From My Bookshelf – Cambiare by Avery Ames

If you start reading this book expecting a typical fae story, you are going to be shocked. Very, VERY shocked. Princess Cirelle makes a deal with a mysterious fae named Ellian to save her brother and former lover from a plague that is devastating her kingdom. The price Cirelle has to pay? One year of servitude in Ellian’s home. Cirelle knows much of the lore concerning fae and thinks she is prepared for her adventure. But there’s a dark side to her that is brought to the surface in the fae realm. As Ellian says, “There’s something dark inside you, Princess, and I’m afraid I’m setting it free.”

Intense emotions, subterfuge and plotting, and a small rebellion trying to prevent the queen of the Unseelie Court from locking the door between the fae realm and the human world. This one will keep you guessing right up until the last page and then leave you waiting for the sequel!

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! #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!

Bonus Book Review – Girl Desecrated (Cheryl Cowtan)

I know I’ve already posted a book reveiw this week . . . but I just finished a book by a new-to-me author and wanted to share!

Rachel has grown up with a fanatically religious mother who believes her daughter is possessed. While visiting her mother in the asylum, Rachel is befriended by Dr. Casbus who offers Rachel psychiatric help to deal with what appears to be a “split personality.” But is Dr. Casbus really who he claims to be? And is Rachel dealing with mental illness or something far worse?

A highland curse from the 1800’s rears it’s ugly head to completely alter Rachel’s life. Her mother’s fear of a demon wasn’t terribly far off the mark and Rachel’s encounter with an irresistibly handsome Scotsman sets in motion a terrifying change in Rachel that she is determined to fight against.

Cowtan uses carefully placed, well-crafted flashbacks to help with the backstory here. Jumping from the colonial era in the Jamestown settlement to the 1980s in Canada, we are given glimpses into the life of an otherworldly creature referred to as The Fergus She – also known as Scarlett – as well as Rachal Anam, just turned 18. Cowtan does a beautiful job keeping her reader guessing about the connection between the two women until the inevitable reveal near the end of the book. As the truth is revealed, the reader is left facing a well-crafted cliffhanger and wondering what will happen in the second book. The characters are complex and well-thought-out. I was drawn into Rachel’s story and I love it when an author can make me care about a character, flaws and all. This was definitely a worthwhile read and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

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.