Announcement: Magic & Mayhem is moving!

Morning!

I just wanted to send out a quick announcement that sometime between now and the regular Monday blog post, Magic & Mayhem Book Reviews is moving URL’s. (And there will be no Friday post.) According to the laws of wizardry, all followers of the blog will come with me to my new home. I may have to wave a wand or two (and curse a little bit) (and have my super-fabulous webpage designer, Varient, do most of the heavy lifting), but it should be seamless to you all.

Also, a quick sneak preview of what’s coming in the next month: I’m still catching up on books I have accepted for review, so hopefully some of those reviews will go up soon™. In the meantime, my blog will be part of a cross-blog critique event at the end of May and beginning of June. And I will likely be closed to accepting unsolicited reviews into July.

Oh, and don’t forget–Guarding Angel releases May 19! Add it on Goodreads while I frantically put all the finishing touches on it.

Review: Light & Shadow Trilogy by Moira Katson

Series: Light and Shadow trilogy
Author: 
Moira Katson
Genre(s): Young Adult Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback | Kobo

It has been only two generations since Arthur Warden seized the throne of Heddred from the Conradines, and now the crown rests on the head of Garad, sickly and weak. Shadows gather: legacies of the centuries-long rivalries for power, old betrayals, the endless plots of the courtiers, and the murmur of rebellion in the southern provinces …

Catwin, plucked from her life at the edge of the Kingdom, is thrust abruptly into the world of the Court when she is chosen by the Duke of Voltur to be a Shadow-spy, shield, and blade-to his niece, the Lady Miriel DeVere. The Duke’s ruthlessness is legendary, and he will stop at nothing to become the power behind the throne, using Miriel as a pawn to catch Garad’s heart.

But the Duke’s carefully-laid plans are only a piece of the intrigue of the court, and greater forces than Catwin can imagine are massed against her, determined to eliminate Miriel and impose a new order of their own. If Catwin and Miriel are to survive, they must learn quickly who to trust, and when to turn their skills against the very people who have trained them …

Shadowborn by Moira Katson

Book #1: Shadowborn
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shadowforged by Moira Katson

Book #2: Shadowforged
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shadow's End by Moira Katson

Book #3: Shadow’s End
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was impressed by this series, the Light and Shadow trilogy, which was another one of my fabulous Bookbub bargains. (Er, by the way, since I talk about them so much, one might wonder if I’m affiliated, but I’m not. Though I’ve acquired enough $0.99 and free books from them, I should probably take out stock.)

This is both a fascinating character-driven and an interesting plot-driven story, wrapped in an engrossing fantasy world. Catwin, the main character, comes from a poor family, and until she’s noticed by the Duke of Voltur, she’s destined to amount to nothing but kitchen help. Instead, he sees potential in her and sets to training her to be his niece Miriel’s bodyguard and assassin–whether she wants to or not.

Her struggles with the atrocities she’s forced to commit are potent and heart-rending. The uneasy friendship that grows from initial hatred between the two girls is well-crafted. They dance around one another, neither sure if the other can be trusted, but having no choice but to rely on one another.

I’m not going to spoiler anything from the second and third books, but I loved how the story developed. The stakes continue to raise, as Miriel must do her uncle’s bidding and, well, Catwin must, also.

I rated the third book as four stars because I wasn’t impressed with the culmination of Catwin’s prophecy: As a baby, her mother refused to raise her because she foretold that her daughter would be betrayed. A lot of that back story made no sense, and when the betrayal comes, I can’t really understand why. It’s almost … or completely … a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I don’t really understand why the characters involved choose their actions.

Overall, I loved this series and I heartily recommend it. If you enjoy fantasy, either young adult or adult, you’ll enjoy the Light and Shadow trilogy. Ms. Katson is now on my list of “Authors I Must Read More of If Ever My TBR Pile Diminishes.”

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Happy 6 months to Magic & Mayhem!

It’s been six months since I started this blog. For some reason, it feels like a lot longer, but I think it’s because so much has happened in my real life since it started. Keeping up with a blog is not as much work as I had feared but more work than perhaps I was prepared for.

I love doing reviews. I enjoy helping other authors and readers — sharing the self-published gems I’ve found and contributing to that pile of reviews we all need to be successful. I’ve met some great people, and to be quite honest, I’ve been surprised at how professional just about everyone has been. I haven’t yet run into an ungracious author, although I’m 100% sure I have made some people unhappy by turning down reviews or publishing some brutally honest opinions.

Before I sign off, I wanted to do a quick round-up of the stats over the last six months. Since I’m listed on three sites (The Indie ViewThe Book Blogger List, and Kate Tilton’s Book Bloggers), I get more review requests than I could possibly handle, even though I wish I could help more. And here are the numbers from the last six months:

  • Total books reviewed: 49 (3 [a trilogy] read, written, and ready to be published)
  • Review requests received and responded to: 135
  • Review requests accepted: 23
  • Accepted reviews completed: 17
  • Reviews I didn’t reply to because they were unspecific and confusing, blatantly ignored my Review Policy, or were otherwise rude: 14
  • Number of unwanted spam email newsletters / Kickstarter spam requests subscribed to: 2
  • Number of unwanted spam email newsletters / Kickstarter spam requests that refuse to remove me from their list: 1 (And it’s political and not even remotely within my sphere of interests. Bad.)

And that’s the numbers for the end of 2013/beginning of 2014, since I love numbers. Happy six months, Magic & Mayhem!

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: One Lucky Night by Various Authors

One Lucky Night by Various Authors

Title: One Lucky Night
Authors: Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, Melinda Dozier
Genre(s): Adult Romance Short Story Collection
How To Purchase: Kindle (Forthcoming) | Paperback – Amazon (Forthcoming)

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of One Lucky Night in exchange for an honest review.

One night can change everything…

The crew at Boston’s Brazen Head Pub hasn’t been very lucky in love. Can a mysterious visitor inspire them to look past old hurts and misconceptions and give romance a chance? One Lucky Night is a collection of five sexy interwoven novelettes by Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, and Melinda Dozier.

One Lucky Night is a compilation of five contemporary romance short stories / novellas, all by different authors. Every story, at least in part, takes place in a pub where the main characters either work or are regulars. And every story has the same mysterious stranger that appears briefly to talk to at least one of the characters.

I was swayed to read these stories by the mysterious stranger bit, but I was disappointed in its execution. He interacts with the main character, always talking about the fledgling romance but never enough to affect the outcome of the story. Every couple seems destined to be together, by their own histories and their own attraction to one another, so the stranger is simply a bystander, offering some advice or encouraging the conflicted person to move forward, take a chance, give in to love. He doesn’t play a large role, and we only learn a few tidbits about his life.

Other than that, the stories were typical contemporary romance. Hot guy, hot girl, kept apart by their own stubborn refusal to give into love until … tonight. Tonight, they all work through their baggage, and tonight, they all get lucky.

I don’t normally post favorite lines (although maybe I should–there are a few that have struck me in previous novels I’ve reviewed that I could have shared), but here is one that I liked. The female main character of one story was describing another male character, not her love interest, but another gal’s love interest. She said that he had “a jaw sturdy enough to ride side saddle on.” It’s an entertaining metaphor, but part of my infatuation with the line is that I can’t decide if it’s dirty or not. What do you guys think?

If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, you’ll probably like this compilation. I personally am not a romance fan–I had visions of intrigue when contemplating the role of the mysterious stranger–so you can’t really take my lack of enthusiasm as meaning anything. One Lucky Night is cute, has plenty of sex when the main characters finally give into their passion, and is a good read if you want to discover a new favorite romance writer.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Cover Reveal: How To Reprimand Your Rock Star by Mina Vaughn

Mina Vaughn, author of the fun and sexy paranormal erotic romance How To Discipline Your Vampire, my first review on this blog, has written a follow-up! How To Reprimand Your Rock Star is releasing later this year, and I’m pleased to be able to take part in the cover reveal.

How To Reprimand Your Rock Star by Mina Vaughn

Summary:

In this fun and saucy romance novel, all-star college basketball player Thea dominates on the courts—and off—with a rock star who is determined to win her over.

Thea is a star basketball player at UConn on track to be Rookie of the Year. That is, if she can stay focused on the game. Lately that hasn’t been going so well, as her knee has been bothering her. But that’s not the only thing on her mind…

Ever since rock star Keaton Lowe surprised her in the girl’s locker room, Thea can’t stop thinking about him. On top of his status and enticing ways, he seems to know everything about her. But some of his actions cross the line, and Keaton needs to be punished. Will Thea keep her head in the game, or get distracted by her other favorite pastime—reprimanding her rock star?

Excerpt:

Set up: College basketball star Thea is surprised in her locker room after a shower.

The tall, gorgeous man stared at me with a smirk. Some fucking punk, sitting under my name and number and pulling a cigarette out of his thick leather jacket. He looked bad, dangerous, and delicious and my body reacted to seeing him with a jolt of fear and euphoria. I skittered back and covered my nakedness, hoping he hadn’t seen me fully naked. I peeked around the corner to get another look at him. I couldn’t help myself.

His blue eyes twinkled at me and he grinned. A lopsided, roguish grin that begged you to join him in sharing the mirth. But I wasn’t about to smile at this fool who was taking up residence in front of my locker. Especially while I was naked. He didn’t look like a student—a few years too old and a few drinks too seasoned, and from the rebellious appearance of his black-polished fingers and calloused hands. His hair, a mess of black roots and blue spikes arranged into a halo of sharp peaks, didn’t look very UConn at all. He looked as if he belonged in a tattoo parlor, not here in my locker room. For a moment, I imagined shoving him against the tile wall and punishing him for transgressing into my domain.

“It’s all right, love, I have your towel right here,” I heard him tease in a smoky, tempting voice.

My heart raced. All I had to do was scream loud enough and Matt would be down here in a flash. I didn’t want to, but it was an option. Just keep it together.

Keeping my nude form out of his sight, I shouted to the intruder. “What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

A white towel sailed my way and I stuck my wet arm out to grab it. I wiped myself off and discreetly examined the very bad boy who was about to stink up my precious domain.

“I needed a butt,” he said, placing a cigarette between his mocking lips. His sexy, curvy lips that went so well with his stubbly jaw and sharp features. Shit, what was wrong with me? He was invading my turf. He was also unashamedly checking me out from head to toe.

“Take your butt and get out of my locker room,” I growled.

With a flick of his fingers, the unlit cigarette disappeared. I assumed up his leather jacket’s sleeve, but I couldn’t be sure. His leather pants were far too tight to hide a cigarette, and I caught myself staring. Under his leather jacket was a threadbare tee that hugged his lean muscles tightly. I wanted him to take the jacket off. Hell, all of it.

“Whatever you say, Goddess,” he replied. I noted a slight accent, but couldn’t place it. Possibly British. “Is this seat taken?” he asked, looking behind him at the name on the nameplate and the name embroidered on my jacket.

I emerged, pretending to be unfettered by the whole bizarre situation, and nodded. “That’s my locker.”

“Is it now?” he asked, British accent coming through clearly now.

“Thea Papastathopoulos, future Rookie of the Year, and I need my clothes. And my lucky tape.”

His eyebrow quirked up. “Tape, eh? What’s a nice girl like you need something like that for?”

I hugged the towel closer to me and tried not to join in his contagious grin. He was such a scamp, this carefree weirdo sitting in the women’s locker room, about to light up. “What’s wrong with tape?”

I didn’t notice his hand reaching around to my supply, but within seconds he was holding my lucky roll in his right hand. “This stuff is far too naughty for a good girl like you. A goddess of war and wisdom.”

I felt my mouth dry up at the oddly accurate yet strange observation. I am a classics major, and Thea is short for Athena. “I need it for my knee,” I said, holding out my hand, keeping my towel pinned with my armpit. “I have some big games coming up. We made it to the tournament.” I nearly clutched my head with embarrassment. How would a punk like this know what the tournament was, or the significance of it? I was making myself out to be an idiot, but I didn’t care. I didn’t go for his type, the gothic, pierced, tattooed kind of guy.

“I like games,” he said, tossing the roll into the air and catching it behind him with a flourish.

“And yet you clearly don’t respect rules, given that you were about to smoke in our locker room.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “You going to show me how you use this tape, Goddess? Although I admit I’d rather see it binding my wrists rather than wrapped around your pretty knee.”

I reached forward and attempted to take the roll, but he just tossed it in the air again and caught it in his other hand before I could take a swipe. He shrugged off his leather jacket and exposed his muscular arms, which were ensleeved in tattoos. Not wanting to stare, but unable to stop myself, I admired the artwork. Swirling waves up his left arm, words spiraling his right.

I had no idea what to make of him, other than the fact that he annoyed me with his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and absurd hotness I wanted so badly to ignore. Maybe it was just my nakedness that was making my body think this way. And by that I meant slamming him against the tiles under the water’s spray and relieving him of his leather. I felt my heart pound and I rejected the fantasy. He was an intruder. How did this guy get past security if they stopped me?

I leaned toward him. “My friend upstairs, Matt, is a security guard. All I have to do is call up to him and he’ll be hauling your punk ass out of here. But I won’t do that if you just give me my goddamn tape so I can fix my bum knee and get home to watch the game.” I wasn’t about to ask him about my clothes, so I pretended I was totally cool with being in a towel and waited for his response.

He studied me for a moment, all sexy grin and naughty blue eyes. Baby blue, like the color of clothes you buy a newborn. Powder blue, impossibly clear. Ringed with a smudge of black liner, the color popped even more. And his face, despite being in his twenties or maybe even thirties, had a youthful, almost kiddish quality when he smiled that softened the harsh angles of his nose, cheeks, and jaw. He tossed me the tape.

“What’s your name?” I asked, curiosity overtaking my anger.

“Keaton Lowe,” he said, dipping his voice an octave as he said his last name.

He looked at me expectantly.

I stared back, hot breath flooding in and out of my nostrils.

“Well,” he said, stretching his toned arms and lacing them behind his head, “this tape isn’t going to bind itself.”

I wanted to wring his neck but kiss the smile off his mouth. “What are you talking about?!”

“I might as well do it myself,” he said, and turned away from me. He spun and showed me his handiwork—his wrists were taped together behind his head. My body reacted with a flood of tingles from my hairline down to my panty line. Had I been wearing any, that is.

I looked down. My tape was no longer in my hands. My body took over my mind and I stood over him, looking down at him through a cascade of damp brown curls.

“Have a seat,” he rasped.

Some primal part of me wanted to sit my bare legs down on his lanky, leather-clad body. I wanted to get rough with him, pin him down, and have my way with him. Another part of me didn’t want him bossing me around. It should be the other way.

“No, you stand,” I replied.

His blue eyes sparked and he met my request with a smile that left me dazed and breathless. I felt the towel slide incrementally down.

“I’m glad you want to call the shots, darling.”

I placed my hand on his chest. “Don’t call me darling.”

“Goddess, then.”

Giveaway:

Win a copy of How To Discipline Your Vampire, a pre-order of How To Reprimand Your Rock Star, and a $50 giveaway. Follow the the Rafflecopter giveaway link!

Pre-order How to Reprimand Your Rock Star:

About the Author:

Mina Vaughn

Kink with a wink! Mina Vaughn is an international woman of mystery and a shoe whore with a heart of gold. When she’s not writing her unique brand of fun smut, she’s plundering Sephora for any pin up girl makeup she can find. Mina’s debut novel, an erotic comedy entitled How to Discipline Your Vampire is about a punishment-seeking vampire who meets a quirky Domme with a serious role play fetish, available now from Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Star. How to Reprimand Your Rock Star, a sexy New Adult contemporary romance about a basketball phenom and a world-famous rocker, arrives Summer 2014.  How to Punish Your Playboy arrives Spring 2015. Find her on Twitter.

I’m looking for bloggers for a cross-blog critique event

If you’re a writer on social media (and you probably are if you’re reading this blog entry), you’re probably aware of the myriad critique events geared toward authors seeking representation: query critiques, first sentence critiques, first 250 word critiques, and other things of that nature. I personally haven’t seen any critique events geared toward self-published writers (though I will admit that I haven’t strenuously searched for them), but I think it’s time we had one!

Though nothing so exciting exists at the end of this event as an offer of representation, I still believe that it can be valuable to all of us as a community of writers to network and hone our writing. Not only that, but I’m not excluding anyone–traditionally published or those looking to be traditionally published can participate in two out of the three proposed events.

The event itself will be three weeks of critiques, each with a week-long focus. We bloggers will put out a call for entrants for two days. Then we will post the entries on our blogs and invite commenters to critique as many entries as they want, linking to each others’ blogs. We will need to moderate the comments, of course, but people have generally behaved themselves in other events I’ve seen, so I don’t expect trouble. (But we will be vigilant.)

Right now, I’m putting out a call for participating bloggers. At the moment, I have two confirmed participants besides myself, and I’m looking for at least two more (for a total of five). If I get more interest, fabulous! I’m not going to turn anyone down.

So let’s say there are five of us. We will each post five entries, one per day, throughout the week for a total of 25 entries. The submission window will be open for two days or until we reach 25 entries.

Here are the details thus far. Note that these dates are subject to change, depending on how quickly I can pull this together, everyone’s interest, and how this works with our schedules.

Weeks of May 12 and 19 – Post announcements and tweet that we’re welcoming participants
– Tues, May 13 – What is it? post + announcement of weekly giveaway
– Fri, May 16 – Who are the blog hosts? post
– Tues, May 20 – “Rules” post – Critique at least four other posts if you enter, be nice/helpful, don’t enter if you don’t want feedback
– Fri, May 23 – Reminder that NEXT WEEK is the first round of critiques

Week of May 26 – Critiques of first 500 words
Week of June 2 – Critiques of cover art (the only week non-self-pub can’t participate)
Week of June 9 – Critiques of book blurb or query letter

The format for each week would be:
– Sat prior to the critique week, 6 a.m. Eastern – Open for submissions to an email address I will setup
– Sun prior to the critique week, 5 p.m. Eastern – Closed for submissions – Or until we get (Number of bloggers) x 5
– Sun evening – I will sort through the entries and send them out to the bloggers
– Mon through Friday – Each morning at 6 a.m. Eastern a new batch of entries to critique goes live on each of our blogs (for a total of 5 unique entries each day)
– Fri, 5 p.m. – Weekly giveaway* ends – Blog post goes up with a reminder of next week’s critique or “end of event, thanks for participating”

*Giveaway – People love free stuff. If I get enough donations, we can also put on a Rafflecopter giveaway each week. So far I have the beginning of two sets of packages to give away:

1) To the entrants – One of the other bloggers is an editor and will provide a free critique of X pages (she’s still deciding how many) to one of the critique entrants, chosen by random draw each week.

2) To anyone who happens upon our Rafflecopter giveaway – I will donate e-copies of my new release coming out next month, and I have another person who will donate some money for an amazon gift card.

If you’re interested in donating, anything along those lines is appreciated (free copy of your book, editing services, money for amazon gift card). HOWEVER, it is not mandatory for any of the bloggers to donate to the giveaway. This was more of my “how to get the word out there” idea, and if it fizzles away with no interest, that’s fine with me. I’m not here to ask for your stuff.

Does this sound like something you’d like to participate in? Got some ideas for how to make it even more fabulous? Leave a comment here or send me an email at Samantha (dot) Saboviec (at) gmail (dot) com.

Review: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christina Miller

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christina Miller

Title: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead
Author: Christina Miller
Genre(s): Adult Urban Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A little magic can go a long way — to really screwing up a girl’s life!

Mara is having the worst month of her life. At least, that’s what her cards tell her and they’ve never been wrong. She’s evicted from her apartment, loses her job and is banned from Beverly Hills. So when the tarot cards predict her imminent demise, she uses a little magic to make her world right.

Suddenly, an aunt she’s never met dies, leaving Mara as her sole heir. But when Mara moves into her inherited home, she discovers Aunt Tillie never moved out. She’s still one pissed-off old lady, even post-mortem, and she blames Mara’s magical meddling for her death.

When Mara accidentally releases a demon and awakens the spirit of the most powerful witch in history, Tillie’s ready to kill her — literally. It’s the only way she can think of to save the girl from herself. The witch and the demon, however, have other plans for Mara’s body.

Another one of my Bookbub finds, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead is not quite as good as I had hoped it would be. Written with an engaging voice, the story is interesting but meandering.

I’m going to get technical here for a moment. Novels have a certain structure, which you can learn in a novel-writing class or one of the thousands of books written on the subject. Certain things need to happen at approximately a certain percentage through the story, or it comes out feeling like the story is going on for way too long or is way too rushed. Unfortunately, this novel drags on in the beginning and then rushes through the ending.

All of Part One should have been chopped down to only a few chapters and much of the back story cut. Part Two has an abrupt shift halfway through it, the tone going from light and airy and goofy to somewhat dark and sinister. Then the ending, the big fight with the malevolent spirit that wants to take over Mara’s life, is packed into too few chapters. The result is that the book feels inconsistent and messy.

The good thing about it, though, is that I really enjoyed the main character Mara. Her voice was interesting, her perspective and knowledge of Pagan rituals, and her earnest discussion of the supernatural goings-on was endearing. Except for her fear of rodents, she was pretty brazen and unflinching in the face of all this trouble.

I can’t say the same for her best friend, Gus. I’m sure Ms. Miller was attempting to create a sassy, fun gay California man, but to me, he was a complete jerk. He insulted Mara’s weight, made fun of her lack of boyfriend, and when she was being evicted from her apartment in an unfair situation, never once offered to help her, instead picking on her throughout. I was pleased when Part One was over and I didn’t have to put up with his jackassery any more. Mara, honey, you deserve respect, and you can do so much better than being a hag to nasty old Gus.

If you’re looking for something different in the paranormal vein and don’t mind some of the foibles of a disjointed-feeling book, I would suggest Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead. The detail about witch accouterments and rituals is fascinating in and of itself–perhaps even worth wading through Gus’s terrible attitude.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.