Category Archives: Fantasy

Reread: Shadow of Nights (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

 IT BEGAN WITH A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library,she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers…

Rating: 5/5

The first time I “read” this book was listening to a copy from Audible. I loved it then, but I love it even more now. 16th century England/Europe is in no way my forte — in fact, I know very little of it, aside from watching shows like the Tudors, and I’m never quite sure how much I should actually take away from that kind of thing. One of my best friends in middle and high school was a history fanatic, and she absolutely loved reading and learning more about England in that kind of time-frame. I’m not sure that she was specific to Elizabethan England, but she was at least interested in all things Henry VIII, so I figure that’s pretty close.

So the point of all of this is that when I listened to the audiobook, I knew that certain people were important and were names that I should recognize, but I couldn’t place any of them for the life of me. For example, it wasn’t until well after a TON of clues were dropped by Diana that I finally made the connection between Sir Walter Raleigh and the English explorer who disappeared at Roanoke. And I never really did place most of the other members of the School of Night.

This time, however, I understood so much more of the context of what I was reading, and it made me respect Harkness’ skill as a writer that much more. I instantly recognized and placed the historical significance behind most of the characters that Diana meets in 1591 England, and even kept up with most of the references made about events going on in the rest of Europe. I don’t know if it was just that I was being exposed to them for a second time by re-reading, or if actually seeing the names written down helped that much (entirely plausible).

Harkness has a way about her writing that makes everything feel real. I felt like I was living in 1591 right alongside Diana. One of the things I was most impressed with was the attention to detail she demonstrated in having Diana adapt to her new environment. The time spent describing her experiences learning to use a quill pen and learning how to use the currency. Hell, even Diana’s difficulties in learning the right English to blend in the times. I’m not normally wow-ed by vivid detail because, to be honest, if it’s not conveying vital information, I often skim over it. But in the case, it was all of the context that forced Diana (and Matthew) to change and grow as a character(s). The development that the two under went, both independently and in their relationship with one another, was remarkable, well paced, and impossible to ignore.

I love the rules governing the development of magic in Harkness’ world. The whole witches, vampires, and daemons thing is simple enough, and well constructed, but it isn’t until Diana starts learning more about what makes her such a special witch that things really get interesting — not to mention fairly unique. As a weaver, Diana sees the world differently than most witches, and I absolutely love the way a highly conceptual topic (weaving threads in the world) becomes more and more tangible as Diana learns how to use her power.

There were a few things that had seemed a bit extreme in the first book — almost as if everyone in the world were overreacting to little sequences of events. This book helps make all of that make more sense, and the danger posed upon the two main characters feels more real than ever.

And I haven’t mentioned anything at all yet about the host of supporting characters. I absolutely love Gallowglass, and Jack and Annie added something special to the relationship between Matthew and Diana.Tack onto that Philippe, the members of the School of Night, Mary, “Lizzie,” and Father Hubbard, and you get a very colorful view of England circa 1591.

Overall, this was a spectacular read, and I highly recommend giving the series a go if you haven’t already.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Transformed by E. V. Fairfall

This blog tour is hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. Check out the rest of the schedule, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway!

TransformedThea, all-mighty Mother Earth, only had one rule to follow above all else, one promise to keep to her brother: never take a human form. She would’ve kept that promise if it weren’t for Brice. He’s handsome and confident, but above all he’s merciless.

He’s also a hunter who has tormented Thea for years. She believes if she could teach Brice compassion, she might finally be able to save her creations and herself from his savage ways. Then she meets Chamber: another hunter.

She soon finds herself fascinated by−and torn between−the two boys: Brice and Chamber. Lost within a torrent of human emotions, Thea starts to lose who she is as she falls in love with the one thing that she’s always hated: a hunter… a human.

 

Excerpt

A bang broke the forest air, sending a tremble down her backbone. Birds flew from the trees with warning cries under their wings. Once again it grew quiet, only her hoofs thudding over the ground disturbed the stillness. She picked up speed as the trees became scarce at an approaching meadow, a death trap. Fresh blood lined the edge of the grass ahead. An animal had been shot. A hissing sound shot through the emptiness above her shoulders, and then came the echo of another bang. She kept her legs moving, willing them faster. The scarlet color came back into view, lining the grass tops like bloody fingers. She saw it now: an antelope lay a few feet away, blood pumping onto the ground. I can fix this, she told herself. As long as my creature’s light still brings blood through its veins, this can be fixed.

Thea slowed to a stop behind a tree, the antelope motionless on Earth’s floor, its heartbeat waiting to whimper into oblivion. Thea wouldn’t let it happen. Her gaze locked on the open flesh and the shattered bone hidden beneath the torn muscle. She let her light flow through her, collecting only part of it in her chest. She breathed, and the light escaped her lips. She watched as the glowing specks found leaves and filled them with a deep, yellow pulse. She willed the leaves to swirl in and out of one another in perfect harmony before resting on the ripped flesh. The leaves shook as the yellow in their veins flowed into the fur-covered skin crumbling above the healing wound. It wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do. For a second everything went still, motionless except for the wind, the leaves. The antelope kicked a bit on its side before finding its feet again. Thea watched as it ran into the woods without looking back.

A twig broke behind her, taking Thea out of the moment. She could smell the sweet, artificial scent; the hunter had found her. Thea turned, letting herself stare at him; there was a strange beauty in the light that hung on his skin from the trees above. She glanced at the meadow surrounded by tightly woven trees. She had given away too much light to change her form.

Today could have been so wonderful, and yet she couldn’t help but think it was a good day to die. Twisted branches reached toward her with open arms. She glanced around once more, taking in the silver pine needles and green foliage.

She turned to face the gun’s barrel, now level with her eyes and much too close for a rifle; she’d be blown apart. She looked past it at the young man’s face. She felt his chest rise and fall as if she were against him, their heartbeats in sync. His hair gathered the light, shining like amber. Each strand took on a deeper, darker orange and turned it into a rich auburn. His eyes pulled her in, strangely familiar as she looked into the deep sapphire swirled with thin emerald lines. A faint, purple line under his dark lashes made the blue even more powerful. His hands showed light scars healed time and time again. His jaw set his mouth into a thin line, and his strong neck flooded into his broad shoulders.

She watched the barrel of the gun lower, her body still frozen in shock. A cruel trick, she thought, and she lowered her head. She didn’t wish to see the satisfaction in his eyes as he pulled the trigger. She didn’t want to feel the pain or the ringing in her ears. She placed her legs apart to steady herself. The blood from the antelope she’d saved only moments ago drenched the grass beneath her.

The crunching of leaves started again, but she didn’t hear a click. Looking up, she saw that the hunter, the young, beautiful man with amber curls, was backing away.

“Shoo,” he said.

The sound was enough to startle her to her senses. Staring down death when she had no alternative was one thing. Waiting around for it a second time was stupid. She leaped away on weak legs as fast as she could.

 

About the Author

I love to write just as much as I love to read. I try to read a book per week, which doesn’t always work out, but it’s the thought that counts. Aside from all that I am a huge animal person.Transformed is my first novel, but it isn’t my first publication; I’ve had several short stories published over the last two years. My main goal as a writer is to explore humanity and to give people something fun to read.

Author links:
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This blog tour is hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. Check out the rest of the schedule, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway!

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Kymzyn by BC Powell

Chase was twelve the first time he arrived in a strange land where dark, ominous clouds never move, ancient trees violently spring to life during Darkness, and people seem to live without emotion. Doctors tell him they’re hallucinations, but he knows his visits are real. She’s there-Sash-and she’s more real than anyone he’s ever known.

His visits stop but, as years pass, the memories haunt Chase. Without warning, the young man suddenly finds himself again in a world called Krymzyn. Arriving during Darkness, he’s rescued from death by the extraordinary, beautiful but terrifying young woman he first met when he was twelve.

When Chase is thrust into the war of balance against vile creatures who threaten all who live there, Sash helps him understand his purpose in Krymzyn. A dark secret from the beginning of time reveals he might be able to stay there forever. To prove he belongs in Krymzyn and be with the only woman he can ever love, Chase will have to risk his own life in the ultimate battle.

Visit the rest of the tour, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway!

EXCERPT:

We’re within a hundred yards of the bridge when two black-veined beasts slam into the transport behind Miel. Metallic thuds resonate through the Barrens. The cart flips high in the air before crashing into the wet dirt beside the road.

Miel spins from the impact, no weapon in hand. Another Murkovin flies into her, drives her off the road, and tackles her to the ground. Claws rake across her face while the two grapple in the mud.

Sash flashes in behind the creature with every muscle in her body coiled. A wrath is unleashed when the tip of her spear splits open the Murkovin skull. We jolt to a stop after we pass them, and Larn drops my feet to the road.

“Tela! Take Chase!” Larn screams.

Sliding to a halt, Tela releases the handles of the tube and darts towards us. Larn pushes me in the direction of the bridge before he bursts towards Sash and Miel.

Red eyes flaming through the tempest of rain, four Murkovin descend upon Sash. Miel struggles on the ground at Sash’s feet with blood smeared across her face. Clangs of steel shrill through the storm while Sash defends Miel from the onslaught.

Sash impales a gruesome head on her spear, releasing a spray of blood-soaked beams. Another brute leaps past her towards Miel. Soaring into the fight, Larn smashes him to the ground. Miel staggers to her feet and wobbles towards the bridge. When she stumbles, a fifth Murkovin blasts out of the dark.

I start towards Miel, but a hand grabs my shirt, jerking me in the other direction.

“Run!” Tela screams. “We don’t have spears!”

She points to the two Murkovin who crashed into the cart. With weapons clutched in their hands, they charge at us from fifty feet away. Tela yanks me into a sprint towards the bridge.

I look over my shoulder at Miel as we run. A creature stabs his spear down at her. She tries to deflect the blow with her hands but the point rips open the side of her head. He throws himself on top of her. They wrestle on the ground with his face at the gash, her blood streaming to the dirt.

In one fluid motion, Larn springs to Miel’s side, rams a spear through the head of the beast, and grabs her by the shirt. Bolting towards the river, he drags Miel by his side. The two Murkovin chasing Tela and me cut towards Larn and Miel.

Hard metal pounds against my feet when Tela and I reach the bridge. She pulls me by the shirt as I desperately try to keep pace. Straining my head to the side, I spot Larn running towards us with Miel’s limp body still in one hand. Sash sprints at his heels, four corpses on the ground behind her, four Murkovin alive and in pursuit.

 

 

AUTHOR BIO:
BC Powell is a fantasy author from Los Angeles, CA. “Krymzyn” is his debut science fiction fantasy novel, the first book in a series titled “The Journals of Krymzyn.”

Powell has a diverse background, having held several creative positions in the entertainment industry, including executive roles at ABC-TV and Technicolor. In recent years, he’s authored several non-fiction works, primarily educational books and training programs for trading the financial markets. He dual majored in journalism and philosophy at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

Writing fiction has been his lifelong passion and goal. “Krymzyn” is his first published novel and represents, in his words, “finally finding the story I want to tell with characters that are able to bring that story to life.” He’s an avid reader and lists Ernest Hemingway, Frank L. Herbert, Stephen King, Jane Austen, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. as his favorite authors.

Brad, as he prefers to go by in personal communication, lives with his longtime girlfriend, three sons from a previous marriage, and their rescue dog and cat. He enjoys hiking, ocean kayaking, spending time at Southern California beaches, movies, and reading.

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Fissure (Chronicles of the Interred #2) by Marilyn Almodovar

This book is on tour via Xpresso Book Tours. Check out of the rest of the schedule here. And don’t forget to the enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Baxter Jacobs just survived the worst Sweet Sixteen in history: buried in a coffin, hunted down by assassins, and losing almost everything that mattered to her. She’s ready for some normalcy, but “normal” won’t play any part of this Time Bender’s future.

Now that the immediate threat is over, Baxter learns just how much the English Council expects of the newest Interred. The pressure has her seriously considering her uncle’s offer to take her to New York, especially since she thinks it will keep her Healer, Jack, from overusing his abilities. Knowing the New York Council’s ranks are filled with beings using dark powers, however, makes her hesitate.

Before she can choose, the decision is wrenched from her. Fissures in Time result in a new battle with an old enemy. Someone she thought she’d lost reenters her life, and she’ll discover a web of lies woven into the fabric of Time…lies only she can unravel. Baxter will have to use her growing abilities to try and reveal the truth, even if it forever changes the reality she knows.

There are lies in the fabric of Time only she can unravel…

 

My thoughts so far:

I’m about a third of the way through Interred, the first book in the series, and so far I’m enjoying myself. Haven’t had much time to read lately, so a review will go up once I’ve finished.

 

About the Author:

 MarilynMarilyn Almodóvar is the author of a series of YA paranormal novels. Born in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, Lyn is a lover of words whose reading tastes range from Victorian novels to the books of Stephen King. Her favorite past-times have always been reading and writing, two activities that let her escape to other worlds.It was this love that propelled her to choose Theater and French as majors in University, with a minor in English Victorian Literature. Lyn lived for almost a decade in England followed by three years in France before returning home to the States. A self-confessed citizen of the world, she is fluent in English, French and Spanish, with basic knowledge of the Italian language.

Lyn could happily exist breathing the clean air of Narnia, trapped in a cupboard under the stairs with Harry, fighting alongside Captain Jack Sparrow, doing an internship in Torchwood, or traveling around time and space with the Doctor…as long as she can have Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk and Captain Mal as companions.

Lyn currently lives in Central Florida with her French husband, English-born eldest son, and French-born youngest son. Her debut YA Novel, Interred, was be published by Iambe books on 01/22/2013.

Author links:
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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1) by Ebony McKenna

Dive into this wonderfully witty young adult series from author Ebony McKenna, set in the far off European country of Brugel.

15-year-old Ondine is struggling to fit in at Psychic Summercamp and doubts she possesses any of her family’s magical abilities. She resolves to leave, determined to follow her own path and be a normal teenager. Whatever normal is in a place like Brugel.

On the way home Ondine is shocked when her pet ferret Shambles starts talking – in a cheeky Scottish accent no less! He is in fact a young man trapped in a witch’s curse. When he briefly transforms into his human self, Ondine is smitten. If only she can break the spell for good, Shambles can be handsomely human on a full-time basis.

During the summer, these two misfits uncover a plot to assassinate a member of the royal family and discover a secret treasure that has remained hidden for decades. This attracts the attention of the arrogant Lord Vincent, and Ondine can’t help being drawn in by his bad-boy charm.

With so many demands on Ondine’s attentions – and affections – normal has never seemed so far away.

The Summer of Shambles is the first in the four-part ONDINE series. Fans of The Princess Bride or the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series will love this delightfully quirky fairytale.

 

This is a stop on the blog tour hosted by Xpresso book tours.

Don’t forget to check out of the rest of the schedule and partake in the rafflecopter giveaway.

Brief Review:

So I haven’t quite finished reading this, so this isn’t a formal review yet. But I just had to share some of my impressions so far.

This is a terribly entertaining read, but not one I would rush through. The footnotes are a hoot, and I suspect this would be even more fun to read in a physical book than an ebook just because of the ease of flipping back and forth.

If you’re in the mood for a light read with a cheeky sense of humor, I highly recommend this book!

 

Excerpt:

With a yelp of shock, the ferret dropped backwards off the edge of the table, dragging the tablecloth down with him.

“Shambles!” Ondine screamed, racing towards him.

He lay there, a lump underneath the fabric, moaning in pain.

“Oh, my darling, I’m so sorry!” Ondine cried. She didn’t need to look around to know Melody was standing behind her, probably just as freaked out as she was. Ondine pulled the tablecloth back to reveal Shambles’s head and give him some fresh air.

Shambles groaned even louder. “Oh, the pain!”

“He can talk! Great heavens! Shambles can talk!” Melody said, amazed.

“You heard that?” Ondine’s heart picked up speed at the revelation, yet there was little time to explain it all. If she thought Melody being able to understand Shambles was a shock, she had an even bigger one coming.

As he lay groaning and writhing on the ground, twisting and turning under the tablecloth, Shambles grew to twice his size and his face fur matted together, forming skin. The long whiskers retracted and his head began to bulge.

“I’m dying!” he cried out to Ondine. “Bring me whisky, I’m dying!”

The dream. That horrible dream!

“Mercury’s wings!” Ondine cried as great wet tears splashed down her face and on to Shambles’s writhing, deformed body. “You can’t die, Shambles! I won’t let you!”

“I’ll get Mrs Howser,” Melody said, and ran back inside.

“Oh God, oh God,” Shambles groaned, “I’m goin’ tae boak.”[1]

“No, Shambles, you’ll be OK. Melody’s getting help,” Ondine said, although what help anyone could be at this present moment escaped her. On the other hand, a witch had got him into this mess; maybe a witch could get him out of it?

Confusion scrambled her brain. She couldn’t think what to do – she’d never seen anything like this before and didn’t even know how to start helping him. All she could do was stand back as Shambles kept growing and expanding under the tablecloth. Moaning and groaning about the state of his gelatinous body. All the while his face pulsed and wobbled. A horrible thought made Ondine feel ashamed for even thinking it.

What if his face set like that?

“There’s the light,” he said. “It’s calling me, I have tae go tae the light.”

Fear making her tremble, Ondine looked in the same direction. Her horrible dream was about to become reality.

As she turned her head, she felt her stomach lurch as a white light shone on her face. A moment later, blessed relief coursed through her. “That’s not the light, Shambles. That’s just the full moon, you bampot.”

When she turned to check on Shambles, her breath hitched. He’d stopped thrashing about, stopped moaning and groaning. Now he was shivering.

And completely human.

The next surprise came straight after the first, as Shambles looked up at Ondine. Far from looking like a bucket of twisted shoes, his face could have belonged to a movie star. He was even more handsome than Lord Vincent. With a shock of black hair and a dangerous gleam in his green eyes.

He was glorious!

Heat coursed through her body and her tongue turned to sandpaper as she tried to swallow. Something flip-flopped in her belly. Thank heavens for the tablecloth, because from the looks of things, he didn’t have a patch of clothing on. Ondine’s pulse hammered freshly in her ears.

I’m going to have a heart attack before I make sixteen.

“I’m nawt dead,” he said at last.

Despite her concern for some modicum of decorum, a smile broadened her face and happiness bubbled in her veins. Heavens above, her dream had been wrong. Way wrong.

Those devilish green eyes stayed fixed on hers, while a lopsided grin added a mischievous gleam. Suddenly she averted her gaze and dropped her lashes so she could study the ground.

“I’m nawt dead,” Shambles said again, louder this time as he turned his hands back and forth in the moonlight. Then he wrapped the tablecloth around his middle, stood up and shook his head in amazement. He took a step closer and cupped Ondine’s cheek in his palm. Heat seared her face. “The dream didn’t come true.”

“The . . . the . . .” The dream? He knew about it?

“You’re not dead by a long shot,” Old Aunt Col said from the doorway, making Ondine and Shambles-Hamish turn quickly to see they had company.

“But if you lay a finger on my grand-niece, you’ll wish you were.”

Indeed, they had an audience, including Ondine’s mother who, from the shocked look on her face, had seen quite a bit too.

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[1] Vomit. A lot. Usually after drinking. A lot.

 

Don’t forget to check out of the rest of the schedule and partake in the rafflecopter giveaway.

About the Author:

Ebony McKennaEbony McKenna lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and son.
She has worked as a journalist, market researcher, website editor, and company director.
As a teenager, she lived in a family-run restaurant. This provided the inspiration for Ondine’s family, as Ebony has also waitressed, prepared food and yep, she washed dishes. So many dishes.
Now she writes novels for a living, so her hands are dry. Except for when her characters are making her laugh too much and she has to wipe tears away so she can see the keyboard.

She’s always loved trivia nights and the Eurovision Song Contest, and wishes she’d put money on Conchita Wurst winning this year.

Author links:

 

Blog Tour & Giveaway: School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.

Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who subjugate a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.

As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn’t an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

 

This book is on tour with Enchanted Book Promotions. Check out the rest of the tour stops, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaways: one for an ebook copy of School of Deaths; one for a $20 Amazon gift card.

 

Review

I received a copy of this book as a part of the tour hosted by Enchanted Book Promotions. It in no way affects my judgment of the book.

Rating: 4/5

This was such a fun read—I don’t think I’ve ever been let down by a reaper book. It’s a relatively untapped subset of the urban fantasy genre, and these books are always so unique. I particularly enjoyed the idea that people are recruited to be Deaths and have to go to a school and pass a test to get out of their contract. And there are Deaths that “fade,” or just get so old that they simply stop existing. And there are Deaths that “cease,” or get killed and therefor forgotten. If a Death ceases they are erased (just like if the light from the crack in Amy’s bedroom wall touches you, for you Doctor Who fans). It was nicely illustrated, and I was pleased with how Mannino set up the rules of the world. They were creative, they were interesting, and they were consistent.

There’s a tension between the three species in the realm where Deaths exist (Deaths, Elementals, and Dragons). As is suggested in the description, Suzie being the first female Death in millenia doesn’t really help. Neither does the fact that Suzie is determined to solve mysteries that no one else has even noticed. Trust a girl to shake things up, eh? 😉

I’ll be honest and say that some of the bits at the beginning weren’t my cup of tea. There were some teenage problems(read: really problems with society in general, not just our teenage population) that, while I generally enjoy reading YA, I could do without. But they weren’t important to get through and understand, as they kind of set the scene.

At times it moved a bit slowly, but I assure you it picks up. Once you get into the meat of the plot and Suzie learns enough about the world she’s been thrown into, it moves along pretty nicely. Overall, I didn’t have any problems with the general pacing.

I do wish Suzie had been a bit older—I think there could have been a bit more depth to her character if she’d been a bit more mature when this all hit (after all, there’s only so much I can expect out of a thirteen year old). It certainly didn’t detract from the quality of the book, but I think a couple extra years might have brought this book to the next level.

I’ll happily read the sequel that’s in the works— the ending wrapped everything up in a tidy bow and I don’t feel like we’re missing part of the story, but the door was left open for some potential follow-on books set in the same world or even picking up pretty much where this one left off. I’m looking forward to seeing how the world develops after the shock Suzie is putting it through. And, I mean, who doesn’t want to read about Dragons and Deaths at the same time?

 

Excerpt

An enormous white wolf with blood-red eyes snarled at her. Suzie screamed.

The walls closed in and the wolf pounced. She ran.

Her body still ached with pain, but her heart thundered in her chest, pounding with complete fear. The wolf howled and another white wolf appeared, with the same blood-red eyes. She sprinted away.

She didn’t remember going outside, but the walls were trees. The trees grew dense, a forest closing in. She ran and ran, faster and faster. The wolves howled behind her. More white wolves lurked ahead.

Wolves everywhere. Far behind her, she heard Luc laughing.

One of the bone-white wolves snarled and leapt for her throat. She fell back and rolled. The wolf turned toward her and vanished.

A massive white cobra with blood-red eyes hissed at her. She scrambled to her feet and ran again. Panting hard, her legs in agony, she couldn’t think. Her only emotion was fear. Fear surged through her body, giving fleeting strength to her aching legs.

The ground opened and she fell. Down and down until she landed hard on something moving. Spiders. Thousands of bone-white spiders with tiny red eyes. Crawling. She screamed until the sound caught in her throat.

The cobra re-emerged, hissing.

Suddenly she understood. The cobra hissed at her again, its red eyes glaring at her.

“You’re a ’Mental, aren’t you?” she asked the giant snake.

Luc yelled something behind her. The snake vanished.

For a strange moment, the world cleared. Suzie looked around. The Ring of Scythes surrounding the College stood in the distance. She had run away from the school and collapsed in a field. Behind her, a real forest loomed.

“Not me, you imbecile, her.” screamed Luc. His dark face tightened, and he yelled at some invisible threat. The albino man, the ’Mental, stood near him. Luc yelled in terror and ran back toward the College.

The albino turned toward Suzie.

At once all sensation was gone. This time she didn’t see wolves, snakes, pits, or spiders. This time, she saw nothing.

The attack was swift and precise, cutting her deeper than a scythe.

Fear.

Pure, unfettered fear. Fear deeper than terror, darker than nightmares. Fear filled with horrors, too terrible to deny.

Fear swept through every cell in her body.

Suzie tried to fight. She tried to scream. Finally, she started to run again. She ran into the forest, tripping over roots. The albino followed her, and the forest darkened.

Crows cawed at her. If she turned, they’d attack. The trees reached down to grab her, but Suzie ran until she reached the other side of the woods. She collapsed.

Deep in the forest, far behind her, someone was crying.

 

About the Author

Christopher ManniniChristopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet.  He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland.  In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups.  He spends his summers writing and singing.  Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University.  His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.

Mannino is currently working on a sequel to “School of Deaths” as well as an adult science fiction novel.

 

Watch the trailer here

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AeszKiTz0k

Links

All purchase links can be found at http://www.christophermannino.com/school-of-deaths.html#.U81VLPldWSo

www.ChristopherMannino.com
http://poetsfire.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CTMannino
https://twitter.com/Ctmannino
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00K2XOP88
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8108129.Christopher_Mannino

 

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Don’t forget to visit the rest of the tour stops, and enter the rafflecopter giveaways: one for an ebook copy of School of Deaths; one for a $20 Amazon gift card.

Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. Cast & Kristen Cast

After a Vampire Tracker Marks her with a crescent moon on her forehead, 16-year-old Zoey Redbird enters the House of Night and learns that she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx and has affinities for all five elements: Air, Fire Water, Earth and Spirit. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is mis-using her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny – with a little help from her new vampyre friends (or Nerd Herd, as Aphrodite calls them).

 

Rating: 2/5

I really don’t know how I felt about this book. Overall, I thought it was ok. And I might read the next one if only because I’m curious about the couple of things that were alluded to at the end of this book. So since I’m otherwise having difficulty articulating my thoughts, I’m going to follow a review format I’ve seen used by a few other bloggers for this post.

The likes:

I found that for the most part I did like the main character, Zoey. She’s sensible and has a good head on her shoulders. She’s not overconfident, but she’s not really down on herself either. And she does develop well over the course of the book (though I might argue that the bulk of her development is a bit sudden at the end if the book, but hey, epiphanies happen in the real world too, right?). I also liked that when the supposed “hottest guy in school,” and possibly even “hottest guy in the world” asked her out she didn’t completely lose herself. In fact, she approaches the offer warily.

I liked the way magic was structured in the world. It was pretty cool, and unique, and interesting to learn about.

The dislikes:

Everyone basically picks up on the new religion flawlessly. I mean, yeah, it seems to be somewhat beat into them that as fledgling vampyres they must respect the religion of the House of Night and follow Nyx. But no one even bats an eyelash at suddenly being told to worship a goddess that they ever did. I suppose an argument could be made that only teenagers who had a predisposition toward the belief system of the House of Night would be destined to be marked, but that’s somewhat of a stretch for me.

I honestly didn’t care for the fledgling idea in general. I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m a traditionalist when it comes to vampires (that’s obviously not true, given some of the books that I’ve raved about here), but there are some stretches to the baseline myth/legend that I have difficulty accepting. The idea that certain people get “marked” by a tracker and therefore will become vampyres (yes, I intentionally switched the spelling) is only ok at best. The idea that they then have to go to school to learn what life is like as a vampyre when they may or may not survive the transition (that will happen 4 years later, by the way) is just bizarre.

Tacked onto that the general assumption that the only subjects worth learning about over that time (when normally you’d be in a normal high school) are:

  • Vampyre Sociology (sensible)
  • Some subset of the arts (as a band geek, I’m totally on board with this in any basic curriculum)
  • Language (again, I’m a bit of a language geek and good friends with folks who definitely are, so this is awesome)
  • Physical fitness of the not so modern-sport variety (like Fencing and Equestrian)

Nothing about math or science. Those fields apparently don’t matter for vampires. At all. Like, Not only was there no expectation that those classes are taken, but they don’t seem to even have been offered. I totally get not emphasizing them. I totally get people who don’t like them. That’s fine. But to be preparing these fledglings for a life that they will have to live, presumably, forever, to not offer anything in the fields of math or science just seems wrong, and a bit like the author went “I wish my high school was like this” rather than asking “What would be a realistic curriculum for this subset of society?” Maybe that’s just a personal pet peeve, but it bugged me. This may seem like a trivial point to go on about since the school curriculum is obviously not the plot. But seriously, about half of the book was about Zoey’s classes and nothing else. Sure, some of it was interesting, but for the most part I just didn’t care about what was going on in her classes.

Similarly, the overarching plot was all about regular high school teenage drama. Yeah, there was a magical component to it, but if I wanted to read about an outsider holding a coup against the queen bee popular girl, I wouldn’t be picking up an urban fantasy book. In fairness, some decent groundwork is laid for book 2 to potentially have a little more to it than that.

But now for the kicker:

Oh, the inconsistencies (what can I say? I’ve always been a nitpicker, and attention to detail matters to me). Some quick examples:

  • First she likes any brown pop and she has a diet coke, then throughout the rest of the book she likes any brown pop that’s not diet.
  • First Heath is her boyfriend. Then he’s her almost ex-boyfriend (which kinda makes sense because she supposedly never actually broke up with him). Then he’s her ex-almost boyfriend, implying that they had never dated at all. Well, which is it?
  • In most classes, she was coming in mid-semester, but in the Equestrian class it seemed like the first day.

There were other things that weren’t necessarily inconsistencies but were tacked on information that seemed to have been thrown in because it seemed convenient. I understand the desire to do this; I used to write like that myself. But the editing process should at least make those instances less obvious.

Interestingly enough, I started off giving this a 3-star rating. By the time I was halfway done writing I had knocked it down to a 2.5. And now that I’m reading back over, I’m knocking it down again. There was just too much that I didn’t care for, and a good chunk of my annoyances were driven largely by two factors: not liking the topic (particular to me) and not liking the writing (much more general). While I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from reading this — I’m sure it’s great if you absolutely love reading about teenage drama, and some people certainly do — I still wouldn’t go out of my way to pick it up. I’d also caution that you should wait until you’re in a mood to put up with the drama.

Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

 

I received an ARC of this book via Xpresso Book Tours. It in no way affects my judgment.

Rating: 4.5/5

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I went into this book. I mean, the description is accurate, but it doesn’t really prepare you for what you’re about to read. I practically inhaled this book (to the extent that when my boyfriend kept interrupting me to go look at the bathroom he just painted, I started getting huffy—seriously, how is it fair to interrupt a scene like that repeatedly?!).

I. Completely. Believed. Every. Page.

Not only is it perfectly plausible (I mean, given that we assume that mermaids exist of course), but each scene was so well written it wasn’t even a stretch to believe what I was reading. There’s a bit about the economics of the world that still doesn’t quite sit well with me—the local economy of the island has obviously suffered from the relentless onslaught of the mermaids, and they don’t have any food anymore, yet they seem to have an endless supply of iron and wood to make weapons and build new ships. Maybe the iron is an abundant natural resource on the island? I mean, trade would obviously help with that particular problem, but it’s been pretty clearly demonstrated that options down that path are somewhat limited. It’s a minor nit in the grand scheme of things, but I did wonder about it on more than one occasion.

Meela was one hell of a main character, and I was particularly impressed with Warner’s ability to write her as both an 18 year old and a 10 year old (yes, we have a flashback at the beginning of the book. And it’s important and well-done and everything). She had a strong voice throughout, carried herself with a certain amount of sense rather than acting rashly (as some main characters in urban fantasy have been known to do *cough*trope of the genre). And her moments of indecision were’re dramatized or played up to emphasize that “this issue matters—pay attention because it’s going to come up in the test at the end of the book,” which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine (and something I find to be far too common). Those pieces of indecision that did exist were appropriate for the situation and were meaningful.

If you flip through the reviews I’ve written recently, you’ll notice that I’m not much of an action-reader. Suspense is difficult to write and I find that I dislike it more often than I like it. But this book had me pretty much on the edge of my seat as I was reading—not because I seriously wanted to know what would happen next, but because I had enough of an idea of what was going to happen that I didn’t want it to happen. I mean, some of those girls are scary (and whose bright idea was it to load a ship full of eighteen-year-old bags of estrogen and tell them to organize themselves?), and some of the mermaids are even scarier.

Overall the plot was/is incredible (yes, this is/will be a series, and yes, I plan on reading the next book). There were a couple of times I found myself wondering about some of the peculiarities of the situation that the residents of Eriana Kwai find themselves in, but it’s adequately explained. More importantly, the girls on the ship wondered about the same things in a very natural way.

I’ll be honest and say that if you mind brutal honesty and gore in your books, you should steer clear of this one. Otherwise, I strongly encourage giving it a go.

 

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Tortured Souls (The Orion Circle #1) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

Sometimes Rest in Peace isn’t an option…

Kacie Ramsey sees ghosts—and it’s ruining her life. Her mother left, her father blames her, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t keep the ghosts away. Now a new power has emerged. Nightly visions of grisly murders and a relentless predator draw her to the brink of insanity.

When the phantom appears at a party, Kacie’s longtime crush, Logan, saves her. He invites her to join the Orion Circle, a group of supernatural hunters with chapters in schools all over the country. Through the Circle, Kacie learns to embrace her spiritual powers, and for the first time in her life she feels in control rather than a victim.

But the Foxblood Demon will not give up so easily. A demented serial killer in life who trapped the souls of the thirteen children he murdered, imprisoning them within the walls of his mansion. Now in death, he plots his return while drawing power from the pure souls of the children. He recognizes something in Kacie he’s never seen before—a medium powerful enough to provide a vessel for his tainted soul.

Kacie can’t ignore the tortured souls of the children crying out to her every night. With Logan at her side, she will fight the Foxblood Demon. But can they banish this powerful phantom, or will Kacie lose not only her body, but her eternal soul to the monster.

 

 

I was provided an ARC of this book as a part of the tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. It in no way affects my rating.

Check out the tour schedule, and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $25 to Amazon!

Rating: 3/5

I have mixed feelings about this book. The overall plot was quite good, and I’m very pleased with how this book was wrapped up while letting us know what’s coming in the next book. It’s clear that this particular series of events wasn’t an isolated case, even though it read that way for most of the book. The range of characters and skills was also a good mix, and I generally liked how the rules of the world were presented.

However, I did find myself skimming portions. The characters didn’t draw me into the book as much as I would have liked, and there were fluff scenes that didn’t really do anything to progress any of the plots (primary or otherwise). I acknowledge that these kinds of scenes are important to teenagers and a key part of the YA genre, but they’re most useful when progressing a romance subplot, something that went so quickly at the beginning of the book that there wasn’t really any room for growth in the ‘fluff scenes’ later on.

I really wish we’d gotten to learn more about the Orion Circle in this book. It kind of felt like it was just introduced and that was enough. And for the specific plot of this novel, it probably was enough, but I didn’t really feel satisfied by the brief sample we got. I’m glad that this is an organization across all ages and it’s not just teenagers fending for themselves (which is a personal pet peeve), but I found myself somewhat confused by the role the adults played. The adult psychic in charge of the group, for instance, had a bad experience at the place that was causing all the problems, and from then on her only involvement was advice here and there while the kids were doing all the dangerous stuff. It seemed odd to me.

But overall, these are just little things, and they’re not intrusive to the book. My biggest complaint is in how the emotional issues were handled throughout the first ~third of the book. Kassie had some issues with her parents growing up, but some of the emotion around her past seemed a bit forced, as if she were explaining it because she had to have had a rocky past. She shares a very random story about her experience with a particular ghost in her house, which quite frankly should have caused her more emotional disturbance than her parents, and that story never really comes back up later. And then things are mended with her family almost instantaneously, which again, felt forced. Thankfully, most of that was out of the way by around the 35% mark.

This was still a really good book, and I encourage you to give it a go and at least make it well beyond the halfway point. It’s a quick read and definitely worth the time 🙂

About the Author:

Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance and is a member of Romance Writers of America.

She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs and four cats. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Her house is filled with dragons, though she does lament that they are the porcelain, non-flying variety.

Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!)

Her debut novel, Shadow Fire, is the first book in the Light Chronicles series. Watch for book two, Stolen Moon, a standalone sequel, coming August 2014.

Author links:

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Don’t forget to visit the tour schedule and enter the rafflecopter giveaway for $25 to Amazon!

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10) by Chloe Neill

While Merit didn’t choose to become a vampire or Sentinel of Cadogan House, she vowed to fight for her House and its Master, and she’s managed to forge strong alliances with powerful supernaturals across Chicago. But even though Merit has had wild adventures, this may be her deadliest yet…

A killer is stalking Chicago, preying on humans and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs. The CPD hasn’t been able to track the assailant, and as the body count rises, the city is running out of options. Vampires and humans aren’t on great terms, but murder makes for strange bedfellows. Can Merit find the killer before she becomes a target?

 

Format: Audiobook

Rating: 4/5

I feel that my reviews of books in this series are starting to sound redundant, so I’m keeping this one pretty short. In summary, I absolutely love Neill’s writing — the characters are all alive, and more importantly they’re unique. The plots of each novel are good by themselves—there’s enough content to justify any given book, the pacing is good, and I’m never bored. And the over-reaching plot is clear and, while there’s not necessarily one main conflict tying them all together, I like how each books fits into the general scheme of things and how the world continues to develop.

Merit and Ethan tackle some emotional drama that somewhat annoyed me in this one. Yes, Ethan has a big scary past. Yes, Merit knows this and is already over it. No, Ethan shouldn’t be freaking out about it. Yes, Merit’s job is to protect Ethan. Yes, Ethan is all alpha male and wants to protect her. Why is this supposedly only just now an issue, after ten books in the series? These things may have been getting on my nerves. The good news is that they’re not overwhelming by any means.

Overall, this is still a great series, and I’m quite pleased that Neill is still holding strong on this one.

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