Win Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black!

 

Thanks to Bloomsbury USA, I have a copy of Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black to give to one of you! Just fill out the widget below for your chance to score a copy of the book.  US addresses only, please.

About the book:

Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you’re close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner’s heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .
Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister’s shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . .
Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed…

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Cover Shot! A Most Dangerous Deception by Sarah Zettel

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?

A Most Dangerous Deception by Sarah Zettel looks awesome!  Court intrigue, murder, and romance.  Who could ask for more?  I love historical settings, and wish more YA books had them, so A Most Dangerous Deception is high on my wish list.

In stores November 2013

    

 

A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don’t.

Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she’s impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love . . . History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut.

Review: Confidence Tricks by Tamara Morgan

 

 

 

Title: Confidence Tricks

Author: Tamara Morgan

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Asprey Charles has always assumed he would one day take his place in the family art appraisal and insurance firm. “His place” meaning he plans to continue to enjoy his playboy lifestyle, lavish money on his Cessna, and shirk every responsibility that dares come his way.

But when a life of crime is thrust upon him, he is just as happy to slip on a mask and cape and play a highwayman rogue. After all, life is one big game—and he excels at playing.

Poppy Donovan vows that her recent release from jail will be her last—no more crime, no more cons. But when she learns that her grandmother lost her savings to a low-life financial advisor, she’s forced to do just one more job.

It’s all going smoothly until the necklace she intends to pawn to fund her con is stolen by a handsome, mocking, white-collar thief. A thief who, it turns out, could take a whole lot more than money. If she’s not careful, this blue blood with no business on her side of the tracks could run off with the last thing she can afford to lose. Her heart.

Warning: This book contains masked crusaders, a remorseless con woman, and plans to boost a ten-million-dollar painting. Expect high speeds and fast hands.


Review:

Confidence Tricks is a fun, fast-paced romance with a likable ex-con protagonist.  I loved Poppy.  She is different from most romance heroines, and she’s brutally honest about her prospects for the future.  After she falls for rich guy Asprey, she understands the reality of their relationship, as in, there can’t be one.  How can a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, who has never wanted for anything, understand that a future with Poppy, a poor girl who has been living on the edge for years, is out of the question?  It was the difference in their social status that really attracted me to this story, and by the end of the book, I was convinced that Poppy and Asprey would find their HEA.  It wouldn’t be easy, but, dang, they deserved to be happy!  Together!

The story starts out with Asprey completely at Poppy’s mercy.  She’s got a stiletto heel jabbed against his throat, and she’s not afraid to use it!  She’s already dislocated his shoulder, and she’s not going to hesitate to inflict more bodily harm.  How dare he interfere with her mark?  She has been hanging around with slimeball Todd for weeks, all in an effort to steal back the money he stole from her grandmother.  How dare these amateur thieves try to steal her thunder.

I enjoyed the power imbalance between Poppy and Asprey.  She is hard as nails and can open a can of whoop ass on him without even thinking about it.  Asprey, on the other hand, is like a genteel Robin Hood, stealing back jewelry and art from their owners so they can collect on insurance policies.  Why? Because everything that he and his older brother are stealing are fakes.  Oops!  The cons are very convoluted in Confidence Tricks, and there were several times when I had to throw away everything I thought I knew was going on, because Tamara Morgan had me totally bamboozled.  Clueless.  It was fun watching as the web of deception unraveled, leaving the characters second guessing themselves. 

I was entertained by Asprey and Poppy’s unusual courtship.  They try to steal an espresso machine in a bet for answers to the burning questions they have for each other. They don’t quite trust each other, but as they are thrown from one dangerous adventure to the next, they find that they don’t have anyone else to rely on but each other.  When Poppy’s less than shining history is finally revealed, Asprey doesn’t seem phased at all.  He can put her past mistakes in the past where they belong, though he constantly questions why she would act as she did by turning herself in.  The romance is hot and flares quickly out of control, and I thought that the two made a great couple.  Even better, Asprey’s older brother is disapproving and trying to find ways to drive the two apart.  Stupid brothers!

I did think that the action lagged during the poker games.  Poppy and Asprey just can’t compete with Paul Newman and Robert Redford; I don’t think any characters could.  How do you pull off a better sting than those guys?  I don’t think you can, so these scenes didn’t work for me.  The rest of the cons did, though, and I was caught up in the rest of the intrigue and suspense.  And again, I loved the stark contrast between Poppy and Asprey’s backgrounds.

If you enjoy suspense, danger, and cons in your romance, I think you will like Confidence Tricks.  Not sure? Check back later today for the opportunity to win a copy for yourself.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by author

Interview with Anya Wylde, Author of The Wicked Wager

 

Anya Wylde, author of The Wicked Wager, dropped by the virtual offices for a chat.  Please give her a warm welcome.

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

[Anya Wylde] I live in Ireland along with my husband and pet dog. I love dancing, reading, writing and cooking. I am scared of numbers … and spiders.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Wicked Wager?

[Anya Wylde] The Wicked Wager is a historical romance with a dash of mystery. It is a light hearted read in which a reformed rake, Lord Richard Hamilton, concocts a madcap scheme to speed up his wedding to Emma Grey. Unfortunately his plans start falling apart from the very beginning. Soon someone is murdered and his dreams of walking down the aisle turn into nightmares of dangling from the noose. 

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

[Anya Wylde] I thought of the plot late one night as I was falling asleep. I started laughing hysterically much to my husband’s alarm. I wrote down whatever I could remember of the plot the next morning. Thereafter, I worked out the details of the characters that best suited the plot.

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

[Anya Wylde] Rebellious, loyal and naughty.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Richard had a theme song, what would it be?

[Anya Wylde] It’s my life by Bon Jovi

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Richard’s bedroom?

[Anya Wylde] Hmm … I think Richard will no longer have any need for cheap tobacco, a false beard, or a spade.

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

[Anya Wylde] I adore poetry. I often read Neruda or Rosetti for inspiration. Children’s books,  fantasy novels and classics inspire me as well.

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

[Anya Wylde] Tea, a warm blanket, and a laptop.

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

[Anya Wylde] Love amongst chickens by PG Woodhouse.

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

[Anya Wylde] The Faraway tree by Enid Blyton.

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

[Anya Wylde] Cuddling my dog and spending time with my husband or sometimes the other way around.

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

[Anya Wylde] They can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Goodreads.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order The Wicked Wager by clicking the widget below. There will be a special promotion on Amazon from November 1st – 5th, and ‘The Wicked Wager will be FREE to download.

Interview with Sean Cummings, Author of Poltergeeks

Sean Cummings dropped by the virtual offices to chat about his new release, Poltergeeks. Check out what he has to say!

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

[Sean Cummings] Middle-aged introvert with obsessive compulsive tendencies. Life long cat person who is morphing into the crazy old man on your street.

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

[Sean Cummings] Poltergeeks is book with a strong female protagonist who is snarky, fearless, loyal to those closest to her and who is desperate to prove herself to her over protective mother. It’s a book that is brooding vampire-free where there are romantic elements that differ from a lot of the love triangle formula you see in many young adult books these days. Julie and her best friend Marcus are quintessential geeks (Marcus, more so) who are quite happy about their social standing and comfortable in their own skin. There’s a bit of high school in the book but most of the story takes place on the streets of my hometown of Calgary. The reader is introduced to some very eccentric characters and Betty Priddy tops the list – she’s a blast to write about and the fact that she’s an immortal spirit who steals bodies at death’s door so she can manifest in the mortal plane creates a couple of interesting choices by which she pops into Julie’s life. This is a fun and funny story that gets very dark, very quickly. It’s non-stop action because the clock is ticking for Julie if she plans to save her mother’s life.

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

[Sean Cummings] The book started with the title, actually. The word POLTERGEEKS just popped into my head and I started jotting down ideas. Given that it’s been nearly thirty years since I was in high school I took a gamble when I decided to write something aimed at young adults and I wanted to make the characters as genuine as possible. So there’s mother-daughter angst. There’s a protagonist who wants very much to prove herself. There’s a missing piece to my protagonist’s life in that her father died when she was very young. All of this started to gel once I sat down and worked on an outline and the actual plot took shape very quickly once I sat down with a sheet of paper and a pencil. I wanted to write something different than a lot of urban fantasy featuring teenagers, so I adopted a mindset very quickly that my characters, though low on the social scale at school should still be quite comfortable with their standing in life. In Julie you have the hero’s journey. In Marcus, you have the Watson to Julie’s Sherlock Holmes.

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

[Sean Cummings] Feisty. Fearless. Irresponsible at times. Grounded in her friendships. Extremely loyal. Extremely self-sufficient. Comfortable in her own skin. She’s also a very, very powerful witch – more so than other witches her age. And finally, she’s snarky. A good female protagonist in an urban fantasy needs to be snarky, and Julie’s level of snark jumps right off the page.

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

[Sean Cummings] That’s a good question. He would never have car keys in his pocket because he’s all about saving the planet. He wouldn’t have a Starbucks gift card because he hates evil corporate entities save for McDonald’s. He wouldn’t carry lip balm unless he’s analyzed its chemical components first.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Julie’s single most prized possession?

[Sean Cummings] The faint, wispy memories of her late father who died when she was four. He’s the missing piece in her life – his non-presence has shaped the person that she’s becoming. His legacy is coming back to haunt her in a very dark and dangerous way.

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

[Sean Cummings] Comic books top the list. Anything written by Alan Moore because he re-imagined what a comic book can possibly be with Watchmen. Stephen King, obviously, but also authors like Robert R. McCammon, John Saul and Simon R. Green. Believe it or not, Buffy didn’t influence me, though I did enjoy the show immensely.

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

[Sean Cummings] 1) Silence. I need absolute silence. 2) Coffee. I need that kick start first thing in the morning. 3) Early morning. I can’t write after twelve in the afternoon. I’m a morning person and my creative juices are always flowing when I’ve crawled out of bed to begin pounding away at the keyboard.

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

[Sean Cummings] The one that stands out the most is BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig. I believe that in Miriam Black, Wendig has completely re-written the rules for what’s possible in dark fantasy with a strong female protagonist. Like, completely and utterly demolished them. No, I’m serious. He hopped his ass into a Sherman Tank and bloody well smashed through them with his main cannon firing. Miriam Black is unbelievably damaged goods – she touches your skin, she sees your death. BOOM! How can that NOT mess your mind up? How can you NOT smoke a three packs of cigarettes a day or guzzle whiskey to numb everything. It’s gritty, frightening and at times downright hilarious. This is the first book in a long time where I don’t have a bloody clue the direction the main character is going to go because Miriam doesn’t really have a clue where her life is leading her either. BLACKBIRDS is the best book of the year – hand’s down. I expect you’re going to see a lot of authors writing books with similar style characters because they’ve been influenced by Wendig’s writing. God knows, I have.

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

[Sean Cummings] Oh that’s easy. WHEN THE WIND BLOWS by John Saul. It’s the first "adult" book I ever read and the irony is that its main characters are children. All of Saul’s books deal with themes that can resonate with someone writing young adult. The setting is always a small town where everyone knows each other. There’s always something dark and terrible in that house two blocks away from your house. There’s always something evil lurking in the shadows and it usually revolves around young people.

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

[Sean Cummings] I’m a massive English football fan. Love love love the game! So I watch it on the dish Saturday and Sunday mornings at an obscenely early hour when I should be writing. I like to hang out with my son. I read, obviously. I watch a lot of science fiction and fantasy with the better half. I basically immerse myself in being a happy middle aged man who lives in a nice neighborhood (finally).

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

[Sean Cummings] I’m on Twitter (saskatoonauthor). My website is sean-cummings.ca. I’m on Facebook. My email is info AT sean DASH cummings DOT ca.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Poltergeeks from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below

Waiting on Wednesday–Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore

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 the title for Stephen Blackmoore’s February release – Dead Things just sounds so cool!

In stores February 2013

 

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it’s a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left L.A. fifteen years ago he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter’s going to find out who did it and he’s going to make them pay.

As long as they don’t kill him first.

What are you waiting on?

Interview with Susan Vaught, Author of Freaks Like Us

 

Susan Vaught’s latest release, Freaks Like Us, recently hit store shelves.  Susan stopped by the virtual offices for a chat.  Check out what she has to say!

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

[Susan Vaught] Long hair, pacifist, likes chocolate, reads a lot, has parrot, too many dogs, three cats, loves writing, likes football, works in an asylum.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you tell us a little about Freaks Like Us?

[Susan Vaught] Freaks Like Us is a fast-paced mystery, with most of the story taking place in the 24 hours after Jason Milwaukee’s best friend and sort-of girlfriend disappears. To find her, Jason has to battle his mental illness, his self-doubt, and prejudice from other people involved in the search.

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

[Susan Vaught] I have been wanting to write through the eyes and voice of a character with schizophrenia for many years, but it took me a long time to develop just the right personality so readers could relate to Jason. The other characters came more naturally, and they all contend with issues I have either faced in my own life/family, or treated in my years of practice as a psychologist. The mystery element of the story unfolded as the story moved along, surprising me at the end of the first chapter!

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

[Susan Vaught] Brave, Loving, Determined

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What three things will Jason leave the house without?

[Susan Vaught] Three things he wouldn’t leave the house without would be Sunshine’s locket, his house key, and Agent Mercer’s private telephone number. If it’s really supposed to be what he WOULD leave the house without, then the answer would be . . . just about everything else. Jason can get pretty distracted and forgetful. Lunch money, his phone, his homework—all of that might get accidentally abandoned on any given day.

[ED – oops, yes it was a typo.  Thank you for the wonderful answer Smile]

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  If Jason had a theme song, what would it be?

[Susan Vaught] Possibility, by Lykke Li. I think the haunting sound and the words/emotions have real meaning for him.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What is Jason’s most prized possession?

[Susan Vaught] Sunshine’s gold locket. It means more to him than anything other than Sunshine herself.

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

[Susan Vaught] Life, music, and other people’s brilliant art. Whenever I read a great book, hear a wonderful song, look at an amazing painting or sculpture, watch a good film, or encounter good art in any other format, it inspires me to make more of my own—not copy what I experienced or encountered, but try to come up with something brilliant, beautiful, and lasting, to pass on that gift of inspiration.

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

[Susan Vaught] A clean house or writing cabin, no distractions, and the exact right song. I absolutely cannot write without good music.

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

[Susan Vaught] Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. I reviewed it on my website. I love the originality of the writing, and the flesh-and-blood feel of the characters…even those that don’t exactly have flesh and blood.

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

[Susan Vaught] John Christopher’s Tripod series. The first book in the series was The White Mountains. I remember falling deeply into that world, into the struggles of those characters. I believe it was the first set of books I read where kids were in real jeopardy, and made a difference.

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

[Susan Vaught] When I’m not writing, I’m usually working. My day job is at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. I also help tend the many birds and animals on our farm. What I’d like to do—ha. Be at the beach!

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

[Susan Vaught] Through my website, at www.susanvaught.com . I enjoy hearing from my readers!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

You can purchase Freaks Like Us from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

Review: Shift by Kim Curran

Title:  Shift (Strange Chemistry)

Author:  Kim Curran

Publisher:

Shift (Strange Chemistry) DIGITAL

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.


Review:

When I discovered that Angry Robot Books would be launching a YA imprint, I was excited to check out the Strange Chemistry line.  Every book under this imprint looks good.  I don’t think there can ever be enough books released with fantasy or sci-fi elements, so I was eager to start digging into the launch titles for Strange Chemistry.    First up for me is Shift; I found this one intriguing because protagonist Scott learns that he is a Shifter, and that he can undo decisions he’s made if they turn out to be bad ones.  It’s like having a non-expiring do-over card, except for those occasional unpleasant consequences.   Yes, you knew there would be consequences for using a power that cool, and after seeing the heartbreaking handiwork of one of his Shifts, he decides that maybe it’s not such a great ability after all. 

I thought the pacing for Shift was great.  I powered quickly through this book, and once I got a few chapters in, I didn’t want to put it down.  I wanted to learn more about Scott’s ability and the world he lived in.  This is a great blend of super-hero comic with equal parts futuristic thriller and murder mystery tossed in for good measure.  There were even a few pages that completely freaked me out and got my heart pounding in fear as Scott got himself into some horrific and scary situations.  For a kid who has no idea what he’s doing, he sure manages to get himself into so much trouble!  Life-threatening trouble, too!  I still can’t believe that he made it to the last page relatively unscathed.  That just proves that luck is just as important as mondo-powerful supernatural abilities.

Scott discovers that he has the power to undo decisions he’s made quite by accident.  He is showing off in front of a bunch of his classmates, and his uncharacteristic flash of bravado is just about to get him killed.  Until he wishes with everything he has that he hadn’t decided to act like a moron.  He’s never been cool, and he never will be cool, even if he completes the dare, so he wonders why he even bothered.  Being a pancake after falling from a utility pole just doesn’t seem worth it.  He regrets that he wanted to impress a pretty girl he’s never seen before, and now it looks like it’s going to be the death of him. 

I loved Scott.  He’s self-depreciating, and once he started getting over himself, he is a fun character.  Thrown into circumstances far beyond his control, he finally starts coming into his own.  As he begins to understand the consequences of  both doing and un-doing his decisions, he begins to accept some the less favorable choices he’s made.  He can no longer blame others for his poor judgment, and that helps to give him the kick in the pants he needs to start growing up.  People can live or die by his actions, and there is no blaming anyone else when he messes up.  Instead, he has to put on his big-boy pants and fix the chaos he’s caused.  He needs to risk himself to save his friends from the harm he has caused them, and this time, a simple shift isn’t going to cut it.  For a big nerd, Scott’s take charge attitude impressed me, and his determined charge to the end of the book kept me completely engaged in the story.

I had some quibbles with Shift, but they weren’t enough to ruin the book for me.  Many of the secondary characters are one-dimensional and yawn inducing stereotypes.  I would have liked more depth to all of the secondary characters.  Overall, though, this is a fun read, and it got me geeked to read more releases from Strange Chemistry.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher