Cover Shot! The Quantum League: Spell Robbers by Matthew J Kirby

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?

I love this cover! It screams FUN.  Will The Quantum League by Matthew J Kirby be as exciting and action-packed as it looks?

January 2014


A magical crime saga filled with marvelous thrills, high action, and extraordinary adventure, from critically acclaimed author Matthew J. Kirby.
After Ben Warner is recruited to join a "science camp" led by the eccentric quantum physicist Dr. Madeleine Hughes, he quickly realizes it’s no regular science camp. Along with his new friend, Peter, Ben discovers the secret, powerful art of Actuation — the ability to change reality by simply imagining it differently.
When a mysterious group of men invade Dr. Hughes’s laboratory, abducting her and stealing her precious equipment, Ben and Peter are suddenly caught up in a turf war between dangerous actuators desperate for Dr. Hughes’s innovative technology. And as Ben and Peter are pulled into a perilous, hidden world full of impossibilities now made possible, will their combined powers be enough to save Dr. Hughes and vanquish their enemies before it’s too late?
From Edgar Award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby comes a fast-paced, boldly imagined tale of friendship, deadly adventure, and the infinite power of imagination.

Waiting on Wednesday–Inhuman by Kat Falls

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I love Kat Falls, so Inhuman is high, high, high on my gotta have it list.  In stores 2013.


In a world ravaged by mutation, a teenage girl must travel into the forbidden Savage Zone to recover lost artifacts or her father’s life is forfeit.

America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.
Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy.

What are you waiting on?

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Interview with Anna Waggener, Author of Grim

Anna Waggener is the author of Grim, a YA fantasy that hits stores June 1.  Anna dropped by the virtual offices recently to talk about her new book.

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

[Anna Waggener] I love working with kids, playing with Photoshop, and taking long walks through the mountains. The quantity of my cream puff and cookie making compliment all three.

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

[Anna Waggener] Grim follows three story lines, the two most important of which focus on Erika, a single mother who suffers a car crash and wakes up in the land of the dead, and her kids Meg, Shawn, and Becca, aged eight, seventeen, and eighteen respectively, who have to deal with the fact that she keeps creeping up in their dreams–even after her funeral. It bridges two worlds (Limbo and New Jersey, which, I’m told, is a bit like Limbo) and two genres, giving important nods to both the "classics" and to children’s lit (and to classic children’s lit) that I grew up on.

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

[Anna Waggener] It sounds cliche, but the character of Jeremiah appeared randomly in one of my dreams. He was just sort of standing there, not really doing anything, but I woke up wanting to figure out what that was all about. As I fleshed him out, I found his story linked to a line that I’d jotted down almost a year before—the line that starts out the book’s prologue.

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

[Anna Waggener] The editing process. I’m a panster for the most part, and also a perfectionist, which means my early drafts are carefully written in the first place. Then my perfectionist really comes out when I buckle down for edits. Self-doubt is something that I, like all other writers, struggle with on a constant basis, and the editing process really accentuates that for me.

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

[Anna Waggener] Opinionated; Loving; Fierce

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

[Anna Waggener] illegal paraphernalia (unless Becca put it there); a band-aid; tickets to a musical

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

[Anna Waggener] Photography is certainly one of them, as are travel and people watching. As far as authors, I’m very much impacted by J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and J.K. Rowling, as well as Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett, and so many others. 

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

[Anna Waggener] A computer with a decent word processor and a quiet (but not too quiet) space. I’m not too fussy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Anna Waggener] I’m reading Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma right now and LOVING it. Before that, Patricia Smith’s latest book of poetry.

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

[Anna Waggener] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, hands down.

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

[Anna Waggener] I would say "take pictures" but I haven’t been on a shoot in a while. I’ve been a student for the vast majority of my life (graduating next week!), so I’m not sure what life in the "real world" will be like just yet, but I both cook and read whenever I can, and hang out with friends. I also love gardening, so my small apartment is rather leafy all year round.

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

[Anna Waggener] Facebook (, Twitter (@AnnaWaggener), or email ( And please feel free to; I’d love to get to know you!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Grim from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.


Guest Review – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins



Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic

ISBN: 978-0545425117

From Amazon:

The New York Times bestselling The Hunger Games, with an all-new cover from the major motion picture!

The astonishing bestseller is now a fantastic movie. Here is the original novel with new movie artwork on the cover. (Original cover version also available.)

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.


With the growing excitement over the upcoming release of The Hunger Games movie, this book seems to be the only one that I talk about anymore.  I have had Hunger Games discussions with no less than five different people at work yesterday alone, and that is a shocking number considering the lack of readers to be found there.

My barn buddies are not immune, either.  Elsa is eleven, and she’s in middle school.  She is a voracious reader, and she is getting old enough to read some YA novels.  She really loved The Hunger Games, and she asked if she could share her love here at the Café.  Who am I to deny a future book blogger??  Elsa, the floor is all yours!

My Review On The Hunger Games by Elsa:

The Hunger Games was a thrilling, exciting book. It showed how much love can stretch over distances,  and the importance of believing in what you want. I thought that the Hunger Games was about something different when  I heard about the book when I was in the fourth grade.   But now this year, after I’ve read it, it shows so much more than people killing other people for entertainment; it  explores how indecisive humans are and how ugly, despicable, and unruly we can be.  Even though this is a fiction book, it can help you realize what you want the most. I realized that I wanted to be stronger, not just physically, but mentally. I wanted to be my best, to be the strongest person that I can be for my friends and family.

I can confidently say that this is a great book and that I will want to read it over and over again. The Hunger Games is a book that I am officially obsessed with.  I had such a hard time putting it down and stepping away from Katniss and her struggles.  Would she survive the Hunger Games?  Would something even more horrible happen to her?  This is such a good story that even when I wasn’t reading it, I was wondering what was going to happen next!   I want to read the rest of Suzanne Collins’ books!

~Elsa,  age 11

Thanks, Elsa!  I dug out my copy of Catching Fire for you, so you can see what happens next!

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Review: Dark Souls by Paula Morris


Title: Dark Souls

Author:  Paula Morris

Publisher:  Point

ISBN: 978-0545251327


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Welcome to York, England.

Mist lingers in the streets.

Narrow buildings cast long shadows.

This is the most haunted city in the world. . . .

Miranda Tennant arrives in York with a terrible, tragic secret. She is eager to lose herself amid the quaint cobblestones, hoping she won’t run into the countless ghosts who supposedly roam the city. . . .

Then she meets Nick, an intense, dark-eyed boy who knows all of York’s hidden places and histories. Miranda wonders if Nick is falling for her, but she is distracted by another boy — one even more handsome and mysterious than Nick. He lives in the house across from Miranda and seems desperate to send her some sort of message. Could this boy be one of York’s haunted souls?

Soon, Miranda realizes that something dangerous — and deadly — is being planned. And she may have to face the darkest part of herself in order to unravel the mystery — and find redemption.


I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dark Souls.  I seem to be saying that a lot recently about books I’ve just finished, and that’s a good thing.  I like to be surprised, and I like when a story veers off the well-beaten path and travels into new territory.  The same cookie-cutter paranormal romances quickly burn me out on the genre, so it was a pleasant change to read a story with ghosts, a romance interest who differed from the norm, and a mystery that is slowly pieced together, one seemingly unrelated event after another, until it snowballs into a night of dread and disaster.  Paula Morris made all of her protagonists face their biggest fears in a heart-racing run to the conclusion of the novel.  The last one hundred pages held my attention, and I found it difficult to put the book down. 

Miranda is grieving the loss of her best friend, Jenna, who died in a car accident.  The prologue recounts the horrible crash that almost robs Miranda of both Jenna and her brother, Rob.  After freeing herself from the smashed car, Miranda, in shock, learns that Rob will be fine once the firemen can cut him out of the crushed car, but that Jenna didn’t make it.  As she sits huddled in a ball of misery, she sees Jenna leave the car and walk towards her, running her fingers through Miranda’s hair.  After the night that changed everything for both Miranda and Rob, Miranda discovers that she can see ghosts.  I thought this was a great setup for Miranda’s unwanted ability to catch glimpses of spirits, and it reeled me into the story.  Those opening pages were so compelling that it took a while for me to get involved in the rest of the book, which chugs along like a freight train, slowly gathering momentum and building suspense. 

With Rob suffering from anxiety attacks and severe claustrophobia, and Miranda still in a daze, their worried parents drag them to England on a working vacation.  Once Miranda steps onto the streets of York, she sees one ghost after another in the ancient city.  Once a Roman outpost, the village has a long and, occasionally, violent history.  So not the place to be if you can see ghosts!

I thought the setting was intriguing, and that the historical details of the village gave the story more depth.  As Miranda learns more about the history and the local ghosts haunting various sites in York, she begins to wonder if there’s a way she can help some of the ghosts.  After she meets Nick, a mysterious boy with a past as tragic as her own, Miranda thinks that she’s met a kindred spirit.  Only Nick can understand her, because Nick shares her unwanted ability to see ghosts.

While there are romantic elements to Dark Souls, I wouldn’t consider the story a romance.  The relationship between Nick and Miranda is built on their shared unhappiness more than their attraction to each other.  To Miranda, Nick is exotic and aloof, and she longs to understand him.   She longs to save him from the self-destructive path he’s set on.  She couldn’t save Jenna, so she is determined to save this strange, sad boy she can’t help but be drawn to.   Nick is dangerous and dark and unapproachable, yet oddly vulnerable at the same time. 

As the mystery behind the coldly handsome ghost in the window across the street from Miranda’s room is slowly revealed, all of the pieces of the mystery behind Nick and his brother are neatly fitted together.  The mystery is compelling and had me on the edge of my seat as the conclusion thundered ever closer.  Fans of Clarity by Kim Harrington will find a lot to like here.  As the novel draws to a close, I also felt that Miranda and Rob, both suffering from that awful moment when both of their lives changed forever, will finally be able to move beyond that tragedy, and will be able to look toward the future.  The accident will always be a part of their past, but now they will be able to move beyond it and live for themselves, freed from the guilt that threatened to suffocate them before their eventful trip to York.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene

Discussion: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins–Spoilers Ahead!


Title: Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic

ISBN: 978-0439023511


Contains Spoilers – Read At Your Own Risk

From Amazon:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.


I have been putting off writing about Mockingjay, mainly because there have been a gabillion blog posts already published online, and I don’t know that I have anything new to add.  The other reason is that I don’t think I was ready to let the series go yet.  I was pressured to read it because my niece wanted to ask me some questions about the ending, and she pulled the SPOILER card to prod me into reading the books quickly.  As in she would SPOIL the ending for me, ‘cause she can just be that way.  Grrr.

The Hunger Games is a great series and I was totally caught up in Katniss’ struggle to survive.  Here is a girl who had next to nothing, who asked for nothing, and who expected nothing.  Her world is grim and dark and compelling, and the world building and politics gave the books so much depth.  If there is a hell on earth, Panem would be it if you lived in the Districts.  The Capital,  when it was attacked by rebels from the Districts, swiftly and brutally put down the insurrection.  Decades later, they still haven’t forgiven, nor will ever forget, the uprising.  The residents of the Districts suffer for the sins of their forbearers, and there seems to be no end to the indignities forced on them by the Capital. 

How Katniss continued to get up every morning to put up the good fight against undefeatable odds, I will never comprehend.  Heartbreak and a lack of the most basic comforts in life have been her constant companions.  After she beat the odds and managed to save both herself and Peeta from the Hunger Games, she should have been living on East Street.  But no, the corrupt politicians in the Capital determined that Katniss had displayed too much insubordination during her time in the Games, and now they want only to make an example of her.  Within the blink of an eye, rules that have governed the Games since their inception have been rewritten, and the victors, that one pool of people exempted from the Games were forced back into the Arena.  How do you live through that – again?  How?

So what was my niece’s question about the series?  It is actually a question that breaks my heart, because I did get so caught up in these books.  In the end, was Katniss happy?  I don’t think,  after everything that she was forced to live through, and after all of the loss she was forced to suffer, that she was capable of being happy.  Content?  Maybe she was that.  But happy?  I think that Katniss, and Haymitch, and even Peeta, were far too damaged by what happened in the Arena, and worse, what happened after they got back out, to ever be able to be happy. 

What is your take on the ending?  Was Katniss happy?  Are you counting down the days until the first movie comes out?

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


Title: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic

ISBN: 978-0439023498


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.


When it comes to series books, I usually like to take a small break between volumes because I have a tendency to get bored with an author’s writing style.  That is not the case with The Hunger Games trilogy.  As soon as I finished the first book, I wanted to dive into the second volume.  The problem was that I didn’t have it!  So I ordered Catching Fire and Mockingjay from Amazon, waited to get them, and packed them away for my vacation.  Well, the vacation is here, and I spent every spare moment reading Catching Fire.  I stayed up late, even though I knew I had to get up early, just so I could finish it! And guess what? I immediately wanted to dive into Mockingjay.  It’s a good thing I brought it, because I wasn’t going to – I didn’t want to lug around a bunch of hardcovers!

Once again, I am one of the last people on the planet to read Catching Fire.  Though I thought the book started a bit slowly, it quickly ramped up to can’t-put-down territory.  When I finished The Hunger Games, I honestly wondered what if a return trip to Panem would be worth reading.  I mean, how can you top the events that took place in the first book?  The constant fear of death, the intense character interaction, the stress and suspense of a well-written, engrossing story. What happened if the next installment just wasn’t as good? It would have ruined the reading experience of the first book.  My fears were groundless and I think I might have even been more caught up in Catching Fire.  I was more invested in the characters’ survival, and I had come to like them. A lot.

Without giving any of the plot away (I wouldn’t even read the synopsis before I read the book!), Catching Fire is an intense, emotional roller coaster.  Katniss should be living the life of luxury – she survived the Games, she has secured a comfortable future for herself and her family, and she never has to worry about going hungry again.  Then she learns that she has unleashed a growing restlessness that begins to roll rebelliously through the districts.  The Capital wants her dead, but because of her sudden fame, they instead start playing a game of cat-and-mouse with her.  If she can’t get convince everyone that she and Peeta are truly, deeply in love, the consequences for the people she loves will be dire. And brutal.

Suddenly, a life of security slips further and further from her grasp.  I was caught up in Katniss’ sense of helplessness and hopelessness – nothing that she does can tame the beast she has unleashed.  The districts are angry and the people are beginning to disobey.  The Capital blames Katniss for all of the social unrest, and President Snow promises that she will pay for what she has started.  She must end, and quickly, or everything that she holds dear will be destroyed.  He’s just not a nice guy.

What I found so fascinating was that regardless of what actions the Capital took to quell the protests, they only made the political environment more tenuous.  Katniss and Peeta unwillingly fanned the flames of discord, but the Capital’s cruelty and the brutal crackdowns do nothing to mollify the populace of the Districts.  They have been brutalized and downtrodden for so long that they have just had enough.  There is no hope for them, they have no expectations that life will ever get any better, so what do they have to lose by fighting back?  They are forced to watch their children, the most vulnerable of their numbers, battle each other to the death.  What hope could they possibly have that they could ever rise above the subjugation that they suffer?  Surely a quick death from a bullet would be less painful than the drawn out suffering they are forced to endure.

Once again, it’s Katniss’ voice that captivates and holds the reader enthralled.  As events unfold, she is forced to stand by  and watch all of her dreams evaporate.  When she tries to tow the line and follow President Snow’s demands, she only makes things worse.  Her realization that, no matter what she does, the people she loves will never be safe.  That’s when she finally digs in her heels and makes a stand – for herself, for Peeta, and for her family. 

Despite a slow beginning, Catching Fire lives up to its name. This book burns with political intrigue and personal sacrifice.  Katniss, Peeta, and all of the supporting characters are brave and willing to give up their lives for what they believe in.  It is hard to not get caught up in their conflict, to not care about whether or not they will live to see the end of the book.  I think I like Katniss so much because even when she knows that it’s futile to fight, she keeps on going.  She doesn’t know how to give up, and I really wish I could be more like her in that regard.  She doesn’t need the odds to be ever in her favor because she makes her own luck through the forcefulness of her personality. 

Okay, I have to run – I have a spanking new copy of Mockingjay to read!

Grade: A-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic

ISBN: 978-0439023528


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the other districts in line by forcing them to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death on live TV.

One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen are selected by lottery to play. The winner brings riches and favor tohis or her district. But that is nothing compared to what the Capitol wins: one more year of fearful compliance with its rule. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her impoverished district in the Games.

But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Acclaimed writer Suzanne Collins, author of the New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles, delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this stunning novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.


Wow is about all I can say about this book.  I have been avoiding it, mainly because of all of the hype about it.  I didn’t think it could ever live up to my expectations of it.  Not ever.  Then I recommended it to a friend because the series is complete (she only wanted to read a complete series),  and she loved it.  I sent my niece a copy, too, because she was on break from classes.  She read it, loved it, and quickly gobbled up the rest of the books.  Then, she threatened to spoil the ending of Mockingjay if I didn’t start reading them pronto.  Yikes!  That’s playing so dirty, and she knows it!  She wants to talk about the book, though, so I dutifully started reading, because she knows how much I hate spoilers, and I know she doesn’t make idle threats.  How could she do that to the nicest auntie in the world, a loving auntie who has sent her several Kindle books just because?

Because everyone in the blogosphere but me has already read the book, I’ll keep this brief and spoiler free, and I will only touch on a few of the elements that I enjoyed about it.  First, I loved the setting.  There is something about a dystopian novel that never fails to draw me in and hold me enraptured.  Katniss lives in the ruins of North America, in District 12, and every day is a struggle to find enough food to keep her mother and younger sister from starving.  Katniss is a crack shot with a bow, and it’s been her job since her father’s death in a mining accident to keep her family fed.  Survival is something that Katniss excels at, and as her hunting and foraging skills improve, life becomes a little easier.  They will never have quite enough, but the dark days of eminent starvation seem to be in the past.

When she is forced to enter the Hunger Games, an annual televised event hosted by the Capital, Katniss finds herself at the threshold of death once again.  The Hunger Games pit “tributes” from each district against each other, in a brutal battle to the death.  Only one victor is allowed to live, and the prize is one worth dying for: food for your family and your district.  Refusing to participate isn’t an option, and everyone in Panem is required to watch the combat play out on TV.  Think that would intimidate the populace and keep them towing the line?  You betcha!

Katniss’ narrative kept me totally engaged in this story.  I find the concept a bit repulsive, and I think another reason I was avoiding the book was because I was afraid that the fighting would be sensationalized, graphic, and brutal.  That’s not what this is about, though.  It’s about one young girl and her unwavering desire to live.  She made a promise to her sister to try her hardest to survive, and she is going to keep her word.  Her spirit is what captivated me.  She hates the killing games, the constant threat of death eats away at her, and she can’t trust anyone.  Everyone in the arena is out for the same thing – to live, to survive, to go back home.

If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s the characters that give this book life, and the whole concept of the games and the structure of Katniss’ cold and unyielding world are fascinating.  I want to learn more about them.  The tension is sky high, too, and guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat, from beginning to end.  That’s a difficult task to accomplish, but Suzanne Collins manages it with ease.  I wonder if the other two installments are as good? 

Grade: A

Review copy purchased from Amazon