Fiona Nelson has always been one hot ticket—even before she took the conversion serum that gave her superhuman abilities. Fiona’s powers come at a price: lack of human contact, or she won’t be the only thing burning. When she loses control of her emotions, her fire powers run rampant…and she’s hurt enough people already.
But when the man behind her conversion returns to blackmail her into helping him gain power, the only person she can turn to is Ian Jones, the man who broke her teenage heart. The man determined to expose the criminal known as Fireball, whose explosive escapades are just a little too close to Fiona’s M.O.
Ian is convinced Fiona’s dangerous, convinced she’s Fireball, and convinced he’ll damn himself if he doesn’t resist a heat that’s always drawn him to Fiona like a moth to a flame—but Ian has his own secrets.
And he’ll learn far too soon what happens when you play with fire.
I am a huge fan of superheroes, and when I saw that Entangled was publishing a series of novellas about super heroes, I had to read them. It was a little scary at first, because I was afraid I’d be disappointed, but Playing with Fire by Tamara Morgan is a fun, action-packed introduction to the Holding out for a Hero anthology series. I loved this story, and it even featured one of my favorite tropes – the second chance. This read kept me entertained from the first page to the last, and I can hardly wait to read more of the anthology.
Fiona is a character I could immediately sympathize with. She has the ability to hurl fire balls, but it comes at a steep price. When her emotions get out of control, her powers do too. She’s afraid of getting close to anyone because she is terrified of hurting them, and her last, failed attempt at intimacy ended disastrously, with her lover being badly burned. To make this situation even worse, she didn’t even want the superhuman abilities to begin with. Her manipulative boyfriend coerced her into it, and now she’s resigned herself to a sad and solitary life.
Into her life steps Ian, her childhood friend and the boy who broke her heart. He was also responsible for her being bullied at school, so I did have a few issues warming up to him. To be fair, Ian tried to rectify his past mistakes, but there were times when I felt that he didn’t do enough. When it was his friend taunting Fiona, he quickly tried to put an end to the hurtful name calling, but when all Fiona wanted was for Ian to trust and believe her, he fell a little short. In the end, he does gallantly redeem himself, but of the two of them, Fiona is obviously the more heroic.
I enjoyed the world building, and am interested to see how other authors tackle a new world where superheroes , and super villains, could live next door.
If you are looking for a fast-paced read with gobs of action, romance, and danger, look no further. Playing with Fire was quickly gobbled up, followed by a “Please, sir, may I have some more?” plea from me.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Forsaken?
[Lisa Stasse] It’s a dystopian thriller about a girl named Alenna Shawcross who fails a government personality test (she’s diagnosed with subversive tendencies and a capacity for brutal violence) and gets banished to a mysterious prison island called "the wheel." She has to learn how to forge alliances among the wild tribes that control the island, and also avoid government machines that kidnap kids. She and some friends finally mount a risky escape attempt.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Lisa Stasse] It was a merger between a dream I had (about being stalked on an island by men in robes with knives) and a friend’s sister worrying about taking the SAT. That was the seed of the idea for "the wheel"–a horrific place you got sent if you failed a mandatory test at school. I guess it’s a nightmare version of the SAT and other similar tests.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Alenna?
[Lisa Stasse] Perseverant. Smart. Fighter.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alenna would never have in her pocket?
[Lisa Stasse] Money, bullets, matches.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Alenna had a theme song, what would it be?
[Lisa Stasse] "Get Free" by Major Lazer (a side project of the producer Diplo–if you haven’t heard the song it’s really awesome. check it out on iTunes!)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Lisa Stasse] I’m really influenced by books, music, and movies. Other writers are probably the biggest influence on me, from Stephen King to Suzanne Collins to JK Rowling to Margaret Atwood and Orson Scott Card. I always listen to music when I write too, so that’s a huge influence. Right now I’m listening to the new album by the Dirty Projectors (a great indie rock band) and also some stuff by Florence and the Machine. As for movies, I’m beyond excited to see The Dark Knight Rises! I also just saw The Cabin in the Woods, which was great and had one of my favorite crazy endings of any movie this year (Joss Whedon is an influence for sure).
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Lisa Stasse] Music, coffee and my laptop!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Lisa Stasse] Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (I read it as an ARC last week–it’s fantastic).
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Lisa Stasse] Where the Wild Things Are (I loved it as a little kid and I still do!) Also love Pride and Prejudice and Lord of the Flies.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Lisa Stasse] Well, I’m a digital librarian at UCLA so I’m usually working on that. I love my job there–it’s a really cool environment to work in. I’m also a photographer, and I’m working on a screenplay with a friend of mine just for fun.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Lisa Stasse] I love hearing from readers! Here are all my links. They can also send me email anytime at lmstasse[at]yahoo[dot]com.
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?
Ever since I read The White Mountains by John Christopher when I was a kid, I have loved alien invasion books. None of them have been able to stand up to The Tripods series, though. Perhaps Midnight City by J Barton Mitchell will finally satisfy my craving for an incredible, impossible to put down read with defeated teens attempting to gain freedom from their alien oppressors?
In stores October 2012
In a post-apocalyptic world controlled by alien invaders, two teens and a young girl with mysterious powers embark on a dangerous journey. What they find will change everything…
Earth has been conquered. An extraterrestrial race known as The Assembly has abducted the adult population, leaving the planet’s youth to fend for themselves. In this treacherous landscape, Holt, a bounty hunter, is transporting his prisoner Mira when they discover Zoey, a young girl with powerful abilities who could be the key to stopping The Assembly. As they make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, the trio must contend with freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and perhaps most perilous of all: Holt and Mira’s growing attraction to each other.
Midnight City is the breathtaking first novel in the Conquered Earth series, and a stunning work of imagination from debut author J. Barton Mitchell
In the post-apocalyptic Midwest, now a ravaged dust bowl, former guardsman Derek Covington must find help for a sick boy. With nothing but memories of all he lost, Derek crosses the desert alone in search of the doctor who saved his own life ten years ago. Drifter gangs who loot and pillage don’t dare come near, for Derek has a formidable weapon: a prosthetic arm with a deadly blade.
For a decade, Dr. Lidia Sullivan has fantasized about the handsome guardsman who’d been in her care. And now she can’t deny his dangerous request. But as they make the treacherous journey back to Old St. Louis, they must contend with much more than fierce desert winds and their unthinkable attraction. A fearless gang has spotted Lidia—a rare woman—and will fight Derek to the death to get her. And though he risks his life to save her for the sake of the child who needs her, she fears there’s one thing Derek will never risk: his heart.
I love post-apocalyptic stories, so when I saw this novella on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. The setting is a devastated Midwest, which has been turned into a lifeless desert. Small settlements scrabble to make a living amidst the desolation, preyed upon by vicious drifters who kill anyone unlucky enough to wander across their path.
The story starts with Lidia, a young doctor, helping to save the life of Derek, a Guardsman who has been wounded in the violent and fiery riots sweeping across Chicago. In an effort to improve crop yields, scientists instead unleashed a virus that killed most of the plant life, setting off riots as desperate people, starving and panic-stricken, lashed out in bloody uprisings that left death and destruction in their wake. When the staff from her hospital is evacuated, Lidia and Derek are separated during the ensuing chaos to stop the convoy and secure the valuable supplies being transported with the medical personnel.
Ten years later and now practicing her valuable medical skills in a small oasis amid the dust bowl that surrounds her small but thriving community, Lidia is shocked when Derek re-enters her life. Taking her from her safe haven and promising to protect her on a journey to his settlement, he needs her to help save the life of a friend’s young son. The resulting journey is both dangerous and exciting, as Lidia confronts the sizzling attraction that she still feels for the brooding, lethal man.
I love the premise for this story. The Midwest has been turned into a desert, murderous bands of roving killers menace anyone stupid enough to travel beyond the guarded walls of the small communities that are slowly rising up out of the ruins of society. Lidia actually lives a fairly comfortable life; she’s a doctor, and her life-saving skills are highly valued in her community. She has enough to eat, she is safe within the walls of Leavenworth, and she is content with her life. Right up until Derek re-enters her life, destroying her contentment and making her re-evaluate her present, and more importantly, her future. He is like a raging inferno, and she is helpless against the force of her attraction for him.
While I found Derek to be a complete jackass at first, his stubbornness did grow on me. He is aggressive, decisive, and once he sees Lidia again, he decides that he wants her. All to himself, even if it means putting her in danger as he escorts her to his outpost near what is left of St Louis. They have no doctors there, and they need one desperately. Everyone in this ruined America needs a trained healer, so I was appalled that Derek would put Lidia’s life in danger and attempt to take her through the desert all by himself. Ugh! Derek!! What were you thinking, other than that you wanted a chance to get into her pants? I really wanted to hate this guy because that behavior was about as selfish as it got, but, gosh darn it, I couldn’t! He’s so cocky and self-assured, and that held a certain amount of charm for me. But still! Dude! You almost got her KILLED!
Desert Blade is a fast paced romp through world on the brink of complete ruin. It’s a fun popcorn adventure, with lots of action, fighting, and Derek and Lidia running for their lives. The world is interesting, the attraction between the protagonists is red hot, but there is a lack of depth due in part to the short length of this story. If you enjoy sci-fi romance or stories with post-apocalyptic settings, you will like this quick read.
When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake. Suddenly, mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. Only those under the age of eighteen seem to be immune. Desperate to save humanity, a renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to create a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, the Galahad and its crew—none over the age of sixteen—is launched.
Two years of training have prepared the crew for the challenges of space travel. But soon after departing Earth, they discover that a saboteur is hiding on the Galahad! Faced with escalating acts of vandalism and terrorized by threatening messages, sixteen-year-old Triana Martell and her council soon realize that the stowaway will do anything to ensure that the Galahad never reaches its destination. The teens must find a way to neutralize their enemy. For if their mission fails, it will mean the end of the human race….
I haven’t read many sci-fi novels lately, so when I was given the opportunity to read The Comet’s Curse, the first book in Dom Testa’s Galahad series, I jumped at the chance. The premise intrigued me; 251 teens are sent away from Earth after a comet unleashes a deadly plague on the planet. Nobody over the age of 18 is immune to it, and there is no cure. Fearing that the disease will continue to wipe out a bigger and bigger percentage of the population, a noted scientist urges a desperate plan to save humankind, instead of waiting for a cure that may never come. Proposing to send a group of gifted young adults into space in search of a new home, his plan is met with mixed reactions. Some openly oppose wasting the time and money on saving such a small group of kids. Others see the wisdom of this last ditch effort to preserve the species, and agree to devote the time to implement the desperate plan.
I loved this book when the focus was on the kids on the space ship. They have had to say good-bye to their families and their homes, and they will never see any of their old friends again. They have the sad knowledge that everyone left behind will eventually succumb to the virus. They also have a lot of pressure placed on each and every one of them. In order to ensure their survival, they all have to work together and learn everything they can to help once they find a new planet to colonize. They have to know how to raise enough food to feed everyone, how to build shelters, how to provide for themselves entirely. They will lose contact with everyone from Earth early in their journey, so they are essentially on their own.
With so much at stake, and so many different personalities packed into a small space, there is bound to be some drama. Without adults to guide them there is also a lot of self-doubt. Are they handling each crisis correctly? Will they be able to fend for themselves? The chapters spent on the ship kept me totally engaged in the plot, and I was reluctant to set the book aside. I wanted to know how Triana, the young leader of this group of kids, would handle the challenges tossed her way. How would she keep the peace between the crew, when even she has clashes with some of the members of the Council, the small group in charge of the mission? I thought these chapters were great, and started wishing that most of the action took place on the ship.
Which brings me to what I didn’t enjoy about The Comet’s Curse. There is a ton of set-up, and I found that the pacing for these chapters bogged the story down. Unbearably so, at first. We are spoon fed all of the background details behind the comet and the mission to save mankind, and I thought it was a little boring. I got that the virus was terrible and it attacked its victims in different ways, making it almost impossible to discover a cure. I got that Dr Zimmer, the man behind the Galahad mission, and Dr Scofield, his most ardent opponent, had vastly differing ideas about how to handle the very dire situation confronting every single human on the planet. The problem with these chapters were that we are told every tiny detail, but not in a compelling way. These sections were dry and failed to hold my attention.
Now that the set-up is over, though, I am looking forward to the next book. The teenaged characters are likeable and engaging, and I want to see how they handle all of the challenges that they are sure to face. What are they going to do, once they leave the solar system and lose contact with Earth? What are they going to do when they start to really get on each other’s nerves? I enjoyed the soap opera elements of the story, and I’m hoping for more interpersonal conflict as the series moves forward.
To celebrate the release of The Galahad Legacy, the final book in Dom Testa’s Galahad series, Tor Books is hosting a scavenger hunt blog tour! You can win the entire Galahad series, as well as learn more about Dom and his books. Today I have an excerpt from The Galahad Legacy for you to enjoy. If you want to read all of the excerpts, please visit this link at Tor Books.
“Well, besides the smoky haze, I could see things moving around inside. Various sizes. Very graceful. Almost…peaceful.”
Lita stared at Triana for a moment, then said: “The thing you brought back. I take it that was one of the…graceful creatures inside the…” She chuckled. “I don’t know what to call anything.”
A wry smile creased Triana’s face. “Well, for the sake of this discussion, and until we know more, let’s just continue to call the things outside our ship vultures. We can call the floating blobs amoebas. And the thing I brought back…”
She hesitated, then finally shrugged.
“Well, we all know exactly what it looks like, so let’s be blunt. We’ll call it a jellyfish.”
Please visit Bookshelf Banter tomorrow for the next excerpt from the second chapter of The Galahad Legacy.
Want to learn more? You can follow Dom Testa at these websites: