The best books with a perfect blend of fantasy/adventure/romance and characters who feel so real

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ll admit I’m a terribly picky reader. My specific taste doesn’t seem to fit in one genre and is sometimes hard to nail down—literary prose with genre tropes, softly-integrated worldbuilding, adventure that leaves room for reflection, and a love story subplot that’s more mental than physical. I love anti-heroes and angst and stories that get a bit dark—but not too dark. When I find it, I’m hooked and obsessed, and I feel like I’m twelve years old again, reading late into the night with a flashlight under the covers. That exprience is what I’m always hunting for, and what I attempt to recreate in my own writing. 


I wrote...

Unquiet

By Kay Camden,

Book cover of Unquiet

What is my book about?

In Mick’s quiet Missouri town, strangers stand out—especially mysterious women who vandalize cars in broad daylight. It’s strange, but none of Mick’s business… until he notices the woman’s busted lip. The right thing to do is offer her a ride—which is how he ends up with her knife against his throat in his own apartment.

Waapikoona has nearly reached her quota of bodies to raise her sister from the dead. But she stalls killing Mick, sensing another regret she’ll have to carry in her already dark world. She’s crossed the circle of time, made a pact with a powerful underworld demon, and angered the thunderbirds. Mick can’t escape his new calling: stop Waapikoona and the unquiet she’s dragged into his town.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Scribe

Kay Camden Why did I love this book?

I love books that start in the world we know and gently transport the reader into the supernatural. The magic in The Scribe is ancient and the war is underground, but everything feels so natural and real. And how the hero and heroine interact—the reluctance, the tension, the life-or-death alliance. This isn’t instalove, it’s the inescapable love that connects them soul to soul. And when it’s not just the hero who’s haunted but also the heroine, there’s an added dimension to the story that feeds what I crave. The dialogue feels true to life, and the characters come alive on the page. The blend of these elements—fantasy, adventure, and romance—is perfect here, and how they play off one another is like magic.  

By Elizabeth Hunter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scribe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Sexy, well-written, and suspenseful." Hidden at the crossroads of the world, an ancient race battles to protect humanity, even as it dies from within.

To the outside world, Ava Matheson is a successful travel photographer from a privileged background. But Ava's spent a lifetime battling voices in her mind she can't understand, and her fractured family has convinced her she'll never belong.

Malachi is an Irin scribe, descended from an angelic race and sworn by blood and magic to defend humanity from the Grigori, the sons of fallen angels who could ravage the world. A chance meeting in Istanbul will…


Book cover of Song of Scarabaeus

Kay Camden Why did I love this book?

Song of Scarabaeus is sci-fi, not fantasy, but it definitely has that perfect blend: just enough adventure, just enough sci-fi/fantasy, just enough of a love story. The relationship between the two characters, a scientist and her bodyguard, creates instant on-page tension. I can’t spoil why, but it’s an interesting life-and-death situation that kept me turning pages. With this captivating plot, great characterization, realistic dialogue, and expert worldbuilding, I wish I could erase my memory of this book and experience it all over again. 

By Sara Creasy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Song of Scarabaeus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A powerful debut….Gripping characterization, non-stop action, fascinating biological speculation, and a dash of romance. Don’t miss it!”
—Linnea Sinclair

 

Remember the name: Sara Creasy. With Song of Scarabaeus she takes her place alongside Ann Aguirre and Linnea Sinclair, staking her claim as one of the most exciting new writers currently rocketing across the science fiction universe. Seamlessly blending action, romance, intrigue, technology, and a tough, complex, and unforgettable heroine in the vein of Elizabeth Moon, Creasyboldly goes where few have traveled before. No wonder author Vonda N. McIntyre declares that “Sara Creasy is a new writer to watch, and Song…


Book cover of The Gaslight Dogs

Kay Camden Why did I love this book?

The Gaslight Dogs is a powerful story with expert prose and characters that moved into my heart. Their troubles, their reluctant unions, how human and authentic they feel... despite at times not being very human at all... built such sympathy I had to take breaks from this book just to breathe. This is not a romance, but a different kind of human relationship—one of the most interesting I’ve ever read. The characters’ journey from the comfort of their known worlds into each other's moved me deeply. The blend of adventure in this very unique fantasy world, with these two amazing characters, makes this one of my favorite books of all time.

By Karin Lowachee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gaslight Dogs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the edge of the known world, an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy-an Empire fueled by technology and war.

A young spiritwalker of the Aniw and a captain in the Ciracusan army find themselves unexpectedly thrown together. The Aniw girl, taken prisoner from her people, must teach the reluctant soldier a forbidden talent -- one that may turn the tide of the war and will surely forever brand him an outcast.

From the rippling curtains of light in an Arctic sky, to the gaslit cobbled streets of the city, war is coming to the frozen north. Two people…


Book cover of The Winter Witch

Kay Camden Why did I love this book?

A fan recommended this book to me, and after reading it I added it to my “Favorite Love Stories” list. It’s a slowly built love story integral to a larger plot, making this much more than a “will these two fall in love.” The characters feel like real people and the interesting historical setting and skillful prose pulled me in even more. It has all the pieces of the perfect blend, with an added gothic vibe that I loved.

By Paula Brackston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Winter Witch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston transports readers to the windswept mountains of Wales in The Winter Witch, an enthralling tale of love and magic.

In her small early nineteenth century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She is small and quick and pretty enough to attract a suitor, but there are things that set her apart from other girls. Though her mind is sharp she has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic—the household objects that seem to move at her command, the bad…


Book cover of Betrayal

Kay Camden Why did I love this book?

Unrelenting action and snappy dialogue made this book an instant fav. It contains some of the best things: betrayal, revenge, a mouthy and haunted anti-hero and heroine, spaceships, and sexual tension from page one. The way this book blends all those things—and yes, this is sci-fi, not fantasy—makes a wildly entertaining start to a perfect series. I’ve never loved characters and their banter more. This perfect team both hates and loves each other and won't stop getting up no matter how many times they're knocked down. Impossibly high stakes and a plot that pits hero against heroine until their alliance becomes the key to a universe-sized revolution. What an amazing book. I devoured the whole series and can’t wait for the finale. 

By Pippa DaCosta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Betrayal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WARNING. Rated: R. Restricted. Contains space battles, killer AI, intergalactic ass-kicking. Read at your own risk.

She is programmed to kill.
He’ll do anything to survive.

Ex-con Captain Caleb Shepperd believes being good is overrated. All he wants is to smuggle illegal cargo through the nine systems and live a prosperous (likely short) life on the wrong side of the law.

But there's a problem with that plan. The priceless synthetic stowaway on his ship is a distraction he doesn't need.

Torn between selling her and tossing her out the airlock, Shepperd fails to realize the synth is a killer,…


You might also like...

Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

Book cover of Empire in the Sand

Shane Joseph Author Of Empire in the Sand

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a writer for more than twenty years and have favored pursuing “truth in fiction” rather than “money in formula.” I also spent over thirty years in the corporate world and was exposed to many situations reminiscent of those described in my fiction and in these recommended books. While I support enterprise, “enlightened capitalism” is preferable to the bare-knuckle type we have today, and which seems to resurface whenever regulation weakens. I also find writing novels closer to my lived experience connects me intimately with readers who are looking for socio-political, realist literature.

Shane's book list on exposing corporate, political, and personal corruption

What is my book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis.

His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election. Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian beekeeper living on Vancouver Island hold the key to Avery’s recovery, a man holding secrets that put lives in jeopardy? Avery races across the country to find out, with crooked bosses, politicians, and assassins on his tail. Joseph spins a cautionary tale of corporate and political greed that is endemic to our times.

Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

What is this book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis. His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election.

Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian bee keeper living on Vancouver Island hold…


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