Do you believe in magic?

That question has appeared in countless children’s stories, fantasy books, and movies, it’s hard to keep track. They’ve been uttered so many times, I occasionally fear they’ve lost their meaning, but do you believe in magic?

We’ve used “magic” so much that it’s lost its—well—magic. The word is meant to describe an unseen power or force, an entity that is beyond comprehension. Whether wielded by a wizard or not, magic is the energy that entrances, overwhelms, and transforms. It is the sensations and ideas that could simply have no other name.

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So do you believe in magic?

You are a spirit driving a meat suit that grows and heals itself and you can doubt it? This very moment, you are scanning random symbols and interpreting words, sensations, and ideas—but you don’t believe in magic? Magic is the life and breath of the world!

I can sense it in the sunlight shining through treetops and the rhythm of an ocean surf. I see it in the way whorls of paint create galaxies on canvas, how ink births worlds on paper. It’s in the flawless dance of a sparrow flock and that heady feeling you get when the one you love smiles your way. There is magic in dreams, both the fictions of the sleeping mind and the aspirations of the ambitious. It infuses the power of words—noises lisped into the air and scrawled on a page—to change entire generations.

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Life itself is magic. This world is teeming with magic we simply take for granted. Our world froths with it, we have simply become blind.

You have but to open your mind to embrace it.

Review: Volcrian’s Hunt (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #3) by T.L. Shreffler @poetsforpeanuts

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A plague is spreading across the land. Crops are rotting. People are dying in the streets. Sora, with the help of her magical Cat’s Eye necklace, is the only one who can stop it.

She must travel overseas to the Lost Isles, a place of legend and mystery. Only there can she destroy the bloodmage, Volcrian, putting an end to the curse. She is accompanied by Crash, a lethal assassin who once threatened—and saved—her life. But Sora is beginning to question her dark companion. He seems to be carrying a secret; a hidden past that could endanger them all.

Meanwhile, they are hunted by an underground society known as the Shade. For centuries, the Shade has waited for the perfect opportunity to step into the light. Now they are perilously close to resurrecting a Dark God and unleashing a wave of unimaginable destruction. They only need to collect the three sacred weapons, and Sora has already found two….

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

Note: This review may be less professional and longer than most because fangirling is likely to occur. You were warned.

This is by far one of my All Time Favorite series. Volcrian’s Hunt picks up a few days after Viper’s Creed left off, with Sora and Co. on board a ship destined for the Harpy islands. It doesn’t take long for the adventure/trouble to start and once it does, there’s never a dull moment! I find myself becoming more and more engrossed in this series, this world, and these characters with each new installment. This is by far one of the better books I have read and Ferran’s Map cannot arrive soon enough for me!

The plot:

This book caps off the word count at over 100k, but it felt much, much shorter. I became so caught up in the story that before I knew it I had reached the end and was yearning for more. The plot is well structured with no loopholes and a cocktail of suspense, action, and magic with a shot of romance. We learn more about the Harpies as well as their archenemies, the Unnamed or the Sixth Race, Crash’s race.

The characters:

I understand that the bad@$$ heroine has come into vogue and while I can be fond of the Xenas and Celaenas, I find a character like Sora, with a certain vulnerability and innocence, to be refreshing. Sora isn’t a fool or completely helpless, but she’s not a smoldering virago either. She does what she does for the sake of doing the right thing and while she has her fears and doubts, it’s her courage that pulls through in the end.

Crash has grown a lot since the first book, but the author still does a good job of reminding us who he is and where he comes from. That doesn’t change the fact that he is my favorite character and I have shipped him with Sora since the scene they met. He’s become very protective of her, but not in a possessive way (possessiveness is overrated in my opinion). I thought I couldn’t adore him any more, then came this one part where :SPOILER: he could have seduced Sora :END SPOILER: and you could tell he wanted to, but didn’t because he respected her and wanted what was best for her. My thoughts at that point were simple—AWESOME!!! If I didn’t already love him to bits, I certainly would now.

On a side note, Crash’s shirts seem have a rather short life expectancy in this book. I didn’t think the poor articles of benign clothing deserved their untimely demises, but if dear T.L. Shreffler disagrees…oh, well.

There was a female character called Krait introduced toward the end of Viper’s Creed of the same race as Crash. I’m not sure why, but I think I like her. She has that certain creepy zealot appeal and I’m looking forward to reading more about her. We also meet Caprion, a Harpy general who becomes fast adversaries with Crash. Caprion came across as a bit lofty and self righteous to me, but I’m kind of wondering if my opinion will change when I read Caprion’s Wings, the prequel novella set to come out in January. Apparently, Caprion and Krait have something in common according to the author’s website and I’m twisting my mind into knots trying to figure it out. I have my suspicions, but…

I thought Volcrian had lost it in the second book, but it was nothing compared to this one. He’s become a psychotic sociopath, hardly able to tell his own thoughts and desires from those of the Dark God who, unbeknownst to him, is using the mage to gain a foothold in the world of the living.

Though the bloodmage is a more than adequate villain, we also see a brief glimpse of Cerastes, Crash’s former mentor, who is bent on reviving the Dark God and ending all life. Though we meet him in only two scenes through the eyes of Krait, it is more than enough to tell he is going to be an unprecedented antihero for Ferran’s Map.

I think I’ve rambled on long enough, so I will sum up by saying this is a YA Epic Fantasy series worthy of obsession and definitely one to watch.

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Review: Frost Fire (Tortured Elements, #1) by Olivia Rivers

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“Magic is just like love, Allai. It won’t wait for permission before it destroys you.”

Like sand in an hourglass, Allai’s future is dwindling away. She’s spent her entire life fighting the Mages who threaten humanity, and dreams of someday eradicating magic. But all it takes is an anonymous phone call for the truth to spill out: Allai is the one thing she despises most.

She’s a Mage.

Though ancient law mandates Allai’s death, she still has one last chance of survival. His name is Drake Rhaize, and he swears he can lead Allai to a sanctuary for Mages. Allai hasn’t seen Drake in years, but she remembers him as the demon boy who used to hold her close and softly whisper that he’d keep her safe. But Drake has changed since then: He’s now suspected of murder, and has been out-casted for betraying his own kind.

While Allai doesn’t trust Drake, she has no choice but to put her life in his hands and hope he can get her to safety. Because Allai’s father has hired a pack of Demons to bring her back to him, dead or alive, and demons never stop the hunt.

3 out of 5 stars

Okay, first off, I loved this book. Really, I did. The premise, the storyline, the mythology—it is definitely something new and a series to watch. Unfortunately, there were some issues I had with the female lead, Allai, that I strongly disliked and for that, I must begrudgingly subtract from my rating. However, it was a good mix of suspense, “aww” moments, mystery, and action. I greatly enjoyed it and am anticipating the sequel in December.

The plot:

As I said, there was suspense, mystery, action, and romance bundled together in a beautiful package. I read this at an airport/on the plane and it certainly kept me entertained. I became very caught up in the characters’ struggles and experienced one of those tormented conflicts when I realized that there wasn’t enough space by the end for everything to happen that I wanted to happen.

The characters:

Like I said, I had a few problems with Allai. They were problems that could have been very easily fixed, but I felt they were too large to overlook. There is only one scene where Allai puts up a genuine fight and bests her opponent , but while his back is turned and he’s fighting someone else. The rest of the time she is mostly rescued. I would have had absolutely no problem with that if it hadn’t been pre-established that she’d had extensive combat training—which she never seems to use. She also completely falls apart when she is rejected by her adoptive family and thrown into exile. I could understand being heartbroken and needing to grieve, but after awhile I was thinking pull yourself together, girl. The one thing that I could not forgive was her incessant screaming. I feel harsh saying it, but it seemed like she screamed at every little thing and I just have the impression that a girl who’s been raised by stoic, aloof demons would have a little more steel in her nerves. Other than those details, I think I liked Allai over all and certainly don’t wish her character ill.

Drake was my favorite. Yes, that might be typical of me to favor the love interest, but Drake was one of those characters it’s hard not to like. He has a smart mouth, a disrespect for authority, and a few dire anger management issues, but a hidden vulnerability and almost boyishness that makes me want to hug him (or maybe not, since he doesn’t do hugs with anyone but Allai). I think he may have been the dominant perspective, but I’d have to go back and read it again.

The villain(s) are gorgeously nasty and Ms. Rivers’ created some original and utterly terrifying monsters to populate her story. I can’t talk about all the bad guys, because that would be spoiler-ific, but I will say that here we have multiple antiheroes and plenty of poisonous fangs, claws, and wings!

All in all, this is a good story. I think it could have easily made five stars if the issues with Allai’s character had been fixed, but all the same, I eagerly anticipate Fire Soul coming next month.

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{Author Interview + Giveaway} Janeal Falor

Today the very awesome Janeal Falor has taken the time to drop by and talk a little about her YA fantasy series and herself! Take a peek at her answers to my wildly creative (okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating) questions and don’t forget to check out her links and the giveaway below!

Janeal Falor lives in Utah where she’s finally managed to live in the same house for more than five years without moving. In her spare time she reads books like they’re nuts covered in caramel and chocolate, cooks whatever strikes her fancy, and enjoys the outdoors. Her husband and three children try to keep up with her overactive imagination. Usually they settle for having dinner on the table, even if she’s still going on about the voices in her head.

What was the first book that made you want to write one?

Ooohhh. Good question! It’s been so long it’s hard to remember for certain, but it was probably A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It transported me to another world in a way I could relate to and then made me want to figure out how to make that type of magic happen.

Where did you get the idea to write You Are Mine?
I had been reading a lot of marriage of convenience/arranged marriage-type books. Then I thought: What if these girls weren’t being sold off for money? What if they were being sold for something they had of great value, but something they couldn’t control. Something like–Magic! And You Are Mine took over my life.
Is there a particular character in the Mine series you consider to be the head villain? Who is it and why?
For the series it would be a toss up between the Grand Chancellor and the Chardonian society as a whole. Society’s ideals and expectations are what the heroines have to face and over come, but those ideals and expectations have been set, in large part, by the Grand Chancellor.
Do you have any writing rituals? What are they?
Being a homeschooling mother of three kids it’s hard just to find time to write. Because of that, I really don’t have any rituals. I have to write whenever, wherever, however I can. One thing I do have to have, though, is quiet. Noise distracts me to no end. Thank the stars children sleep and that libraries exist!
What do you think is the key ingredient to a good heroine?
Being relatable. If I can connect with a heroine, whether or not their circumstances are something I’ve been through, I can feel what they are feeling and cheer them on through whatever task they must overcome.
If you could have afternoon tea with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
Eep! So hard to choose just one. I don’t drink tea, but I’d love to have a cup of hot chocolate with Gail Carson Levine. Her stories are magic.
Thor or Ironman?
That’s like asking chocolate or caramel. Why both of course! Put them in the same movie, even better. Better yet, they can both come to my house. Wait, on second thought, I’d rather my house stay in one piece…
What’s a question you’ve wanted to be asked in an interview? What’s your answer?
I’ve wanted to be asked: Do you believe in happily ever after endings?

Why this is what I’ve wanted to be asked, no idea, but: Yes! Most definitely. Except… I believe very strongly in realistic happily ever afters. If there’s not a dose of realism, it’s hard not to roll my eyes and then not want to think about the story again. A touch of reality to endings makes the happiness more believable and usually gives me more to think about.

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Giveaway
For an eBook copy of You Are Mine, leave a comment answering this question: Is fighting for your freedom worth it, even if someone you care about might get hurt?

{Cover Reveal + Giveaway} Caprion’s Wings (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles companion novella ) by T.L. Shreffler

Today I am psyched to share with you the cover for Caprion’s Wings, a companion novella to one of my All Time Favorite series. So without further ado…behold!

Caprion

Release Date: January 31st, 2014

By the age of nineteen, all Harpies know how to fly—except Caprion. He has yet pass the test of the Singing and gain his wings. His family has disowned him in shame and people are beginning to talk. Now an evil voice haunts his dreams, taunting him, drawing out his worst fears—that he will remain wingless forever.

Caprion decides to find the root of this insidious voice, no matter what it takes. He journeys to the secret prisons of the Harpy underground, where he meets a young slave named Moss. In those sunless, decrepit cells, a forbidden friendship is formed. Can Caprion and Moss find the source of the voice? And can Caprion save Moss from a terrible fate?

Join young Caprion as he journeys down, down into the earth, finding his wings and forging a friendship that will change him forever.

*This is a novella of The Cat’s Eye Chronicles. If you are new to the series, you can download the first book, Sora’s Quest, for free!

Download Sora’s Quest for FREE (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, Book 1)

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T. L. Shreffler lives in Los Angeles, CA. She loves diversity, fantasy, romance, iced tea, long walks, philosophy, and thrift store shopping. She recently graduated with a BA in Badass (Creative Writing) and her poetry has been published consecutively in Eclipse: A Literary Journal and The Northridge Review. She works as the assistant editor for the funky and fantastic Tinsel Tokyo Magazine.

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Review: You Are Mine (Mine, #1) by Janeal Falor

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Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.

Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

First of all, I would like to lead a round of applause for Ms. Falor. You Are Mine deals with tough topics, mainly sexism, with an admirable amount of balance. Usually, books, movies, etc. that discuss women being treated as commodities end up sounding (to me) overtly feminist and going the other way. You Are Mine is an excellent tale of a young woman learning she doesn’t have to live on her knees, that not all men are domineering and abusive, and that things can change for the better if you are willing to fight for them.

The plot:

I finished this book essentially in one evening. While there isn’t so much action as in fighting, there is a firm helping of suspense to keep the reader from relaxing or getting too comfortable. I highly enjoyed the story’s progression and how very developed the plot is. Ms. Falor clearly put a great deal of effort into this story and I would say it more than paid off.

I can’t help but wonder why women can’t use the magic that flows in their veins. That part didn’t make sense to me and I began to wonder if it was due to some other oppression tactic from the Chardonian men. But it seems the Envadi women can’t use it either, so I suppose there is some other explanation.

The characters:

Serena, our main character, wants to be the good daughter, the good sister, and the eventual good wife, yet can’t help but be dissatisfied with her subservient station as a woman. I liked how the author shows Serena has the capability for spunk, but at the same time it is clear how many times Serena has been beaten down. It was wonderful to see how she slowly comes out of her shell once out from under her father’s iron thumb and how she begins to explore other, freer ways of living than what she has been subjected to her whole life.

Zade, the foreigner who wins Serena in a tournament, is a wonderful character. He secretly seeks to better the tyrannical conditions in Chardonia at extreme risk to himself and puts forth a great effort to protect Serena though he barely knows her. The budding romance between the two was a side note, but extremely sweet all the same.

I absolutely loathe Serena’s father. Councilman Stephen is controlling, arrogant, sadistic, vindictive, greedy, and downright horrid. However, he isn’t the only one in this story who fits that description, far from it. He merely makes a fine addition to this story’s cast of despicable antiheroes, who are too many to mention in detail.

The relationship between Serena and her sisters is touching and adds an extra layer to the storyline. Though the second oldest sister I don’t trust, she strikes me as potentially mercenary. It was tragic to learn how Serena’s mother was broken as a young woman and turned into a broodmare for their father, but explains why she is so adamant that Serena play the doormat. While she demands her daughters adhere to the rigid social conventions, it’s hard to hate her because one feels so sorry for her.

In summary, You Are Mine is a tale to keep you awake late at night. With no cardboard characters to be found and a sophisticated, clean plot, this is one that I highly, highly recommend.

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Review: Viper’s Creed (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #2) by T. L. Shreffler

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Sora is having visions. Strange, terrifying visions brought on by her Cat’s Eye necklace, an ancient and magical device. Spurred to action, she leaves her mother’s cabin to find Crash, the mysterious assassin who once changed her life. She is certain that together, they can discover what the necklace is trying to tell her.

Crash is still on the run from the dark sorcerer, Volcrian, but now a plague is spreading across the land. Volcrian’s quest for vengeance has awakened something far more evil than himself; a force that could destroy the entire kingdom. Together, he and Sora must harness the power of the Cat’s Eye and kill the sorcerer before it’s too late….

Find out more at www.catseyechronicles.com

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

I was psyched to start this after finishing Sora’s Quest and I was not in the least disappointed. Here it was confirmed that this is a series I am in love with and on the morning of September 30, you will find me on Amazon, ready to download the next installment. Though we had a bit of a slow start, the rest of the book more than makes up for it and I am so excited for the third I’m like a toddler on Christmas morning.

The plot:

A plague is spreading over the land, caused by a tear between the world of the living and the realm of the dead when Volcrian created his undead wraiths to hunt Crash. Realizing that something must be done, Sora sets out to once again find the assassin and enlist his help. Like I said, the beginning was a bit slow, but once Sora found Crash…you know what, on second thought, it might have just been that I missed Crash…

The characters:

Sora has grown up a lot in the year since her first adventures with the Cat’s Eye. Not only does she have a far better understanding of what the world is and how it works, but she has been practicing her fighting skills and can, for the first time, hold her own against some opponents. Her compassionate side shows clearly on many instances, often to the annoyance of Crash.

We see a good deal more from Crash’s perspective, plunging into the dark depths of his thoughts and demons. He has become increasingly protective of Sora and failing her is his one and only fear. Some questions are answered about his past, but even more are raised. There is one scene I absolutely adore where a Dracian they have just met gets a little too flirtatious with Sora. Crash simply steps up and puts an arm around her, glaring daggers at the Dracian until he backs off. Precious!

Volcrian has completely flipped out at this point. His use of the dark magic and his hatred and lust for revenge have eaten him up like a cancer, consuming his soul. He is even more evil and awesome than in the first and makes for an incredible villain worthy of the Dark Lord Hall of Fame.

There are several new characters, particularly at the end, but the main addition is Laina, a young girl thief Sora rescues from prison. Burn becomes fast friends with her, but for the most part I shared Crash’s opinion of her—that she was trouble and they should get rid of her. Though I was wary of Laina at first, I warmed up to her a bit and I think she makes a good fourth member of their party.

I am hooked on this series like a flipping trout and DYING for Volcrian’s Hunt! If you like your stories with dark magic, ancient secrets, swords, and heart-stopping action, I order you to read these books!

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