An Aurora YA Review: Mad About the Hatter by Dakota Chase

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This isn’t his sister’s Wonderland….

Mad About the Hatter coverHenry never believed his older sister, Alice’s, fantastic tales about the world down the rabbit hole. When he’s whisked away to the bizarre land, his best chance for escape is to ally himself with the person called the Mad Hatter. Hatter—an odd but strangely attractive fellow—just wants to avoid execution. If that means delivering “Boy Alice” to the Queen of Hearts at her Red Castle, Hatter will do what he has to do to stay alive. It doesn’t matter if Henry and Hatter find each other intolerable. They’re stuck with each other.

Along their journey, Henry and Hatter must confront what they’ve always accepted as truth. As dislike grows into tolerance and something like friendship, the young men see the chance for a closer relationship. But Wonderland is a dangerous place, and first they have to get away with their lives.

 

I enjoyed this book, and I was a little wary about it. It’s so hard to take pre-existing characters, or even characters that people will have pre-existing ideas about and writing them as new, fresh characters that can still surprise the readers. I think the author did a good job of this, both by not using all the same characters that a reader might be expecting to see, and also by giving the characters that were well known traits that we haven’t seen before, while still keeping them within the realm of reasonable characterization that made sense in the context of the story.
The plot was very interesting, although similar to the original story in some ways, there was a new spin to it besides it just being about Alice’s brother instead of her. I particularly liked the Hatter’s part of the plot and would even say that he was the most interesting part of the story, more so even than Henry was. Although their interactions were interesting and it was a good way to get Hatter out of prison and away with something to actually do, it definitely seemed like it was more Hatter’s story than it was Henry’s. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, given the book’s beginning, isn’t exactly a surprise.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and think it was a fresh take on characters we have seen a few times before and a world we are, for the most part, familiar with.
The cover artist for this book was Paul Richmond and I liked the cover. I’ll admit that to me it seemed a little busy and it didn’t necessarily draw my eyes to a certain place right away. However, the color scheme is really nice and it seems to represent the book well and give people an idea of what they’re going to be reading when they pick the book up.
Sales Links: Harmony Ink Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here
Book Details:
ebook, 190 pages
Published August 20th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634761502 (ISBN13: 9781634761505)

 

 

An Aurora YA Review: Evolution by Lissa Kasey

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 Rating: 5 out of 5  ★★★★★

Evolution coverGene Sage has only ever wanted to sing, but his band, Evolution, is pushing him toward the big time. He finds it hard to focus on making musical history when he’s dreaming of graveyards and seeing ghosts. And while all he can think of is hiding who he is from a world unforgiving of anyone different, he discovers he’s also the ultimate snack for vampires and demons. When Gene literally runs into—over—his idol, Kerstrande Petterson, rock god, vampire in hiding, and music cynic, his life falls over the edge into chaos.Jaded by the world and nearly a decade in the music business, Kerstrande thinks Gene wants to use him to make Evolution immortal in more than one way, but he can’t seem to brush aside the young singer’s enthusiasm.Getting involved with Kerstrande drags Gene into otherworldly power struggles. Between the ghosts stalking them, the media painting supernaturals as villains, and a vampire out of control in the city, the only way for Gene and Kerstrande to survive is for Gene to embrace his powers—and his destiny.I really, really enjoyed this book. One of my favorite things about the book was the descriptions. Straight away I had a very clear picture in my head of everything that was going on and that’s one of my favorite things about reading. It can, however, be hard to toe the line between using enough description that a reader can clearly picture the scene and using too much and having your story get bogged down in it which I don’t believe happened in this book at all.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was the two point of views for the two different main characters every chapter. It really made them both, especially Kerstrande, more likable and relatable to be able to see what was going on in both of their heads in their own unique voices rather than seeing the entire book through one’s eyes over the other’s.
If I had to nitpick, there was some exposition toward the beginning that slowed the first one or two chapters down, but it wasn’t something I really had a problem with since as soon as the plot got under way the book got right back to a good pace and I was certainly never bored by it, even in the first chapter or two when there was a lot of information.
Overall, it was a fun read, and one that I think was very well written. I would recommend it to people who like supernatural themes and modern fantasies.
The cover art was done by Paul Richmond and I really like it. It’s a pretty simplistic cover, but it has a lot of color and personality. It’s very eye-catching which is something that can always be helpful to a book. All in all, very well done.
Sales Links:  DSP Publications |  Amazon | Buy It Here
Book Details:
DSP Publications (a non romance imprint of Dreamspinner)
2nd Edition, first edition Harmony Ink Press
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Words: 71336
Pages: 250
ISBN-13: 978-1-63476-061-4
File Formats: epub, mobi, pdf
Coming Soon: “Evolution: Genesis”

An Aurora YA Review: A Scout is Brave by Jay Jordan Hawke

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sequel to Pukawiss The Outcast
The Two-spirit Chronicles: Book Two

A Scout Is Brave coverIn the months following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, fourteen-year-old Joshua, a half Native American boy, is new to a Boy Scout troop and spending a week camping in northern Wisconsin. The weaker kids in the troop soon realize Joshua is not afraid to stand up to the troop’s ruthless bullies. Joshua’s bravery and kindness is infectious, and the bullied Scouts quickly find their own inner strength.

Joshua, however, is plagued by self-doubt as he realizes he has feelings for Cody, the son of the troop’s harsh and puritanical Scoutmaster. The two discover they have more in common than Scouting as they share their deepest secrets and develop a close friendship. That friendship faces its greatest challenge as the homophobic bullies claim a “faggot” has “infected” their troop. As if struggling to come to terms with his sexuality while dealing with hatred and bigotry isn’t enough, Joshua discovers the camp holds another dark mystery, one that will make him summon all his courage and learn for the first time what it truly means to be brave.

I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting and fresh novel with plenty of action that still keeps the characters and their personalities as the main focus. It’s very realistic and I think a lot of LGBT youths will be able to relate to the things the characters are going through. Joshua, the main character, is incredibly likable, and I definitely read the book wanting to see him flourish. All of the characters are very realistic, down to the bullies who act very similar to a lot of real life teenagers, as well as Pastor Bob, the Scoutmaster and Cody’s father.

Cody is another character who is very likable. The main characters certainly aren’t perfect throughout the book, and that’s a lot of the appeal to me. I also really like the fact that the main character is half Native American and it’s well recognized within the story! Even as LGBT fiction, and more specifically young adult fiction, becomes more popular, we often see white, upper-middle class leads. Which is absolutely fine! But adding more diversity to a specific genre and treating the character’s heritage with respect, as this book does, is always a positive thing in my mind. There are LGBT teens of every race and culture, and seeing themselves represented from a young age is so important that it really just made me very happy to see that in the main character.

The story itself was really, really great. All in all, the action and mystery made it a fun read. There were times when the things the bullies in the book said made me uncomfortable, but I think they were designed for that purpose and I really commend the author on getting people to think about how they talk. The story of Joshua dealing with the camp bullies was very relateable and interesting, and added to him exploring the secrets of the camp and getting some mystery and action in there made this seem very multi-faceted and well thought out. It really kept my attention and I definitely enjoyed the read plot-wise, as well.

If there’s one thing about the book that I might criticize, it’s that there were times when the writing felt a little clunky. Not enough to bring me out of the story or really take away from me enjoying the book, but there were a few sentences here and there that could have been a little smoother.

That being said, I definitely enjoyed the book and it was a really great read on a lot of different levels.

Cover Artist: Anne Cain. Anne Cain is one of my absolute favorite cover artists and I love this cover a lot! It’s pretty, it represents the book well, and it isn’t too busy. It definitely would have drawn my eye in a store, and I really like the design.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink Press)   All Romance (ARe)   Amazon      Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages, also available in paperback
Published December 18th 2014 by Harmony Ink Press (first published January 11th 2011)
original titleA Scout is Brave
ISBN 1632166933 (ISBN13: 978163216693

The Two-Spirit Chronicles:

Pukawiss The Outcast-The Two-spirit Chronicles: Book One*
A Scout is Brave-The Two-spirit Chronicles: Book Two

Pukawiss the outcast coverA Scout Is Brave cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The 2014 Timmy Award for the Most Realistic Characters Portrayed in a Story (2014), Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Best Young Adult Fiction

An Aurora YA Review: Once Upon a Time in America (The Knight Cycle #5) by Michael J. Bowler

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

With Lance leading the way, the Knights of the Round Table have set out to convince the American people that amending the Constitution to protect children is right and just and long overdue. As the team travels from state to state, they are met with acceptance, indifference, and even hostility. But Lance’s popularity and mystique as Once Upon A time IN America CoverThe Boy Who Came Back, coupled with his innate charm, gradually sway more and more of the populace, not to mention state legislators, to their cause.

The journey becomes a rite of passage that propels the young people into adulthood, and solidifies Lance’s status as an iconic and influential figure.

But he’s uneasy. He knows Arthur is hiding something from him, something that will bring him great sadness. After The Excalibur Incident in Las Vegas, Lance becomes more and more certain that the future is one he won’t like, despite his stunning success at winning over some of the most intractable states.

Then comes the attack, sudden and brutal.

Now the Round Table is in disarray, and Lance must confront a cold-blooded killer who’s luring him into an obvious trap. But if he refuses the challenge, more loved ones will die, and everything he’s fought for will die with them. Surrounded by the diverse young knights who have become his family, Lance sets out to battle his enemy with the knowledge deep in his heart that only one of them will survive. Is this the end of the Round Table?

The Knight Cycle concludes…

This whole series was really great and after reading this book, and seeing the whole story, it really made me like even the other books seem better than they were when I first read them. Everything in the books just seemed to have a really good arc. The series had a great plot, and the plots within each individual book were good in and of themselves. The arcs that the characters went through were really interesting, and I just had a good time reading the books.

I can also see why other teenagers and people my age would enjoy this whole series and this last book. The characters are charming and interesting, as well as being the type of characters that teenagers can easily relate to, and if you like fantasy mixed with contemporary, then you should absolutely read this series and I can almost guarantee that you’ll enjoy it. There’s good writing and a lot of heart behind these books, and the series is a really great one.

Cover art by artist Reese Dante: This is maybe my favorite cover art from the whole series. I feel like it flows really well together and shows the progression of the books, again, really, really well. And it’s absolutely beautiful. It would definitely make me pick up the book and even check out the rest of the series based just on that one cover.

 

Sales Link: Amazon Buy It Here

Book Details:

Paperback, 1, 320 pages
Published November 12th 2014 by Michael J. Bowler
ISBN 099087110X (ISBN13: 9780990871101)
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Knight Cycle #5
other editions (1)

Books in The Children of the Knight, The Knight Cycle Series are:

Amazon Paperback

An Aurora YA Review: And The Children Shall Lead (Children of the Knight #4) by Michael J. Bowler

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Rating: 4 out of 5

The campaign to save California’s children was only the beginning. Now King Arthur and his Round Table of teenaged knights set their sights on fixing something even bigger – the entire country. How? By targeting America’s most sacred document – The Constitution.

And the Children Shall Lead coverNative American teens Kai and Dakota, despite harboring secrets of their own, join the team, and swear undying loyalty to Lance. They carry the hope of their people that the crusade will better the lives of Indian children, who are the most neglected by government. This new campaign will take the young people to The White House, the halls of Congress, and beyond in their quest to change the prevailing opinion that children are property, rather than human beings in their own right.

But an unseen nemesis stalks Lance and Arthur, and ratchets up the attacks on New Camelot, promising to kill them and destroy all that the king has put in place. Lance, Ricky, Kai, and Dakota become the enemy’s favorite targets, and barely escape with their lives on more than one occasion. Who is this mysterious stalker, and what is the motive for these attacks? Lance has no idea, especially since he’s never intentionally hurt anyone.

“You were right, little boy, death is coming for you, but slowly, and only after it takes out the people you love.” That chilling promise haunts Lance, but also strengthens his determination to protect the people he loves at all costs. Or die trying.

The Knight Cycle continues…

This book was really interesting and I loved to see the diversity that was represented in this particular installment of the series. Of course there was diversity from the beginning and that was one of the things that I liked straight away about the first book. But this one even went further with that and represented Native Americans, who I very, very rarely see represented in a respectful way in books. And especially in young adult books.

The fact that Native American culture was so important to this book was something I thought was really cool and also something I think will probably be a great influence to young adults who read this book. Especially since it’s so integrated in with all the action and the very exciting plot that I, as a young adult, really enjoy, and I think other people my age would also really like about the book without even noticing the representation and just accepting it.

The cover artist was Reese Dante.: This isn’t my favorite cover of the series, but I do still like it and I absolutely still think that’s it’s very good at, again, tying in with the rest of the series and showing the progression of the books. And I think the cover would be appealing to a new reader.

Sales Link:   Amazon             “>Buy It Here

Book Details:

Paperback, 302 pages
Published September 22nd 2014 by Michael J. Bowler
ISBN 0990306364 (ISBN13: 9780990306368)
edition languageEnglish
seriesChildren of the Knight #4, The Knight Cycle #4
other editions,None found

Children of the Knight, The Knight Cycle Stories include:

  • Children of the Knight
  • Running Through a Dark Place (Children of the Knight, #2)
  • There Is No Fear (Children of the Knight, #3)
  • And The Children Shall Lead (Children of the Knight, #4)

An Aurora YA Review: There Is No Fear (Children of the Knight, #3) by Michael J. Bowler

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The most famous boy in the world is a prisoner. He’s been charged with a crime he didn’t commit, a crime that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. Languishing within The Compound, the most secure juvenile facility in California, while the district attorney vows to make an example of him because of his celebrity status, Lance must endure the daily indignities of There is No Fear coverthe incarcerated.

New Camelot is fractured without him. Ricky and Chris are bereft, living for the weekly phone call that becomes their only lifeline to the brother they so desperately love, while Arthur and Jenny feel the loss of their son with a sadness that can’t be quelled. And what about Michael, the highly volatile teen who helped write the proposition that will change California forever? Could he really be the monster he says he is? His hatred of Ricky is palpable, and his instability may well threaten the lives of everyone at New Camelot.

As the election looms closer, Proposition 51 takes on an even greater significance in light of the pending trial of the century. The more harshly fifteen-year-old Lance is treated within the broken justice system, the more he contemplates the wisdom of his idea that children need more adult rights. If The Child Voter Act becomes law, won’t it simply allow adults to throw more kids into prison with impunity?

Whichever way the voters decide, his greatest fear remains the same: will he ever again be with the people he loves?

The Knight Cycle Continues…

This book was really great! Even as the plot gets more complex and things progress within the larger story, the characters stay just as complex and develop throughout the whole book in a way that’s really satisfying to the audience, or at least to this audience member. I had a great time reading it, and I loved the plot. It’s a rare thing to see in young adult books especially, and I loved seeing the whole thing unfold.

As I was reading it, I found myself looking forward to what was going to happen next on every single page and when I reached the end of the book I was really looking forward to being able to read the next one. This was the most exciting, for me, of the first few books. I had a great time reading it and finding out what was going to happen to all the characters and where the plot was leading.  I also couldn’t wait to see where the author would end up going next, since this series has so many original ideas and I’ve really been looking forward to seeing the ideas behind every single book as I’ve been reading them.

Cover art by Reese Dante: I really liked this cover! It’s really beautiful and it definitely drew my attention. It really followed in the theme of the other books and still represented it well, to someone coming to this book even maybe not knowing it’s part of a series would still be drawn to the cover and it would get them to at least pick the book up. It’s very well put together.

Sales Link:  Amazon       Buy It Here

Book Details:

Paperback, 284 pages
Published July 17th 2014 by Michael J Bowler
ISBN139780990306337
edition languageEnglish
seriesChildren of the Knight #3, The Knight Cycle #3

Books in the Children of the Knight, The Knight Cycle Series are:

  • Children of the Knight
  • Running Through a Dark Place (Children of the Knight, #2)
  • There Is No Fear (Children of the Knight, #3)
  • And The Children Shall Lead (Children of the Knight, #4)

 

An Aurora YA Review: Running Through a Dark Place (Children of the Knight #2) by Michael J. Bowler

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Rating: 4 out of 5

King Arthur and his extraordinary young Knights used ‘might’ for ‘right’ to create a new Camelot in the City of Angels. Running Through a Dark Place coverThey rallied the populace around their cause, while simultaneously putting the detached politicians in check. But now they must move forward to even greater heights, despite what appears to be an insurmountable tragedy.

Their new goal is lofty: give equality to kids fourteen and older who are presently considered adults only when they break the law. Arthur’s crusade seeks to give them real rights such as voting, driving, trading high school for work, and sitting as jurors for their peers charged with criminal behavior.

Understanding that the adults of California will likely be against them, Arthur and his Knights must determine how best to win them over.

However, before the king can even contemplate these matters, he finds himself face to face with an ally from the past, one who proves that everything isn’t always what it seems – even life and death.

The Knight Cycle Continues…

 

This book is just as interesting and original as the first one was, and the characters were just as good, if not better. The author did a great job of toeing the line between fantasy and contemporary. There were enough elements of the world we’re used to that it was easy to relate to and there was still enough fantasy and differences that it was still incredibly interesting.

It was also inspiring to see that teenagers were taking things into their own hands and were even working against adults because it often isn’t acknowledged that just because adults are older doesn’t mean that they’re always right in comparison to younger people. The friendships in the book were also a really enjoyable thing to watch and read about.

All in all, it was just a fun book, and something I had a good time reading. I would definitely recommend it and especially to teenagers who want to see themselves represented in a different manner than usual.

The cover artist is Reese Dante. Although I prefer drawn covers to photo edited covers, I still think that the book looks really nice and I like the fact that the cover isn’t too busy as some that feature the character on the cover. It’s interesting and represents the book well, and I think it would really draw someone’s eyes to the book in a shop or online.

Sales Links:  Author Website      Amazon       Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 425 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Michael J Bowler (first published May 1st 2014)
ISBN139780990306313
edition languageEnglish
seriesChildren of the Knight #2, The Knight Cycle
also available in paperback

Books in The Knight Cycle Series:

  • Children of the Knight
  • Running Through a Dark Place (Children of the Knight, #2)
  • There Is No Fear (Children of the Knight, #3)
  • And The Children Shall Lead (Children of the Knight, #4)

 

An Aurora YA Review: Fire (Dreams of Fire and Gods #2) by James Erich

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A thousand years ago, two rival factions of gods, the Stronni and Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak in their war for power. Then the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

Fire- Dreams of Fire and Gods coverNow, tensions between the human emperor and his regent are at an all-time high. The regent’s son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, has fled the capital with his master and united with a vagabond named Koreh, but assassins dog their footsteps. The future is more uncertain than ever.

Since the Taaweh city of Gyishya reappeared, the mages of Harleh have weakened, cut off from the source of their power. Sael and his father struggle to keep their respective cities from crumbling under the strain or being destroyed by the gods. Then Koreh learns of a dangerous Taaweh plan to rescue their queen from the Stronni—a plan only Koreh and Sael can execute.

But they may not get a chance. In Harleh Valley, a young man named Donegh pieces together what happened. Intent, he makes his way through an increasingly alien landscape to carry out his mission: assassinate the Dekan of Harleh, Sael dönz Menaük.

Now that I’ve read this whole series, the only thing I really want to do is read all the books over again! The characterization in these books was just so wonderful and made me really interested not only in the incredibly well thought-out plot, but also in what was happening to the characters and how things were going to go for them. I’ve said this before, but the epic scale in a lot of books similar to this series often ends up taking away from in-depth characterization and that is not a problem that these books have.

On top of that, the writing is just absolutely beautiful and the descriptions of what is happening in the books create a wonderful picture in the reader’s mind. Focusing so much on the characters and the writing isn’t to say that the plot isn’t also incredible. I tend to look more at the characters than the plot when I read simply because I have to care about them to enjoy the plot at all. I do care about the characters in this series, and it lets me see that every single facet of the plot seems very well thought out and carefully considered so that it all comes together in a masterful way.

I absolutely would recommend it, although starting with the first book and working through them is, of course, the best way to read them. In my opinion, these books aren’t really meant to be read out of order or only one of them to be read.

Cover art by Paul Richmond. All of the covers for all of the books in these series have been wonderful, and they are really just incredibly pleasing to the eye. I love the way they represent the different gods and the overall ideas in the book but are still so simplistic and easy to look over.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback  All Romance (ARe)  Amazon         Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 1st 2013 by Harmony Ink Press
Harmony Ink is  YA Press(first published February 1st 2013)
ISBN 1623804485 (ISBN13: 9781623804480)
edition languageEnglish
seriesDreams of Fire and Gods #2

Books in the Dreams of Fire and Gods Series:

  • Dreams (Dreams of Fire and Gods, #1)
  • Fire (Dreams of Fire and Gods, #2)
  • Gods (Dreams of Fire and Gods, #3)

Dreams Dreams of Fire and Gods

Fire- Dreams of Fire and Gods coverGods Dreams of Fire and Gods cover

An Aurora YA Review: Children of the Knight (Children of the Knight #1) by Michael J. Bowler

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

Children of the Knight coverAccording to legend, King Arthur is supposed to return when Britain needs him most. So why does a man claiming to be the once and future king suddenly appear in Los Angeles?

This charismatic young Arthur creates a new Camelot within the City of Angels to lead a crusade of unwanted kids against an adult society that discards and ignores them. Under his banner of equality, every needy child is welcome, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gang affiliation.

With the help of his amazing First Knight, homeless fourteen-year-old Lance, Arthur transforms this ragtag band of rejected children and teens into a well-trained army—the Children of the Knight. Through his intervention, they win the hearts and minds of the populace at large, and gain a truer understanding of themselves and their worth to society. But seeking more rights for kids pits Arthur and the children squarely against the rich, the influential, and the self-satisfied politicians who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo.

Can right truly overcome might? Arthur’s hopeful young knights are about to find out, and the City of Angels will never be the same.

 

Arthur, a boy apparently the reborn King Arthur, of legend, is in Los Angeles, California, with a Camelot of his very own, fighting the oppressive nature of the city with an admirable message of equality and acceptance.

I think this book had a really original idea behind it, which was something that I immediately loved, with so many books marketed toward young adults seeming like a copy of The Hunger Games or Twilight or Harry Potter. This book definitely didn’t seem like that, and the author took the idea that had a lot of potential, and transformed it into a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was interesting to see an attitude toward the adult world from someone who hadn’t quite reached adulthood yet, and seeing a young person fighting for something they really believed in, in an inclusive way. The book sends a great message without being overt about it, or pushing the theme to the point where it distracts from the actual story.

The characters were great, as well, and, again, the original idea behind the story fueled my interest at the beginning, but before long, I really cared about the characters and wanted to know how their journeys were going to play out. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it very highly.

Cover Artist: Reese Dante. I’ve said this before, and it is absolutely my own personal bias, but I simply don’t enjoy photo-edited covers as much as drawn covers except in very rare cases. That being said, this cover is well put together, and it is suited to the book, it simply isn’t my cup of tea.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press     All Romance (ARe)      amazon             buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 344 pages
Published June 20th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 19th 2013)
original titleChildren of the Knight
ISBN 1623806569 (ISBN13: 9781623806569)
edition languageEnglish

Series the Knight Cycle:

Children of the Knight #1, The Knight Cycle #1