Trying to Outwit the SPELL TRACKER–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m back and sharing a review for a YA paranormal M/M romance adventure from Alex C Vick. SPELL TRACKER is the first book in the Light Mage series, and I did like the start to it.

About the book:
Luca has a problem his magic can’t solve. The boy he’s loved since they fought side-by-side as gladiators in Ancient Rome is about to die for the last time. Luca’s only chance to prevent it is to make a deal with the Spell Tracker, who demands Luca’s own life as collateral.

At seventeen years old, Luca is a Light Mage, the rarest of magicians. He’s able to navigate the earthbound dimension without losing his memory of its magical counterpart. Like an invisible kind-hearted ghost, he helps others to graduate their life paths and take up their chosen magical professions.

But this time, with the help of the Spell Tracker, Luca is earthbound again for real as a high school senior. The boy he’s here to save is nothing like he expected, and before long his head and his heart are all over the place, as well as his intended rescue. The Spell Tracker can hardly wait for him to fail. The life of this particular Light Mage is something he’s wanted for a very long time.

My Review:
Honestly, I think the blurb is a tad misleading. Luca is thousands of years old. His form is forever trapped in the body of a 17 year-old, however. He’s a guardian, a class of angel destined to help souls in trouble to find their way into a good life path. The more success he has at this noble pursuit, the more power Luca can attain, which could help him break loose of the cycle he is in.

Luca makes a bargain with the Spell Tracker, a shadow mage who oversees a guardian’s great trial–Luca’s newest and most difficult assignment. Luca’s mission is to assist a soul he’s known before. In fact, this soul–now reincarnated in a teen girl’s body, is that of the first boy Luca ever loved. Luca had helped this boy to train for battle the Colosseum in Ancient Rome, where they were both slave-combatants. Luca’s final act as a human was to save the life of the boy he loved–which graduated him to guardian status.

The story is set in a modern day school, and the Spell Tracker has set the rule that Luca cannot leave the school he attends. It’s not a boarding school, so he has to hide out there in unused offices, etc. Luca has to befriend Cass, the girl who bears his former love’s soul, but it isn’t easy. She’s the most distrusting girl in the school–shattered by her father’s infidelity and her mother’s grief. Devin, Cass’s half-brother, takes an immediate liking to Luca–and it’s hard for Luca to resist the sweet boy who happens to be an unknowing light mage. Luca endeavors to get Cass to examine her past, but she’s resistant. Devin also tries to assist her, but she thinks he’s a liar–and their previous friendship is buried in bitter animosity.

Meanwhile, the Spell Tracker has always planned to harvest Cass’s soul–and he’s not below tricking Luca in order to do it. The climax is a little confusing, in that Luca wants to sacrifice himself to save both Cass’s and Devin’s souls–and Devin wants to save Luca and Cass. Cass would sacrifice herself, but her soul is already bound in contract. There’s a lot going on including teleportation, visiting past lives, reincarnation, the angelic host intervening, and a slippery shadow mage not living up to the spirit or letter of his contracts.

The end is happy, with all favorable parties finding a satisfactory solution to the soul swap. Cass gains back memories of her previous lives–and a new purpose to pursue. Luca and Devin find their love is strong enough to start fresh and build a solid bond. There’s a lot of history in this story–which was a little bogging on the pace. Also, Luca and Cass have two names, one for now and one for then, and that was a bit confusion. There’s a bit of typical teen drama about who is sleeping with whom, and those moments got catty I might have had an eye-roll or three as it seemed drama-for-drama’s-sake. There will be another story and I think I’d read on, just to see how everyone fares.

Interested? You can find SPELL TRACKER on Goodreads and Amazon. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author: (in her own words)
Ever since I was old enough to figure out there was probably no such thing as magic, I always (secretly!) hoped it was some kind of mistake. Surely it must exist somewhere? Eventually I decided it must have been lost or forgotten somehow. And that’s where the idea for Stealing Magic, the first book, came from.

I live in the South of England with my husband and two daughters. When I’m not at work, or writing about magic, I also enjoy reading and photography. I’m a big Shakespeare fan too.

Catch up with Alex on her website Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Learning IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH–Review & Giveaway

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Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a contemporary YA adventure from Sarah J Schmitt that’s just in time for Halloween. IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH is a cross between Mean Girls, Defending your Life, A Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life. I did enjoy this wild ride of one miscollected soul.

Drop down and make sure to enter the big Prize Pack giveaway.

its a wonderful death bigAbout the book:
Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

My Review:
Mean girl RJ is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She’s getting her fortune told at a Halloween carnival when the gnarled gypsy tosses her at the Grim Reaper. Gideon can’t undo the damage now that he’s collected RJ’s soul–even if it’s a mistake. She has no choice but to ascend to the Lobby with him. There, she watches as group after group of souls called to Judgement. She encounters a fellow soul unwilling to advance, Sandy, who’s awaiting her beloved James to arrive. Throughout, RJ is professing her frustration over being miscollected–and being a bit of a diva over it. Naturally, as RJ is a diva over everything.

She raises, in this case, holy hell, and it leads to an unprecedented Tribunal of angels who must decide if RJ’s worth the trouble of unraveling time to re-insert her into her timeline. And, honestly, the verdict is no. She’s been a nasty, mean, lying, conniving wretch of a girl–all in the pursuit of popularity. Her two Guardian angels help to plead her case, that she’s young a redeemable, but it is Death Himself who arranges a series of tests–to verify if RJ would make the right choices given the chance. She has spirit guides from her own life (ala A Christmas Carol) leading her back to three key times when RJ departed from a good path.

RJ is quite a character. She is unashamedly self-centered and made many, many wrong choices with her life, but she is adamant that she’ll do better. And, in many ways she does. The bulk of the book is her arguing her case to all and sundry, begging to be heard. And, even when she is heard, those in charge will likely not do as she wishes. Why should they, after all? She is not a worthy soul, in their opinion. And, they’re right. But this tough girl makes even her Grams proud as she meets and exceeds Death Himself’s challenges.

I will admit to being frustrated by the ending. I wanted so much for RJ to live the life I pictured for her, and sadly it’s not the case. That said, this was a fantastic redemption tale with a very human, and believable, main character. Her journey was quite a wild ride, and how she made amends was thoroughly believable. For all the Heaven and Hell parts of this book, it’s not preachy and it’s not churchy. Again, like A Christmas Carol, RJ must ponder the parts of her life that went wrong. She has to overcome her Mean Girls training and fight for the right to live a better life than the one she was collected from. I adored how the angels were honest. Brutally honest. RJ is little more than a pest, in their view. Turning back time is a huge undertaking–and opens the gates for other souls to complain that their time should not have been up. Oh, the legalities of final Judgement!

Interested? You can find IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH on Goodreads and Amazon

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Early Praise for It’s A Wonderful Death
“Fun, Funny and Full of Life” – Kirkus Review

“A snarky joyride of a book with a deep moral core; long after you’ve finished laughing, you’ll still be thinking about RJ’s journey and perhaps asking yourself: What defines a life well lived?” – Mike Mullin, author of Ashfall

It’s a Wonderful Death is a wonderful gem.  Both snarky and uplifting, it sneaks inside you and makes you smile and cry at the same time.”
-Sarah Beth Durst, award-winning author of Vessel and Drink, Slay, Love 

It’s A Wonderful Death is a great mix of mirth, myth and metaphysics; I enjoyed it greatly and I’m certain that YA readers will as well.”
– Daniel Waters, author of Generation Dead

Mean Girls meets A Christmas Carol! Smart, sassy, and humorously original with clever world-building and a host of interesting characters, It’s a Wonderful Death will have you laughing out loud and rooting for RJ from the first page!”
– Amalie Howard, best-selling author of Bloodspell

“Just the kind of story I love — full of snark, heart, and contemplation about the meaning of life! It’s a Wonderful Death will get you thinking about what you want to leave behind and how you want to live until then.”
– Kristen Lippert-Martin, author of Tabula Rasa

“RJ’s witty narrative had me both laughing out loud and weeping into the pages. It’s a Wonderful Death is a delightful read that questions the butterfly effect of choices made…and unmade.”
– Danielle L. Jensen, author of Stolen Songbird

“You know a story’s going to be good when Death shows up as a surfer! I loved every bit of this funny and heartwarming tale of second chances.”
-Lisa Maxwell, author of Sweet Unrest

Sarah J. SchmittAbout the Author
Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She runs a teen writing program that combines Skype visits from well-known authors and screenwriters and critique group style feedback.

Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University where she worked with first year college students as they acclimated to college life. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. She is an active member of SCBWI, ALA and the Indiana Library Federation and is a regular participant at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, is newly released from Sky Pony Press.

You can find Sarah online on her website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

Flying With BROKEN WINGS

Broken WingsBrielle Matthews has learned seeing the handiwork of God’s creation can be a bit overwhelming.

BROKEN WINGS, the second in the Angel Eyes trilogy by Shannon Dittemore, returns Brielle to the role of heroine. (See my review of ANGEL EYES here)

Picking up six months after ANGEL EYES, Brielle, Kaylee and Jake have just graduated high school. Stratus is celebrating the opening of a new community center, spearheaded by Kaylee and funded by Olivia Hart’s foundation.

Brielle knows something isn’t right about Olivia–Canaan’s halo burns hot whenever she comes near, but Brielle’s even more unsettled by her father’s behavior. Seems Olivia brings out the alcoholic in her dad.

Coupled with her Celestial vision–Brielle observes Angels and Demons within the human realm–she is being haunted by dreams of her mother’s demise. Learning that her mother’s coffin was buried empty is a shock of the first order. Could she still be alive?

And why are Angels circling her home?

Meanwhile, Brielle is affected by the tar-like fear rolling off everyone she meets. It is only in worship and prayer that she sees the fear disintegrate. So why is Jake–the most devout person Brielle knows–sweating fear?

Jake’s love for Brielle shines through his steadfast gaze, yet she is stunned by his fear.  They are meant for each other–God himself gave Jake an engagement ring for her–so, what is he hiding?

In the Celestial realm, Damien has met with Lucifer and revealed his knowledge of Jake and Brielle’s gifts. He is able to garner Lucifer’s interest and secure instructions to collect them in two week’s time. Damien uses Olivia to not only capture Jake and Brielle, but also Canaan’s halo.

See, Lucifer is planning a battle, and Stratus has become Ground Zero.

Despite the bond between Jake and Brielle, doubt remains. Jake’s risky mission to discover his parentage separates them at the absolute WORST time. And, when he doesn’t return, Brielle’s fledgling faith is put to the test.

Again, Shannon Dittemore has spun a beautifully crafted story of love, faith, doubt and keeping our demons at bay. For those who enjoy paranormal fiction, BROKEN WINGS is a fantastic tale. Contemporary themes and realistic emotional content keep this story grounded firmly in the Terrestrial, with eyes to the skies and hope for a safe resolution.

The final story in this trilogy, DARK HALO, will be released next week–so readers won’t have long to wait for the conclusion. (Review for DARK HALO coming soon!)

BROKEN WINGS can be purchased (paperback or eBook) in all the right places…

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A View Through ANGEL EYES

Angel Eyes (Angel Eyes, #1)Where do humans exist within the universe?

Somewhere between angels and demons, squarely within the Terrestrial according to Shannon Dittemore‘s YA paranormal ANGEL EYES.

Brielle has returned to her hometown of Stratus a shell of the graceful ballerina who left two years prior on a prestigious arts school scholarship. Instead of being the star on stage, Brielle is set to become the star-witness against Marco, the young man accused of killing her best friend Ali.

Barely able to contain her grief, Brielle has no desire to dance and struggles to attend school. Even when the new boy, Jake Shield, takes a serious interest in her.

Unknown to Brielle, forces are working both for and against her. Canaan Shield, Jake’s guardian, is an angel whose new mission is to keep Brielle safe, while the demon Damian discovers Jake and Brielle possess gifts rare among humankind.

Currently in disgrace, Damian quickly realizes Jake and Brielle would be valuable assets to Lucifer, if only he can corrupt their purpose. His role in a child-slavery business draws Brielle into danger, the same danger that killed Ali, and her new gift allows her to be the heroine of more than just her own life.

ANGEL EYES’s beautifully written prose unravels more than a forgiveness tale; it is an epic battle between goodness and evil which challenges the reader to take a new vision of the world surrounding us.

I very much enjoyed the fresh perspective. The mostly-linear plot facilitates both understanding and anticipation, especially considering the multiple points-of-view.

ANGEL EYES is the first in a trilogy. It is available for Kindle and Nook.