Dangerous Ideas for the FAR PATROL– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new LGBTQ YA fantasy adventure from Alex Powell. FAR PATROL takes us on a journey of right versus might in a land where dragons and their human companions have big troubles in a rigid society.

Drop down to catch my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.

About the book:

Will war tear their family and their country apart?

Ignius Lockden and their companion Kathely are ready for adventure. Joining Far Patrol was only going to be the beginning—they were right, but in all the wrong ways. Suddenly, there’s a war on the horizon and the two of them are stuck in the middle. Ignius wants to do what’s right, but it isn’t easy to tell what actions will lead to the correct ending. How is one young dragon supposed to change the course of history?

How about a little taste?

The first thing the dragon remembered seeing was the golden light right beyond the shell in front of them, flickering and lighting up tiny red and silver specks on the surface of their chamber.

It must be time, then.

They scrabbled at the curved inside of the shell, scratching away and scoring the surface. They felt the little nubs of their claws catch on the roughened inner surface. The dragon stopped, waiting to regain their strength. It was tiring work, and presently, the dragon fell asleep again.

They repeated this cycle in longer and longer increments, scratching away at the inside of their chamber. Waiting was over for them, and it was time to emerge. Sleep, wake, sleep.

Again, the light woke them, brighter this time. There were voices outside, and with some excitement, the dragon heard the voice. The one was here. It was definitely time now, and the dragon would stop at nothing to finally greet that voice.

It was a high voice, and it penetrated the shell unlike all the other voices outside. The dragon didn’t care about those ones. They needed to reach the one. Kathely.

The one. Their one.

That voice had started coming a long time since. The moon had cycled countless times, and the dragon knew it well, the voice of the one who spoke to them from outside. That one whispered things to them, told them all about life on the outside. The dragon liked these stories, and even though they couldn’t yet make complete sense of them, the outside called. Kathely was calling, right now.

“Ignius.”

The dragon rocked against the wall of their chamber, pushing as hard as they could. The shell, weakened by their earlier efforts, gave a little under their struggles. It was tiring, but Kathely was there, calling.

“Ignius, you have been Named. It is time to come forth.”

Ignius coiled their tail, lashing it against the weak spot of the shell. Then they struck again as they felt the shell fracture above them. The spikes on their tail made short work of breaking through, and once again, Ignius clawed at the shell, finding the opening. They forced it farther open, lifting their snout to the hole in the shell, taking their first deep breath of air.

They couldn’t see yet, but after a few sneezes to clear their lungs of fluid, they could smell those around them. The nearest person was Kathely, and their one smelled divine, like home.

My Review:

This is the first book in an expected series, as it’s not fully resolved by the end.

Ignius is a dragon who is bonded with his Chosen human, Kathely. Both of these individuals are from the upper class of society and Kathely had talked to Ignius nearly all the days of the seven years it took them to hatch. For the past twelve years Ignius and Kathlely (now 19) were together always and trained on the daily so that Ignius could learn to read, converse and have proper court manners. They are now considered grown enough to find their own path in the world. This world is mainly ruled by upper class dragons, and their human Chosen, but it is run by the smaller middle- and lower-class dragons who maintain the backbreaking underpaid labor that keep the upper class folk in steaming baths, delicious food, and beautiful clothes. These lower-class dragons, and most of the mids, do not have human Chosen, and live in abject squalor, not that the upper class dragons much care. Ignius does not question his place in society, because he’s an upper class dragon and all of his superiors believe themselves to be superior, based on size, color, and lineage.

Ignius’ lineage is one of several in the upper class caste, and his aunt is the head of the Dragon Council that governs their land. Ignius wishes to follow his mother’s lead and be selected to Far Patrol, guardians of the borders of their land. His race of dragon is almost never selected to the North post, due to it’s extreme cold, but Ignius is proud of their placement until he experiences the bitter cold, and their first solo mission becomes a trap for themself and Kathely. Rebels from the lower class wish to raise the hue and cry of their plight, and Ignius is their first pawn in a strategic plan to gain equality.

Ignius is at first outraged, and wounded by Kathely’s frustration with the situation. They need a rescue but the Council is reluctant. It’s a daring situation, that leads Ignius and their friends into peril and punishment. Being sent back to the capital city gives Ignius an unprecedented look into the lives of the middle and lower class dragons, and their sympathies begin to waver. However, the dangerous ideas they are experiencing are nothing compared to the power play their aunt is hatching. It’s clear that politics is not Ignius’ strength, however their sense of right and wrong, their morality, is not undeveloped, and Ignius’ sure the recent political issues will lead their society into war. They want to stop it, but can they?

This was an interesting read, and I think it will be very much appreciated by fans of non-binary and ace fiction as well as lovers of high fantasy. I will admit to struggling at times with the pronoun situation, as Kathely is addressed as “they” like all the dragons were, and that was an anomaly which caused confusion for me. Also, there are SO MANY names and dragons and pairs of dragons + Chosen and names of the dragons houses and the human houses and ACK! It became really hard to keep them straight. Ignius seems to be asexual, as well as non-binary, and has underdeveloped social skills as well. They struggle to manage even the smallest of interpersonal interactions without double-thinking or consulting at least two others. The indecisiveness got a little wearing, especially as the stakes kept growing. It becomes clear that society is unraveling in ways that Ignius and their friends cannot abide, with ancient rites being adopted and cruelty on the regular. It’s time to stand for what is right, and Ignius and their friends position themselves in opposition to their families–for the first time ever. I liked Ignius, but I had not expected this story to be fully narrated by a dragon–not a dragon shifter. It was a bit of a switch for me. If you like fantasy and adventure without a romance arc this is probably a good read for you.

Interested? You can find FAR PATROL on Goodreads and NineStar Press.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:

Alex is an author of LGBTQ+ romance. They live in northern Canada where it snows six months of the year. Currently, they are pursuing a PhD in English, but that won’t stop them from writing about space vampires or cyberpunk hackers or whatever else pops into their head. Mostly a SFF writer, Alex sometimes dabbles in other genres including contemporary romance.

You can reach out to Alex on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.


A World of Struggle THE DUBIOUS GIFT OF DRAGON’S BLOOD–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA LGBTQ fantasy romance from J Marshall Freeman. THE DUBIOUS GIFT OF DRAGON’S BLOOD features a teen boy with a secret gift being sent off to another realm to save it from conquest.

About the book:
High schooler Crispin Haugen already has so many identities to sort through—Asian, Scandinavian, not to mention gay. Then a messenger from another world arrives to tell him he also carries the blood of dragons in his veins.

Transported to the Realm of Fire, where dragons and humans live in harmony, Crispin falls for Davix, a brooding, nerdy scholar. But dark mysteries threaten the peace of Crispin’s new world. Without warning, dragons from the Realm of Air unleash a bloody war.

With everything he cares about on the line, Crispin must find the courage to fight…for justice and for love.

My Review:
Crispin is a high school senior and out to his friends, but not his parents, and he’s secretly hooking up with his long-time friend, who happens to be dating the coolest girl in school. Crispin thinks he’s falling hard for his buddy, but he’s clearly not comfortable or interested in coming out–or even reciprocating.

Crispin is stunned to learn that he is one of 20 beings on Earth who hold the sacred Copper blood of dragons. That there are realms of beings beyond Earth where dragons and magic exists. It’s overwhelming, but it’s also and unexpected escape hatch when his personal life explodes in spectacularly embarrassing fashion.

The Realm of Fire is a very different experience filled with pomp and etiquette that is unfamiliar. The People of this realm had been hand-picked and curated by the Five dragons that remain in the Realm. There are also dragons in the Realm of Air and the Realm of Water, but there are few connections between the Realms–especially on account of battles between these realms. In the Realm of Fire, Crispin is meant to be the stud to the Queen of the dragons, and he’s not sure how he will be able to do this…being an avowed gay person. And, he’s definitely interested in males. He’s so into Davix, an Atmospherics apprentice who is linked into some intrigue that might reveal a significant threat to the Dragons and life in the Realm.

This is a carefully constructed fantasy, with intense world building and unique situations and language creation. Crispin’s adventure truly schools him into maturity, taking on the mantle of pseudo-power that stems from his position as the Dragon Groom, fighting the tyranny of zealots in the Realm who eschew any growth in their religion. There is interesting technology, and the sense that the dragons serve as somewhat disconnected god-custodians who have interesting and unique gifts and roles. The People are not allowed to copulate to produce more offspring than their world can sustain, and it’s very common for same-sex “fleshmates” to provide comfort and sexual release for their friends who are not currently paired. There is community rearing of the young People, which allows for alliegance to be built to the Dragons rather than family groups, which was really interesting to me–and Cripsin.

It’s a bit of an epic, with battles and intrigue and love growing between Crispin and Davix, even while each is struggling to NOT be banished from the Realm. Davis loves the dragons of the Fire Realm, but in order to save them he makes an unforgivable choice, one that could cost his life. And Crispin’s solution is immediate, but less well thought out than it needed to be. Be ready to tuck into this one over the course of some days as it’s long. And, though the story resolves it’s not the end of the mayhem. Expect all sorts of magical and fantastical beasts, battles, unexpected double-crosses, chimeric beasts and prophesy that put both Crispin and Davix in the crosshairs of fate for their respective Realms. I liked it, and would recommend this book for readers who enjoy high fantasy, YA with super LGBTQ-friendly themes and representation, and a plethora of hyphens, because this book might could have the World’s Record on those.

Interested? You can find THE DUBIOUS GIFT OF DRAGON’S BLOOD on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Brutal Battles Await THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a LGBT fantasy from Julie Ember. THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH is the second book in the Seafarer’s Kiss series. I did not read the first book, but I felt it was fully enjoyable on its own.

About the book:
After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

My Review:
This is a fantasy with an LGBTQ MC with inspiration from Old Norse legends.

Ragna’s family has been murdered and her town on a hidden island ransacked by invaders, and she’s sworn vengeance. As a teen girl, even one imbued with a gift from the gods, she needs help from many quarters, and she must pledge her fealty to secure the allies who could deliver her island from occupation. Ragna is a Shield-Maiden, a valiant fighter, battle-tested and trained but struggling with the loss of her hand, and the need to see her tormentor and former boss, Haakon, dead.

The Old Norse legends are constantly reinforced in the use of language and terms that harken directly from the Old Norse. Ragna is a compelling heroine, negotiating with her intellect and her magical gifts, and striking bargains with Loki and a female chief of the area, to gather the supplies and troops who could help her to free those few survivors of the attack. Ragna grieves the loss of her young brother, her mother and father, but hopes against hope that her cousin may have survived–among a fraction of others.

Ragna has a female companion, Ersel, a shapeshifting mermaid who’s been cursed by Loki. Striking a bargain with the wily god is an affront to Ersel, but it’s one of only few paths that Ragna has to vengeance. It’s a tough experiences, scheming and struggling to save her land and not allow Loki to wreak further harm on Ersel. I loved Ragna’s fierce heart and determination. Her mission to get back her land is worth sacrificing everything, including her own freedom, so to speak, turning herself into a mercenary to a degree. It’s a companion story to The Seafarer’s Kiss, but focusing on Ragna’s story and how she recovers her peace of heart after Haakon destroyed her world. It’s not a lovestory, though there is a bit of love expressed between Ragna and Ersel. I expect we might see some more of Ragna, especially, as she scours the globe for what Loki has required as a condition of their cooperation.

Plenty of LGBTQ characters here, with little fanfare; these persons are just ordinary people of this world, which was good to see and especially affirming. I think if you are a fan of stories that celebrate and re-consider mythology, as well as strong females, will likely enjoy this one. Make no mistake that this story contains dangerous adventures, murder and killing: the bad guys get their just desserts.

Interested? You can find THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH on Goodreads, Interlude Press Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Julia Ember’s books include The Seafarer’s Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, published by Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020.

Ember’s work has been featured in USA Today, Bustle, Book Riot and Autostraddle, among many others. The Seafarer’s Kiss was named a “Best Queer Book of 2017” by Book Riot and was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the Bisexual Book Awards. Julia has a lifelong appreciation for history and classic literature, and holds an MLitt in Medieval Literature from the University of St. Andrews.

A world-traveler who has visited almost seventy countries, Julia currently lives in Seattle with her wife and their city menagerie of pets with literary names.

Catch up with Julia on her website, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Revenge and Blood for MASK OF SHADOWS-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a not so warm and fuzzy read. Linsey Miller released a gritty YA fantasy earlier this fall, and I really liked it! MASK OF SHADOWS is a fast-paced kill ride of challenges for a gender-fluid hero bent on having their revenge at long last. This is the first book with a sequel in the works.

About the book:
I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

My Review:
Sal Leon is a gender fluid thief who’s also the last of their people. When Sal was a child, Magic ruled their land, but some wealthy mages created the soulless shadows that gobbled up the humans in their path. It took the might of Queen to halt all magic in their realm brought an end to the shadows.

That was a decade ago, and Sal only survived because they had been playing in a tree in the instant the shadows swept the land. Sal’s sister at the base of the tree was a casualty Sal hasn’t forgotten. They made their way through semi-slavery into another land where Sal was trained in theft to survive. Sal’s handler is a well-known criminal, and when Sal learns of auditions to join the Queen’s Left Hand, a band of masked assassins, Sal makes their first killing–turning their handler’s head in as proof of Sal’s deadly might. As a Queen’s assassin, Sal would be able to cozy up to the nobles who have profited from the death of Sal’s homeland… and kill them.

So, Sal must survive a literal bloodfest, where twenty-two other applicants are also vying to be the last person standing, and take the single spot as the Queen’s Opal–all the assassins are named for gems. Under the guidance of Ruby, Emerald and Amethyst, the auditioners are gaining skill and picking off their competition. Sal is no match for the might and skill of the others, but they are wily, and used to living hard. As it stands, Sal makes it through two rounds of death, and gets the chance at a formal education; the Left Hand are part of the QUeen’s court and need to be literate. Sal’s tutor, Elise, is the daughter of one of the nobles Sal hopes to slaughter. Not easy thinking on these things, but Sal’s bloodthirst for revenge helps uncover a plot to overthrow the Queen. Expect intrigue and constant motion, as Sal works hard to stay alive and keep their eye on the rifts within the court.

I really enjoyed this one! It’s gore, but in the good way. I totally identified with Sal, and their need to avenge their family and homeland. It got a little confusing, at times, with all the names–because everyone has an alter ego it seems, and the formal names are long and twisty. There is a tiny bit of romance with Elise, and don’t expect any revelations on the gender front. Sal is equally comfortable in trousers or dress, and it’s common for men to wear tunics/skirts in this world. The end is not pleasant, another bloodbath of folks we’d all probably grown to love. But Sal has a new mission, and it involves saving both Elise and the Queen from destruction. I’m really looking forward to it!

Interested? You can find MASK OF SHADOWS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Book Depository.

About the Author:
A wayward biology student from Arkansas, Linsey has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. Her debut novel MASK OF SHADOWS is the first in a fantasy duology coming in September 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Caught In The Magic: FROSTBLOOD, A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new YA fantasy from Elly Blake. FROSTBLOOD is the first book in a series set in a world where some are born to wield flame or frost–and the Firebloods, like 17 year old Ruby, have been hunted to near extinction. Why would she ever agree to help the Frostbloods do anything?

Oh, right, to kill the merciless Frostblood king….

frost-bloodAbout the book:
The frost king will burn.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

My Review:
Ruby is a teen girl unsure how to manage the demands of her Fireblood heritage in a land where being a Fireblood is a death sentence in itself. Born with the ability to wield fire from her hands, she must release some of this power now and then or she feels pent-up and unstable. She always hides deep in the woods outside their remote village to test and release her fire magic, but the day comes when the Frostblood King’s soldiers find her and burn their village for daring to “harbor” a Fireblood. They also kill her mother right before Ruby’s eyes.

She’s imprisoned, kept in a state of complete damp and cold to douse her flames, and starved nearly to death, only to be rescued by a Frostblood master, Brother Thistle, and his protector, Arcus. They vow to save her if she will help them kill the king–and that’s a bargain Ruby’s all too eager to make.

Safely ensconced in an abbey to Fors, the god of Frost, Ruby is trained by Brother Thistle in the safe wielding of her flames, and by Arcus in hand-to-hand combat and swordsmanship. Not all the monks are in favor of keeping a Fireblood nearby, however, and view Ruby’s training as traitorous to the throne. Over time, Ruby and Arcus develop a camaraderie that slides into attraction. She’s there for several months, as the attack on the king is planned for the summer solstice, the time when Ruby’s fire magic will be naturally at it’s zenith. But, she’s frustrated when she learns that the total plan isn’t necessarily to kill the king. It turns out that his ice throne, fashioned by Fors a thousand years before, has been corrupted by dark magic, and Thistle and Arcus believe that darkness has inflicted a madness on the king. Perhaps if Ruby melts the throne, she can restore sanity to the king, who can then call off the hunt for Firebloods.

Ruby isn’t in love with this plan, and feels vengeance is hers to claim–but she’s captured by the king’s soldiers before she and Arcus can mount their siege. Being a Fireblood, Ruby is pressed into the King’s gladiatorial entertainment, fully expected to be killed in her first event. When she wins–aided by magic that isn’t hers–Ruby knows she’s living on borrowed time. If only she can get her flames on the King’s throne before her life is snuffed.

For a fantasy, I really found the realistic development of Ruby as a heroine to be excellent. She’s not a quick study. She gets frustrated. She makes mistakes that harm her, and those around her, but she’s valiant and determined. Ruby wants to be useful, wants to help herself and all the Firebloods, and Brother Thistle is a patient teacher she wants to please. Arcus is moody and mean-spirited at times, pushing and prodding Ruby to get her off-center. He knows the kind of battles she’ll face if they can get her into the King’s court, and his tough-love approach felt realistic, as well. Her experiences in the King’s court are filled with intrigues, humiliation, and brutality. She’s forced to meet her mother’s killer many times, even in battle, and Ruby has to keep her wits clear to keep herself alive. The magic that afflicts the King is in play throughout the court–and Ruby’s not immune. She has the opportunity to embrace this power, and change her place in the world dramatically, but her deep rapport with Thistle and Arcus keep her grounded in a way she hadn’t expected. The worldbuilding is really good, with scenes that are fleshed out and a menacing tone imbued throughout the prose. The juxtaposition of ice and fire was a constant theme, and related not just their powers but also the emotional landscape of the players: hot-headed Ruby has burning passions, while Thistle and Arcus are cool, collected and calculating.

The love story that develops between Ruby and Arcus is quiet, with only a few moments of acknowledgment before the climax. It seemed a natural progression of their time spent together–from wariness to acknowledgement, to friendship, esteem and eventually attraction. Arcus has a dark history, and his desire to destroy the throne is tied to his intimate knowledge of the king and the monarchy. I was happy that my suspicions regarding his heritage were accurate. I liked the rawness of the experiences that Ruby endures, and how her personal tragedies help forge her into a warrior ready to save herself and those she loves. This book is slated as the first in a series, and ends in a way that completes the initial story arc. There is no cliffhanger, and I expect the next book will have a whole new set of troubles for Ruby to solve–with Arcus at her side.

Interested? You can find FROSTBLOOD on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Elly Blake loves fairy tales, old houses, and owls. After earning a BA in English literature, she held a series of seemingly random jobs, including project manager, customs clerk, graphic designer, reporter for a local business magazine, and library assistant. She lives in Southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and a Siberian Husky mix who definitely shows Frostblood tendencies.

You can catch up with Elly on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Dec 2016- GRAIL- A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m sharing a review for the third book in the Le Fay series by Realm Lovejoy. GRAIL follows Morgan Le Fay, a fire-throwing soldier for a modern-day Camelot. This book really needs to be read after HENGE and SWORD for it to make sense.

grailAbout the book:
A hero has fallen, and darkness threatens a splintered Camelot. In the midst of turmoil, the last hope for the kingdom is Morgan le Fay. Morgan is both feared and revered . . . and currently in prison for treason.

In the wake of King Uther’s tragic death, the wicked Mordred is closing in on young King Arthur, and the boy king turns to Morgan for help. Freed from her imprisonment through his order, Morgan searches for a way to protect him. But she is still an outcast, and no one believes her suspicions about Mordred.

To save King Arthur, Morgan must reach the greatest Royal Relic in the world—the Grail—before Mordred does. It’s a journey that will challenge her in ways she’s never been challenged before. Traveling deep into a land of darkness, she will need to overcome the ghosts of her past to find her true power.

Can Morgan defeat Mordred and save King Arthur? And this time, can she defend Camelot without destroying herself?

My Review:
Morgan Le Fay is an eighteen year old girl who’d dreamed of being a member of Arthur’s Round, an elite fighting force that would counsel and protect Arthur Pendragon when he became king. This is a contemporary society where magic exists, and Camelot is real. Unfortunately, the Pendragon family is under attack by the Luminaries, an extremist group that wants magic to be out in the open, unconstrained by law. The Luminaries tried to kill Morgan and young Arthur in HENGE and again in SWORD. Morgan is, to her credit, a steadfast girl. She’s unorthodox, because she refuses to let Arthur come to harm–and believes that people close to him, namely Mordred, are aligned with the Luminaries.

Still, her behavior is erratic and dangerous, in the eyes of the court, and she’d been sentenced to death for treason for kidnapping Arthur before his enemies could. Without Morgan, Arthur would have been struck down before he even gained his magic. Of course, in forcing Arthur to find Excalibur, Morgan learned a very difficult truth about her heritage–and her relationship to Arthur.

She’s been imprisoned to keep that secret safe, and also, because no one can fully prove, or disprove, her involvement in Arthur’s father’s untimely death. Lancelot is on her side, however, and when Morgan is sentenced to a life of magicless servitude, he bargains for her release into the Grey Knights. It’s not fantastic, but it’s not scrubbing toilets either. But, Arthur needs Morgan more than ever, now that he’s fifteen and bearing the weight of the crown. He’s borderline suicidal, and Mordred’s machinations haven’t ceased. When Arthur goes missing, it’s up to Morgan–who’s blood is tied to Arthur’s–to head up the rescue mission, and perhaps save her dear friendship with a jaded Merlin.

Morgan was my kick-ass heroine of 2015, and she’s back this year with another rollicking adventure. She’s more subdued, however, feeling the full-weight of her crimes, and newly-discovered paternity. She’s devoted to Arthur, but her efforts to assist him only lead her into more trouble. Morgan, Lancelot and Merlin have a complicated relationship, with Merlin–who had been completely infatuated–spurning her, while flirty Lancelot is willing to stick his neck out to make her punishment lessened. Merlin comes off as a real whiny dude, making my esteem drop, while Lancelot’s a steady man, unafraid to be a hero. The adventure to find Arthur is perilous and pushes Morgan to her very limits. She never quits. I just love that about her. She may be down, but it’s always a temporary situation, because her shrewd intellect is always looking for the next opportunity to rise again. By the end, she’s not only saved the day, she’s saved herself. And that’s totally cool. She has romantic feelings for both Lancelot and Merlin, but this doesn’t become a love triangle scenario. There are too many hurt feelings to have any real romance. Plus, Morgan’s life is not her own for a great deal of the book. She does her best to mend rifts, and it seems she manages to do this quite well. I’m eager to get the next book in this series.

Interested? You can find GRAIL on Goodreads and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in! Be sure to check out the reviews of my fellow Coffeehouse bloggers. And, keep reading my friends!

Dark Fantasy in INKED–Review and Giveaway!

inked tour banner
Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly released YA fantasy novel from Eric Smith. INKED is the story about a land steeped in magic and terror and the young folks that have to find a way to safety, if such a place even exists.  I really liked it!

Catch my review below, and be sure to enter the giveaway for your copy.

inked coverAbout the book:
Tattoos once were an act of rebellion.
Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin.

And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can’t escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice.

But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves.

Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.

Eric Smith takes you on a high-octane fantasy adventure, perfect for anyone who has dreamed of being different… only to discover that fate is more than skin deep.

Advance Praise:
“INKED is an action-packed read with a hero I could root for, magic I wanted to have, and a vivid fantasy world to back it all up. Smith’s prose had me turning pages way past my bedtime.” – Susan Dennard, author of SOMETHING STRANGE & DEADLY

“A fast-paced page-turner from Eric Smith filled with magic, mystery and mayhem.” – Kristi Helvig, Author of BURN OUT

“With a lively cast of characters and a captivating idea, INKED draws its readers into a world where magic lives on every page.” Kat Zhang, author of The Hybrid Chronicles series

My Review:
Caenum is due for his Ink, and in the Realm governed by the Citadel, magical Ink tattoed into your skin determines your fate. If your Ink says you’ll be a farmer, then you are a farmer. If it says you’ll be a swordsman, guess what you’ll be… Caenum’s afraid that his Ink will take him far from his farm and his grandmother who has raised him. He’s also afraid that it will separate him from Dreya, his neighbor and best friend, the girl of his dreams even if he’s afraid to admit it.

Caenum toys with the idea of running away, becoming one of the Unprinted rebels who live outside the Realm’s borders, but doing that will take him away from everyone he loves just as well. On the night before Caenum’s Inking, Kenzi, one of the Scribes who has traveled to Caenum’s village, experiences a magical meltdown and Caenum is caught in the crossfire. Kenzi–newly Inked himself–is the most feared of beings, a Conduit. The Ink in his skin unleashed latent magical powers that manifest dangerously. Caenum’s grandmother insists Caenum take Kenzi to Sanctuary, a hidden village of Conduits, before the soldiers of the Citadel arrive to kill Kenzi. Unfortunately, before they can escape the townsfolk go mad, the solders arrive and the bloodbath that results leaves Caenum, Kenzi and Dreya on their own to find Sanctuary–a place, it turns out, they all need to go.

Okay, so this is a really interesting fantasy story about kids overcoming all odds to get to a safe haven. And, when that happens they recognize there is no safe haven in their world. Sanctuary is not freedom, it is another type of prison, and the people there have radical ideas for enacting change: outright rebellion. Imagine if Magneto was running the X-men, and you’ll get an idea of the megalomania at work. I liked the story, though I wished it had dug deeper, and been more thorough. There were moments when the time frames seemed too convenient, too unrealistic. People tied to beds for days need a place to use the facilities, folks. And, that said, Caenum’s suddenly thrust into a battle–with little-to-no training–and expected to “wing it” as a hero. It was a bit hard for me to digest. Especially as he was so ‘naturally’ good at it. (O.o)

There are some romantic elements here but they are understated. Barely a kiss on the page. I did really enjoy the camaraderie that developed between Caenum, Dreya and Kenzi, and I found their individual talents to be interesting, and the plot compelling. I guess it’s me being greedy for a book that satisfies me completely. It’s not a long tale, and I was able to inhale it over the course of an evening. While the story ends (kinda abruptly) there’s no cliffhanger. It’s clear, however, that there is a continuing menace regarding the attitude of the Citidel toward Conduits–don’t ask me the source of Ink please–and a new story could spring from the necessary battles for complete freedom. *fingers crossed*

Interested? You can find INKED on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an e-book of INKED and a signed poster!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

eric smithAbout the Author
Eric Smith is the author of THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING, out now via Quirk Books, and INKED, a YA novel out with Bloomsbury Spark. His writing has appeared locally in the Philly Weekly, The Inquirer, and on Philly.com. He’s written for the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Boing Boing, and is a regular contributor to BookRiot and Geekosystem.

His essays have appeared in the Bygone Bureau and The Apiary, and his first published piece will appear in THE ASTEROID BELT ALMANAC with the Hand & the Hand Press in April 2014. He’s the co-founder of Geekadelphia, a popular hyperlocal geek blog in Philly, and the Philly Geek Awards, a ceremony honoring local geeks in his city. Eric holds a BA in English from Kean University and an MA in English from Arcadia University. He currently lives in Philly. You can find him on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks and @geekadelphia.

Catch Eric online on his website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Mystery and Murder in The DARK HEART OF MAGIC–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a paranormal YA adventure/romance from Jennifer Estep. The DARK HEART OF MAGIC is a book I really enjoyed. It’s got a cool fantasy story with neat world-building, and a realistic revenge plot.

Dark Heart of Magic (Black Blade, #2)About the book:
Something Wicked This Way Comes…
As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there’s no escaping the spotlight—or the danger.

Even though he’s my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what’s supposed to be a friendly contest. But when the competitors start having mysterious “accidents,” it looks like someone will do anything to win—no matter who they hurt.

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, mobster Victor Draconi is plotting against Devon and the rest of my friends, and someone’s going around Cloudburst Falls murdering monsters. One thing’s for sure. Sometimes, humans can be more monstrous than anything else…

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, but I read it out of order and had no problems with the storyline.

This book is set in the fantastical realm of Cloudburst Falls, West Virginia in a contemporary time period with the addition of magic, mobs and mayhem. Okay, so really it’s only magic that’s a game changer. In this bookscape, there are people who possess magical Talents, like super speed, strengths, divination etc. There are also magical creatures–which are highly concentrated in the mountainous area of Clouburst Falls, or so says the tourism board. Still, lochnesses, tree trolls and copper crushers are part of the fauna, and one must know how to deal with these creatures in order to get on.

Lila Merriweather is not who she claims to be, and there are few who know the secret of her identity. She was born Lila Sterling, child of Serena Sterling, a powerful woman who fled Cloudburst Falls after Lila’s father was murdered by his benefactor, Victor Draconi–head of the Draconi Family and the same dude who later murdered Serena, stealing her magical Talents.

Lila wants to avenge her parents, but she’s only 17 and still honing her magic, plus she knows it would be a suicide mission to take out the head of the most powerful Family in Cloudburst Falls. Instead, she’s the personal bodyguard of Devon Sinclair–son of Claudia Sinclair and second-in-command of the Sinclair Family. Lila recently saved Devon from certain death and is just getting used to her new position in the Family, as she’s been living on her own and stealing for a living since her mother’s murder four years ago. Also, she’s totally gaga for Devon, and he for her, but she holds off on making anything physical because she has lost too many people close to her to let Devon get in close.

This book is the set-up before the major clash between the Sinclair and Draconi families. We learn, intimately, just how underhanded the Draconis can be–and how ruthless some of these people in this world are.

The set-up is a tournament, which is meant to showcase all the Talents of the Families to themselves and the tourists. It’s a major attraction and has been won by Deah Draconi for the past two years. Deah’s not the biggest or strongest, but her mimic magic is a distinct edge. Devon and Lila are part of the competition this year, as is Katia Volkov–an outsider who comes down from New York to compete. She lost to Deah the past two years and is angling to win it all.

I really liked the bit of mystery that was woven into the story. Lila and Devon notice that the magical monsters are moving around, coming out from their normal habitats into areas that are more highly populated. This seems to be a defensive move because they also find many carcasses strewn about the woods, with suspicious markings and clearly malicious stab wounds. I had the culprit and motive pinpointed early on, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t happy with the reveal. Also, it made for some good suspense.

Lila has a lot to learn about the Family life, but she embraces the affection and support given so freely by the Sinclairs. Her mother and Claudia had been best friends in their girlhood, and Claudia is happy to have Lila with her. Of course, there are lots of secrets about Lila’s mother, and who best to relate them than Serena’s sister–not that Lila knew she had an aunt. Or a cousin, one who is poised to become her enemy and her ally. That twist was really excellent, and also sets up the next book stunningly.

Lila is a dark horse to win the tournament, but she performs exceedingly well, and it’s hers to lose. I won’t reveal any of that, but the depth of empathy Lila exhibits in the course of competition made her truly likable as a character. I liked that the love story between Lila and Devon is a side issue, one that Lila continues to set to the side, because her duty lies elsewhere. She has the right mindset, and I was glad that she behaved like a woman with a brain, and also a heart. I’m looking forward the next book.

Interested? You can find DARK HEART OF MAGIC on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble–and probably your local library, too.  I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin adult urban fantasy series for Pocket. Books in the series are SPIDER’S BITE, WEB OF LIES, VENOM, TANGLED THREADS, SPIDER’S REVENGE, BY A THREAD, and WIDOW’S WEB. THREAD OF DEATH, an e-novella, is also available.

HAINTS AND HOBWEBS: AN ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN SHORT STORY can be found in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE.

DEADLY STING, the eighth book, is set to be released on March 26, 2013.

Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington.

Books in the series are TOUCH OF FROST, KISS OF FROST, and DARK FROST. CRIMSON FROST, the fourth book, is set to be released on Dec. 24, 2012.

FIRST FROST, a prequel e-story to the series, is available as a download. HALLOWEEN FROST, an e-short story, is available in the ENTANGLED e-anthology.

Jennifer is also the author of the Bigtime paranormal romance series. Books in the superhero-themed series are KARMA GIRL, HOT MAMA, JINX, and NIGHTINGALE. A KARMA GIRL CHRISTMAS, an e-story, is also available.

Excerpts, free short stories, and more information on Jennifer’s books can be found on her website. Catch her also on Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

The HOLDERS!!–Book Blitz and Giveaway

The Holders (Holders #1)
Release Date: 03/05/2013
Summary from Goodreads:
17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called ‘experts’ who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland’s perceived problem, Becca doesn’t buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland’s family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what’s best for Ryland.

What they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family’s heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for. However, they are all–especially Becca–in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

She meets Alex, a Holder who is fiercely loyal to their race, and for some reason, Becca and Ryland. There’s an attraction between Becca and Alex that can’t be denied, but her true nature seems destined to keep them apart. However, certain destinies may not be as clear cut as everyone has always believed them to be.

Becca is lost, but found at the same time. Can she bring herself to leave Ryland now that he’s settled and can clearly see his future? Will she be able to put the the feelings she has for Alex aside and head back to the US? And can Becca and Ryland ever forgive their father for what he’s done?

Available from:
 
Book 2:
(linked to Goodreads)


Pre-Order:
Praise for Series:
“The twisty plot and swoony romance of The Seers kept me turning the pages as I fell in love with Becca and Alex all over again.” Trisha Wolfe, author of Fireblood
“It had a gripping plot, plenty of exciting twists and turns and some pretty fantastic characters which all combined to keep me glued to the pages.”

A Dream of Books

“If this is any notion of what Julianna Scottcan do, I cannot wait to see what is next. The Holders was refreshing and just one heck of a good read.”The Book Cellar

“I am so thankful this is only the beginning of a series because I couldn’t imagine not being able to read a continuation of Becca’s story. The Holders is a novel too entertaining and emotionally charged to pass up!” Lovey Dovey Books

“There are a lot of other things to love about The Holders–a detailed history and Celtic element come to mind–-but it was really the characters that sold this novel for me.” More Than Just Magic

About the Author

Julianna was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spent the majority of her educational career convinced she would be a musician. However, after receiving her music degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, she realized that she’d been born in the wrong era for her dreams of singing jazz to adoring fans clad in zoot-suits and flapper dresses to come true, and began to wonder if her true calling might be elsewhere.
While Julianna had always excelled in writing throughout school, she’d never considered it a career possibility until about three years ago, when she’d gotten her first story idea and decided to go for it. She grabbed her laptop, started typing away, and has never looked back.

Author Links:
 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png

Pre-Order Gift:
 As a special gift to anyone who pre-orders The Seers, we are giving away a free e-book with several scenes from The Holders written from different character’s points of view! All you have to do to get yours is pre-order The Seers, then email your receipt or other proof of purchase to Julianna Scott at juliannascottbooks@hotmail.com, and she will send you the e-novella in the format of your choosing. That’s it! And if you have already pre-ordered The Seers, not to worry! Send your receipt along, and you’ll get your copy too!
 
***GIVEAWAY***
1 – Necklace (as pictured) plus ebook copies of The Holders and The Seers

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized by:
 

EVERYTHING YOU KNOW, is Staggering–Review and Giveaway

Everything You Know blog tour banner copy

Hi there! Welcome to my stop on the Everything You Know blog tour organized by A Bound Book Tours. If you want to check out other stops on the tour, click here. Today’s book is a recently released YA Fantasy by Mary Beth Bass.

3ba29-everythingyouknow_cover_wquote21Summary from Goodreads:

A dark forest, a screaming woman and blood. These are the images that haunt seventeen year old Emma from the moment she meets Joe Castlellaw. And so much more awaits.

Emma Mathews never believed she was like everyone else, but neither did she think herself crazy. Meeting Joe Castlellaw, Henry Dearborn High’s newest student, was like waking on a cold rock in a strange place, the world bathed in liquid moonlight. Everything is different now…and fraught. Visions of a dark forest, a screaming woman and blood have begun to haunt Emma’s dreams, and not only at night. But Joe’s lonely beauty makes her float on air, and she would follow him anywhere—out of high school and through the great tree, to a world of poetry and political savagery, of magic and murder, to a life that is entirely theirs and yet unlike anything they have ever known.

My Review:

This YA fantasy romance gets to the matter quickly. The second Emma and Joe touch, Emma falls into a trance and reveals Joe’s tragic history–a history he had no memory of.  The two of them are alternately attracted and repulsed, mainly because they feel so overwhelmingly attracted they think they need to stay apart, for their own good.

Joe’s a child with no history. His adoptive mother found him wandering and took him in, forging his identity. All he knows is he’s different, perhaps because as a small child he could fly. Emma’s the oddest of oddballs, in a family that is far from normal. Add telepathic to that mix and, well, even she thinks she’s cracking up.

At least, until she learns her older brother is telekinetic. And, when Joe and Emma kiss and hit the sky–literally–she knows she’s found sanctuary.See, their supernatural powers exist because they are not of earth they are gemynd refugees from the Commonworld–something nobody has bothered to tell Joe, and what Emma’s parents have actively hidden for her, and her four siblings, her whole life.

But this romance is doomed–Joe’s actual father is a hunted being in the Commonworld. Joe and Emma are both kidnapped, multiple times, in order to draw Joe’s father out of hiding so his immense power can be exploited by either of the warring political parties.

Through all of this, the bond between Joe and Emma becomes acutely strong. They are Soulmates, and the loss of either will result in certain misery for the other. Unfortunately, Joe’s father’s power is about to be usurped by an even more malevolent force that the politicians–and doing so will end all life, on earth and the Commonworld. Due to her telepathic nature, Emma knows she is the only one who can help Joe’s father–even if it means her life is lost.

It’s a quality YA romance, with so many fantasy elements, I was a bit overwhelmed myself. There is intrigue, deceit, danger, risk of self, first love, first loss, sacrifice and salvation. Emma’s family isn’t willing to go quietly, and they mount siege after siege to rescue their children who are alternately in danger. Romantically, Emma wants to take things very, very slow–she barely knows herself, she argues, how can she fully give herself to Joe? And the introspection is both fresh and honest. No agenda to be advanced as there are plenty of controversial plot elements to be had. I’d recommend it to upper YA readers.

Interested? You can find EVERYTHING YOU KNOW at Amazon  or  Barnes and Noble.

7c2d3-marybethbassAbout the Author

More than a little obsessed with Keats and MOBY DICK and fueled by loud music and cold grey days, Mary Beth Bass is the author of young adult fantasy and romantic women’s fiction. Her debut paranormal-women’s fiction hybrid, FOLLOW ME received the Book Buyers Best Award for Time Travel, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance.
An occasional travel writer, Mary Beth has written about Paris, Bordeaux, and Yorkshire, where she hiked the moors to the legendary setting for WUTHERING HEIGHTS and stood breathless in the parsonage room where Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Bronte talked out their stories with each other.

And if she seem a little strange, well that’s because she is! <<<Her words, not mine…
Also loves octopuses. Wnat to knwo more? Find Mary Beth on Goodreads and Twitter.

***GIVEAWAY***

10 book subscription to Boroughs Publishing Group’s Lunchbox Romance service. (INT)

 So, if you’re interested, click here to enter!

And, as always, keep reading my friends!

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