Book Review: Partners in Crime (2021)

Partners in Crime by Rachel Bowdler

I have adored all of Rachel Bowdler’s novellas that I’ve read so far and she’s definitely becoming one of my go-to authors for a lovely romance read. I totally recommend her books!

Firstly, how bloody gorgeous is this cover? I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I picked up the Kindle version of this one with the other cover, but I’m definitely grabbing a copy of the paperback because I am straight up HEART EYES for this cover. Strong noir, graphic novel vibes and I am HERE FOR IT. Secondly, this one is fabulously sapphic.

Partners in Crime features a podcast on true crime, and it’s fitting choice to read this month with the Book Trove book club as I was just watching Only Murders in the Building, which also follows podcasters of true crime. (And is also awesome, FYI.)

Bryce was special, Thea was beginning to realize. She wouldn’t find that same connection anywhere else.

As always, Bowdler manages to pack a wonderful amount into a novella. There’s romance and angst and mystery and suspense. And, like all of Bowdler’s novellas, the characterisation is just wonderful. And Thea and Bryce are impossible not to root for.

Deep down, though, she knew what had really driven Thea here. She knew why her best friend could never let these cases go, knew why she took it upon herself to try to solve them. They rarely covered unsolved mysteries on the podcast anymore. Thea always needed an answer — because she’d never gotten one for herself.

Bowdler really knows how to write characters you feel for and ship from the get go. Coupled with angst and a murder mystery, and you have all the ingredients for a great novella! Can’t wait to read her next one!

Buddy read this book with The Book Trove. We’re hoping to shine some attention on independent books and authors. These books are picked totally at random and selected by vote amongst the group.

Book Review: Along for the Ride (2021)

Along for the Ride by Rachel Bowdler

“Are you sure you want tae do this, Stripes? I’m not bringing you back if you get cold feet halfway to Dover.”

Oh my gosh, this is the perfect summer romance read. Fancy a day at the beach? Bring this book. Going on a hike? Bring this book. Going to the café? Yup, this book is perfect with your iced coffee! If you want escapism, sunshine, romance and sweet joy, this the book to read!

I really loved Rachel Bowdler’s Paint Me Yours, and I’m so happy that Along for the Ride is just as much fun. The story begins when Emmy, a young photographer seeking candid subjects on the streets, runs into Lachlan, a motorcyclist on the run from a grumpy landlord. On a whim, the pair become unintended buddies on a multi-country tour across Europe. As the days pass, their friendship grows, each realising that they are happy to be themselves around the other.

“My mum used to call me Plain Jane because I never really had an interesting face. I take pictures of all these different people, but I never feel like one of them.”

I really liked getting both perspectives and seeing how the romance was developing for both sides. Emmy and Lachlan are such lovely, relatable characters. Bowdler’s descriptions make the characters easy to like and you fall into their lives without effort. I was rooting hard for these two crazy kids from the get go.

He had no answer, no way to evade or deny or explain. Because it was true. He didn’t have a home; hadn’t for a while now. He just kept running, hiding, always looking for something better, something that didn’t exist. A better job. A better city.

Emmy was wonderful, but I do wish Lachlan had said something about his destination choice earlier in the story. He was so clearly smitten with her haha. Still, I thought the resolution was wonderful and original, and I really liked how Bowdler wrapped everything up.

Overall this is a fun, wholesome, sweet book that is definitely worth a read. And now on to my next book by Bowdler (here’s looking at you Partners in Crime)! [I swear, I’m gonna end up reading her entire library before the year is through at this rate. 😉]

Short Story Reviews: Battered Heart (2021) & On the Edge of Salt (2020)

Battered Heart by Maxime Jaz

Home. Tasting that foreign feeling word. Trying to forget that large house filled with sunshine and their love.

Oh, this short story was absolutely heartbreaking! It follows the last moments of an ending relationship and it’s just so shattering. Jaz writes wonderfully evocative characters that you just want to hug and protect. Definitely worth checking out!

On the Edge of Salt (Blood Brute #0.2) by Dixon Reuel

People might climb Holly Hill, might even pass through the ring of holly trees surrounding Owl Court. But nobody crossed that sacred boundary of their red brick wall. To Rise, it was an edge between worlds, marked by the coven with white, ancient salt rubbed deep into the brick foundations. Every dawn, the coven invoked a prayer in the Old Language to reinforce their sacred protection.

I haven’t read this series yet, but I saw the short story on my feed and it looked quite interesting, so I dove in face first like always with absolutely no context, haha. I really liked it!! Reuel’s writing is crisp and polished, and the characters are engaging. Very intrigued about the rest of the series! Definitely worth checking out!

Book Review: Paint Me Yours (2021)

Paint Me Yours by Rachel Bowdler

It hadn’t occurred to her that somebody might find beauty in her wobbly lines and accidental splatters. She didn’t know why. It wasn’t as though every painting, every artist, she had studied had been perfect. Perfect didn’t exist in the art world – and yet she expected it, had been taught to expect it, of herself. Why?

This is my first book by Rachel Bowdler and oooooh, it’s been too long since I read a good contemporary romance, this was just what I needed! ♡♡♡ This novella is short and sweet – a perfect summer read!

Benny was definitely my favourite character. My heart ached for him and I could not understand why everyone believed he was so awful. Like helloooooo, he’s fab. 🥰

I liked Eliza, but it frustrated me that she took so long to tell him the truth. I would have spilled that story from the get go. But despite my frustrations with Eliza’s hesitations, Bowdler had me rooting for them from minute one and I wish the book had been longer because now I want more :(((

Can’t wait to read another by this author! ♡

EBOOK SALE FOR BBNYA

Link

Book Review: Caught Inside (2016)

Caught Inside by Jamie Deacon

❧ audiobook review

Another Joe Jameson narration and an absolute find. [Other great Jameson narrations I’ve reviewed are: An Honest ManThe Prince of ThornsThe Last Romeo and The Magnificent Sons.]

THIS BOOK IS SUCH CUTE ROMANCE, UGH. ❤❤❤ Luke and Theo are fantastic together and so adorable. They have such good chemistry, it’s insane.

This is a perfect summer romance read! Beaches and new love. And the constant surfing descriptions just made me think of Shelter.

Totally a compliment, FYI. I adored this book so much. Jamie Deacon’s writing is so evocative and lush and lovely.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

This book totally stole my heart. That said, despite how shippable Luke and Theo are, I do feel bad for Zara. She really deserved much better than everyone keeping secrets from her. Giles was such a prick at pretty much every point, although he was a good friend to Theo.

Really hard not to picture Rupert Giles:

But this Giles was decidedly less Watcherly. I got so annoyed at him throughout the book. He’s a good character, though, so there’s that.

One of the things I loved, but found myself shaking my head and laughing at, was how Luke is so DRAMATIC. He ought to get an award for epic overreactions, yet he’s written so well and so sympathetic, that even when he is a DISASTER, you end up rooting for him. I really adored Theo, too, although a lot of his decisions left me so frustrated.

Meredith is definitely a queen ❤

Indie Bites Vol. 2: Mermaids & Mythology OUT NOW!

The stories are free online to download in epub, mobi or pdf format; you can purchase the paperback here and the stories are also being released in podcast!

Indie Fantasy TBR

With the recent influx of novels on my reading list thanks to SPFBO and new connections on Twitter, I wanted to post about some of the awesome looking books I’m hoping to read over the summer. I also read this really great blog post recently by Zack Argyle about the great fantasy books coming from indie authors, which of course only made this list longer. (I think I’ve added more than these, but I can’t remember them all off the top of my head! I’ll probably end up making multiple posts.)

There’s a good mix of different types of fantasy in here, from historical fantasy to epic fantasy to urban fantasy, so it’s a pretty broad grouping! They all look so good O___O

Has anyone read any of these?

They look great, don’t they?

Individual summaries (with links!):

Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain

Goodreads

Two friends.
Two forbidden powers.
One chance to change everything.

When Mishi is taken from her orphanage home, she fears she’ll never see her best friend Taka again. And when Taka is taken to the infamous Josankō that same day, it seems as if more than distance will keep them apart.

Suddenly alone in their fight to survive, each girl must come to terms with her true nature—Mishi as warrior, Taka as healer. Years after their separation, the girls’ journeys lead them each to uncover the horrifying secret that the Rōjū council has spent centuries killing to keep.

Now the Rōjū council wants Taka and Mishi dead and they’ll have only one chance to save their people.

How much will Mishi and Taka sacrifice in order to protect all they hold dear?

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

Goodreads

Impossible world. Impossible dragon. Impossible adventure.

Lost with her ship and crew in an unfamiliar land, Min’s first command could be her last.

Nothing here behaves the way it should:

The magic that powers her skyship has been drained, rendering it immobile.

The sky is an endless twilight, lit by the luminous fish that swim in it.

Off starboard, there’s also the country-sized dragon that is looking particularly hungry.

It will take all of Min’s training and experience to get her people safely back home, but as the truth about the Darkstar Dimension begins to be revealed, Min will have to prove to her crew – and to herself – that she is still the best person for the job.

From the twisted mind that created the ‘delightfully weird’ Yarnsworld series comes a fantasy adventure like no other.

Grab it now, to set sail on a journey you’ll never forget! 

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

Goodreads

Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories. Everybody lies.

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories, but the king forces her to take them to keep his subjects in line. She wants to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon.

Falon has a six month void in his memories that he’s desperate to restore. He doesn’t know why they were taken or what they contained, nor why the man he loves is acting so cagily about what happened during that time. He hopes to use Sarilla to get back his stolen memories and doesn’t care what she wants or why she’s desperate to escape. She will help him get them back, whether she wants to or not.

A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree

Goodreads

Hunted by demons. Lost in time.

Welcome to the First Crusade.

Syria, 636: As heretic invaders circle Jerusalem, young Lukas Bessarion vows to defend his people. Instead, disaster strikes.

His family is ripped apart. His allies are slaughtered. And Lukas is hurled across the centuries to a future where his worst nightmares have come true…

Constantinople, 1097: Ayla may be a heretic beggar, but she knows one thing for sure: nine months from now, she will die. Before then, she must avenge her father’s murder–or risk losing her soul.

Desperate to find their way home, Lukas and Ayla join the seven armies marching east to liberate Jerusalem. If Lukas succeeds in his quest, he’ll undo the invasion and change the course of history.

But only if he survives the war.

Only if his enemies from the past don’t catch him.

And only as long as Ayla never finds out who he really is.

Lesser Known Monsters by Rory Michaelson

Goodreads

Being the chosen one isn’t always a good thing.

Oscar Tundale is useless, or at least that’s what he’s always thought. He and his friends are about to discover that not only are monsters real, but some of them are very interested in Oscar. Now, they must find out what the monsters want, before something terrible happens to London; or worse yet, the world.

Lesser Known Monsters is an own voices queer dark fantasy featuring diverse characters on a found family adventure. Perfect for fans of action and paranormal romance seeking LGBTQ+ heroes.

Voice of War by Zack Argyle

Goodreads

While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers–those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released.

A young girl from a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild veers off course to explore the streets of Alchea. She never expected that her journey would end in chains.

Far in the deserts to the south, a young man’s life changes after he dies.

When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting strangers or, worse, the dark voice in his mind.

Together, they will change the world–whether they intend to or not.

The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson

Goodreads

The war is over, but something is rotten in the state of Eidyn.

With a ragged peace in place, demons burn farmlands, violent Reivers roam the wilds and plague has spread beyond the Black Meadows. The country is on its knees.

In a society that fears and shuns him, Aranok is the first magically-skilled draoidh to be named King’s Envoy.

Now, charged with restoring an exiled foreign queen to her throne, he leads a group of strangers across the ravaged country. But at every step, a new mystery complicates their mission.

As bodies drop around them, new threats emerge and lies are revealed, can Aranok bring his companions together and uncover the conspiracy that threatens the kingdom?

Strap in for this twisted fantasy road trip from award-winning author Justin Lee Anderson.

Each Little Universe by Chris Durston

Goodreads

If Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett had written an earnestly nerdy story in a setting running on the ridiculous logic of Scott Pilgrim, it might have come out something like this.

For two oddball inventors, taking care of an unexpected new arrival – a girl from the stars – is hard enough. Dealing with the things that want her back may turn out to be harder.

A story about love in all its forms (but not a love story), Each Little Universe wonders with wit and insight about what it means to be human in a vast, peculiar cosmos. A celebration of all that is wonderful and strange about people, each member of its cast of twenty-first century weirdos is both larger than life and peculiarly familiar.

Banished by Lou Yardley

Goodreads

Welcome to the monstrous world of Venari. Try not to get eaten.

Elkbury is an idyllic village, hidden away in a rural area of pseudo-medieval Venari. It’s a place free of death and disease due to a mysterious ceremony called the Banishment. It’s a secret system that has worked well for decades. But, secrets rarely stay secret forever. When Hedwin’s grandmother is about to undertake her own Banishment, he and his best friend Laura Beth decide to find out what their beloved Anastasia is about to experience.

Just like disease, murder has no place in Elkbury, but it has wormed its way in. Wren Goodwort takes it upon herself to find the mysterious killer and clear her name in the process.

Soon Wren, Hedwin, Laura Beth, and the rest of the villagers are thrown together to fight for their lives as deadly, monstrous, and hungry secrets are uncovered and Elkbury’s delicate balance is destroyed.

They Mostly Come Out At Night by Benedict Patrick

Goodreads

He locked himself away from the dark, but in the Magpie King’s forest nowhere is safe…

Lonan is an outcast, accused of letting the monsters that stalk the night into the homes of his fellow villagers. Now, he will not rest until he wins back the heart of his childhood love and reclaims the life that was stolen from him. However, locked safely in his cellar at night, in his dreams Lonan finds himself looking through the eyes of a young prince…

Adahy has a destiny, and it terrifies him. How can he hope to live up to the legend of the Magpie King, to become the supernatural protector of the forest and defender of his people? But when the forest is invaded by an inhuman force, Adahy must rise to this challenge or let the Wolves destroy his people.

Watching these events unfold in his sleep, Lonan must do what he can to protect his village from this new threat. He is the only person who can keep his loved ones from being stolen away after dark, and to do so he will have to earn back their trust or watch the monsters kill everyone that he holds dear.

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey

Goodreads

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.

Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.

Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.

With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.

If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive. 

Rise of the Dragon Queen by Darragh Steffen

Goodreads

The creatures of old have vanished. Dragonia was once a kingdom where magic roamed freely, but now magic wielders are hunted without mercy. A resistance has formed to fight against the king’s oppression. Legend holds that one called the Dragon Queen will rise to return Dragonia to its former glory.

When Crown Princess Sammaria is kidnapped, the land is thrown into chaos. Her sister Jennica is determined to bring her home safely. Jennica will have to rely on her friends – and the gods – to save her sister, but an ancient force has returned to take control of a weakened Dragonia and threaten her quest. Will Jennica be able to bring her sister home? Will the gods interfere? Will the Dragon Queen rise in time to save the world from destruction? 

Red Harvest Moon by Miles Hurt

Goodreads

THE TABLES FOR THE HARVEST FEAST ARE SET. AND THE GHULS OF URIZAN ARE COMING, UNINVITED.

Led by the colossus Krond, the flesh-eating ghuls are ready to blaze and burn across the lands of Soren. The village of Puttle lies in their path, where they will bring fire and death.

The Black Feather is an outlaw, an outcast, a Wandering Knife. But he is the only hope the villagers have in this dark hour. Bandit turned protector, the Black Feather is hired by the villagers to take up his sword against the marauders.

Krond seeks the Black Feather. The ghuls are hungry. And the harvest moon will shine red.

Daughter of Flood and Fury by Levi Wallace Jacobs

Goodreads

Aletheia Vjolla is a walking heresy: a girl born with a man’s magic, she studies among the city’s revered monks only on the authority of her father, head seer of the temple. Already disliked for her gender and blasphemous magic, things fall apart when her father is deposed and murdered. Searching for answers to his sudden death, Aletheia stays on at the temple only by being the best—and by burying her grief in the quest.

It isn’t enough.

Enemies in her class bring her to the new head seer, who publicly sentences her to death while privately admitting he killed her father. Calling on those few loyal to her father, Aletheia manages to escape, but finds herself alone in a hostile city, unsure how to survive and unable to hide her heritage. Hunted by the temple and darker elements in the city, to vindicate her father she must first learn the lesson he couldn’t teach her: how to find the strength in her heresy. 

PSA: Indie Bites Magazine Now in Podcast Form!

For anyone who likes short stories and audiobooks, Indie Bites Magazine is starting to release its stories in podcast format. Check them out here.

OUT NOW: These Violent Nights (2021)

THESE VIOLENT NIGHTS IS OUT NOW IN EBOOK AND PAPERBACK!

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, inhabitants of another world tore a hole through the universe and came to Earth. They called themselves Suriias, and rivalled humans in knowledge and skill with one great exception: they had magic.

War followed. Humanity lost. And three hundred years later, humans are on the brink of extinction.

Orphans Thorn and Thistle live in hiding. They are the last of their families, the last of their friends. They scrape by, stealing to survive and living on the streets or hiding in sheds. But even under the brutal regime of the Suriias, there are places where humans can mingle in secret with magical sympathisers, and one night Thistle gets an unexpected offer of marriage from a Suriia with high standing and friends in all the right places. For Thistle, it’s a chance at safety and comfort; for Thorn, it’s a chance to find the ones who killed her parents.

And so the pair move into the capital city of Courtenz. An urban monstrosity of magic and might, false friends and flying cars, drones and death tolls, the new city promises a fresh start – and new love – for both.

But if there’s one thing Thorn knows for certain, it’s that dreams can swiftly turn into nightmares.