Book Review Wednesday – Charming Academy

Charming Academy by Jessica L. Elliot

Amazon Book Description:

Growing up is a difficult process for anyone, but for a boy destined to be the Prince Charming of a fairy tale it’s an absolute nightmare. Not only must Lucian learn the things normal boys are taught at school, he must also learn the particulars of quests at Charming Academy for Boys. It’s not going to be easy! There are sarcastic dragons, vindictive witches, and to top it all off Lucian’s princess hates him. Will he survive school to become the Prince Charming his parents believe him to be?

I first picked up this book in October of last year. Since then, I have read it four or five more times but it’s taken until now for me to sit and write a review instead of just continuing on with devouring the rest of the series. I originally thought this would be a children’s book that might or might not hold my attention. However, this book absolutely surprised me in the best of ways.

Plot – A-

Charming Academy is the first of a fairytales retold series. However, this book is not like most retellings. This is the story of how Prince Charming is prepared to save his princess. While it does not get to the actual retellings, the book retains the fairytale atmosphere. Lucian is the primary character and is destined to be Sleeping Beauty’s prince; however, we also meet the princesses and the other princes, each destined for his own fairytale. I loved the way the princes’ journeys are fleshed out. Charming Academy covers the six years of the princes’ training at Charming Academy (a bit like the Harry Potter format for Hogwarts) but there are also numerous side plots especially as the princes get older and the seeds of their individual stories are planted. The book is 500 pages long yet the plot carries itself well and rarely, if ever, feels as though it’s plodding. In fact, it was a jolt when I reached the end of the book and suddenly we’re back with the babysitter telling the story to the boy. I was so caught up in the story that I had forgotten it was technically a story within a story.

Content – A

In the course of expanding the realm of fairytales and creating realistic characters, Elliot includes many of the same things we face in the real world. There is violence and death, which is to be expected for princes training to fight dragons among other perils, but this primarily occurs off-screen so we mainly see the aftermath. One exception that stands out is when a particularly brutish prince strikes his princess. However, this incident is skillfully used to demonstrate how unacceptable that sort of behavior is and can provide a talking point for parents about how boys and girls should treat each other. There are also two death scenes that have reduced me to tears each time I read this book. They aren’t graphic but they are heartbreakingly poignant (and I still haven’t forgiven her for these deaths).

The kiss of true love is important to most fairytales and Elliot incorporates that wonderfully into her book. As the princes and princesses are paired with each other from the beginning, they are intended to grow as friends and then in love. It takes a while for the hormones to kick in but there are times when Lucian is highly tempted to do more than kiss Moira’s hand. However, the first kiss is so important to breaking enchantments that he resists the temptation. It’s cute watching Lucian and Moira in particular grow from definitely not liking each other (though for Lucian it’s a bit more of “she’s a girl” little boy mentality) to being very definitely in love. Moira is a challenging princess to say the least and part of Lucian’s appeal is that he is determined to be kind to her and to love her even when she tries to reject his love and the idea of loving him in return. Other than the hand-kissing and some kissing between already married adults, this is a squeaky clean story on the romance side.

Because this is a fairytale world, there are fairies and witches. The witches are interesting because they are used for discipline (believe me, these are teenagers who definitely earn their punishments) so spells are cast for punishment and once for a blessing. It fits into the fairytale setting and there is no mention of a spiritual connotation for the fairies or witches. I mentioned the teen factor because you do have characters being rude and even bullies, but there are always consequences. In a story about boys growing into men and being groomed to be worthy of the title ‘Prince Charming’, I appreciated the constant reminder that choices have consequences. Elliot skillfully made this clear in three different situations in particular, but I shan’t say more for fear of spoilers.

Technical – B+

Charming Academy is an extremely engaging read. As I mentioned before, the prologue and epilogue are set in modern times where a babysitter is telling the story to a little boy but the main story itself is so engaging that I completely forgot about this so the epilogue was a bit of a jolt. The flow rarely slows down. In fact, there were a few times where I wished we had a bit more detail and less of the sweeping summary regarding the later school years but it never detracts from the story mood.

However, there is quite a bit of head hopping in this story even though Lucian is the primary narrator. It can be a little distracting at times when we slip so quickly into different heads, but I found that this bothered me less during subsequent readings since I knew to expect it. It’s more of an omniscient third person POV storytelling style in this respect.

There is a smattering of typos throughout the book (perhaps five or six in the whole book), but it’s nothing that detracts from the story. The language is also pretty modern for a story set in the medieval setting of the fairytale world, but it doesn’t grate like one might expect. I was drawn into the story enough that the more modern language barely registered. The one technical aspect that truly bugged me in this book is the formatting of letters. The letters bounce from being the same size as the rest of the text to a huge font to being smaller than main text. There are enough letters present that I wished a single format was used across the board for them. Out of everything, it bothered me the most and what I would call a true distraction especially when it jumps to the huge font.

Final Grade – A- or 4.7 Stars

If you’re looking for a fairytale retelling that breaks the typical mold, this book is for you. This is the story of Prince Charming more than the princess. It is perfect for anyone who has ever wanted the more detailed plots that will turn Prince Charming into more than the guy on the white horse. This charming read is meant for ages 10-18 but is well-written and engaging to the point that I highly recommend it for adults too. I recommend this book for fans of clean fairytale retellings and for parents seeking fun books that they can read with their children.

Next Week – Finding Prince Charming (Charming Academy Book 2) by Jessica L. Elliot

Missing – The Blog Tour – Character Interview with Amadeus

Missing Banner

Have you ever had to sacrifice something to bring back something or someone you love? Peggy McAloon is here today to talk about the second book in her Lessons from Fiori series, Missing. Elle’s brother has been kidnapped. Will she be able to save him?

Blogger’s Note: I have not read this book yet, but it looks fascinating and the character interview below is certainly intriguing. – Kimberly

About the Book

Kidnapping. Monsters. Magic.

Missing Cover for Kindle 12 1 15Elle’s desperate to find her kidnapped brother. She teams up with the winged warriors from the dimension of Fiori to save him, but JJ isn’t the only one in danger. What will Elle sacrifice to bring her brother home? Can she fulfill the ancient prophecy and restore the magic of the Bronze Pendant?

You will love this Coming of Age, action-packed fantasy for middle-grade readers. Elle Burton’s goal is to rescue her brother. What she discovers is pure evil. The author provides a female role model who strives to overcome her flaws and inspire kids everywhere.

“Missing” blends the magic of a fairytale with the contemporary realities of the world today’s youth inhabit. You will discover a new world order through the journey of a young girl who exhibits both compassion and jaw-dropping courage in her quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Find yourself caught in the ultimate struggle between good and evil. “Missing” is the second book in the “Lessons from Fiori” series.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E5Z668U Continue reading

Taking the Plunge

*Deep breath* Well, this is terrifying. *Deep breath* Just do it. *Deep breath* I don’t think I can. *Deep breath* Do it! *Deep breath* Nope, this is scary. I changed my mind. *Deep breath* If you don’t do it now, you never will.

Sound familiar?

If you ever took swimming lessons, you probably had to jump off the diving board as part of the final pass. I’m not the greatest swimmer. If I ever fell into a river, I’m pretty sure I’d drown. Unless, you know, a brave firefighter or policeman or bystander jumps in and saves me. Do you know how many times I jumped off the diving board in my life? Three, max. I’m fine right up until I look down and see how far down it is and then I just cannot make myself jump off the board. I was the kid who had the humiliating experience of the ENTIRE swimming pool yelling at me to jump in because I was too scared to do it. Yes, I was embarrassed into jumping off the diving board. Olympics material, I am not.

What does this have to do with writing?

Everything.

This summer I took the plunge into the scary world of indie publishing. I spent about three weeks between my final edit and the night I ultimately pushed the button feeling terrified. No one is going to want to read my book. I’m not ready for this. Maybe I should push back the publishing date again even though this time it’s not driven by the need for edits or cover tweaks or anything like that (even though I was still making some tweaks to the print cover). Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Maybe I shouldn’t do it yet.

I was going through all the motions of getting ready to click that button and publish, including talking to the tax guys, but in my heart, I was standing on the edge of the diving board absolutely terrified. I suddenly didn’t feel ready anymore. Was my book really as good as it could be? What if people hate it? Or, worse, what if no one reads it? Am I really ready for this?

I didn’t feel ready when I pushed the button and let my book baby out into the world at large. However, I knew that if I didn’t push the button, I would keep finding excuses to put it off for “just a little bit longer” until I finally climbed off the diving board and ran away for good (not that I’d admit it). So, I took that last deep breath, closed my eyes, and stepped off the diving board.

I am now a published author. I am preparing to release the next book in the series, the first full-length novel, this fall. I am actively working on the first draft of Book Two with plans for more books already mapped out. Want to know a secret? *whispers* I still don’t feel ready.

One thing I have learned over this past summer is that you may never feel ready to release your book. But, being afraid, always being poised on the edge of the diving board, isn’t a good way to live your life. If you’re an author like me, then you are very empathetic and it doesn’t take much to make you feel worried about something. This is a gift and curse. Empathy makes me a better writer, but I can’t stand to be surrounded by bad news all day long. It makes my heart hurt. I need good news, I need joy and life and the reminder that there is still light and hope in the midst of the darkness of this world. Hard emotional scene to write? I pour so much of myself into it, feeling what the characters feel, that I’m too drained to write again for days, sometimes weeks until I recharge on good books, fun movies, and maybe some cross-stitch. The good thing is that this makes the characters’ struggles and emotions feel real to the readers, it’s not just a plot point. The bad thing is that sometimes it doesn’t take anything to make me feel discouraged and definitely not ready to be writing anything, much less publishing it. Being a creative personality is hard sometimes. We feel deeply yet we can be our own worst enemies when we listen to the fear that we are not ready, we aren’t good enough yet, we shouldn’t be publishing even though all the feedback from our peer groups, beta readers, and ARCs says “this is your time and it’s definitely ready.” I, personally, don’t want to be that writer who published one or two books and then let fear get the better of me and stashed all the other manuscripts in a drawer to never be seen in my lifetime. I don’t want to let fear stop me from doing what I am meant to do. What I have been called to do. No, my book is not rocketing off the bestsellers charts in a one book wonder moment. It would have been cool to see but I knew going in that it was a pretty far-fetched (read: infinitesimal) improbability. And, I’m not selling as many books as my more probable dream. However, I am selling books. Every copy that sells is progress and I know someone out there is reading my book right now. No one would be reading it if I hadn’t clicked the button. What’s worse? Not selling as many copies as your best-case scenario or not sharing your story with anyone because you got cold feet right before it was time to let your book fly.

If you’re an author who always knows when your book is finally ready and you never second-guess yourself, I applaud you. You’re my new hero. If you’re more like me and feel confident right up until the point that it’s time to click that button or submit to that agent and are then clamped the pincers of terror, know that you are not alone. There are lots of us. The secretly terrified writers who are now published authors forcing ourselves to get back on the diving board for the next jump into the publishing pool. So, the next time you step on the diving board and are staring all the way down, remember that you’re not alone. We’re all standing up there, shaking on the inside, with you but we are not going to be ruled by fear. We are going to take that last deep breath and jump. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, it is the decision to act in spite of that fear. So, act.

Free! Get Tiger’s Paw for Free!

Do you love urban fantasy? Intrigued by the thought of secret societies fighting to remain secret? Military espionage, shapeshifters, and Elves in a world similar to our own. Exactly who can be trusted?

Find out when you pick up Tiger’s Paw for free today through Sunday.

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Book Review Wednesday – Honor

Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

The Earl of Dentin excels in his position as Securer of the Realm. But the king’s order to pluck an orphaned child from a loving home unsettles Dentin. When a dark-eyed woman challenges his honor regarding the mission, Dentin finds himself unable to justify his actions or get her out of his mind. Something about her lack of fear intrigues him.

Lady Elsa Reeve attempts to avoid the marriage of convenience her brother and mother demand of her. She understands the need to pay off her brother’s massive debt. She only wants her family to consider her wishes in the process.

As Elsa becomes further entangled in a snare of her brother’s creating, only one man defends her. But can she trust Dentin, her unlikely champion, and his motives? With a murderer on the loose, Elsa’s fate in jeopardy, and a traitor plotting against the king, Dentin finds his priorities shifting in an unexpected direction.

I have to say that after reading the first book in this series, Duty, I was on pins and needles waiting for Honor and it did not disappoint.

Plot – Grade A

The premise of this book rests on Dentin’s attempt to balance his personal honor with the orders of the king as well as hunting for murderers and traitors in his position of Securer of the Realm. Dentin is a self-professed man of honor but he is challenged not only by the difficulty of his latest task but also by Lady Elsa Reeve. Elsa has been treated like a pawn by her own family for years but she has a strong and loving spirit too, which steals away any preconceived notion that she’s your typical damsel in distress. Think medieval-esque Darcy and Elizabeth and you have a good glimpse into their contrasting yet complimentary temperaments. The dynamic between these two characters is definitely part of what makes the plot, which ranges from initial intrigue surrounding Dentin’s unpleasant task to a murder to treason, mesh well together. As compelling as each of the elements in the plot are on their own terms, Dentin and Elsa’s personalities and their brewing relationship really glues it together as a whole. A number of familiar faces from Duty show up in this book and there are passing references to events that occurred in that book that are now influencing characters and events in Honor five years later and while reading the first book enriches the experience for this one, Honor is able to stand on its own.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean fantasy. The romance between Dentin and Elsa builds up slowly and sweetly with their attraction becoming clear even though they both spend about half the book reminding themselves that they really shouldn’t be falling in love right now, especially Dentin. There are two or three kisses before they get married and some references to sharing a bed with a husband but it’s all handled very sweetly. I applaud Rossano for her ability to show the initial and growing attraction between the characters in a way that is very compelling without ever straying into crassness. There is also a reference to a girl being rendered unmarriageable by a scoundrel and a man having a mistress but these are also handled with care.

No language is written out. It’s all either cut off before the first syllable or is merely referenced to as “he cursed.” There is violence, including a character who is abusive to women, and there are also people who are wounded or killed. This violence is accomplished without gratuitousness. The violence occurs and characters react but there is nothing shown that shouldn’t be or that should have been toned down further. With the abuse in particular, the aftermath is what is mainly shown with one exception but it is never glorified nor overly gritty and one character warns the character being abused to escape her abuser because she’s seen this happen before and the last time it killed the girl who was married to an abuser.

There is spirituality present with the characters referencing, worshipping, and praying to the Kurios and asking for His guidance. There is also a reference to one character not being afraid of death because he long ago learned to turn to the Kurios for his security after death.

Technical – Grade A

This was a very well-written and compelling read. There were maybe four whole typos/slips in the entire story. One was a missing punctuation and there was a missing article that didn’t affect the reading of the sentence. There were two true typos. Most readers might not notice these unless they’re looking for them. There was maybe one slightly anachronistic phrase but I can’t make up my mind on it and it wasn’t egregious.

Final Grade – A or Five Stars

Overall this was an excellent medieval-esque fantasy that demonstrates how to combine romantic and political intrigue without them competing with each other or straying into boredom or disbelief. The plot is compelling and along with the characters kept me drawn in. The end of the book leaves one with all sorts of questions about what will happen next and I eagerly await the next novel of Rhynan. I would recommend this book to those looking for a clean Christian fantasy and those who enjoy fantasies set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Next – Avalon: An Allegory by Valerie Howard

Launch Day is Here!

I’m very excited to announce that Tiger’s Paw: A Novella is now available on Amazon via Kindle and Paperback!

This novella launches my Clean New Adult Christian Urban Fantasy series The Therian Way.

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What if history didn’t quite play out the way we know it? What would stay the same? What would change? Even in a world where Elves and Humans coexist, there are secrets. Not all the old legends are accurate, but neither are they false. Hidden among the Humans are the Therians, those gifted with the ability to shift into beasts. How long they will remain unseen by Human eyes depends on how well they adhere to their code of life and honor – The Therian Way.

When secrecy is vital to survive among Humans and Elves, the Therian Way offers balance. The Fringe, a militant group of discontented Therians, threaten to expose their race to Mankind. It falls to General Baran to track down and remove the Fringe Nest before time runs out. Who can he trust when the fate of his people lies in the Tiger’s paw?


Tiger’s Paw originally started out as an entry in a short short story contest in 2013, which is when Baran first made his presence known and of course he wasn’t content with just the brief glimpse that turned into the first chapter of the book. The first draft revealed that there was a lot going on in this new story world that couldn’t be told in just one story. And The Therian Way was born.

There is a lot more to come in the world of Therians, Elves, and Humans with Book One releasing this winter.

I hope that you will enjoy coming to know Baran and his world starting with Tiger’s Paw.

Book Review – Goandria: The Schism Part I

Goandria: The Schism Part I by R. Michael

Amazon Book Description:

In this prequel to an upcoming novel, Goandria lies under the cruel rule of worlox demons. Emerging from an unknown realm, they claim large swaths of the northern territories for their own. The wizards, blessed with power from Voshnore, continue their fight against them with little success. Pushed back to the south, generation to generation, year by year, they labor in vain. Until now.

Lorkai, general of the wizard army, returns home after years of fighting. He brings long awaited successes on the battlefield. Yet those successes come with prices of their own. Several of Lorkai’s men now anguish in worlox occupied areas. Following a warm welcome, Lorkai’s request for aid is refused. Lorkai and his best friend, Evera, take matters into their own hands. The wizards uncover secrets about the worlox, which leads the friends to fight for their lives, and their humanity.

This short story paints an interesting backdrop for an upcoming novel.

Plot – Grade A-

For a short story, there’s limitations in certain areas of the plot but in Goandria the plot fits well into the pages used and doesn’t come away with a choppy feeling. However, I did have some difficulty with the middle of the story on the chapters focusing on Lorkai and Evera since my attention wasn’t snared by them as much as it was by the subplot with the worlox demons. Lorkai was a difficult character for me to understand even though he is one of the focuses of the story. I had difficulty empathizing him even though I felt that was what was intended and there was a tad too much whining going on for a famed, battle-hardened general once we got about halfway through the story for my taste. That said, this prequel is meant to provide some important background information for Michael’s upcoming novel and it achieves its mission. There were some areas where I wish a little more information had been shared, especially Evera and Lorkai’s relationship, but overall this short story stands well on its own even as it opens the door to further adventures.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean novel. While it deals with warfare and the requisite violence, injuries, and death, there is nothing gratuitous in how this is handled. There are serious injuries and references to horrible conditions in prisons but nothing that I would consider inappropriate for the intended audience of teens and young adults.

There is no language and no sensuality is present in this book. While this is a dark fantasy that deals with demons, it was not completely without hope. Most of the spiritual content in this prequel comes up with the Worlox and their fear of being returned to their prison and their attempt to usurp the wizards and Voshnore. The wizards’ magic comes from Voshnore and the reason for limits on their power is discussed. However, I would hope that more time is spent on the spirituality of this world in general and Voshnore in particular in the upcoming novel of the series so readers can come away with a better understanding of how this fantasy world works.

Technical – Grade B-

I have to admit I was torn over this grade because on the one hand R. Michael writes very beautiful descriptive scenes. The opening scene was gorgeous and truly painted a picture and this happens almost every time Michael has a descriptive passage. On the other hand, there were enough technical issues that the grade had to come down. First, there a few homonym typos, such as “aide” when “aid” is what was meant based on context and “steeling” when it should be “stealing.” These didn’t happen often though.

Second, the characters’ thoughts were put in quotations and this just drove me nuts especially when Lorkai and Evera are in the same scene together and they had just been talking to each other but suddenly I see “talking” that is really thinking. This confusion on the reader’s part is one of the reasons that using quotes to delineate thoughts, even internal dialogue, is generally ruled a no-no in writing. Because it’s a short read, this wasn’t as much as a problem as it would be in a full-length novel but I do hope that in the future R. Michael swaps to italics when delineating thoughts.

Third, while Michael writes beautiful descriptions/narrative, the dialogue did not flow as well as it could have. This story is set in a medieval-esque fantasy world but there were far too many modern sayings and words being used and they do pull me out of the setting. “Yeah” and “okay” are constantly showing up and there were a number of small phrases that would fit more with a modern-day setting than the chosen medieval fantasy setting. The dialogue tags were perfunctory but occasionally awkward, which did clash with the beautiful narrative descriptions.

Final Grade – B or 4 Stars

Overall, I thought this story showed the great potential of this new author. For his first book, he creates a decent snapshot into the backstory of his series. There are some technical difficulties as far as anachronistic dialogue and the thoughts being delineated with quotes instead of italics. But, overall, I can see R. Michael’s potential to write some beautiful epic fantasy. His description and narrative is simply gorgeous and I feel confident that he can bring his dialogue up to that same level. I recommend this book for lovers of epic fantasy. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

*Please not I received a free copy of this book via a blog tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid or required to leave a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Goandria: The Schism Part I is available via Kindle