From My Bookshelf – The Kingdom of Liars

I had the fortune to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

Michael Kingman has grown up under a dark cloud. When he was merely a child, his father was executed for killing the prince. Michael and his sister, Gwen, and brother, Lyon, were branded, forever marked as traitors. Raised by a foster father, the three siblings attempt to forge their way in a world that once revered their family name. “There must always be a Kingman in Hollow.” But what exactly were the Kingman children supposed to do when they were no longer tasked with protecting the members of the royal family to whom they had pledged? To make matters worse, their mother is in an asylum, her mind seemingly gone. But she does not possess the ability to wield any kind of Fabrication so her loss of memory makes absolutely no sense. Then Michael begins to hear rumors that maybe, just maybe, his father had been framed. But who can he trust? Not everyone in his life is who he or she appears to be. And he has never shown any ability with Fabrications so why are their holes in his own memory?

The world-building is outstanding, the character development captivating, and the story . . . well, the story will draw you in and refuse to let you go. Not everyone is who they claim to be and there are more secrets being kept than Michael can possibly imagine. This may be the first novel from author Nick Martell, but what a debut! This is to be the first in a series and there is PLENTY yet to be revealed in Michael’s story. Martell has definitely planted himself firmly on my “best of the year” list.

From My Bookshelf – Gray Wolf by J.W. Webb

Corin an Fol has one purpose in life – avenge the deaths of his parents and rescue his sister. He joins the elite Wolf Regiment and, despite his skill and hard work, the swordmaster Taskala takes an instant disliking to Corin. He is harder on Corin than any other member of the regiment which just strengthens Corin’s resolve to get revenge.

His heartbreak is eased somewhat when he falls in love with Yazrana, a fellow member of his regiment and skilled fighter. But corrupt politicians, warring factions, and a civil war destroy Corin’s newfound happiness and leave him wondering exactly who he can trust and to whom he should pledge his sword.

This is the first of five books in a series and believe me when I say the rest of the series is on my wish list! Corin is not the type of “heroic” character you are immediately drawn to but he definitely wins you over in the end with his fierce loyalty and willingness to risk himself for those he cares about. There are numerous questions left unanswered at the end of the book and I can’t wait to pick up the next one!

From My Bookshelf – The Pygmy Dragon by Marc Secchia

Pip is a pygmy warrior who finds herself captured and placed in a cage at the local zoo. She is given the opportunity to talk regularly with a human, a man who is doing research and develops an almost fatherly affection for Pipl. Suddenly, she finds herself taken – or is it rescued?! – by a dragon! The amazing creature takes her to an island acadmy where she learns, much to her surprise, that she is actually a dragon herself. Young Pip, the pygmy warrior, is a shapeshifting pygmy dragon! She has a long, uphill battle to prove her right to be at the academy to say nothing of learning to control her shapeshifting powers! There are evil forces at work, seeking to control all of dragonkind, and Pip’s unique abilities will prove to be invaluable in the fight that is to come.

I loved everything about this book. Pip is feisty and fierce and refuses to give up without a fight. But she is also willing to admit her mistakes and tries diligently to learn from them. She is cautious when getting to know the other students, taking her time to form friendships with those she knows she can trust. The first in a series, the author has created a collection of rich characters and a well-crafted world with legends and a history that provide a well-thought-out backdrop to Pip’s adventures. I can’t wait to continue reading the series!

From My Bookshelf – Maid for the Musketeer by Anna Klein

The author describes this book as more “fanfiction” than true fiction. The well-known title characters from Dumas’ original novel are nowhere to be found in Klein’s book. But Captain Treville and Cardinal Richelieu are major characters while King Louis makes a brief appearance in a crucial moment. The Duke of Buckingham MUST be at list a bit player in any story surrounding the Musketeers and their defense of the King. In this novel, our leading man has a couple of less-than-friendly encounters with him.

The story focuses on Gregoire de Medici and Charlotte Menard, childhood friends who were ripped apart by accusations of treason. Gregoire simply wants to escape the black cloud that hangs over his family name and make sure that his sister can secure a respectable husband. Charlotte was always too headstrong for her own good, preferring adventure and daring escapades to activities more suited for a young woman. When the story begins she is a widow who isn’t really grieving the husband she never loved. Her late husband left her with little more than debts she cannot pay and it’s unclear how she will survive on her own.

Enter Cardinal Richelieu. He offers to help both Charlotte and Gregoire if they will work for him. Someone is trying to harm the king and the Cardinal needs eyes on the inside. Charlotte becomes a personal maid to Lady Abigail, a noblewoman visiting from England. Gregoire joins the Musketeers under an assumed name, a job that gives him access to the palace where he and Charlotte can be seen talking without suspicion. And since Gregoire is in Musketeer blue, it will be harder to connect his actions to the Cardinal. But if they can pull off this job, they will both have everything they want. Or at least they will have what they think they want.

Klein has written a story that is both captivating AND a beautiful tribute to a well-known and much loved classic novel. Both Charlotte and Gregoire have to find the strength to admit painful secrets to one another and it seems as those these two may never find their way to one another for good. Both experience moments of danger and both are rescued by the other, making it clear that this mission needs both of them to succeed. From the moment they reconnect in Richelieu’s office, I completely believed that they were lifelong friends who had fallen in love and been separated by tragedy. They are both strong, resilient characters, neither of them diminished by the other. While very clearly a romance, it was also a story about learning to define who you are and who you want to be apart from family and the expectations of society. I loved absolutely everything about it.

From my Bookshelf – Supernova Era by Liu Cixin

The premise of the book is an intriguing one. Eight light-years from planet earth a star created a supernova event that caused strange lights in the sky. Unfortunately, the supernova also polluted the atmosphere with radiation that attacks the human body at the chromosomal level. All humans over the age of 13 will be dead in less than a year. Leaders of every nation in the world take on the unenviable task of training the best and brightest 13-year-olds to run the world once the inevitable happens.

The book, originally written in Chinese, focuses on three students from the same classroom entrusted with the task of running China once the adults have all passed. An overwhelming task even for the most skilled adult, the needs of a nation weigh heavily on young people who are barely teenagers. Children’s natural preference is to play. Trying to work at adult jobs while taking classes at night quickly becomes tedious and children simply stop going to work. The desire, all across the globe, to create a world that is more fun and play-based than the world the adults left them leads to the most bizarre and violent global game ever imagined.

I enjoyed the premise and the responses of the kids to the demands of the adult world were absolutely authentic. The only thing I found difficult to deal with was the author’s tendency to wax philosophical in the midst of a work of fiction. It didn’t necessarily detract from the story, but it did tend to slow the pace down a bit. But the story is still very well-crafted. There is one “why did they do this” kind of mystery that was left unsolved so I’m not sure if there will be a sequel of the author just meant to leave things not completely settled. 

From my Bookshelf – Feathers and Fae by Crystal L. Kirkham

Long-held secrets, mystical realms, and one stubborn young lady who is more than she seems. If you enjoy a well-written fantasy story, Feathers and Fae is worth the read.

When a banished evil who goes by the name of Aseth returns, intent on regaining the power he once had, Emmett exercises some of his magic – a well-kept secret until that moment – to protect his friend Kami. But his magic does more than he expected and the two find themselves in a different realm called Mythos, a place of magic and creatures Kami thought only existed in books. As they seek passage back to the realm where Earth is contained, Emmett finds it more and more difficult to keep secrets from Kami. Being in Mythos has somehow given her the ability to sense when someone is lying to her and she quickly figures out that all is not as she has believed it to be.

As their situation becomes more dangerous and Aseth draws closer, Emmett has no choice but to tell Kami the whole truth. Can they stop Aseth once and for all? Or will all of Emmett’s attempts to keep Kami safe end in failure?

The characters were very well-developed and the relationship between Kami and Emmett was just what you would expect from two people who were supposed to be lifelong friends. When Kami is able to sense Emmett’s lies, the tension between them adds a measure of intensity to the story, especially when Aseth is practically on top of them! Even when everything seems hopeless the reader can’t help but root for these two and the friends who help them. The ONLY thing I was missing was more detail in the world-building. That lack may have been due to the fact that the characters were on a journey that took them through a few different regions of Mythos. Whatever the cause, I struggled to visualize the world as a whole but it wasn’t enough to detract from the enjoyment of the story!

From my Bookshelf – In My Time of Dying by David J. West

I have to be honest – I was drawn to this book mostly by the cover. The synopsis of the story was definitely intriguing, but the artwork of the cover is what sold me.

This story did NOT disappoint! In 1875, Elizabeth Jane Dee finds herself drawn into a world of intrigue and magic when she receives a mysterious note requesting her help and promising that someone will protect her since her task will be dangerous. Before she can even find out what she is being asked to do, she encounters dangerous men who all carry the same tattoo and are definitely from another part of the world. They demand that she lead them to the monster and willing to kill her if she won’t cooperate.

She finally meets her protector – a mysterious man named Rockwell Porter – and sets off across the American West to help a man she knows only as Mr. Methuselah. The tattooed men are in hot pursuit, led by a man who calls himself Count St. Germain, and Elizabeth discovers that she possesses some supernatural skill that she never knew about. But exactly who is Mr. Methuselah? Why is Porter Rockwell helping her and is he truly immune to bullets? And who is this Count St. Germain really?

The book ends with a captivating cliffhanger that has me very eager for the sequel. The author’s ability to combine historical fiction with the mystical makes this a series I will definitely be finishing!

From My Bookshelf – Walking Shoes by Lynne Gentry

Leona Harper is a pastor’s wife in a small-town church. As is often the case for women like her, every choice Leona makes is up for scrutiny among at least a few members of the church. Her efforts to put forth the kind of image that will keep the church people happy has strained her relationships with her two adult children and left her exhausted.

Then one Sunday morning, her husband, J.D. Harper, drops dead in the pulpit from a heart attack. She doesn’t have a job and she is living in the parsonage, the home that the church owns and provides as housing to their pastor. What is going to happen to her now that her husband is gone? Not only does she have to process her grief at losing the man she loved, but Leona also has to face her son David and daughter Madison, neither of whom are big fans of their mother. And then there’s her mother who was NEVER happy that J.D. decided to be a pastor.

With the help of her outspoken friend Roxie, Leona re-enters the workforce, learns to stand up to the busybodies in the church, and is able to communicate with her kids like never before. She learns that the “negative nellies” in the church are far outnumbered by those who are genuinely fond of her and are looking out for her.

I am a pastor’s wife and I have to say that Leona’s story is so true it is almost painful! The author describes a lifestyle that is so unique that only another pastor’s family can truly understand the scrutiny that you live with when hubby is in the pulpit every week. The toll that such a life can take on family relationships was depicted in a real and honest way without lumping all people of faith into the same negative box. Leona discovers some real friends among the church members and her kids even start to find the good in a situation that had long been a source of frustration for them both. The first in a series, this is a very realistic peek into life in the parsonage and I will definitely be continuing the series!

From my Bookshelf! #Indiecember

This isn’t so much about a specific book review. It’s about a fun book challenge I’m taking part in during the month of December. The amazing Megan Tennant (check out her Twitter feed HERE) has organized the Indiecember book review challenge again this year and I’m so excited to be taking part. Unlike many other reading challenges I’ve been a part of, this one is LESS about reading books and MORE about reviewing books written by independent authors.

Indie authors rely heavily on the reviews that readers provide on websites like Goodreads and Amazon. So Megan, an author herself, has organized this yearly event specifically to help out those indie authors with book reviews. The idea is to spend the entire month of December helping out indie authors by talking about their books all over the sites I mentioned above PLUS posting links to those reviews on social media. Twitter seems to be an especially active site for authors and readers alike. Instagram is pretty popular too.

Love to read? Willing to take a few mintues to give an honest review to an author who doesn’t have the budget of a big publishing house to promote their book? Then check out all the info from Megan over on Twitter (the link is HERE) and join in the fun!