Cover Reveal and Giveaway–The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter


Today is the day! The cover of Gena Showalter’s THE QUEEN OF ZOMBIE HEARTS is here! We’re so excited to be able to share this with you as it joins an already stunning set! Ready to see it? Not quite yet lets take a look a the first two covers in the series!

First there was ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND…

 
 
Then came THROUGH THE ZOMBIE GLASS…
 
 
 
Now get ready to EAT YOUR HEARTS OUT!!!
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Interview with Ingrid Paulson, author of Valkyrie Rising

Ingrid Paulson is the author of Valkyrie Rising, a book I am chomping at the bit to get my hands on.  Ingrid very kindly took some time out of her busy day to answer a few of my questions.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Ingrid Paulson] Science nerd and avid reader turned young adult writer. Former Olympic athlete (not really).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Valkyrie Rising?

[Ingrid Paulson] I’m a huge fan of girl power stories, so I set out to write the kind of book I would want to read. In a nutshell, Valkyrie Rising is about a girl (Ellie) who comes into her own while visiting her grandmother in Norway. Boys start mysteriously disappearing, including her brother, and it’s up to Ellie to save them all and overthrow an ancient power. And along the way learns a few unexpected things about her family history.

But I think the copy on the back of the galley says it best:

Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s astonishingly epic coming-of-age.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Ingrid Paulson] A few years ago, I went on a trip Norway with the Paulson women, and I was so inspired by the mountains and fjords that I wanted to write a book based on the setting alone. I knew right away it would include Valkyries—I’ve always loved the idea of strong warrior women.

I was actually working on a different book, but Tuck and Ellie captured my imagination so suddenly and completely that I sat down and started sketching out scenes. The rest of the story came together around those two characters and the setting.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Ingrid Paulson] There are about a million challenges in writing a book–it’s hard to pick just one! But I think I struggled most with the ending and ended up re-writing it several times. I’d set up big stakes in the first three-quarters of the book and it was hard to tie everything back up together in a satisfactory way while keeping the action fast and light. Fortunately, I had an amazing editor who helped me work through those issues.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Ellie?

[Ingrid Paulson] This is hard because Ellie changes a lot during the course of the story. But the girl she becomes by the final scene is determined, resilient, and brave.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Tucker would never have in his pocket?

[Ingrid Paulson] Tucker is the type to always travel light. It’s not likely he’d have anything but his cell phone and a credit card or two. But he’d definitely never have another girl’s number, even if he’s likely to be slipped more than a few. He also wouldn’t be caught dead with anything relating to school or homework. Part of his casual confidence thing is never admitting he puts work into anything.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Ingrid Paulson] I love reading and that definitely inspired me to start writing. And this might sound creepy, but I also really enjoy people watching (I’m a shameless and painfully obvious eavesdropper). I think that contributed a lot to creating the other people who reside in my head.  In the case of Valkyrie Rising, travel was also a huge influence—I was fortunate enough to stumble across incredible vistas in Norway that made me itch to describe them on paper.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Ingrid Paulson] I need coffee and silence. When I hit a tricky scene or plot issue, I often work it out on a long run, so I guess I need running shoes too.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Ingrid Paulson] That is a hard question! I think the biggest contributor to my love of reading was a father who would sit and read to me for hours and hours on end. His love of books is infectious. However, I was a huge fan of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein and can still recite embarrassing amounts of their works.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Ingrid Paulson] Lately, I feel like I’m always either writing or secretly thinking about writing while pretending to pay attention to something else. But I live in San Francisco, pretty close to the bay, so I just love being outside and wandering the city with my daughter. I love to travel (who doesn’t) and spending time with my friends.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Ingrid Paulson] My websites is: www.ingridepaulson.com

I’m on twitter @ingridepaulson.com

Facebook:  Valkyrie Rising

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Valkyrie Rising from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital.

Review: A Long Way From You by Gwendolyn Heasley

 

Title: A Long Way From You

Author: Gwendolyn Heasley

Publisher:  Harper Teen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

For too long, Kitsy has had to satisfy her dreams of becoming a real artist by giving her friends makeovers before prom. So when her best friend Corrinne’s family offers to sponsor her for a summer art course in New York City, Kitsy bids a temporary good-bye to Texas to say hello to the West Village.

Between navigating the subway and the New Yorkers—namely, the Art Boy who has a nice trick of getting under her skin—Kitsy knows that this summer is going to be about a lot more than figure drawing.

Review:

When I saw that Gwendolyn Heasley had a follow up to Where I Belong, I was quite excited to read it.  I enjoyed her first book, and found myself overcoming my initial dislike of Corrinne as she matured into a more compassionate human being.  At the start of her story, she is spoiled, over-indulged, and not likable.  Not at all.  But as her family’s financial circumstances deteriorated, she was forced to take a long look at herself and decide whether she wanted to continue being a selfish, immature person.  Unfortunately, the Corrinne that we meet in A Long Way From You is sadly similar to the Corrinne at the beginning of Where I Belong.  Her New York friends, obviously, were not good for her personality, but I digress.

In this outing, Kitsy is the star, and I never had a problem liking her.  Kitsy is bubbly and fun, despite her difficult home life.  Her mother is not an ideal caregiver, and Kitsy is the adult in their house.  She cares for her younger brother,  as well as her mother, cooking, cleaning, and keeping everything running as smoothly as a teenager in charge of a household can.  She is the breadwinner, and her checks from her job at Sonic keep the lights on and food on the table, but just barely.  Kitsy has so many dreams, too, but as shackled as she is to the well-being of her family, it is unlikely that she will ever see them realized. 

When Corrinne’s family volunteers to sponsor her in New York City so she can attend summer art school, it’s a dream come true.  Though she’s excited to attend, the reality of leaving her brother in their mother’s questionable  care is almost enough to keep her home in tiny Broken Spoke, Texas.  There are so many things that can go wrong during her absence, and her mother is so unreliable.  When she is accepted into the summer art program, it’s with a great deal of trepidation that she accepts the plane ticket to NYC, and her summer of adventure.

I was under the mistaken impression that this is a romance.  It’s not, not really.  This is the story about a young woman who is given the chance to discover who she is, away from the stifling expectations of her small town.  Nobody knows Kitsy in NYC, and she loves the freedom that brings.  She can become anyone she wants to be, without her mother’s failures to hinder her.  She isn’t expected to be anyone’s steadfast girlfriend, or the level-headed older sister who has been given far too many responsibilities for far too long.  I loved reading along with Kitsy as she rebels against the perfect girl she is supposed to be.   When she meets a handsome guy who is just as interested in art as she is, she looses her sense of caution and takes risks and chances she would never have done at home.  Finally, in the crush of humanity that is NYC, she is given the freedom to make mistakes, and more importantly, to learn from them as she makes them.

I enjoyed this quiet, feel good read.  Kisty’s New York adventure forces her to reassess  her life and her dreams, and helps her to face her problems at home.  The resolution of her strained relationship with her mother is too easily won, but I found this book a fulfilling read.  I liked the protagonist and her new friends, and found A Long Way From You hard to put down.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

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Character Word Associations with Amelia from Arise

 

Amelia is the protagonist from Tara Hudson’s Arise.  Amelia is a ghost, and her love for Joshua seems doomed to failure.  Amelia took time out of her busy day searching for a way for them to be together forever to answer some word associations.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Café] Hi, Amelia!  Thanks for stopping by.  Can you please play a little word association game with us? What is the first thing that comes to mind for each of these words?

[Amelia] Brass – The old miner’s lamp in Joshua’s bedroom, which I like best when we turn it off…

Violin – The music on Joshua’s iPod.  If only I could touch it, so that I could play DJ for once.

Fireworks – Um…I’m kind of blushing right now.  I can’t say what I’m thinking, but it definitely involves Joshua

Fog – Where I lived for years, and where I never want to return…unless I have to

Safe – Ha!  What’s that word?

Scream – Demons.  Wish I didn’t do that, every time I see one.  Since I seem to be seeing them more often, now….

Mistake – Something I did in New Orleans…something I hope I can undo

Barrier – Seer Dust.  You know, I really hate that stuff

Memory – My father and my mother.  Things I’m starting to remember, but sometimes wish I wouldn’t

Torrent – High Bridge.  May it crumble into dust, amen.

Hunger – Beignets. 

Camel – The thirst I feel, watching Joshua and his family drink chicory coffee in the French Quarter

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!


You can purchase Arise from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  Available in both print and digital

Thanks to {teen} Book Scene for arranging this interview

Cover Shot! Shadows in the Silence by Courtney Allison Moulton

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Courtney Allison Moulton revealed the title and cover for the final installment of her Angelfire series.  All of the covers for the series have been so pretty!  What do you think of this cover for Shadows in the Silence?

In the final battle for Heaven and Earth, Ellie, who has the reincarnated soul of an ancient reaper-slayer, must grapple with her archangel powers to save herself and all of humanity.

In stores January 2013

Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

 

Title: Hereafter

Author: Tara Hudson

Publisher: HarperTeen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.

Review:

I did not find this ghost story very compelling.  Amelia is a ghost with no recollection of her past.  All she knows is that she met a watery end in a river.  After she saves Joshua from drowning, she is astonished to discover that he can see her and hear her.  Even more amazing – she can touch him.  Can a ghost discover love with a living, breathing guy?

I love the premise of Hereafter, because I am a sucker for love stories where the odds are so firmly stacked against the protagonists that it seems impossible for them to ever get together.  It doesn’t get much harder to find a happy  ever after than for a ghost to fall in love with a living person.  Unfortunately, the narrative style just did not click for me.  Amelia’s endless and overly verbose inner dialog did not engage me in the story.  Amelia’s lack of memories didn’t work either, and I found that being firmly anchored to the present, with no chance of reflection on past events or mistakes, a plot device that didn’t work for me.  She did constantly relive her death, but because she kept running away from the memories, she never stopped to think about why she materialized in the exact same place every single time she had the nightmares about her death.  If she had only looked around herself, she would have discovered many key answers to the questions that were burning in her mind.

Joshua’s relatives are Seers, and they have exorcised lingering spirits for generations.  When his grandmother sees Amelia, she immediately wants Joshua to get rid of her. Permanently.  This would have been a great conflict if it hadn’t been pushed to the background midway through the book.  I am sure that the Seers will play a larger role in Arise, but I would have liked to see them meddle more with the protagonists this volume.

Eli, the evil ghost, came off as a creepy stalker.  He was one-dimensional, and very boring.  I found his aggressive behavior toward Amelia disturbing and his comeuppance lacking.  After your character has been painted to be so evil, I think you need a really memorable end.  I don’t think Eli’s was harsh enough, given his cruelty to Amelia.

I was looking forward to enjoying Hereafter, but the book just didn’t work for me.  Many other reviewers did enjoy it, so it was disappointing that I did not.

Grade: D+

Available in Print and Digital For a limited time, the eBook is only .99 and includes bonus materials!

Review copy purchased from Amazon

 

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Review: Arise by Tara Hudson


 

   Title: Arise

   Author: Tara Hudson

   Publisher: HarperTeen

   ISBN: 978-0062026798

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Amelia—still caught between life and death—must fight for every moment of her relationship with the human boy Joshua. They can hardly even kiss without Amelia accidentally dematerializing. Looking for answers, they go to visit some of Joshua’s Seer relatives in New Orleans. But even in a city so famously steeped in the supernatural, Amelia ends up with more questions than answers…and becomes increasingly convinced that she and Joshua can never have a future together.Wandering through the French Quarter, Amelia meets other in-between ghosts, and begins to seriously consider joining them. And then she meets Gabrielle. Somehow, against impossible odds, Gaby has found a way to live a sort of half-life…a half-life for which Amelia would pay any price. Torn between two worlds, Amelia must choose carefully, before the evil spirits of the netherworld choose for her.

Review:

Arise picks up where Hereafter left off, with Amelia still a ghost and a long term relationship with Joshua looking more and more unlikely.  Nobody can see her, after all, and he looks like a nut case walking through the school campus holding her hand or talking to her.  Worse, he is avoiding his friends and starting to lose his social standing at school so he can spend time with her.  This only makes Amelia feel guilty and stressed out.  She realizes that a relationship with her will make Joshua a social outcast and it’s tearing her up inside. 

I thought that the setting and story elements were stronger in Arise than Hereafter.  Joshua’s family heads to New Orleans to spend the Christmas holidays with family, and Amelia is immediately surrounded by a group of young Seers.  Instead of wanting to banish her forever, they seem to want to help her.  Can she trust them?  I was immediately skeptical of their motives.  Joshua’s sister, Jillian, had me the most suspicious.  After Amelia saved her from certain death and her Seer abilities were unlocked, Jillian did nothing but deny that she can see and hear Amelia.  I kept wondering why she trying to be deceptive.  Was it because she was in denial, or was there a more sinister motive behind it?

Without giving too much of the plot away, I did like the voodoo aspects that were introduced to the storyline, but wish that that they were a little more believable.  Amelia’s new friend, Gabby, performs a voodoo ritual that drastically changes Amelia.  The ritual was supposedly learned by reading a spell in a voodoo priestess’ shop, and it just seemed wrong to me that Gabby could alter the dead just by reading a spell in a book.  Even though she was interested in voodoo and even though she was related to a voodoo practitioner, I would have expected that a spell that powerful would demand a lot more effort than waiting for the book to be left open on that particular page.  Maybe by virtue of the fact that they are in New Orleans, the very air that surrounded Gabby gave her the knowledge and the magical powers necessary to perform the spell. 

I felt that this book is guilty of telling, instead of showing, what is going on.  There were huge info dumps after Amelia meets the other Seers, as well as after she meets Gabby.  These scenes of long explanatory exchanges were boring to me, and made me question the believability of the facts being revealed.  It ruined the suspense for me, and bogged down the story.

This series isn’t really clicking for me, and I don’t think I will continue with it.  While the premise is awesome, the writing style doesn’t work for me.  All of those snapping and whipping heads, along with the twisted lips and snarling, growling, and hissing just sounds painful and overdone.  Nobody just says anything in Arise – they shriek, gasp, and choke constantly, which made me relieved that Amelia was already dead.  The constant recoiling, flopping, and clawing would probably have killed her if she wasn’t already a ghost.

If you enjoyed Hereafter, you will enjoy Arise.  If you are new to the series, I suggest sampling a few chapters before purchasing.

Grade: C-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

 

Title: Don’t Breathe a Word

Author: Holly Cupala

Publisher: Harper Teen

ISBN: 978-0061766695

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Joy Delamere is suffocating.

From asthma, from her parents, and from her boyfriend, Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out. She can take his cruel words, his tender words . . . until the night they go too far.

To escape, Joy sacrifices her suburban life to find the one who offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. He introduces her to a world of fierce loyalty, to its rules of survival, and to love—a world she won’t easily let go.

Set against the backdrop of the streets of Seattle, Holly Cupala’s power­ful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the secrets we keep, and the ways to redemption. But above all, it is an unflinching story about the extraordinary lengths one girl will go to discover her own strength.

Review:

If I hadn’t received a review copy of Don’t Breathe a Word, it probably would have never even been a blip on my radar, and that would have been too bad, because it is a compellingly readable title.  I did have to engage a heavy suspension of disbelief during my time with Joy, because some of the plot elements did not work for me, and seemed highly unlikely. 

Joy has been suffering from debilitating asthma her entire life.  She has been in and out of the hospital after severe reactions and bouts with pneumonia.  Several times during her short life, she has been inches away from death.  Only the quick reactions of her caretakers and the emergency staff at the hospital have saved her life.  Fearful that any mold or dust might cause an immediate and unfortunate reaction, her mother keeps their house spotless.  Joy’s older brother is assigned to take care of her, to make sure that she is sheltered from an allergic reaction to anything.  Joy is smothered and unhappy, but her parents won’t take any chances with her health.

When she meets handsome, wealthy Asher, she thinks her life is going to change for the better.  Her parents approve of him, and soon, Asher is given the responsibility of caring for Joy. Of keeping her safe.  Only with Asher, Joy is imprisoned in a different kind of cage. Asher is possessive and has an explosive temper, and soon Joy is willing to do anything to keep him happy.  As her friendships slide and Asher becomes her world, Joy feels a different kind of fear.  When his abuse turns from verbal to physical, she is terrified.  Desperate, she fakes her kidnapping and heads to Seattle, to hide from Asher among the homeless population.

The premise is compelling and instantly had me hooked.  How would I survive if I was homeless?  I kept wondering if I would get along as well as Joy, as she meets danger at every turn.  She has to find food for herself, a safe haven to sleep, and clothes for the upcoming winter.  The trials she faces on the streets are perilous and frightening.  There are scary people willing to take advantage of her and worse, do her physical harm.  Her frail health is also a concern.  What happens when she runs out of her inhalers?  How will she survive a bout of sickness or a severe asthma attack on her own?

There were two elements of the story that didn’t work for me, the biggest being Joy’s precarious health.  She is forced to weather the harsh elements, and later,  hides out in a moldy, musty house.  I had a hard time buying into her ability to keep herself from tumbling into an abyss of illness.  She is forced to live with everything that pushes her lungs into an asthmatic attack, and yet she is spared from the severe allergic reactions that have shaped the life she was so desperate to escape from.  It was difficult for me to accept that her health was so poor, or that one of the homeless teens she met would be able to procure a supply of her medication.  Suffering from acute allergies myself, I know that this situation would have left me ill and in need of emergency medical care, so I found it jarring that Joy managed to keep her asthma, which is much, much worse than mine, under control, under such trying conditions.

The other sticky point for me were Joy’s sudden feelings for Creed.  As the narrative unfolded, Joy’s life on the streets became more about her desire to be with Creed, and less about her need to be safe from Asher’s abuse.   She is in extreme danger, from the elements, from poor hygiene, from criminals on the streets who would do her harm, be it rape her or kill her or both, and she is fascinated by a guy she has just met.  This plot point did not sit well with me.  This is the reason she ran away in the first place; to get away from her old boyfriend, who dictated every move she made.  Now that she has met Creed, she puts 100% of her trust in him, right away, without knowing if he is worthy of her trust.

These two plot points aside, Don’t Breathe a Word is an engaging read.  I could not put it down.  The first half of the story is tense and scary, as Joy tries to meld into the local homeless community.  The pacing for last half was a bit off, as Joy attempts to fit in with her new homeless “family.”  It is obvious that she doesn’t belong there, and that her circumstances are not as dire as those of her new friends.  It’s almost like she was on a very crappy vacation.  Her new friends, however,  have no home to go back to, and they are veterans of the streets.  With her background, she is only passing through, and everyone else knows this but Joy.  This little niggling fact made her journey not quite as dire, and destroyed some of the suspense as Joy attempts to learn the ropes in her new, albeit, temporary, world.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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