end, I started book 2! I’m definitely hooked on this series!


Mardan’s Heir (#2)

Date read: May 29, 2019
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
Age: YA
Year pub: 2018
Pages: 207 (ebook)
Source: I received a free advance reader copy from the author; all opinions are my own.
Links: GoodreadsAmazon

As soon as I finished book 1 (Mardan’s Mark), I immediately started reading this book, and read the whole thing in one sitting because I couldn’t stop. I finished it the same day as the first, and ended up staying up until midnight to do so, and I have zero regrets! (Okay. I have one. Which is that I don’t have the next book yet and I got smacked with a delicious cliffhanger! Aahh!)

This one is much shorter than the first one, but so, SO good! No spoilers, buuut I love missing-heir type stories and fantasy-type political maneuvering around palaces and all the sort of delightful stuff. 😀 I loved the first book, featuring surviving in the wild and a journey as the characters got to know each other. But I really love the setting of this second book, being back at the palace and all of the intricate plots going on there. It was fascinating!

Aldan is still my FAVORITE, and I adore all the other characters too—Srilani and her sisters and Prince Jamson (he had such a vivid role in this), and Aldan’s brothers Linus and especially Sam. There’s also a lot about characters introduced in the companion novella, Healer’s Curse, which made me super happy! I loved seeing Lady Elilan and Captain Raymon, as well as Judge Elison and Queen Yolani, etc. (I recommend reading Mardan’s Mark and Healer’s Curse before this one, but of course it still works well if you haven’t read Healer’s Curse.)

Srilani seemed a lot different than in the first book, and while I don’t think I minded, exactly, it was different to have her more of a usual princess than her tougher self. It was unique to address the question of how life would be different after the adventurous danger of the first one once the heroine is home again! Like. Whoa.

I have mixed feelings about a few of the happenings like all the complicated mess of the king and queen etc., so I haven’t totally decided how I feel about those, and it ends on a cliffhanger, but those are my only complaints, and both might be fixed with a third book—who knows! 😉 Speaking of which, the plot is gearing up for exciting things! :O And adorbz romance things and continued friendships and just ALL THE YES. I loved getting to continue following these characters I’ve come to like so much, in this new setting.

So, did I mention there’s a cliffhanger? BECAUSE OH BOY. I need the next book yesterday! *grabby hands* I can’t WAIT for the next book (Mardan’s Anointed, I believe) to release so I can devour it!

If you like non-magical Christian Fantasy, or Kingdom Adventure (which this almost feels like), I totally recommend these! I love this series and I need to find out what happens with Aldan and co.—I love them all so much and they feel like my friends! *hugs them all*


Healer’s Curse (novella)

  • Date read: May 8, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2015
  • Pages: 118 (paperback)
  • Source: Won in a giveaway
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

I loved this novella! It’s a sort of classic story of a healer and an enemy captain, but it had its own twists. It features first-person narration by Lady Elilan, a widowed 18-year-old healer with a sometimes-miraculous healing gift from El. Having lost her husband to a plague, she has turned away from her gift, other than normal healing, and she is somewhat apart and alone since many people shun her and think she’s cursed. But I love her quiet strength in the face of all this, and her heart to help others—and her sassy side. XD I loved her story!

Captain Raymon is an interesting character, who at first seems to be simply a soldier who risked his life to save the queens of two kingdoms and comes under Elilan’s care. But aside from his loyalty, he has unexpected depths—including a secret in his past and a new path for his future. And of course I loved a certain blossoming romance. 😉 It was sweet and lovely! Raymon is the best. 😀

Several other characters who feature in the other Mardan’s Mark books featured in this, which I loved, and the secrets and political things going on were so interesting. It completely pulled me in, and I loved the exciting ending and satisfying conclusion!

I’m slightly squeamish about healer-related books in general (personally), just because, I mean, I don’t want to know the details. But otherwise it’s a delight!

I think this one might work best if read between Mardan’s Mark and Mardan’s Heir (book 1 and 2), but I read it before either and that worked fine too. Lady Elilan and Captain Raymon, as well as Elilan’s grandfather, Judge Elison, feature strongly in Mardan’s Heir (which made me so happy!), so it might be most fun to read this one before book 2, at least.

All in all, this was a delightful novella which I enjoyed immensely! The perfect way to pass a couple of hours one evening, and a delightful more-or-less-introduction to the Mardan’s Mark series!


Pirate’s Wager (novella)

  • Date read: February 19, 2018/May 30, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 107 (ebook)
  • Source: I read a free advance copy of this story through the author’s newsletter. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

This was my first introduction to the Mardan’s Mark series, and I ended up reading it again after I read the first two books and the other companion novella, because now that I’d met the characters elsewhere, I wanted to re-experience this as their backstory.

It was a fascinating introduction to some of the main characters of Mardan’s Mark, in this case Sam, Aldan, and Linus, as well as the pirates of the ship “Cathartid.”

A very quick read, Pirate’s Wager is a novella that introduced me to the world of Marst and Norland and definitely left me intrigued to read more. It follows young Samazor (“Sam”), as he ends up a slave on a pirate ship and forms a friendship with fellow slave lads Aldan and Linus. I loved getting to meet them (my first read) and get to remember where they started out (my second read)!

The good writing drew me in, and the detail totally immersed me in the story. I loved the characters and almost-Caribbean-esque fantasy port/ship setting, though it was a little gritty and stressful at times, because nautical story with pirates enslaving our hero. (There actually were no fantasy elements in this particular one, so it felt more like Kingdom Adventure!)

If you want a small taste of this world, it’s a good place to start, and if you’re already a Mardan’s Mark fan, it’s delightful to have the backstory on how these unlikely friends become a band of brothers! (I lurve them. Especially Aldan. That is all. ❤ )


So there you are! I need the third book NOW! *flails around* Do they sound intriguing to you? Let me know in a comment below!

Top 15 Favorite Reads of 2018!

It’s time for the top reads of 2018! My favorite books I read, plus some runners-up, and for fun, my top couple of nonfiction and re-reads. So let’s get to it!

But first, a few stats, because stats are fun. 😉

Goodreads claims that I read 123 books in 2018.

“Panic ye not, Grant,” in the words of my favorite Chrestomanci; many of those were short. 😉

(Brought to you by my love of spreadsheets) I read:

  • 42 new-to-me novels
  • 12 new novellas/novelettes
  • 14 re-reads
  • 30+ individual short stories
  • 4 anthologies
  • 10 nonfiction books
  • 11 picture books
  • 3 beta-reads (which don’t count on the Goodreads total . . .)

If you’re curious to see them all, you can find them here on Goodreads.

Oh, and . . . visual representation of lots of the books I read last year. 😉

Books I read in 2018 (exactly 52 physical books! Perfect) which aren’t ebooks or borrowed from libraries/friends.

TOP 15 BOOKS OF 2018

I’m terribly indecisive about actually listing favorite books in order of favorite-ness, so these are not precisely in order, although the top-ish ones are slightly more beloved. But all of these top-15 are the most splendid books I read all year and they’re all delightful. (The top 4-ish kept wanting to trade places so . . . they’re probably my favorites overall?)

1. The Electrical Menagerie (Mollie E. Reeder)

Carthage and Huxley! ❤ An introverted illusionist and his smooth-talking young manager. Floating Isles and trains run by stardust. A murder mystery, sabotage, and a plot against the throne. An electrical butler. And most of all, some of the best banter and writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading! It’s so absolutely magnificent and Carthage and Huxley are my favorites! ❤ ACK. I JUST LOVE IT.

[Review]

2. Echo North (Joanna Ruth Meyer)

East of the Sun, West of the Moon. A white wolf. A scarred girl. An exuberant young man. A house with mirrors which are like books that you can step into and live their stories. Hal and the Wolf and Echo are such delightful characters and the imagination and writing left me positively pen-slain. A dash of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin only made it more perfect. ❤ I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

[Review]

3. Lady Moon (Rachel Starr Thomson)

I loved Lady Moon so much that I immediately re-read it aloud to my siblings. A whimsical original fairytale. A princess who we first meet languishing beautifully on the moon. A nefarious uncle. An absolutely un-pigeon-hole-able Immortal by the name of Tomas who is procrastinating his destiny (I need his clocktower to live in). And other delightful characters such as the Revolution (XD) and Winnie the wombat. I JUST CAN’T. This book is so, so fantastic and I adore it. ❤

4. Masque (W.R. Gingell)

Beauty and the Beast. A murder mystery. A delightful, funny style perfect for fans of Wodehouse, Heyer, or Diana Wynne Jones. I loved Isabella — she had such spirit! — and of course mysterous Lord Pecus. And I also loved the Horse Lords. XD Also, the book that answered questions was like a character itself, and the magical communication and hand-mirror and so on were so cool. And it was just so GORGEOUS. So many shenanigans and such humor and fun! ❤ (There’s a bit of gore due to the murders so it’s not for the squeamish but otherwise it’s perfectly delightful!)

5. Falling Snow (Skye Hoffert) — in Five Poisoned Apples

Snow White. A twist on the Huntsman and Prince characters that you’ll never see coming. A dark Faerie circus. Peril and darkness and beauty. Fire and snow. Deception and innocence. Chayse was such an awesome character and I loved him! Cynfael was so fascinating. And the writing is incredible. ❤

[Review]

6. Minstrel’s Call (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt)

The epic conclusion to the Minstrel’s Song series that began with King’s Warrior! Quests and favorite characters galore, twists and adventure, dragons, prophecies . . . It has everything. Brant and Kiernan Kane are the absolute BEST. I JUST LOVE THEM SO MUCH. And there were some twists and just — my mind was blown by all the epicness and it was a perfectly satisfactory conclusion. ❤

[Review]

7. Sage (Jamie Foley)

HELP. I can’t talk much about this because of the absolute stacks of spoilers involved . . . But there’s arena fights and characters on wings, fantastical super-powers and futuristic technology in a fantasy world, and it’s all so absolutely INTENSE. Jet is my favorite. So is another character who shall remain nameless but WOW. I was so impressed by said character’s story-arc! Just so, so good. It’s like a fantasy thriller and I probably didn’t breathe for all 300+ pages. XD

[Review]

8. Song of Leira (Gillian Bronte Adams)

Wow. Just — wow. A griffin. A small girl with a big Song. The saif which is on the cover (I need one to ride!). Beloved characters including plucky Ky, gruff Amos, and Cade who I particularly like. All the characters come SO far and go through SO much but there’s beauty too. The ending stuff was so absolutely epic that I simply can’t even. ❤

[Review]

9. The Return of Beaumont and Beasley (Kyle Robert Shultz)

Two novellas. Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dragon archaelogist Malcolm Blackfire and reformed jewel-thief Melody Nightingale make a perfect (and hilarious) pair! (But seriously though, Malcolm!) A canine curse. Beast-ly Nick Beasley and our favorite Crispin Beasley pair up as detectives in alternate 1920s London, and their banter and brotherly interactions and all the humor and shenanigans make my day! Absolutely hilarious. XD (Crispiiiin!)

(Originally published as The Janus Elixir and The Hound of Duville. They were then bundled together and now make Beaumont and Beasley book 4, right after The Stroke of Eleven.)

10. Horseman (Kyle Robert Shultz)

Yes, I’m putting both of these on the list because I wanted to put one on and then couldn’t pick which. *cough*

The magical wild west. Part-time centaur con-man, Todd Crane. The Legend of Sleepy-Hollow like you’ve never seen it before. No-nonsense Marshall Amy Crocket. Plus Julio the Spanish dragon and Meg the sweet Gorgon teenager. And a dash of time-travel. So many shenanigans and adventures! It’s hilarious, and Todd is my favorite.

(Also, I edited this book, which means I read it . . . three times . . . so I got rather fond of it. Plus it’s sort of dedicated to me, so it’s kinda special.)

11. Blood in the Snow (Sarah Pennington)

Snow White. The Goose Girl. Asian-inspired fantasy. Gorgeously told. Awesome and super-fascinating magical system featuring wind and water. A great heroine and prince, and fantastic side-characters who I simply loved! (Like, talk about great “seven dwarves.”) Because Gan and Chouko are fabulous. And so are Baili and Xiang. SO complex and well-written, and fits everything together so well. I just love it! ❤

[Review]

12. The Last Motley (DJ Edwardson)

A simple tailor. A many-colored boy. Mysterious magic. Sinister shadows. A quest to a far-off island. I LOVED how this felt like an instant fantasy classic. It reminded me of Lloyd Alexander or Tolkien. Roderick the tailor is such a simply good hero, Jacob the Motley is precious, and Nagan is absolutely hilarious and my favorite. XD The Gitanos are so intriguing too, and we can’t forget Portia. I loved this colorful, rich fantasy. ❤

[Review]

13. Mark of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse)

A dreamwalking heroine. Assassins. Fantastic abilities like manipulating water. Wyverns. A young woman trapped by the darkness of her mother and her people’s past. A young visiting nobleman — who she’s supposed to kill. It’s all VERY EXCITING. Selene and especially Damien make great characters. ❤ (And Lady Bryren and the wyvern riders!) It was really gorgeous and gripping and just a solid epic fantasy.

[Review]

14. A Matter of Magic (Patricia C. Wrede)

This is ever-so-slightly cheating . . . because it’s actually two books in one and I’m kind of taking them as a whole, even though I read the second one first, and that was on my favorite list last year, but I’m sort of using it again? The first one was fun but I loved the second one more and . . . anyway, I’m mostly just calling the whole collection my “favorite” of this year. Regency fantasy. A young magician gentleman. A street thief girl who becomes his ward. Shenanigans and humor and magical adventures. I just really enjoyed it. 🙂 And it works best as one book.

[Review of the second half, which I read first.]

15. The Ruins of Gorlan (John Flanagan)

The first Ranger’s Apprentice book unexpectedly stole my heart. Total classic fantasy but fresh, too. Halt the Ranger is my FAVE. He’s the best and I love his dry humor. XD And of course we like Will. I just really identified with this book and Will’s journey and wanted to be a Ranger, naturally. 😉 It was just really refreshing and plain fun! (And Halt!)

[Review]


9 RUNNERS UP THAT MAKE ME HAPPY

The above list was SO hard to make because I read so many spectacular books this year! But those were the most absolutely spectacular ones.

But I still wanted to talk about some others! So off the top of my head I’m tossing in a runner-up list of a few that were just so much fun — even if they don’t quite fit on the list, or there was something about them that made them not quite a favorite, I still really loved some element of them, so I have to mention them too. 😉

I know there’s only 5 in this picture. I can count, I promise . . .

  1. Common by Laurie Lucking — I loved the FEEL of this one and just . . . it’s so absolutely sweet (but also exciting at times) and it makes me so happy! ❤
  2. Healers and Warriors by Daley Downing — This modern fantasy series just kinda makes me happy and there was a lot of epicness and fun and fabulous characters and so many thiiings going down.
  3. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen — I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this. All the snark that is Sage. XD I did guess the twist but I don’t mind because it’s awesome.
  4. Lightporter by C.B. Cook — Because BLAZE. He’s my fave. Anvil, too. 😉 It’s just such a fun YA superhero book and I adored it.
  5. Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn — Sci-fi isn’t usually my genre, but this was such a fun book! It’s a heist story featuring Han Solo, Chewie, Lando, and others, by the best Star Wars author, and I just loved it. XD

Not pictured above because I don’t own physical copies but still make me happy:

  1. A Royal Masquerade by Allison Tebo — Because Burndee and Prince Colin bickering are HILARIOUS and the absolute best. (And the skunk. XD)
  2. The Worth of a King by Kendra E. Ardnek — Because Delaney and Granite and the winged horses and the Zovordians.
  3. The Game by Diana Wynne Jones — The whole idea and the mythosphere and all the story bits were brilliant. I wish it had been longer than a novella because it was so fascinating.
  4. The Stealthmaster’s Shadow by Hope Ann — Just because I can’t stop thinking about how fabulous Verus and his snark is. XD

(So . . . that’s sort of 24 books? I REGRET NOTHING.)


OTHER STUFF: Non-Fiction + Re-Reads

Top 2 Non-Fiction Reads

  • Tolkien: A Celebration — This one is here because of a stellar essay by Stephen R. Lawhead. I read the entire collection this year, but this essay is still one of my favorites of all time, and anyone who is a writer (particularly of fantasy) needs to read it!
  • Punctuation 101 by Jill Williamson — Speaking of writers . . . Everyone needs this one, too! 😉 I had the chance to help beta-read/proofread this little book and I absolutely loved it! PUNCTUATION 101 is practical, succinct, fun, and easy to read. I zoomed right through it! I learned a few things, and I think it will be a very helpful book to refer to in the future. 🙂

Top 2 Re-Reads

  • The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz — I’ve now read this four times and I still absolutely adore it and want to re-read it again. XD It’s hilarious and brilliant, and the characters, fairytale things, and humor, just . . . they get me every time! (Nick and Crispin and Cordelia are the absolute best!) You can read my original review here.
  • The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones — The absolute brilliance of time-travel in a fantasy world and all the characters I love and the twists and EVERYTHING. (Mitt and Navis, though!) I even forgot some of the twists from the first time I read it, so I got to re-experience some of them, which was awesome. DWJ is the only author who can do this to me. XD SO glad I finally re-read this series! (This is book 4, and it’s totally worth making it through the first three for this one. ❤ )

(Missing Masque and Five Poisoned Apples for Falling Snow in this pic because I tragically don’t own paperbacks of those two.)

So there you are! Various of the best books I read in 2018! (You can also check out my top 15 (ish) short stories of last year if you missed that, and my 2018 End-of-Year Book-Freakout Tag.)

What was your favorite book (or several) you read last year? And have you read any of these? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Also! Expect an epic recap of my writing news of 2018 along with goals ‘n’ stuff, over on my other blog, very soon!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Top 15(ish) Favorite Short Stories of 2018 + Winner

While working on my top-favorite-books-of-2018 post, I realized that I read a ton of awesome short stories this last year!

So while I’m working on that post (which I’ll share later this week), here — have a list of some fabulous short stories! Because short stories don’t get enough love.

Also, the winner of the ARC paperback of Echo North iiiiiis . . .

*drumroll*

Amanda Torr!

Congrats! I’ll be in touch with you about getting your info so I can get your prize sent off to you ASAP. 🙂

Dearest readers who did not win (as there can sadly be only one winner), thank you so much for entering and celebrating my blogiversary with me! I hope to do more giveaways soon. 😉

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer is releasing next week on January 15, so there’s still time to preorder a gorgeous hardcover! (And I think there’s some preorder goodies [!!!] if you do, so check that out . . .) Or ask your local library to get it. Or put it on your birthday wishlist. Or something! Because you must read it and it’s awesome. ❤

Okay! Onward to my favorite short stories I read in 2018!

Top 15 (ish) FAVORITE SHORT STORIES

(Titles link to Goodreads. I also link to my reviews on here if I have them.)

Mythical Doorways

Goodreads / Free on Amazon

I loved SO many of the short stories in Mythical Doorways, so overall I’m just calling it my favorite anthology I’ve read in a long time. ^_^ (I’m taking the mini-reviews from my full review on Goodreads.)

Favorites:

  1. Everwild (J.M. Hackman) — This one was awesome! A boy about to grow out of the foster system is given a choice between two worlds… Fascinating and vivid, and I liked how it ended. Lovely portal fantasy with a few twists. It was great. ^_^ Makes me want to try more by this author—and I fortunately have a novel (Spark) which can help me do just that. 😉
  2. Well of Fate (Savannah Jezowski) — Tosk the squirrel was so adorable! What a super-cute—and funny—little tale. Having a squirrel main character who’s a little bit nervous but determined to be a hero, in a mythology setting, was so much fun! And there was an awesome twist near the end! 😉 I’m looking forward to checking out the author’s When Ravens Fall novella…
  3. Jericho and the Magician’s Daughter (H.L. Burke) — AWK. Featuring Jericho and Rill a few years before the first Spellsmith and Carver book. They’re adorable! And they didn’t know they were in love… quite… yet… Super cute and exciting. It was also neat seeing a little more of Hedward Spellsmith. And of course there was Jaspyr the mechanical fox! It’s a great story and I loved this look at a sort of mini-prequel about Jericho and Rill. ^_^
  4. Threshold (Laurie Lucking) — AWK. THIS STORY. ❤ *hugs it* I don’t want to give anything away about it, but it had a couple of twists on the usual portal fantasy thing, and I was SO WORRIED about how things would turn out, but I absolutely LOVED IT. Shawn was my favorite. He’s the best. 😀 I got kind of a Peter Pan sort of feel with this one and I loved that. ^_^
  5. Idiot’s Graveyard (Arthur Daigle) — One word (name?): Jayden. Jayden is one of my new favorite characters and I’m not even sure WHY, but he’s quite unpigeonholeable and fantastic and giving me Howl/Doctor Strange sorts of vibes. I could easily read a whole novel (or series) about Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden (they remind me a little of things like Skulduggery Pleasant or Jackaby). I learned there was another short story featuring them (in Hall of Heroes, another Fellowship of Fantasy anthology) and instantly read/devoured/loved it. The world is kind of spooky, and yet a little elegant. And it’s so FUNNY. Like… I just love the style. I kept wanting to quote it. All the snark and polite cutting dialog! Anyway, it was a glorious short story and I loved it muchly. ❤ Just excuse me while I wish for more tales of Jayden and co. and am tempted to re-read the ones there are so far…
  6. Dragon Ward (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt) — How fascinating! I won’t spoil anything, but as a fan of this author’s Minstrel’s Call series, I loved how this had two or three different backstory references, when I only expected one! LOVED LOVED LOVED. It was delicious and unexpected. Anyone who hasn’t read the series will enjoy it too. The story of a girl and a dragon, and a strange experience they have… and meeting a certain character, who I love! 😀 An absolutely delightful tale. ^_^

Tales of Ever After

Goodreads / Free on Amazon

(I need to finish this anthology, but these two stories are my favorite so far.)

  1. Cinders (Kendra E. Ardnek) — Charming, and Cinderella’s a kitten! (Review.)
  2. At the Corner of Elm and Main (H.L. Burke) — Melted my heart away, a story about a sentinent lamp-post! Petition for this to be a Pixar animated short, please. (Review.)

Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden — stories by Arthur Daigle

If this were a novel, it would totally be on my top five books of the year. 😀 As it is, I simply have to mention these episodic short stories that I’m lumping together as “one” continuing story which I really hope will one day be published together as a collection about two of my new favorite characters of all time, Dana and Jayden. ^_^

The first two stories are free in two different Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies. They’re available also on a free website called Booksie (which is sort of like Wattpad) so you really have no excuse not to go read them right now. 😉 (I mean, unless you don’t like slightly spooky, sarcastic, hilarious, epic, fantastical short stories featuring two of my fave characters. :P)

  1. Not Quite a Hero (Hall of Heroes and Booksie)
  2. Idiot’s Graveyard (Mythical Doorways and Booksie) — I already mentioned this one above. 😉
  3. Surviving Fairytales (Booksie)
  4. A Fair Deal (Booksie)
  5. A Friend in Need (Booksie)

(They make me so happyyyy! ❤ )

Afterverse Stories

I read several of Kyle Robert Shultz’s new short stories this year (as his editor), and enjoyed all of them, but of particular note are these three personal favorites of mine:

 

  1. My Man Beasley (on Kyle’s Patreon) — Featuring three of my FAVORITE things, this one is basically Tam Lin meets Wodehouse meets Beaumont and Beasley. Enough said. XD (What would happen if Nick Beasley met someone like Bertie Wooster and had to help fix his magical problems?)
  2. The Centaur Express (free on Kyle’s newsletter) — Todd Crane, part-time centaur in the magical wild-west, has to fill in for their version of the Pony Express, and the mailbag will literally eat him if he stops. XD
  3. Someday at Christmas — This one gave me ALL THE FEELS and it’s a Beaumont and Beasley/Crockett and Crane crossover and it’s perfect. ❤

Mollie E. Reeder short stories

Sooo, maybe these are novelettes. I DON’T CARE. I have to talk about them because I ADORE THEM BOTH.

  1. Arbrook Huxley and the Star-Crossed Lovers (free on Mollie E. Reeder’s newsletter) — This is actually how I “met” Huxley, so of course I was super excited to read The Electrical Menagerie (which is somewhere near the top of my top-15-books-of-2018, spoiler alert. ;)). It’s hilarious and great fun and I recently re-read it after reading TEM, which only made it better. XD
  2. The Sixth ChristmasAaahh! How is this author so amazing?? 😭 😍 *hugs story* Fantastic Christmas short story! A Christmas Carol sort of vibe but original and awesome. I loved it so much. I just meant to read the first page and then couldn’t put it down. ^_^

Others

The Villain Who Saved Christmas (C.B. Cook) — Utterly charming. ❤ Supervillain! Christmas! What more do you need? (Review.)

Windswept (Sarah Delena White) — A gorgeous fantasy original-fairytale-esque short story. ^_^ Tiding me over while I wait for the sequel to Halayda. ❤


(Oh, look, three of these are Christmas short stories. Apparently I love those. XD)

Do you read shorter fiction much? I don’t always, but seem to have devoured quite a few in the past year (possibly why Goodreads claims I read 123 books in 2018?), and I just had to give a shout-out to some of these gorgeous, charming, or funny ones!

I’ll be back in a couple of days with my top 15 novels I read last year, so stay tuned! Have you read any of these? Thanks for reading! 🙂

At the Corner of Elm and Main by H.L. Burke (Mini Review)

Hallo, my page-dreamers!

I’m back for one last mini review on the Tales of Ever After blog tour! (Scroll to end for giveaways, which are ending TONIGHT, so hasten!)


At the Corner of Elm and Main

by H. L. Burke

 

What an utterly charming and perfect story! ❤

GAH. *clutches heart* *clutches this story and hugs it* At the Corner of Elm and Main is SO ADORABLE. I love it so much! ❤ I’m having a hard time explaining it, but how cool is the idea of a sentient lamppost? It makes me think of a Pixar short or something. Which of course is perfect. 🙂

I love the setting and “feel” of this one, feeling somewhat shadowy and cold with (probably) cobblestone streets and rain and a lamplighter going around lighting lamps, including our hero, Abner.

Abner the lamppost is MY FAVORITE THING. He’s wonderful. I loved reading the story from his perspective. And I loved the mysterious old woman who sits on the bench, too.

This is a positively delightful original fairytale type story, with SO much heart and charm. It’s a joy to read, but also has depth to it, and unexpected feels. Everything was so vivid and the delightful writing drew me right into it. It’s going to sound weird but I really related to the lamppost character. ^_^

I’m definitely going to be reading this one again sometime. It lit a light in my heart and made me smile. 🙂

I can’t say anything else without spoiling it, but basically, you need this adorable story in your life ASAP! Go forth and read it and have your heart melted like mine was! ❤


If you missed them, you can read my review for two other short story in this collection, Believing Fairytales (by Arthur Daigle) and Cinders (by Kendra E. Ardnek).

Check out the rest of the stories in this anthology! It’s free on all ebook platforms! (See links below.)

Tales of Ever After

Rescue a princess, meet a mermaid, win your reward.

The authors of the Fellowship of Fantasy tackle fairy tales from once upon a time to happily ever after. Explore twists on old tales and brand new magical stories. Meet feisty mermaids, friendly lampposts, and heroes who just might be monsters themselves.

This fourth anthology from the Fellowship of Fantasy will lead you on a quest for entertainment and storm the castle of your imagination. So make a wish and enter the deep dark woods to find stories that will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even fall in love.

LINKS

Amazon • Books2Read Universal Link • Goodreads


Tour Schedule

Check out the blog tour schedule HERE.


GIVEAWAY!

And now it’s time to enter a delightful giveaway the Fellowship of Fantasy authors are hosting — there are 3 giveaways! (Rafflecopter hates me so you’ll just have to click the links. XD)

U.S. Only Giveaway:

(All books are paperback, and possibly signed)

***LINK***

International Giveaway:

(All books are ebooks of the winner’s file format of choice)

***LINK***

Comment Giveaway:

The person who leaves the most comments across the blog tour will receive the chance to read special sneak peaks from several of the authors’ upcoming works!


Do you like stories featuring inanimate objects who are more than they seem? I love them — they’re so adorable! Are you going to check this one out? 😉 Thanks for reading! 🙂

Cinders by Kendra E. Ardnek (Mini Review & Giveaway)

Hi everyone! I’m back on the Tales of Ever After blog tour with a mini review for another short story from this collection! (And there’s still a giveaway at the end if you haven’t entered yet. ;))


Cinders

by Kendra E. Ardnek

 

Okay, that was adorable and enchanting! I have a new story to put on my growing list of top-favorite Cinderella retellings. 😀 I LOVED this one!

The thing about retellings is that you can’t usually say much about the twists/plots/bits that make you really like them, without spoiling the story. XD So I won’t. But I did LOVE the twists a ton. Some I suspected, others were a delightful surprise, and a few times I got worried about how it would turn out and then things worked PERFECTLY and made me absurdly happy.

There’s also a cute kitten. And humor. And loveable characters! And… well… what more can be said? It’s a classic Cinderella story flipped on its head and made fabulous all over again. I loved it so much! The perfect story to start out this collection. 🙂

So what are you waiting for? Go pick up this free collection and read Cinders! I’ll be over here contemplating rereading it, and hugging it because I adored it. ^_^


If you missed it, you can read my review for another short story in this collection, here.

Check out the rest of the stories in this anthology! It’s free on all ebook platforms! (See links below.)

Tales of Ever After

Rescue a princess, meet a mermaid, win your reward.

The authors of the Fellowship of Fantasy tackle fairy tales from once upon a time to happily ever after. Explore twists on old tales and brand new magical stories. Meet feisty mermaids, friendly lampposts, and heroes who just might be monsters themselves.

This fourth anthology from the Fellowship of Fantasy will lead you on a quest for entertainment and storm the castle of your imagination. So make a wish and enter the deep dark woods to find stories that will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even fall in love.

LINKS

Amazon • Books2Read Universal Link • Goodreads


Tour Schedule

Check out the blog tour schedule HERE.


GIVEAWAY!

And now it’s time to enter a delightful giveaway the Fellowship of Fantasy authors are hosting — there are 3 giveaways! (Rafflecopter hates me so you’ll just have to click the links. XD)

U.S. Only Giveaway:

(All books are paperback, and possibly signed)

***LINK***

International Giveaway:

(All books are ebooks of the winner’s file format of choice)

***LINK***

Comment Giveaway:

The person who leaves the most comments across the blog tour will receive the chance to read special sneak peaks from several of the authors’ upcoming works!


What do you think? Doesn’t this one sound charming? Do you have a favorite Cinderella retelling? And have you picked up Tales of Ever After for free yet? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Believing Fairytales by Arthur Daigle: Mini Review (+ Featuring Me Squawking About Jayden Because #Excuses)

Welcome to the Tales of Ever After blog tour! 🙂

I’m here today to share a mini review of one of the short stories in this NEWLY RELEASED anthology of fairytale retellings (and original fairytales) from the Fellowship of Fantasy! It released yesterday; I’m really excited. 😀

And don’t forget to scroll through to the end where there’s a giveaway. 😉


Believing Fairy Tales

by Arthur Daigle

Tagline: Some fairy tales are true. The dangerous ones are partly true.

*cue Deborah O’Carroll’s review*

 

Short stories are hard to review without spoiling, and I really don’t want to spoil this one because it has an excellent plot twist, but I’ll do my best. 😛

Arthur Daigle is one of my new favorite authors I’ve discovered this year, due to just a couple of short stories in previous Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies. (Those two short stories featured one of my favorite-ever dynamic duos, Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden.)

So I was excited to review this short story! Despite not having said two favorite characters in it, this short story does contain Mr. Daigle’s signature humor, fantastical setting (including monsters), twists, and a snarky main character who stands up for himself, as well as a mischievous goblin.

Nestor is a boy who spends his time keeping the shrine of the Brotherhood of Righteousness clean and reading old manuscripts — and Gibber is a little goblin who loves to annoy him and prank people. Their relationship was fun. XD

Enter some problems in the form of some villains, a lot of hilarious conversations (with snarky lines like: “I would have lost my faith in humanity if I’d ever had it.”) and a plot twist that I started slightly guessing at (and had me going “OOH!”), and it’s overall a delightful original fairy tale type story. 😀

I loved the bits about people not getting fairytales right. XD

This story was a lot of fun, and the setting and humor reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. It’s slightly scary (just fantasy violence) but awesome overall, and I loved it! I’m excited to read the rest of the stories in this collection, as well as more of Arthur Daigle’s work!

Fantasy that makes me laugh is my favorite, and this absolutely qualifies! ❤


While You’re Here…

Not 100% related to the story I just reviewed, but I’m not going to finish a post featuring Arthur Daigle without mentioning how you can check out the short stories that made me fall in love with his writing.

If you’re curious to read about Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden (since I’ve mentioned them a few times and LOVE THEM SO MUCH. Ahem.) you can find a story each about them in previous Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies, Hall of Heroes and Mythical Doorways — which are FREE and have other delightful stories in them as well! (And did I mention free?)

Or if you just want to meet Jayden NOW (I don’t blame you) you can read said short stories on Arthur’s Booksie account here, here, and a NEW ONE that just came out (*shrieking* I’m so excited!) here.

I’m sorry, but I’m also TOTALLY NOT SORRY because Jayden is my fave. 😀

(And I really need to check out this author’s Goblin books someday… I believe all his works take place in the same world. Which is awesome.)

Okay, I’m done derailing this post, now. *cough*

This has been a public service announcement. Carry on.


Check out the rest of the stories in this anthology!

Tales of Ever After

Rescue a princess, meet a mermaid, win your reward.

The authors of the Fellowship of Fantasy tackle fairy tales from once upon a time to happily ever after. Explore twists on old tales and brand new magical stories. Meet feisty mermaids, friendly lampposts, and heroes who just might be monsters themselves.

This fourth anthology from the Fellowship of Fantasy will lead you on a quest for entertainment and storm the castle of your imagination. So make a wish and enter the deep dark woods to find stories that will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even fall in love.

LINKS

Amazon • Books2Read Universal Link • Goodreads

(The ebook should be free most places, and if it’s not yet — say, on Amazon *cough* — it WILL be… soonish… So keep an eye out. Or you can get it for 99 cents which isn’t bad; or buy the paperback because it looks shiny.)


Tour Schedule

Check out the blog tour schedule HERE.


GIVEAWAY!

And now it’s time to enter a delightful giveaway the Fellowship of Fantasy authors are hosting — there are 3 giveaways! (Rafflecopter hates me so you’ll just have to click the links. XD)

U.S. Only Giveaway:

(All books are paperback, and possibly signed)

***LINK***

International Giveaway:

(All books are ebooks of the winner’s file format of choice)

***LINK***

Comment Giveaway:

The person who leaves the most comments across the blog tour will receive the chance to read special sneak peaks from several of the authors’ upcoming works!


Do you enjoy funny fantasy too? Have you met Jayden yet? Are you curious to read this story or the rest of the anthology? ISN’T THAT TALES OF EVER AFTER COVER GORGEOUS?? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!