Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge!

Making it official! 
I've been reading witchy novels and loving the world of witchcraft, for the most part.  When Ella suggested we consider the year-long challenge I fell in love with the combination of the traditional cozy and witches.  I'll go into that more when I post my review. Meanwhile, I'm pleasantly surprised, dolefully unhappy, and often confused.   With the Hansel and Gretel movie having them as witch hunters, there is a renewal of the idea of a woman of power being evil.

So, here I am, signing up for the Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf Witches and Witchcraft reading challenge for 2013.  I'm going for the Mother level. I've already passed the Initiate level and there is just something about taking my place as Mother...So...

Watch this space.  And.. feel free to recommend reads. I've already read Discovery of Witches, so we can check that off.  I've got an unpublished one coming up from Net Galley and a blog tour read. Found a blending of steampunk and witchcraft from Pip Ballentine.  Which means I'll probably be talking about podcasts again. 

OK enough. Back to actually reading... No, wait.  I've got these on Kindle..

Back to the books!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Review of Candace Havens' Take it Like a Vamp

Today I am reviewing Candace Havens' "Take it Like a Vamp" published by Entangled Publishing, as part of their Covet Line.

Genre: Category - Paranormal 
Page Length: 293 Pages
Release Date: July 2012

Book Description:

Vampire Nick Christos might have been born in the Middle Ages, but those days seem tame compared to the last eight years spent ruling the Supernatural Council. The only respite in his long days of governing is with his sweet neighbor Casey Meyers. Sure, he’s forced to take a cold shower after every encounter, but no way will he risk anything more with a human. Not with his blood thirsty ex on the prowl and out to ruin Nick’s life. But when said crazy ex shows up at the ball and flies her freak flag high, Nick has more to worry about than keeping his hands off his neighbor. He’ll have to stay closer than ever if he hopes to keep her alive, but will she want to leave him forever when she learns the truth?


Readers of this blog may remember that more than a year ago, I had proclaimed that I was "never going to tire of vampire books", but that had come and initially I was a little hesitant to buy "another" vampire book. I've got dozens (and dozens) on my shelves and on my Kindle, but after reading the sneak peak of Chapter One on the Entangled Website I thought that I would give it a try. And I am so glad that I did. The worldbuilding was awesome and Miss Havens didn't come up with anything unique like making her vampires sparkle, but she created a great environment and the heritage and history of the vampire population was very well done.


Okay, I don't know who I loved more the heroine Casey Meyers or the hero Nick Christos. Casey is a hoot with her sarcastic, snarky attitude and quips. And Nick is just a gem and the vampire that every woman would want to be seduced by (sorry Edward). Any woman that has felt less than beautiful or perfect can completely relate to Casey and she manages to say things that a lot of women only think. Both were very well-written and well-rounded characters that felt very real.

Pros & Cons:

There were so many pros that I don't know where to begin. I love Miss Havens' writing. The tone and texture of the words just jump off the page and you can really get a sense of the characters. The conflict is high and the romance is smoking. I couldn't think of any cons. I really enjoyed this book.

Fresh Factor:

As I mentioned earlier,  I wasn't sure that I was going to enjoy the vampire angle as it seems that every vampire story has been done and I've read it ten times, but this one was unique and very interesting. Miss Havens managed to put an interesting spin on vampires and their world, I'm so happy that I hit "buy" as I know that I will come back to that story to read again and again.


What can I say? I loved this story. I would give it ***** 5 stars. It was a perfect read - fast, sexy, snarky, endearing and paranormal. This book is definitely worth the $2.95 that it's sold for (and more).  I only hope that Miss Haven will continue the series with some of the other super sexy vamp characters.  

My next review is Mary Buckham's new novella "Invisible Prison" and it is also a must-read!

Until next time, thanks for reading! Please feel free to add any book recommendations.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Making of a Fool...the Tarot Card

The Fool is a soul in search of experience said Arthur Edward Waite, an occult writer from the 1880s and co-creator of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck.  The Fool represents the protagonist and he is on a journey very similar to the Hero’s journey. 
So, my reasoning for choosing the Fool as my first card to design was that he stands for the protagonist and symbolizes the beginning and the end.  It’s funny, but in my story, Dragon’s Gate there is a clue that is given to the main character and part of it said the ‘beginning must go to the end.’  Okay, it’s out of context, but for me it was time to cue the Twilight Zone theme music.  You know the one. 
I was going to walk you through my steps on how I did this card, but I got so involved I forgot to document it.  Ooops.  But, I used acrylics for paint and covered the surface with Mod Podge so the liquid wouldn’t soak into the mat board.  Cut the card to the size of 5 x 7 to have a larger work area.
My story takes place on a mythical Chinese island, P’eng-lai, the isle of the Immortals of Chinese mythology.  I mixed the Tarot with the I Ching, since obviously Tarot cards are a western tradition.
The Chinese calligraphy means balance, but it’s not specific what kind of balance.  The character is walking on a bamboo pole across an abyss.  In Chinese culture the bamboo symbolizes moral integrity, resistance, modesty and loyalty, all things needed when on a Hero’s journey.  On the journey, the protagonist might feel loneliness because he is leaving behind what he has known and venturing into the unknown, which is another thing bamboo represents. 
There is a fan, which is meant to ward off evil spirits, the color red, represents good luck, and of course, the fan can be used to cool oneself off.  The peacock feather also represents warding off evil doers. 
On the pants leg is the I Ching hexagram meaning The Wanderer.  It calls for the necessary attitude for undertaking a journey.  Such as to be sincere, flexible and understanding of the new surroundings.
The overall color of the card alludes to the idea of a world slowly dying. The burnt red color of the fan and the turquoise green of the feather represent the hope that my main character represents.
What do you think?  Any suggestions?  Would you like to know more about my process for developing my Tarot deck?
Till next time,

Monday, February 18, 2013

Urban Fantasy Interviews on The Author Hour

Sadly, I'm sort of phoning it in this week since I'm still up to my ears in our long-distance move. We found the cutest house to purchase in our new town and thankfully our offer was accepted. But, as most of you probably know, that's just the beginning and arguably the easiest part of the journey. At this point, our possessions are stuck halfway across the country, Hubs has started his new job, and I'm spending most of my days on the phone with banks, realtors, and more as I try to get this thing done as quickly as possible.

So, yeah, I'm going a little crazy, LOL. I'd planned on having another review ready to go by now, but between all the commuting, the new schedule, and overall exhaustion, my reading has slowed to a crawl. Instead, I decided to share an older website I just recently discovered called The Author Hour. There are some fabulous audio and print interviews with a bunch of really cool authors from several genres, including urban fantasy and paranormal. Looks like they haven't added anything since early 2011, but there's plenty to keep you busy anyway. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Bonus - Be sure to stop by Savvy Authors and read last week's interview with one of my favorite UF writers, Nicole Peeler. Find out how she feels about ending her Jane True series and get a peek at what she's working on next.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got an underwriter to hunt down...


Friday, February 15, 2013

Book Review: Falling Kingdoms

Book: Falling Kingdom (Book 1)
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Edition: Kindle Edition
Genre: High Fantasy YA

Apparently this book is called the Game of Thrones of YA. Now I learned that after reading the book and I have no idea where that notion came from. Never once did this remind me of Martin’s series and would ever put it on the same level it. While the storyline intrigued me, the cookie cut characters and sub-plots deflated the spark the story gave.  

It began with character stereotypes but I figured it would change as the story went. Yet it did not. I predicted certain events for characters based on their stereotype. While some parts surprised me and others left me baffled due to the lack of concrete ties between the characters.  Already I can foresee the future action of the characters depending on the path they choose in the next book.

The worldbuilding is not told but seen through the eyes of the characters. This part I enjoyed completely. I dislike long description of worlds. I want to learn through the character itself. Rhodes does this very well compared to her character development.

Overall if you are looking for high fantasy in the YA genre, then this is the book for you.  A more seasoned high fantasy reader may not enjoy the characters and the pacing of the story. Especially if you are used to reading authors like Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin. It is around 400 pages based on my Kindle so it isn’t long to read but I avoided finishing the book because it no longer held my attention during the last quarter of the book.

My rating is 3 out of 5 stars. It pulled me in from the beginning and then it became a drag to read. Nevertheless I plan on reading the second book just to see if the characters improve or if they continue down the path I imagine in my head. The added story element at the end also is intriguing and gives me more reason to continue through the second book. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

More Movement in Short Spurts

If you can't tell already, I don't read a lot of books.  But I like stories.  Getting me to read more has been one by-product of participating in this blog and I'm happy for it all.  Reading is re-shaping my life.  It takes time...usually.  One of the reasons I like my Kindle is that I can "read" a book while doing something else. As long as the book is text-to-speech enabled, I'm good.

My other source of story-while-working is the Podcast.  I used to work at a pharmaceutical company putting together samples.  We would stand around folding boxes listening to KALWs Spider's Web.  I can still remember the theme song!  Three grown women listening to a reading of Little House On The Prairie.  There are still radio stations that broadcast story.  Fortunately, we have the internet.  I got a tweet that Neil Gaiman was hosting one such collection--Selected Shorts--on WNYC. 

Listen to Steven Millhaouser's "Mirror Polish".
In “Miracle Polish,” by Steven Millhauser, the protagonist buys a gimmicky product from a door-to-door salesman that changes his life—or does it?  Gaiman likens Millhauser’s disconcerting fantasy to the fairy tale Snow White, in which the heroine’s wicked stepmother demands reassurance from her mirror.  In “Miracle Polish,” the phlegmatic narrator slowly becomes more and more obsessed by his own reflection. 
Then there's Rey Bradbury's classic, "The Veldt", read by Steven Colbert.  And Leonard Nimoy reading a classic James Thurber, "The Catbird Seat"..

John Lithgow hosts  E. Nesbit's  short fantasy."Melisande", another take on the Rapunzel story, read by Jane Curtin.  

The last five episodes of Selected Shorts is available on iTunes. I'm sorry I didn't get there earlier.  Seems I missed  s lot of excellent readings.    I did score another Nimoy reading. Creepy, but interesting.  "Loving Dickens Too Much".

What memories do you have of story time?  If you could have your perfect radio show of stories, what would it be like?  Who would you want to listen to?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Paranormal Romance Review: The Nymph's Labyrinth

Review of "The Nymph's Labyrinth", Book 1 of the Nymph Series by Danica Winters.

Number of pages:  300
Word Count: ~60k

Book Description:

A world shrouded in mystery and intrigue, the Sisterhood of Epione must not be exposed. 

A Shape-shifting nymph, Ariadne, is tasked with keeping the truth of her group’s existence and their ancient mysteries far out of reach of an American archeologist and his troublemaking son.  When forgotten and forbidden passions are awakened, Ariadne is forced to make a choice—fall in line and continue to be overrun and pushed down by the sisterhood, or follow her heart and put everyone’s lives in danger.

Can Ariadne have the man she loves or will the pressure and secrets of the past keep her from her heart’s desire?

Book Trailer: The Nymph's Labyrinth Book Trailer

I really loved the world building and from just reading through the pages, I felt that I was on the Island of Crete and digging for artifacts and clues of the labyrinth. The description made the setting feel like another character extension. Miss Winters did a wonderful job creating a "new" world that is very different than any of the other paranormal romance books that are on the shelves or available to buy. The prologue does a great job of explaining and setting up the book that the nymph's are cursed to never love a human after Epione turns down Zeus' seduction.  The world was set up brilliantly and was one of the things that I loved almost the best.

The characters were strong and very believable. I loved Ariadne as the strong heroine with deep past emotional scars. She is the perfect complement to Beau Morris, who is the kind of man that women just want to eat up in romance novels. He is that sweet, driven man that has had his ups and downs, and feels bad for not being able to see his son. Although the relationship between Ariadne and Beau starts off slow, it is believable and it takes off. The build up and the tension in the relationship is steamy and the love scenes are hot! I also really enjoyed the extra dynamic of adding Beau's son Kaeden adding another element to the struggling couple and also showcasing Beau.

Pros & Cons:
The characters and the world building were great and I loved the storyline. The only thing I wasn't too keen on was the shape-shifting. I didn't think that it was needed to further the paranormal element. The shape-shifting didn't take away from the story, but I found that it didn't really add anything to it. It was just there.

Fresh Factor:
The storyline was very fresh. It was the perfect mix of Greek mythology, suspense and romance. I haven't read any other novels on nymphs or on the labyrinth. This story has pushed me to break out of the paranormal box of vampires and shape-shifting cats. There are so many other very interesting and equally sexy paranormal creatures out there to explore. The mythology behind the nymphs was very interesting and has made me want to do some research of my own.  It really peaked my interest.

I loved this story and would give it ****~ 4.5 stars. It was a fast ready and really enjoyable. I didn't want to put it down once I started it and found myself reading into the wee hours of the morning to get to a point where I could stop reading.  I loved the characters and found myself really pulling for Ariadne.  I will definitely be looking for Miss Winter's next book in the Nymph Series.  I would strongly recommend it for the paranormal romance reader.


About the Author:
Danica Winters is a bestselling author who is known for writing award-winning books that grip readers with their ability to drive emotion through suspense and often a touch of magic. 

She is also the Marketing and Promotions Manager for Books To Go Now publishing.  When she’s not working she can be found in the wilds of Montana working on her patience while she tries to understand the allure of various crafts (quilting, pottery and painting are not her thing).  She always believe the cup is neither half full nor half empty, but it better be filled with wine.


Tour wide giveaway 5 copies of An Angel’s Justice

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, YA Fantasy, 1st in series
Cover by Andrew Davidson
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd.  Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend the court as ambassadors and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers.  As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered in suspiciously draconian fashion.  Serphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs.  While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift—one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

This is the debut novel for Rachel Hartman and it is an amazing achievement. She breaks the rules handed out to first time writers writing YA.  Don’t go over 375 pages, yet she comes in close to 500 pages.  Must have hooks and cliffhangers at the beginning of chapters and at the end of chapters, Ms. Hartman wrote a humdinger of an opening, but from there she didn’t worry about pushing the concept and just wrote an intriguing story with beautiful prose. 
The opening hook: I remember being born.
That I have to say is an awesome opening line and I had to know more.  Who is this person that remember her birth? 
Another point I want to bring up is that this book is different from most YA novels out today.  It is more intellectual and thought provoking.  Doesn’t rely on the “Oh my god, he’s to die for,” thinking and swooning from the heroine over some guy who has a body of god complete with ripped abs.  Honestly, I can’t remember any Greek statues having such developed bodies.  Here’s another pet peeve I have with most YA’s, the constant dribble streaming out of the heroine’s head that you just want to drown her to shut her up.  Sure we’re in the main protagonist’s head but do we have to hear wah, wah, wah, all the time. Ms. Hartman avoided these thankfully.
The world building:
They say a story is in the details and Hartman has created a solid medieval world and made it her own.  I can practically hear the gowns swishing in the halls and wondering who is going to clean those hems.  It is a full and believable society complete with religion, clothing, customs, different races, culture filled with books and music and more.  Plus, she has created dragons that on the most part keep their emotions in check, sort of like Mr. Spock, from Star Trek.  Hartman’s dragons can change their shape from dragons to humans and they wear a little bell signifying what they are.  I must admit although it’s a great element for the story, I found it difficult to imagine a dragon tall as a building folding down into a small human body.  But, of course werewolves do it all the time, don’t they?
The characters:
The main character is Seraphina who discovers she is half dragon and half-human with a magical power she doesn’t understand.  She takes the initiative to solve the murder of a royal personage while keeping her a secret of being a half-breed.  She’s a spunky character who sometimes speaks her mind without thinking of the consequence of her forthrightness.  A character trait of wanting to find answers is beyond mere curiosity, she will go further than most people to get to the bottom of a problem even if it puts herself in jeopardy. But she is also vulnerable, but doesn’t let that hold her back.   Prince Lucian Kiggs is her partner in the murder investigation and Seraphina falls in love with him.  The Prince is a nice enough guy, perhaps even close to perfect.  So, he doesn’t have much growth in the story.
The secondary characters are wonderful.  Princess Glisselda and the other half-dragons characters color the world with their idiosyncrasies.
Pros and Cons:
Hartman’s writing and her voice are so different from what’s out there, except for Maggie Stiefvater.  It almost reminds me of a different time when the richness of language was prime.  It was a beautiful read, but at times, the pacing was very slow.  But, this is a kind of book you want to savor the words and not devour them.  
Fresh factor:
As I mentioned above the world building is luscious, full and different. And of course the inventive unfolding of the dragons and half-breeds is very different.  I think the second book in the series will be even more exciting. 
I would give this book a four**** star rating.  I believe both the young and the old, male or female will enjoy this book, which says a lot about Hartman's writing.  This book delivers what fantasy is about taking you to different world complete with exciting characters struggling to keep their world from falling apart.  
Seraphina was a finalist for the Canadian 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award in the category of Children's Text. On January 28, 2013 it received the 2013 William C. Morris Award, awarded to best young adult book published in the US by a debut author. In the UK Seraphina has been placed on the longlist for the CILIP Carnegie Medal In Literature 2013, with the shortlist to be announced in March 2013. Seraphina is also short-listed for the 2012 Kitchies Golden Tentacle Award.
Seraphina is available at Amazon . Also there is a short prequel to this book, which I haven’t read.  I hope you give this book a read and enjoy the story as much as I did.

Till next time,




Monday, February 4, 2013

Urban Fantasy Review: Bitter Night (Horngate Witches)

About: By Diana Pharaoh Francis, Urban Fantasy, 1st in a series


Once, Max dreamed of a career, a home, a loving family. Now all she wants is freedom...and revenge. A witch named Giselle transformed Max into a warrior with extraordinary strength, speed, and endurance. Bound by spellcraft, Max has no choice but to fight as Giselle's personal magic weapon -- a Shadowblade -- and she's lethally good at it. But her skills are about to be put to the test as they never have before....

The ancient Guardians of the earth are preparing to unleash widespread destruction on the mortal world, and they want the witches to help them. If the witches refuse, their covens will be destroyed, including Horngate, the place Max has grudgingly come to think of as home. Max thinks she can find a way to help Horngate stand against the Guardians, but doing so will mean forging dangerous alliances -- including one with a rival witch's Shadowblade, who is as drawn to Max as she is to him -- and standing with the witch she despises. Max will have to choose between the old life she still dreams of and the warrior she has become, and take her place on the side of right -- if she survives long enough to figure out which side that is....

World: The Horngate world is unique because the majority of the characters are a type of being invented by the author called Shadowblades (must avoid sunlight) and Sunspears (must avoid darkness). Both are created by witches to serve them, and all of their special abilities are basically 'programmed' into them. It was refreshing to see something new in the genre without relying on any old standbys like vampires or shapeshifters (at least they haven't shown up so far). The mundane world is apparently unaware that they exist, and the entire story was very contained (in that I can't recall a single character who was not involved with the witches' world). It might be nice in future books to see more interaction with the outside world.

Characters: The story is told from two POV's - Max, the female Shadowblade Prime of a witch named Giselle; and Alexander, the Shadowblade Prime of a rival witch called Selange. I enjoyed both characters and appreciate the fact that while there was a definite spark of a romance beginning between them, it wasn't a major influence on the story and wasn't something either were constantly mooning over. The relationship between Max and Giselle was also deep and twisty, since Max feels she was tricked into becoming the witch's servant but also can't help that she's grown to love the other members of the coven and won't abandon them.

Positive & Negative: I don't see many books written in alternating male/female POV's that aren't romance, so it was a new experience and very enjoyable. Max was definitely my favorite part of the book; I love a smart, kick-ass heroine who isn't annoyingly snarky, mean or arrogant, The only thing that pulled the story down a little was the occasional repetitiveness between action scenes - those Shadowblades spend a lot of time eating and healing LOL. 

Fresh Factor: The fact that the book revolves around an entirely invented type of supernatural creature earns it tons of bonus points for presenting something new in the genre. Even the more familiar beings, like witches and angels, have a singular feel to them, which is fantastic. 

Overall: This book lays out the series endgame from the jump: apocalypse is coming. Ms. Francis manages to introduce plenty of intriguing characters and gives the lot a clear direction to play out in the long run. It has to be the smoothest introduction to a series I've read in a while, and I'm totally hooked by the author's effortless style. I give it a solid four and a half stars, and I'll definitely check out more Horngate titles soon.

Bitter Night is available in both print and ebook versions. FYI, last time I checked, it was on sale at Amazon for only $1.99! 

Hope you guys check this one out and enjoy it as much as I did. Cheers!

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Memory of Light Arrived

The final volume of The Wheel of Time series has arrived. My first epic fantasy series I read. And with nostalgia, I brought the hardcover version of the book. I present my bad pictures of the book itself!

Once I finish Falling Kingdoms, I will be reading and reviewing this book as part of my challenge! My first book of the year that is near 900 pages.

I leave you guys with my final bad picture of the cover with added sunburst to highlight my view of the book.

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