Cover Reveal: Shanti and the Magic Mandala

Shanti and the Magic Mandala is an adventure in which fantasy and reality are mingled. The book tells the story of six teenagers, from different religious and cultural origins and different parts of the world, who are mystically recruited to form two groups – one in the Northern Hemisphere, and one in the Southern. They eventually gather in Peru, and through a single alliance, begin a frantic chase for the sacred object that can stop the black magician’s final plan.

Awards & Recognition for the Book

– Winner of 2014 London Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards: Bronze Medal at “Young Adult Fiction – Spirituality” category
– 2014 New England Book Festival in Boston:  Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.
– Winner of 2015 Paris Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
– Winner of 2015 International Book Awards in the category “Fiction / Young Adult”.
– Winner of 2015 New York Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2015 Los Angeles Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2015 San Francisco Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2015 DIY Book Festival in Los Angeles: Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.

About the Author

F. T. Camargo is an Italian Brazilian living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An award winning architect and author, he also studied Arts and Media and has a post degree in Economics and MBA in e-commerce. He is a vegetarian because of his love for all animals and has been deeply involved in causes for their protection and freedom. He is a world traveler adventurer, outdoor sports lover, speaks 4 languages and has published a travel book “Rio, Maravilha!”
For many years he has been practicing yoga and meditation and studying the Kabbalah. His exploration of spiritual teachings motivated a commitment to self-development which in turn created a new path and goal in life. Shanti and the Magic Mandala was born from his inner journey.

Contact the Author

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception

The Remnant Chronicles #1

author : mary e. pearson

pages : [paperback] 512

memorable quote It can take years to mold a dream. It takes only a fraction of a second for it to be shattered.

favorite character : pauline

summary :

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight–but she doesn’t–and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom–to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive–and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets–even as she finds herself falling in love.
The Kiss of Deception is the first book in Mary E. Pearson’s Remnant Chronicles.

review :

I wanted to read The Kiss of Deception even before I realized that I loved The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which is also written by Mary E. Pearson. It’s been a while since I’ve read that book so I was hoping that her writing would live up to what expectations I could muster from my vague memories of really enjoying that read (and prompting me to crave rereading it and finishing the trilogy). Unfortunately, while The Kiss of Deception was extremely well-written, I didn’t care for the try-hard love triangle in it that overtook most of the plot.

From page one, I was hooked. Lia is her kingdom’s First Daughter–a princess valuable in marriage because she’s supposed to have “the gift”. This gift is ambiguous, for the most part, and seems to be some well to tell the future. I’m not sure if it’s only her future or the kingdom’s. In either case, Lia doesn’t have this gift but she’s being married off to a neighboring kingdom anyway to solidify an alliance between the two. But she decides that she wants to control her own future. This is what made me love Lia. She’s so strong, and stubborn, but over all of that she’d sacrifice all of her hopes and dreams for a chance that the people she loves will be safe and happy. Some of her decisions appear to be selfish but they’re anything but that.

Enter the love triangle and things got tricky for me. It’s obvious who she’s going to interact with and the bad boy/perfect prince angle going in this tumultuous group of relationships. There’s a twist in here, though, that I didn’t catch onto and confused me somuch before I realized what had happened. And it was brilliant, honestly. I’d recommend someone pick up the book for that alone–and obviously, I won’t say anything about what it was, for fear of spoiling people.

Still, after that, the book seemed very different from then on. Lia is still developing as a characters, as young woman and princess, and I was interested to see where she’d end up at the conclusion of the novel. I did like the place where it ended and I know book two is already out now so I wouldn’t need to wait ages to read it, but . . . I’m not certain that I’ll bother picking it up. While there were pieces of this book that I adored, the love triangle and the amount of time spent concentrating on it was annoying enough to make me think that I’ll just assume where the story might end from here. If I see great reviews . . I might be convinced otherwise.

I do think that this is a fantasy novel that a lot of people will love. The world-building and Lia’s character are fantastic and I’m assuming more people will love, well, the love in this one.

4/5 stars

The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason

The Chess Queen Enigma

Stoker & Holmes #3
Book 1: The Clockwork Scarab
Book 2: The Spiritglass Charade

expected publication: october 6th
author : colleen gleason

pages : [hardcover] 360

favorite characters : . . . all of them?

summary :

Evaline Stoker & Mina Holmes are back for a third adventure. They have to locate a missing chess queen before their nemesis, The Ankh, gets there first!

Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes have reluctantly agreed to act as social chaperones and undercover bodyguards for Princess Lurelia of Betrovia, who has arrived in London to deliver a letter that details the secret location of an ancient chess queen that’s been missing for centuries. But when the letter—which will heal a centuries-old rift between England and the Betrovians—is stolen out from under Evaline and Mina’s watchful eyes, the two girls are forced into a high-stakes race to ensure they find the chess queen before anyone else does. The Stoker and Holmes series is as culturally popular and compulsively readable as the Sherlock Holmes stories and Dracula were in the Victorian era.

review :

I LOVE this series so much and think it’s a shame that I know no one who reads it. Stoker & Holmes are two fierce ladies who kick ass and take names, all in the constricting fashions of the Victorian era. I honestly can’t decide which of them I love more because Mina is entirely hopeless and adorable in social situations, Evaline can’t stop eating and, y’know, staking vampires, and then there are a host of supporting characters that are just . . charming and captivating and also very frustrating. Particularly regarding the gentlemen I can’t decide should be deserving of these two.

It’s an interesting clash as always, with an investigation occurring while there’s also the threat of vampires. Those two worlds are steadily beginning to merge into the bigger picture that has been hinted at throughout the series. So, what does that mean? It means that I’m craving the next book already when there’s NO RELEASE DATE, no name for it, nothing. How am I supposed to survive on an ending like this one? What?!?!

Maybe I’ll talk about something that makes me a little less frustrated and incoherent. Mina and Evaline are developing so nicely, not only in their relationship but as individuals. I love how they continue to endlessly frustrate one another but remain a team, steadfast and now easily able to predict what one another will do. It’s fascinating to read and I can’t wait to see how things will be the next time we see them. Hopefully spending more time with one another outside of investigations and life or death situations!

I can’t recommend this series enough, to be honest. If you read it, let me know! I need to discuss these books with someone.

5/5 stars

Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu

Rules for Stealing Stars

author : corey ann haydu

pages : [hardcover] 336

summary :

In the tradition of Sharon Creech and Wendy Mass, Corey Ann Haydu’s sparkling middle grade debut is a sister story with a twist of magic, a swirl of darkness, and a whole lot of hope.

Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she’s too little for most things—especially when it comes to dealing with their mother’s unpredictable moods and outbursts. This summer, Silly feels more alone than ever when her sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot: sporting sunburned cheeks smudged with glitter and gold hair that looks like tinsel.

When Silly is brought into her sisters’ world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she’s soon forced to wonder if it could tear them apart

review :

This is a middle grade novel but it deals with some pretty tough issues. Four sisters need to band together and decide what to do as they live with the reality of their mother’s mental illness and a father who’d really prefer to pretend to them that nothing is going wrong. As the story escalates, so too do the magical elements that make things a little easier for the girls because their mother’s illness is never explained to them, never defined, and they’re left in a helpless, spiraling situation.

Silly is the youngest girl so she often feels left out and then angry that she’s considered too childish whenever she wishes to join in on her sister’s adventures. Of course, she doesn’t realize that what the three older sisters are doing has magic to it until they finally let Silly in that inner circle. But is she ready to grow up, handle responsibility, and care for her sisters like they’ve been trying to protect her all these years?

I liked Rules for Stealing Stars because it wasn’t perfect. As much as it talked about fairy tales, this isn’t one; it’s real life and that means things are imperfect, parents don’t always have all of the answers, and no prince is going to come sweeping in to make everything okay. There is no magical cure for their mother. I also loved how through most of the story you’re left to wonder at the magic contained in the girls’ closets. Is it really there or all they all imagining it as a coping mechanism?

There were some things I didn’t really care for. The writing didn’t grasp me, though I think it will be great for younger readers who are just beginning to read about these situations where a parent is the one who might need extra help. The characters were confusing to me because they never seemed to stick to their own personality. I liked that the girls’ relationship often felt like one real sisters would have, but they all flip-flopped around so much that it became frustrating.

I really would recommend this as a book for younger readers because they will start to ask questions about and get an understanding of what a mental illness is and how it affects the individual, as well as the rest of their family.

Writing: 85%
Characters: 75%
Plot: 85%
Overall: 82%

3 stars

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

A Little Something Different

author : sandy hall

pages : [paperback] 272

memorable quote Sometimes it’s better to say something stupid than nothing at all. 

favorite point of view: bench

summary :

Lea and Gale are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is a little aloof, Gabe is shy, and it looks like they are never going to work things out.

But something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at the local Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV series. The bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes Lea and Gabe were meant to be together.

Fall in love with falling in love with this irresistibly romantic, completely original novel!

review :

A Little Something Different is just that: a love story you’ve certainly never read before. Though the plot circles around two college students destined for one another, the reader never hears from them. Instead, the book rotates between fourteen different points of view that try to tell the story of how these two get together. You know from the very beginning that they’re going to be a couple–literally every character mentioned seems to know, innately, simply from looking at these two that they’re not just cute together, they’re destined to get together. I thought that it was a cute and fun concept; I wasn’t looking for a particularly deep story . . . I wanted something more.

It’s hard to learn too much about characters when they’re never able to speak for themselves and there are so many other first person narrations imposing their own feelings/interpretations onto whatever Gabe and Lea (our leading guy and gal) are doing and saying. The narrators have a great deal of variety–there’s their creative writing professor, a handful of friends for each of them, a bus driver, a barista, a squirrel, a bench. Yes, the perspectives do get a little crazy, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed reading from the bench’s perspective.

I’m the oldest bench on this green and I get no respect. I’d like to say there are worthwhile things about the job. And maybe sometimes there are. Sometimes you get a really perfect butt; however, all rear ends are not created equal.

It was hilarious, reading about it going on about Gabe’s perfect butt and how terrible it was when anyone came to talk to Gabe on the bench because then it was distracting the bench from the butt.

Unfortunately, other than the comic relief, the perspective switch didn’t really do much for me except get me confused and angry. If an author is going to have more than one POV in a story, it’s absolutely imperative that they don’t sound identical. It isn’t like it’s easy–if you prefer to write one way, it’s going to be hard to write in thirteen different styles to showcase those POVs. Hall really failed at making her characters unique, in my opinion. They all had very similar quirks and the sense of humor was the same. Different people of different ages shouldn’t be making the same little jokes. Most of the characters were really stereotypical of “the college experience”-i.e. a creative writing professor who is artsy and quirky, that guy in class who is eternally angry about everything for no reason, athletes who only seem to go to parties or talk to girls. If anything, the effort that had to go into making these people practically stalk Gabe and Lea so we could see more of their story just accentuated all of their already exaggerated features. Victor, the angry guy in their creative writing class, just ended up making me angry.

I shake my head and roll my eyes and just barely keep from concussing myself into oblivion . . . I pick up my fork off my tray and pretend to stab myself in the eye with it.

Just a few lines from Victor’s POV when he’s in the cafeteria overhearing a conversation between Lea and Gabe. They literally aren’t doing anything to him, he has the freedom to leave and carry on his own life, but instead he eavesdrops so this can happen.

I did read the little author interview that was included at the end of my paperback and saw that Sandy Hall had written this entire book in six days. Six days! That’s incredibly impressive, but it also kind of makes me sad. This book might have been awesome if it’d been given a lot more time and love.

1/5 stars

Fairest by Marissa Meyer


The Lunar Chronicles 3.5

author : marissa meyer

pages : [hardcover] 220

memorable quote “Maybe the princess could save herself.”
“That sounds like a pretty good story too.”

favorite character : evret

summary :

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

review :

Fairest is an interesting installment in The Lunar Chronicles because if you’ve been following the books, you sort of already know what’s going to happen. What makes this prequel extremely interesting is how seriously psychotic Levana is and grows to be throughout the course of the book. It follows a good chunk of her life, starting when she’s fifteen years old, and flashes back a few times to formative moments in her childhood. And while you would feel bad for any child forced to grow up in such a dangerous, restrictive, and unloving environment, Levana’s response to that leads her to murdering thousands of people with the end goal of taking over planet Earth.

If you haven’t read The Lunar Chronicles, please do read it before getting to this book. It’ll spoil a few surprises you have along the way for you, even though this book is technically first in the sequence. Really it’s a character study and not much in the way of plot. Levana comes to choices that you know she’s going to make based on how book one begins (and on the twists therein).

Still, this made me super excited for Winter because now I know more about how the two are related and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Winter is the cutest little girl and I fell in love with her so nothing bad better happen to her. Except whenever I begin to like one of the characters, something terrible ALWAYS has to tear them away from me.

Levana . . . well. I thought maybe this book was going to make me sympathetic toward her and was a little afraid of that because she’s one of those villains that I love to hate. But this only made me understand her motivations a little better and the special brand of evil she is. I knew she was manipulative, I knew she wanted to take over the world–but watching her destroy the lives of the people she supposedly loves makes it easy to see how much worse it will be for those she hates.

While this book is short and doesn’t contribute much to the overall series, I’d recommend it to fans. It’s a really interesting character study that will have me looking even more suspiciously at Levana throughout the next book. This evil queen has got to go!

The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons

The Bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman #1

author : paulina simons

pages : [hardcover] 637

summary :

From the author of the international bestseller Tully comes an epic tale of passion, betrayal, and survival in World War II Russia. Leningrad, 1941: The European war seems far away in this city of fallen grandeur, where splendid palaces and stately boulevards speak of a different age, when the city was known as St. Petersburg. Now two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanov, live in a cramped apartment, sharing one room with their brother and parents. Such are the harsh realities of Stalin’s Russia, but when Hitler invades the country, the siege of its cities makes the previous severe conditions seem luxurious.

Against this backdrop of danger and uncertainty, Tatiana meets Alexander, an officer in the Red Army whose self-confidence sets him apart from most Russian men and helps to conceal a mysterious and troubled past.

Once the relentless winter and the German army’s blockade take hold of the city, the Metanovs are forced into ever more desperate measures to survive. With bombs falling and food becoming scarce, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other in an impossible love that threatens to tear her family apart and reveal his dangerous secret — a secret as destructive as the war itself. Caught between two deadly forces, the lovers find themselves swept up in a tide of history at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.

Mesmerizing from the very first page to the final, breathtaking end, The Bronze Horseman brings alive the story of two indomitable, heroic spirits and their great love that triumphs over the devastation of a country at war.

review :

The Bronze Horseman is something I was definitely hyped up about. The reviews on Goodreads are amazing; people kept telling me that it was their favorite book ever. And knowing how seriously I take my decisions about my own favorite books I knew I had to get my hands on this one. I was eventually able to get a used copy for a really great price and was amazed by how gigantic this book is. Over 600 pages! For something pitched as romance, that’s a lot to work with. Because I love reading about the WWII time period and there’s rarely anything I get that’s set in Russia, this seemed perfect. And then . . .

I never fell in love with this book. Probably because I never really came to like the love story. Dasha is Tatiana’s sister. Honestly, Tatiana’s entire family was terrible about her, and I loved that Alexander called them out on it, but family is family. It breaks a sacred girl code to not only date someone your relative (friend, whoever) has dated . . . But to fall in love with them while they’re still going out with your sister (and then some)? Nope. I just wasn’t feeling that. Setting that aside, the brief encounters that Tatiana and Alexander had managed to be so boring and not passionate. No, about a dozen times they went through the same conversation of fighting over what they should do with their relationship. At least sometimes it switched between who would suddenly decide (after an illicit comment or kiss) that this was all wrong and would shout/call/run after the other when they were offended by the thought that the relationship should be over. It was so predictable.

In these 600 pages, there were only a few hundred in the middle that went fast for me and were captivating–honestly, they probably had the least amount of the romance in them. I loved hearing about how the war was changing society–I loved reading about Russian society in general, though I’d never, ever want to live there. Even though the war made things utterly unlivable, I couldn’t look away as Tatiana fought to survive, as bombs fell around the city, as rations fell shorter. If war had been the forefront of the novel, not the romance, I’d have loved it. I can’t deny that Paulina Simons can write. I just didn’t enjoy her romance.

To top it all off, I finish this book and find out that there’s more. It’s a trilogy. I’m  happy enough to sit and pretend that it really all ended in this book because it all wraps up well enough at the end, though I suppose there is some plot twist that explains how there can be two more books after how this one ended. I don’t know, because I’ll never read them–but if someone wants to tell me what happens, that would be fine.

I honestly don’t understand the hype about this book or the love portrayed. These are the favored characters of so many people and I can’t get behind them at all. It just isn’t the book for me, unfortunately.

1/5 stars