My newest discovery: I "discovered" - Ilona Andrews (actually, a husband and wife team using her name as a not-exactly pseudonym) through a listing for "Clean Sweep" on either BookBub or BargainBooksey (don't remember which). This is a novella that's the start of a series called "The Innkeeper Chronicles" and I've already bought and read the next one. The good news for some, is that the next book is being written as a serial on the web. (Not my preferred style of reading - I hate waiting on installments. I prefer to fly through a book and get right on to the next one!).

Paranormal and/or SciFi (you'll see what I mean), lots of action, just a touch of romance in these first books, strong female protagonist, equally strong male characters. Best of all (for me) they've already written many books in a couple of other series, so I'll have lots to read in the coming weeks. From the descriptions, the other series also have strong female leads and strong male characters, with paranormal action adventure. Anyway, check out their website or Facebook page, or buy this book at any major retailer:

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Diane Henders is the author (independently published) of an 11 book (soon to be 12) book series about a badass... um... middle-aged bookkeeper? Wait... what? Okay, maybe if you squint a little, and in the right circumstances, she just might look like a badass superspy. Said circumstances being: getting carjacked, then rescued by a swoonworthy RCMP cop, who then suspects her of being involved in the international espionage plot he's investigating. The same one her carjacker was involved in. Of course, it doesn't hurt that while, yes, she's a bookkeeper, she's also a self-sufficient, tom-boy-grown-up 46 year old woman who thinks nothing of renovating an old farm house all by herself, or tackling - literally - a guy she thinks is threatening her with a gun. She's also snarky and really disinclined to take any crap. From anybody. So, of course the aforementioned swoonworthy cop thinks she's a superspy.

That's in the first chapter of the first book. Then things get weird. (And yes, there is a section early on where you might worry that the author has dumped you into the mind of a lunatic. Keep reading. Trust me on this!)

This is a great series, and I know because I've read them all (and am eagerly awaiting the next installment). It may not be for everybody - the protagonist, Ayden Kelly, can be a bit foul-mouthed, and is enthusiastically heterosexual and single, but it's perfect for me - it has everything I want in a reading experience: The characters are appealing and well drawn, the action is briskly paced, and the writing is well done, with plenty of humor to leaven the action. Romance is present (and also nicely done), but it's not the main focus - which is a big plus for me. I enjoy a bit of steam, but not so much steam that you can't see the plot through it. As a reader, I'm all about the story. Romance is a nice bonus, though. There is also a bit of sci-fi-ish tech, but for the most part, the story is present day, normal world.

The editing is professional-level, too. No weird typos, no homonym or usage errors to throw you out of the story.

Another thing I liked about this series is that the author doesn't try to tell you everything about the characters in the first book. Clearly, she always planned for this to be a series, so, as is appropriate for a series start, you learn enough to like the characters, and get a feel for where there's more to discover about them in later books. Each book is a complete adventure, though - no cliff-hangers, just the sense that more adventure is bound to follow. Because, with these characters, how could it not? There is an overall background story arc that comes into view later on in the series, but it doesn't really interfere with the resolution of any particular current adventure.

As is common for self-published authors, the first in the series is free (in ebook form). So if this sounds interesting to you, try the freebie. It's worth your time to find out if this author might become one of your favorites, too.

Dianne Henders has a author page on Facebook and a personal blog. Her books are available at all the major retailers.

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I love Huff's stuff. (Yes, I did that on purpose.) Her writing runs the gamut - well part of the gamut, from Science Fiction to many different kinds of fantasy. Her writing is strong in all of my favorite things - great characterization, plots that you can both follow and be surprised by, and quite a lot of action, proceeding at a brisk pace.

Her science fiction is "military-ish" but it's not the big space battles and conflict-between-worlds/societies common in that genre. There's some of that, especially in the later books, but the stories themselves mostly follow the trials and tribulations of Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr. Sure, okay, maybe she saves the universe a time or two, but that kinda takes a back seat to introducing new Lieutenants to the joys of delegating - the "what" decisions belong to the Lieutenant, the "how" belongs to the sergeant. (The "why" is above both their pay-grades.) Huff's newest book in this series, AN ANCIENT PEACE just came out in paperback, which is why I picked her for my next "review." It's the start of a "sequel" series, following "Gunny's" exploits after she leaves the military for private missions on the down-low.

I have to admit, this is my favorite series of hers - but that doesn't mean I don't love the others, too. The others are all various forms of fantasies. She has several urban fantasy series, and some more traditional fantasy series as well. I may not have read all of them yet, but I'm picking them up one at a time, currently working on the Keeper series. The "Blood" series is probably my favorite, but the Enchantment Emporium series is a very close second.

And a spin off from the "Blood" books, the Smoke series contains my all time favorite line (yes, I'm a book nerd. I have favorite lines): It's a masterpiece of characterization (quoting from memory here):

"The remote was not in the pizza box under the couch."

I mean, really, think about how much that tells you about the character and his living space! In less than a dozen words!

Huff's books are mostly traditionally published, although a few of her older books (finally) have had the rights released from their original publishers, and are now being republished at more budget-friendly indie prices. But most of her books have been in print since originally published (and she's been writing for nearly 30 years), so the fact that the publisher continues to carry and print them tells you something about their popularity!

Ms. Huff doesn't really have a website, but she has a personal Facebook page and a live-journal. Links to her author pages at major booksellers below.

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