Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up: November 2019

Hoo boy, but November was crazy busy as we got to the end of SPFBO 5’s Phase 1 and I tried to catch up to myself after my little time out in October – with some more time out. Oh well. I had some needed down time and I also got offered to work from home, which resulted in a week spent getting both my room and office ready for the switch – meaning I had to clean, sort things, find place for everything and make my desk ready to function as it should, instead of a surface where I could throw clothes and stuff in a heap.

Er, yeah, so, a lot happened both in my personal life and on the blog, and now I’ll show you what we were up to here at RockStarlit BookAsylum:

Book Reviews

In case you missed any of our reviews in November you can read them by clicking on the title! 🙂 We mostly focused on SPFBO, and though I did some other books, I’m still in the middle of writing up reviews for them.

Carved from Stone and Dream by T. Frohock – 5/5

carved from stone and dream

Jen got her hands on an early ARC of the upcoming second novel in the Los Nefilim series and of course loved it!

“It’s the details that impress me, the weaving together of events and placement of bread crumbs, small thoughtful comments that get followed through with later, or hit us with horror when the understanding dawns. The yellow scarf that tells us everything about Rafael’s personality while doing dual duty as a scene setter. The hints about Sam that later make my heart pound through my chest when I realize just who it is that our boy is getting ready to meet. And especially the follow-through on Martinez, who could have easily been a throwaway character, but served to show us the impact and repercussions of a tough decision. These are the things that raise a story up to the next level for me but coupled with everything else, just made this a stellar read.”

Pilgrim’s Storm Brooding by Damien Black – 4.5/5

pilgrims storm brooding

Oh man, I was supposed to write this review months ago, but I finally caught up to myself! Pilgrim’s Storm Brooding is the third book of Damien Black‘s epic fantasy series.

Pilgrim’s Storm Brooding lives up to its precedessors and then takes things up on another level. We have all of our old friends back, but of course there are some new characters you might find interesting. I’m seriously awed what a vast world Black built within these pages which are rich with history, myths, and life. A truly epic fantasy story.


We finished slush piling our books and kept writing mini or full reviews. We said goodbye to 10 books, picked out semi-finalists and finally announced our finalist! You can chack out everything that happend with us on my SPFBO 5 Phase 1 page and you can get to know the team better here!


Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn – 6.1/10

This book had been one of our semi-finalists, and we rated it as follows:

Jen: 7/10   Belle: 7.5/10   Timy: 6.8/10   Nick: 3/10

our bloody pearl

The ocean is uncontrollable and dangerous. But to the sirens who swim the warm island waters, it’s a home more than worth protecting from the humans and their steam-propelled ships. Between their hypnotic voices and the strength of their powerful tails, sirens have little to fear. 

That is, until the ruthless pirate captain, Kian, creates a device to cancel out their songs. 

Perle was the first siren captured, and while all since have either been sold or killed, Kian still keeps them prisoner. Though their song is muted and their tail paralyzed, Perle’s hope for escape rekindles as another pirating vessel seizes Kian’s ship. This new captain seems different, with his brilliant smile and his promises that Kian will never again be Perle’s master. But he’s still a human, and a captor in his own way. The compassion he and his rag-tag human family show can’t be sincere… or can it? 

Soon it becomes clear that Kian will hunt Perle relentlessly, taking down any siren in her path. As the tides turn, Perle must decide whether to run from Kian forever, or ride the forming wave into battle, hoping their newfound human companions will fight with them.

Books and Bone by Victoria Corva – 7.4/10

This book had been one of our semi-finalists, and we rated it as follows:

Jen: 7/10   Belle: 7/10   Timy: 8.5/10   Nick: 7/10


A Librarians-and-Necromancy Fantasy with Small Town Charm in a City of the Dead

The others believe in blood and bone. Ree believes in books.

She manages the libraries and draws maps for the denizens of her hometown, a secret society of necromancers hiding in a sprawling underground crypt. Though they look down on her for not practicing their craft, Ree has bigger ambitions than raising the dead. She’s going to resurrect therianthropy, the ancient magic of shapeshifting. Or at least — she’ll do it if it really exists. And if she can find the books that prove it.

But Smythe, a chatty historian from the world above, stumbles into the crypt and takes a curse meant for Ree. Now she has to find a way to save him, keep the townsfolk off her back, and convince her necromancer parents that shapeshifting is a viable career path.

Ree is certain that if she and Smythe combine their scholarly skill sets, they’ll find the right books to solve their problems. But Ree’s search for power might put the entire town in danger, and her father and the other townsfolk want Smythe dead lest he reveal their home to a world that hates them.

A Sea of Broken Glass by Sonya M. Black – 7.8/10

This book had become our finalist, and we rated it as follows:

Jen: 7.3/10   Belle: 8/10   Timy: 8/10   Nick: 7.8/10

a sea of broken glass

Secrets have a price.

After enduring weeks of torture and being convicted of witchery, Ris escapes, only to discover the Darkness and the Lady are hunting her. They need the magic that sings within her.

Creator of all, the imprisoned Lady needs Ris, her last vessel, to find the Heart of Creation. The Darkness seeks to corrupt the vessel and retain his hold on the Lady, and with it, the world.

Ris finds help from a pair of Paladins of Light who aid her in cleansing the evil taint from the lands. As her power grows, so do her questions. How can she restore balance to the world and free the Lady? Should the Lady be trusted or is she as much at fault for the evil in the world as the Darkness? With powerful demons War, Ruin, and Plague at her heels, Ris struggles to stay alive as she tries to unravel the secrets hidden within her before it’s too late.

Secrets that may cost Ris her soul even if she does succeed.

Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen – 5.7/10

This book had been one of our semi-finalists, and we rated it as follows:

Jen: 4.5/10   Belle: 7.5/10   Timy: 7/10   Nick: 3.9/10

beneath cruel fathoms

After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. But when Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else.

Taika Town by Drew Montgomery – 5.7/10

This book had been one of our contestants, and we rated it as follows:

Jen: 7/10   Belle: 7.5/10   Timy: 6.8/10   Nick: 3/10


Taika Town. A place of crime, of poverty, of fear, of power. The kind of place that cops hesitate to go, that politicians use as a campaign rallying cry, where the old ways still live. The kind of place where anything can happen.

It’s election time, and the city has reached a boiling point. Fear of the Taika is at an all time high, driving the central issues of the presidential race. In the midst of the rhetoric, a Taika-friendly candidate fears for his life, a fear even his own security detail fails to consider a serious threat. Private Eye Jack Larsen, however, is not above taking the job, and for a job like this, it helps to have someone who knows the darker side of the city. But as the leads take Jack deeper and deeper into the conspiracy, he finds himself rushing to stop a plot that goes beyond just a simple assassination.

Lose yourself in a captivating fantasy noir thriller, set in a world where magic users are subjected to systematic oppression by a people who fear their powers. A world where those with the most power have the least pull, where everything is creeping closer and closer to a boiling point.


So, here is how we fared in the fifth month of Phase 1:

The Fourth Reaping

The Last Reaping

Finalist Announcement

Tales from the Asylum

Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…

Honestly, I just love this one, and can’t wait to read even more in future. I also won’t confine it to only SPFBO, I plan to keep it as a once a month feaure when the competition ends.

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S.J. Hartland is an Australian journalist, former fencer and medieval “tragic” who calls the Darling Downs, Queensland, home. The 19th Bladesman was her first published book. The second in the series, The Last Seer King, was published last month. The third in the series will be released early next year.

Read S.J. Hartland’s tale

davidhreiss david reiss 1

While growing up, David was that weird kid with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller and dreamer. Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much. David is a software engineer by trade and a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee by passion, and he lives in Silicon Valley with his partner of twenty-seven years. David’s first trilogy, the Chronicles of Fid, has just recently been completed; these were his first novel-length projects, but they certainly won’t be his last—he’s having far too much fun!

Read David H. Reiss’ tale!

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Mark Huntley-James writes fantasy, science-fiction or any other weird thing that catches his attention. He has published three humorous urban fantasy novels, won the British Fantasy Society short story competition in 2013 (Pawnarchy, currently available on East Of the Web,, and has various short and flash fiction in anthologies, on his blog ( on Medium ( From time-to-time he says something strange on Twitter as @MarkH_J.

Mark lives in Cornwall, UK, on a small farm with his partner, multiple cats, a dangerous horde of psycho-chickens, and a flock of rare-breed sheep. Sometimes he writes about the animals, but can’t get any of them to read the stories.

Read Mark Huntley-James’ tale!

westernauthorpic joyce reynolds ward 1

Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a speculative fiction writer who splits her time between Enterprise and Portland, Oregon. Her short stories include appearances in Well…It’s Your Cow, Children of a Different Sky, Allegory, River, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine, as well as on Curious Fictions. Her books include Shadow Harvest, Pledges of Honor (2018 Self Published Fantasy BlogOff Semifinalist), Challenges of Honor, Choices of Honor, and Klone’s Stronghold. Joyce has edited two anthologies, Pulling Up Stakes (2018), and Whimsical Beasts (2019). Besides writing, Joyce enjoys reading, quilting, horses, skiing, and outdoor activities, and is a member of Soroptimist International of Wallowa County.

Read Joyce Reynolds-Ward’s tale!

Author Spotlight


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Dyrk Ashton is a Mid-western boy who spent some time in Hollywood. He teaches film, geeks out on movies and books, and writes epic urban fantasy novels about regular folks and their troubles with gods and monsters.
His debut novel, Paternus: Rise of Gods, was a finalist in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO 2016 and placed 3rd, behind those rotten talented bastards Phil Tucker and Jonathan French. Ashton’s second novel in The Paternus TrilogyPaternus: Wrath of Gods, was released in July of 2018, and the final installment, Paternus: War of Gods, is coming this Spring, 2020.Short stories in the world of Paternus appear in Art of War: Anthology for Charity, and Lost Lore: A Fantasy Anthology. Another, “Berserker,” is free for signing up for Dyrk’s newsletter on his website, A fourth short, “The Death of Osiris,” will be coming this Fall in the anthology, Heroes Wanted.

Read my interview with Dyrk here!

Guest Post

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David Jordan lives and works in Cork, Ireland, where he was born and bred. He has an MA in English. He loves music, coffee and peace.

Read an excerpt of David Jordan’s anthology and get on the short stories for free here!

Other Bookish Posts

Cover Reveal

I had the honour to reveal the badass cover of Cursebraker, the third book in The Heretic Gods series by Carol A. Park.

Check out the really cool cover here!

Adventures in the UK 2019 Edition

A bit late, but I did a write up of this year’s UK adventures. Once again, I visited London for a couple of days before I headed to Bristol to attend BristolCon. And this year I finally managed to fall in love with Bristol as well! I had a great time sighthseeing, getting books, and meeting new and old friends. It was a blast, so naturally, I’ll go back next year too.Until then, read all about my UK trip here!

Music Musings

Music Monday

If you missed any of them, give them a listen and read my personal notes/thoughts/ramblings regarding them 🙂

I think that’s it for November. I hope to see you all in December!