The C.K. Beggan Bookish Blog

The C.K. Beggan Bookish Blog

Welcome to The C.K. Beggan Bookish Blog! If you’re looking for your next read, titles are listed alphabetically and divided by indie and traditional publishing. (If you look closely enough, you may even find some non-fantasy books.) And while you’re here, don’t forget to check out the author interviews and special features, which include book lists by theme!

Independently Published Books: C.K. Beggan‘s Indie Book Spotlight

Fiction

Reviews of the best (and my favorite) fantasy and speculative fiction novels I’ve come across so far, all by indie authors.

Nonfiction

Traditionally Published Books: Reviews of All My Favs

My favorite books in the fantasy, noir, literary and speculative fiction genres that have been released by traditional publishers.

Author Interviews: One Author to Another

A new category! In which I do my best to pose thoughtful questions to some of my favorite indie authors.

Chesney Infalt, June 3, 2022 – 10 Questions with Chesney Infalt, author of The Fox and the Briar

Anna Velfman, April 15, 2022 – 10 Questions with author Anna Velfman (Snowblind)

Andrew Einspruch, May 25, 2021 – Questions with the hilarious, award-winning author of The Light Bearer

Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince, April 10, 2021 – Questions with the co-authors of An Enchantment of Thorns

Special Features: Authors, Books and Writing

From Ask an Indie Author to trivia to Book Lists, find blog posts featuring by topic, writing tips andIndie Author Spotlights.

Rise of the Fire Queen is here! (Book News) – live 8/7/22)

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott – How I make my book covers shine on social media? (7/15/22)

Indie Author Spotlight: Anthea Sharp – June 2022

Six of Crows month content (June 2022)

8 Fantasy Books with Delicious Cliffhanger Endings (Including Six of Crows)

9 Fantastic quotes from the Six of Crows duology

10 Books to read after Six of Crows

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerdan heist level character hangover

Trivia: Do You Know Kaz Brekker?

Trivia: How well do you know Six of Crows?

Trivia: How well do you know the Six of Crows duology characters?

From Storm and Shadow cover reveal! – 5/30/22

16+ Awesome Asian-Inspired Fantasy Worlds – 5/27/22 – A book list with settings from the Middle East to the Pacific Islands

Weaver cover reveal! – 5/10/22

Vow of the Shadow King cover reveal – 5/4/22

A Throne of Shadows Cover reveal! – 4/28/22

A Darkness at the Door cover reveal – 4/22/22 – in which I discuss the Dauntless Path series and reveal the fabulous cover

Retellings to Thrill Any Fantasy Reader – A complete list of fairy tale and classic book retellings I’ve reviewed on the blog

Supporting Diversity in Fantasy – A mission statement for the blog, plus links to authors who feature diverse characters in their work

Lessons from Bestsellers Part I (Using Contrast to Create Depth) – Learning from Hannah and Leo in The German Girlby Armando Lucas Correa

Lessons from Bestsellers Part II (Using Contrast to Create Depth) – A look at the many sides of Ali in S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass

Lessons from Bestsellers Part III (Using Contrast to Create Depth) – A mystery and a terrible truth rounds out Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water

5 Awkward Situations to Make Your MC Shine – Examples of awkwardness that endear main characters to readers in some of my favorite books

Droplets of Magic review

Droplets of Magic review

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review.

This interesting contemporary fantasy starts out in Zimbabwe, then moves across Africa with serious Indiana Jones vibes–if all parties were witches and Indy was being hunted for his defective gifts. Though Droplets of Magic was book four in the series, I had no issue reading it first, though it’s not a standalone because of plot points that continue on in the series.

Droplets of Magic book cover

A witch whose gifts have been underestimated, MC Kira has been traveling drought-stricken areas, using her unique ability to bring rain to areas most in need. While on the run from the council that would kill her for her gifts, she uses them for good. That alone is a unique premise, but the journey across the African continent with Kira’s childhood love turned vicious gang boss on her heels is a fantastic adventure unlike anything I’d read before.

I didn’t feel the chemistry between Kira and her attractive would-be rescuer, but a line near the very end won me over. The ensemble cast, introduced later, had a memorable earth witch, who has some fun, creative potions up her sleeve, plus a giant dog familiar to round out the cast. This was an exciting fantasy adventure and a swift, action-packed read.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit emilybybeebooks.com.

Rise of the Fire Queen is here!

This indie author has been on my author TBR for a while, and also on my Kindle! Known for her romantic fantasy, Alisha Klapheke is back with her sequel to Stolen by the Shadow King (my current read! It’s very fast-paced and I can’t wait to see where it’s going in the romance plot. It’s all very fun so far). Look at just one of the pretty covers of Rise of the Fire Queen!

And a giveaway for series swag and a $25 Amazon gift card is happening on Instagram right now. Check out my account for details on this giveaway through Book of Matches Media!

Rise of the Fire Queen
Ebook cover of Rise of the Fire Queen

Synopsis for book one, Stolen by the Shadow King:

A human witch. A dangerous elven king. A betrothal set to save the world.

When the vicious king of the shadow elves drags Maren to the underworld and claims her as his fated match, she fights to escape. 

But when Maren learns she is the legendary seer of the underworld, everything changes. She discovers a magical poison spreading, and the only way to save both realms from complete destruction is to bind her power with the king’s to heal the land through their union.

Maren isn’t heartless. Of course, she’ll sacrifice herself to save her beloved family and the world. And her feelings for the protective, mercurial shadow king are changing…

When another shadow lord steals the key to the king’s power and demands Maren’s hand in marriage, she realizes what evil truly is in the underworld.

Now, she must either fight alongside the king and hope they don’t run out of time to save the realms, or surrender to the evil lord and stop the poison’s spread before it’s too late.

Maren can still save the realms, but it will require a true sacrifice of the heart.

The naked hardback and digital book cover with Tayto Potato
Rise of the Fire Queen with Tayto Potato
The ebook cover and hard cover of Rise of the Fire Queen (plus Tayto Potato, who is not affiliated)

That’s all for now!

Cheers,

CKB

To Carve a Fae Heart review

A Review of To Carve a Fae Heart, by Tessonja Odette

Note: I received a copy of this book as part of a Book of Matches Media tour and am leaving an honest and voluntary review.

Love enemies to lovers, or squeal at the thought of a heroine in STEM starring in a fantasy novel? Like The Cruel Prince but wish it was less…cruel? (And no, I’m not talking about The Queen of Nothing!) To Carve a Fae Heart is all that and more.

For me, this book did everything right. King Aspen is proof of how well Tessonja Odette knows her readership. He was the perfect dark and growly fae king, with all the right hints that there was more to him than met the eye. His character hit all the notes a fae king in a (semi) arranged marriage to a human should, the Beast and the handsome prince all in one.

To Carve a Fae Heart Cover

Having a heroine who relies on logic and scientific knowledge dropped into fae lands was also a lot of fun. And I can’t stress how much I appreciate that Evie is a STEM girl! I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and romance, and that familial love (both the comfort and the pain) is so bound into the story, too. Fans of Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince’s An Enchantment of Thorns will also appreciate this one. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next in To Wear a Fae Crown.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, visit tessonjaodette.com.

How to Write a Successful Series review

A review of How to Write a Successful Series, by Helen B. Scheuerer

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review.

What a helpful read this turned out to be! At first, I just found advice applicable to me here and there. Then the nitty gritty of series writing kicked in, and I found myself plotting spin-offs and exit strategies–two things I’d never considered before reading How to Write a Successful Series.

Quotes from multiple sources (usually popular authors) start each chapter in this book, plus some notes from author Helen Scheuerer’s own journal where she recorded her publishing journey. These were helpful little morsels that carried me through the slower earlier chapters, which had information suited for stone cold beginners. Still, I found useful bits within the earlier sections here and there. This often came in the form of questions, such as whether your series has enough characters in it, and caveats (don’t cram too much into book one!). I sometimes wished the author elaborated on how to find the answer to the questions she listed, but it was a lot of food for thought regardless.

How to Write a Successful Series cover

Because of the later sections of this book, I’m looking at my series with fresh eyes and a new arsenal of strategies. The two sections I had the most highlights in were “Combatting Series Fatigue” and “Write Nail-Biting Sequels and Later Books.” I also found the Commonly Asked Questions sections helpful. I feel more in command of my series strategy now–including that I now have one!

My rating:
4.5/5

To learn more about this author, visit helenscheuerer.com.

Heart of Cinders review

A Review of Heart of Cinders, by J. Darlene Everly

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review

I picked up this book looking for a fun, exciting Cinderella retelling with a kick-butt heroine, and that is exactly what I got–plus a pair of touchingly loyal friends and modern Red Carpet-worthy gowns. Heart of Cinders is the story of a steely assassin who finds her heart softening and starts to question what she’s been taught.

Once MC Cinder headed to the palace, this book really picked up and was hard to put down. And what is a fairy tale retelling without a cheeky nod? Cinder’s ladies-in-waiting are Gus and Jacquetta, and it was so fun and lovely to see the friendships developing and see Cinder kick butt in a whole new way, this time as the lady she was meant to be (with knife skills and archery lessons on the side). I rooted for Cinder and her friends at every turn.

Heart of Cinders Book Cover

But the ending of this book! Heart of Cinders ended on the bad kind of cliffhanger, the kind that left me exclaiming “What do you mean it’s done?!” I actually enjoy a well-executed cliffhanger ending, but this one ended in mid-scene. The worst part is it worked and I wish I could grab book two right away. There were enough breadcrumbs along the way to make me extremely curious about where this series will go next, too.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit jdarleneeverly.com.

Tessonja Odette’s The Fair Isle Trilogy has a new look!

I’ve been reading book one of the Fair Isle Trilogy until the wee hours, and I can’t get enough! The fae king may have antlers, but he definitely has that steely charisma readers of fae romantic fantasy love so much (including this gal!) This YA/NA fae trilogy by Tessonja Odette is also getting a new look (including pretty new hardcovers, all designed by the author herself!).

I’m on the rebrand tour through Book of Matches Media, which is particularly awesome since I’ve had my eye on To Carve a Fae Heart for a while. I’m now wondering what took me so long! But there is a contest that goes with this tour…

For details on the giveaway contest, where you can win signed hardcovers of To Carve a Fae Heart, To Wear a Fae Crown, and To Spark a Fae War as part of the Book of Matches Media tour, head over to my Instagram page.

Here’s the synopsis for book one, To Carve a Fae Heart:

Every young woman dreams of marrying a king.
Everyone except for me.
Because the king I am to wed has razor sharp fangs and a thirst for blood.

All my life I knew I’d come of age during the Hundred Year Reaping. According to the ridiculous treaty, two human girls are sent to the faelands as brides for the fearsome fae king and his devilish younger brother.

Not me. I was supposed to be safe. Two girls were chosen from my village already. But when they are executed for offending the king, my sister and I are sent in their place.

What a mess. Then again, maybe it’s not so bad. The younger brother I’m paired with doesn’t seem as monstrous as I’d expected. He’s delightfully handsome too. But nothing compares to the chilling, dangerous beauty of the fae king. And when my sister flees the castle and her terrifying husband-to-be, I’m left to marry him instead.

If I go through with this, I might not survive my wedding night. If I don’t, no one is safe, neither human nor fae. An ancient war will return, bringing devastation we haven’t seen in a thousand years. Can I sacrifice myself for the good of my people? Or will a dangerous desire be the death of me first?

If I don’t lose my heart, the king will certainly lose his. I’ll carve it out with an iron blade if I have to.

…And now for those beautiful covers!

The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
Fair Isle Trilogy
Naked hardbacks, designed by the author!

That’s all for now! Review of To Carve a Fae Heart coming soon.

Cheers!

CKB

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott: How do I make my book covers shine on social media?

In this inaugural post of the Ask an Indie Author feature, indie fantasy author Ashley Evercott (Enchanting Fate) takes over the blog to solve a question every indie author deals with. Take it away, Ashley!

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott: How do I make my book covers shine on social media?

The new age of technology has allowed authors to market their books through social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. These platforms can benefit authors and provide free advertising. However, as a newbie author with no graphic design, photography, or video background, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

I have also struggled with learning about this topic, but over time I have learned a few tips and found apps that have helped me make my cover and books shine on social media. Some of these tips/apps might seem obvious to those who excel in creating posts and videos already, but hopefully, they will help the new authors who don’t know where to start.

Canva

1. Canva

The first website/app that will be your best friend with creating beautiful Instagram posts is Canva. There are lots of different functions you can use to change a photo’s saturation, brightness, size, etc. You can add animation to your text and images to make your post stand out even more. There are video features you can use if you want to make a reel/TikTtok as well. You can use the free version or pay a monthly subscription for the full access to all their images, fonts, and other features. I personally have gotten by without having to pay the
subscription.

Tip #1: Download the app on your phone

If you are making a Canva post on your computer, I would advise you to download the app on your phone and look at your design from your phone. The colors will appear different on each device, but the way it’ll appear on your phone will be more important because most people will look at Instagram/Twitter/Facebook from their phones as well.

Tip #2: Study popular author posts

This may seem self-explanatory but you should look up posts other
people have made and study them, especially if they’ve had a lot of likes.
If you’re thinking of a book reveal, or book cover teaser, look up the
hashtags and study what other successful authors did. You can learn a lot about how they compose pictures, use colors, and fonts to attract their audience. Of course, you should never outright copy someone’s post.

Collage maker

2. Collage Maker: Photo Editor

This is the specific app I used to create mood board posts on Instagram. There
are other collage making apps available but this is the one I prefer, and it’s free.
You can collect photos and create an image like the one I made for Instagram:

Moodboard by Ashley Evercott
Moodboard by Ashley Evercott

Mood boards are an excellent way to show your book’s aesthetic and draw an audience in.

Reels and TikTok logos

3. TikTok and Reels

TikTok and Reels have become great ways to post about your book for free. Many authors have found success with making videos on each platform. You can make an account for both and post the same video to reach a wider audience. Although I do not
have a large following, I have found that I have a spike in reads when I post a video about my book and so I highly recommend every author to post on these platforms.

 Tip #1: Learn from the trends

As with the picture post advice, the same goes for TikTok and Reels. Study what other authors are doing and pay attention to what sounds/songs are trending. Use those to your advantage.

Tip #2: You don’t need to show your face

If you are uncomfortable with showing your face on camera and talking, you don’t have to. There are many successful videos that showcase the book alone. For example:

1. Flip through your book’s pages, post quotes from the story and end the video by revealing the cover

2. Show a variety of pretty pictures that show your book’s aesthetic, providing quotes, or draw your audience in with a hook, and top it off with a trendy song.

Tip #3: Lip sync to make relatable content

If you are comfortable showing your face but you still don’t want to use your own voice, use someone else’s! Use a sound and make it about how writing is difficult, or how your characters have a mind of their own. Get creative and make it fun.

Tip #4: Don’t always make it about marketing

An audience will appreciate your videos more if you don’t shove your
book in their faces all the time. You can make videos about your favorite
books, your favorite or least favorite tropes, or, as mentioned in tip #3,
make it about the writing process.

CapCut logo

4. Capcut

Capcut is a video app you can download on your phone and my favorite way to make special effects I cannot create on TikTok or Instagram. There are many free features and fonts available, but if you want access to all the features, there’s a monthly subscription.

Tip #1: Use the 3D zoom effect

For my cover reveal for Enchanting Fate, I used Capcut’s 3D zoom effect on my video. Here is how I achieved that:

1. Insert your cover photo. Click on the photo until a white highlight appears around the photo. Under, scroll right until you find the style box. Click it.

2. Scroll Right and you will find two zoom options. Either will give you a cool effect and you can choose which one you like best.

Capcut with the cover of Enchanting Fate
1. Click the style box
Capcut with the Cover of Enchanting Fate
2. Choose from the two zoom options

Overall, there are many apps to help you with your marketing journey. These are the free tools I found most helpful to me and I hope they will help you make your cover shine, too.

Ashley Evercott

Ashley Evercott was born and raised where it’s mostly sunny and there’s always traffic on the 91. From a young age, she has dreamed of far-off worlds and star-crossed lovers. She is proud to pen these stories to life and combine fantasy and tension-filled, clean romance. When she is not writing, she is consuming as many books as she can and daydreaming at home with her cat and supportive husband.

Ashley’s next book, Enchanting Gold: A Rumpelstiltskin Retelling, will be published either this fall of 2022, or January 2023. Follow her @ashleyevercott on Instagram for more updates.

To learn more about this author, visit ashleyevercott.com.

Frozen Hearts and Death Magic review

A Review of Frozen Hearts and Death Magic

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review. Parts of this book depict a violent, abusive situation.

This book was so much fun! Though Frozen Hearts and Death Magic is inspired by telanovelas, I didn’t find it overly dramatic. The characters, each a royal of kingdoms living in fear of a fae invasion or, in River’s case, an actual fae, were so lovely to get to know, and the intrigues were all interesting and absorbing (better still, readers are on the side of the one kingdom that suspects the bad guys). Because of the modern language and characters, this was a great book to read after Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star.

I really enjoyed the magic system, which is hereditary and usually limited to one ability per character. Ironworkers can manipulate metal (Fel is so accomplished, he can fly; he also was born without hands and has learned to use metal ones seamlessly; he deals with ableism in a bit of fantasy representation). Leah is a necromancer grappling with fascinating dream magic. Naia is just beginning to discover her magic, and her relationship with mysterious fae River gave me the tingles from chapter one.

I would easily rate this book higher, but the writing changed in one of the storylines and there were flashbacks inserted late in the plot, interrupting all the exciting things that were happening. Combined with a lot of copy editing issues there that got distracting for me, I found myself getting a bit frustrated.

Frozen Hearts and Death Magic

A controlling, abusive situation that another character found themselves in was an extremely stressful surprise that others may also find hard to read. (Thankfully, the characters are awesomely magical enough that it doesn’t last long and they otherwise have plenty of agency.) It was well worth reading through these parts for me because I enjoyed everything else so much.

If you are the kind of reader who minds modern language in a high fantasy setting, this may not be for you (I did find it particularly well-suited to the teenage characters, and bristled a bit when the adults slipped into it at times). All that being said, I will happily pick up book two and see what happens to these wonderful characters and their developing magic.

Overall, I thought Frozen Hearts and Death Magic was un-put-downable.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit dayleitao.com.