Best of Summer 2019 Reading List

This year, we has our amazing book group nominate and vote on their favorite books in the categories of:
– Young Adult
– Short Stories
– Sci-Fi & Superhero
– Contemporary Fantasy
– Urban Fantasy
– Supernatural & Paranormal

Young Adult

Let’s begin by first discussing what young adult (YA) means.

This isn’t a genre targeted specifically at “kids”. Almost half of YA readers are actually over the age of 18! Generally, you can expect young adult books to have a young protagonist, and be written for a younger audience (no swearing, no explicit ‘adult’ themes, that sort of thing). Many of these books also have a coming of age tale: first love, discovering special abilities, and learning about themselves.

Now that you know a little bit about YA, let’s dive right in to the top 3 most recommended books in this genre this year!

1. Shadowspell Academy, by K.F. Breene and Shannon Mayer

You Don’t Choose The Academy. The Academy Chooses You. I had no idea how those words would change my life. Or how they’d changed my life already… Until the day the most dangerous man I’ve ever met waltzed onto my farm and left us a death sentence. In an invitation. My younger brother has been chosen for the prestigious, secret magical school hidden within the folds of our mundane world. A place so dangerous, they don’t guarantee you’ll make it out alive. If he doesn’t go our entire family will be killed. It’s the same invitation my older brother received three years ago—the same place he mysteriously died. The academy has already killed one sibling. I’ll be damned if they take another. I do the only thing an older sister can: chop off my hair, strap on two bras to flatten the girls, and take my brother’s place. Magic and monsters are real. Assassins are coming for me, and the dead are prone to rise. What’s a girl faking it as a boy supposed to do? That’s right—beat the academy at its own game. Or die trying.

2. Areion by Lela Grayce

Courage cannot exist without fear. Turning eighteen is the highlight of every teenager’s life. Or at least it is for Wendy and her twin sister DeeDee. When their adoptive parents gift them with medallions belonging to their late mother, they have no idea that their lives are about to change. Their happy day takes a deadly turn when Wendy is lured into the forest surrounding their home by a deceitful voice. Saved by an alluring, green-eyed stranger, questions are brought to light that she may not want the answers to. The girls are descendants of Gaai, a land of ancient magic. Once peaceful and thriving, is now enslaved by a powerful enemy. Though Wendy and DeeDee were sent to Earth to be raised far from the darkness that shrouds their home world, they must now return to unite their people.

3. Before the Broken Star, by Emily R. King

A fierce young female adventurer battles time itself to claim her destiny in a sweeping new fantasy saga from the author of the Hundredth Queen series. Everley Donovan is living on borrowed time. The lone survivor of her family’s unexplained assassination, she was saved by an ingeniously crafted clockwork heart. But the time she was given won’t last forever. Now, every tick-tock reminds her how fragile her existence is and hastens her quest to expose Killian Markham, the navy admiral who shattered her world and left her for dead. But Everley’s hunt for justice will be a long and hard-won voyage. Her journey takes her to a penal colony on a cursed isle, where she will be married off and charged to build the new world. It is here, and beyond, that hidden realms hide, treasures are unearthed, her family secrets are buried, and young love will test the strength of her makeshift heart. When Everley discovers Markham may not be who he seems, her pursuit for truth is bound to his redemption, her tragic history, and her astonishing destiny.

Short Stories

You’ll find fully developed themes here in this short-list of short stories!

1. The Independents, by Aaron L. Speer

A traditionally published author decides to self publish a new work in the hopes of igniting her stalled career. Despite roaring success, she uses lies and a fake author personality to build up a following. Her deceitful tactics come to the attention of The Independents, who have a message for her. One that may not stop with words on a screen…

The Bigfoot Files, by Derek Borne

WARNING: THIS SHORT STORY’S MISSIVE CONTAINS TOP-SECRET INTEL Your Mission: Suit up with the Ultimate Agent and Specialist on an off-the-books assignment to Umatilla Forest in Oregon. The Target – Bigfoot Known Aliases: Sasquatch, Yeti. Valid or Myth Status: Unconfirmed Mission Data – Confidential The Ultimate Agency’s heroes are brought in to take down a potential threat. How probable? Skeptics and believers have clashed over the existence of the Bigfoot for decades. Is it real or fake? Or perhaps it is something different than previously assumed?

3. Child of Earth by Lela Grayce

Football player, star quarterback, loyal friend…At one time Jonavon Calhoun was all of those things but now everything was a mess. His life-long friendship with Elara and Kaelyn was in shambles along with his team. Things had gone downhill so fast he hadn’t realize it until it was to late. But there was no one else to blame but himself. Trust was the easiest thing to give and the hardest thing to repair once it’s broken. It was up to him to fix his team but how do you fix something when you are guilty of the same actions? Jonavon’s desire for redemption is met with world changing revelations as an alternate world spills out at his feet. Will he waver or stand strong when a life and another world are on the line?The ground may shake, its balance altered but through it all earth never falters.

Bonus Short Story: Raven’s Hill, Lynn Mullican

Raven’s Hill, known for its history of murder, mystery and mayhem, has gained yet another owner, Serena Goodwin. Upon learning that she bought a haunted house and a private cemetery, she becomes interested in learning more about the unique occupants of the house, Asmodeus and Gisela. Serena soon makes a terrifying discovery and learns of their mysterious and dangerous love affair, a love that could endanger Serena’s life.

Sci-Fi and Superhero

We’ve grouped these two categories together because their themes often include other worlds, and both tend to include actual & imagined science. As a self-proclaimed scientist, I very much love the creativity and ideas of the books within this genre.
Sadly, we only had 2 nominations in this category this year. I think it’s time we helped people fall back in love with this genre!

1. The Ultimate Agent 2 by Derek Borne

WARNING: THIS SEQUEL’S MISSIVE IS FOR YOUR EYES ONLYYour Mission:Reconvene with The Ultimate Agent, Specialist, and their team as they uncover a threat of biblical proportions.Agent #772 – Dr. Isaiah ManningA reclusive geneticist with ground-breaking concepts and technology is recruited to the Ultimate Agency, making it possible to create endless advancements which could change the world for the better.Agent #125 – Spencer RaymondA low-key yet crucial operative for the agency is thrust into a life-changing assignment. Further details are classified.Mission Data – ConfidentialAgent Devon Bertrand and Dr. Jade Hathaway take a new step in their relationship. Due to unexpected circumstances, Dr. Brett Gallagher faces new responsibilities which may hinder his ability to protect the innocent at full capacity. Agent Valeriya Yashin and her dynamic abilities are now an invaluable part of the team. Unite with agents old and new as they fight to eradicate those responsible for terrorizing the world with unfathomable creatures.

2. Catalyst: A Superhero Urban Fantasy Thrillride (Steel City Heroes Book 1), CM Raymond & LE Barbant

How far would you go to save the city you love? A mad scientist fighting the laws of man and nature. A demon-monster of mythical proportions. A corporate conspiracy that goes back more than a century. The Steel City is in desperate need of a hero. Willa Weil has a secret—she comes from a long line of magicians trained to unlock the power hidden within poetry. This skill requires discipline, and the Guild demands obedience. Willa has long kept her power to herself, but when a molten metal creature threatens to consume her friends, she can no longer remain on the sidelines. History professor Elijah Branton moved to Pittsburgh for the job of a lifetime, researching the family history of one of the nation’s wealthiest and most attractive CEOs. But not everything is as it seems in the Steel City. The historian soon unearths a deadly conspiracy that threatens to unravel his world. Can they save their city, or will they lose themselves in the process? Catalyst is Daredevil meets The Dresden Files, a gritty and gripping superhero/urban fantasy story for the 21st century. With magic and monsters, science and secrets, Catalyst pushes readers to consider their own path and the ethical compromises we all make—heroes and villains alike. Welcome to The Steel City.

Contemporary Fantasy

I couldn’t have said this any better, so here’s how WorldsWithoutEnd explains contemporary fantasy.
“Stories set in the “real world” (often referred to as consensus reality) in contemporary times, in which, it is revealed, magic and magical creatures secretly exist, either living in the interstices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds.” -WorldsWithoutEnd

We’re also adding 4 to this category because, well, they all deserve to be here.

1. Illusionary (Minefield Enforcers Book 1), LeAnn Mason

Generations ago, a new breed of human emerged. The government, fearing these new “Enhanced,” isolated effected families into communities boasting prison-like perimeters to live in exile, safeguarding the rest of the world from the anomalies. As one of the few Enhanced humans whose gifts encompass the mental and physical spectrums, Nathalee lives a life separate from others. Even amongst those who the world segregates as potential weapons, Nat is shunned for her telepathic abilities, until she finds her opportunity to make a difference in their tiny world as an enforcer. Part of a new experimental team, Nathalee must wade through muddied mental waters if the team hopes to stop the assailant who enjoys pitting citizens against one another. Those confrontations are coming to violent, life-ruining ends for anyone involved. The suspect pool is large and powerful, but the repercussions of failure put everyone she knows and loves at risk. With so many possibilities of both suspects and victims, Nat will test the limits of her ability -and her sanity- in order to track the illusionist and stop the tyranny.

2. Fairy Tales of a Trailer Park Queen by Kimbra Swain

From Book 1: Scorned by her family. Banished by her kind. Hunted by zealots. Where does an exiled Fairy Queen hide? A remote mountain cabin, the seedy underbelly of a metropolis, or an uninhabited island. All would be good choices, however, after hundreds of years on the run, the daughter of Oberon, King of the Wild Fairies, signs a binding contract with the zealots that hunt her. In exchange, they allow her to settle down in the last place anyone would look for fairy royalty. A trailer park. Adopting the name Grace Ann Bryant, the Queen buys a double-wide and moves into a trailer park in the one-horse town of Shady Grove, Alabama. Her contract requires her to use her unique fairy magic to aid the local sheriff, Dylan Riggs, when supernatural problems arise. For a tiny human town, these events unnaturally occur all too often. When two children disappear, the humans point to the trailer park queen helping the sheriff, and the zealots point at the exiled fairy. Grace must decide whether to fight for her innocence or break her contract returning to life on the run. Bless Your Heart is a Southern Urban Fantasy that will make you laugh, cry, and laugh until you cry, as Grace wrestles with the dark fairy inside herself and starts to see that she’s more than just trailer trash. If you enjoy a smart-mouthed heroine, small-town antics, and fairy magic, you will love Bless Your Heart, the first book in Fairy Tales of a Trailer Park Queen series by Kimbra Swain.

3. Middlegame, Seanan McGuire

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story. Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet. Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own. Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained. At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

BONUS: Clara, by Suzanna J. Linton

Sold into slavery as a child, and rendered mute by the horrors she suffered, Clara’s life extends no further than the castle kitchens and their garden. Those who know about her just think of her as the dull mute girl who may be a little soft in the head, not knowing that she carries within herself a precious gift: the ability to see the future. This is a gift she keeps secret, though, for fear of persecution. However, a vision prompts her to prevent a murder, shoving her not only into the intrigues and gilded life of the nobility, but also into a civil war brewing in her country. As events unfold, and she is drawn deeper into the conflict, she meets an old friend, makes a new one, and begins to unearth secrets better left buried. Driven to learn the truth about the war, and about her friends, Clara embarks on a journey that takes her from her beloved mountains to the very Capital itself, Bertrand, where she is confronted by an evil both ancient and twisted. The only problem is, her own anger and prejudices are the catalysts her enemy needs to complete its plans. If she is not careful, not only will the entire nation be lost, but her own soul as well.

Urban Fantasy

This genre often often crosses over to include elements from paranormal, and low fantasy. Generally, though, the term urban fantasy refers to books set in urban locations, during modern times. In these books, you’ll discover secret, supernatural worlds, pop culture references, and interference from human institutions, among other modern components that make up these literary worlds.

1. Supernatural Academy, by Jaymin Eve

Maddison James is about to discover some truths about the world. Firstly … supernaturals exist. WTF? Secondly … she is one, even though no one seems to know exactly what kind. Double WTF. Thirdly … she’s about to go back to school. Well, things just got a little more interesting. The Supernatural Academy is where shifters, vampires, magic users, and fey are educated. Where they are taught about their abilities, and how to function in the human world. Maddison already has the human part down, but this supernatural thing is an entirely new dangerous game. Example one: mean girls who can actually turn you into a frog. Example two: Asher Locke, a god at the Academy. Not literally … well, who knows for sure. He certainly acts the part, as do all of his minions who worship him. Asher drives her crazy, because apparently gorgeous and arrogant is her thing. Sparks fly between them, and the more they’re thrown together, the more Asher is determined to figure out what’s been blocking her abilities.Until the moment the truth is revealed, and they find out nothing in this supernatural world is what they thought. Including each other.Supernatural Academy is 105k words, full length urban fantasy story. Recommended 17+ due to language and sex scenes.

2. Sin & Chocolate, K.F. Breene

Some people are ordained for greatness… Those people usually have a lot of drama in their life. Drama I happily do without. I live in a forgotten corner of nowhere for a reason: there is safety in anonymity. I have enough problems just trying to get by. But when Kieran, a sinfully sexy demigod at the pinnacle of power, crashes into my life, suddenly my whole world is turned upside down. He’s harboring a deadly secret, one that could destroy all he holds dear. He thinks I’m the key to his salvation, and he wants me to help him claim vengeance. He also wants me with a passion that burns my body from the inside out. To ignore him is impossible, but to give in to my desires, even for a night, would thrust me into danger I might not survive. Can I resist the temptation?

3. Three Mages and a Margarita by Annette Marie

Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig. It went downhill the moment they asked for a trial shift instead of an interview–to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete jerks, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right? I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they … offered me the job? It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here. So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course–with a pay raise.

Honorable Mentions:
Nevermore, by Dannika Dark
Trigger, by Scarlett Dawn

Supernatural & Paranormal

Last but certainly not least, here is the category for all things not human. Witches, vampires, shifters, werewolves… you name it, the list goes on and on! We seem to be in the golden age of paranormal books, and we’re loving it!

1. Shadow Chaser, by Aaron L. Speer

**Intended for 18+. Some scenes may be too intense for some readers.**
No victory comes without cost. For Alexandra Hensley, that cost was crippling. She has no time to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart as another test of courage looms; the nightmare no one saw coming. The Shadow Killer is unlike anything Alex has encountered. As vampire allies join the hunt for him, she realises the paranormal is no longer being hidden. The secret is out and spilling onto the streets. When it seems they are closing in on the killer, his true intent is discovered. There is a way to defeat him. There is always a way. But there is always a price. Time is running out and the choice must be made. What would you give up to save the person you love the most?

2. Oberon Academy, Wendy Wilson

Sometimes the ones who save us are the ones we need to fear the most.In a world where dark faeries have stepped in to save the planet from humanity’s mistakes, seventeen-year-old December Thorne is nothing but a shadow. Shunned by her peers, bullied at school, and paid a little too much attention by her sleazy foster father, she lives in constant fear and perpetual solitude.Until the day everything changed.Offered a scholarship to the prestigious Oberon Academy, December finds herself living in a whole new world. Boundless food, clean clothes, a safe place to sleep, and the potential for true friendship make her new life seem almost too good to be true—but the school has a secret.The truth is, Oberon Academy isn’t just a prep school for society’s elite. It’s a training ground for a secret race of magical beings no one knows exists. And they’re preparing for war.Filled with fear and denial, December has a choice to make. She can either return to her pathetic life with her dangerous foster parents, try to survive on her own, or make Oberon Academy her home and discover the truth about who, and what she really is. And that truth could save the world.

3. Bad Elements: Crystal Dragon, Lynn Mullican

Crystal Bouchard awakens imprisoned in an underground cell with no recollection of how she got there and with no memory of her prior existence. Held against her will, her captors threaten to kill her son unless she fights to the death in the underground fighting circuit. Nicknamed “The Dragon,” she spends the next several years among werewolves and vampires. During the course of searching for her son, she slowly begins to recollect her prior existence before her imprisonment, pushing her deeper within the fighting circuit.

That’s all folks! Please feel free to leave us a comment, or share with your books groups and friends!