December 11, 2012

VBT Review: The Hands of Tarot, by SM Blooding

Author: S.M. Blooding
Title: The Hands of Tarot
Series: The Hands of Tarot
ISBN: 9781477600290
Publisher: Blooding Books (July 3rd 2012)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    “She killed his father.

    She imprisoned and beat him.

    And now she thinks he’s her trophy.

    Synn El’Asim will do almost anything to prove her wrong. But he’s only proving her right.

    Queen Nix awakened his Mark of power and inducted him into the House of Wands. She knew what she was doing. The son of the two most powerful Families standing against her is the ultimate prize.

    What she didn’t take into consideration was that maybe he was too strong for her.


    But the Families aren’t. They’ve been weakened and it’ll take a lot more than one young man with a powerful Mark to take on the Hands of Tarot.”GoodReads’ blurb
I had two chances to pick up this title for review and so I thought some higher being might be trying to tell me something (I don’t usually get repeat request from several fronts!). So, I dug in for a little more information, because the blurb felt slightly confusing to me, and then I thought: “Well, if this doesn’t look like the kind of stuff I could love!”

So I gave in and became part of the review tour. I’m really, really glad I did, though I have to say one thing before going any further: The Hands of Tarot is one of those books that get a rating because of gut feeling (more on this later) and a different person, or even myself at a different moment, might not have enjoyed it as much.

Okay, on to the details.

Eve Hallows Book Blast (Plus Giveaway)


For fourteen-year-old Eve Hallows, life can be summed up in one word—horrible.  She has the most horrible friends.  She lives in a horrible old castle.  Even her family is a bunch of horrible monsters.

However, in the monster-inhabited world of Gravesville—a world where messages are sent through Ouija boards, jack-o’-lanterns get facials to suit their moods, and the worst thing Eve has to deal with are those annoying zombie tourists who overrun her favorite graveyard during the Halloween season—horrible means wonderful.  And everything for Eve is perfectly horrible.

But her life is about to go head over heels when a mysterious group known as The Source starts terrorizing Gravesville.  Now she must move to the human world—where everything is opposite ... and for Eve, that's absolutely adorable!

Praise for Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks:

"Move over, Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK … make room, Lemony Snicket’s A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS … you’ve got company and competition for shelf space!" -- THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW

November 26, 2012

An Anthology featuring the best for the best cause

A few weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy was all over the news. Now, we don't talk about it so much, but the disaster is still there--the people is still out of homes, the rebuilding is still in progress... There's still a need for help, and there will be for a long time to come. 

Author R.T. Kaelin was conscious of this and sent out a call from his blog. You can visit this original post here, but the gist of it? To Prepare an anthology of donated short stories, sell it via e-book, and send full proceedings to the American Red Cross for relief effots. The genre and style of this anthology is varied, so that most everyone will get to enjoy it: fantasy (traditional or urban), sci-fi, mystery, pulp, romance, action… The only constant is the theme: Triumph over Tragedy, which incidentally will also be the title of the collection. 

I'm glad to say that the response to this call was almost immediate. And I'm proud to know that so many wonderful authors I enjoy are also rockstars willing and able to help with this. Some names that might ring a bell? Robert Silverberg, Michael J. Sullivan, Mark Lawrence, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Phillip Athans, Stephen D. Sullivan, Jean Rabe, Maxwell Alexander Drake... And on it goes to reach the 40 contributors to this project. 

 If you want the full list, please click the link below and follow through to the Indiegogo page where they're accepting pre-orders of the collection. Do consider ordering a copy for yourself or for a friend and, if you can't afford to get this awesome book, share this post (or the IndieGoGo page) with other readers who can. 

November 22, 2012

Review: Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare

Author: Cassandra Clare
Title:  Clockwork Angel
Series: The Infernal Devices (#1)
ISBN: 9781416975861
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 31st 2010)

Buy your copy: Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.” GoodReads’ blurb

Clockwork Angel might be the final proof: I was mostly indifferent to Mortal Instruments because of the poor audiobook performances. This time I got it in print and I enjoyed it much more!

November 20, 2012

Review: Timeless, by Michelle Madow

Author: Michelle Madow
Title:  Timeless
Series: Transcend Time Saga (#3)
ISBN: 9780615692937
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing (November 20th 2012)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review

Buy your copy: Amazon's Author Page

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In Remembrance, Lizzie and Drew changed the course of fate so they could be together.

In Vengeance, Chelsea set fate back on its original, deadly path.

Now, strange things keep happening to Lizzie. Things that are omens of darkness to come. A curse has doomed her to die an early death, just as she did in her past life. To make things worse, even if she can figure out who cast the curse, it's irreversible. There's only one option left for her to save herself. It's crazier than anything she's heard yet, and to do it, she'll need Drew and Chelsea's help.

Because to make things right, they must go back to when it all began"
GoodReads’ blurb

What do you mean, it’s over? That’s a joke, right? I wanted more!!
Ahem. Okay. So, on to actual reviewing.  

November 16, 2012

Guest Post:Violence, thuggery and slapstick in YA fiction by John Barlow

Today's a very special day: author John Barlow, who's an old friend of this blog and already shared with us a great post about writing thrillers, is releasing a new novel. This time, he tries his hand with a YA dystopian adventure called Islanders that promises to be something else. To celebrate, John's joining us once more here at Stories of my Life to share another fun guest post to tide us over until my review of Islanders is up (expect it soon!). Also, there's a giveaway for you!

Ben Brewer has lived all his life on the Island. But things are getting unbearable. There’s hardly any food and there’s nothing to do. Plus, the adults are so scared they won’t let anyone leave.

Thirteen years ago, the Mainland was torn apart by war and contaminated by biological weapons. Ben’s parents were leaders of the Resistance. They moved all their friends and comrades to the safety of the Island. But then his dad went back to fight, never to return.

Ben was born a few months later. He has never met his dad.

When a message arrives, saying that his dad is still alive, Ben decides to go to the Mainland. He needs to know the truth about the War. If his dad is still alive, why did he never come back?

With him go Bad n’ Worse, the toughest two kids on the island; Silver, the smartest girl; plus her brother Coby, Ben’s best friend. When they get to the Mainland they find a world gone mad, a chaos of weird genetic mutations, and a life of slavery for those who didn’t escape.

Ben discovers that one man yields total power: Jack Sullivan, his dad’s oldest and bitterest enemy. If Ben is ever going to uncover the truth about the War and find his dad, he’ll have to risk everything and put himself at the mercy of Sullivan. And that’s just the start of it...

Violence, thuggery and slapstick in YA fiction

My YA novel, ISLANDERS, is out today. The story is about a 13 year-old boy, Ben Brewer, who has lived all his life on an island. He was born during a devastating war back on the Mainland, a war which tore the country apart and saw the release of deadly biological weapons. Ben’s parents were leaders of the Underground, fighting for freedom. As the war got worse, they moved all their friends and comrades to the safety of the Island, where Ben was born. But then his dad went back to fight, never to return, presumed dead. Ben has never met his dad.

November 14, 2012

Review: Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher

Author: Jim Butcher
Title:  Proven Guilty
Series: Dresden Files (#8)
ISBN: 9780451461032
Publisher: Roc (February 1st 2006)

Buy your copy: Paperback | Kindle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.

As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it's all in a day's work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob...” GoodReads’ blurb

It takes talent to keep a series going strong through eight books, but Butcher manages it. Frankly, at this point I thought there was nothing else I could say, nothing new beyond “one of the best urban fantasies ever”, but I think I’ve found something to comment:

November 12, 2012

Review: Before I Wake, by Rachel Vincent

Author: Rachel Vincent
Title:  Before I Wake
Series: Soul Screamers (#6)
ISBN: 9780373210619
Publisher: Harlequin Teen, June 26th 2012

Buy your copy: Paperback | Kindle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I died on a Thursday—killed by a monster intent on stealing my soul. The good news? He didn't get it.

The bad news? Turns out not even death will get you out of high school

Covering up her own murder was one thing, but faking life is much harder than Kaylee Cavanaugh expected. After weeks spent "recovering," she's back in school, fighting to stay visible to the human world, struggling to fit in with her friends and planning time alone with her new reaper boyfriend.

But to earn her keep in the human world, Kaylee must reclaim stolen souls, and when her first assignment brings her face-to-face with an old foe, she knows the game has changed. Her immortal status won't keep her safe. And this time Kaylee isn't just gambling with her own life.” GoodReads’ blurb

How do you rate a book that kept you up until five in the morning for three days in a row? How do you rate it when it makes you look at the shadows in an entirely different way? When it really makes you wonder if the lead character will actually manage to pull it off?

Exactly. This is Top Quality (totally deserving of the capitals, too)!

November 9, 2012

Cover Reveal: Destiny, by P.T. Michelle

Destiny (Brightest Kind of Darkness, Book 3)
P.T. Michelle
Expected Release Date: March 31, 2013

Summary from Goodreads:
When destiny is on the line, will love be enough to light the way?
In order to save Ethan, Nara gets pulled deeper into his dark world, where everything she thought she knew about Ethan and herself turns on its head.
Ethan and Nara turn up the heat with bone-melting seduction and heart-rending moments, but surprising revelations, lies, treachery, betrayal, and unimaginable evil will challenge their relationship and their future together.
As the stakes rise, encompassing more than just her relationship with Ethan, will Nara make the ultimate sacrifice?

Other books in the Brightest Kind of Darkness Series: (titles link to Goodreads)

Brightest Kind of Darkness, Book 1 (currently FREE)
Lucid (Brightest Kind of Darkness, Book 2)

About the Author

P.T. Michelle is author of the young adult series BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS. She keeps a spiral notepad with her at all times, even on her nightstand. When P.T. isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading or taking pictures of landscapes, sunsets and anything beautiful or odd in nature.

Want to help spread the word about DESTINY's upcoming release? Click the link below to get the countdown widget script to put on your website or on your blog's side bar. :)

November 7, 2012

Review: Hard Bitten, by Chloe Neill

Author: Chloe Neill
Title: Hard Bitten
Series: Chicagoland Vampires (#4)
ISBN: 9780451233325
Publisher: NAL Trade (April 12th 2011)

Buy your copy: Paperback | Kindle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meet Merit, a "wonderfully compelling vampire heroine" (USA Today bestselling author Julie Kenner).

Chicago is beset by supernatural tensions, and Merit-vampire protector of a safe haven called Cadogan house-is worried that the humans will be reaching for their pitchforks any minute. It doesn't help that yet another vampire rave is broken up by the mayor, and a new inhibition- reducing drug is circulating through the community.

It's up to Merit to put her house in order-literally. And if that takes getting a little blood on her hands, so be it.” GoodReads’ blurb

Good things, bad things happen in Hard Bitten. I’m still not sure which side outweighs the other in competition, though.

November 5, 2012

Release day: Touching Evil, by Amber Garr

With one touch, Leila can see it all.

Leila Marx is trying to put her life back together after her fiancé is murdered. When Detective Garrick Pearson enlists her help with a difficult case, she is thankful for the distraction and the opportunity to use her talents as a touch clairvoyant. Leila and Garrick quickly delve into the mystery behind a series of missing teenage girls and mummified corpses while discovering their own growing attraction to each other. 

Conner Hoffman is an intriguing lawyer and striking half-demon who enters Leila’s life unexpectedly.  Although her visions are terrifying, she is fascinated by his charm and his legacy. When it becomes evident that the murders are linked to a paranormal event, Conner introduces Leila to a world unbeknownst to ordinary society. She suddenly finds herself immersed in supernatural politics, sorcery, and danger as she becomes the killer’s next target. 

Staying alive will mean relying on friends, accepting the unbelievable, and trusting in her heart again.

Visit Amber's website to read an excerpt, watch the trailer, and meet the characters.

In celebration of the release, Amber is holding a giveaway!
Open to everyone. Yeah!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:

Amber Garr spends her days conducting scientific experiments and wondering if her next door neighbor is secretly a vampire. Born in Pennsylvania, she lives in Florida with her husband and their furry kids. Her childhood imaginary friend was a witch, Halloween is sacred, and she is certain that she has a supernatural sense of smell. Amber is a Royal Palm Literary Award Winner, the author of The Syrenka Series trilogy and The Leila Marx Novels, and when not obsessing over the unknown, can be found dancing, reading, or enjoying a good movie.

Contact Amber:
Website | Blog |  Facebook | Goodreads

Get your copy:

November 1, 2012

Review: Ironside, by Holly Black

Author: Holly Black
Title: Ironside
Series: Modern Faerytales (#3)
ISBN: 9781847380630
Publisher: Simon Pulse (April 24th 2007)

Buy your copy: Paperback | Kindle | Hardcover

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

...the time has come for Roiben's conronation. Uneasy in the midst of the malevolent Unseelie Court, pixie Kaye is sure of only one thing - her love for Roiben. But when Kaye drunkenly declares herself to Roiben, he sends her on a seemingly impossible quest to find a faerie who can tell a lie.

Miserable and convinced she belongs nowhere, Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth - that she is a changeling left in place of the human daughter stolen long ago. Her mother's shock and horror sends Kaye back to the world of Faerie to find her human counterpart and return her to Ironside. But when Kaye returns to the faerie courts, a battle of wits and weapons is being waged over Roiben's throne, and she soon finds herself at the center of it all.” GoodReads’ blurb

I read an loved the first book in this series, Tithe, and all the reasons still apply in Ironside (you can find my review of Tithe here, by the way). This sequel also addressed all the issues I hoped it’d address... I’m just not too happy about the answers it gives.

Kaye is feeling out of touch with Roiben, so she does something extremely stupid during his coronation (but I can’t really fault her for it... I might have been equally tricked in her circumstances) and he, long-suffering knight that he is, does the best thing he can think of to save her from herself:

Roiben sends her off in an impossible quest that she must solve if she wants to ever see him again.

October 30, 2012

Review: Friday Night Bites, by Chloe Neill

Author: Cloe Neill
Title:  Friday Night Bites
Series: Chicagoland Vampires (#2)
ISBN: 9780451227935
Publisher: NAL Trade (September 2nd 2009)

Buy your copy: Kindle | Paperback

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of a young heiress's initiation into the dark society of the Chicagoland Vampires continues:

Ten months after vampires revealed their existence to the mortals of Chicago, they're enjoying a celebrity status usually reserved for the Hollywood elite. But should people learn about the Raves--mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle--the citizens will start sharpening their stakes.

So now it's up to the new vampire Merit to reconnect with her upper class family and act as liaison between humans and bloodsuckers, and keep the more unsavory aspects of the vampire lifestyle out of the media. But someone doesn't want peace between them--someone with an ancient grudge.” GoodReads’ blurb

I’m beginning to see a pattern with me and this series: basically, for the first two hours and a half or so of listening, I fall promptly asleep. For the last two and a half hours or so, I can’t disconnect. The middle is interesting enough, even if I’m beginning to find bothersome bits.

The bit that bothered me most was Morgan and Merit. And you probably don’t want to read the following paragraph if you haven’t read book one, but I’m going to complain anyway:

Review: Twice Bitten, by Chloe Neill

Author: Chloe Neill
Title:  Twice Bitten
Series: Chicagoland Vampires (#3)
ISBN: 9780451230645
Publisher: NAL Trade (July 6th 2010)

Buy your copy: Paperback | Kindle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shapeshifters from across the country are convening in the Windy City, and as a gesture of peace, Master Vampire Ethan Sullivan has offered their leader a very special bodyguard: Merit, Chicago's newest vampire. Merit is supposed to protect the Alpha, Gabriel Keene-and to spy for the vamps while she's at it. Oh, and luckily Ethan's offering some steamy, one-on-one combat training sessions to help her prepare for the mission.

Unfortunately, someone is gunning for Gabriel, and Merit soon finds herself in the line of fire. She'll need all the help she can get to track down the would-be assassin, but everywhere she turns, there are rising tensions between supernaturals-not least between her and a certain green-eyed, centuries-old master vampire.” GoodReads’ blurb

Short and sweet. Or short, in any case.

By this point, I’m beginning to have some issues with this series. Nothing big, but it’s the kind of stuff that makes me lose interest. The biggest thing, I figure, would be the plot itself. Okay, it’s an overabundance of Weres hate Vamps since most of the storyline is about Merit and Ethan working their way into the folds of the pack, but cliché is cliché because it works. Nope, my problem here (and I admit I might have missed something, due to my inability to stay awake for long during the first hour or two of the audiobook) is... why?

October 26, 2012

VBT Review: Building from Ashes, by Elizabeth Hunter

Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Title:  Building from Ashes
Series: Elemental World (#1)
Publisher: Elizabeth Hunter (October 23rd 2012)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review

Buy your copy: Kindle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"For a thousand years, powerful earth vampire Carwyn ap Bryn has served others. God. His family. His friends. But tragedy and loss disrupt his peaceful existence, causing him to question everything he has committed his eternity to.

Brigid Connor has known about vampires since they rescued her from a painful childhood. But not even their vast elemental power can save her from the demons that torment her.

As loyalties are tested and new paths are forged, a lurking danger slowly grows in the Elemental World. Carwyn and Brigid will learn that even secrets revealed can come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

A continuation/spinoff of the Elemental Mysteries series. The timeline in this books stretches from BEFORE A Hidden Fire starts (so you see a little character history) until AFTER A Fall of Water finishes. As I’m sure lots of you could tell, Carwyn had quite a few things going on in his life that didn’t make it into Gio and Beatrice’s story. So Building From Ashes explores that storyline and also sets up the Elemental World for some new adventures..."
GoodReads’ blurb

First off, I’d like to thank the author, Elizabeth Hunter, for allowing me to be part of this Book Tour. Building from Ashes was such a treat! But let’s start at the beginning, right?

My first sentence here is a confession: I love Carwyn, I really do with his hidden strength and easy smiles... but much like Brigid herself, I had some mental blocks when trying to paint him in the light of a romantic interest. He was a priest! Totally not designed to be lusted after... right? Right?!?

Except that by the time we reach Building from Ashes’ turning point, I was ready to believe it. I blame Hunter’s magic for my sinful thoughts, because she’s always had this way to build characters, this touch that makes the story turn around them and not the other way around, even when plot events are as big as they are here.