Tag Archives: Kristen Martin

Author Anthony Avina’s “Top 10 Books of 2021”

Hello there everyone! Wow, what a year of books it has been. I am so honored to be sharing my top reads of the year. There have been so many amazing books published this year, and with the pandemic having kept us all indoors far more than ever before, there has been a surplus of books being published from indie authors and publishers alike. Now I want to mention that although the books are numbered here in the last post, this is not an indicator of ranking of any kind. This is more about organizing the books, not ranking. So with that in mind, here are my top choices for the year, each with a snippet from the original review. 


10: Below Torrential Hill by Jonathan Koven

What really stood out to me was the incredible way the author matched the atmosphere and setting to the protagonist’s journey, almost as if the character’s surroundings became a reflection of their own inner turmoil and the ups and downs they went through. I also was really impressed with the fine line the narrative played with magical realism, as it allowed enough room for the reader to kind of draw their own conclusions from this aspect of the story, and kind of put a whole-new modern-day, coming-of-age twist on the classic Christmas Carol narrative. 

This was one of the last books I reviewed this year, and the author’s amazingly poetic writing style and imagery were just so breathtaking to behold. A definite must-read!

9: Traveller Manifesto by Rob Shackleford 

What always strikes me about this series and the author is the vast amount of detail the author puts into the series. From both a historical and a narrative standpoint, the author explores not only the sci-fi side of the series from the use of the Traveller technology, but the historical fiction side of each period of time these missions take on with an attention to detail that creates a sense of imagery and tone that bursts with life and vibrancy. The exploration of history’s impact on our world and the means by which the direction that history takes is often dictated by those who emerge victorious from a situation made this story feel so thought-provoking, and readers won’t be able to help being drawn down the rabbit hole that is this heart-pounding historical fiction thriller.

I am a huge fan of this author and this historical fiction/sci-fi series. The third and final book in the Traveller series, the narrative was just so engaging and thought-provoking that I wasn’t able to put it down.

8: The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer 

The characters were the show stealers of this read to be sure. What was so interesting, and something I always enjoy is when a writer crafts a narrative that features such a diverse cast of characters that we could find someone in the narrative to identify with for one reason or another. As someone with several chronic diseases, seeing protagonist Rachel’s struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome and the struggle with how she is perceived by others is a struggle I am all too familiar with, and it was great to see that representation in the book. The chemistry and heated moments, both good and bad, between Rachel and Jacob, were truly memorable and allowed the story to feel very cinematic in its approach.

As far as holiday romances go, this was definitely one of the most unique, creative, and heartwarming to read. It was so original, and I related to the protagonist so much with her struggle with chronic illness. (More holiday reads are coming soon).


7: A Cry in the Moon’s Light by Alan McGill 

I was hooked immediately with this book. The author did such an amazing job of crafting a narrative that was both emotionally investing and chilling at the same time. The story was written in a way that felt like historical fiction meets Brother’s Grimm meets folklore all at once. The nods and homages to classic fairy tale style storytelling elements and themes were felt immediately, but then did such a great job of taking readers immediately into a right turn that held gruesome mayhem and terrifying creatures, and then made a completely new turn into heartbreaking and heartfelt romance and drama. 

I am an absolute fan of gothic horror, and this was pretty amazing. Great atmospheric haunt and an absolute pleasure to dive into. 

6: Blood Mark by J.P. McLean 

This was a refreshing new take on the paranormal thriller genre. The integration of Inca mythology into a modern-day thriller was engaging and thought-provoking, giving readers a wonderful blend of mythology and gritty crime thriller. The author’s own writing was outstanding, delivering a very descriptive and creative balance of imagery and character growth that felt very cinematic as a whole. 

A gritty and captivating new fantasy thriller that I just couldn’t put down!

5: Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story by Lilliam Rivera (Illustrated by Steph C.)

What a powerful and engaging new take on the iconic Green Lantern character. This was a fantastic story that really captured the struggle and strength of the Latino community, especially when the debate over immigration has never been higher in recent years. Jessica Cruz is the perfect character to bring this fight for justice and equality to light, as her DC Comics history played into the battle between fear and hope that her character has embodied since her introduction. As a half-Latino man whose late grandfather came to this country as a young child and built a family of his own through dedication and hard work, the cultural element and the familial bonds that Jessica had not only with her parents but her community as a whole really spoke to me, as these core values are something I was taught at an early age.

As a fan of this character and a proud Hispanic man, I was so enthralled with this story. As a fan of DC Comics, I loved this original take on the characters. 

4: The Marionettes Book 1 by Katie Wismer 

I can honestly say this was one of the best New Adult and Dark Fantasy reads I’ve read not only this year but in a long time. The amount of world-building and mythos the author was able to fit into the narrative was not only entertaining but made the world within this book feel seamless and immersive. The freedom with which the author incorporates not only the two main classifications of supernatural beings, (vampires and witches), but other powerful beings as well that don’t always fit into the typical supernatural fantasy read helped elevate this narrative to new heights. 

The dark and edgy fantasy horror read was so captivating and entertaining, and left on a massive cliffhanger that will keep readers on the edge of their seats for the sequel!


3: The Thicket by Noelle Ihli 

What a truly amazing and inviting horror read! Horror fans everywhere will love this intricately detailed and plotted thriller. The author does a great job of painting an image of the narrative in the reader’s mind, delving into our modern world’s obsession and love of all things terrifying and macabre. As a fan of haunts myself and with friends who run a haunted attraction, I could relate to the life and atmosphere of these attractions clearly. 

I am a sucker for classic slasher horror flicks, and so the atmosphere and characters the author crafted in this narrative felt right at home in this genre and did an amazing job of painting an image of the novel’s plot in my mind.

2: Thread of Souls Book 1- Phantom Five by Scott & Ashley Roepel 

The balance of dark fantasy and character growth really elevates the narrative here. The danger and stakes of this fantasy world are made apparent early on in the story, as one of the main characters watches her sister taken right before her eyes by a large flying creature out of a nightmare. Yet it is the bond between the characters that really steal this story, as the blend of humor, charm, and heroism mixes with the personal problems each of these characters faces with their pasts and futures. It speaks of the classic swords and daggers, hero’s journey elements of adult fantasy novels that fans have come to know and love over the years.

I am a sucker for epic fantasy, and I loved the world-building and mythology the authors crafted in this original tale. I was able to devour the first 3 books in this series, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next chapter in the coming year. 

1. Beyond the Stars and Shadows by Kristen Martin

This was such a compelling and engaging read right from the start. As anyone who knows me can attest, I love a wide variety of books. As such, I was so thrilled when the story I thought I was reading took off in such an exciting new direction. The author’s writing is so inviting and draws the reader into the narrative and the lives of the protagonist with ease. Elara is a truly fantastic character, well-rounded and while many books take their characters through a total evolution in their story, it was refreshing to see the narrative really hinged on the growth of the characters, making her story so much more interesting. 

When I think of books that really moved or inspired me this year, I cannot leave off one of my all-time favorite authors, Kristen Martin. The imagery and emotions this narrative brought out as I read it, along with the real-life interest I hold for metaphysical studies and the paranormal really sold me on this novel, and I was so honored to have been able to read this amazing story.


Well, that does it for me. These were some of my favorite reads of the year, but certainly not the only favorites. What was your favorite book to read this year? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to like and follow my website if you aren’t already. Also, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, and if you are in the market for some custom writing projects, ranging from poetry to short stories and more, then be sure to order something from my Etsy shop, Cosmic Writing Studios. Everyone have an amazing New Year’s Eve, and I look forward to seeing you in the coming New Year! 

Beyond the Stars and Shadows by Kristen Martin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young assistant to an astrophysicist finds her world turned upside down after her professor disappears, along with dozens of others around the nation. Soon a mysterious young man working as an assistant to another professor arrives, and her perception of reality changes forever in author Kristen Martin’s “Beyond the Stars and Shadows”. 


The Synopsis

The night sky holds more mystery than every continent on Earth combined—at least that’s what thirty-three-year-old Elara Friis believes. And why wouldn’t she, when she’s been named after one of Jupiter’s many moons?

A long-time assistant to astrophysicist Professor Haven at the University of Colorado Boulder, Elara’s unexpected change in employment status couldn’t come at a worse time. Even more unnerving is the sudden disappearance of her professor just minutes after their last conversation—not to mention the fact that she’s somehow traveled four days into the future . . . with no recollection of those days’ events.

As more professors begin to go missing and the police begin to ask questions, there’s yet another unexpected development in Elara’s life: one that goes by the name of Xero Sivalla. A fellow assistant at the university, Xero seems to have inside knowledge on not only the growing number of faculty disappearances, but on Elara herself.

As Elara spends more time with Xero, the more she discovers just how wrong her assumptions about life, the cosmos, and existence itself have been. Blurring the lines of reality is one thing, but cracking the entire Universe wide open? She should be so lucky—that is, unless it’s been predestined from the start.

The Review

This was such a compelling and engaging read right from the start. As anyone who knows me can attest, I love a wide variety of books. As such, I was so thrilled when the story I thought I was reading took off in such an exciting new direction. The author’s writing is so inviting and draws the reader into the narrative and the lives of the protagonist with ease. Elara is a truly fantastic character, well-rounded and while many books take their characters through a total evolution in their story, it was refreshing to see the narrative really hinged on the growth of the characters, making her story so much more interesting. 

What really drew me in though as a reader was the subject matter the book dealt in. While much of this book was fictional and truly mind-blowing, anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid fan of the paranormal. A lot of the subject matter the author discusses in the narrative are things that I myself have been researching over the last couple of years. For those who don’t know, I run a paranormal podcast and investigative team and will include a link to all our stuff here. What was so interesting was the inclusion of synchronicities. 

The big reason I got into studying and investigating things like synchronicities, the quantum consciousness, and similar scientific and spiritual theories that somehow connect the paranormal, UFO phenomena, and even cryptids, was because of a show called Hellier. If you haven’t heard of it, I’ll link the show here, but this documentary series has changed my whole perspective on how to treat the paranormal, energy, and the universe as a whole. 

This book really hit me like a synchronicity bomb, from the use of synchronicities to astral projection, the stars and even utilizing the Pleiades, which the blue star is something that comes up in the Hellier case later on. As the story progressed in this direction, I felt drawn further and further into the narrative until I was falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, and I couldn’t have been happier. 

The Verdict

A masterful, beautifully written and thought-provoking tale that blends fiction with the world of spiritual thinking and high strangeness, author Kristen Martin’s “Beyond the Stars and Shadows is a must-read book of 2021, and a contender for book of the year on my site. It really engaged me both as a reader and as a fan of the high strangeness aspect of her narrative, and I highly recommend you guys check this amazing readout for yourselves. Filled with great characters, a strong narrative, and a touch of passion and romance that keeps the readers invested in the protagonist’s story, be sure to grab your copy of this fantastic book today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

KRISTEN MARTIN is a self-made creative entrepreneur, content creator, and the Amazon bestselling indie author of personal development books, Be Your Own #Goals and Soulflow, as well as the fiction works, The Alpha Drive and Shadow Crown.

Having worked in the corporate world for almost a decade, Kristen decided to pursue her vision of empowering women through her writing and content creation and, in just two years’ time, has grown what was once her “side hustle” into a full-time 6-figure creative business.

With her work reaching over 60,000 people via her YouTube channel and podcast, That Smart Hustle, Kristen regularly travels to speak and teach at conferences, workshops, and retreats across the globe.

She currently runs her business from her home base in North Houston, Texas.