Ranging from children’s books to Yuletide horror and everything in between, I’ve squirrelled away the best in Indie Christmas Reads for you.
The books presented here have all been reviewed on this blog either last Christmas or this year.
Clicking on a book cover will take you to the review and its relevant links.
Christmas also features heavily in R.M. Gauthier’s Christmas Miracle series, in which the stories take place in Christmas Town, USA at different times of the year.
The third book in Martin Jensen’s ‘King’s Hounds’ medieval historical mystery series, ‘A Man’s Word’ is an intriguing murder mystery set in the village of Thetford. The mystery is complex and challenging, presenting a variety of possible suspects and motives which are further obscured by the transient population visiting the town for the court sessions and the markets.
Like ‘The King’s Hounds’ and ‘Oathbreaker’, the narrative is enriched with local colour and characters who add further dimensions to the story, and with historical detail that brings the context and setting of the story to life. Being immersed in the story causes the reader to consider the facts and develop theories about investigation, which increases their engagement and investment in the plot while Winston, Alfalfa and Halfdan conduct their inquiries and develop and test their theories.
This is a most enjoyable and satisfying mystery read.
The third book in Goodwin’s The Forensic Genealogist series, ‘The Orange Lilies’ is a shorter story that focuses on Morton’s own history and the family secrets that have obscured it for so long.
Equally interesting and intriguing as the first two books in the series, this story is different in that it is far more intensely personal for Morton, and does not involve an exterior case that Morton is called upon to investigate. This story brings some well-crafted resolution to the questions Morton has harboured as a sub-plot that runs throughout books one and two, and returns him to a position of strength and resolve, from which he can approach the future and future investigations more confidently.
Morton’s exploration of his family history takes the story back to the opening months of World War I and his great-grandfather’s service as a soldier. While the discoveries he makes are fascinating, some questions regarding his great-grandfather and extended family still remain, giving a satisfying sense of continuity to the overall narrative of the series, and providing healthy anticipation for the next book.
This is an excellent read, and the series as a whole is brilliant. If you enjoy historical fiction and mystery, do not overlook this book and its companions in The Forensic Genealogist series.
This is an enjoyable collection of seven mixed genre short stories.
Some of these stories are more complex than others, offering some intrigue and good plot development before delivering a twist. One or two of the others were less involved and, while they certainly delivered a twist, it was more of a surprise ending than the fulfilment of a sense of mystery.
The retro narrative style of the three ‘Private Eyes’ stories which comprise a detective noir style series gave them a nice mystery aesthetic that worked quite well. A profound contrast is provided by the dark humour and bleak irony of ‘Halloween in Windsor.
These stories are most likely to appeal to readers with varied and eclectic tastes and an appreciation for clever and unpredictable storytelling.
The saying goes that “there is no honour among thieves”, but the protagonist of this story is certainly an exception to that rule.
This is a fun fantasy short story full of action and varied, interesting characters. Elona, the central character is clever and talented, and it is most engaging to see her adapt to the changes that happen in her life without losing her individuality or sacrificing her loyalty.
The world building is quite unique, providing settings that reveal the two extremes of life in the kingdom of Tore— the wealth of the mage’s citadel and the grunge of the thieves’ den. The kingdom has a very old-world feel, yet the characters have access to modern technology, which creates an intriguing juxtaposition
The story can be read under an hour, which makes it ideal for a lunch break or fitting into a busy lifestyle.
In a genre that is highly competitive and very well populated, it is crucial that an author finds a way to make their work stand out from the crowd.
Kayla Krantz has achieved this bu creating a vibrant, talented and engaging protagonist who has a disability, and crafting complications and one of the mysteries of the story around the origins of Lilith’s injury.
As a reader with mobility issues of my own, this gave me a point of connection with Lilith and created instant empathy for her. Her disability is presented in a genuine and realistic way, as is the mental and emotional “conversation” she has with herself because of it. Importantly, the author demonstrates very clearly and powerfully that a disability does not define a person, nor does a physical impairment limit one’s talent, character or potential for success. Lilith is clearly a witch who happens to have a disability, not a disabled witch. This is a really important distinction.
The story is well crafted, with plenty of interest and mystery in the subplots as well as the main story. The characters are varied and complex, many with intriguing backgrounds and individual motivations that contribute to the mysterious tone of the story.
Having greatly enjoyed this first book, this is certainly a series I want to read more of.
This is a really thought-provoking story about the consequences of prejudice, hatred and gossip in the lives of those who suffer the judgement and contempt of others. It is well-written and easy to read, although the nature of the story is both serious and discomforting.
Set in 1895 in a small rural community in Nevada, ’The Persecution of Midlred Dunlap’ is one of those stories that takes a slice of time, brings it to life, and makes one thankful that things have changed since then. On reflection, though, the reader is confronted by the fact that some things haven’t changed that much at all. People still discriminate against and make fun of those who are different, or who live in ways of which they do not approve. We may have laws to deal with those issues now, and legal means of both protection and redress, but those can not actually change human nature or the tendency of some people toward the behaviours that made those laws necessary in the first place.
Through clever crafting of characters and story, the author demonstrates that there are all sorts of hatred and prejudice that people suffer, ranging between racism, religious persecution, discrimination on the basis of looks, sexuality or lifestyle, to peer pressure and bullying. The treatment of those who are different in various ways by those with the position and power to persecute them is abhorrent, emphasising the narrow-mindedness and hatred that motivates such abuse. The fact that. even though we live 120+ years later, one does not have to travel far or look too hard to see that some things never change, is an indictment that can be neither escaped nor explained away.
In contrast, Mildred is a character who demonstrates kindness, resilience, thoughtfulness and generosity. Like her, Edra, Charley and Gus are positive characters who stand against the horrid behaviour of their neighbours. Those characters who show kindness, acceptance, and respect bring light and relief to the darker undertones of the story and return balance to the portrait of humanity that is painted in these pages. Through them, the story reminds us that love does indeed drive out both fear and hate, and that a true friend is a gift of immeasurable worth.
There is so much power and weight in this story, and also much that is hopeful and encouraging. It is a work of historical fiction well worth reading,
Elfrida, or Ælfryth, was the first anointed and crowned queen of England, ruling alongside her husband, Edgar, in the 10th century.
‘The First Queen Of England’ Part 2 is the second instalment of Elfrida’s story, and shows just how strong and resilient she was in a world dominated by patriarchy, politics and warfare.
Just like the first book in the series, this book is very well written and is entirely consistent with the historical context of the story, even though it is undoubtedly fiction.
It is a significant achievement on the author’s part to reanimate characters from the long-distant past in such a way that the reader feels as though they know them and can understand their concerns, cares and motivations. It is pleasing to witness the dynamics of the characters as they mature, and intriguing to observe the intricacies of the machinations and politics at court and the personal impact on the queen and king as individuals as well as rulers.
The narration by Sheila Daly Payson is most enjoyable. Her voice is pleasant and her reading is fluent. Her characterisation of the different roles is effective, and really brings the various characters to life.
As richly detailed and intriguing as part 1, ‘The First Queen Of England, Part 2’ is a most enjoyable story. This is in every aspect a very pleasurable audiobook experience, and is also available as an ebook or paperback.
‘Kennedy Awakens’ is Book 1 of the brand new Boston: An Urban Fantasy Series by Greg Alldredge.
If you love books where magical and earthly realities merge in dangerous and exciting ways, you won’t want to miss this.
Magic and Fae are real…
… Most times Kennedy wished they weren’t.
327 years is a long time for any person to keep the peace, but doing it in the body of a child is beyond the pale.
Light, Dark, Outcasts, the Fae come in many flavors, and each family syndicate pursues a different agenda.
She didn’t even want to consider the Authority and the agents ready to crack heads to keep the secret world under wraps.
If you love Urban Fantasy where spell slingers fight to keep humanity safe, you’ll adore where this tale takes you.
‘The Pursuit of Trust’ is Book 2 in the author’s Discovering Kia paranormal/urban fantasy series.
Following on directly from where ‘In Pursuit Of Light’ left off, this book continues to explore questions about not only Kia, but also the individual pasts and stories of the men who have become her protectors, Once again, these men share the role of narrator, but it is also significant that Kia has more agency in this book and communicates her thoughts and feelings through more than gesture and action.
Kia is still a mysterious character, although the reader definitely feels as though they grow to know her better throughout the second book. Answers to the questions about her nature and abilities remain elusive, however, which is also true of her companions.
It is interesting that this book is titled ’The Pursuit of Trust’ because the lack of trust, and the inability of the central characters to have absolute confidence in one another, are central drivers of the storyline. In fact, the only character who has any implicit trust in anyone is Kia herself, thanks to her innate ability to know the truth and integrity of one’s character. The different characters’ insights through their narration of parts of the story is a key means of exploring notions of trust and distrust, and the associated experiences of loyalty, jealousy and resentment that either nourish or poison the feelings of each character toward the others.
This is an intriguing story that moves at a good pace, with a satisfying balance between action, suspense and development.
While the book finishes with the very strong sense that there is more of the story to come, it also provides a brief glimpse into one of the characters’ former lives, of which he has no memory, and which raises as many questions as it provides insights. This adds further mystery and complexity to the story, and increases the reader’s desire to read on and discover the truths that underpin the nature and personality of each of the central characters.