SPFBO8 Introductions and Cover Contest


SPFBO7 Wrap Up

Last month concluded The Critiquing Chemist’s second year as a judge for Mark Lawrence’s seventh annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). SPFBO7 marked some exciting changes with Jennie and I teaming up with the positively wonderful Lynn’s Books. We had a fantastic time throughout the eleven month contest discussing the books throughout both phases. As a group, we were excited when J.D. Evan’s Reign & Ruin ended up winning the contest as it was our top-rated read of SPFBO7. Additionally, we discovered many other titles that we thoroughly enjoyed throughout this contest such as Tim Hardie’s Hall of Bones, Olivia Atwater’s Ten Thousand Stitches, and Shadows of Ivory by TL Greylock and Bryce O’Connor.


SPFBO8 Announcements

This year we will be teaming up again with Lynn’s Books for the contest this year, with our nickname: LB=TC2. Check out Lynn’s SPFBO8 introduction and cover reveal here.


The start of June marks the beginning of SPFBO8, with the books already having been submitted and divvied up between the various judging groups. To read more about the contest this year and peruse the list of 300 novels click here to be directed to Mark Lawrence’s post regarding SPFBO8. Briefly, the SPFBO involves 300 self-published titles being narrowed down to one winner over two phases spanning 11 months. Phase One, taking place over 5 months, has the 300 novels split between 10 judges, whereupon each judge puts forth one title into the finals. The remaining six months has a winner determined from the finalists in Phase Two. Sarah is the founder of the Critiquing Chemist and she’s recruited her brilliant, book-loving friend Jennie to her team for the SPFBO contest.

About Sarah, The Critiquing Chemist

It’s hard to believe a year ago I was a week overdue and now I have a one year old. Quinn has been an immeasurable blessing who constantly surprises and delights us!

As an analytical chemist by training, my blog, ‘The Critiquing Chemist’ is a merging of my love for books and my deep-seated need to over analyze everything I come into contact with. Mainly focused on book reviews, over the past six years you’ll find beekeeping or travel posts, e.g., SpainJordanPeruEgypt, snuck in every so often.

  • General preferences: The more world building and character depth packed into a novel the better. Also, beautiful writing will win my devotion every single time.
  • Reading Pet Peeves: Hmmm. This is hard. I would have to say, love triangles, shallow worldbuilding, too many convenient solutions and a rushed ending.
  • Unpopular opinion: I didn’t mind the last season of Game of Thrones. Fight me.
  • Unpopular opinion #2: I would rather Rothfuss or Martin NEVER release another book than give into fan pressure to release something less than perfect. I’ll wait another 10 or 20 years if they need it. Take your time guys! I’ll be patiently waiting.
  • I graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 with my PhD in analytical chemistry and if you’re looking for a truly technical fascinating read check out my dissertation: Utilizing fluidic platforms for the development of in vitro pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic models. It might be a published book, but not nearly as entertaining as the fantasy books I prefer to read.
  • I was an extra in the Batman vs. Superman movie. You can see my glistening forehead behind Ben Affleck’s well tailored shoulder while he was at the bar in Lex Luthor’s house. It was such a cool experience and Gal Gadot is the sweetest person. It’s not every day Wonder Woman tells you you’re beautiful.
  • My husband, Luke and I are beekeepers. We have five hives on our farm in southern Michigan, where we also grow corn and soybeans. We also have two rather large International tractors I’ve named “My Precious” and Smeagol after the Lord of the Rings.
  • I’m also an avid sports fan. I’m a huge fan of any Detroit team and my Michigan State Spartans. Go Green!
  • My other passion is traveling! At six weeks old we had our sweet Quinn out on our favorite six mile hike in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in two weeks we are headed to Alaska. Wish us luck on our flights with our one year old. I can’t wait to keep introducing Quinn to the world.

Contact information:

About Jennie, the Bookish Boffin

Thank you to Sarah for allowing me to crash Team LB = TC2! Thank you to Lynn for making that team name possible! Thank you to the authors for sharing your literary worlds with us! Thank you to Mark Lawrence for all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly!

Fun facts that you didn’t ask for:

  • Like Sarah, I have a PhD in Chemistry. My time these days is spent helping middle school and high school students learn the language of mathematics.
  • I can read the book before I watch the movie, but not the other way around.
  • I miss receiving free personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut through the BOOK IT! program.
  • I grew up reading in moving vehicles for hours on end, but experience motion sickness with video games that are not two-dimensional.
  • The longest book I’ve read (so far?) is War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

Stories that I enjoy the most tend to go back and forth between circumstances leading up to an event and the aftermath of trying to figure out what happened and why. Another plus is if an author continually pivots a story’s direction – I’d rather have the end-goal morph as new information comes to light than spend the entire book waiting to reach said goal. Additionally, I’m a fan of swapping the point of view between characters, which can be used to learn more about a situation or character development. In any case, to get a sense of what I’ve enjoyed in the past, I’ve compiled the following lists (which tend to span beyond the Fantasy genre):

  • Books – Ready Play One by Ernest Cline, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, works by Gillian Flynn, novels by Gregory Maguire, Slade House by David Mitchell, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, The Martian by Andy Weir, In the Dark by Loreth Anne White…
  • Podcasts – The Message produced by GE Podcast Theater and Panoply, LifeAfter produced by GE Podcast Theater and Panoply, The Bright Sessions created by Lauren Shippen, Limetown produced by Two-Up Productions, Darkest Night produced by The Paragon Collective and NoSleep, Lore hosted and produced by Aaron Mahnke, The White Vault created by K. A. Statz…
  • Movies – Robin Hood: Men in Tights directed by Mel Brooks, Beetlejuice directed by Tim Burton, Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Boondock Saints directed by Troy Duffy, The Cabin in the Woods directed by Drew Goddard, Labyrinth directed by Jim Henson, Memento directed by Christopher Nolan, Insidious directed by James Wan…

Cover Contest

Lastly, every year there’s a cover contest for SPFBO and we had such a hard time picking our top three! Initially each judging group whittles their 30 covers down to three before voting on their favorites from the rest of the judging groups. Check out the wonderful covers from our Phase One batch before finding the three titles we promoted to round two of voting.


Lynn’s Books and The Critiquing Chemist/Bookish Boffin’s Top Three Covers


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