Waiting on Wednesday–Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell

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

 

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…

 

What are you waiting on?

Interview with Claire M Caterer, Author of The Key and the Flame

Claire M Caterer is our special guest today.  Please welcome her to the virtual offices!  Claire is here to chat about her MG release, The Key and The Flame, which hits shelves in April.

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

[Claire M Caterer] I love great stories in all forms; music I can sing to; animals of all sizes; travel & nature. Mostly introverted, sometimes a showoff.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Key and the Flame?

[Claire M Caterer] Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard, who leads a very ho-hum kind of life, receives a strange gift from an elderly British caretaker. The gift is just an old iron key, but when Holly discovers an ancient tree that contains a keyhole, she finds that her key unlocks the portal to a medieval world of danger and magic. Along with her brother Ben and their new friend Everett, Holly travels there, and the kids find themselves locked in a battle for their lives as a ruthless king attempts to wipe out all the magic in the land. It’s the first in a five-part series, the second book of which will come out in summer 2014.

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

[Claire M Caterer] The forest is a magical place to me—huddled in its own ecosystem, cut off from the world, quiet and green. One day on one of my favorite walks, I came upon an incredible tree and thought, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a portal to somewhere fantastic and magical.” Holly as a character grew naturally out of the plot, because she is a person who can be very quiet in the natural world and listen for the things that other people miss. She shares some qualities with me, including her eyeglass prescription. I identify with Ben in other ways, particularly his allergy to horses.

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

[Claire M Caterer] outsider, adventurous, honorable

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

[Claire M Caterer] The best I can come up with is an old Cole Porter song—“Don’t Fence Me In.” Holly’s not a cowboy, but that is her ethic. She just wants to be free to be herself, not to be hobbled or tied down to convention.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Holly won’t leave home without.

[Claire M Caterer] Her compass. Holly needs to know where she’s going, and she trusts science and nature to get her there. It takes her quite awhile to trust her magic in the same way.

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

[Claire M Caterer] Her magic key. What this key opens, and what the key becomes, makes it her most prized possession. It is her power.

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

[Claire M Caterer] As a kid I read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I also loved Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, E. B. White, and Madeleine L’Engle. And there are so many others!

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

[Claire M Caterer] Ideally I need quiet, my cup of coffee, and my computer. While I can write longhand, I love the convenience of having the delete key! The coffee is more of a crutch than a tool. I like to have the cup next to me, but if I really get going it just sits there and gets cold. As for quiet, some noise is all right, but I absolutely cannot write if there’s music playing. I get caught up in the music and can’t get immersed in my imaginary world.

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

[Claire M Caterer] A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness—I read it last summer. I was able to crawl right inside that character and feel what he was feeling. The pencil drawings are exquisite—so evocative. I loved that marriage of illustration and text. The writing is sharp, beautiful, horrifying. And it made me cry, which most books don’t.

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

[Claire M Caterer] That’s tough, because I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. But there was a marvelous book that’s out of print now called The Hidden Cave by Ruth Chew, about some kids who found a cave in an old sewer pipe in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. In the cave they found Merlin the magician, who led them on some interesting magical adventures. Ruth Chew was a wonderful writer of short middle-grade fantastic fiction, and she drew her own illustrations, which I liked. I probably started reading her books in second grade and couldn’t get enough of them.

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

[Claire M Caterer] I read as much as I can. I don’t watch a lot of television but am very devoted to the shows I do watch, especially British comedy and drama. I also love going on outings with my daughter. We go to parks and nature trails and the arboretum and botanical gardens whenever we can. I like to wander.

I love to travel, but don’t do as much as I’d like. Otherwise, I’m home with my dogs. I crank up something like the soundtrack to Mamma Mia! and dance around the house.

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

[Claire M Caterer] I love talking with readers, and they can find me at my new-fangled website and blog, my Facebook and Twitter pages, and on Goodreads. They can also email me to ask questions or just to chat at readerchat [at] cmcaterer.com.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can pre-order The Key and the Flame from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the links below:

 

About the book:

Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard wants nothing more than to seek adventure outside of her humdrum American life. She gets her chance at last when her family travels to England and Holly receives an unusual gift: an iron key that unlocks a passage to the dangerous kingdom of Anglielle, where magic is outlawed and those who practice magic are hunted. When her friend Everett and brother Ben are captured by Anglielle’s ruthless king, Holly must rescue them. But that means finding—and using—the magic within herself and learning which magical allies she can trust.

The Key & the Flame is the first in a brand-new fantasy adventure series for ages 8 and up.

Interview with Gina Lamm, Author of The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl and Giveaway!

Please welcome Gina Lamm to the blog today!  She is celebrating the release of The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl, which blends video games, time travel, and blistering romance.  After the interview, enter for a chance to win a copy of the book!

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

[Gina Lamm] Gina Lamm is a writer, a gamer, a geek, and a kickass female. She does everything too passionately, and is trying her best to learn control.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl?

[Gina Lamm] I’d love to! Jamie, a modern-day gamer girl, gets ported through a mirror into 1816 London. She tries her best to adjust to the rigid rules, but it doesn’t always go well. Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has decided to settle down with a nice proper miss, but Jamie’s arrival in his home completely screws that up. Through misadventure, passion, and true love, Micah and Jamie find where they truly belong.

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

[Gina Lamm] I wrote what I liked! I’m a gamer and a Regency fan, and the contrast between the two really made me happy. I got to blend two of my favorite things!

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

[Gina Lamm] Independent, Clever, Passionate

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

[Gina Lamm] Something like the Moonlight Sonata, I think. Deep and strong, but full of feeling.

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

[Gina Lamm] Her cell phone. Even in 1816 England!

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

[Gina Lamm] A laptop, a light bulb, or a USB cable. :) Much to Jamie’s dismay, none of these things are available.

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

[Gina Lamm] Believing that her ex was the one. She wasted too much time on him.

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

[Gina Lamm] Books. When I fall into other people’s worlds it makes me remember why I do what I do.

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

[Gina Lamm] A screen, my fingers, and determination! :) I’m not picky other than that.

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

[Gina Lamm] Oddly, Mister Monday by Garth Nix. My brother recommended it, and I really loved it. It was odd and complex and weirdly wonderful.

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

[Gina Lamm] Oh gosh, I can’t remember that far back. I’ve been reading voraciously since I was a little kid!! But I do remember the first romance I fell in love with. Scarlet Butterfly by Sandra Chastain.

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

[Gina Lamm] Game! I play both PC and PS3 games. I love to read, to play with my two crazy dogs, to snuggle with my hubby, and go fishing with my family. My life is so full and wonderful, and I’m very lucky!

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

[Gina Lamm] Tweeting me is always good! I’m @GinaLamm. They can connect with me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/GinaLammAuthor, my website www.ginalamm.net , and Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5278879, too!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Giveway Time!!!

Ready for a chance to win The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl? Just fill out widget below. Earn extra entries by following. US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Didn’t win? You can order The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl from your favorite bookseller or clicking the links below:

 

About the book:

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher…

An avid gamer, Jamie Marten loves to escape into online adventure. But when she falls through an antique mirror into a lavish bedchamber—200 years in the past!—she realizes she may have escaped a little too far.

Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has just kicked one mistress out of his bed and isn’t looking to fill it with another—least of all this sassy, nearly naked woman who claims to be from the future. Yet something about her is undeniably enticing…

Jamie and Micah are worlds apart. He’s a peer of the realm. She can barely make rent. He’s horse-drawn. She’s Wi-Fi. But in the game of love, these two will risk everything to win.

Excerpt: The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl by Gina Lamm

 

Thanks to Sourcebooks, here’s an excerpt from The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl by Gina Lamm. 

 

EXCERPT:

Her sword glittered as it swung in a wide arc, whistling as it cleaved the air. She smiled as the goblin bolted.

“Jamie, I need heals.”

Ignoring the call for help, she advanced on another goblin. The tide was turning now. Her allies had almost annihilated the threat.

“Jamie?”

With a wild cry, she loosed a spell on the disgusting creature. It staggered backward before recovering and charging on her in a berserk rage, eyes wild and fangs extended. Her next swing missed, and she took a critical hit.

“Jamie, for chrissakes, we’re dying here!”

Some quick spellwork took care of the goblin, and Jamie reluctantly turned her attention back to her allies. Whoops. Three of the guild’s portraits were glaring red, signaling their imminent deaths.

“Hang on, guys. I’m here.”

Targeting the leader, she cast her most powerful healing spell. The computer screen flashed: OUT OF MANA.

“Eeep!”

She fumbled in her bags for her mana-restoring potions. She’d just managed to find one, clicking to activate it when the screen went gray. YOU HAVE DIED. RESURRECT NOW?

The guild’s groans sounded through her headset as she slumped back in her seat.

“Jamie, where the hell were you?”

“Worst. Healer. Ever.”

“I wouldn’t use your heals for a paper cut, Jamie. That was pathetic. Haven’t you ever run this level?”

She shoved her long highlighted brown hair over her shoulder, glaring at the computer screen. “Of course I have. I can heal this run in my sleep. I just got a little carried away with the mobs. It won’t happen again.”

Kurt, the guild leader, let out an audible sigh over the chat channel. “Fine. One more run. Everyone ready?”

Jamie readied her character’s potions and spell rotation. Typical. They figured since she was the only girl in the guild, she should be the healer. She didn’t mind healing, especially in the more difficult dungeons, but she wanted to do her part to take down the bad guys too. It wasn’t fair. Men never took her seriously. That’s why she played these games. It was supposed to be a level field. But the game, like her life, was rarely ever exactly what she thought it should be.

The Lords of Discord guild cleared the dungeon run easily that time, with Jamie focusing on healing alone. She picked at the chipping mauve polish on her fingernails between fights, only needing to keep half an eye on the large computer screen.

“Great job, Lords.” Kurt’s voice held a ton of relief as he divvied up the loot.

After securing her share of the rewards, Jamie said her good-byes to her guild-mates, logged out, and switched to her other character, Killaz. A hulking Amazon melee class in a chain-mail dress with a huge two-handed sword, Killaz was how Jamie saw herself in her mind’s eye—kick-ass, tough, and more than a little bit intimidating. As she cut a swath through the forest full of giant spiders, she wished that she was anything like that in real life. If I was as tough as Killaz, then that jerk Logan wouldn’t have broken my heart and walked all over me like a dollar store welcome mat.

After an hour of grinding out daily quests, a vibration in the front pocket of her shorts made her jump. Her groan echoed through her junky living room when she saw the text: “Go help Pawpaw Milton with the antiques or I’ll sell your Comic-Con pass. Love, Leah.”

Jamie slogged up the stairs with a huge sigh, studiously ignoring the piano with half-written songs strewn across the bench. The last thing she wanted was to move dusty furniture and knickknacks in the triple-digit heat. But her best friend, Leah, had had enough of Jamie’s post-breakup isolation and had put her foot down where it hurt—right on the pop-culture fan’s trip to the Holy City.

As she drove downtown to the storage unit she was helping Pawpaw Milton clear out, she tried to believe that everything would go back to normal. Well, before-Logan normal. With Leah’s help and this part-time job, maybe she could get there. Maybe even start writing music again. And besides, she’d grown up a lot since the last time she’d worked at the antiques store. Her first summer job there had ended after only three days. The antiques were probably way less fragile now.

***

“Damn!”

The resounding crack of glass echoed through the storage unit, making Jamie flinch. Pawpaw Milton had left her alone in the unit to go to an estate auction. The hundred-degree heat had her dripping with sweat—not the best condition for handling two-hundred-year-old crystal.

Jamie hoped that Pawpaw hadn’t noticed the pretty bowl tucked away in the corner. She carefully shoved the evidence of her klutziness into a large black garbage bag. What he doesn’t know won’t get me fired, she figured, though she couldn’t exactly shake the guilt.

Holding the end of her ponytail atop her head, she gulped from the giant bottle of water like a frantic desert survivor. This was hell.

Jamie pulled her phone from her pocket: 2:00 p.m. Another three hours to go before she could escape to her cave and take a shower. Oh well. It would be worth it in two months when she got to Comic-Con. Hopefully.

She unknotted the bottom of her tank top and dried her face and hands with the tail of it. Even in her thinnest tank top and shortest shorts, she still felt overdressed for this weather.

After carting out and cataloging a number of fragile items without incident, all that remained was the large furniture on the opposite side of the unit. Well, other than the big sheet-covered monstrosity behind the table. What is that, anyway?

Reaching up, she stood on tiptoes to toss back the corner of the dust cover for a quick peek. But she tugged just a little too hard, and the white fabric billowed as it floated down on top of her, dust and cobwebs coating her sweat-slicked skin. Arms flailing, she fought free of the cover, stomping it in a fit of frustration when it lay on the concrete at her flip-flopped feet.

“What the hell is your problem?” Jamie yelled at the innocent-looking mound of fabric. It said nothing, just laid there looking smug.

She turned her back on it to see what it had been covering.

The piece was a tall bureau, made of a rich mahogany that almost glowed gold from deep within the wood. It sloped outward in the middle, wider at its drawer-filled base than the top. Mirrored doors covered the upper portion.

She touched the wood lovingly. It was beautiful, cool to her skin even in the sweltering heat. When she’d reached up as high as she could, she sighed and trailed her thumb down the center of the shiny mirror on one door.

Her thumb dipped into the center of the glass.

With a gasp, she pulled, trying to free her hand. It wouldn’t move. She was stuck.

She yanked backward with all her strength. The mirror pulled on her hand, drawing her farther into the glass. She braced against the bottom of the bureau, using her legs to give her leverage. She was in up to her wrist now.

“Help!” she yelled, frantically scrabbling against the mirror’s hold. “Somebody, please!”

Using all her weight, she jerked backward, nearly dislocating her shoulder in the process. The mirror refused to release its hold. She whacked the slanted middle with the flat of her free hand in frustration.

With one last effort, she braced her feet against the bottom drawer and pulled with all her might. Without loosing its grip on her, the furniture tilted dangerously, almost tipping before she hit the floor to right it again.

Well, this sucks, she thought, slumping against the bureau. Her right ear was traveling through the mirror now.

So much for Comic-Con. So much for her place in the Lords of Discord guild. So much for showing Logan she could be fine without him. She hadn’t really been doing a good job of that anyway, but dammit, she deserved better than being consumed by antique furniture!

Once she gave up fighting, the pull went much faster. Within moments, the glass had swallowed her entire head.


 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can order The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl from your favorite bookseller or clicking the links below:

About the book:

 

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher…

An avid gamer, Jamie Marten loves to escape into online adventure. But when she falls through an antique mirror into a lavish bedchamber—200 years in the past!—she realizes she may have escaped a little too far.

Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has just kicked one mistress out of his bed and isn’t looking to fill it with another—least of all this sassy, nearly naked woman who claims to be from the future. Yet something about her is undeniably enticing…

Jamie and Micah are worlds apart. He’s a peer of the realm. She can barely make rent. He’s horse-drawn. She’s Wi-Fi. But in the game of love, these two will risk everything to win.

Cover Shot! Summerkin by Sarah Prineas

 

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 loved Winterling by Sarah Prineas, and I am so looking forward to reading the follow up, Summerkin.  The cover just rocks!  In stores April 2013.

From now until 2/4/2013, you can purchase Winterling (digital) for $1.99 from most booksellers.  Buy it!  It was one of the best books that I read in 2012

 

Down through the Way she fell, feeling the wind and the pressing darkness, the dizzy thump when she landed on the bank. She was through. The air felt softer here, the shadows deeper—and the pull of her connection to the land settled into her bones.

In the Summerlands, time moves slowly, roots grow deeply, and change is not welcomed. But change is needed.

After defeating the wicked Mor and freeing her kin from deadly oaths made to this false ruler, Fer is now the rightful Lady of the land. Yet her people don’t know what to make of their new Lady’s strange ways, and neither do the High Ones, the rulers of the magical realm, for Fer is an outsider—half human.

To prove herself worthy of the Summerlands crown, Fer is summoned to compete in an epic contest where her strengths and skills will be tested and her loyalties challenged. Can she trust Rook, the puck she calls friend? Can she trust herself? If Fer fails, she will lose her land and the Way will be closed to her forever.

With stunning prose, Sarah Prineas weaves an enchanting adventure in which Fer must decide if she’s ready to rule and just how far she’ll go to protect her kin.

Fall into Fantasy Hop-Win The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke!

Welcome to my Fall into Fantasy giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Write Path.This hop runs from October 16 to October 21, and you can win lots of new reads.  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I recently read The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke and loved it.  I am giving away an ARC of the book, because I know that you’ll enjoy it, too!

About the book:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her. 
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following! US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happily Ever After Giveaway Hop-Win Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

 

Welcome to my Happily Ever After giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Valerie from Murphy’s Library.  This hop runs from October 9 to October 14, and you can win lots of new reads.  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away an ARC of Diane Zahler’s MG fantasy Princess of The Wild Swans.  I love Diane Zahler’s fairy tale retellings, and I think you will, too!

 

About the book:

Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment–cast by their conniving new stepmother–has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls.

Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish.

With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam–a pretty half-witch and her clever brother–Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.

But if she fails . . . all will be lost.

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following! US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

 

Title:  The Assassin’s Curse

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke

Publisher:  Strange Chemistry

The Assassin’s Curse Digital (Only $6.01 for the eBook!)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.


Review:

I love books like The Assassin’s Curse.  The premise sounded intriguing, but when I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure that I would like Ananna.  She’s rough and unpolished, the daughter of pirates.  She’s a thief, she lies with aplomb, and she just didn’t seem like someone I wanted to know better.  But like Aria in Under the Never Sky, by the time I reached the fourth chapter, I had a drastic change of heart. While Ananna could be crude and violent, she was also brave and ready to fight for her own freedom.  After fleeing from an arranged marriage, she opens a huge can of worms that includes an assassin with her name on his hit list, a curse that she unwittingly unleashes, and an adventure the likes of which she could have never imagined.  Neither could I, when I first sat down with Ananna and Naji.  By the last page, I wanted more of their story and more of their larger than life journey. Even more than that,  I wanted them to be happy, and to be safe from the dangers that stalked them. 

I read The Assassin’s Curse in less than a day.  It is a fast read, one that you won’t be able to put down.  Ananna careens from one life-threatening situation to the next with the speed and trajectory of a pinball, and the only thing she has to keep her alive is her courage and her razor sharp wits.  She may not have had the benefit of an education like Naji or her ally Marjani, but she is far more clever than either of them.  She also has a steadfast confidence in her own abilities, which gave her an edge in every thing she did.  Ananna is street smart and street savvy; she has been raised among cutthroats and thieves, and she fully expected to take her place as a pirate ship’s captain, whether she was a girl or not.  Her gender just gave her more of a challenge to make her dream of owning her own ship, with her own colors, come true, and she wasn’t going to give that up.  Ditching her stupid fiancé was easier than ditching the scary, shadowy assassin his family set loose on her, but Ananna didn’t even back down from Naji and his deadly, mysterious blood magic. 

I loved the gradual friendship that develops between Ananna and her would be killer.  Naji didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who could take money to commit murder, but when pushed, he suddenly turned into a freaking badass.  One with little common sense, but with all of that magic at his command, he was able to move mountains.  Literally.  What happened after that, well, that was anyone’s guess, especially when he depleted his energy so much that he could barely remain upright.  Given his impulsiveness and, at times, his complete lack of common sense, I wasn’t surprised that he was the victim of an impossible curse.  That Ananna, his would be target, set the curse into motion made the premise of the book that much more enjoyable.  These two extremely diverse people are stuck with each other, not able to venture far apart, and they must learn to get along and, more importantly, learn to work together, to find an answer to Naji’s problem.  As long as the magic shackles them together, Ananna is a target of a different sort.  Powerful magical beings want Naji, and they will do anything to get him, including using, or hurting,  Ananna. 

My one nick pick with the book is, as usual, the lack of an ending, but I felt optimistic and happy when I reached the last page.  I don’t even know why, because Ananna and Naji are left with more questions and challenges than answers at the end.  I think that I just enjoyed spending my time with them so much that Ananna’s optimism rubbed off on me.  She knows that they will overcome all of the impossible tasks before them, and she knows that, one way or another, all of her dreams will come true.  Even though she despairs at Naji’s cluelessness, and even though his disregard cut to the bone, both Ananna and I know this one thing; Naji’s impossible curse has at least one possible cure.  It’s a pity that we must both wait until the next book for him to finally open his eyes to the answer that is sitting right in front of him.

Grade:  B+/A-

Review copy provided by publisher