Self Publishing: The Key To Reader Satisfaction

Updated: November 16th, 2018

I’ve been a member of the book blogging community since 2012, and everywhere I look I see aspiring authors — they’re networking with bloggers, participating in NaNoWriMo, and sending query letters to The Big Five of the publishing world (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster).

As a book blogging community, we share a common goal: we want to find books that we will love and then share them with others. We want to enjoy quality writing and spread the word about quality authors, and yet we far too often disregard, or, worse still, blatantly dismiss the very industry that is achieving those goals. Now, I know what you’re thinking:

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Source: Tumblr

But I promise, you’ll want to hear (read?) this one out.

Mention the words “self-published author” or “indie books” in our community and you’ll get reactions ranging from the thinly veiled disdain of book blog Horn Books in stating why they refuse to accept indie novels for review:

“Just about every adult I ever met has ‘a great idea for a children’s book’ that is always an AWFUL idea for a children’s book, and, thanks to the greater ease of self-publishing, those books are coming to light.” (Sutton)

To the outright disgust of HuffPost writer, Laurie Gough, in stating why she will never self-publish:

“From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.” (Gough)

I do not mean to suggest that all bloggers or readers are like this, only that the industry as a whole, and many prominent figures in it, still react this way to the notion that someone rejected by the all-knowing Big Five of traditional publishing would consider self-publishing their novel. (Also, while we’re at it, anyone painfully reminded of the Big Three of Percy Jackson’s Greek gods?) But here are the facts: the scene is changing. Traditional publishing is losing sales, and self-publishing is topping the best seller lists (we’ll come back to that one in a bit).

Thad McIlroy of BookBusinessMag compiled information from 2016 quarterly financial reports from The Big Five and found that sales and profits are “mostly flat or declining” and that in order to cut costs, there have been layoffs and consolidation, and he concludes that there’s not much more they can do to cut their costs (McIlroy).

So why are we still so hesitant to read, review, or write self-published novels? Since my brother first introduced me to the world of indie books when he self-published his first novel nearly seven years ago, I’ve seen a lot of arguments for and against self-publishing, and I’ve seen the reaction on many a face when they realized my brother had self-published. So let’s start by clearing up three major misconceptions in the TradPub vs. SelfPub world:

Misconception #1: TradPub Will Pick Up The Best Books

This is probably the most common argument when it comes to the world of indie books, and it’s an understandable one. We have this idea in our heads that the big publishing companies are these “gatekeepers” who determine who is or is not permitted to grace the Great Kingdom of Published Authors with their presence. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading voraciously since I was a little girl, it’s this — Everyone loves the unexpected hero.

Katniss
Do you love Katniss Everdeen because she went along with the established system? No. So, why do we need some established entity to tell us if they think a book is “good” enough to read when we certainly didn’t require Katniss to receive that approval from the gamemakers? (Gif source: Tumblr)
Tris
Do you love Tris Prior because she was formally recruited into Dauntless? No. So, why do we feel that a book needs to be be validated with a formal business deal if we didn’t require such validation for Tris’ membership in Dauntless? (Gif source: WeHeartIt)
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Do you love Malcolm Reynolds because he was the poster boy of The Alliance? No. So, why do we insist that a book must be adored and celebrated by governing bodies when we never required that of our Captain? (Gif source: Rebloggy)

All Tributes, Initiates, and Browncoats know that it is not possible to answer yes to any of the above questions. Katniss Everdeen defied The Capitol and the system it had established, Tris Prior fought her way into Dauntless despite all of the professional opinions that she shouldn’t, and Malcolm Reynolds lost the Battle of Serenity Valley and spent his life on the run from The Alliance.

We love these characters, not because of who approved of them, but because they proved themselves through their character and heroism. They were each fiercely independent and refused to be held back by other’s rules or expectations for them, and we applaud them for it. So why don’t we feel the same way about authors who create such heroes and the books in which their stories unfold?

Larry Correia, author of the originally self-published (and, might I add, best selling) Monster Hunter International (M.H.I.) series, explains that the fundamental problem with the “gatekeeper” argues that what constitutes ‘the best books’ is subjective, giving the example of Twilight – a book that he would never buy, but millions of people have. He says, “‘Good’ is arbitrary. The real question is whether your product is sellable.” And with the Larry Correia sass his fans have come to expect and appreciate, he adds, “(and yes, it is just a product, get over yourself)” (Correia 2016).

To find an example of the flaws of the gatekeepers, one need look no farther than household name J.K. Rowling, who had her first Harry Potter book rejected twelve times prior to its eventual publication. Years later, when she published her first adult novel, J.K. Rowling, now topping Forbes’ world’s highest paid authors list, having earned $98 million in 2017 (Cuccinello), was rejected twice before being published (Marsden).

Misconception #2: SelfPub is For Those Who Can’t Get Picked up by a Real Company

Translation: Indie novels are the failures that the gatekeepers tried to save you from (see above misconception about gatekeepers). Now, I won’t deny that many authors first go indie when they had no success with TradPub. After all, publishing companies reject 90% of query letters they receive from authors, and that’s just the query letter, not even the manuscript (Shine).

However, I don’t think you can call any author a failure when enough readers want to throw money at them that the author can quit his or her day job to write (and publish) full-time.A fantastic example of that is J.S. Morin, a relatively new discovery of mine and an instant favorite. He recently hit 5 years as a self-published author (traditionally publishing only one series), and, get this, in those five years, he has published thirty five books (Morin).

Yeah, you read that right. Five years, thirty five books. He quit his day job as an engineer to treat writing as a full-time career, and his readers (myself most certainly included) love the pace at which he is able to release books because of that. I listened to his 16.5 book series (long story on that one), The Complete Black Ocean Mobius Missions, over the period of weeks. If listened to at a normal speed, that’s 85 hours of recorded audio, however, I listen at 1.5-2x, so make of that what you will. His quick releases made it possible to keep the momentum of the series and keep getting fans hyped for the next installment.

Source: GeeksMirage

Let’s be real here, y’all, the age of waiting a year in between books and then throwing midnight release parties are long gone. J.K. Rowling largely had a monopoly on them. They were an amazing time, but face it, they’re over. We live in a binge watching society, and it certainly doesn’t take us a year to read a book, and turns out, it doesn’t take authors a year to write one, either. Most successful self published authors publish about four books a year.

We live in a monopolistically competitive market — and that’s a fantastic thing for us! Because of the rise of self-publishing, authors are able to break into the writing industry more readily, and the ones willing to make it a full-time career, well, they can crank out quantity and quality and make some serious bank (we’re talking a nice six figures, y’all).

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of reasons why even an established TradPub author would want to go indie, and not just as a last resort. Skeptical? Don’t take my word for it, let’s look at another of my favorite authors: Drew Hayes, TradPub author of the Fred, the Vampire Accountant series and SelfPub author of the Super Powereds series, (not to mention the other series of his that I have yet to read). Drew explains to his readers,

“In truth, I only do one traditionally published series because I genuinely love going indie, especially for projects where it’s a better fit.” (Hayes)

He goes on to talk about the three primary reasons he loves indie publishing so much: the money, the control, and the schedule. (Hayes) Quick summary: indie authors keep 70-100% of the royalties (compared to the 15-40% of TradPub), they have complete creative control over their series (meaning they can do new, riskier things without a company pressuring them to adhere to the tried and true), and they can publish as fast as they can write, making sure that they release books at the optimal time to keep the hype, momentum, and revenue.

Misconception #3: Readers Won’t Pick up a Book Unless it’s Marketed by TradPub

Yeah, try telling that one to the Amazon bestsellers list. As I write this, it is 15:44 on November 11th, 2018, and four of the ten best selling fantasy novels on Amazon are indie (Amazon). If self-published books really were the trash that they get stereotyped as, how could they be taking top ten spots away from classics like the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones (all of which are ranked below them)? How is that even possible without the vast marketing campaigns that these big publishers can run?

Let’s go back to Larry Correia of M.H.I. fame, who self-published his first book after getting rejected by publishers for two years. Through hard work and a lot of self-marketing (he explains that all authors have to self promote— indie authors just do it alone), he made it into bookstores, sold the one thousand copies he had printed, garnered a dedicated and loyal fan base, and even made it to #3 on Entertainment Weekly’s bestseller list (Correia 2008).

I’m a huge fan of Correia. M.H.I was simultaneously the first adult novel and the first urban fantasy novel I had ever read, and my review says it all — I was hooked. Even now, years after having accepted a deal with Baen Books, Correia is still an avid supporter of self-publishing, as is evidenced in his many passionate defenses of self publishing on his blog.

‘Okay, okay,’ I hear you say, ‘Correia was a special case. He just worked exceptionally hard and is probably one of the only indie authors to actually sell.’ Well, as an Economics major, it’s taken me a lot of self restraint so far to resist the urge to fill this post with graphs and charts… but now let’s look at some!

In 2017, Author Earnings, the comprehensive yearly analysis of book sales, broke down each country’s e-book sales by publisher type. Of key importance here are two things to be aware of; red and purple represent the percentage of ebook sales that are TradPub. Bluegreen, and teal, represent the percentage of ebook sales that are SelfPub.

Source: Author Earnings, 2017

You know, while we’re at it, how about we take a quick look at 2018?

Source: Author Earnings, 2018

These are the top ebook publisher types. See that little purple one at the top? That’s the Big Five ebook sales. And the blue, light blue, and green? That’s all indie. Crazy, huh? In my opinion, anyone still refusing the indie market is really just denying themselves the satisfaction of reading some of the best novels of our time. Oh, and…

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Source: Imgur

A common, and undeniably well-founded, concern about SelfPub is the misconception that, without the assistance of a TradPub company and editing team, a novel will not be peer reviewed and edited. However, this is simply not the case. I would be willing to bet that every successful SelfPub author (remember, successful means their product sells) has at least one, if not dozens of beta reading teams. I have been on a number of these teams myself, reading and providing feedback on advanced copies and drafts of SelfPub novels. One could argue that this provides even more opportunities for critiques and editing than a TradPub company can offer.

To Sum It Up: At the end of the day, this incredibly long post comes down to one thing: reader satisfaction. Self-publishing increases the author’s ability to enter the market (both through lack of gatekeepers and by making it possible to actually make a living from writing), gives them the complete creative control necessary to increase the rate at which books can be produced, and, in turn, the rate at which they can be consumed by us, leading to greater reader satisfaction.

Willing to give it a try? Wondering where to get started? Well, aside from the authors I’ve already mentioned above, a few of my favorite indie novels that I’ve reviewed here are: Appaloosa Summer, Persephone, Corporate Husband, The Ugly Stepsister, and The Sailweaver’s Son.

Looking for more?

For the other highly successful indie authors check out the Goodreads pages of: Chris Fox, Annie Bellet, Michael Anderle, Christopher Nuttall, Marco Kloos, T.S. Paul, Lindsay Buroker, Ilona Andrews, Hugh Howey, Sarah K.L. Wilson, M.D. Cooper, and Elana Johnson.

Continue reading “Self Publishing: The Key To Reader Satisfaction”

TBR Spotlight: Frankenstein Darcy — by Cass Grix

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Frankenstein Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Paranormal

Author: Cass Grix

Genre/Pages: Pride and Prejudice Paranormal Variation / 302

Summary: Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein. When he first comes to Hertfordshire, Frankenstein Darcy is a man of secrets, wanting to find peace. Falling in love with a provincial nobody is not in his plans. Elizabeth Bennet is both intrigued by this tall, dark, handsome stranger and infuriated by his arrogance. Neither of them realize how dangerous falling in love can be.

Frankenstein Darcy is a fun, romantic literary mashup, following the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice, one of the world’s greatest romances, and combining it with the themes of Frankenstein, one of the world’s greatest Gothic stories.

In this full length novel, Darcy and Elizabeth deal with the conflict between science and religion, nature vs.nurture, love and friendship, and inner and outer beauty.”

Cover Review: I love it! Beautiful text and overall an aesthetically pleasing cover that accurately represents the contents of the book. 

Why I put it on my TBR list: I am a HUGE fan of Cass Grix. Not just as an author, but also as a person. She is fabulous, and her storytelling completely and immediately immerses you and transports you to a different world. I love everything about her writing, her stories, and her characters.

That said, I’ve never considered myself a Pride and Prejudice fan until I started reading Cass’ books. But now, I have grown to appreciate the story, but moreso, I appreciate what Cass does to make each of her Pride and Prejudice retellings unique and entertaining. And how much more unique can you get than Frankenstein Darcy???

Love Pride and Prejudice? Love Frankenstein? Make sure to order your copy of Frankenstein Darcy today!

Attention: This is a scheduled, pre-written post. I am serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jan. 2017 through Jul. 2018, and will not be checking my blog email, or updating my blog during that time. (I may have some already written posts scheduled go live during that time, but I will not be active on my blog, and these posts are completely my own opinion and are not representative of the opinions or stances of the church). For more information about Mormon missionaries, go to: lds.org or mormon.org.

Any book requests or other communication received in that time will not be responded to until after July 2018.

TBR Spotlight: Eye of the Storm — by Frank Cavallo

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Eye of the Storm

Author: Frank Cavallo

Genre/Pages: Dark Fantasy / 402

Summary: “On a research mission in one of the most remote regions of the world, former Navy SEAL Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne are caught in a mysterious storm. Catapulted through a rift in space-time, they are marooned on a lost world.

Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm.”

Cover Review: You can tell it’s not an ultra-professional cover, but the artwork is still very high quality, and definitely has a very strong dark fantasy vibe. Based on the cover alone, I probably wouldn’t pick up the book, just because it looks too dark, but the summary makes it worth a try. 

Why I put it in my TBR pile: They had me at “Navy SEAL.” In addition to that, though, I added this to my TBR list because I always love a good old-fashioned modern-day character transported to a medieval, dark, fantasy realm. Not quite as much fun as an entire book placed in the fantasy realm, but the space-time rift always adds for an interesting dynamic. The only thing I’m kinda nervous about is whether it will be too Game of Thrones-y, because that’s kinda the vibe I get from the cover. But, as anyone who follows my blog knows, covers are usually horribly inaccurate representations of the book (which is a major problem authors need to fix). 

Anyway, I’ll keep y’all updated on whether or not I end up reading this one – I just thought it was definitely worth a spotlight to make sure other people know about it. Indie authors are the best! If this sounds like you’re type of book, definitely go check it out!

Attention: This is a scheduled, pre-written, post. I am serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jan. 2017 through Jul. 2018, and will not be checking my blog email, or updating my blog during that time. (I may have some already written posts scheduled go live during that time, but I will not be active on my blog, and these posts are completely my own opinion and are not representative of the opinions or stances of the church). For more information about Mormon missionaries, go to: lds.org or mormon.org.

Any book requests or other communication received in that time will not be responded to until after July 2018.

Review: Twice Upon a Time — by Aya Ling

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. 

Title: Twice Upon a Time (Unfinished Fairy Tales, #2)

Author: Aya Ling

Rating:  ★★★★★★ (6 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fairytale retelling / 319

Summary: “Seven years have passed since Kat left Athelia. Through the intervention of the goblin king’s baby daughter, the book is re-opened and Kat is transported back to Story World. Upon learning she is given a second chance, Edward is determined not to let her go this time. His chance of succeeding, however, seems like nil. Kat doesn’t remember anything of their past, she loathes life at court, and she’s anxious to return to modern world. Not to mention that there’s a price to pay for tampering with the book again…”

Cover Review: Absolutely gorgeous. More self published authors need to follow Aya’s example, because this cover is positively breathtakingly perfect. This is the kind of book that I want to have on my shelf not only because it’s amazing, but also because the cover is just so pretty.

My Review: So I was actually lucky enough to be able to beta read this book in exchange for honest feedback. Honestly, I am SO thrilled that Aya let me be part of her beta reading group because, even though I may not always be the nicest of beta readers, I love getting to see the process of how authors write the books that I love so much. I have always loved Aya’s books. They make me happy. 

Characters: I cannot possibly say enough good about these characters. I absolutely adore every single one of them. This is really where Aya’s incredible skill as an author shines through – her characters. They are all complex and thought out with detailed enough sub-plots that she could write spin-off books about each and every one of them if she so chose (man, I hope she does that. How could would it be to have a spin-off story dedicated entirely to Henry and Ella?). I love her characters so much. I know I gush about books and authors all the time, but I promise you, Aya Ling is one of the very best. 

Plot: I hate amnesia as the catalyst to a romance. It’s so dumb. It makes me incredibly angry. But… Aya Ling pulled it off. She actually wrote a fairy tale with star-crossed lover amnesia that I enjoyed reading. And I really enjoyed it. It was a page-turner, for sure.

Content Advisory: Things got a little bit…erm… heated, at two different points, and there was a sexual assault that almost happened, but it didn’t, and scenes of a sexual nature were almost entirely off-page, so you don’t have to worry about anything explicit. A few swear words here and there, but not much.  

To Sum It Up: Aya Ling is a masterful storyteller who has the ability to make you instantly fall in love with the world and characters that she creates. If you love, or even like, fairy tales, you need to read Aya’s books. I recommend Twice Upon a Time to readers 13+.

Attention: This is a scheduled, pre-written, post. I am serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jan. 2017 through Jul. 2018, and will not be checking my blog email, or updating my blog during that time. (I may have some already written posts scheduled go live during that time, but I will not be active on my blog, and these posts are completely my own opinion and are not representative of the opinions or stances of the church). For more information about Mormon missionaries, go to: lds.org or mormon.org.

Any book requests or other communication received in that time will not be responded to until after July 2018.

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — by J.K. ROWLING

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Rating:  ★★★★★★★ (7 of 5, which I’ve never actually given any book before.)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 343

Summary: “Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places”

Cover Review: I love it. I love it so much. It’s perfect.

My Review: This will be my actual review. My next post will be my defense of Cursed Child, which will be me combatting the most common attacks I get for my public profession of my love of this book. I have now read this book three times, and I love it more each time.

So my friend Analee and I went to the midnight release party of this book at the giant Half-Price Books next to us, and you know what every HP fan was thinking:

 

So, this is a return to the Wizarding World in a play format. As someone who personally LOVES reading plays, that part wasn’t weird for me at all. It brings it’s own kind of special magic (though I absolutely am still hoping that they will do a film recording of the original cast performing it so that we can all watch their beautifullnes, cuz MAN that cast is amazing!). This isn’t Harry’s story, though. It’s the story of Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. 

Characters: It was like returning home. This is the same Harry Potter that we have all known and loved since 1997. He’s all grown up now, with kids of his own, and how all of these character’s interact is wonderfully faithful to the original series and the original character development. We automatically fall in love with the new characters, especially Scorpius. Oh man, I love Scorpius. He’s the best.

Sometimes, authors of plays have trouble making the heart and soul of character’s come across well in the scriptbook, but Jo & Company did not have that problem. These characters make you scream, they make you cry, they make you laugh, but most of all, they make you love them. They are real. They make dumb mistakes. They have poor judgement sometimes, but at the end of the day, the moral of Cursed Child is the same thing we’ve seen throughout the entire Harry Potter series: Love conquers all. Family and friends are more important than any prejudice or bias. No dark magic can stand against Harry & Friends because they are there “Until the very end.”

Plot: It was about 2 am by the end of part one, and Analee and I were hardcore freaking out. Like, we couldn’t handle this plot. The ending of part one had me torn between two equally strong emotions: 

 

Personally, I loved the plot. I thought it was perfectly faithful to the formula of the Original Series, while still being a story completely of it’s own. It brought new light to aspects of the wizarding world that I had only ever wondered about, and it gave me a greater love and understanding for this series and universe that Jo has so carefully and painstakingly created and allowed us to enter.

Reading this script book with an open mind was like visiting an old friend after a very, very long time — it was like returning home. Read it with an open mind and I promise you will not be disappointed. It’s action packed, it’s heartfelt, it’s poignant, and crazy fun. This is the best book ever. I loved it more than I can possibly put into words. I highly recommend this script book to Harry Potter fans of all ages. I think everyone should read this book. 

P.S. Pro tip: This book is best read aloud with friends, to get the full scope of the play. 

Content Advisory: Some deaths, and intense fantasy violence, but nothing graphic.

To Sum It Up: Me, right after finishing it:

Review: Siren’s Song — by Mary Weber

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Siren’s Song (The Storm Siren Trilogy, #3)

Author: Mary Christine Weber

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Steampunk Fantasy / 384

Summary: Nym and Draewulf prepare to face off in a battle destined to destroy more lives than it saves.

With the loss of Tulla still fresh in mind, Rasha’s fate unknown, and Lord Myles taken over by the dark ability, Nym and the few Bron soldiers rush to warn Cashlin’s queen. Only to discover it may already be too late for the monarch and her eerie kingdom. As the Luminescents are sifting through Nym’s past memories and the queen is reading into her future, Nym is given a choice of how to defeat Draewulf, but the cost may be more than she can bear. And even then there are no guarantees.

With that reality burrowing into her bones—along with the guilt of the lives she will sacrifice—Nym returns to her homeland of Faelen to raise an army of peasants through promises of freedom. But when the few friends she has left, along with the world and citizens she loves, are staring down the face of a monster and his undead army, will Nym summon every element her blood is capable of controlling . . . or surrender to a different strength—one of sacrifice?

Because in the end, death may be more merciful for them all.”

Cover Review: Absolutely stunning. This is serious cover goals. <3 I wish all books would get covers this beautiful, because I could stare at this for hours. ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. I really loved the first book in the trilogy, and I enjoyed the second, but this one is on a whole other level of awesome. It was a series’ conclusion worthy of all of the heartbreak and emotional trauma that this trilogy has caused me from the time Storm Siren was released. 

Characters: You fall in love with these characters all over again, and you learn to love the newly introduced ones, as well. These character’s are very real in their struggles, and throughout most of the book, I just wanted to reach out and give them a hug. There were also a few times I wanted to talk some sense into them, but, you know… gotta have variety, right? It is such a sad thought that with this book I am leaving this world and these character’s behind forever, but Siren’s Song was a beautiful farewell. 

Plot: I am continually blown away by the world and storyline. The second book lagged a bit, because it’s entire purpose was to build up to this book, but let me tell you this: Siren’s Song was worth every bit of it. The war was depicted with relative realism, and the storyline is intense, but it’s really the character’s that make this plot so fabulous. This book is absolutely amazing! I loved it!

Content Advisory: Lots of death, war, and bloodshed. Graphic, but not explicit. Some kissing. 

To Sum It Up: With story and imagery as breathtaking and captivating  as it’s cover, this is a trilogy finale that you will be unable to put down. It’s heartbreaking, it’s moving, and it’s insanely action packed. I highly recommend this book to readers 12 and up. 

Review: Shadow Eyes — by Dusty Crabtree

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com

Title: Shadow Eyes

 

Author: Dusty Crabtree

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Urban Fantasy / 328

Summary: “Iris thought she could ignore the shadows…until they came after everyone she loved.

Seventeen-year- old Iris Kohl has been able to see both dark and light figures ever since a tragic incident three years ago. The problem is, no one else seems to see them, and even worse…the dark figures terrorize humans, but Iris is powerless to stop them.

Although she’s learned to deal with watching shadows harass everyone around her, Iris is soon forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her world and herself. Her sanity, strength, and will power are tested to the limits by not only the shadows, but also a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows, a new friend with an awe-inspiriting aura, and a mysterious, alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, Iris must ultimately accept the guidance of an angel to revisit the most horrific event of her life and become the hero she was meant to be.”

Cover Review: Not a fan of this cover. The font is pretty, and the colors are nice (and important to the plot), but it’s not a very aesthetically pleasing cover, or one that would make me want to pick up / buy the book. It could definitely use a complete revamp. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. First of all, Dusty Crabtree’s writing and imagery are absolutely captivating. She has a way with words that makes everything come to life beautifully. The world and premise are really creative — it’s an epic modern battle between angels and demons, it’s a story that embodies Dumbledore’s quote: 

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Characters: Honestly, the protagonist infuriated me at times, but that’s exactly what made her such a good character. She was so receptive and good at seeing what was wrong with everyone else, except for herself and her immediate circumstances. Then again, I suppose that is exactly what made her so relatable and realistic, because human beings tend to be pretty blind when it comes to themselves and their friends. That’s what enables Iris’ story to teach so many good and important life lessons. Each character exists to teach the reader different things (but not in a preachy way at all), and each character is in a different stage of their personal battle between good and evil. 

Plot: I loved the plot. It told the very real story of a teenage girl in a scary world overcoming her own personal evil. It was heartfelt, it was poignant, and it was meaningful. This is the kind of story that actually stands for something. It’s more than just a fun book to read, it’s genuinely good book, and an important story to tell. It was a fantastic read!

Content Advisory: Wow, this book deals with some really heavy topics. Alcoholism, date rape, drug use, teenage pregnancies, self-harm, suicide, blackmail, manipulation, miscarriages, cheating spouses, and car crashes, if memory serves. These things are always portrayed in a negative light, and is a story contrasting the battle between the light and the dark in the world. When I asked the author about it, she said: “There are some PG-13 things, but nothing major – it’s really more just descriptions of stuff leading up to something bad that never actually happens.  But everything (guy/girl stuff) is shown in a negative light – not condoned.  In fact, I have yet to get negative feedback on that from a Christian or person sensitive to that stuff.”

To Sum It Up: A beautifully written contemporary tale of the eternal battle between good and evil, this book is nearly impossible to put down. It’s engaging, gripping, and realistic. I highly recommend this book to readers 15 and up. 

Review: Lily, the Brave — Katherine Hodges

 

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Title: Lily, the Brave

Author: Katherine Hodges

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 266

Summary: “Lily has a soft spot for helping people, but is it really worth the risk? Her life was already hard enough after the accident. How can she possibly deal with being a superhero too? Seventeen year old Lily Harrison is given an incredible gift. She doesn’t really want it, but she’s stuck with it. Lily’s best friend convinces her it can be used for the good of mankind, but it only seems to bring her trouble and put everyone around her in danger. Using her gift would force her out of her comfort zone and into the realm of top secret assignments, late night stake outs, and constantly looking over her shoulder. All she wants is to be a normal introverted teenager, hang out with her best friend, crush on a gorgeous guy from a distance, and pass algebra at the end of the semester. Lily would give anything for a normal, quiet, life. One thing is for sure, her life will never be the same again.”

Cover Review: Not everyone likes photography on covers, but I think this one was really well done. I LOVE the font of the title, and having some of the thoughts she hears on the cover is a very interesting concept. Overall, I think it’s a beautiful cover.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. For some reason, I didn’t think I was going to like this book. I’m not exactly sure what made me think that, but I did. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I was proven totally wrong, because I ended up loving this book. The premise was totally unique, and the story was wonderful! I really wish and hope that there will be a second book coming out, because I would LOVE to read more about these characters and their lives!

Characters: So this was pretty crazy…  I wasn’t sure what to think of the characters at first, but I quickly grew to love them! Each of them underwent a huge amount of character development throughout the book, and they were each a good, well-written character in their own right. When reading this book, I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were relegated to second class roles like “love interest” or “optimistic best friend”, because even though some of them may have had those traits, they were real people, first. Except, obviously, not, you know… real. 

Plot: Now this was the truly crazy bit. This book was a YA spy thriller with a gifted teenager going on top secret missions. There were times I was screaming at the book, laughing out loud, or gasping in shock. And then there was also that time when I got to one of the huge climactic moments of story and just then — my break was over at work and I had to clock back in. Yeah, that wasn’t fun, because then I spent the rest of my ten hour shift anxiously waiting to figure out what happened next. 

Content Advisory: A girl gets pushed down the stairs and is in a coma, scenes of bullying occur, and there is some kissing in the book. There are some relatively intense scenes of stalking and kidnapping that might be too much for some readers. Gunfights and violence occur, but are generally off screen. Overall, it’s a pretty mild and age-appropriate YA novel. 

To Sum It Up: This book was really awesome. Like, I know people (myself definitely included) way over use that word, but I mean it. This book reminded me of the books I used to go to the library, pick off a shelf at random, and then finish by the next morning, back when I was 13 or 14. It’s just one of those genuinely good quality and enjoyable books. I’m really looking forward to the sequel! highly recommend this book to readers 13 and up. 

Review: The Sailweaver’s Son — by Jeff Minerd

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: The Sailweaver’s Son (Sky Riders of Etherium, #1)

Author: Jeff Minerd

Rating:  ★★★★★★ (6 of 5 – One of the best books of all time!)

Genre/Pages: Steampunk Fantasy / 310

Summary: “The Sailweaver’s Son combines traditional fantasy with a dash of steampunk and takes readers to the world of Etherium, where mountains rise like islands above a sea of clouds and adventurers travel the sky in sail-driven airships.

When fifteen-year-old Tak rescues the survivor of an airship destroyed by one of the giant flammable gas bubbles mysteriously appearing in the sky of Etherium, the authorities react like a flock of startled grekks.

Admiral Scud accuses Tak of sabotage and treason. Tak’s father grounds him for reckless airmanship. Rumors spread that the bubbles are weapons devised by the Gublins, a race of loathsome but ingenious underground creatures. The King’s advisors call for war, hoping to win much-needed Gublin coal.

To prove his innocence, solve the mystery, and prevent a misguided war, Tak must do what anyone knows is suicide – visit the Gublins and find out what they’re up to. When the wizard’s adopted daughter, an oddly beautiful and irksomely intelligent girl from the Eastern kingdoms, asks Tak to help her do just that, he can’t say no.

The adventure will take Tak from the deepest underground caves to a desperate battle on Etherium’s highest mountaintop. It will force him to face his worst fears, and to grow up faster than he expected.”

Cover Review: Absolutely beautiful. This is the kind of cover I love to see on a book. The artwork is well-done, the colors are aesthetically pleasing, and the scene actually presents a solid idea of what the book is about. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I don’t give out six star ratings very often. It takes a very special book to receive my highest of ratings, and Sailweaver’s Son was completely worthy of it! This book automatically ranks among Percy Jackson and the Ranger’s Apprentice/Brotherband series’ as one of the single best MG/YA books ever. 

Plot: The world building was exquisite, and unlike any concept I’d ever read before. I also think this book did a beautiful job handling the after effects of war on Tak. Too often I see MG/YA characters carry on as if nothing of importance had happened after they kill their opponents. I think Jeff Minerd portrayed war with realism, while still respecting the age of his readers.  This is a steampunk fantasy world of teenagers flying airships and going on diplomatic missions for the king. This is a story of friendship, of compromise, and of peace talks. This book is more than just a fun adventure world to escape to — it’s a story people (myself definitely included) will be reading to their children for years to come. 

Characters: These were characters worth cosplaying. They were crazy awesome. They were realistically brave, dedicated, and adventurous. They were characters that I would happily read a dozen more books about. These are characters that I continue to think about and wonder about even after I’ve closed the book. Like Gregor the Overlander.  I loved these characters so much, I could hardly put this book down. 

 

Content Advisory: Death and war. Threats of torture. Lots and lots of death, but not horribly graphic… Just heartbreakingly real. 

To Sum It Up: It’s books like these that made me start this blog — books that don’t have a mainstream publishing agency promoting their book, but are a million times better than almost any book mainstream published. These are books that I need to tell the world about, because The Sailweaver’s Son makes it possible for the reader to Escape Reality — One Book at a Time ;) I highly recommend it to readers 10 and up. 

Side note: Jeff Minerd told me that he is currently working on the second book in the series, The Wizard’s Daughter. I’m super excited!

 

Review: Awakening — by Lauren Ashley

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Awakening (Hope Trilogy, #1)

Author: Lauren Ashley

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ (3 of 5 — I liked it!)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 518

Summary: “To everyone, Emma is an ordinary teenager—a forgettable
figure to most. But, little do they know that she
is about to experience an awakening after centuries of
being kept in the dark when fate finally chooses to
call upon her and reveal the secret behind her existence.
A descendent of godlike beings known as the
El-ahren, Emma is both stunned and terrified when she
learns she not only possesses special gifts and extraordinary
powers, but is also destined to save the world.
However, pitted against an evil alliance determined
to destroy her and any good left on this earth, Emma
finds it a struggle just to stay alive. Joined by those
commissioned to protect her, she must search for others
like her in order to fulfill her destiny and prevent
the resurrection of evil.”

Cover Review: This cover is a special kind of bad. It’s not straight-up awful and gross like all the romance novels with half-naked people on them, but this is just a very very low quality cover. The only thing it tells me about the book is that the protagonist is a girl. I get no other information from the cover, and overall it’s not aesthetically pleasing at all. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This one took me a very long time to get around to reading, mostly due to the sheer size of the thing. 518 pages is a lot of pages, and my main complaint about the book is that it could have (and should have) easily been cut in half. At least cut out 1/3rd of it, and the story would flow significantly better. I really enjoyed the premise of the story, and it had some amazing  plot points, but at the end of the day, it was too long for the story it had to tell. My family would see me reading it and say: “Are you still reading that Twilight book? You’re not done with it yet?”. There. Now that I have ranted about the length, I can go on to tell you all the awesome things that I truly did enjoy about this book. 

Characters: Man, these characters were epic. But I suppose hundreds of lifetimes of reincarnation will make a group of friends get pretty close. ;) Each of these characters were so unique that they each bring something completely different and original to the team.  Side note: I love character betrayals that I don’t predict ahead of time, and I never saw any of those betrayals coming! I loved getting into the heads of these characters and learning about their different powers, and how they cope with evil and tragedy. The characters were definitely the high point of the book.

Plot: This is where I had a problem with the book. The author herself compares Awakening to Twilight, and she  lives up to the comparison. So if Twilight isn’t your cup of tea, odds are this book isn’t, either… The premise of the book is something we’ve all read a million times — friends of the “Chosen One” reveal themselves to be her protectors and teach her about her “true self”. With this knowledge, hordes of demons and evil people begin to hunt her down, and she and her friends must go on the run to stay alive. But even though this book uses a simple YA fantasy formula, it’s really the details in this book that make it so great. Child seers, fragile alliances between enemies, epic battles, and so much more are what truly make this book worth reading. It feels kinda like the 39 Clues series all grown up, with some magic thrown in, just for fun.

Content Advisory: Lots of death, some of which was very graphic. Also, some really creepy, awkward, and kinda gross instances of a teenage girl hard-core lusting after a guy. I could have happily lived my whole life without ever having read her thoughts in those instances. 

To Sum It Up: Though the book certainly suffers from too many pages, the story is enjoyable, and the characters feel like your best friends. Reading this book would be a really fun way to spend a few summer days! I enjoyed Awakening, and don’t regret reading it at all.  I recommend this book to readers ages 18 and up.