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YA Fantasy

What are my top Young Adult Fantasy picks for 2023?

Adult Fantasy Recommendations

What are my top Adult Fantasy picks for 2023?

Romance Recommendations

What are my top Romance Books picks for 2023?

Other Recommendations

What other books made my top picks for 2023?

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Top Young Adult Portal Fantasy with Christmas vibes: A Beast as Dark as Night, The Winter Souls series book 4 by Jennifer Kropf

I absolutely love this fantastic ending to the Winter Souls series. Kropf masterfully brings everything together, stays true to her characters and provides us with a brilliant conclusion filled with quotable moments and food for thought.

I loved the Narnia vibes in this series. The portal fantasy aspect was so nostalgic and the Christian allegory is beautifully done. I also adored how this series starts and ends with a prayer. It's simply beautiful.

Kropf has matured as a writer over the course of this series. Her writing had always been compelling, and now it's also settled into writing with wonderful turns of phrases that comes alive in your mind. I cannot wait to see what more this wonderful author will offer us. Hopefully more set in the world of Winter

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Where did the idea for The Winter Souls series come from?

 I imagined a Christmas-themed story where a girl would come across a Jack-Frost-like Winter Guardian and go on an adventure. (Think Rise of the Guardians).

What was your proudest moment for The Winter Souls series?

I think my proudest moments have always been when readers tell me they enjoyed my books!


What inspires you to write?

My dad used to read my siblings and I The Chronicles of Narnia when we were younger. I always wanted to go on more adventures when the books were over. 

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for The Winter Souls series?

 I learned a lot about St. Nicholas while researching for this book series. It's probably why my favorite Winter character is Nicholas Saint (aka: Jolly Cheat)

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

Nicholas! (Jolly Cheat!)

What is the one takeaway from The Winter Souls series you hope stays with your reader?

There's always hope - just keep fighting. Helen Bell nearly lost hope so many times in her life, but in the end, she overcame so much and survived. 


What exciting writing project are you working on?

 I'm working on Book 2 of the High Court of the Coffee Bean series - a fun, fantasy rom com!

What was your favourite read of 2023?

 I'm currently reading Assistant to the Villain and I'm LOVING it.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

There are a lot of causes that are important to me. I've worked with, had personal connections to, or travelled with many relief organizations over the years, including the Canadian Red Cross, Global Expeditions, Youth For Christ, World Vision, Compassion Canada, Youth With A Mission, and more recently, the Baby Box Ministry in South Korea.

What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

I'd like to write more books in 2024 lol

Christmas Interview with Jennifer Kropf

YA Epic High Fantasy Romance: Scarlet Princess, Lochlann Feuds series by Robin D. Mahle and Elle Madison

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I'm overwhelmed. So many emotions. Too few words. But I'll try...

I was hooked from the very first chapter and read this so incredibly fast. I absolutely love Rowan. She's a fantastic character. Independent, protective, flippant, accountable for her actions, and absolutely outrageous. She's most definitely the sunshine to Theodore's "grumpy".

The backdrop is epic. Rowan accidentally gets trapped on the wrong side of a rockfall, which means she's in enemy territory. The feud started by her aunt, the runaway bride from an arranged marriage, became entrenched by the war that followed. Now Rowan is stuck in the lion's den with a death sentence hanging over her for smuggling.

The whole thing is so intense and the forced proximity, enemies to lovers scenario with Theo is absolutely perfectly written. It's visceral and for the first half of the book I kept wondering how they were going to get past the differences imposed by the backstory from long before either of them was born. But the authors deftly worked through all that and bring in bigger problems with the most unexpected twist at the end. Not only that, but they manage to tie off the book in a way that it's perfectly satisfying while also making me need to read the next book. It's a cliff hanger, yet not. It seems to be this author duo's modus operandi, at least for the first book in a series, as I was already impressed with how they ended their Beauty and the Beast retelling. But Scarlet Princess shows to what extent they've perfected it, because to me it really is utterly perfect.


Christmas Interview
with Robin D. Mahle and Elle Madison

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Because of the backstory, there's an added dimension to the enemies-to-lovers trope, which turns this relationship more into what I call wannabe enemies to lovers. If it weren't for the backdrop, for the expectations of their people, it's unlikely Rowan and Theodore would have been enemies. He's a decent guy and she's just crazy, the firecracker he didn't know he needed in his life. But because of social expectations, the enemies aspect is forced into the mix and it complicates this immeasurably. It's also something that still informs people's decisions to this day. How many people ignore their attraction and try to tell themselves it's impossible because of what society thinks? Especially when crossing religious, cultural and ethnic boundaries? I totally found this super relatable because who you can and can't marry according to your parents still influences many young people and I appreciate the authors for exploring something similar within the setting of their world.

Another thing that really worked for me, and is an important element in skyrocketing this book to one of my favorites, is the way cultural difference is portrayed. Through her thoughts and reactions, Rowan offers so much subtext on the known, unknown and "simply weird". It makes all the interactions between her, Theo, his brother, the council and some of the other dukes stand out and become something I totally cared about. Every time her personality and cultural differences made her misstep in the new culture was a nail biting, gut wrenching experience for me. That's awesome writing!

I look forward to getting the complete set and binging the rest of the series, because this first book is most definitely flawless and I simply have to know what will happen next.

Fairytale Retelling: The Winter Prince by Constance Lopez

This is a phenomenal Fae-centered Beauty and the Beast retelling, and it has skyrocketed to my favourite version of all time!

I was invested from the very beginning, utterly blown away by the compelling characters who sucker punched their way straight into my heart and haven't left. I absolutely adored how Lopez managed to weave in a Gaston-like character who is simultaneously nothing like Disney's version and at the same time such a brilliant echo of him. There's also a really well-written betrayal that I didn't see coming followed soon after by the most unexpected twist.

If you're looking for the perfect blend of great plot and fantastic characters with excellent world building, don't just give this book a try, check out the whole multi-author series because I've read almost all the books in this 12-volume series and I've loved all but one of them. They really are excellent novels and refreshing fairytale retellings! The Winter Prince is my personal favourite, a highly compelling read I simply couldn't put down!

Where did the idea for Scarlet Princess come from?

 When we completed our first official series as coauthors, we wondered, "What happens to the next generation?" So many pieces of the first generation's lives were planned out for them which, without spoiling that series, led to some desperate actions not only by the main characters in The Lochlann Treaty, but many of their peers. The Lochlann world is so different by the time we meet Rowan, her siblings, and her cousins in Scarlet Princess and the rest of The Lochlann Feuds series. Their parents wanted to do things differently, and now the next generation has grown up and we see the consequences. More specifically, Robin had one scene in her mind of a reckless, red-headed princess trying a stunt with her horse and falling, and a super schmexy Socairan man leaning against a tree saying, “I see what they say about you is true."

What was your proudest moment for Scarlet Princess?

 We're going to pick something that might sound silly, but has a lot behind it and go with "weather toe" because we needed something to rationalize Rowan's uncanny ability to know when a storm is imminent. She's in enemy territory, on the road, and there's no logical reason for her to look out at the beautiful sky and know, without a doubt, that a massive storm is just around the corner and they need to take shelter early...this enemy country doesn't have the best record with women who publicly express their opinion and they'll be thinking she's a little ridiculous, so, in a moment of panic, she comes up with something ridiculous: she has a "weather toe" that acts up when a storm is coming. And it's never wrong. All of that to say, we are proudest when we can blend romance and fantasy and humor in a way that’s relatable to our readers and gives them the escape we would want!

What inspires you to write?

 A few things. First and foremost, our readers. They mean the world to us and their love for our characters and stories is incredible! We take inspiration from different places, time periods, fairytales, anime, classics, and more. We love stories, and it's truly amazing to be able to write together!

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Scarlet Princess?

 How effective and practical a particular type of print in the snow would be to judge. (You sit on this body part, if you're curious!)

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

 We had a blast, especially as the series continues, writing interactions between Rowan, who speaks her mind, and the men, in particular the guards, of Socair (the enemy country). There are times where Rowan is out of her element with Socairan customs, such as sauna etiquette, where she's the one blushing, but she brings out the playful side of these men who come off as stuffy and stiff. These were so much fun!

What is the one takeaway from Scarlet Princess you hope stays with your reader?

 That you don’t have to be perfect to get your happily ever after!

What exciting writing project are you working on?

 We just wrapped up Rowan's cousin's story! The Lochlann Deception follows Davin's journey after going with Rowan to Socair in Scarlet Princess and, as the spymaster, the political intrigue in this story was so much fun to play with. No, we're drafting Of Elves and Embers, which is a standalone epic fantasy romance story in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. OEAE is loosely based on Hades and Persephone with fated mates, enemies-to-lovers, and only one bed. There are a few standalone stories from this series already out, and we're loving them!

What was your favourite read of 2023?

 Divine Rivals! 

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

 The fight against human-trafficking is incredibly important to us and that’s why we chose to focus on that issue in Twisted Pages.

What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

We don’t have a Christmas wish, but we’re hoping the new year brings us a lot more time with our families and characters who are half as difficult XD

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Christmas interview with Constance Lopez

Where did the idea for The Winter Prince come from?

 A friend of mine and I had a discussion about Beauty and the Beast, and I said how I loved the idea of a BATB retelling more focused on the Beast than the Beauty. It fit right in with the story she was writing at the time that focused more on the prince than the princess in her story, and thus the conversation both prompted The Winter Prince, AND the Once Upon A Prince series as a whole!

What was your proudest moment for The Winter Prince?

  Hmmm. Like what scene am I most proud of? I think the rabbit scene. That one was really FUN to write, and it has done exactly what I wanted it to, based on reader reactions. I love how it shows the characters softening to each other, and how it's both a little bit funny and sweet.

What inspires you to write?

 I love writing because I want to create stories that inspire, encourage, and entertain others, just like all the stories I've read throughout my life do for me. 

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for The Winter Prince?

That fairy tales are weird. 😂 I read all of the original Beauty and the Beasts as part of my research for this story, and it was fascinating to see all the variations. My favorite aspect(and one that worked its way into my retelling) was the dreams. Several of the original stories had someone--sometimes the prince, sometimes someone else--appear to the Beauty character in her dreams and warn her or hint at the curse she was supposed to be breaking.


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

 Enlo was a new sort of character for me. Getting his character right was a bit tricky, but I've never written someone quite so morally grey as him, so that was a fun challenge.

What is the one takeaway from The Winter Prince you hope stays with your reader?

 The theme, I hope! I'll let this quote from Kienna speak for itself: "You are more than what you look like. You are who you choose to be." 

What exciting writing project are you working on?

 I'm writing the third book (Of Tides and Treason) of my main series (The Kasmian Chronicles). The main character is a bit like Enlo, so I'm having a lot of fun so far!

What was your favourite read of 2023?

 This is really hard. One of my favorites is Deathmark by Kate Stradling. It's a fantasy retelling of LM Montgomery's The Blue Castle, and it's cozy and deep and rich, and I ADORE it. 

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

 This may not be the most exciting answer, but it's important to me that I have the freedom to raise and educate my children myself instead of sending them to a school where I don't have much say in how or what they're being taught. I homeschool so that I can meet my kids' needs in the best way for them, instead of them being stuck in a classroom with a teacher who has a ton of other kids to teach as well(I want to add the caveat that I know and respect MANY teachers, and they're some of the most incredible, under-appreciated people in the world. Teachers are not what I dislike about the American school system.). 

I am, at my core, a mother, and outside of my writing/books, I try to focus on the good I can do in the home, because I truly believe that raising vibrant, kind, compassionate children will have a bigger impact on the future than even I can truly know right now.

What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

That I can continue on as I have been: writing books, spending time with my family, and hanging out with my amazing community of friends, both virtual and local.

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Reverse Portal: The Tenets in the Tattoos by Becky James

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A great reverse portal fantasy, when the character from an invented world comes to Earth, is very rare indeed, and I absolutely loved this one! The plot is incredibly fast-paced with very well-placed twists I never saw coming. The balance between characterisation, plot, and world-building is flawless! I really loved every minute of this heart-stopping story.

Then there's Thorrn, the arrogant but loyal MMC who gets a whole bucketload of learning done. I really love how he isn't able to see betrayal coming, even when others warn him of it, because since Thorrn is so loyal to his friends, how could they possibly not hold the same level of loyalty to him? Thorrn's experiences on Earth were not only believable but also cringe-worthily unexpected with some really funny moments.

I'm definitely invested in reading the rest of this series and cannot wait to revisit all the amazing characters.

Where did the idea for The Tenets in the Tattoos come from?

When I was on holiday with my family on a barge when I was younger, I imagined the world of Oberrot and these people having platonic soul mates, someone who was an instant best friend but would challenge you to be your best self. I am lucky enough to have one in my best friend, and I wanted the same for everyone! Thorrn himself strode into my life a few years after my son was born, demanding to be written and then insisting he get published. I couldn't stand against him for long and he's been out and about since 2021, making new friends and enemies with readers ever since!

What was your proudest moment for The Tenets in the Tattoos?

Making the "best of" lists of bloggers I really admire (like The Magic Book Corner) and yourself. I tried so hard with this story, pouring my heart into it and more than a touch of my own personality, so to see people love it as much as me really makes my day. Plus, The Magic Book Corner makes "Made it with books" and she made my cover art! I was super impressed.

What inspires you to write?

 I have all these stories in my head all the time. I've been writing since primary school and my stories used to be read out in assemblies. Teachers were certain I'd be a writer. However, science is another love of mine so I decided to pursue a STEM career with creative writing as my outlet. You do have to think creatively and persuasively in my field of work (environmental science) so it's a fantastic marriage of skills!

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for The Tenets in the Tattoos?

 I have to cast my mind back a bit. I remember for The Limit of the Lonely Man, book 3, I had to research strangling... I actually asked a Facebook group of doctors what the effects of that would be! The most coincidental / random fact was the Rhomda plant which features as Thorrn's newest tattoo, which is based very much on the sea holly for it's looks - spiky and cool looking, right? Well, my bestie pointed out that sea holly actually was used as an aphrodiasic. How coincidental indeed!


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

 Aubin. Every single time. He steals every scene he's in.

What is the one takeaway from The Tenets in the Tattoos you hope stays with your reader?

 That other people's actions and decisions are not your fault. It's how you react to them that matters.


What exciting writing project are you working on?

A prequel series to help introduce readers to some of the most divisive characters I've ever written. Readers either love them or hate them! They are travellers of the Crossworlds, all the myriad realms and times between Earth and Oberrot, and the series is a mixture of science and fantasy, just like me. It's Dr Who meets the Witcher in terms of vibes, so stay tuned for this series coming out soon.

What was your favourite read of 2023?

 I did a lot of beta reading in 2023, I love supporting my author pals. I read from Sierra Knoxly, Alora Carter, Liz Delton and yourself, and if I miss anyone, I'm sorry, I do love you too, promise. I love beta reading and offering my thoughts on someone's heart story, I recommend it to anyone who wants to take a step closer to how a novel ends up the polished, tear jerking and heart mending mass of words you know and love.


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

 I have dedicated my career and life to mitigating and adapting to climate change. It's what I work on every single day, and then escape off to Oberrot in the evenings. 

What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

I always hold in my heart a wish for peace on Earth, and I particularly remember the Christmas Day Truce in 1914 as an example of how, at the heart, we are all just human and precious. 

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This book has so many layers and the way they unfold is absolutely beautiful. I loved every moment of it!

I've read only one other book with a similar premise and it turns out it's one I really like. Although I've loved Astrid Lindgren's Brothers Lionheart for a long time and it will always have a special place in my heart, I feel Katz has taken the idea and dealt with it even more brilliantly. It is a difficult way of doing portal fantasy and I appreciate how sensitive this author was in breaking the news of the final twist to the reader.

I'm also in awe of this author's world-building. I really enjoyed it in Night's Reign, but I think the author has built something even more amazing with the additions that come in this book. I love the gritty feel as well as all the cultures and there's definitely a lot of work that's gone into it. The multiverse aspect that comes into the picture with this book is great fun and adds another of those amazing layers I wasn't expecting.

However, what I love best are the characters. They are so real. And I appreciate the way the author represents difference and disabilities. It is clear this is a subject close to the author's heart and it comes across with poignance and strength. Where many would see such things as a person's weaknesses, but for Katz it is just how people are. And that is brilliant. It adds so much to the characterisation.

I highly recommend this book and look forward to see what this author will do next.

Adult Fantasy

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Christmas Interview with Daan Katz

Where did the idea for Death and the Maiden come from?

I started writing Death and the Maiden many years ago, and frankly, I had no idea where the story came from or where it was going. Just that Alysia was there, in a strange world, and not at all happy.

Then something happened in real life that closely mirrored one of Alysia's earliest experiences on Fer. It unnerved me so much, I had to stop writing her story. When I finally came back to it, after I'd finished my first draft of "Night's Reign", the story practically wrote itself.

What was your proudest moment for Death and the Maiden?

 I’m not really proud of my writing accomplishments. I just write because that’s how I roll (pun fully intended). It makes me happy and gives me a sense of fulfilment. But pride? Why should I be proud of something that comes to me so naturally?

What inspires you to write?

 Life. Life gives me everything I need to be able to write. Ups and downs, learning moments, joy, grief… it’s all there. All I have to do is use it in my stories.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Death and the Maiden?

Would you be terribly surprised if I told you I did very little research? Life had already given me most of the knowledge I needed. In my stories, I typically draw on my own experiences and those of people close to me.


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

 Alysia. Hands-down. She’s such a rich character, and although I know not everyone likes her—in fact, one reviewer called her “one of the worst Karens I’ve read”—I love her because she is so real. Of course, she’s grumpy and short-tempered. An of course, she's unreasonable. She’s suffering from a major depression. You can’t expect her to be a ray of sunshine. Not in her condition.

What is the one takeaway from Death and the Maiden you hope stays with your reader?

That depression—real, clinical depression—is an awful condition that can turn the nicest people into the worst versions of themselves. But also that, even in the darkest times, there’s always hope.

I’ve been at the bottom of that pit myself. Not once, but several times, and it’s awful. You feel lonely, worthless, guilty for existing at all, and heaven knows what else. You may even feel like the only way out is death. But those are all lies the depression is telling you. There is always hope, even when you can’t see it.

What exciting writing project are you working on?

 I am currently adding the finishing touches to my upcoming novella “Dies Iræ: Revenge of a Reject”, which will be published early next year. The expected release date is 24 March, 2024.

What was your favourite read of 2023?

 That’s a tough choice, as I read quite a few really good books, but if I had to pick one: "Katarina’s Dark Journey", by MJ Krause Chivers. This historical novel follows the journey of a 17-year-old Mennonite woman during the Russian Revolution. It’s a truly compelling tale, and unfortunately, very relevant today.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

 Inclusivity and accessibility. As a wheelchair user, diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and autism, I know first-hand how many obstacles society still puts in our way. People are not intentionally putting up barriers for us; they are simply unaware of the lack of accessibility. I want to help create awareness through my writing.

What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

I don’t celebrate Christmas, but if I did, I’d probably wish for a more inclusive society. It’s a modest wish that would mean a lot to many people around the world.

Historical Fantasy Romance: Reign & Ruin, Mages of the Wheel series by JD Evans

This book is absolutely amazing. The historical fantasy is so well done and I absolutely adore the Middle Eastern setting. The diverse cast had me immersed from the first chapter and I'm deeply moved by the author's inclusion of dementia as an integral part of the story. It is the very first time I've found this kind of representation in a fantasy novel!

I rooted for Naime and Makrem from the start. Both are incredibly well-written characters and they compliment each other perfectly. They are very definitely a power couple I can get behind. The "opposites attract", "different worlds", "impossible love", "slow burn", "forced proximity" romance is incredibly well done.

The magic system is very well thought out. I really love the focus on harmony and working together being key for the magic to work. It's a wonderful concept and with all the prejudice and politics added in, this story becomes utterly compelling. I simply couldn't put it down.

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Where did the idea for Mages of the Wheel series come from?

 Years ago I read a book called the Book of Fires by Jane Borodale. There is the barest hint of romance in that book, though overall its fairly gritty. So I essentially wrote a fanfiction because I liked the idea of this girl arriving in a city, a bit of a country bumpkin, and having to deal with this broody, standoffish guy. She has to deal with court politics and this guy's cousin, who is a princess. Anyone that has read my books will recognize this as the basic plot of Ice & Ivy - my fourth book. When I decided I was going to go ahead and publish indie, I created a whole series around that one story, pulling in other stories I had the skeletons of. Then I created a magic system around it and placed it in a setting I was in love with - the Levant.

What was your proudest moment for Mages of the Wheel series?

  Winning SPFBO 7 - though I'm still convinced I shouldn't have.

What inspires you to write?

  Love. How it represents hope, and that people can find the best in themselves to meet another person halfway.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Mages of the Wheel series?

  In Turkey, they love animals, and they take really good care of stray cats and dogs. They even have bricks in the streets that are hollowed out to allow water to collect to make sure creatures have a place to drink.

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

 Aysel. She's my one female sword wielder, and she's very sarcastic, and her and her brother's banter was so fun.


What is the one takeaway from Mages of the Wheel series you hope stays with your reader?

  I wanted to write a series with women who were...not men. I wanted to highlight traits that are generally considered "feminine" and "weaker" in the Western world, and show them for what they are. Strength. I wanted to show that without intelligence, social intelligence, emotional intelligence, love of family, gentleness, kindness, andcommunity, we are weaker, and unbalanced.

What exciting writing project are you working on?

 I have two main books left in the series, plus at least one novella. 

What was your favourite read of 2023?

 Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim. A brilliant and beautiful retelling of one of my favorite fairytales - The Six Swans.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

  Palestine. This is the Palestinian Children's Relief fund:

What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

To be of use in the world. To make a real, tangible difference for at least one person.

Adult Portal Fantasy Standalone: Death and the Maiden by Daan Katz

Christmas Interview with JD Evans

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Adult Urban Portal Fantasy (with steamy romance):
Synced, Gilded Blood series by Rachel Rener

A wonderful conclusion to a fantastic series. Most refreshing for me is the Jewish representation. I absolutely love Talia and her mother and how rich their conversations are in terms of just providing cultural subtext. As an anthropologist, that was particularly gratifying.

I also adore the strong humanist focus for this final book and the resolution really hit the spot. I loved every moment of Talia and Zayn figuring out what would be best for Fae and love that it's not to keep the status quo.

This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite fantasy series.


Christmas Interview with Rachel Rener

Where did the idea for Gilded Blood series come from?

 I had just finished writing The Lightning Conjurer series, the fourth book of which features an ensemble cast of 6. Two of the characters in particular, Eileen and Ori, were so much fun to write. Eileen was spunky, had no filter, and a wonderful sense of humor. Same with Ori, who was Jewish (as am I). While writing their chapters, I so enjoyed being able to tap into my sense of humor, nerdiness, ADHD quirks, and even my cultural roots. So when it came time to write a new series, I was so excited to feature Talia, a Jewish tattoo artist living in Miami with a humorous outlook on life and shared Jewish roots. I was also excited to feature a smoldering incubus boss, tattoo magic, and a fae realm that was as colorful as it was dangerous.

What was your proudest moment for Gilded Blood series?

  Inked just won The BookFest gold medal award for best Women's Fantasy and will be featured in Time's Square this week. I am positively chuffed! 

What inspires you to write?

  My mind, which has the constant zoomies. My immense gratitude to be able to work full-time doing something that is both challenging and extremely rewarding. And, most importantly, my wonderful readers. 

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Gilded Blood series?

  Gold blood (a.k.a. RH-null, a.k.a. antigen-free blood) actually exists! It was the entire basis for the magic system and Talia's unique lineage.

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

  Talia was a hoot but both her Jewish mother, who called at ALL the wrong moments, plus "Biscuit," her tattoo-come-to-life parrot sidekick, stole every scene they were in. In fact, the Gilded Blood series is currently nominated for the Ink Awards in five categories, including Best Side Character MVP!

What is the one takeaway from Gilded Blood series series you hope stays with your reader?

  Love and empathy need not be limited by color, label, race, or creed. And bodily autonomy & consent, even (especially!) for a creature such as an incubus, is so incredibly important to obtain and respect.

What exciting writing project are you working on?

  I'm currently working on a brand-new, super exciting series that features mineral magic and a neurospicy FMC! :)

What was your favourite read of 2023?

  To many to list, but I devoured books from authors JA Andrews, J.D. Evans, David Green, Annette Marie, and Elizabeth Briggs. 


What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

To finish another series in 2024, to push the boundaries of my writing, to see my books in more physical bookstores, and to be a positive rolemodel in the publishing world.

Adult Deadly Games (no romance):
Sedendum by Bekah Berge

The concept is truly amazing and I was invested in the characters from the get-go. Now, that's saying something since I didn't find any of the characters sympathetic. They are incredibly well written and their struggles, fears and hopes are so relatable even as they are all immensely flawed individuals.

The stakes are also incredibly high. Considering the seven players are up against the Trickster, god of death, it's no surprise no one's survived Sedendum before. And then Berge comes with a sucker-punch ending that was utterly unexpected and simply awe-inspiring.

I loved the American Gods vibes of this book and highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for something Gaiman-level different in their fantasy reads.


Christmas Interview with Bekah Berge

Where did the idea for Sedendum come from?

 The initial idea for Sedendum came to me many, many years ago when I was working as a cashier at a fancy natural foods store. I was bagging groceries for a group of very wealthy ladies who were dressed nearly head to toe in designer clothes and jewelry. They were talking about how frustrating it was that despite expensive surgeries and botox, they were still showing signs of getting older. They kept talking about how unfair it was and how they just wanted their youth back. And it made me wonder...what would these ladies be willing to do or sacrifice to have their youth returned to them? How far would they go? From this question, the game of Sedendum was born.

What was your proudest moment for Sedendum?

 My proudest moment was probably publication day. I worked hard on the story and spent a lot of time with each of the characters. So being able to share it with others was really wonderful.   

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Sedendum?

 So I knew that I wanted the entrance to hell (the Harvest of Noddaba) to be, at first glance, an optical illusion. Everything about Sedendum is designed to make the characters' question their perception of reality. During my research, I found "the devil's bridge" (which was absolutely perfect) in Kromlau, Germany. The bridge makes a perfect circle with its reflection in the water below and I thought, now that's a doorway the Trickster would appreciate.  


Which character did you have the most fun writing?
 I really enjoyed writing Mai, but being able to dive into a somewhat unhinged mind with Solina was a lot of fun. Solina consistently makes selfish choices, and that was exciting to write. She's stubborn and vindictive, cruel in a lot of ways, and there was a wildness to her that I found intriguing to explore in the story. 


What is the one takeaway from Sedendum you hope stays with your reader?

 Greed will never satisfy you. Be grateful for what you have. 


What was your favourite read of 2023?

  My favorite read of 2023 was Crying in H Mart. 


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

 A cause that's very close to me and something I care deeply about is spreading awareness when it comes to CRPS. I think the work that the CRPS Warriors Foundation and The Spero Clinic are doing is truly life-changing. CRPS is an incurable disease that has destroyed so many lives, but there is hope out there for relief and even remission.  


What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

My Christmas wish is to have a wonderful time with family for the holidays. 

Anchor 3

My Beautiful Dangerous by Laila Amlani

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Romance  Recommendations:

This is a truly amazing read with compelling characters who actually surprised me, a plot that kept me on the edge of my seat, and laugh-out-loud funny moments that offered the perfect balance to all the intensity. I blazed through this novel, absolutely bowled away by Jasmine and Chase, the brilliant way their intense attraction is portrayed, and the way their relationship unfolds. The characters backstories added so much to the plot and definitely gave me some nail-biting moments.

This is a well-thought-out steamy contemporary romance with a spunky and highly intelligent FMC and an adorable, yet misguided, MMC. I loved every moment of this read, laughed, gasped, and got all teary eyed, but best of all, there are some twists at the end that totally blew me away. This is definitely one of my favourite reads of 2023.


Christmas Interview with
Laila Amlani

Where did the idea for My Beautiful Dangerous come from?

As a nerdy person by nature, I started thinking about how much fun it would be if I were a genius world-class hacker (I'm not anywhere close). The more I played with it in my head, the more it shaped into a story about redemption, and how our trauma deceives us regardless of how talented we are. Add in tidbits about my crazy family, some attitude, my dream man, and the book was born. Now if only putting my perfect man on paper would manifest him. :-)


What was your proudest moment for My Beautiful Dangerous?

I never told anyone I was writing it and had zero intention of publishing. It was merely a hobby to unwind and have some fun with the what-if's in my head. When I finished, I let a few people read it, and they convinced me to go for it. My proudest moment came when the reviews started coming in, and people actually liked it. They felt something. They identified with my characters. They laughed, cried, and wanted more. I couldn't ask for a better reception for my first book.


What inspires you to write?

 As a rebel by nature, I love any endeavor where no one can tell me what to do. I work on software all day long which can be creative, but still constrained by rules and corporate America. When writing, I am free. I'm able to explore my interests and work out my issues. It's like cheap therapy. If someone ticks me off, I can loosely write an inspired version of them into a story then do whatever I want to them. LOL. It's just me, my imagination, and my characters, and we're allowed to get as unapologetically crazy as the story takes us.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for My Beautiful Dangerous?

I started going down the rabbit hole when it came to hacking, but the weirdest fact I learned: if you throw copper in fire, it turns the flames bright green. The resulting copper oxide is black and insoluble in water. Go figure. Chemistry was never my strong suit. 


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

​I loved writing both Jasmine and Chase and the banter between them, but I have to choose Jasmine. I gave her my sarcastic sense of humor which had me giggling like an idiot while writing her thoughts. But beyond that, she is an intelligent badass who simultaneously is so broken by her past, she's her own worst enemy. Something I believe we can all relate to. She had me laughing, cheering, crying, and screaming.


What is the one takeaway from My Beautiful Dangerous you hope stays with your reader?

 I want them to feel invested, entertained, and fulfilled. That the precious time they chose to spend with my book was worth it. I also hope they went through a gamut of emotions including surprise at the plot twists (especially the epilogue). I love feedback from readers telling me they did not see it coming and how they felt about it.

What exciting writing project are you working on?

I haven't had much time to write this year, but I am working on another standalone set in the same tech world. We may see some characters from My Beautiful Dangerous pop in for a cameo. I love them too much to let them fade away.


What was your favourite read of 2023?

Perfect Strangers by J.T. Geissinger - Talk about a plot twist! I like to think I can guess most twists in books or shows, but she schooled me with this one :-)


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

Animals. Particularly dogs. I have worked with multiple dog rescues to foster and adopt, and I can't imagine my home without them. One of my favorite sayings is: Without my dogs, my house would be clean, my wallet would be full, but my heart would be empty. 


What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

It would be an honor to have so many people reading my book(s) that I can eventually become a full-time author.

Anchor 4

Historical Fiction with an alternative history twist: Healer's Blade by Kyrie Wang

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This is the best historical fiction novel I've read in a long time. I love how this author's style and the small tweaks to actual history match the feel of Stevenson's and Dumas's books.

The Healer's Blade is set in England a few years after the Norman invasion and offers a compelling, fast-paced, action-filled adventure where a young woman navigates the complex shifting of the time while trying to stay true to herself. Who is her enemy? Who is her friend? The answers to that can change from day to day because of the political shifts, but also because she learns to tell who's doing what is right, rather than just letting the knights and their lords decide the matter based on where she lives.

If you don't mind historical fiction taking liberties with history within the scope of plausibility, I can highly recommend this amazing read.

Where did the idea for Healer’s Blade come from?

I trace the inspiration for my ordinary peasant protagonist, Aliwyn, to the true story of Flight United 93. On September 11, 2001, the civilians onboard this ill-fated plane resisted its hijackers with little more than boiling water and food carts. They crash-landed the plane in an abandoned strip mine instead of the terrorists’ intended target, which may have been the United States Capitol. None of the passengers survived.


Their story still has me at the edge of my seat and pulls at my heartstrings. I wanted to embody their heroism and perseverance in the form of an ordinary peasant who finds extraordinary courage to save her country. I hope to inspire readers to find the strength to stand up for their beliefs.

What was your proudest moment for Healer’s Blade?

Healer’s Blade was initially published as Forbidden Ties in March 2022. I was clueless about publishing and hired a vanity press called Tellwell. I didn’t comprehend I’d have no access to my book on the Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard. Marketing was impossible. The book launch of Forbidden Ties was a complete flop. I was devastated, with thousands of dollars lost to Tellwell and no prospect of selling anything.


Forbidden Ties also ended on a massive cliffhanger, which many readers didn’t appreciate. I felt like an idiot and was ready to give up being an author.


Then I remembered what my book stood for- finding courage when all hope seemed lost. After months of wrestling with myself, I unpublished Forbidden Ties. I rewrote my manuscript from start to finish in the summer of 2022 and lengthened it by about 30%. I also read about the craft of storytelling and applied my new knowledge. It took me a year to rewrite, edit, learn marketing, and launch my book while working as a physician. Many amazing readers and authors helped me along the way, and I couldn’t have done it without them.


The day I finally relaunched Healer’s Blade as the Hottest New Release in multiple categories is my proudest moment for this book!

What inspires you to write?

Kind of a strange answer, but the theme and plot elements of Healer’s Blade stem from the many police reports I read in the forensics autopsy suite. 


I realized many tragedies could’ve been prevented had someone spoken to the perpetrator or intervened even minutes before a fatal accident. In Healer’s Blade, Aliwyn confronts her supposed enemy not with violence but (eventually!) with an openness to understand his cause. She saves many lives in the series because of her courage. In addition, people at the right time and place save all the children in my stories. It was incredibly therapeutic for me to rewrite the ending of some of the victims I saw in my forensics rotation.


My knowledge as a physician also influenced the plot. I love weaving in medical conundrums and setting up my protagonist, a medieval healer, with just enough knowledge to solve them.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Healer’s Blade?

China manufactured gunpowder weapons, such as proto-bombs and flaming arrows, by the thousands in the 11th century. The Silk Road also connected China with Italy, which the Normans in England had access to. However, “gunpowder” was not recorded in England until AD 1267, in a work called the Opus Majus by Roger Bacon.


Why did it take two hundred years for gunpowder to reach England? The historical record is silent. I chose to explore what may have happened if gunpowder had entered England shortly after the Vikings Age, during the reign of William the Conqueror.


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

Zelrin! He’s a teen of Danish descent who grew up in England but lost his parents during a previous rebellion against William the Conqueror. Zelrin was completely unplanned in my original vision for the book, but I created him because my male lead, Toby, needed friends. Sarcastic, outspoken, but also tender-hearted (he won’t admit that), Zelrin adds humor to my otherwise suspenseful plot.


What is the one takeaway from Healer’s Blade you hope stays with your reader?

There is a sentence that several of my readers have quoted in their reviews. I’m so touched by this because it’s also the theme of Healer’s Blade: 


“Under different conditions, her enemies could have been her friends, and her friends could have been her enemies.”


I hope to encourage readers to explore the motivations behind people they find difficult, and to seek genuine understanding before deciding on judgment. 

What exciting writing project are you working on?

Two, actually! The Thief’s Keeper (An Enemy’s Keeper Prequel), will be back from my editor this month, and I plan to release the book in March 2024. It’ll be free for all my newsletter subscribers!

I’m also working on Traitor’s Heart (Enemy’s Keeper Book 2) and hoping to release it in early autumn 2024. 


What was your favourite read of 2023?

The War at Sea, a romantasy novel by Laurie Bowler. The author crafted such a perfect blend of nail-biting suspense, well-rounded characters, and (of course) clean romance! I also learned a lot about Greek gods, which was a bonus.


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

 I’m passionate about preserving the planet for my daughter and other children who will inherit it. My family eats whole-food, plant-based and strives to be zero-waste. We compost everything possible and buy Terracycle Zero Waste boxes to recycle plastic packaging and other difficult-to-recycle items, like broken toys. I’ve never owned a car and bike all winter in snowboarding gear. If the snow still needs to be cleared, I take the metro (what a subway is called in Montreal).

What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

I wish the unlimited public school teachers’ strike in Quebec would end. School has been canceled for over 300,000 students since November 23 and there’s no end in sight. I really bonded with my daughter while homeschooling, but she misses her classmates, and I’ve had to put my writing on hold.

Christmas Interview with
Kyrie Wang

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Literary Fiction: Life Boat by L.R. Eckley

This book totally blew me away. Everything about it makes you think about the meaning of life and the power of hope. Life Boat is a deep exploration of grief and how it keeps us trapped in a cycle of depression that leaves us in a monochrome world where nothing feels like it has any meaning. But to keep on living, we need a life boat. We need something to keep going for. Knowing what that is can be incredibly hard, it can seem almost impossible to find, but it will come to us in time, even if it's in hindsight.

When we're struggling with grief, those around us, our support network, are most important. The life boat is often among those. As someone who has been a life boat for others and also had times where I needed a life boat myself, I want to reiterate the importance of the message in this book. It's never too late. It's never something we have to bear on our own. There is always someone who can lend an ear, if only to listen. This book is so powerful in that it shows both the power of having a life boat in times of grief and what can happen to a mind that doesn't have a life boat or believes there isn't one.

The twists keep coming and I enjoyed all the guessing games that kept me at the edge of my seat. I absolutely loved how Eckley brings it all together at the end. It is an unexpected and delightful read, and I highly recommend it.

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Christmas Interview with L.R. Eckley

Where did the idea for Life Boat come from?

 The idea for Life Boat was born shortly after a sailboat excursion I took about 5 years ago.  The trip did not go at all as planned, and in many ways was downright miserable.  At the same time, however, it was a very profound and inspirational experience, and it sparked the idea for my second novel.

What was your proudest moment for Life Boat?

I would have to say my proudest moment in writing this book came during the editing experience.  My storyline editor made a few suggestions, one of which would have a significant impact on the timeline, flow, and perspective that the story was told in.  At first, it was admittedly a daunting recommendation to consider.  In the end, I accepted that my editor was correct.  It was absolutely the right advice, and I’m convinced the book is much better for having made the changes.  I think sometimes it’s tough for an author to admit/accept that their work is flawed, so I’m proud that I didn’t let my ego get in the way of releasing a better, more reader-friendly, story. 

What inspires you to write?

I get inspired by many things, including Mother Nature, the psychology of humans, and a general fascination of the world we live in.  Above all, however, my children inspire me.  The themes and messages in my writing are ones that I hope my sons and daughter will live their lives by.  

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Life Boat?

 I love this question, and there were plenty of those random facts that I learned.  I recall one in particular about shivering and hypothermia.  In the early stages of hypothermia, shivering occurs as the body’s way of increasing the rate of heat production.  Eventually, however, as hypothermia progresses, the body stops shivering in an attempt to conserve energy.  Essentially, if you’re in a dangerously cold situation, shivering is actually a good sign.  It’s when you stop shivering that you’re in some seriously deep shit!

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

 I would have to say Lucie was my favorite character to write.  Lucie’s character allowed me to pay homage to my only daughter, and  also enabled me to step out of my comfort zone.  Developing a character whose age and gender I don’t naturally relate to was both challenging and rewarding at the same time.

What is the one takeaway from Life Boat you hope stays with your reader?

 I hope the reader finishes Life Boat with a sense of positivity.  The primary message in Life Boat is that despite the very difficult times we all experience in life, and even in our darkest moments, a brighter future exists as long as we persevere and maintain hope.  

What exciting writing project are you working on?

 In the near future, I plan to re-release my first novel, God’s Country.  After that, I’ll be working on my third novel, another work of fiction.  Without giving away too much, my research for the book will include a summit attempt of Mt Kilimanjaro in early 2025.

What was your favourite read of 2023?

 Hmmm, this may be the toughest question of this interview.  I read several really good ones, but I think my favorites in 2023 were The Psychotic Son, by Deborah Dobbs, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, and A Sea of Blood and Tears, by J.K. Divia.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

 There are so many important causes in today’s world, and I empathize with a lot of them.  This is a broad-brush answer, but I think mental health and physical health are the two I constantly strive to achieve for myself and my family. 


What is your 2023 Christmas wish for yourself?

As cliche as it might sound, my Christmas wish for myself is to simply live in the moment, be present, and enjoy the simple pleasures that come with spending time with family and friends.

My top reading recommendations of all time

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