It has been such a wonderful time for me here as a solo judge for the first time for SPFBO, after being adding late in the process last year. I’ve read so many wonderful books, made a lot of connections and had a chance to help break the stigma that self-published books are all automatically “bad” even more within the book and blogging community.
So, first off, to the authors in my group: thank you for trusting me with your work. Thank you for believing in yourself enough to be willing to put your work out there, knowing that rejection is so much greater of a chance than any other outcome. It’s a very brave thing to do and I know it isn’t easy!
Secondly, to the SPFBO judges: it’s a lot of work to read 30 books in five months. It’s hard to know you’re going to cut 29 of them and your decisions might influence a book’s sales or visibility. But we do this because we love books and we love using our influence as bloggers to help other bloggers and readers find books they might have not have found–including those who don’t end up being our finalists. Thanks for thinking of me and my blog worthy to join your ranks!
Thirdly, to the SPFBO community: whether you’re in my group or not, submitted this year or not, on a whole, this community is so supportive and awesome! I’m really thankful to be a part of it as judge and a blogger (and who knows–maybe one day, I’ll enter as an author! ;)) and I hope we can continue to make it a supportive and uplifting group, while striving to make it even more inclusive and welcoming for all.
Now, I think you’re all here because you want to know how why I chose these books as my semi-finalists and which one, ultimately, I fell in love with the most.
Let’s get to it!
Title: A Magical Inheritance
Author: Krista D. Ball
Published: May 2019
Amount Read: 100%
Rating: 4 out of 5 gems
Blurb: Miss Elizabeth Knight received an unexpected legacy upon her uncle’s death: a collection of occult books. However, when one of the books begins talking to her, she discovers an entire world of female occultist history opened to her—a legacy the Royal Occult Society had purposely hidden from the world.
However, the magic allowing the book to speak to Miss Knight is fading and she must gather a group of female acquaintances of various talents. Together, they’ll need to work to overcome social pressures, ambitious men, and tyrannical parents, all to bring Mrs. Egerton, the book ghost, back.
I simply adored this book–to the point where I immediately went to Goodreads after I finished it to check and see if a sequel had been written and if it was published yet. I am a huge fan of the regency time period and finding a book that fit well into that time period–yet was a fantasy, which I haven’t had a chance to read a lot of that combo–in my batch was refreshing and exciting. It was well-written and flowed very easily, with a tone that matched the setting perfectly and obviously did a lot of research to make it period-appropriate. Every time I’d read it, I’d find myself surprised to see I’d flown through 100 pages in a sitting and quite enjoyed this read!
Unfortunately, I am cutting it from the contest now. Though I did love this story–and obviously hope to read more from the author, as I’m already looking for more of her work–there were a few things that made me like it less, comparatively, to my finalist.
It did read quickly, however, it also took us to 65% of the story to truly get to the meat of it, so I do wish it the main conflict/plot would have picked up sooner. And the constant talk of money is a bit exhausting, at times, albeit understanding that this was a main concern for our character and a really big factor in this society. However, I was more interested in her studies of the occult than what she did with her books and wished the book had focused on that, instead. I also thought the lasering-in on money got repetitive and made the pace start to drag a bit–which is interesting, because I felt the ending too rushed.
This was an enjoyable story that I liked–well written and fits the time period it’s reflecting perfectly. I loved seeing women come together to help one another and really admired our main character and seeing her growth. If you’re a fan of period pieces with fantasy elements thrown in, I recommend giving Kristia D. Ball a shot!
Title: Shadow’s Hand
Author: Noelle Nichols
Published: June 2018
Amount Read: 100%
Rating: 4 out of 5 gems
Blurb: False warriors destroyed their homes. Now two heroes must delve into ancient magic to save their realm from destruction.
Kilo lives and dies by the truth of the Shadow’s Creed. So when brutal raiders raze his village, the leader is honor-bound to put aside his fighting staff and help his people rebuild. After discovering the attackers were impersonating Shadow warriors and have befouled his beloved code with blood, he’s torn between duty and vengeance.
Shenrae’s childhood burned in the fire that claimed her parents’ souls. Knowing the assailants will attack again, she swallows her self-doubt to focus on her grueling Shadow warrior training. But when she realizes the immoral enemies are tapping into a deadly primeval powers, she’s not sure even the best among her brethren are safe.
Now both face the biggest challenge of their lives: Shenrae must unlock her inner strength and Kilo could risk forsaking his code. And their only hope may be to embrace the very power that is out to kill them.
Can Kilo and Shenrae find a way to uphold their honor and defeat the dark forces?
I just fell in love with the writing here and this world is just so fascinating, my gosh. I also just loved Kilo so much? Like, you pure, noble creature, who’s sense of honor and loyalty makes you more rare than dragons and unicorns combined. It was hard to not fall in love with him and root for him in his task.
Unfortunately, I am also cutting this book, for although I quite enjoyed it, there were a few elements that did keep me from falling head over heels in love with it.
There were some minor elements–like some tighter proofreading needed–but my main two criticisms was the POV switching and the ending. I really enjoyed Kilo’s story and his POV. Then, we get almost 40% into the story and suddenly it switches to Shenrae’s POV–again, another character I enjoy, but we cut to her perspective right when I was really enjoying Kilo’s story. Sometimes, that mechanism is a great hook and builder of tension, but because we wait so long to even have our first POV switch (which switches back right as I was finally getting invested into hers), I think it actually hinders and detracts from it, in this instance.
Also, the ending felt incomplete. I don’t want to get into specifics because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I felt the thing we were building to throughout the book didn’t happen, so then the resolution just felt a little off. But, I quite enjoyed this story and wouldn’t mind seeing what happens next! So definitely keep Noelle Nichols on your radar, too!
And my finalist is….
🎊 FORTUNE’S FOOL BY ANGELA BOORD 🎊
Title: Fortune’s Fool
Author: Angela Boord
Published: June 2019
Amount Read: 100%
Rating: 5 out of 5 gems (9 out of 10 for SPFBO)
Blurb: A secret affair. A disfiguring punishment. A burning need for revenge.
Kyrra d’Aliente has a bad reputation and an arm made of metal.
Cast out of the safe and luxurious world of silk to which she was born, played as a pawn in a game of feuding Houses, Kyrra navigates a dangerous world of mercenaries, spies, and smugglers while disguising herself as a man.
War destroyed her family and the man she loved.
Vengeance is within her grasp.
But is she willing to pay its price?
Friends, I can’t sing enough praises about this book. I took hardly any notes while I was reading it, aside from this one, after the first 50 pages: “Without a doubt, the best I’ve read so far. Damn, I just want to read more of this!!”
I mean, I just fucking loved this book.
It was ridiculously well written. The writing felt effortless and the way the past and the present were interwoven? Masterclass. I felt for Kyrra so much and she was a main character who I could root for utterly, but also wanted to punch in the face every once in a while, for reasons. This is a story that pulled at my heartstrings yet also made me sweat, as I couldn’t read fast enough to keep up with the action as I tried to see what happened next. The worldbuilding was incredible, the plot engaging and intricate, and the characters varied and interesting! It’s the book I was constantly thinking about as I read through my other entries, constantly wanting to return to.
And then I finished it and whelp, friends.
I just want more.
That’s why I’m so happy to announce that Fortune’s Fool is Thoughts Stained With Ink’s finalist, scoring at 9 out of 10 points for the SPFBO contest and 5 out of 5 gems on Goodreads. I HIGHLY recommend you give this story a try–but only when you have some spare time. You’re not going to want to put this one down, friends. Angela Boord is a name the fantasy genre is going to know, if they don’t know already. She’s going to take the genre by storm and I cannot wait to read more of her work!
And now, the finalist announcements will be coming in rapid fire over this last week and then the judges will start reading all of the finalists. I can’t wait to check them out and see who is crowned winner of SPFBO 5!