on Sep 27, 2013

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

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

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

Review: So if you've been living under a rock and haven't picked up the Cat's Eye Chronicles yet...well, what are you waiting for?!

Prepare to enter this fantastical world of magic, pirates, assassins and mischievous races. Volcrian's Hunt picks up where Viper's Creed left off and jumps right into the adventure, action and fascinating characters that readers have come to love.

Volcrian, the mage, out for revenge against Crash is still hot on the trail of our heroes. I like that throughtout this series we have been able to see Volcrian's journey. Specifically in this book I think you see some moments where he has doubts about his mission and his dark motives.

Sora and Crash become a lot closer as well. I love these two! I'm so glad we got to discover more of Crash's past and who he is. I felt like Sora has been changing as well. She is definitely more confident and it's been wonderful to see this character grow.

T. L. writes beautifully and her descriptions take you deep into the story. I personally loved the Lost Isles, they were amazing and so interesting.

There is a lot more I could say but I don't want to give away any spoilers. You will just have to read the awesomeness for yourself.

Volcrian's Hunt is definitely my favorite installment in the series so far!

About the Author:
T. L. Shreffler is an author and journalist living in Los Angeles, CA. She loves diversity, fantasy, romance, iced tea, long walks, philosophy and thrift store shopping. She currently holds a BA in Badass (Creative Writing) and her poetry has been published consecutively in Eclipse: A Literary Journal and The Northridge Review. She is the author of two published series, The Cat's Eye Chronicles (YA ...fantasy) and The Wolves of Black River. She also puts her creative talents to use as a graphic designer, painter and illustrator. To find out more, visit her author website at www.tlshreffler.com.


on Sep 24, 2013
Rating: 3/5

Genre: YA Fantasy / Paranormal


"One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride..."

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim's handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.


Yay for diversity in YA fantasy! (Sorry, just had to get that out of my system.) There are so many things to love about this book: the setting of Malaya (a sort of historic Malaysia), the deep cultural traditions that aren't just given a head-nod but are integral to the plot, the premise itself, which is just so...chilling. Li Lan wants nothing to do with this ghost marriage--especially when she learns that her family originally had an arrangement with the Lim family for her to marry Tian Bai, the surviving heir--but almost from the outset, her would-be ghost husband begins to haunt her. And believe me, being stalked by a ghost in your sleep sounds is about as freaky as you can get.

Ms. Choo does a good job of setting up the story; and her characters are realistic and well drawn. I did get irritated with the insta-love feel of Li Lan's feelings towards Tian Bai, but Ms. Choo actually deals with this quite well at the end of the story (and that's all I'll say for fear of spoilers). Er Lang is another complex and curious character; I loved his interactions with Li Lan, his dry humor and laconic statements. Some might consider him patronizing, but I really saw his dialogue as being laden with wry humor and irony. Perhaps this reading points to a cultural difference between, say, American humor, British humor, and so forth. At any rate, Er Lang quickly became a favorite of mine.

The book lost points for me, however, in the difficulty I had empathizing with Li Lan, and with some of the writing itself. Every few pages I would find instances of clunky writing that took me out of the story...especially repeated instances of very, very clunky foreshadowing at the end of sections or chapters. A stronger editor might have just slashed out the offending sentences, and perhaps I should be a more forgiving reader--this is a debut novel, and as such is well done. Even though the writing didn't always draw me in, or Li Lan did something I couldn't help wondering about, I still found myself staying up late a couple nights in a row to keep reading--the world had me caught.

The Ghost Bride is a strong debut novel, with excellent world building and a fascinating plot. I am certainly looking forward to reading more of Ms. Choo's work.

About the Reviewer

Intisar Khanani is the author of Thorn and The Sunbolt Chronicles. A YA fantasy enthusiast, she spends her free time reading and writing as much as possible. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.
on Sep 19, 2013
Rating: 4 / 5

Genre: Young Adult / Sci Fi / Fairy Tales


The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.


After reading Cinder, I was on an book high for at least a week. I loved that book, loved the issues raised, loved the characters and heartbreak. So I had really, really high expectations for Scarlet. I wanted to be swept away by the characters again, held fast by the struggles they face. Unfortunately, while there was some interesting plot development, and a number of new characters were introduced, I only "really liked" this story, with a caveat or two. :)

By this point, you've probably either read other reviews of Scarlet, or read it yourself. There about five thousand rave reviews out there, so I'll just give a quick overview of what rocked: It's a fun, fast-paced read. We go to a new continent, we meet the precursors of the terrifying army that Queen Levana is building, we get major comic relief from Captain (er, Cadet) Carswell Thorne, whom I was so very glad to meet. We get to continue to hate Levana, who appears to be devoid of any saving grace whatsoever (hard to believe, but there you go...some people just aren't human, and she certainly isn't). So why not a higher rating?

Scarlet takes place over three days, so there's a lot of action--almost too much. What that means is that character development is really difficult to manage. Meyer succeeds with Cinder--she discovers more about herself and her past, and starts to move towards a realization of both the importance of who she is and what she is willing to do about it. But Scarlet...oh, Scarlet. I just couldn't empathize with her. Her emotions ruled her to such an extent that she felt almost manic at times--too aggressive, too emotive, too melodramatic. I know, I know, some folks loved her. I wish I could have. But her development over the story didn't work for me, nor did her romantic attachment--because there just wasn't enough time for the depth of emotions involved to develop or to stabilize.

I was also so sad about Kai's role. I really wanted him to do something. Of course he only had three days, but in Cinder he was on the move, in and out of the palace, thinking and struggling with things. In Scarlet he's basically locked in his office the whole three days agonizing over the manhunt for Cinder and what Levana will do if they don't catch the fugitive cyborg. Oh, and giving a couple of press conferences. Quite frankly, I adore Kai. So I really wanted to shake him and tell him to do something so I could continue to love the man that he is. But he doesn't. He just pulls his hands through his hair and looks out the window. If he doesn't shape up in the next book, I might just cry.

Overall, this is still an enthralling read. Fast-paced and full of action, Scarlet packs a lot of thrills. It falls short (for me) in the character development department, but I am still eagerly awaiting the next installment.

About the Reviewer

Intisar Khanani is the author of Thorn and The Sunbolt Chronicles. A YA fantasy enthusiast, she spends her free time reading and writing as much as possible. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.

on Sep 7, 2013
In celebration of Betrayal's upcoming re-release, you can get two of Melissa Sasina's books free
 in the eBook version of your choice at Smashwords!

on Sep 3, 2013
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Genre: Young Adult / Coming of Age


Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother's muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous and have put food on the table. Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity.

When Aiko's mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists. She'd much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all. And a side trip to Lourdes, ridiculous as it seems to her, might just change her life.

The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years.


I don't normally read books aimed at the younger YA audience, but while we were at the library my one year old picked this off the shelf and wouldn't be parted with it. I can't blame her; that's one lovely cover. Yes, I know, don't judge a book by its cover, and all that. But we all do now and then, so I might as well own up. At any rate, I read the synopsis and while I'm not a fan of whirlwind romances in Paris (seriously? at fourteen?), I decided to give this novel a shot--because not only do I like to read books with a multicultural aspect, but this book also features a heroine with a disability, which is far too unusual to pass up. 

Aiko has a lot to contend with in this novel. Cerebral palsy has left her with a serious limp and her left hand curled into "a claw." She lives with her mother, a sculptor, who uses Aiko as her muse--something Aiko has mixed feelings about. Further, Aiko's father purportedly knows nothing of her existence, and she wants nothing more than to meet him and make him proud. He's an indigo farmer in Japan, so throughout the story we hear about Aiko's attempt to nurture a single indigo plant in their home in Michigan. These storylines: her disability, her relationship with her mother and her mother's art, and her missing father, develop over the course of the story, taking turns, making leaps, and--eventually--bringing Aiko to a single, cathartic moment. This is the meat of the story, so to speak, and I was profoundly impressed at the depth of the storylines, and with Aiko's final development at the end (especially because I had my doubts along the way).

Aiko is also a manga artist, though her stories sounded...superficial at best. They so very clearly reflected herself and the people around her, as well as her own pent up desires, it made me wonder if she really had much of an imagination. Per her descriptions, until her trip to Paris, they all had essentially the same storyline of Gadget Girl saving her crush from some dangerous situation. I don't think Kamata intended for Aiko's art to sound so shallow, but as a writer myself, I was surprised that Kamata didn't endow Aiko with an ability to imagine more for her characters to begin with. That said, following Aiko's trip to Paris...Gadget Girl develops slightly, though it is still very grounded in real people and experiences. I kind of wanted to see Aiko's work take off, unfettered by her tendency to tie her characters and their stories to real people. But that's just me. 

I found myself grinding my teeth at Aiko's actions a few times, from some of the things she says to her mother, to her tendency to sound whiny. She was also a bit--naive? Her obsession with going to Lourdes to see if she could be healed struck me as strange as best. I understood what it represented, but I didn't quite believe it for Aiko. So, between Lourdes and her regularly childish behavior, I began to wonder if she could redeem herself by the end of the story--but, in fact, she does. I chalk my frustration up to not normally reading books aimed at the younger spectrum of YA; no doubt, this is very well-suited to her age and traditional readership. 

I loved the more complex understanding she developed of her relationship with both her mother and father. I was a bit taken aback by her mother's choice to share the truth about Aiko's father on Aiko's birthday--as a mother, I went, what? If you think your daughter's old enough, then let her celebrate her birthday one day, and tell her the next. But I guess it was more dramatic this way. How Aiko handled this information over the next few weeks was both realistic and telling of her development over the course of the novel, and wonderfully done.

By far my favorite character was Raoul, Aiko's mother's boyfriend: radio DJ of international music, gourmet cook, and a man both caring and sensitive. I looked forward to his scenes, and was sorry he didn't feature more. While I liked Aiko, I felt somewhat emotionally distant from her, and was not as engaged as I would have liked. Again, this may have to do with her slightly younger age. I expect young readers will connect more easily (especially over Aiko's crushing on boys!).

Overall, an engaging and quick read with a lot packed in. 

About the reviewer:

Intisar Khanani is the author of Thorn and The Sunbolt Chronicles. A YA fantasy enthusiast, she spends her free time reading and writing as much as possible. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.