Review: Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile by Bianca Turetsky

The Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I enjoyed Louise’s first adventures as a Time-Traveling Fashionista, so when I was offered the opportunity to revisit  her, I jumped at the chance.  This is the third book in the series, and this time, Louise is going to Ancient Egypt!  How could I possibly resist?

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Review: Would Be Witch by Kimberly Frost

Would-Be Witch (A Southern Witch Novel)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In the small town of Duvall, Texas, the only thing that causes more trouble than gossip is magic.

The family magic seems to have skipped over Tammy Jo Trask. All she gets in the way of the supernatural are a few untimely visits from the long-dead, smart-mouthed family ghost Edie. But when her locket—an heirloom that happens to hold Edie’s soul—is stolen in the midst of a town-wide crime spree, it’s time for Tammy to find her inner witch.

After a few bad experiences with her magic, Tammy turns to the only one who can help: the very rich and highly magical Bryn Lyons. He might have all the answers, but the locket isn’t the only thing passed down in Tammy’s family. She also inherited a warning…to stay away from anyone named Lyons

Review:

Would Be Witch is a very fun read.  I’m surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did because a love triangle, something that doesn’t usually work for me, is central to the plot.  I thought it was well done, and I could see Tammy Jo being conflicted over Bryn and Zach.  Bryn is new, off-limits, and dangerous, while Zach, her ex-husband, has been a steady anchor her entire life.  Marrying young, she quickly discovered that being his wife was a lot less romantic than being his girlfriend, so she filed for divorce, over his objections.  Their relationship is a hot mess, just like the rest of Tammy Jo’s life.  Maybe I liked the story so much because Tammy Jo is propelled from one crazy adventure to another, with hardly a moment to catch her breath. 

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Cover Reveal – Alchemy by Sheena Boekweg, Melanie Crouse, and Sabrina West

I have a cover reveal this morning, thanks to GCReading Book Tours.   The premise of magical infection sounds interesting. Does anyone have this on their TBR mountain?

 
"Do you want me to be dangerous?" he asked, his voice husky and low.
I gulped, and for a moment I was incapable of speech. But he was quiet, waiting. "No. I don’t."
"Then I’m not dangerous at all," he murmured. His gaze moved from my eyes to my mouth. "You’ve never been safer than you are at this moment." I shivered as his breath tickled my skin. Our lips were mere millimeters apart when the sky shattered in a kaleidoscope of colored light.


We didn’t know how much we had to lose until we were infected with magic. Sam was in love, Juliette was the main caretaker for her siblings, and Ana and her dad planned the best parties in New York. But we lost it all when we were shipped to Chebeague, an exclusive school for newly infected mages.

Everyone knows about the mages, those who survive the infection and end up with magical abilities. We’ve seen the power of magic, the high-paying jobs, and the world fame. But we never saw the cost. We didn’t know we’d be forced to give up everything: sanity, family, even the right to talk on the phone.

We didn’t know mage was just another word for prisoner.

 
 

Blog Tour – Review: Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler

Welcome to my stop on Diane Zahler’s blog tour for her newly released Middle Grade fantasy Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters.  I’m excited to be part of this tour because I love Diane’s books!  I’ve read almost all of them, and they have all captivated me with her twists on familiar fairy tales.  As the title of Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters suggests, this is an alternate version of Sleeping Beauty that chronicles the adventures of Sleeping Beauty’s daughters. They are 12 and 9, and don’t understand why they live such an isolated existence.  There are no sharp knives or scissors, or anything with a pointy end to be found anywhere in the castle. All food is sent from the local village in bite sized pieces.  Their father heads to the village to get his hair cut, and the castle guards don’t even have weapons (maybe they have mallets to fight off possible threats of attack?). 

After Luna accidentally cuts herself, giving their emotionally fragile mother quite a fright, they learn about their mother’s history.  She was cursed as a baby, and after being pricked on the finger, she fell into a deep, deep sleep that lasted one hundred years.  Their father awakened her with a kiss, and when the evil fairy Manon discovered that they were living their happy ever after, she cursed them again.  This time, it would be one of their daughters that would fall into a deep, deep slumber, only when she woke up, everyone she knew and loved would be dead and gone.  That’s really scary!  It would terrify me to find myself completely alone, so I could easily imagine how terrifying that thought was to Luna and Aurora.  When Aurora pricks her finger due to Luna’s carelessness, it becomes a desperate race to find their fairy godmother before Aurora takes a really, really long nap.

As in every Diane Zahler book, the characters made the story for me.  They are young and have little practical world experience, yet they rally together to accomplish great things.  Luna is stubborn and bold, while Aurora is more timid and hesitant to face new challenges.  Her idea of a good time, like mine, is curling up in the library with a good book.  The curse and the threat of sleeping for a century get them both moving to find a cure, and with the help of an orphan fisherman, they head off into danger.  Each adds strength to their group, and without all three working together, they would fail at their task.  They all grow and gain confidence as they face one frightening challenge after another.  They aren’t content to just sit around and wait for an adult to solve their problems; nope, they dive right into action, determined to find a way to reverse the terrible curse that’s been placed on Aurora. 

The other thing I love about these books is that the girls don’t take a backseat to the boys.  They are every bit as brave, strong, and courageous as the guys.  Probably more so, because the girls are the ones to get things moving in the first place.  I like that they wait to be rescued; they take control of their own destiny and try to figure things out for themselves.

Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters is very fast-paced, as the sisters race against time to save Aurora from her terrible fate.  Along the way they learn to embrace both the good and bad in each other.  They also make friendships that will last a lifetime, and face terrors beyond their imagining.  Through all of their adventures, they discover a new appreciation for each other, and the courage to overcome any obstacle – together.

So…did I like it?  You bet!  4.5 / 5 stars! 

 

About the book:

The classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty is transformed into a dazzling new story of two sisters fighting a powerful curse by Diane Zahler, the acclaimed author of The Thirteenth Princess. Briskly paced and full of lush descriptions, readers who enjoy the work of Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine will be swept away by this spellbinding novel.
The daughters of Sleeping Beauty, Princesses Aurora and Luna, have grown up in a cliff-top palace by the sea, where they are carefully protected by their parents. No one visits, the girls cannot stray beyond the castle walls, and all sharp objects are forbidden here.
But accidents will happen—particularly when an old curse still has power. Soon, in spite of all precautions, Aurora is struggling not to slip into an enchanted sleep.
Frantic, the princesses accept the help of a young fisherman named Symon and embark on a daring ocean voyage to find their aunt—a fairy who may be able to break the spell. From fearsome beasts to raging storms, many dangers befall them, yet they must not give up . . . for if Aurora sleeps, she will not wake for one hundred years.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:

August 27: www.theresabook.com

August 28: www.bookalicious.org

August 30: http://www.iceybooks.com/

August 31: www.greenbeanteenqueen.com

September 1: http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/search?q=zahler

You can learn more about Diane by visiting:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Cover Shot! Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

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?

Oh, look!  Sherry Thomas has written a YA fantasy!  Everyone raves about her historical romances, and while I have a few on my TBR, I haven’t had a chance to read any of them yet.  The Burning Sky looks to be right up my alley, and I hope I can get to it sooner than later.  Love the cover, too!

In stores September 2013

 

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Interview with Merrie Haskell, Author of Handbook for Dragon Slayers

Merrie Haskell dropped by the virtual offices this morning to chat up her latest MG release Handbook for Dragon Slayers.  Check out what she has to say about it.

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

@merriehaskell: author, library paraprofessional; obsessed with herbs, blacksmithing, office supplies, alternate universes, anthropology

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Handbook for Dragon Slayers?

[Merrie Haskell] It’s a 12th century adventure story that takes place along the Rhine, in which a runaway princess with a clubfoot who joins forces with two dragon slayers-in-training; she runs into the Wild Hunt, an evil knight, and several dragons along the way.

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

[Merrie Haskell] The broadest part of the concept, a girl who writes a handbook for dragon slayers, actually came to me in drips and drabs over the years.  In college, for a history class, I had to read a wonderful book called A Handbook for William, which was a 9th century German woman’s advice for living at court for her son.  The concept of medieval handbooks actually became a bit of an obsession for me at that point.  How on earth do you make something like that exciting in a fiction book, though? Many years later, I ran across the concept of book curses–notices put at the beginning of books that promised dire consequences for book thieves (explored in an interesting book called Anathema: Medieval scribes and the history of book curses).  I’m not entirely sure when dragons wormed their way in there, other than dragons are so much fun.  When I learned Old English in college, the Anglo-Saxons were sort of obsessed with dragons–it was a big insult to call someone a dragon, because you were a hoarder of gold and treasure, the opposite of what a noble and valiant Anglo-Saxon should be.  Being a giver was important–a ring giver, a bread giver.  It’s so the opposite of how we look at dragons now.  So, these three concepts sort of came together, and I found myself scratching out a book curse:

Whosoever steals this book

shall burn in the

fiery conflagration of a DRAGON’S BREATH

and will ALSO LOSE THEIR NOSE

TO PUTREFACTION.

It is advised, therefore,

that you take your nose home intact,

and leave this handbook

for the study of proper DRAGON SLAYERS

It suddenly seemed very clear to me, that a handbook could be very interesting if it were for dragon slayers.

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

[Merrie Haskell] This is actually something I do while I write: have the main characters and their key character traits written on post-its along my monitor.  Tilda’s said: RESILIENT. 

I would also add either "Dutiful/Rebellious" — this is her main conflict in the book, as she is duty-driven but rebelling against that.

And finally–"Intelligent."

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

[Merrie Haskell] Great question!  I would say it’s probably "Good Life" by OneRepublic.  That song just reeks of Parz–a sort of easy happiness and optimism, combined with the joy of adventure and travel.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Judith is never without.

[Merrie Haskell] A personal knife to use for eating.  You always had to bring your own knife to dinner in the Middle Ages.

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

[Merrie Haskell] Well, since she lived in an era in which pockets didn’t exist, this list is sort of endless!  But she has a few pouches and purses and things like that, so I’ll say she’d never carry embroidery needles, thread, or any sort of thimble.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Judith’s greatest regret?

[Merrie Haskell] Judith loves animals, especially baby animals; she comes to regret being a dragon slayer pretty quickly when she realizes that baby dragons are affected!  Otherwise, though, she is not a girl who holds herself back except when prudence demands, so she doesn’t have too terribly many regrets.

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

[Merrie Haskell] I would say learning has the biggest influence on my creativity.  When I’m learning new things, I almost can’t stop the flow of story and character ideas–it just rains down.  The most perfect example of this was recently when I started to learn blacksmithing–knowing that I wanted to write about a blacksmith, of course.  I started seeing the world in the colors of heated metal. I would drive over bridges and think about the wealth of rebar embedded in the concrete beneath me.  I was on a long plane flight with a copy of The Art of Blacksmithing and started to read–in 30 seconds, I had a notebook open next to me as I scribbled scene idea after scene idea, just from reading about the details of the things I had learned in a more hands-on setting.  I think that’s my most perfect learning experience, doing followed up by theory. I am similarly stimulated when I travel or learn languages. I love going to a place and then reading about it in detail.  It feels backward–wouldn’t it be better to learn before you go somewhere?–but I think that gives me preconceptions that aren’t helpful for the stimulation of creativity.

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

[Merrie Haskell] A reasonable night of sleep behind me, a writing tool (pen & paper or computer), and ideally, a notebook or a stack of notecards so I can document the things I don’t want to include in the manuscript.  I have been a creature of ritual and habit from time to time, but so often these things get in my way.  Deadlines which are attached to money have a way of clearing a lot of mental fluff from your process, I’ve found.  I occasionally worry that my process is still too dependent on peripheries (really, a computer AND a notebook?), but whenever I forget the notebook, the process suffers, so I think I really do need it. Jotting notes to myself on the computer helps me very little; the notes just get lost in the shuffle. Having that other thing to look at on the desk beside me while my book is still up on the screen is great. And if I need the physical act of writing with a pen to get me out of my typing-mode brain, it’s right there.

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

[Merrie Haskell] I couldn’t put down WHEN WE WAKE by Karen Healey, which is about a girl that wakes up from a cryogenic sleep a hundred years after she died and has to deal with all the grief and loss of her old world.  I read most of it during my time on the elliptical trainer at the gym, and it’s incredibly awkward to be brought to tears on an elliptical machine. Other people tend to think you’re having an asthma attack or… who knows.  "Sorry, I’m just reading a very affecting book, go back to your treadmill!"

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

[Merrie Haskell] Without a question, it was Little House on the Prairie.  I was starting to read a lot already, but when I got that for Christmas in first grade, and it seemed like such a *large* and important book and then I read it all, all by myself, I not only realized how much I enjoyed reading, but I felt smart and capable (no one else was reading books that big in my first grade class).  The escape of reading and the increase to my self-worth? A combination impossible to escape.

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

[Merrie Haskell] I like to read, of course.  I was a huge YA reader when I was a young adult, and never stopped reading YA along the way. I like TV–my Tumblr is pretty much reblogged gif sets from sitcoms and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and not much else.  Oh, and Revenge.  I dabble in a variety of hobbies, like the aforementioned blacksmithing, gardening, calligraphy, drawing…  

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

[Merrie Haskell] I have a Facebook page, but most of the action is on Twitter (@merriehaskell) and my blog (blog.merriehaskell.com).  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Handbook for Dragon Slayers and The Princess Curse from your favorite bookseller or buy clicking the links below:

About the book:

When a runaway princess throws her lot in with a couple of would-be dragon slayers, before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending enchanted horses, battling fire-breathing dragons, and learning more about herself than she ever expected…

About the author

Merrie Haskell grew up half in North Carolina, half in Michigan. She wrote her first story at age seven, and she walked dogs after school to save for her first typewriter. She attended the University of Michigan, where she graduated from the Residential College with a degree in biological anthropology. She works in a library with over 7.5 million volumes.

Her first book, the Middle Grade historical fantasy The Princess Curse, was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second book is Handbook for Dragon Slayers.  Her short fiction appears in Nature, Asimov’s, and various anthologies. Merrie lives in Saline, Michigan.

Waiting on Wednesday – Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler

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

I adore Diane Zahler’s fairytale retellings, so I had a major geek out when I saw the cover for her next release.  So pretty!  So magical!!  So I must read you now!!  Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters will be in stores August 2013 – I can’t wait!

 

 

Princesses Aurora and Luna have grown up in a cliff-top palace by the sea, where they are carefully protected by their parents, the king and queen. No one visits, the girls cannot stray beyond the castle walls, and, curiously, all sharp objects are forbidden from the castle.

But accidents will happen—particularly when an old curse still has power. Soon, in spite of all precautions, Aurora is struggling not to slip into an enchanted sleep.

Frantic, the princesses accept the help of a young fisherman named Symon and embark on a daring ocean voyage to find their aunt—a fairy who may be able to break the spell. From fearsome beasts to raging storms, many dangers befall them, yet they must not give up…for if Aurora sleeps, she will not wake for one hundred years.

 

What are you waiting on?

Review: Dweller on the Threshold by Rinda Elliot

 

Title:  Dweller on the Threshold

Author:  Rinda Elliott

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

On a hunt to save her sister, the last thing Beri O’Dell needs is love. Aren’t demons bad enough?

Beri O’Dell is investigating paranormal creatures because she wants to know what she is. Taller and stronger than most men, she astral projects and can peel through dimensional layers to see the creatures and spirits beyond.he once helped her foster sister, Detective Elsa Remington, track down killers in Jacksonville, Florida, but stopped when a nasty fire elemental turned her strength against her. Now, she finds herself pulled back when something steals Elsa’s soul and puts her into a coma.

With little time to spare, Beri searches for the reason behind her sister’s coma. She has help in her spirit guides Fred and Phro, but others come along for the ride, including a pyro-nervous witch, and an androgynous necromancer.

The last thing Beri needs is to fall in love with a mysterious stranger. But the handsome Minoan warrior Nikolos knows what creature she’s after because he’s battled it before.
It’s bad.

Really, really bad.

He calls it the Dweller on the Threshold.

Warning:
Contains a worried heroine with no time, a witch with fire problems, a pissed-off necromancer, a trapped goddess, and a damned sexy, but scary, warrior. Throw in bloody battles, mass-murderer history lessons and a bit of sexy time and you get the start of Beri’s new life.


Review:

After my success with Erica Hayes Redemption, I decided to dive into another Paranormal/UF book.  Dweller on the Threshold looked like an interesting blend of creepy and magical, and it was.  The romance is kept on the back burner, and instead the focus is on finding and taking down the dreaded Dweller on the Threshold.  There are people dropping like flies as their souls are sucked out of their bodies, demon battles galore, and an ancient Minoan warrior who possesses both brawn and good-looks.  I liked the Greek mythology that was incorporated into the story, as well as the concept of guardians, ghostly protectors who watch over their charges, usually invisible and undetected for normal people.  Beri, the protagonist, isn’t normal.

I found Beri an interesting protagonist.  She knows that she’s different, but she doesn’t know why.  She can see her guardians – the serious Fred, who was killed in a fire when he was on the cusp of manhood, and Phro, who claims to be the Goddess of Love.  Yes, that Goddess of Love.  Beri wonders what motivates both of them to stay with her, especially the beautiful Phro.  Surely she has better things to do than follow a towering, streaky haired freak of a woman around year after year.  I am still wondering what Fred’s deal is, because it’s obvious there is more to him being with Beri than meets the eye.  Maybe we’ll find out what’s going on with him in the next book of the series?  Where does he keep disappearing to, and can he be completely trusted?  With so many dangers popping up to threaten her life, I believe these are questions that Beri needs to have answered  stat.

Beri has been searching for other answers for her entire life.  Who is she?  What is she?  After being bounced around from foster home to foster home, she’s developed a thick skin, and she prefers to keep others at a safe distance.  The only person she is close to is Elsa, whose parents took Beri in before weird things started happening and they became too terrified of her to keep her round.  Now, the two women consider themselves sisters, and when Elsa interrupts a paranormal hunting trip in the swamp, Beri is obligated to help her sister, a police detective, with the case she’s working on.  Even though things ended disastrously the last time she tried to help, and Beri ended up bathed in blood and detached body parts.  Ugh.

Back in the city, Beri learns that Elsa is in a coma, and things don’t look good.  When she can’t see Elsa’s soul, Beri knows that she has to figure out what she was working on.  As danger mounts, and more mysteries are revealed, Beri has no choice but to trust Blyth, a flaky witch, and Nikolas, an old, old being who is surrounded with the darkness of hundreds and hundreds of trapped souls.  And, oh, yeah, even though he’s older than dirt, he’s a handsome, hulking warrior, and Beri can’t help but be attracted to him and all of his secrets.

I loved Nicolas’ tragic past, and all of the references to Greek mythology.  While some of the world-building was confusing or non-existent, there was enough demon slaying and demon attacking action to distract me from most of my hang-ups about the world Beri resides in.  Just throw some magic, some ugly monsters, and a kick-ass heroine into the mix, and I’m a pretty happy camper.  The action and the quest to find  and defeat the Dweller drive this story, more so than the romance or any other element, and I didn’t mind one bit.  What did kind of bug me?  The non-ending! 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by author