This year has been another difficult one, but authors have stepped up and given us some amazing stories. I struggled to whittle my favourite books of the year down to a reasonable number. There was no way I could stop at a Top Ten, but I managed a Top Fifteen. These are the books that made my year, and I highly recommend each and every one. Here they are, listed in no particular order:
The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton
2. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry
3. The Island Between Us by Wendy Hudson
4. The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan
5. Ignis by KJ
6. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
7. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R Austin
What’s a Muse to do when her much-anticipated peaceful break is under threat? Calliope Ardalides is the eldest of the nine Muses, and is responsible for arbitrating arguments between the gods and answering for their failures to the humans who complain. Her haven of serenity is a small Scottish village, where the Temple of the Muses is situated. But when an American businesswoman lodges plans for an adventure park right next door, Calliope’s hopes of relaxation and calm are shattered. Despite a powerful attraction neither women appear ready to yield. Can they each get what they want? And will they be able to resist the pull of something more?
I’ve been looking forward to this, the first in a new series set in the Afterlife Inc world. The first trilogy was excellent and my favourite series of the past five years. This time we are with the Muses, and they are just as compelling. Calliope is a talented musician and singer, but has been so caught up in the other aspects of her job, that her artistic side has taken a back seat. Being in Scotland lets her enjoy music again, but the threat to her peace from Jordan James and her plans is worrying. Although she’s used to seeing an issue from both sides at work, it’s more difficult in this case. She’s a kind, thoughtful and sensitive soul and I really liked her.
Jordan wasn’t the big, bad wolf, even though she wanted to build next to the Temple. I could see her point of view, and it would certainly help the local community. But she had to see the whole picture, and Calliope was the person to help her do that. Their attraction was intense and powerful, but it was also healing for both of them.
Brey Willows describes the Scottish countryside perfectly and makes me feel as if I’m there. She sees past the surface and allows the reader a peek of that too. I love the marrying of old and new, the mythology and the present. The story shows wonderful imagination, and I never tire of reading what she has come up with . She knows her characters inside out and allows the reader to become part of their lives.
‘Song of Serenity’ is a stunning story. I highly recommend it.
I found it so difficult to narrow down my list of favourite books this year. And even more difficult put them in order of preference. I loved them all. So, this is my top twelve, and in alphabetical order. I highly recommend all of these books and will certainly be re-reading them again in 2020.
‘Changing Course’ by Brey Willows is a beautifully crafted sci-fi story with exquisite world-building. Jessa Arabelle, privileged intergalactic spacecraft captain, crash lands on Indemnion,a planet most people would be well advised to avoid. Whilst attempting to save her crew she meets worldly-wise Kylin Enderson, a scrounger whose life couldn’t be more different to her own. The attraction between them is powerful, but how can two women with such different outlooks ever be together? As they work together to get to safety they begin to see that there is so much more than what appears on the surface. But will it be enough?
Brey Willows sees into people’s emotions, sees what motivates them. She has taken the genre of sci-fi and injected that emotion and love and made us care for the characters. I loved how she took us to different places on Indemnion and let us see the peoples. I was drawn to one of the groups in particular, but won’t spoil it for anyone by elaborating – but I’d be surprised if a lot of readers don’t feel the same. Feelings can be wonderful but she doesn’t shy away from the reality that love can hurt. And sometimes we have to be prepared for that if we’ve ever to find true happiness.The story is about realising that we don’t have to follow a path determined by society. Our destiny doesn’t have to be decided by our birth – sometimes life throws a spanner in the best laid plans . And taking a chance with someone can be the best decision we’ve ever made. In a planet without hope and full of injustices and cruelty, it takes someone who can see past that. See that there’s a different way. The romantic element was touching and the sex was so hot – but it takes something special to blend that with a fantastic story. ‘Changing Course’ does all of that. I loved it.
I’m just back from my first ever Bold Strokes event in Nottingham. What a weekend! After a delay getting there (due to a cancelled flight and subsequently four cities in a day to make it), I attended the ‘Meet and Speak’ at the Five Leaves Bookshop in the city. As soon as I was through the door I was greeted by a sea of friendly faces – Brey Willows and Robyn Nyx, Valden Bush, Carol Hutchinson, Isabelle Lonitz, Anna Larner and her wife, Jen Silver, Jane Fletcher and her lovely wife Joanie, Jody Klaire, Em and Ferb, Sam Skybourne, Lise Gold and her wife, Anne Holt and many more. After listening to some wonderful readings a few of us headed off to the Pitcher and Piano for drinks and chat. We sat outside in the warm night air until the early hours talking until we realised we had an event to get up for in the morning and headed off to our various hotels.
Saturday morning started with a welcome from the lovely Brey Willows. The room filled up quickly and we were treated to some fascinating panels – Challenging the Norms, Flowers and Wine, Playing with the universe, It’s a Writer’s Life and reading from the authors. I found hearing the authors read their own work made me want to buy more books. We were all able to mingle throughout the day and chat to the authors and get our book purchases signed. The After Party at the Pit and Pendulum nearby gave us a chance to socialise more. As we moved around the tables we all got to know some new people. The banter was fantastic.
Sunday brought some more panels, readings and a hilarious quiz. We all headed off to The New Foresters bar afterwards for a BBQ and lots of chat. Hours passed quickly as we met new people and old friends. The conversations brought us all together and made us realise just how much we all have in common. Getting to spend time together was energising and affirming – and I cannot wait for next year to do it all again.
I so enjoyed book one in this series, ‘Parallel Lives’, and have been eagerly awaiting the release of ‘Crossing Over’. I was certainly not disappointed. Kaitlin and Tannus are now lovers and are expecting a baby. They decide to cross back to Kailtin’s home world and to her family in Cheshire. How will her parents and brother react to her fantastical story? How will Tannus and Carray react to a world so very different from their own.
Seeing our world through the eyes of two people from a simpler, more cut-off existence was very interesting. It was also fascinating looking at romantic relationships from Carray’s point of view, as she was heterosexual and lived in a completely lesbian society at home. A clever device that made me think. I worried about Kaitlin’s father and brother as she had been far from complementary about them in the first book. Would they surprise me? The issue of Tannus’s illness was always there in the background and I lived in hope that a cure could be found. There was so much riding on the year they planned to live in our world and it made the story very emotional and compelling.
By the end I knew that I wanted more from this series. In a good way. I will be counting the days until book three comes out. I have grown to love these characters and want to find out what happens next. How will the characters from each world interact? A highly enjoyable story.
I received an ARC of this book from Global Wordsmiths in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Maggie McShay leads a boring life, in a boring apartment, with a boring job – and with a cat who doesn’t seem to like her. What she wants is some magic in her life and when she answers an ad to look after a fairy tale cottage it appears that things may be looking up for her. The story is of Maggie and her friends as well as a world of fairy stories. It is told in a way that you will not doubt this place really exists. As they work together to save the world from evil villains, Maggie finds out much more about herself and this new world than she could ever have imagined.
From the minute she answers the advert you feel the excitement along with her. We learn as she does and it’s fascinating. I adored Maggie. She was curious, sweet and feisty. Kody was hot, hot, hot – and didn’t Maggie know it. The whole cast of characters in this book leapt off the page – they were vivid and exciting.
The story was wonderfully, magically imaginative. And you know, I didn’t doubt for a minute that the cottage existed exactly where she said it did! The self-discovery by Maggie was pivotal and her growing feelings for Kody were sensitively dealt with. I loved the story and the imagination behind it but most of all I was enthralled by the use of language. It was beautiful and poetic and lyrical. The skilful use of metaphor and simile took the writing to another level. The descriptions of people and places came alive for me. ’Spinning Tales’ is excellent and I highly recommend it.
I was given this Arc for review by Bold Strokes Books and Netgalley.
Brey Willows makes me feel, really feel – and that’s a rare skill in a writer. It’s her attention to the small intimate moments as well as the overall arc that stands out for me in ‘Chosen’. A group of scientists from all over the world have been chosen to escape the predicted extinction of the human race as the planet slowly dies. Devin Rossi and Karissa Decker meet on a compulsory convoy to the base where the planned move to another world will start. But will they want to go – and will they get any say in the matter anyway? A raider group trying to help those destined to live out their lives on Earth may change everything.
The journey the scientists take is fraught with danger. The descriptions are so brilliantly drawn, I could feel the rain and was in the storms, experiencing it all with them. Climate change is in full force and so much worse than anyone thought. Following those dealing with the results was engrossing and immersive. The writing was faultless and took me to the places the author imagined. I was gripped and didn’t want to let go. I needed to know what happened next.
The love story through it all took place amidst chaos and difficult life-changing decisions. I ached for the women as they dealt with their growing feelings and passion, never knowing how it would all end. Finding someone to love and being faced with such huge dilemmas was truly emotional. ‘Chosen’ is an excellent novel and makes me realise that Brey Willows can write in any genre she wants -I’ll be first in line to read it.
I was given this ARC by Netgalley and Bold Strokes for review.
‘Fury’s Bridge’ is the first in the Afterlife Inc Series by Brey Willows and is wonderful. Selene Perkton is a philosophy professor who likes life to be safe and dependable. When Alec Graves, a fury, comes into her life nothing is ever the same. The gods work out a building in Santa Monica, California and Alec’s job is to save their very existence. What does this have to do with Selene? And what will this mean for her when she does find out?
The story is beautifully written, with such honesty and passion that it quite took my breath away. I loved Selene and I understood her. She was different and she knew it. I liked that about her and so many people will recognise themselves in her. I have always thought Dani (Death) was my favourite character in this series but Selene is vying with her for first place. She is thoughtful and intelligent and I wondered how she would manage to accept something that she could never imagine as a logical thinker. There is something sointriguing and compelling about the whole concept of this book. The imagination and knowledge of ancient myths, religions and the classics that went into telling this story is seriously impressive. Alec was strong and powerful but when confronted with Selene her life was turned upside down. The intensity of their feelings was emotionally gripping and the heat leapt off the page. There is something to be said for complete acceptance and Brey Willows managed to show how life changing that can be. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.