Pauline’s self-published gems of 2015

This is the third year running that I’ve cobbled together a list of self-published gems from my reading over the year. For anyone who’s not tried self-published books before, it can be difficult to find quality reading among the morass of poorly-edited and derivative junk out there. I’ve learned to be very selective about what I spend time on, but even so, there are still a lot of not terribly good books around.

BUT if you look carefully, there are plenty of gems around. The best self-published books bring a freshness and vitality to their genres that make them a delight to read. These are some that I loved wholeheartedly. Continue reading

Fantasy Review: ‘Wake of Vultures’ by Lila Bowen

Wake of Vultures (The Shadow, #1)Pen name of Delilah S. Dawson, Wake of Vultures sets up to be a book tailor made for the likes of me. Diverse cast, Old West vibe, and a quick pace are all present. And for the most part it was a hit for me. I flew through it, the protagonists’ place in the story and the overall vibe. A nice big disclaimer warns the reader that this is based on a U.S. Old West that never was; a very smart move to keep us history majors from trying to dissect the exact time frame.

The story starts with Nettie, a girl of mixed blood living with her white adopted ‘parents’ and doing all the failing farms work. A short setup lets us know that she is great with horses, treated like dirt, and convinced that as bad as things are on the farm they would only be worse in the wider world due to her skin color. But a night time run-in with a human not entirely human opens her eyes to a supernatural world that she will never be able to escape from. Suddenly she can see past the mundane, and a drowned woman is going to force her on a geas whether she wants one or not. Continue reading

Fantasy Review: ‘The Labyrinth of Flame’ by Courtney Schafer

Playing catch up here.  Hopefully I have a couple of reviews in the pipeline set up.  But today I will just cross post a review almost a month old that I somehow never got listed here.  Over at The Speculative Herald I reviewed the conclusion to Courtney Schafer’s wonderful trilogy.

“…expect torture, betrayal, and bad people occasionally winning the battle.

But I promise, there is a hopeful tone.”

Check it out HERE.

Urban fantasy review: ‘Twiceborn Endgame’ by Marina Finlayson

This is the third part of the Proving Trilogy, and there were big reveals in the first two parts which it’s difficult to avoid mentioning in this review. If you haven’t read them yet and don’t want to spoil the surprise, don’t read on.

Werewolves are part of my unholy trinity – along with vampires and zombies – which I will NOT read about, no matter what. Or so I thought. But this is the series that made me love werewolves. Who’d a thunk it? But then this is an unusual urban fantasy in many ways. The main character, Kate, isn’t a badass teenage girl snarking her way through life, and doing nothing but drool over the hot blokes. She’s the mother of a young boy, and heaven knows that makes a refreshing change. Now, there’s a certain amount of snark (she’s Australian, so that goes with the territory), and there’s a little drooling too, it has to be said. But Kate has her priorities sorted, and her son Lachie is at the top of the list. Continue reading

Final Tough Travels – Tricksters


Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

Yes my friends it is time.  I am very proud of Tough Travels and where it went but it is time to say good bye to it.  I had planned on running it out until the end of the year but the quality of it is slipping due to my lack of involvement so the cord is being cut today.

At its peak Tough Travels had 24 blogs doing it weekly.  We have had 52 separate blogs participate at some time or another (Looking back at link ups there are a lot of blogs that disappeared and I had forgot about).  For a very genre specific meme I found this incredible.  I know I found many blogs for the first time just because they linked up; I hope others had the same success and bonding with it.

Quite often I saw our lists linked to other sites such as Reddit.  I have had authors link to it when it includes their books.  All in all, I am glad I did it.  But as my time in to it slipped to nothing so did interest.  This was a meme that took work; from me and from other participants.  And I am sorry to say I am no longer willing to put that work in.

So thank you all so very much.  It would have been just another feature without all of you who participated, added suggestions, and just took the time to scroll through the link up.  Tough Travels is probably the single thing I am most proud of from blogging and most of it is due to my fellow travellers.

If, by chance, there is someone who doesn’t want it to die just let me know. I will make an announcement if someone else wants to revive it and start hosting the link up on their own site.  We have strip mined the original Tough Guide source by now but it has been going for almost two years so starting it anew probably would lead to all kinds of responses we didn’t get the first time around.

With that, below is the final link up.  Thank you all.

This week’s topic is Tricksters

A great prank is always amusing.  Many an adventure start with a well placed trick.  They are even more amusing when performed by those with god like powers.

Tough Travels – Peace at Last


Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is PEACE AT LAST

Life in Fantasyland is often hard but even the hardest fought battles can come to an end.  The good guys win, the quest is over, evil is gone.  Yes, the land can finally know peace when the protagonist reach their goal.

Admit it fellow travelers, you love these topics that are open ended. Continue reading

Fantasy review: ‘The Death of Dulgath’ by Michael J Sullivan

Yippee! A new Royce and Hadrian story! I was lucky enough to get this before the official release by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign. For fans of the boys, this is the third story in the Riyria Chronicles series, which was written after the Riyria Revelations trilogy, but precedes it in the story’s timeline. It’s possible to read either first, but personally I think it makes more sense to read the trilogy first, and then move on to the prequels.

The plot is straightforward: the new Countess of Dulgath has been the subject of several assassination attempts. Royce and Hadrian are called in as consultants to advise her courtiers on likely methods of future attempts and suggest ways to circumvent them. And you don’t have to be as cynical as Royce to smell a rat, and suspect that they haven’t been summoned to the far end of the continent just for their advice. Continue reading

Fantasy review: ‘Dragon’s Bride’ by H L Burke

It’s always a sad moment, reaching the end of a series and waving farewell to favourite characters. Will the author produce a final triumphant flourish, or will it fall a bit flat? Will obstacles be swept aside too easily, or will everything make perfect sense? Fortunately, the author got pretty much everything right in this. Ewan and Shannon’s story was tied up in a very satisfactory way, bad guys got their comeuppance, good guys got their reward and even the time travel worked out very neatly.

Let’s start with Ewan and Shannon. I was always very pleased that Ewan embraced his dragon-ness, and Shannon was cool with it, too, even as they both had good reasons for wanting him to be human again. It seemed likely to me that the end of the story would have to be bittersweet, with one or both of them having to make a sacrifice. Continue reading

Fantasy review: ‘City of Mages’ by Kyra Halland

This is the fifth, and penultimate, part of the Daughter of the Wildings series of western fantasies, and this is the moment I’ve been looking forward to from the start. Finally, we get to leave the Wildings behind temporarily and visit Granadaia, the home of rogue mage Silas, and the place where mages are the wealthy aristocrats, and those without magic (Plains) are not much more than slaves.

At the end of the fourth book, To The Gap, Silas had been shot and captured by mage hunters, to be taken back to Granadaia. It’s all down to his wife Lainie, Wildings-born and a mage with both Granadaian and Wildings abilities, to ride to the rescue. Although I missed Silas, it was wonderful to watch Lainie rise to the occasion and work out ways to find her man and then rescue him, almost single-handed. Continue reading

Tough Travels- Military Geniuses


Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is MILITARY GENIUS

Let’s face it.  Fantasy life is often a life of war.  One can only hope to serve under a commander who has some clue what they are doing.

Continue reading