Here are my mini reviews (also available on GR) for the indie books that I read as part of the IFA Summer Challenge for the past couple of weeks:
Death and Taxes – J. Zachary Pike
When Arthur takes a job at a Blue’s Doughnuts, he has no idea that his fat, obstinate boss Buford Lafont has a secret: in addition to running a failing bakery, Lafont moonlights as a private investigator and a reluctant expert on the paranormal phenomena that threaten humanity.
Detective Lafont wants little to do with the darker side of his small New England town, but the spirits and powers that lurk in the shadows won’t leave him alone. His first case with Arthur at his side starts out as a simple disappearance, but quickly draws them into the realm of occult mathematics and sinister rituals. It will take all of Lafont’s skill and cunning if they’re to survive the dark truth behind the victim’s death and taxes.
This was a short but entertaining read, and I feel I must echo other people and say that it was too short as there was promise here that would have worked well in a longer form. Still, a fun read and I enjoyed the dynamics between the characters and the tone of the writing.
Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)
Danse Macabre – Laura. M. Hughes
The dead beckon and the little girl obeys. Night after night she answers the graveyard’s call, though she dreads her encounters with the creature that dwells there.
But she’ll soon come to learn that memories are much more dangerous than monsters…
This was a beautifully written story, that I devoured all in one go. It is wonderfully atmospheric, an for a short story there were twists and turns, and the ending caught me by surprise in the best way. I look forward to checking out more from this author.
Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)
A Whisper in the Dark (Charlie Travesty #1) – Jessi Elliot and K.J. Sutton
A city ruled by vampires. A disgraced princess. A world underground.
Charlotte Travesty lives in a world of comfort. Glittering nightclubs, a lavish mansion, and a staff of humans at her beck and call. Being a royal vampire means her future is secured—all she has to do is get through the Awakening, an ancient ceremony every vampire experiences when they come of age.
But when her Awakening arrives at last, everything changes in one terrifying instant.
Cast from her home and rejected by the royal family, Charlie is forced into a life of fear and brutality. Where creatures called weepers live below the city, kept at bay by an unlucky sector of fighters enslaved by the very king who cast her out. Charlie now finds herself among the ranks.
She soon learns that weepers aren’t all she needs to fear in her new life. Other workers are dying in the tunnels below ground. Charlie knows that if she’s going to survive, she must form alliances with the very humans that despise her. But will she win their trust in time? Or will she die in the very darkness she was born to rule?
This was a fun read, and I really liked the concept of the Awakening and the colour-coded system, and I would like to see that explored more. I will certainly be checking out the rest of the series.
Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)
By Sky & Sea: An Esowan Story (The Sky Pirates Chronicles #1) – Antoine Bandele, John Rogers (Narrator)
WITH NO MAGIC, NO BRAWN, AND NO PIRATE CREW, ZALA SEEKS TO STEAL BACK THE ONE TREASURE THAT MATTERS TO HER MOST: HER HUSBAND.
To succeed she needs a ship—and not just any ship, but the latest, secret invention by the Vaaji Empire. An airship.
Zala will have to use her wits to overcome scoundrels and nobles alike on her journey through the clouds.
But if she’s smart enough, she may just have what it takes to save her husband—and go down in history as the first sky pirate.
DELVE INTO A PIRATE FANTASY INSPIRED BY THE WEST INDIES, THE SWAHILI COAST, AND ARABIA, WHERE ZALA WILL ENCOUNTER RUTHLESS RAIDERS, ARROGANT ARISTOCRATS, AND IMPERIAL SECRETS.
This book had been on my radar for a while, so I leapt at the chance to try out the audiobook through netgalley and I’m glad that I did as I felt that the narrator really brought the story to life.
The book is fantastic, I was sold as soon as Pirates were mentioned and this is one of the most entertaining pirate romps that I’ve read in a while. That this book draws it’s inspiration from West Indie/Swahili/Arabian, and that makes for a new, refreshing world, and I adored the world-building here and was instantly absorbed an would have happily spent many more hours in this world. The characters weren’t quite as developed I felt, although Zala was incredible and I love books with strong female characters, and she stood out not just for her presence and personality, but because she was so wonderfully real and human. She made mistakes, had setbacks and kept going, was swayed by her emotions and her head, and I just couldn’t get enough of her as a character.
This was a fun book that kept me on my toes, and had a wonderful blend of action and quieter moments, and I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a non-western based fantasy, and anyone who loves Pirates and wants an entertaining, refreshing take on them. I will certainly be checking out the author’s other work.
Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)
Bronze Dragon (Riders of Fire #0.5) – Eileen Mueller
A new prequel novelette in the Rider of Fire Series
A life-changing hunting trip. Strange beasts in the forest. A dangerous hunt for a missing sister and mother. And a mysterious bronze dragon.
A routine hunting trip turns into a nightmare when Hans discovers a dead dragon rider, and strange beasts in the forest.
Then his family goes missing. He must track the dangerous beasts to find his mother and sister, but everything goes go wrong.
There’s only one hope left. A hope that could save his family and give him a new destiny. Dare Hans dream of the impossible?
And what must he sacrifice to save his kin?
This was a quick, entertaining read. It felt a little too rushed for me, particularly with the emotional aspects of the story which should have had more impact, however, that is partly due to the length and there were places where the writing felt a little clunky to me. There is potential here, and I am interested to see what the main series does with this world.
Rating: ** (2/5 Stars)
Ruby Dragon (Riders of Fire #07) – Eileen Mueller
Tonio’s juggling with fire—a dying mother, two vengeful gang leaders breathing down his neck, and a tough dragon master hunting him down. Not to mention his step-brother who’s always looking for an excuse to wield a birch switch.
When Tonio tells his friend, Sam, that Ma is dying of the wasting sickness, Sam comes up with a brilliant idea, and they sell secrets to rival street gangs to earn enough for his mother’s healing tonic. But the gang leaders, Biter and Half-Ear, are ruthless, and it’s only a matter of time until they discover Sam and Tonio are double-crossing them.
If only Sam’s ideas weren’t so dangerous.
If only Tonio’s drunken step-brother, Marius, wasn’t constantly beating him.
Then a ruby dragon arrives in Naobia. A tough dragon master, as sharp as a blade, has come to town—a spymaster who hunts down Tonio and Sam and tempts them to go on a dangerous hunt for his dragon’s stolen egg.
Anyone in their right mind would turn him down.
Unless they were desperate for coin…
Coin that could buy Ma’s healing tonic in a flash.
This was stronger than ‘Bronze Dragon’ and I liked the action and intrigue. Again I felt as though the emotional impact of the story was somewhat stilted and too rushed, but it did build on the world and offered glimpses of the potential in the wider world-building.
Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)
If you’ve read any of these, or give them a go in the future give me a shout as I am always happy to talk books.