by Katika Schneider
Reviewed by SA

It’s self published Saturday again! Yes, twice in a row! This book just came out yesterday and I highly recommend you rush to amazon to pick it up stat. I haven’t reviewed any fantasy in a while, so let me tell you, I am hard to please when it comes to that genre. But I was blown away by Devotion, the debut novel of Katika Schneider, and I thought I absolutely has to tell you about it.


Demons were nothing but legends…

Or so the young General Nessix Teradhel had always believed. Abandoned by her god and caught in a political trap with her late father’s old comrade, Nessix had barely kept herself together even before these startling reports appeared.

But now Mathias Sagewind, the fabled White Paladin, has arrived on her quiet island nation of Elidae with confirmation of such terrors. Wielding the name of the Mother Goddess and divine strength not seen in years, he is Elidae’s best chance at victory. In the wake of a holy war, Nessix must learn to trust Mathias as he attempts to guide her from a troubled past and protect her from a tragic future.

So, you take Nessix, this badass young woman whose duty is to lead her nation. She’s a general at a young age, but usually her land, Elidae, is a peaceful one, so she’ll have time to ease into it, right? Nope, demons are back, and suddenly this young lady has to lead her people to war. Not to mention the fact that her god has kind of ‘left the building’ (or pretty much the entire world) and she’s got no one to rely on in this new holy war.

Luckily Mathias, the white paladin, has come to her aid. With incredible knowledge and skills (some magical), his help is essential to their survival. He’s fought the demons before, and he knows their weaknesses: his only issue is getting Nes to actually trust him.

Throw in some womanizing neighboring royals (Veed, I’m looking at you!) and Nes’s entourage of war advisors, and you’ve got everything you need for a complex war and some brilliant bickering. Honestly it’s the dialogue I loved the most in this novel: the chemistry between Nes and Mathias on the rocky path to building a bond of trust was both a gripping part of the plot and the source of most of so much snark.

Nes’s character growth (and personal growth) is incredibly well written, and you see her blossom as a warrior and as a leader over the course of her many battles. She really is an amazing character, and goes on the list of ‘ladies in fiction I’d like to hang out with’. If you’re looking for a book with a badass young lady, you’re going to want to read devotion: the decisions she has to make are sometimes heartbreaking.

So if you’re looking for a novel with medieval battles, a war between good and evil, badass young ladies and complex relationships, you’re going to want to read devotion. It’s fun, it’s clever, and it’s epic fantasy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Check it out on amazon – here

A Gathering of Shadows

by V.E. Schwab
Reviewed by SA

For those of you who have been with us since the beginning (we love you!) you may know that I’m slightly obsessed with the Darker Shade of Magic world. I even found ADSoM to be my favorite book of 2015. It was brilliant! So naturally, when the sequel came out, I pounced on it. And it did not disappoint: it filled me with the magic I sorely missed.

A Gathering of Shadows FinalSummary

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

The plot is so, well, cheerful, this time around (until the end that absolutely destroys you, you have been warned.) Everything revolves around the Essen Tasch, or Element games. Lila has returned to London for the event, and many of our friends have gone undercover just so they can participate. But something dark is lurking back in White London, where a certain left-for-dead Antari has returned and is bringing his world back to life, at a price.

That’s probably what makes this book so much fun: the looming threat is known only by the reader, so the other characters have their own struggles to deal with while we do all the worrying for them. And the Games themselves are incredibly fun, as if the Olympics had pro-bending as their main event (speaking of which, anybody else try to imagine if Korra had entered? Now there’s a crossover I want to see.)

What’s fantastic is that the author also expands on the world she’s created. We learn more about Red London, and the other countries that surround it, about the political situation, about life on the sea, and we learn more about Magic. This is worldbuilding at its best.

But the best part is those amazing characters we came to love in ADSoM: Lila is more than she seems, and is badass per usual. I can’t wait to see where her story leads. Kell’s life has changed since the events of the last book, and he’s learning to fight. Rhy’s now linked to Kell, and his lifestyle must adapt. And who is this Alucard, whom Kell seems to hate and Lila begrudgingly admire?

Some may argue that this book is slower than the first, as there is much less going on. It’s all building up to the games, and then the ultimate conclusion (which, even if I saw coming, made me anxious as heck). Which seems like little for 500 pages. But I blew through this, and it felt like only 40 minutes had gone by. For me, there was never a dull moment, and I was excited from start to finish.

So basically – if you likes ADSoM, you are going to love A Gathering of Shadows. And if you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, what are you waiting for?


The Casquette Girls

by Alys Arden

Reviewed by SA

Having read nothing but fast books these days, I wanted a novel I could really ‘sink my teeth into’ (as my grandmother says). I didn’t know what to expect from The Casquette Girls, as I was first drawn in by the gorgeous cover rather than the blurb, but I was amazingly surprised. This novel is a simmering pot of mystery and magic in a setting that will blow you away.


Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.

After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal.

Adele returns to New Orleans after its quasi-total destruction by a hurricane without equal. Nothing is the same: her city looks like something out of an apocalypse film, the people are almost all gone, her best friend moved away and seems to have no plans to ever return, and strange things are happening all around her. Is it possible that she can do… things?

This novel started slow, and yet I was captured all the same. The writing is beautiful and unique: the destroyed New Orleans setting gives it all an eerie, isolated feeling, and I was blown away by its depth. It’s a place of mystery and magic, but also of growing romance, which blossoms from its destruction. That juxtaposition really worked for me.

Adele herself isn’t just kind of sticker character: she’s got a depth that I rarely see in YA novels. She loves her father, her city; she’s smart and sophisticated in many ways, but also still learning, still trying, in others. She’s always caught between two worlds, the sophisticated french side of her mother, and of her new school,  and the down to earth, honest side of her, with comes from her father, and the city where she was raised. And that side is pretty badass.

The other characters are just as interesting. Admittedly, though, at first I had a bit of trouble keeping all their names straight. There definitely are  a whole slew of possible love interest characters.

When I first saw the word Vampires, though, I groaned and almost put the book down. I am not a fan. But I am more than glad I hung in there. The story that arrises is spooky, and takes you back in time to when the city was only just beginning, to the 18th century, and to ancestors with dark secrets.

Magic, mystery, and a twist on an amazing city. What else could you possibly want from a novel? I highly recommend picking it up!

Circle Unbroken

By M.A. Kropp

Reviewed by SA

When I picked up this book, I admittedly had no idea what to expect. But I was quickly hooked:  Science Fiction AND magic? I’m being spoiled here! Circle Unbroken is an awesome mix of two genres, masterfully woven together into a strong story. Intrigue, plots, and schemes? Sign me up!

Circle UnbrokenBook Blub

When your family runs the mining operation on a planet that supplies a long-depleted Earth with needed resources, there are bound to be those who would like to see you fail After five years away with the Interstellar Security Corps, Kaili is coming home after the death of her grandmother as a key participant in the ceremony to install her sister as head of the company and the ruling planetary council. She and her partner land in the middle of old resentments and new threats.

Like all of her people, Kaili is gifted with psi abilities developed over generations living in close harmony with their world- what outsiders see as magic. The ceremony investing her sister with her new positions will be a formal ritual, and Kaili, as her sister’s closest relative, will complete the binding Circle.

Accidents and unrest are growing in the mine operations, and Kaili and her partner, Jeff, uncover evidence that her sister will be formally challenged at the ceremony. When Kaili goes missing right before the ceremony, and returns with no apparent memory of the past few days, Jeff  knows something is not right. He will need to use a little magic of his own to make sure Kaili is ready to face the family’s enemies. If not, it could mean both sisters’ lives.

I really loved bringing magic into the mix of a science-fiction driven universe. It somehow doesn’t seem out of place: we know little about where these abilities come from, just as the characters still haven’t solved this mystery. Jeff, the captain of the Slingshot and Kaili’s ISC partner, is awkward in a magic-driven society, but he doesn’t write it off as hocus-pocus when he sees what people can do. And for the people of Geb, living with magic on the one hand and a thriving mining industry on the other is just everyday life for them. It was interesting to see what an advanced, space faring civilization could do with magic on their side.

Kaili is caught between two worlds, the world she was brought up in, with magic and ceremonies, and the world she has chosen to live in, the world of the ISC, where things are driven by technology and work. She’s smart and determined, even working on scientific research to try and figure out why the psi abilities of her planet will not work in hyperspace. Even when worse comes to worst, she keeps her head up and doesn’t stop fighting. A great protagonist in this universe.

I did really like the characters: Jeff and his space-captain attitude, Humfrid and his cheerful fatherly demeanor. The mystery revolving around who could be trying to sabotage the ceremony makes you watch everyone incredibly intently, and the depth that was shown demonstrated the author’s fantastic writing skills.

The mystery itself is slow growing – is there a plot, or are they paranoid? Who is involved if it is? I honestly did not see the ending coming, or at least, I didn’t see the full scope of it until very late. It was a great amount of suspense.

However, with the story revolving around this slow mystery, it made the plot a little slow itself. I was wondering when some great incident would come rippling through their lives, and was surprised then there wasn’t some huge intergalactic event. Not to say that the mystery wasn’t compelling, only that it threw the pacing a little off.

Circle Unbroken is a fun and enjoyable book, set in a universe I’d quite like to see more of. Hopefully we’ll get to hear more from Kaili and Jeff in the future!

The novel is set to come out on August 18th, but the author is hosting a pre-sale event: if you purchase the novel anytime between August 2nd and 17th, you will receive a free download of TWO other books by the same author!

Find it on Smashwords. Enjoy!

Dreams of Shreds and Tatters

by Amanda Downum

Reviewed by S.A.

(Quick note from S.A. : I am so sorry I haven’t posted a review in a while! Finals really took it out of me and I simply ran out of time. I barely read anything new this month! In any case, I am back, and will hopefully share good books with you on a more regular basis. I’m going to review some other books I read on our Tumblr, so we get more reviews in a week! – Sarah)

Every once and a while you find yourself reading a book, and before you know it, it’s got its hooks sunk deep into you. You try to put it down, but it calls you back: it doesn’t scream “find out what happens next,” but slowly whispers, “come, you must read more.” And Dreams of Shreds and Tatters  did exactly that: it beckoned me to read more, enticing me with an intriguing plot, compelling characters, and a nice dose of magic.


Blake has vanished: Liz Drake knows this, she saw it in a dream. Her dreams have always been more on the nightmare side, dangerously real, definitely not natural. As they steadily frighten her more, she knows she has to drop everything to find her closest friend, never expecting to see him in a coma, all the way in Vancouver. 

Slowly she uncovers strange aspects of her friend’s life: his close circle of friends, calling themselves artists when in fact they are much more, hiding dangerous secrets; snippets of the night of the accident that put Blake in a coma, which took his lover’s life; a drug which affects everyone differently, and no one wants to talk about… and magic.

As the nightmares grip her tighter, Liz finds herself caught between two worlds: the real, waking world, and the mysterious city of her dreams, the real of the monstrous Yellow king and his minions, who are seeping through doors into the waking realm. Knowing Blake’s life is on the line, she must fight her way through the dreamlands, saving her friend, and maybe the world.

What instantly caught me with this novel was the unique style: it’s like a distinctive style of art. The slow pace with the mystery bubbling to the top; the cold, dark undertones, that go between the real world and the dream ; the distinctive magic, and magical beings. None of them seem dramatic, which makes none of them out of place: they feel natural in the novel. AT some points, it does feel a little Lovecraftian, though it still stands its own. It’s an impressive feat.

The characters themselves also defeat the stereotypes. I am almost certain that Liz is Asexual (it may be outright said, but I may have missed it), and it’s completely natural. Kudos to the author! Actually, there is a diversity in the characters you don’t usually see, and none of the characters seem be be ‘tokens’. It’s an honest book, even if there is magic.

Even with all the magic in the forefront, relationships themselves may be the main focus of the novel. Liz and Blake’s friendship is so close, they’re almost siblings: she would go to the ends of the earth to save him. The relationships between Alex and Liz. We have people who care deeply about each other, with different forms of love.

But even with all this love, we can feel Liz’s cold isolation, which ads to the darkness of the novel. And she’s not the only POV character: the mystery deepens as we see the other players in the game, and each of them is as fascinating as the next. The artists, the magicians. The drugs and the secrets. Will Liz find them all out in time?

However, one thing that annoyed me was the symbolism that was shoved in your face. the idea of masks, the ties with greek mythology: a little bit of “show, don’t tell” could have gone a long way. It irked me, but only for a little bit. It’s probably just me. It doesn’t distract from the main plot.

So if you’re looking for a slow, bubbling plot, that will grip you in a gorgeous dark world of magic and intrigue, you should try Dreams of Shreds and Tatters. It will leave you wanting for more.

A Magic Dark and Bright

by Jenny Adams Perinovic

Reviewed by SA

This book made me mad for all the right reasons. Let me just start by saying that. Why? Because the ending is amazing. Really, incredibly, painfully amazing; and so is everything leading up to it. I was spellbound, from start to finish.


She meant to help a ghost…not unleash a curse.

Amelia Dupree hasn’t seen the Woman in White since the night her brother died.  The ghost seems to have disappeared from the woods surrounding Asylum, Pennsylvania—that is, until Charlie Blue moves into the creepy old MacAllister House next door. Amelia can’t help liking him, even though she spent her childhood thinking his grandmother was a witch. And she definitely can’t ignore the connection between his arrival and the Woman in White’s return. 

Then Amelia learns that the Woman in White is a prisoner, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Devastated by the idea that her brother could be suffering a similar fate, Amelia decides to do whatever it takes to help the Woman in White find peace–and Charlie agrees to help her.

But when Amelia’s classmates start to drown in the Susquehanna River, one right after another, rumors swirl as people begin to connect the timing of Charlie’s arrival with the unexplained deaths. As Charlie and Amelia uncover the dark history of Asylum, they realize they may have unleashed an unspeakable evil. One they have to stop before everything they love is destroyed.

This is a trope breaking novel: as soon as I felt it turning towards the familiar, it changed its direction and gave me something new. Like with the character of Amelia, a young woman recovering from a very painful and traumatic event. She could easily have become obnoxious, but she instead went through incredible growth over the course of the novel. Or with her relationship with Charlie, which at some times seemed to take precedence over the plot, but then defied expectation by turning into something, well, different. And there I must stop, to avoid spoiling anything for you. Suffice to say, this is not your normal YA.

The plot is oddly paced: at times, it feels like not much is happening, while at others, it’s action after action. But it adds to the tone of the novel, where it feels as if the characters are allowed to return to a normality before being thrown back into horror. It also adds to the suspense, the mystery of it all, and its slow resolution, which is sure to raise anticipation, and leave you with a few questions… It all leads through amazing twists and a roller coaster of an ending, leaving you breathless, and craving for more.

From the first line – A woman haunted the woods behind my house. – you know you’re in for something amazing, all the way to the end… and hopefully beyond, because, after a cliffhanger like that, I am going to NEED a sequel!

A great and thrilling novel about life and death, about ghosts and magic, about the dangers of prejudice and jumping to conclusions, A Magic Dark and Bright is a must read for paranormal lovers everywhere. Beware – chills included.  Comes out April 28th.

Signal to Noise

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Reviewed by SA

Magic. Sometimes you pick up a book, and you just feel the magic flowing through it. Signal to Noise was a novel that surprised me in the way it caught me so early on; there was an instant connection between reader and characters, and the magic in the music just compelled me to read more.

Summary – Curtesy of Goodreads

Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?

I can’t think of any teenager that didn’t dream of magic when they were young. Who dreamed of being able to influence events, to make the world go their way, especially in that awkward period of your life where everything is zits and school and crushes. Meche is no different: she is a smart young woman who struggles with boys she likes and teachers that cause her trouble. Her friends are as awkward as her, each trying to navigate high school and adolescence. So of course when Meche realizes she can use her record collection to influence the future, the three of them take matters into their own hands.

What’s fantastic is that the Magic comes from the music Meche loves, from classic rock to jazz, fantastic songs that don’t make you doubt for a second that magic really does exist. Someone even made a playlist from the songs mentioned int he novel – check it out here!

The one thing that annoyed me slightly when reading this novel was the lack of information on the rules of their magic. What are its limits? What can they do with records, and why is it that sometimes, music is not needed? However, I like to think that ads to the charm: the teens are inexperienced with Magic, they are not instantly experts. They go with what works, play and expand on stories and gut feelings. The magic is more, well, magical in that way.

The novel bounces from 1988 to 2009, between Meche the teen and Meche the woman. It is strange to see Meche in the present. She’s followed the career she always wanted to, lives in Europe, can be considered quite successful, and very accomplished. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any magic left in this present: it reads colder, maybe because of the death that hangs in the air. Sometimes it was hard to relate present Meche with the girl she used to be, but even so, the author still manages to make us care for the young woman.

Signal to Noise is a fun, peculiar novel. It’s magical in and of itself, enjoyable, and you can’t help but feel captivated by the plight of the awkward trio; while at the same time, I felt odd while reading it, a slight worry in the pit of my stomach that I knew what was coming. Fueled by hints dropped by the author, some ominous foreboding hung over me. This did not make the read any less enjoyable, it only made it more unique.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia comes out February 10th.