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.

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.

Reading Challenge Addict?

I love to read.

No, I mean I REALLY LOVE to read.

As a kid, I always participated in those summer reading programs that the library hosted. I solved crimes with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys or rode in a covered wagon with Laura Ingalls and her family.

Today I’m still sleuthing it up in my imagination but now I’m “working” with Lucas Davenport or Virgil Flowers. Maybe I’m cruising around “the Burg” with Stephanie Plum and Lula. Possibly watching Kay Scarpetta at work in the lab.

When the urge for fantasy or “alternate universe” strikes, I turn to Ted Dekker or Tosca Lee. Want to take on legendary bad guys? Kerri Maniscalco’s “Stalking Jack the Ripper” series fits the bill quite nicely (and the last installment – coming out in 2019 – will have Audrey and Thomas taking on the bad guy to end all bad guys!).

Get the idea? I could talk for hours about books. Or their authors. I have favorites in just about every genre and have recently found some Indie/Self-Published authors that are AMAZING. I’m very aware, however, that not everyone shares my attitude towards reading and they are definitely not interested in listening to me ramble on!

Thankfully, it’s very easy to find like-minded folk on the internet or social media apps! And what are many of the hardcore book lovers like me chatting about as we look forward to a New Year?

Reading Challenges!

It’s possible that someone will create a group on Goodreads (or maybe even Facebook) to give those who have taken on the same challenge a designated space to track what we’ve read (or what we’re planning to read), share suggestions, or ask for recommendations. The really serious readers even create spreadsheet templates to track their progress, keep a list of possible books, etc. They are even generous enough to share them! And some of us just might take on more than a few reading challenges just to see how far we get!

In an attempt to occupy my downtime more constructively in the coming year, I’m personally tracking my reading across nine different reading challenges. Yes, I said nine. (Truth be told, I blame the book loving folks over at Reading Challenge Addict for this!) And while I consider these my challenges for 2019, I actually start the challenge the day after Christmas. I’ve done this the last few years since that week between Christmas and New Year’s is usually a great time to get a couple books read since I’m on Christmas Break. That way I feel like I’ve gotten a strong start!

And no, I’m not crazy. I mean, 9 reading challenges at one time doesn’t prove that I’m crazy.

As I said, I start my yearly challenges the day after Christmas so I am already underway! Finished two titles to be exact. And each of those books covered an empty spot in four of those challenges. In other words, two titles down and I’ve filled in eight spots. Not bad! With some careful planning and clever choosing, I’ll find more ways to cover several slots with just one book!

I thought I’d share the challenges I’m working on just in case someone reading this is intrigued and would like to join the fun! If you click on the title of each challenge, you’ll be taken directly to the webpage for the particular challenge.

Happy reading!

2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge – this is probably one of the most well-known annual reading challenges out there. I’ve done this one three out of the last four years and I’m always impressed with the creativity of some of the categories! They always include a few “advanced” book prompts for the truly adventurous. Struggling to come up with ideas for some of the prompts? No worries! There is a discussion group specifically for this challenge hosted on Goodreads – you can find it here.  (Quick note – this is the only one on my list I’ve ever done before. Everything below this is new to me!)

Reading Women Challenge – It’s probably not going to surprise you that many of the categories in this challenge focus on women – women authors, female characters engaged in specific careers or facing specific challenges. Some of the categories have forced me to do some exploring outside of my usual reading preferences so I’m excited!

52 Books in 52 Weeks – Some of these categories are simple (and similar to a couple of the other challenges) and the number is doable for me. Although there might be weeks I don’t complete a book. Guess I’ll have to double up on other weeks!

Color Coded – This is one of SEVERAL that are hosted on My Reader’s Block. And it’s the simplest challenge out there! It only asks for nine books, each with a specific color in the title or on the cover. How easy is that?!

2019 Ragdoll Reading Challenge – This site actually has two versions of their challenge. The link is for the “Book Dragon” version (more book prompts for the serious bookworm!) but there is also a “lite” version of the challenge for those who don’t want to feel overwhelmed! Again, some of these prompts are similar to prompts found in some of the other challenges.

Monthly Key Word – (My Reader’s Block also has a link to this one.) This one took me a second to figure out! Under each month, there are nine words listed. Your goal is to find a book that includes ONE of those key words. In other words, it takes just 12 books to complete this challenge!

Just the Facts, Ma’am 2019 (Vintage Mystery Challenge) – This is actually a “choose your preference” challenge and it’s genre specific – mystery/crime books ONLY. There is a Gold level challenge and a Silver level challenge. For the Gold level challenge, only books written before 1960 are eligible. For the Silver level, you are looking for titles published from 1960 – 1989. You can read as many or as few as you wish BUT this one has a prize drawing at the end of the year and you must read a minimum of six (all six books have to be in just ONE of the challenges) to qualify for the drawing. If you choose to do one of these, there are very clear directions given on the site so be sure to check it out!

Calendar of Crime – This is another mystery book only challenge and it also has a prize drawing at the end of the year. Much like the Monthly Key Word challenge, you pick one of the prompts for each month and read a book that fulfills that category. It only takes 12 mystery books to complete this challenge!

Special Edition! From My Bookshelf

I got the incredible opportunity to be an Advanced Reader for Tosca Lee’s upcoming book, “The Line Between” – WOW!!! If you are already a Tosca fan, you won’t be disappointed.  If you’ve never read any of her work, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!  I just finished the book today and put out an early review on Goodreads so I thought I’d share the link here.  The book comes out January 29, 2019, but you can pre-order your copy on Amazon right now.

Click HERE to read my review.

From My Bookshelf – “Refugees” by R. A. Denny

(Since I wrote this review, this book has been “re-published” as “The Emperor’s Harvest”.)

An evil emperor, a prophecy that reads more like a riddle, and three young people from different cultures who have a destiny to fulfill.

If you enjoyed Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, then you need to add Denny’s Mud, Rocks, and Trees series to your reading list. The characters are really well-developed and the plot develops carefully, feeding the reader just enough detail to keep the pages turning but without giving away too much too soon.

The story frequently changes location since three of the major characters come from completely different places. The author handles this with beautiful simplicity by placing a name under the chapter heading so you know exactly where you are. That way, there is no need to decipher location since you know where each character is.

Can’t wait to read the sequel!