Best of Kindle Unlimited: Charlie N. Holmberg

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet cover from Goodreads.com

While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Charlie N. Holmberg is one author offering her work through Kindle Unlimited and winning the game.  

I found Holmberg through Followed by Frost a take on the Ice Queen fairy tale that borrows elements of the original fairy tale while creating a new story.  Her lyric descriptive writing and the characters she explores through her writing drew me in.  

Later that year I read Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet and thought to myself “this style is a lot. it reminds me of Followed by Frost.”  Turns out Charlie N. Holmberg wrote both.  Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is my favorite of all of her works to date.  It takes the fun elements and themes in Followed by Frost and brings them to their largest showcase.  There are several fairy tale character references.  Marie explores some same territory Smitha did, though the characters approach the themes from two different personalities.  At the core of all the action is an emotional and ethically based.  

This year I’ve returned to Holmberg’s work and read Smoke and Summons and Myths and Mortals.  Her writing continues to grow and evolve in ways I appreciate.  These worlds hold the same completing characters but the live in a unique imaginary world that’s well thought out.  Holmberg fleshes out the world and magical system in a way that feels seemless and effortless to readers (though the writer in me knows how hard it is not to shove in an exposition dump).  Myth and Mortals ends with a cliff hanger I did not appreciate, but I enjoyed the whole so much, I’m looking forward to Siege and Sacrifice

Holmberg is a fantasy writer to keep an eye on and I’m not the only one who appreciates everything her stories offer.  Disney picked up the rights to Paper Magicians.

Unlike other pics for my Kindle Unlimited Series, Holmberg has her share of attention and some may ask why I highlight her.  Truly, I enjoy her work and perspective.  I see a lot of what I’d like to do in what she’s doing and I think our writing goals are similar.  It’s hard not to look at someone succeeding in a way I want to and not mention her.

Take Aways from Charlie N. Holmberg’s Success:

1.  Pretty and descriptive elements of a work can be a successful stylistic choice.  Often readers and writer discuss how today’s market is over-saturated and we need to jump into the action right away.  This suggests short prose that lack a singing quality, but Holmberg balances movement and description.  Write out the description for the first draft and look to the second draft to balance pacing.  The market doesn’t require brusque hops from action to action for success.

2.  Traditionally “feminine” characteristics and emotional story lines work in fantasy writing.  When readers/writers think “fantasy” genre we often think an epic scale battle and escapism.  Holmberg’s works create personal emotional investment and often lack an epic “world in peril” element.  The characters’ worlds are at risk, but the universe will be fine if these characters die or fail.  There’s a market for emotional small scale fantasy, there may even be a demand for it.

3.  Everything doesn’t have to be “sexy” or sexual in someway to create tension.  Something I love regarding Homberg’s works is the way she can build tension without ever resorting to sexual tension.  Yes some of her characters fall in love and face the traditional “do they love me back” dilemma but it’s never overblown.  The characters set this controversy aside when mortal peril intervenes.  They confront attraction when it keeps them from meeting their goals and they either embrace a relationship or move past rejection.  Relationships in her books feel real, organic, and warm, not an element existing to drag out the plot.

4.  Using fairy tale references in a work appears to either be popular or to help bolster a works attention or not hinder the work’s ability to reach a large audience.  As a writer who uses a lot of myth and legend in my writing, this encourages me.

5. Take your time and perfect your story.  Holmberg is very open regarding how many stories she queried before getting traction with “Paper Magicians.”  The first or second book you write might not be the one, if you publish traditionally.  For indie authors it’s more a message of “don’t be disappointed if your debut novel doesn’t break records.”  

6. Have a posse of like-minded writers to bounce ideas off of. Holmberg is part of a Deep Magic e-zine that looks to create “clean fantasy.”  Working together with other writers to keep your themes out in the public eye will help find like audience and also is a great service to other writers in the same genre.  If you’re an Alabaman local, might I suggest our North Alabama Writers’ Group Meeting?

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. BartolSara C. Roethle, or T. A. White.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews.  Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer?

Or consider 9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me)7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2018

2018 was a wonderful reading year. I beat my goal of 36 books by about 10. 17 of these books were nonfiction and not eligible to make this list. Out of 30 books, these are the top five fiction reads. Starting from least favorite to most treasured read.  For an in-depth look at my 2018 reading check out Books Read in 2018.

image from Goodreads.com

5. Traitorborn–  Has everything I like about “Hunger Games” in it but tells the story in a fresh, compelling way.  My favorite aspect of this series is that there are not “good” characters (at least from my perspective).  Most of the characters, our hero included, have a piece of the solution for their dystopian society and they are also holding on to part of the problem.  It’s refreshing to have a complex group of characters I can empathize with some times and despise other times.  Where so much conversations happening around me are polarizing, it’s nice to read a book that reaches for full open conversation and understanding, without surrendering one’s agency.   For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

Image from Goodreads.com


4. Dragon Ridden– Don’t let the cover fool you, this was just fun and well written.  There isn’t any messaging in it, it’s just an immersive fantasy read and sometimes that’s enough.  Pure escapism, a well-developed fantasy world distinct from earth, and a cast of well-rounded characters.  It’s enough. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

image from Goodreads.com


3. End of Days– Dark, thoughtful work with a great balance of action and tense “waiting”.  Left me wondering about the conclusion all the way to the end and it leaves just the right amount open ambiguity to make me think about it for days afterward but still find satisfaction with the close given to us.  I’m sorry “Traitorborn” is on its second book while “End of Days” is a complete series because I think if I could compare the conclusions of both books, it may flip their positions on this list.  Still both books are wonderful.  Sold to young adults but they hold positives for all age groups.  

image from Goodreads.com


2. Card of Chaos–  Complex, excellent execution, everything I look for in the retelling of classic fairytale/folklore.  It begins with humor and ends in affection.  I like how the author draws the reader in and connects us with this strange if familiar world.  Loved the beautiful scenes, the deep philosophy and the language.  It may be my second favorite book of the year, but it’s my first recommendation to others.

image from Goodreads.com


1. The Book of Etta– Enjoyed every second.  I know this is a polarizing book because it explores gender roles, what gender is, and whether sex and gender can be two separate things.  The beauty of this book: it can explore the internal struggle being genderqueer/trans/gay/bi ect  often brings and ignore all the political bullshit that’s happening in our own world.  Here we can enjoy a human vs self moment.  We can see all the factors in the book which exacerbate the struggle and rail against them without hating our own culture.  Sometimes the call to action in a book can cut short a person’s thoughtful introspection, but The Book of Etta lacks this baggage and I’m beyond grateful.  Where the first book took a premise, I didn’t feel was true but expounded on it in a way that pushed me to read on, Etta felt right from the first words.  I knew Etta, I’d been Etta, and I sometimes still am Etta.  I knew Flora and have been her too.  Heck, there was a part of me that felt like I’d been Alma before and that I knew her.  The beauty of this book is that it allowed me to feel and it allowed me to celebrate so many aspects of who I am as a person.  Everyone will have a different time reading it.  But, it’s the jewel of my 2018 reading list.  


Happy New Year!  What were your five favorite reads of 2018?  Was your reading list similar?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  What are your reading goals for 2019?