Book Review: The Wolf and the Water (2020)

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey

That was the point, of course: the people of Kepos didn’t understand that there was anywhere else to go. They were hemmed in by the cliffs, the wall and the sea. For as far as they could sail in their little fishing boats, there were only more cliffs and more sea.

Josie Jaffrey’s The Wolf and the Water takes place in a valleyed city inspired by Plato’s account of the island of Atlantis and has a lot of similarities to Ancient Greece. I’m used to reading Jaffrey’s vampires stories, so it was awesome to delve into another of her universes! In terms of genre, TWTW really reminded me of The Winner’s Curse in the sense of it being a fictional historical setting with a focus on the politics, engagements and troubles of city folk and the drama and machinations of those who want to rise higher and higher. Think Spartacus or Agora, with a new adult twist.

In Kepos, the story’s setting, our MC Kala is less than delighted by her mother’s remarriage after her father dies under questionable – at best – circumstances. Her new stepfather is abusive, murderous and disgusting. With the help of her life long friend, confidant and lover Melissa, Kala starts to delve into the mystery of her father and Kepos as a whole.

I adored Kala and Melissa, but Leon was a gem and a half. I just adored his characterisation. Can’t wait to get more of his banter in the next book ♡_♡

I also really appreciated the depth of the world-building in this tale and the detail Jaffrey put into developing the society and mythology. I did have a bit of a hard time keeping track of the names, titles and families, but there’s a helpful diagram at the start with all the family names and lineages.

Overall, I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here! Another Josie Jaffrey must read for sure!

Thank you to the author for an ARC.

Book Review: Untouched (2021)

Untouched by Jayme Bean

Paul once told me that it’s ‘inhospitable for anything other than the creatures that exist in the swamps.’

Untouched follows a small group of researchers as they embark into the Amazon rainforest. Things quickly become dangerous for the group when they realise that there’s more to the forest than they ever could have imagined.

“There are pirates, authorities that aren’t too keen on researchers like ourselves, and I’m sure we’ll come across villages who will be none too pleased to see us bringing foreign trash to their pristine wilderness.”

I’m so impressed by Jayme Bean’s debut novel! The rich imagery and detail is amazingly well actualised and the characters are excellently developed. David and Ben were definitely the highlight for me. OTP FEELS.

‘David could hear the smile in Ben’s voice. Normally, he would be pulling away and trying to avoid anyone being in his personal space, but Ben made him feel almost at ease.’

HEART EYES

This is a wonderful book and I definitely recommend it!

Also, love love love this:

“People say that, but they rarely mean it—bibliophile. They read three or four books a year and think they’re blowing through the library. Me? I feel like my entire life has been nothing but devouring books.”

Book Review: Tales of Solomon Pace (2014)

Tales of Solomon Pace by Alan Scott

‘You forgot who you were talking to. I am Solomon Pace and I heal fast. I am Solomon Pace and my mind is mine to control.’

I haven’t read the other books in the Storm Series yet, but after listening to Tales of Solomon Pace, I’m going to pick up the other books as soon as I can! [Some of the stories herein take place before some of the other books, so it may help to read Echoes of a Storm, etc, first! That said, I didn’t have trouble settling into the different stories of Solomon and it’s left me very intrigued to dive into the series from the start.]

This was a wonderfully narrated collection of tales that draws you straight into Scott’s rich, fantastical world, with a focus on the character of Solomon Pace. You’re told from the onset that Solomon is unforgiving and brutal, but you still want to learn more about him, about why, and follow along for the journey. Scott’s descriptions are so evocative and really set the scene, and the prose is as lush as it is dark.

Interestingly, the book reminds me of a book of fairy tales – the old kind – but unlike most fairy tales there’s a central figure throughout these stories and he’s certainly not the one who needs saving.

He remembered standing on the shoreline, watching it disappear over the horizon and promising himself that he would return one day to his homeland and fulfil his destiny

dun dun dun

The audiobook makes for such easy listening, too. I’m extremely picky with narrators and I really enjoyed this one! I am also absolutely obsessed with the artwork for this book (and the others in the series!). \o/

Thank you to the author for the audiobook!

Book Review: May Day (2020)

May Day by Josie Jaffrey

‘I’m Jack Valentine and I am fucking untouchable.’

I read Josie’s vampire book The Gilded King a while back, and really loved it, so I couldn’t wait to dive into this new vampire series. May Day gives me Veronica Mars meets A Discovery of Witches – with a dash of True Blood – vibes.

The book follows Jack Valentine, a tough-talking, expletive-wielding, gin-slinging vampire detective still mourning the loss of her girlfriend years before. She blames one Killian Drake, and when a murder case in Oxford leads the Seekers – the vampire investigators- to him, Jack is all too happy to pin the death on Drake. Very quickly, however, she realises that nothing is what it seems. Not even Drake.

The characterisations in this story are done so well, and I really enjoyed the dynamics between everyone, especially Jack and Killian. BRING ON BOOK TWO, YO!

Jaffrey paints a vivid world inside our modern one and you can’t help but fall face first into the Silvers and their mysteries!

Buddy read this book with the 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.

Thank you to the author for an ARC.

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 ❤

[Audiobook Rec] Caught Inside (2016)

I came across a great audiobook yesterday for anyone who is looking for recommendations. It’s by one of my favourite narrators, Joe Jameson, and is a contemporary lgbt+ romance.

Caught Inside by Jamie Deacon

Luke believes he has his life figured out…and then he meets Theo.

It should have been simple—a summer spent with his girlfriend Zara at her family’s holiday cottage in Cornwall. Seventeen-year-old Luke Savage jumps at the chance, envisioning endless hours of sunbathing on the private beach and riding the waves on his beloved surfboard. He isn’t interested in love. Though his rugged good looks and lazy charm mean he can have his pick of girls, he has no intention of falling for anyone.

Nothing prepares Luke for his reaction to Theo, the sensitive Oxford undergraduate who is Zara’s cousin and closest friend. All at once, he is plunged along a path of desire and discovery that has him questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. No one, especially Zara, must find out; what he and Theo have is too new, too fragile. But as the deceit spirals beyond their control, people are bound to get hurt, Luke most of all.

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!

Book Review: Each Little Universe (2020)

Each Little Universe by Chris Durston

How do you cheer up a star?

I hear girl from the stars and I immediately think Stardust.

Each Little Universe is my first book by Chris Durston, who puts an original spin on the girl from the stars angle in this lovely debut. This book is filled with great quotes, but I’ll just post a few favourites:

So many people were part of his little universe – some still in his orbit, some sailed off elsewhere, and some gone entirely, but all still carried on in some way by the sheer fact that he was still there.

The dialogue and discourse reminded me of novels like Franny and Zooey (or like the movie Before Sunrise), with characters contemplating life with each other, asking big questions.

Fear of the unknown might be the most human of feelings. ♡

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.