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!

Book Review – Where She Belongs (Kaitlin Cooke)

Amelia is living her dream – dancing ballet in New York City. But when her father dies unexpectedly, she retreats to the small town in Texas where she grew up and the waiting arms of her first love. Amelia and her father had moved away shortly after Amelia’s mother died after being thrown from her horse. Now that she’s back, Dawson isn’t sure what to do. If she ever finds out what he does for a living, she’ll be furious and he could lose her forever. But with a dancing career waiting for her in New York City, how long will she stick around anyway?

A freak accident leaves Dawson badly injured and Amelia determined to stay by his side. His stubbornness collides with her desire to help, angry words are exchanged, and Amelia returns to New York City before Dawson has even left the hospital. Both of them try to move but neither is truly interested in dating anyone else. An offer from an even larger company seems like a dream come true when Amelia realizes she could still dance with both ballet companies. But the demands of rehearsal and busy schedule begin to take a toll on her health. When Dawson surprises her by coming to a performance, he can tell that she’s not dancing as flawlessly as she usually does and expresses his concern. Amelia rebuffs him and sends him away. But she can’t help wondering – why isn’t she enjoying dancing like she used to?

I have a soft spot in my book-loving heart for romance novels. Every now and then, I need a book where the guy gets the girls and happily ever after is a thing! This one stands out from many others I’ve read for a couple of key reasons. Many romance novels generate conflict through a love triangle filled with misunderstandings or past histories that come between our leading man and leading lady. That isn’t the case here. Dawson and Amelia are deeply in love with each other. Both of them attempt to move on with new relationships after things fall apart. But neither one is truly happy without the other.

Another common trope in the romance genre is to have one character rescue the other. Again, the author chose to go a different way. Both Dawson and Amelia find themselves in a place where they are vulnerable. Both of them try to push themselves harder than they should because of their passion for what they are doing. And both have to confront the fact that sometimes the human body just needs healing and rest. Because of this, neither of them come across as the hero. If anything, they rescue each other.

One thing that I especially enjoyed about the book – Dawson rides bulls in the rodeo (and he’s good!) while Amelia is a talented ballerina (frequently dancing the lead/solo parts). When describing either activity – both of which I have watched in person – Cooke’s descriptions were so beautifully crafted – down to the smallest detail – that I could almost see it. This one is definitely worth the read.

Book Review

Tosca Lee once again crafts a story that keeps you breathlessly turning pages until the very end. And then it leaves you wanting more.

We meet Wynter Roth in the middle of her story – she’s being forcibly removed from The Enclave, the home of the cult known as New Earth. She leaves with one goal in mind – to return and rescue her sister Jaclyn and Jaclyn’s daughter Truly. There’s just one problem – Jaclyn is married to the leader of New Earth, a man named Magnus. And he’s the one kicking Wynter out into the world that he has taught his followers to fear. Thankfully, she’s barely past the boundary of New Earth when she is met by an old family friend, Julie, who is determined to help Wynter get her bearings. Julie and her husband Ken let Wynter move into the apartment over their garage and they make arrangements for her to see a therapist when she becomes overwhelmed by all the sudden change in her life.

The outside world is a strange place to Wynter. She’s never used a smart phone, watched television, or “surfed” the internet. And the world she’s entered is facing a serious problem that is only just becoming apparent. Numerous people are struggling with what seems to be an early-onset form of dementia and the doctors are baffled as to the cause. Especially because it seems to be contagious. To make matters worse, the power is going out and the gas stations are running out of fuel. Outside forces using the health scare to their advantage perhaps?

Beautifully weaving flashbacks together with Wynter’s current experiences, Lee takes the reader on an emotional ride through the events that led to Wynter’s expulsion from the Enclave and places her squarely at the center of a national health crisis. She reconnects with a former cult member that had supposedly died and even gets a chance to see her sister (outside of the Enclave) who entrusts her with the monumental task of transporting precious cargo that could hold the answer to curing the epidemic that is sweeping the nation. Along the way, she meets Chase, a former Marine who makes it his personal mission to help Wynter make her very important trip (once he forces the truth out of her, that is). And that former cult member? She introduces Wynter and Chase to Noah who has gone to great lengths to provide a safe, secure hideaway for just the type of crisis currently taking place.

Underlying all of this is Wynter’s own personal struggle to figure out just what or who is worth believing in. As a child, Wynter’s faith in Magnus and his teaching was firm and unwavering. In her adult years, she learns things about Magnus that cause her to question everything she once believed. So is she really sorry to be leaving when Magnus casts her out? And just exactly how does Jaclyn, the wife of The Prophet, come into possession of items that could prove invaluable to the CDC in treating and stopping what is shaping up to be a pandemic?

Book Review – Rising of Three

Ever have one of those reading experiences where you finish a book or a series you were COMPLETELY invested in and don’t really know what to do with yourself now that the story is over? If you answered yes to that question, then you would be able to empathize with how I spent part of my afternoon.

I just finished the third book of The Starseed Trilogy and I’m absolutely done in! In the first book, we meet Lily, Evelyn, and Sara, three women in their very early 20’s who are triplets but don’t know it! They were all given up for adoption by their mother, Brigit, as a way of protecting them until they “came of age”. These three were born witches and, if the prophecy was to be believed, they were very powerful ones. So powerful that they would be the only ones capable of stopping a dark force from another dimension that wished to subjugate the human race and rule the earth.

Each story contained a battle against evil with each battle being more intense than the one before. And this third installment in the series did not disappoint! The triplets finally come face-to-face with Dimia, the King of the Fata, and once again encounter his seneschal, Noro. But they don’t face these two evil creatures alone. A number of those in the “supernatural community” believe that the triplets are indeed the three spoken of in the prophecy and it doesn’t take long before the girls have their own small army to lead.

But sometimes battles exact a painful price; even when that battle is against a force of evil that must be stopped. While the losses were heartbreaking (I literally said, “No!” out loud at one point), the grief of the characters helped lend credibility to the storyline and the battle scenes contained therein. It would have been just a touch TOO incredible if the girls and their army had escaped completely unscathed.

Love, revenge, forgiveness, restored relationships, . . . it’s all here. Wrapped up in a powerful story of three women who come to cherish the sisters they never knew they wanted. 

Book Review- Souls of Three (Starseed Trilogy #2)

As the second book of The Starseed Trilogy opens, the triplets – Lily, Evelyn, and Sara – are taking a break from their “magical training”. Lily has traveled back to Oregon to spend some time with those who raised her while Evelyn returns to New York City and her job with her adopted dad’s company. When Lily returns to Fern Cottage, she is told that Evelyn’s work will be keeping her in New York City longer than was originally planned – an important new client to get settled in. To REALLY complicate matters, Evelyn falls for this new client, a charming man by the name of Roman Simons. Does she really want to leave him and return to Fern Cottage? Would he understand if she told him who she really was? And then he invites her on a weekend getaway in some remote luxury home.

Meanwhile, Lily, who is more than a little frustrated that Evelyn hasn’t yet returned, discovers that Sara and Evelyn have been talking on the phone during Evelyn’s prolonged absence. And when Lily finds out that Evelyn is enjoying a weekend getaway with the new man in her life? Things can’t help but get more tense between two sisters who have had difficulty getting along from the start.

But the handsome, charming Roman Simons is not all that he appears to be and Evelyn quickly finds herself in a nightmarish situation that she, with her fledgling magic skills, cannot handle alone. She doesn’t know if her sisters even know she is in trouble, much less if they can do anything to help.

Back in Fern Cottage, the family discovers a traitor in their midst. A lifelong friend sends a letter to the Brigit, the triplets’ mother, admitting that she was behind the chaos in Alexandria that resulted in Lily losing a family member. But this person isn’t confessing anything because she doesn’t feel the least bit guilty. She openly admits that she has had a hand in helping to abduct Evelyn. The family immediately takes action, seeking to rescue Evelyn and deal once and for all with the vampires Amon and Empusa.

But new powers arise in the girls and new pieces of the prophecy fall into place. The bond between the sisters grows stronger and they learn that their own power increases when they lean on one another.

This captivating sequel moves the story forward with new plot twists and new faces while continuing to beautifully develop the characters and relationships I most loved from the first book. Some enemies are vanquished, others escape, and a traitor has yet to be dealt with. And it all leaves you waiting to see what happens in the final installment! Will the magic skills of the three sisters be enough to defeat Dimia and the Fata? The fate of the human race hangs in the balance.

Book Review – Prophecy of Three (Starseed Trilogy #1)

Where do I begin?!

I discovered this book through a random social media encounter – it was a Twitter discussion about self-published/indie authors – where I met the author, Ashley McLeo. Do yourself a favor – read this book!

I’m going to try to keep this brief because I could go on about this book for awhile. Let’s start with something “technical” – the Bechdel Test. For those who don’t know, the Bechdel Test came about as a result of a 1985 comic strip created by Alison Bechdel. Originally intended as a way to “rate” movies, the Bechdel test has three basic goals – (1) There must be at least two female characters, (2) Both female characters must have names, and (3) They must have a conversation that is about something OTHER than a man. This book EXPLODES those three criteria. The book focuses on three women who don’t know they are sisters (triplets, to be exact) and their mother and her two sisters. Along with these six characters, there are other women who play significant roles in the story as well. In the course of the story, you learn their names and their personal histories. Their conversations involve the family history, the reasons that the triplets were sent to live with adoptive families (with their magic bound since they were born witches), learning to use their now un-bound powers, and the fact that these three just might be a set of sisters spoken of in a prophecy millennia before.

The characters can be strong or vulnerable, confident or frustrated, focused or confused. In other words, they are real and relatable. None of them is perfect or completely flawed but you are rooting for them every step of the way. You cheer as they become more able to control their various powers, you are genuinely worried for them when a loved one is in serious danger . . . and when Lily has to make a heart-wrenching decision regarding someone who helped to raise her? I literally held my breath!

If you like believable, strong, multi-dimensional female characters and a well-written plot, read this book! Warning – there is a mountain of a cliffhanger at the end!