Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My top 10

I have posted a lot of reviews over the last year on Goodreads and have had several people (random strangers) message me on there asking me if I could give them suggestions/recommendations on what they should take a look at.  (Sure!!)  A couple of weeks ago, I had a nice woman ask me for the top 10 Indie/Self-published books I've read this year.  I love big authors and have several books to read on my Kindle, but there's something about the newer authors that, well, I just have to try their books out and, if I like them, help them get their name out there by spreading the words.  Guess that's why I enjoy doing Read 2 Reviews so much.  So, instead of looking at the books that I have purchased, I decided to give her a list of my favorite R2Rs.  After talking to a couple of people about being asked for my opinion in the first place (which is pretty cool haha), they suggested that I post the list on here for everyone to see.  So, here goes ....

What Hides Within by Jason Parent

Book description: Inside all of us, there is darkness.  Inside Clive, its tangible, and its aching to get out.

What Hides Within tells the story of a man held captive by an unknown evil.  Clive Menard is a spineless slacker leading an ordinary existence.  But when Chester enters his life, it becomes far from ordinary.

            A disheveled Clive stands alone in a hospital waiting room.  A series of incidences have led him to undergo unnecessary neurosurgery.  A voice inside Clive's head nags him to kill the doctor.
            Weeks prior, a murder investigation and an unrelated kayaking excursion set the story's interlocking events in motion.  When a remorseful killer, a bomb-happy psychopath and a mysterious widow spider converge on Clive, they bring with them destruction and death.  Clive must discover who or what is steering his very existence before he, too, is consumed by the carnage around him.
            With a driven detective following his every step and a vicious killer hiding within his circle of friends, Clive must walk a narrow and dangerous path, teetering between salvation and damnation.  He must confront Chester and his own demons.  But is he powerless to over come them?

My review:  I totally loved this book.  The main character (Clive) is awesome.  I love his personality, attitude and witty comebacks.  His conversation with doctors throughout the book had me laughing hard.  I mean, you just can't help but laugh with him ... or at him ... or more like both at the same time.  His niece is my favorite character in the book and I especially like how things ended (or not ended) with her.  The only character I'm not a fan of in the book is Morgan, but that is totally not the author's fault - he wrote her character really well - at first, you feel sorry for her, but after awhile, you realize she's one of THOSE girls and you just start loathing her.  This is one of those books that I will read more than once.

Kingdom of Heroes by Jay Phillips

They were supposed to be invincible; they were supposed to be our heroes.

            Years ago, a gene virus ran rampant across the planet, leaving a small percentage of people gifted/cursed with extraordinary abilities and humanity itself forever changed.  Suddenly, there were people with super strength and speed, people who could read minds, people who could teleport themselves from place to place with but a single thought.
            Several of these people joined together to form The Seven, the most powerful group of supers the world had ever known.  Led by the enigmatic Agent America, The Seven kept the country safe from threats both foreign and internal.  That is until the United States government decided the threat of the supers outweighed any protection they could offer.
            After a war between the super powered and the normals (as non-powered humans are now referred), The Seven have placed themselves as the nation's rulers, controlling the country through fear and intimidation.  But now, someone or something is murdering The Seven one-by-one, single handedly attempting to make them pay for all of the sins they have committed.
            To stop a killer, The Seven must turn to a man who hates them as much as anyone.  An imprisoned man known as The Detective finds himself in the unenviable position of helping the people he despises in exchange for his freedom.
            A noir detective mystery wrapped around the superhero myth, Kingdom of Heroes is a character driven novel that will leave you guessing and entertained until the very end.

My review: Have you ever read a book that made you speechless, that left you without the words to describe it, where the only word you could think of was "Wow!" but even that was not enough?  THAT is how I feel about this book.

            When I first started the book and realized that it was about superheroes ... with superheroes that you weren't quite sure if they were good or bad ... I knew I was going to love this book.  As I got further and further through the book, I knew more and more that I liked the "main" character.  I just have this thing for cocky, smart-allick anti-heroes.  Each page left me wanting more and more - and the way the book was laid out was great - including journal excerpts - and a "bad guy" that you think you know who he is but you're not quite sure but maybe it couldn't be him but then wait well he could be but eh maybe not ... and then you find out and you're like "Yes!"  Wow!
            Superheroes ... action ... each page making you want more and more ... and an ending that just, well, you just have to read it.

Ghost in the Machine by CE Kilgore

Book description: "Love is like a wormhole.  You stumble on it blindly, it sucks you in and takes you somewhere completely unexpected.  You can't fight it, because you would tear your ship apart.  You can't control it, either.  All you can do is set your thrusters on glide and let it take you where it's going to take you."
            Going against the rules of her Vesparian Sisterhood, which seeks to keep its entire existence a secret, Orynn is thrown into the open by a request for help that she could not refuse.  Seeking to reconcile past mistakes and gain a forgiveness she feels she does not deserve, the control over her empathic abilities is put to the test when the darkness that lives within her spirit threatens to once again destroy any piece of happiness that she allows herself to find.
            As a Mechatronic Automaton, Ethan defines his world through a set of logically defined values and understandings.  Encountering Orynn throws his system out of balance as he tries to decide if he should trust the feelings he is developing, or if he should follow the logic telling him that she is trying to control him for some unknown purpose.  Should he keep her at a distance despite his want to bring her near,  or should he follow the heart he swears he doesn't have?  As his understanding of her develops, he begins to question all of his preconceived notions about both himself and the universe around him.
            In his attempts to capture the Vesparian prey he has been hunting after for two decades, the First commander of the Xen'dari fleet will stop at nothing and track Orynn to the ends of the universe.  On a path of vengeance for a past he can't let go of, he will do everything in his power to burn her world down around he feet until nothing is left but ash and the bitter taste of regret.
            Ghosts of the past clash with hopes of the future in this first book of the series, set in a universe where nothing is as it seems at first glance and trust is a highly priced commodity.

My review: I don't just recommend this book.   I recommend the ENTIRE series.  It is the perfect blend of sci-fi and romance (and I am not a fan of romance at all).  The author describes everything so perfectly and beautifully that if all romance books were written like this, I would completely change my mind about all of them.  The characters are well written and well thought out.  The side stories are great and really give an extra depth to the stories that you are reading.  My favorite character is by far Vex, but all of the characters are worth reading about.  (Warning, there are are vivid sex scenes throughout the series and book #2 includes a homosexual relationship.  All are done very classy, though, in my opinion - and sex scenes are usually a thing that will make me put a book away.)

#1 Ghost in the Machine
To Even Have Dreams (Side Story: Brel)
According to Plan (Side Story: Jehdra)
#2 Whispers from Exile
Unbound Instinct (Side Story: Vex)
#3 Tracing the Stars

Book description: This coming-of-age story chronicling a Filipino boy's wrenching passage from son of privilege to guerrilla fighter is a stylistic tour-de-force.  From its first lines, the saga of Jando Florez seizes readers with the same chilling intensity as the cold water that wraps around Jando's chest as he hides in a river to escape a gang of pillaging cutthroats.  While such murderous militias dispossess cane farmers in the Central Plains of the Philippines, the NPA (a brutal leftist insurgency) combat the government troops of Ferdinand Marcos and the ruthless sugar barons who steal the poor farmers' land.  Jando, whose family owns a plantation, is forced into the NPA, but he remains a sensitive soul, brimming with empathy for his fellow countrymen - even as he watches others, like his beloved uncle, morph into fierce, sadistic killers.  Incandescent descriptions radiate from the pages of this book.  When a wounded Jando wakes, after narrowly escaping a death squad, he sees "marmalade light slicing through the fronds, weaving orange and black tiger stripes."  Mountain bandits, sugar warlords, Peace Corps volunteers, dignitaries and revolutionaries all jostle beneath "mango-colored" skies in this riveting epic of loss and transformation, but it is a masterful and delicate choreography. ~Publishers Weekly

My review: Wow!  Upon finishing this book, that's really all I can think about it.  I've actually sat here for the last 15 minutes just thinking about it, letting the story hit me, trying to decide how best to describe this book.
            I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this book.  The description sounded really interesting, but I was a little iffy because the genre and setting were not ones I had experienced often.  From the first chapter, I was head over heels for this book and his writing.  The descriptions are amazing.  The whole time I could see what the character was seeing, feel what the character was feeling.  When his eyes were full of tears, so were mine.  When he was scared, I was scared.  This is a book that keeps you reading more and more because you want to know what happens to Jando next - you wanted to hear more and more about the ups and downs of his young life.  And the ending ... not at all what I expected ... and yet perfect for the book.

Cobweb Bride Trilogy #1: Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian

Book description: What if you killed someone and then fell in love with them?
            In an alternate Renaissance world, somewhere in an "imaginary" pocket of Europe called the Kingdom of Lethe, Death comes, in the form of a grim Spaniard, to claim his Bride.  Until she is found, in a single time-stopping moment all dying stops.  There is no relief for the mortally wounded  and the terminally ill ...

Covered in white cobwebs of a thousand snow spiders she lies in the darkness ... Her skin is cold as snow ... Her eyes, frozen ... Her gaze, fiercely alive ...

While kings and emperors send expeditions to search for a suitable Bride for Death, armies of he undead wage an endless war ... A black knight roams the forest at the command of his undead father ... Spies and political treacheries abound at the imperial Silver Court ... Murdered lovers find themselves locked in the realm of the living ...

Look closer - through the cobweb filaments of her hair and along each strand shine stars ...

And one small village girl, Percy - an unwanted, ungainly middle daughter - is faced with the responsibility of granting her dying grandmother the desperate release she needs.
            As a result, Percy joins the crowds of other young women of the land in a desperate quest to Death's own mysterious holding in the deepest forest of the North ...
            And everyone is trying to stop her.

My review: I have to start out by saying that I don't really like romantic crap and I admit that I didn't read the full write-up (or people's reviews) for fear of people giving away too much or me having a preconceived notion - but I loved this book.  Everything about it.  The idea behind it, the descriptions, the characters, the setting - the whole voyage to find Death.  Loved it.  Percy was awesome and I am very interested in finding out where the author goes with Lord Beltrain.  I can't wait to find out what happens in book #2.

Jake West Trilogy #1: The Keeper of the Stones by M.J. Webb

Book description: An epic fantasy adventure which will appeal to readers of all ages.  What if you found yourself thrust into a far away, mystical world of warriors, war and magic?  What if you were being hunted by the most ferocious warrior to ever carry a sword?  What if you were the greatest hope we have in the eternal battle against evil, at just fifteen years of age?  What would you do?  Their world was searching for a hero.  Ours never even knew that it needed one.

My review:  This is actually the first of a trilogy and I recommend that you read the whole thing.  

#1 The Keeper of the Stones
#2 Warriors of the Heynai
#3 The Estian Alliance

Jake and his friend Ben are my favorites in this first book.  The progression of their journey to hero is well described and you can't help but feel the faith the others have in them.  Verastus, their new friend, is also a character I have enjoyed reading about.  I like the conflict between the two brothers, Artrex and Vantrax, both doing what they have to in order to be King.  All the character building in this book is done well, the descriptions are done so fluidly, not awkwardly and in no way taking away from the story.  And the way the author describes the real, it's as if you can see the map in your head.  Though at times the two boys seem to fit in well in this new land, I like that the author kept in mind that this story is about people from two different worlds, giving us awkward moments where the two don't understand each other and their customs, language (slang), jokes, etc.  I also like that the story is not rushed, that the adventure continues to the next book instead of trying to be completed all in one and that the transition is done smoothly, coming to an expected end and not jarringly and abruptly just stopping.

Book description: Hunter lives alone.  He eats and sleeps alone.  The only people he can relate to are those he finds on the other side of an internet connection.  Like him, they have extraordinary abilities, and like him, they want to keep anyone from finding out.  His job is to manipulate them into revealing their deepest secrets to him, secrets that will maintain his "freedom" and surely end theirs.
            His employer classifies him as a "ravager."  Unfortunately, his ability is more affliction than asset.  If he loses control of his emotions, anyone nearby is stricken with a disease that could prove fatal.  The Center for the Preservation of Natural Order allows him to remain free on the condition that he keep a low profile and he work for them.
            This arrangement works for all parties involved until a girl claiming to be an angel appears in his living room.  Celeste brings word that his estranged brother is missing.  Only the two of them can save him.
            When his supervisor comes looking for her, Hunter is faced with a choice.  Should he trust a stranger and become a fugitive for a brother he barely knows or turn her in, go back to the lonely existence that's kept him being a danger to innocent people for so long?  And who the hell is this strange, tattooed woman who keeps appearing to him in reflections and dreams?
            Who he decides to become will be the catalyst for change.  One way or another, the life he knows is over.

My review: This book has a lot of interesting things about it - regular people and people with "extraordinary abilities," a group of government people who try to keep the "extraordinary" people under wraps and their control, a cult of "extraordinary people" and even an angel ... and a lot of action as the main character (Hunter) and his angel try to save his brother while trying to figure out which group is really on their side.  Just when you think everything is taken over, you realize that there is a lot more to come.  I definitely recommend.

Book description: Atlas is a war hero caught between his wife's love or saving the survivors of earth.  Earth has been destroyed by unknown forces leaving it in ruins.  The closest thing to organized leadership is the packs of scavengers that take what they want.  To keep his wife safe, he builds an army.  To give her the life she wants, he fights.  To win back their home, he must go to war.  But she doesn't believe that this sacrifice is for her and  his selflessness is driving them apart.  As he struggles for his wife's devotion, he is caught in a war with a tyrannical dictator.  To win a war and his wife's safety, he must give her up and fight a war where defeat is expected.  To defeat a dictator, he must become a warlord.
            Hovering over everything is the threat of an alien invasion which Atlas slowly pieces together through unreliable stories told by the survivors.  He soon learns that his fight is only a small part in a war that has been raging for hundreds of years and reaches throughout the galaxy.
            A gritty and realistic feel blends with minimal use of science fiction elements to create a rich, believable contemporary story of one soldier's hear-wrenching post-apocalyptic journey to keep his family alive.

My review: If you like action-packed books set in a post-apocalyptic world, then this is definitely the book for you. There's twists and turns, there's things you don't expect and things you kinda do - and I was sorta complaining about how I expected more action at the beginning, but boy did the author end up delivering on that.  The end was ... wow!
            It's nice to have a military "hero" that's not really a hero (in his eyes) and whose life is far from perfect, but he hides it well.  I love how he takes command and helps people out.  You start to dislike his wife because she doesn't "stand by her man" in the good and bad (and other reasons).
            I love Gannon.  He is one of my favorite characters.  I totally relate to him.

The Infected #1: The Infected by Matthew Cronan

Book description: "The city was burning ..."
            Ten years ago, a biological weapon was detonated in Washington DC killing 99.9% of the United States population.  The survivors of the fallout live in the town of New Hope, protected by a corrupt government, from the victims that didn't die ... the infected.
            Today is the day that Samantha Albright will learn that all of this is a lie.

My review: This is the first of a series and I read both of the first two, cannot wait to read what is left to come in this series.  
            I really enjoyed the first book.  This was a very interesting story and the descriptions were well written.  I liked the main character (Sam), the choices she made, the twists and turns the book took and the ending was amazing - shocking and just plain wow.  Incredible.  Definitely one I would suggest you read.
            I also enjoyed the second book and really enjoyed where the author has gone with it.  I am impressed with his character and world building and the main character (Sam) has become a far cry from what she originally was - but it was done in a very cool way, with some mystery that I can't wait to read more about in upcoming books.  The characters that she has met in this book - and the continued adventure with Cole - is very interesting and I had a problem putting both of the books down.

Book description:  When an average Joe's reflection in the mirror switches places with him, he finds himself trapped in a strange mirror world, battling his way back to the other side so that he can stop his reflection from destroying the life he knows.
            "Have you ever wondered why so many people in prison claim to be innocent?  It's 'cause most of 'em are," Dozier whispered.
            On the other side of the mirror lies a horrific world where each of us has an image, our violent replica, capable of fulfilling our darkest desires, and only released into our world when we're unable to follow through with an evil deed.  Gabe Cutter, an average paper pusher, has his life ripped out from under him when his image switches places with him, hell bent on destroying the life Gabe knows, and killing his cheating fiance.  Now, stuck on the other side of the mirror, Gabe must join together with a band of stranded survivors and find a way to get back to his world before his image destroys it.  Along the way he battles his way through maniacs, monsters and ultimately his own heart, as he realizes that he woman he's been trying to save wasn't worth the price of admission.

My review: This was a hard review to write and the way I received the book was definitely not a way I expected.  A friend of mine on Goodreads had read the book and was really harsh on the editing of the book.  While she was reading it, she left a comment about bad editing and I agreed with what she said, having read a few books that were poorly edited myself.  Several other people ended up commenting, including the author, who was very professional and apologized while saying that he did indeed use an editor.  After discussing it with my mother, I ended up messaging him on there to apologize because I didn't want to in any way be part of the reason someone's feelings were hurt or anything of the sort.  We ended up having a conversation about it all and he asked me if I would be interested in reading it and pointing out the problems.  In all honesty, I have NO idea what that friend was talking about because I didn't notice all these problems she was talking about.  In fact, I really liked the book.  The following is the review that I posted ...
            I want to start off by saying that I will never be reading any more of this author's books.  He kept me up all night reading until I couldn't force my eyes to stay open any longer and the first night I refused to get out of bed to go to the bathroom (yup, probably messed up my bladder holding it all night too) because there's a mirror in my bathroom haha.
            You know when you're watching a movie on Netflix and you put it on pause to see how much longer you have left, seeing if it's too soon to wrap everything up - that's how I was with my Kindle and this book.  There were a couple of times when I thought the characters were finished, that they had no hope - but then I would look at how far in the book I was and found myself relieved to see that their adventure continued.
            Great concept, great execution.  I simply loved this book.  The way he described things, the characters (my favorites actually being Gabe and his image Cutter, Haylay and Cloak was a pretty wicked bad guy), the things that they had to go through - very well written.  I can't wait for book #2.


Corinne Elletson-Kilgore said...

Honored to make your top 10 indi list! It means a lot - and I see many great books to add to my own to-read list! Thank you for your support of the indi-author community

ahungrymonster said...

Yay! A list!

I've read Code Name Atlas; super good. The Infected #1 looks interesting, I'll have to pick that one up. I love indie books, you never know what you're gonna get.

Raiyine said...

I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did. They were all really good books. Your series was amazing.

Raiyine said...

I agree completely. I have picked up several Indie books and found that I liked them more than books from major publishers. I'm glad that you liked my list. The Infected #1 and #2 are very good. He will be hopefully be done with #3 and putting it out soon. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Christopher Powers said...

Hey Meghan, thanks for adding my book to your list too. I've already picked up "What Hides Within" on your recommendation, and I'll definitely be taking a look at the others. You're the best!!!!