We are all looking for the next book that will knock our socks off and make us wonder if any book we read will ever top the one we just finished. Here are 11 reads I gave 5 stars.
The Revelation of Light and Dark by Sawyer Bennett is the start of a nice Fantasy Romance series. I received the audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a haters to lovers story. In this book, the two love interests hate each other. Finley is a young woman just getting her life together. She works at a coffee shop as the manager, when the owner offers her the shop. He wants the money to help his son in his business endeavors. Finley wants to buy the store but isn’t sure she can get the money together. She gets some of it from her sister. The rest she gets from Carrick. When she is at Carrick’s company showing her proposal for the coffee shop, and why he should give her the loan Finnley runs out suddenly freaked because she was seeing things again. Carrick goes after her realizing she saw the other man’s real face. He explains, and they realize Finnley is the only human who can see the Daemon and Fae. The audiobooks for the series are in the process of being released. The ebook, hardcover, and paperback are available at Amazon.
Political Adventure Fantasy
Free the Darkness by Kel Kade is the first of an ongoing self-published series, Kings Dark Tidings. There are currently 5 books of the series out, with a prequel. I recommend the prequel, Mage of No Renown, be read either in publication order (just before book 5), or after the first book. I think it will make a better impact on you as the reader instead of reading it first then hitting the main books of the series.
Free the Darkness follows Rezkin as he grows up and trains for a serious battle. How serious we don’t know. We don’t know who he’s supposed to fight either. But he is trained to kill, and blend in, with the best masters of the King’s army. He is then freed from the fort where he completes his training and goes out to the world. Since he’s been brought up basically in captivity, he doesn’t know how the “outsiders” as he calls them, really work together. This leads to some interesting interactions that will make you laugh. He also eventually learns of his purpose, but that comes more in the second book, Reign of Madness.
Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher is the first of the Codex Alera series. This is a popular series written by Jim Butcher although he’s probably better known for his Dresden series. Codex Alera was started as a kind of answer to a question asked at a conference he was speaking at. Is it the story that makes the book or the writer? Jim asked for two ideas that didn’t go together to prove his point that it’s the writer. The ideas were Roman Legion, and Pokémon. Roman Legion becomes the enemy army, and Pokémon becomes the Furies. The Furies are elemental beings, one or two Furies will bond with a human. However, we meet Tavi, a young boy who has not bonded with a Fury. This is odd, but Tavi still does what he can to show even without a Fury he can do anything. While out seeking some lost sheep one day, he and his Uncle Bernard come across something which should not be there and end up in a battle. Things progress from there, and the stakes get higher and higher.
Turns out some people are out to overthrow the First Lord of Alera and are working in secret to accomplish this. Tavi with the help of people he runs into or meets along the way, are working to protect the valley where they live from being used in this plot as it will cost everyone their lives.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is an amazing story of the City of New York, the Burrows, and how it came to life. There are several main characters, each representing a different burrow of New York City, and one representing the city in its entirety. I found this so enticing and an amazing idea, executed to perfection.
I loved the creativity behind this story. The first character we meet is slowly becoming the burrow he represents, and forgetting who he is. On his way to New York City, he comes across a creature no one else seems to be able to see. He is able to fight it off. This creature is from another dimension and is there to keep him and the other burrows from uniting and bringing New York City to life.
Horror / Thriller
Witch 13 by Patrick Delaney is a standalone and gave me nightmares. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This book is about a Witch who is part of a larger, more dangerous coven. These are ancient Witches who do nothing but cause harm, and death. One of them was captured and is being transported. Well, the truck transporting her crashes and she gets free. From there, the local but remote town is victim to this now free witch. Turns out, she does have a purpose in being there, but you’ll need to read the book to discover what that is. I was a little hesitant to read this book, because I struggle with Horror, I usually get scared away with no desire to continue I’m so scared of what is yet to come. With Witch 13, I was scared and had to stop reading. However, I was still interested in learning what was going to happen next and how things were going to resolve. I was very much hooked on this book and you will be too.
YA Political Fantasy
Hunter by Mercedes Lackey is book one of the Hunter Trilogy. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Hunter is about a young girl, Joy, brought to the city of Apex. She is brought because those controlling the city have discovered she has a large group of Hounds she can use to defeat the Monsters which come to kill and cause damage to the humans and their dwellings. Her Uncle is a leader in the Military charged with keeping the citizens of Apex safe. Joy uncovers a political plot to keep the citizens clueless as to how much danger they are actually in. More monsters are breaking through the barriers and Hunters are having increased close calls. But to the citizens, the Hunters are just action heroes they watch on television. This book and series will have you sitting on the edge of your chair, holding your breath, and glued to the pages to see what will happen next and how Joy will get out of the latest trouble she has found herself in.
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is book one of the Ascendance Trilogy. This entire trilogy is amazing. The False Prince follows one boy in a small group of boys who are chosen by one of the Politicians of the Kingdom. The boys will be groomed by him to play the role of the young missing Prince because it is believed he wasn’t really killed when he was being shipped off to another Kingdom, and the King, Queen, and last Prince were just killed by poison.
The twists and turns in this book had me on my feet, pacing the halls of my home, all kinds of anxious for these boys. The suspense buildup makes it near impossible to put the book down without reading to the resolution. You will need to know how things play out before you can put the book down to go to sleep. Then once you finish, you will be craving the next book of the series, Runaway King.
A Blade So Black by L.L McKinney, first book of the Nightmare-Verse series, which is a series you will not want to put down. Books one and two are out, with book three coming out September 19, 2023. These are an Alice in Wonderland retelling and the twist taken on an old classic is phenomenal. We follow Alice, who is a young teenager, but has been recruited by the Mad Hatter as she can see the Nightmares and can keep them from causing trouble in the human realm. But trouble is coming to Wonderland, and this trouble is almost copying trouble previously seen, except no one knows where these new players are coming from.
Alice, being only a teenager, lives with her mother, who doesn’t know Alice can see Nightmares, and doesn’t know what things Alice is up to. Alice gets in trouble with her mother a lot due to being out late trying to stop Wonderland and the human realm from being over-run with the Nightmares. There were times when I was more scared for Alice when she was facing punishment from her mother. I was scared for her life. Her mom means business.
Witch Buster by Jung-man Cho is a fun manga. The Witch Busters are a group which hunt down witches. In the first volume, we follow on of the Busters whose sister is a witch. There are interesting interactions between him and the Busters, and him and his sister. There are some hilarious interactions even within the Busters. This is just an overall fun manga to relax and unwind with. You’ll chuckle and laugh away the stress of the day.
Video Game Fantasy
If you love video games, or know someone who loves video games, the light novels of Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara is a great series to get into. Sword Art Online is the first full-dive MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Play Game). Using the full-dive system you become your created avatar while your body sits or lays on your bed, safely in the real world. The creator of this game however, has a different plan. In the first release of this game, there are 10,000 copies, and people wait in line all night to get their hands on a copy to be one of that first 10,000 people to play. When you login to the game though, you can’t log out. If you die in the game, you will die in real life. The creator of the game and the full-dive system has put something in the headgear which will essentially fry your brain killing you. But if they can make it to the top floor of the castle, floor 100, and beat the boss there, everyone will be freed from the game.
This series also has a small romance, but it’s more about building friendships, and facing tough choices. Everything you could ask to feel, will be felt in this series. Fear for the characters, laughter, love, true friendship, everything.
Non-Fiction/Based on a True Story
Marley & Me by John Grogan will have you feeling all the emotions. Have some facial tissues ready for the end. If you love dogs, you will love this true story. We follow Marley and his family through Marley’s life. Marley is a lot troublemaker. This makes for some light moments in the book. Since dogs don’t live very long, and I’ve said this book follows Marley’s life, you can guess where it ends. Have the tissues ready because it will definitely pull at your heart strings.