Category Archives: Standout Award

2016 Standout Awards

2016-standout-award-badge-smallHello and welcome to the Second Annual Standout Awards by One Book Two! What are these awards, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

One Book Two Standout Awards are given out by One Book Two reviewers to honor titles and artists that created a stand-out experience for us as readers. At the end of the year, reviewers select—from among the reviews they’ve published during the year—the books, series, authors, audiobooks, narrators, cover artists, etc. that left the biggest impression.

We’ll add the Standout Award badge to those reviews and list all the winners on a page on our website. Authors can also display the award badge on their websites should they so choose. This is a way to highlight those books that really amazed us during the year.

So, without further ado, we’re delighted to present our 2016 Standout Awards!


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Invested Ivana

J. Caleb Design—I’ve loved all the art and artists we interviewed in 2016. However, the art of Jake Clark, of J. Caleb Design, stands out as unique and fun. It’s very different than a lot of other cover art that catches my eye, particularly his illustrated covers with the vintage, pulp-fiction feel.

Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish—Charish won a Standout Award last year for her Adventures of Owl series, but I think she’s outdone herself. Voodoo Killings was easily one of the most exciting reads of the year. It is exactly what urban fantasy should be.  And that ending! I’m not kidding when I say I can hardly wait for the next book.

Gargoyle Guardian series by Rebecca Chastain—Maybe it’s just because I’m a sucker for magical creatures, but I really enjoyed the Gargoyle Guardian series. I like the magic system and the world Chastain has created. Since much of the magic system is based on minerals and crystals that have some sort of sentience, the author even attempts to convey how alien the perspective of such a creature might be. In a world where gargoyles are so prominent, and where they are often seen as tools instead of living creatures, I love the idea of someone whose magic is special enough to make her their guardian.

Alice by Christina Henry—This retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with a horror-fantasy twist, really captured my imagination. I am impressed with the way the author worked in traditional parts of the story in very untraditional ways. The narrator for this audiobook, Jenny Sterlin, is fantastic. Her British accent lends itself perfectly to this twisted tale.

Mudman by James A. Hunter—Hunter’s Yancy Lazarus series is one of my favorites and took the Standout Award last year. This year, Hunter published Mudman, which, while also being rocking and hilarious urban fantasy adventure, is a pretty amazing study of metaphor and theme. I am quite impressed by its ability to entertain and make you think at the same time.

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal—Ghost Talkers hits all my hot buttons for a novel. Historical fantasy, a unique premise, amazingly vivid descriptions, a magic/supernatural system that’s just cool, and social commentary to boot. This book is an experience to savor.

Halfway Witchy series, in audio, by Terry Maggert—The combination of Terry Maggert’s writing and Erin Spencer’s voice makes the Halfway Witchy series a lyrical experience for the ear. I am truly amazed at how well Spencer’s voice compliments the personality of the protagonist and brings her fully to life.

Ayala Storme series by Emmie Mears—The Ayala Storme series stands out for two reasons: 1) The world, creatures, social, and magic systems Mears has created are very unique, in my experience. 2) Mears has a way of writing that really elicits the feels! The Storme series has some amazing emotional depth; it’s full of love and betrayal and family and sacrifice and triumph and despair. As a reader, I felt very connected to Ayala and could feel all these things right along with her. For me, anyway, this made for a very compelling read.

The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé by S.L. Saboviec—Last year, Saboviec’s Guarding Angel, the first novel in the Fallen Redemption series, blew me away with its unique vision of spirituality, Heaven, angels, and demons. This year, the companion novel to that series did it again. The Impending Possession is both entertaining and thought-provoking, definitely worth a reread. I’m sure I’ll be revisiting this whole series several times during my life.


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Nervous Nellie

Dark Sky series by Amy Braun—Steampunk AND post-apocalyptic monsters at their best. The good guys are not necessarily the best good guys, but they have survival on their minds. The world Amy Braun has created is incredibly described, and the twists and turns are equally unexpected.

Kincaid Strange series by Kristi Charish—The action, adventure, and characters are put together so well that it felt like I’d known these people for several books instead of this being the first in the series. I would be hard pressed to find a favorite character, and the mystery? It’s totally engaging and out of the box.

Tim Reaper series by Sean Cummings—This series took me by surprise. I loved the cover and decided, on a whim, to give it a shot. I was blown away. The story was uncovered a little at a time, and if the protagonist knew then the reader knew. What we all didn’t know was the intricacies of heavenly/hellish politics. Whole new spin.

Black Magic Outlaw series by Domino Finn—The protagonist’s life story kept me enthralled. I tried to look away, but it was like a train wreck. He thought he knew it all, but in his arrogance, he was, sadly, horribly mistaken. The emotion that is translated through the pages is amazing. Even though Cisco, the protagonist, is a jerk at some points in the story, he has a lot of crap to deal with and very little information to go on.

Warden Global series by Ken Lange—It was the main protagonist and his daughter that made me love this story, and I am on pins and needles waiting for the next installment. The correlation between what humans see and accept in life and what the magic wielding-world knows is singular. I enjoyed the banter between characters and especially how relationships were revealed.

Harmony Black series by Craig Schaefer—Harmony Black’s series catapulted to the top of my “watch for” list as soon as I read the first chapter. Craig Schaefer does wonders in the world of demons, witches and other scary monsters. He also throws in a slight romance aspect to keep the people real.

Harbinger P.I. series by Adam J. Wright—This series world is positioned wholly out of the light of day. The Society of Shadows runs the world and even though Alec Harbinger has a father in the upper echelons does not mean he is any more clued in than the rest of the uninformed. Conspiracies and literal mind-bending abound.


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Kat Mandu

Favorite Requests (4)

Hero Status by Kristen Brand—What happens when retired superhero White Knight’s super-villain wife, Black Valentine, is wrongly accused of murder? A lot of great plot and awesome fight scenes. I absolutely LOVED this comical read and it makes the list for favorite requests of 2016.

Transient Echoes by JN Chaney—In this action-packed dystopian sequel to The Amber Project, we reunite with Terry, Mei, and John as they embark on a mission of survival on unforgiving worlds. I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and can’t wait to read the third one next year. Five stars!

Meddlers of Moonshine by AE Decker—For the second year in a row, this series has won over my heart and an award for favorite request. Chocked full of humor, adorable characters, amazing writing, and never-ending fun, this is a series that always leaves me clamoring for more.

The Road To Hel by Eric Tanafon—Fans of Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase will love this Nordic-based middle-grade book as much as I did. Follow Sean and his friends as they take on Norse bad guys while trying to fulfill their destinies without getting killed in the process.

Favorite Cover (1)

M In The Demon Realm by author Mark William Hammond, cover by Amir Alicic via 99Designs—I received this as a request and what really drew me in before I even read the summary was the cover. Gorgeous coloring, a beautiful model, and perfect title cover. It’s dark and spooky with that necessary bit of beauty.

Favorite Reread (1)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling— Because it was the one I’d only read once, it was like reading it for the first time again, discovering new things and generally enjoying the funny parts of the series before it gets dark again. I got to reread this not only with members of the One Book Two crew, but with several other reader friends, too. It was so much fun!


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Luna Lovebooks

Standout Series

Solis Invicti by Josie Jaffrey—This series presents vampires in a new and original way. The world building is good and the dynamic between the characters is amazing!

Standout Female Lead

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco—Audrey Rose is ahead of her time in this creepy mystery novel set in Victorian England. I love that Audrey knows what she wants and doesn’t let her male counterparts or society’s rules hold her back. The chill factor is great and the cover is deliciously creepy.


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Vagabond Vahn

Keir’s Fall by Pippa Jay—This was a really satisfying second entry. I was never bored, and despite sharing some frustrations over the romance in my review (because I am a stubborn man), I found little else to distract me from the story. The new characters we’re introduced to and the pace of the story definitely entertain.

Arctic Dawn by Karissa Laurel—Book two in the Norse Chronicles continued to enchant as ancient Norse gods try to bring about Ragnarok. A strong second entry, broadening the world and giving us more backstory to the main players. There is a lot of character building brought over and expanded upon from Midnight Burning, and I’m confident Arctic Dawn will prove a sturdy bridge to a third entry.

Survival Quest by Vasily Mahanenko—This first entry in the Way of the Shaman series, one of four to have been translated into English thus far, was great fun. I’ve consumed each entry within a day of it releasing for U.S. purchase. I’ve read many novels in the LitRPG genre, and quite a few have earned a permanent place on my shelf – but this one sticks out for creating an adventure around a profession in games that is often in the minority, an interesting premise of serving a prison sentence in virtual reality earning currency for the government, and distinct characters.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel—This is the book I’ve read twice already this year and feel I could read again. It has so much to say about the human condition and the intricate nature of relationships. I particularly like that it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, but isn’t really a sci-fi novel, so it appeals to a broad audience.


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Percy Procrastinator

Magic Ex Libris series by Jim C. Hines—The first book took a bit to get into for me, but after that happened, I really enjoyed the whole series. The author created a very fun world in how magic works and interacts with others. I loved his characters and their interactions. I really enjoyed all of the geek and cult references as well! These are just a good, fun read!


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Fickle Fiona

A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe—Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to read and/or review too many books this year due to some medical and personal issues, along with starting a new job. That being said, I did read one book that really did stick with me this year, and that would be A Mortal Song. Again, Crewe just does an amazing job with the imagery in this book, and that does it for me. 🙂 Not to mention that I love the spin of making the main character find out she does not actually possess the powers she thinks she does. Human conscience and emotions are powers all their own!

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The Meddlers of Moonshine by A. E. Decker

2016-standout-award-badge-smallWelcome back to the adventurous world that Ascot and her rag-tag group inhabit. In book two, Ascot gets in over her head when she offers to help exorcise a town while her friend Rags-N-Bones follows a trail of mysterious memories he’s not entirely sure are his own…

I received an ARC of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

meddlers-of-moonshineTitleThe Meddlers of Moonshine
AuthorA. E. Decker
SeriesMoonfall Mayhem, Book 02
Publish Date: October 25, 2016, World Weaver Press
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Received from the author/publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionSomething is rotten in the town of Widget, and Rags-n-Bones knows it’s all his fault. Ever since he snitched that avocado from Miss Ascot’s pack, things have been going wrong. Armed with a handful of memories he never realized he had, Rags-n-Bones searches for a way to put right whatever he did to Widget in the past. If only he knew what it was! Unfortunately, the only person who seems to have answers is a half-mad youth that only Rags can see.

Widget is also suffering from a ghost infestation that has the townsfolk almost as spooked of outsiders as they are of actual spooks. While Rags-n-Bones seeks answers in the past, Ascot offers the town leaders her service as an exorcist, only to be handed an ultimatum: banish the ghosts or be banished herself!

Who’s meddling with Widget? To catch the culprit, Ascot and Rags-n-Bones must match wits with a shifty sorcerer, a prissy ex-governess, and a troublingly attractive captain before the town consigns itself to the graveyard of history.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Mischief and mayhem erupt in this sequel of epic proportions. We reunite with Shadowvalean Ascot (aka vampire), her mischievous cat Moony, her off-and-on love interest, Catch (a shapeshifter who plays an interesting role as her husband in this book, wink wink), and Rags-N-Bones, her skinny and silly friend – whose mysterious past is coming to light.

There are so many things I love about this book. I’ve always been a fan of quirky characters, lots of fantasy elements, and witty one-liners that make me laugh. And this series has all three. I’ll share a couple of lines I really enjoy for you.

This first one really sums up Rags-N-Bones character:

Rags-n-Bones had once hid in a closet for two nights after being assaulted by a particularly ferocious moth. Most likely, a passing gnat had tried to steal his share of his avocado.

And this next one I just enjoy because of its ominous feels:

“I forget a lot of things. Often, I find myself somewhere I don’t remember going to. But I remember the dying.” He smiled, and some emotion long-held and bitter sharpened the lines of his face. “You never forget the dying.”

But anyway, I love the comical feel of each and every chapter. You’ve got ghosts, vampires, sorcerers, and wanna-be sorcerers, plus you finally get to hear from Rags-n-Bones as he meets some old friends in attempts to get the city of Widget back to its rightful state. But of course, things always go wrong, but Ascot and her crew are up to the challenge.

badge5v4The writing is also fantastic – you can really tell the author’s had more experience (not that the first one was bad or anything, but you can tell it made it from book one to book two in the way it reads). All the scenes are vivid, light-hearted, and full of interesting twists and turns. One you might not even see coming (I did, but only right before it happened, not any earlier). Meddlers of Moonshine will win your heart with its adorable characters that have more human traits than they realize, despite their supernatural status.

Seriously guys, you’ll enjoy this just as much as I did.

Our reviews in this series…

I received an ARC of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Halfway Bitten by Terry Maggert

2016-standout-award-badge-smallOutstanding sequel. ‘Nough said.

Halfway BittenTitle: Halfway Bitten
Author: Terry Maggert
Series: Halfway Witchy 02
Publish Date: February 9, 2016
Genre:  Paranormal
Source: Author provided ARC for honest review

Publisher’s Description: Take a bite out of evil.

The circus came to Halfway, and they brought the weird.

When clowns, vampires, and corpses start piling up in town, Carlie has to break away from her boyfriend, Wulfric, to bring her witchy skills to the table- or grill, as the case may be.

When the body of a young woman washes up in the lake, it unleashes a spiral of mystery that will bring Carlie, Gran, and Wulfric into a storm of magical warfare.

Spells will fly. Curses will rain. Amidst it all, Carlie will make waffles, protect her town, and find out if a man from the distant past can join her in happy ever after.

With love and honor at stake, Carlie has no peer.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel (in other words, SPOILERS!)


Nervous_Nellie_100Nervous Nellie says…

This is an incredible story. I feel like Carlie and crew were really focused in this book.  Though I was disappointed there was no appearance by the faeries, there were other players that brought their own specialties to the table.

Carlie is forced to take the law into her own hands to protect her family lands and the great citizens of Halfway from evil vampiric clowns.  Clowns, in this context, is not a label, it’s an occupation.  Can you imagine clowns that are vampires?  Scares me, for sure.

Stand Out Award Badge2You might say “pfft, Carlie can handle it…” but there were a few times that I really thought she got over her head.  That made it exciting and also developed Carlie more for me.  She is young – very young.  She should know that she doesn’t know everything, but I’m sure that’s how I was at that age.  Gran is center stage with Carlie this episode and they have to put a stop to murders in Halfway.  It’s a mystery of WHO that is somewhat easy to figure out, but WHY is the reason the pages keep getting turned.  The characters that are brought in to help point Carlie and her Gran in the right direction didn’t need much introduction.  They were quick characters that added depth to the story.  Anna introduced her brother Alex, who in my opinion is MUCH nicer.  Carlie enlists help from the friendly neighborhood librarian who is one of the few residents of Halfway that are clued into the world around them.  Wulfric makes an attractive appearance, of course, but it’s the ending that really gets the ball rolling for the next book.  It’s not EXACTLY a cliffhanger as the book arc is finished, but the series arc is just getting it’s groove on.

badge5v4I have to admit that the author upped his game with this book.  I enjoyed it a lot and will be waiting in line for the next release.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Halfway Bitten is another beautiful book by Terry Maggert. As in the first installment, Halfway Dead, the writing is lyrical and the characters are wonderful.

Maggert must believe, like many other folks, that the circus is as creepy as it is fascinating. Plus, there are clowns. In this novel, the circus is a front for a group of traveling vampires who are terrorizing all other vampires in Eastern North America and Canada. The right to survive becomes a competition; and Carley, Gran, and Wulfric get caught up in it.

badge4v4I absolutely love the introduction of ghosts in this novel. Ghosts of the town’s previous witches live on in “spirit.” They are able to assist, teach, mentor, or just socialize with living witches as long as their spirits are intact.

Once again, the audiobook version is superb. Erin Spencer perfectly captures Carly’s and Gran’s beautiful natures and the author’s lyrical writing.

Our reviews in this series…

If you like this book, try…

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Hero Status by Kristen Brand

2016-standout-award-badge-smallSuperhero fans, you won’t want to miss this! Hero Status is packed full of action, humor, and old-fashioned good guys versus bad guys.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

hero-statusTitle: Hero Status
AuthorKristen Brand
SeriesThe White Knight & Black Valentine, Book 01
Publish Date: November 25, 2014
Genre: Superhero fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionDave Del Toro used to be a superhero. Now he’s retired and happily married—to his former nemesis, Valentina Belmonte, better known as the Black Valentine. The two have settled in sunny Miami and left the past behind them. No more masks, capes or handcuffs. At least, not outside of the bedroom.

But then the famous hero Supersonic turns up dead, and Valentina is arrested for the murder. Dave knows she’s innocent, but he has to find the real killer if he wants to prove it. Investigating on his own, dodging the law, he gets tangled in a web of conspiracy that will take more than super-strength to break. If Dave wants to save his wife, he’ll have to cross lines no hero ever should…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

I can’t tell you why it has taken me so long to finally read this book. Busy schedules and life, I suppose. But I can’t believe the greatness I’ve been missing!

Dave is an older character and a retired superhero with a bum knee. He used to be famous (and he still kinda is, there are just newer ones out there who have taken over) and one of the good guys until people found out he was in a secret relationship with notorious telepath and villain, Black Valentine. Despite this fact, they also have a daughter together named Elisa, and for a while, have enjoyed their life together.

But then Val gets accused of murder and Dave, who believes she’s innocent, starts investigating. He’s led down a path of several telepathic baddies, a lovestruck damsel in distress, and a mafia gunman with a superhuman strength that matches his own. And as he navigates the chaos of fighting against one of his worst enemies, he’s gotta figure out if he can maintain his superhero morals.

I absolutely LOVED this. It’s funny, it’s a little romantic, it has a really great plot and characters I like. There’s really nothing negative about it, to be honest.

Another thing I enjoyed was the writing. It was well-edited and flowed perfectly, even during the fight scenes. I loved the personal touches the author imbues within the flashbacks and scenes with the whole family.

badge5v4I picture Dave as Bruce Willis sometimes. I know with a last name like Del Toro, it’s probably not quite the facial visual you’d expect, but I still do it anyway. Mostly because they’re both badasses.

This gets five stars from me. I can’t wait to read the next one!

Other recommendations…

Recommended for fans of Jennifer Estep (Bigtime), Lexi Dunne (Superheroes Anonymous), and Alex Hughes (Mindspace Investigations).

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Midnight Sky by Amy Braun

2016-standout-award-badge-smallTake a ride to another world where airships control the skies and Hellions are but one step away from painful and horrid death…

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Midnight SkyTitle:  Midnight Sky
Author:  Amy Braun
Series: Dark Sky #2
Publish Date:  August 2, 2016
Genre:  Urban fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: There are secrets, there are betrayals, and there are sacrifices…

The Behemoth has been destroyed, and the bloodthirsty Hellions seem to have left Westraven. But Claire Abernathy’s mind is not at ease. A terrible disease plagues her sister, appearing to have been brought on the Vesper, the leader of the Hellions beyond the tear between worlds– the Breach.

To save Abby and stop the Hellions for good, Claire must find the machine her parents built before the attacks, and fix it before the monsters return. To do so, she needs the help of her crew, and must ignore the secrets and rivalries between her captain and the man she saved.

Because the Hellions are not the only dangers following Claire. Twisted humans and old enemies surface to stop her and destroy all she loves. While she is determined to endure the trials, a single betrayal could shatter the hope of a better world, and force Claire to make a choice that will cost her dearly…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Nervous Nellie says…Nervous_Nellie_100

…forcing myself not to think about pale faces with shark teeth smeared with blood, or crimson eyes that seemed to smile as onyx claws sank into my flesh and started to rip it open…

Yes, there is a cliffhanger. I’m getting that out of the way straight out of the chute. It’s not so bad. I could handle it, so I’m sure anyone can. No sex, a little male chest pounding to claim alpha status and lots of death. This is not a stand alone, so please start with book one.

Amy Braun is a storyteller of the highest degree. This series is about one woman trying to save a world that is practically collapsing in on itself. Dauntless may be the name of the airship, but it accurately describes the female protagonist in this book. She is part of a team of pirates that are searching for a lead to help them close the ‘breach’ to another dimension all the while dodging and weaving through dangers that can only be termed as death defying.

badge5v4The characters are vivid and they all have their secrets. The premise of this series is that the human team is fighting the Hellion team.  The humans chose to invade another world and got more than they bargained for. The descriptions of the airships and battle scenes are good. Brother is turned against brother and power is how they all keep score.

I enjoy this author’s work. She writes a face paced, action packed story with a lot of emotion and heart. If you want to delve into a world that is post-apocalyptic steampunk, jump on in.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

What drew me to this book: I love Amy Braun’s work and, having read Crimson Sky, I wanted to find out what happens next!

Why I kept reading: Midnight Sky is full of action, heartache, and betrayal. At the end of Crimson Sky, the protagonist—Claire—has rescued her sister from the clutches of the Hellions along with Riley, a former soldier who had been captured and nearly killed.  They all return to earth and are bunking with Sawyer and his crew on the Dauntless, Sawyer’s airship.

Now they have to face the consequences of breaching the Behemoth, the Hellion ship, to rescue Abby and Riley, making their presence known to the Vesper, a telepathic alien, and his Hellions alike. At the same time, Claire is searching for answers to her parents’ role in creating the breach between worlds and the key to closing that breach. Can they find the answers they need while evading the Hellions who are hunting them?

There are a lot of tense moments in this book, and the cliff-hanger ending provides no relief! But it makes for a great story. We’ll have to hope our characters can find a way out of their many troubles when we rejoin them in February 2017.

badge4v4Why I recommend it: Braun’s Dark Sky series is a great steampunk adventure without the manners and tea. There are machines and electricity and airships, but the feel is decidedly more science-fiction than Victorian British. So if you’re looking for a good adventure without the corsets and goggles, the Dark Sky series is the one you want. Midnight Sky comes out August 2, so if you haven’t read Crimson Sky yet, now is the time.

Our reviews in this series…

If you like this book…

…you might try the Cursed series also by Amy Braun.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.