First: please note, again, I am not a book reviewer and this is not a book review blog. I don't accept review requests (with very rare exceptions). I'm just an author who also likes to read, sharing things I've enjoyed reading.
The rules for my own personal challenge: The books have to already be on my Kindle (unless I get to a letter where I only have samples, then I can buy one of those books). If I don't finish reading the book, it doesn't count. Indie authors preferred.
Across a Moonlit Sea is old-school, over-the-top, swashbuckling, bodice-ripping (Isabeau goes through at least two or three shirts and Dante loses one or two as well) romance set in the age of gold-laden Spanish ships sailing from the New World and English privateers seeking their fortunes. Attacked by a Spanish fleet and betrayed by his partner, privateer Simon Dante and his crew are stranded at sea when they're rescued by a small merchant ship, captained by the colorful Captain Spence and his daughter Isabeau (Beau), who would rather steer a ship and draw maps than wear a dress. Exciting battles at sea and loads of steamy (but not overly graphic) romance ensue. (My review)
Bailin' was really funny. How funny, you ask? I was sitting in the dentist chair, reading this on my Kindle while waiting for Lady Pain, er, the hygienist to come in and get to work, and laughing out loud instead of crying like I usually do. (I have very sensitive teeth. Really.)
So, we have Cole Haskins, a smooth-talking modern-day gunslinger who would rather live an easy life of holding up banks and armored cars than get a, you know, JOB, and his lover/getaway driver, former truck stop princess Bunny Beaumont, the brains in the outfit. Then we have the world's most inept drug smugglers, two-man motorcycle gang Flathead and Bogart (there are no brains in this outfit, except that Bogart has kind of an idiot savant genius for cobbling together dangerously fast vehicles that are unsafe at any speed, and Flathead at least has the self-preservation instinct to want to stay off of them). Then there's Alvin Hunstetter, the nervously larcenous city treasurer who makes off with the stadium fund and skips bail. Add in a good, honest bounty hunter (when the most upstanding citizen in the story is a bounty hunter, that kind of gives you an idea of what you're dealing with here), an insanely homicidal ninja bounty hunter, and some crooked city officials, throw them all together in an action-packed chase along the Texas-Mexico border, top off with a slyly humorous narrative voice, and you've got a wildly entertaining read that's impossible to put down. (My review)
Big, sprawling, whimsical epic fantasy about a young prince, Trevin, who ascends to the throne after being told by his dying father that the color crimson and what he loves most will be his doom. The way Trevin chooses to deal with this prophecy seems to bring on the doom anyway and only the courage of an intrepid group of sailors and the love and devotion of his queen can save him and their world. (My review)
Update 3/17: Some time after I reviewed this book, the author contacted me to very graciously thank me for the review and ask if I would like to beta-read the prequel, Darkstorm. Of course I was delighted to say yes! Darkstorm blew me away and satisfied all the questions and problems I had with the premise of Darkmage. Darkstorm is now available and Darkmage has been re-released, and I was also lucky enough to get to beta-read the third book in the series, Darkland.
Original review: I'm not really sure what to say about Darkmage. Epic fantasy, though very dark, in an interesting magical world, pretty well written. But I had a problem accepting the basic premise, that in a world where all life and civilization is threatened by an all-powerful Enemy, those best able to fight this enemy, the mages, would place themselves under a physically binding vow of non-violence - and what's more, the people threatened by the enemy would expect the mages to abide by this vow and, furthermore, would refuse to lift a finger in their own defense other than sending ragtag bands of convicts up to the front to serve as cannon fodder in holding the enemy off a little longer. The books explores one mage's decision to break that vow and fight.
Even though I had trouble with the premise, I can still say that if you're interested in a philosophical exploration of the question of whether vows of non-violence are worth it, and are up for reading a very long and dark but exciting fantasy, give Darkmage a try.
I enjoyed Steve Thomas's very funny Klondaeg books (reviewed here) and decided to give some of his other works a try. An Exercise in Futility is very different, serious, almost tragic (though not without a note of hope at the end). When the nomadic Gurdur tribes are threatened with conquest by the ruthless Empire to the south, young Ezekiel longs to join in the battle. Instead, his magical gifts dictate he go away for training to fight in a different way. His gift turns out to be for necromancy, which has obvious uses in war. But while any garden-variety necromancer can raise an army of the undead, it takes an extraordinary one to think of using his powers on himself - and on an entire culture. I liked An Exercise in Futility as much as the Klondaeg books, and have added more of Steve Thomas's work to my (ever-growing, despite my best efforts) reading list. (My review)
Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series (and the Encrypted series that goes along with it) are favorites of mine. Flash Gold is the first book in a different series, set in an alternate steampunk/fantasy version of the Yukon Gold Rush. Kali is determined to win a dogsled race with her dogless sled and use the money to get away to someplace warmer and safer. The mysterious Cedar hires himself on as her bodyguard and "musher", which turns out to be a good thing when it seems like every villainous character in the west is after Kali and her secrets. Loved this, and I'm looking forward to reading more books in the series. It would also make a good addition to my Western With A Twist book collection.
"G" is two stories set in the wonderful Ghost series, featuring Caina, the young assassin with a dark and terrible past and the ability to sense the sorcery that is causing so much trouble in her world. In Ghost Aria, Caina investigates a mysterious murder that takes place at the opera house where she works undercover as an assistant to the reigning diva. In Ghost Dagger, a tragic curse in a nobleman's house takes Caina on a nightmarish journey through her dreams. Mystery, danger, and magic abound in both stories. I highly recommend the Ghost series, and I'm also planning to check out Jonathan Moeller's many other series.
Now I'm on "H"; once I've read another handful of books I'll do another round-up.