I used to wait until the end of each year to let you know which exceptional indie books I’d read, but why? You want to know what to read now, right? So … in alphabetical order by title (or title of series, if I read more than one book in it), here are books that have earned 5-star reviews from me in 2018 thus far. Click the cover pics to be taken to the product page on Amazon.


Bait by Kasi Blake (YA paranormal)

In a Hogwarts-esque school in New Zealand, Bay-Lee starts school at the lowest rank: Bait. This would normally mean she’s deemed of little use more than to lure monsters (werewolves, vampires, and a large host of new creatures). But Bay-Lee is also Van Helsing’s daughter, trained by the best and destined for greatness. Step one, advance to the rank of Hunter. Step two, exact revenge on the werewolves that killed her mother. Somewhere in between, she reluctantly falls in love with exactly the wrong young man.

This book was totally addictive. I loved the elements of suspense, mystery, action, and romance. Bay-Lee and Nick are both well-layered, deep characters, and the world Kasi Blake has created for them will definitely provide a lot of room for even more growth.


The Case of the Death Book by Michael Pickford (Sherlock Holmes style mystery)

Samuel just wanted a college roomie who cleaned up after himself and didn’t party all night. He never expected to bunk in luxury with a boy genius who had already graduated from Law School and passed the bar. Zeblon might not remember to wear socks to trial, and he has next to no social graces, but his powers of observation and keen mind hearken back to the gent from Baker Street in London all those mysteries ago.

This was a charming little mystery, well-written and reminiscent of the movie Young Sherlock Holmes that came out in the 80’s. I very much enjoyed the banter between the two young men and the quirkiness of Zeblon. The author dropped enough clues that I could guess at some of the solutions, but still left a plausible twist or two for the surprise we all need at the end of a mystery.

If this is the start of a new series, I’m going to follow it, because my only complaint about the book was that it was over too soon.


Freeze Frame by Lisa B. Thomas (cozy mystery)

Photographer Wendy Fairmont is excited to book a gig at a child’s birthday party. But when Mr. Squishy is found frozen to death in her parents’ freezer, all signs point to the lodge’s housekeeper. It’s up to Wendy to sort through the suspects and clear her friend’s name.

I joined this series late, but found it worked just great as a stand-alone. Having read several of Lisa B. Thomas’ cozy mystery series set in Maycroft, I figured this would be another great read, and I was right. She has just the right number of clues, red herrings, laugh-out-loud moments, and relationship growth moments to keep me reading not only the book, but the series.


Recompense Series by Michelle Isenhoff (dystopian)

Including Recompense, Betrayal, and the prequel Provocation

Born into Capernica’s lowest social tier and not permitted to leave Settlement 56, Jaclyn Holloway refuses to pour out her years in the local fish cannery. She gambles on the one chance available to her to advance—the high school Exit Exam. In a country that still keenly remembers the horrors of the Provocation, the period of unexplained disappearances that led to revolution, the smartest and strongest are richly rewarded in exchange for military service. Jack is adamant that her best friend, Will Ransom, join her in striving for induction. But if Jack fails to pass the stringent physical standards and Will succeeds, she will not be allowed to see him again until his tour of duty is completed—in twenty years.

What a gripping series. With twist upon twist, this story leaves you unsure of who to trust. Isenhoff’s language continues to be exquisite, the pacing affects my heart rate (just check my FitBit), and the intrigue … intrigues! I love the detailed elements of their training and combat, which never drag the story to a halt, but rather make me feel like I’m in the action. The love triangle also adds a layer of tension. All of the characters, focal and surrounding, have depth. There are no wasted words or scenes. Every line is needed. And gaaah! That final plot twist! I thought I knew how this book would end and set us up for the next one, but NO! Now I’m going to lie awake at night trying to figure out what happens next until book 3 comes out (today, please?)!!


Swept of My Feet by Ines Bautista-Yao (YA sweet romance)

Where to begin on the list of why I loved this book? Ines Bautista-Yao’s sweet teen romances are so much more than hormones and angst. She captures the inner struggles that emerging adulthood brings. In this case, Geri Lazaro has to come to terms with the ever-roiling anger within her, its cause, and how to cope. Along comes the aggravating yet attractive dojo guy, Bas Mercado who has been through some tough times of his own. Their worlds are nothing alike on the outside, but their hearts have been through similar journeys. Bas is a few steps ahead on the path to healing and is there to guide Geri along. This love story has all the right ups and downs, sighs and sobs.