The Best of 2011 Hop–Win Nowhere Girl by AJ Paquette

Here’s another chance to win a free book!  I am a Reader, Not a Writer is hosting the Best of 2011 Hop December 27 – December 31.   There will be a ton of chances for you to win some new reading material for the long winter.  Just hop on over to I am a Reader, Not a Writer to see the other giveaways!  Click here to see the list of participating blogs.

One of my favorite reads this year was Nowhere Girl by AJ Paquette.  I loved this book, and found the young protagonist very unique and likeable.  I would like to share the love by giving a copy of this book to another reader.

 

To enter, fill out the form below.  Since Google is making life difficult for blogs not hosted on Blogger, and they will soon be discontinuing Google Friend Connect for us, I am changing things up a bit.  The only requirement for entering is to subscribe to my newsletter.  Feedburner will deliver an email with blog updates right to your email box! 

Subscribe to Manga Maniac Cafe by Email

This is an easy contest to enter! Just subscribe to the newsletter and fill in the form for your chance to win! Open Internationally!

Contest Rules -

You must be 13 or older to enter.

I am not responsible for lost or damaged shipments.

One entry per person.

You must be a follower and a newsletter subscriber to enter.

Contest ends December 31

Interview with Paige Cuccaro, Author of Hellsbane

Paige Cuccaro is the author of Hellsbane, the first book in her urban fantasy series featuring angels, demons, and lots of danger for protagonist Emma Jane Hellsbane.  Paige stopped by the virtual offices to discuss her book and her writing influences.

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

[Paige Cuccaro] Wife, mom, writer who’d rather spend a quiet day weaving stories in her head than go on an all expense paid shopping spree anywhere…mostly.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Hellsbane?

[Paige Cuccaro] Sure! Hellsbane is about a young woman who never quite felt normal and then one day finally discovers why. Emma Jane Hellsbane is half human, and half angel and now Heaven’s got a job for her: round up all the Fallen angels and their red-skinned, horned devil-demon minions and boot their butts back into the abyss. Only problem? The demons and their Fallen masters fight back…and they don’t fight fair.

Luckily for Emma, she can put a stop to the constant threat of having her head hacked off if she figures out which Fallen angel is her father—and then kill him before he kills her. Of course, in the meantime, she’ll have to avoid accidentally seducing her angelic mentor, help an old friend conquer his own Fallen sperm donor, and basically save the world from a cataclysmic divine smack down.

No one said being Heaven’s bounty hunter would be easy. But with a name like Hellsbane, Emma Jane was born for the job.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for your Hellsbane series?

[Paige Cuccaro] I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of angels and demons and their interaction with humans. There are so many documented claims from as far back as biblical times to present day. One of the most intriguing was the telling of the wars in heaven by Enoch (an ancestor of Noah). It was his claims that I based the story world of Hellsbane on. In a nut shell, according to Enoch, angels fell in love with the daughters of men and produced children (known as Nephilim) who were so monstrous, both physically and intellectually to humanity that they had to be destroyed and the angels who fathered them were cast out of heaven. So basically these angels were punished for loving humans too much, and loving the children they created and yet were cast in this unholy evil light.

I started to wonder what if it didn’t end thousands of years ago? What if angels were still falling, still producing nephilim off spring? Why don’t we see these giant half angelic creatures walking around? And then I began answering my own questions.

Superior evolution has made the nephilim less obvious, less of a threat to humanity. They’d no longer be monstrous, instead they’d look like you and me so they could blend in. But they’d still have these awesome angelic powers lying dormant inside them. And since it was love that created them, they wouldn’t be necessarily evil (though heaven might still see them as such). They’d seem average which means they’d be just as screwed up as any human.

*Poof* Emma Jane was born in my imagination and with her all the ups and downs that come with discovering who—and what—she is. The rest of the story falls into place… How would heaven react to her awakening? What would they want from her? What about her angelic father? What about her human family? The story pretty much unfolded in my mind after that.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing this series?

[Paige Cuccaro] Not getting sidetracked by religious dogma and spending pages and pages explaining things that, while interesting, had nothing to do with the story. I can’t help it, I love that kind of stuff. And figuring out seemingly logical explanations for supernatural occurrences is like crack for me.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Emma would never have in her jacket pockets?

[Paige Cuccaro] A lipstick, a stamp or a pen. The girl’s totally unprepared and so not the girly type.

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

[Paige Cuccaro] Documentaries. All kinds really. I enjoy taking what we know to be fact and twisting it just enough so you wonder…could that be true? Religious documentaries are my favorite though. Also, running water is an awesome creative spark. I get the BEST ideas in the shower. Is that weird?

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

[Paige Cuccaro] My min laptop

My notes

And quiet

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

[Paige Cuccaro] Interview With A Vampire, by Anne Rice. No question. The woman is amazing!! Of course I read books before this one, but it was this book that REALLY hooked me on storytelling, reading it, writing it, the whole ball of wax. If I could do for one person what that book did for me, I’d die happy.

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

[Paige Cuccaro] I’m a HUGE movie buff. I LOVE going to the movies, but hate the crowds. Late night showings, or middle of the afternoon when everyone is asleep or at work are my favorite times to go. Love having the theater to myself. And when there’s nothing worth the late night trek, I read…and read…and uh, read.

I enjoy swimming, and riding my motorcycle and I LOVE spending time with my daughters. (They’re the coolest, smartest, funniest people I know.) But watching movies and reading is pretty much like breathing for me. Gotta do it.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!


You can learn more about Paige by visiting the following websites:

Paige’s website

Paige’s Twitter

You can purchase Hellsbane from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  It is available in both print and digital format:

 

A HELLSBANE BOOK – Book One – by Paige Cuccaro

Emma Jane Hellsbane just found out she’s not human—or, at least, not only human. She’s half angel, too, and now Heaven’s got a job for her: round up all the Fallen angels and their red-skinned, horned devil-demon minions and boot their butts back into the abyss. Only problem? The demons and their Fallen masters fight back…and they don’t fight fair.

Luckily for Emma, she can put a stop to the constant threat of having her head hacked off if she figures out which Fallen angel is her father—and then kill him before he kills her. Of course, in the meantime, she’ll have to avoid accidentally seducing her angelic mentor, help an old friend conquer his own Fallen sperm donor, and basically save the world from a cataclysmic divine smack down.

No one said being Heaven’s bounty hunter would be easy. But with a name like Hellsbane, Emma Jane was born for the job.

 

Thanks to Bewitching Book Tours for making this interview possible

Review: Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wish by Cathy McDavid

 

Title: Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wish

Author: Cathy McDavid

Publisher:  Harlequin

ISBN: 978-0373753888

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Nine years ago Ethan Powell gave up his rodeo career, his Arizona ranch, his family—and most important, his high school sweetheart—to join the Marines. He’s returned an injured hero, determined to let nothing keep him from going back to a job he loves—breaking horses. Getting back in the saddle is something he needs to do, to prove to himself he can.

Breaking horses and breaking her heart again? No way! Caitlin Carmichael isn’t ready to pick up where she and Ethan left off, no matter how devastating his kisses are. She isn’t the same carefree risk taker she used to be. This time the two-feet-solidly-on-the-ground nurse is proceeding with caution. So what is it about Ethan and his daredevil ways that’s making her long to have him as her Christmas cowboy—for now and every Christmas to come?

Review:

I was looking forward to reading Ethan’s story, and while I wasn’t totally won over by the conflict resolution between Ethan and Caitlin, I did find Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wish a diverting read, and I had a hard time putting it down.  It features one of my favorite romance tropes, the second chance, and featured a flawed heroine who took a while for me to warm up to.  Caitlin is wallowing in guilt, blaming herself for her younger brother’s accident, which left him paralyzed.  Unable to forgive herself, Caitlin has appointed herself Justin’s protector and guardian, without his approval.  She takes extreme measures to avoid risk, and is a jumbled ball of anxiety.  If she could wrap everyone she cares for in a layer of bubble wrap, she would do so without hesitation.  Whether they wanted it or not.

When Ethan Powell strides back into her life after nine years, she finds herself still drawn to her childhood sweetheart.  After Ethan’s mother died, he enlisted without discussing it with Caitlin, ended up in the Middle East, and was discharged after a bomb blew off the bottom of his leg.  Thankful to be alive and eager to prove that he’s still capable and independent, he is determined to enter his friend’s jackpot rodeo.  He will stick a bronc for 8 seconds, and he won’t give up until he achieves this goal.  After reuniting with Caitlin, he has a new goal – to win her back and make up for all the hurt he has caused her.  Too bad she will have nothing to do with him until he gives up bronc riding and training horses.  Her aversion to risk won’t allow her to get close to him until he gives up his dangerous pursuits, regardless of how much they mean to him.

I found myself frustrated with Caitlin more than once because of her insistence that she can’t get back together with Ethan until he gives up his time with the horses.  For myself, the sticking point would have been his abandonment, and not his need to prove that he is every bit as capable as the next cowboy at the rodeo.  After being injured in the explosion, I could understand his desire to prove he is still the man he was before the accident.  Now, I still think that anyone who rides broncs or bulls has a screw loose, especially if they won’t wear a helmet, but I could understand where he was coming from.  Caitlin – not so much.

Caitlin is afraid of everything that requires even a tiny bit of physical exertion – horseback riding, driving in a wagon, sports.  I’ll give her the white-water rafting because I would be afraid to do that, too, but her need to shield Justin and Ethan from every possible chance of an accident was grating.  I was also irritated when all of Ethan’s friends suggested he give up something that helped to define him to himself in order to win back Caitlin.  It can be dangerous driving around the block or walking across the street, but nobody suggested that he stop either of those activities.  So, while I could see why Caitlin is so afraid of people getting hurt, I had a hard time accepting her smothering, “don’t do anything remotely risky, because you will get hurt and I will feel bad about it” attitude.  I wanted to shake her.  It wasn’t fair for her to expect Ethan to give up so much of himself in order to be with her again.  I wish more weight had been given to him walking out on her nine years ago, but the biggest hurdle in their relationship was Ethan’s determination to keep working horses.  (I think that, as a rider, I couldn’t imagine giving up mine, and that is why I feel so strongly about Caitlin and her demands.  To me, they are unreasonable.)

I enjoyed revisiting the Powells, and I despite my complaints above, I did find the book very readable.  I like Cathy McDavid’s characters, and find them very relatable.  I appreciate that Gavin and Ethan aren’t billionaires or princes or sheiks, and I feel comfortable with their lives.  They are like me – make a goal for yourself, work towards it, and don’t quit until you have achieved success.  I also love the way that Gavin and Ethan interact with each other and the rest of their family.  They are compassionate and caring, but they are willing to both take a step back and let each other make mistakes.  It’s how they learn and recover from them that made this book and Last Chance Cowboy so readable for me.  I am looking forward to the next book, to learn why Sierra has been avoiding her family so much.

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wish is available in both print and digital formats

 

 

The BLI Holiday Reading Challenge

Review: In The Forests of The Night by Kersten Hamilton


 

Title: In The Forests of The Night

Author: Kersten Hamilton

Publisher: Clarion

ISBN: 978-0547435602

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

he battle against goblinkind continues . . . but which side will Teagan be on?

Teagan, Finn, and Aiden have made it out of Mag Mell alive, but the Dark Man’s forces are hot on their heels. Back in Chicago, Tea’s goblin cousins show up at her school, sure she will come back to Mag Mell, as goblin blood is never passive once awoken. Soon she will belong to Fear Doirich and join them. In the meantime, they are happy to entertain themselves by trying to seduce, kidnap, or kill Tea’s family and friends. Tea knows she doesn’t have much time left, and she refuses to leave Finn or her family to be tortured and killed. A wild Stormrider, born to rule and reign, is growing stronger inside her. But as long as she can hold on, she’s still Teagan Wylltson, who plans to be a veterinarian and who heals the sick and hurting. The disease that’s destroying her—that’s destroying them all—has a name: Fear Doirich. And Teagan Wylltson is not going to let him win.

Review:

I enjoyed Tyger Tyger, so I was thrilled to be part of {Teen} Book Scene’s blog tour for the follow up release, In The Forests of The Night.  I have to admit that I was a little wary about picking up this book, because I didn’t think it would be as good as the first one.  Once I read the first few pages, however, I knew my fears were unfounded.  This is a better book, with tighter pacing, snappier dialog, and more fleshed out characters.  I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it, which made going to work really, really painful.  I started counting down the hours on Friday until I could get home, sit in my cozy chair, and face the goblins with Teagan and Finn.  It will be agony until the next book comes out!

Teagan is trying to recover from her harrowing journey to Mag Mell, as well as come to grips with her goblin blood.  Fear Doirich won’t give her any peace, and his dark agents venture from Mag Mell to attempt to lure Aiden away.  As dangers threaten her family, Teagan realizes she must take matters into her own hands.  She must face her darkest fears and go back to Mag Mell to destroy the Dark Man – before he destroys her family.

Tyger Tyger took me a while to get into, and I still remember exactly where I was when I got sucked into the story so much that I didn’t want to put it down.  I was reading it on my Kindle, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.  I don’t usually remember the turning point in the books I have read, but for some reason, that one stuck with me.  The event was so unexpected and so tragic that I actually had to go back a few pages to make sure I understood what was going on.  Then I wished I was alone, because I what I really wanted to do was cry.  That was one of those reading moments that will stick with me for a long, long time.

While there wasn’t a scene that totally took me by surprise in this book, the overall journey was much more enjoyable.  I was invested in the characters from the first word, and I wanted to see what dangers Teagan and Finn would have to face.  I wanted to see how they got out of the life-threatening situations they found themselves dragged into, and I wanted to learn more about the goblins.  If there is one thing that would have made the read better, it would have been to have Aiden featured more prominently in the story.  While some reviewers have found him annoying, I adore him.  He is so otherworldly, so bizarre and gifted.  His singing makes things happen.  He makes magic.  I hope we will get more of him in the next book.

I love the character interaction in this series.  Even the characters that I despise are given unique personalities that propel the story along and make Teagan’s life miserable.  I want to know as much about them as I do the protagonists.  What is the deal with Maggot Cat?  Are all of the “beasties” truly evil, as Finn believes, or are they capable of redemption, as Teagan wants to believe?  I like how this issue causes friction between them, because they are both steadfast in their opinion, and because they love each other so much they are almost willing to be convinced that they are wrong. 

If you enjoy fantasy stories with strong, clever characters, engaging dialog, and just a bit of bump in the night terror, then give The Goblin Wars a try.  I can hardly wait for the next book!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene

Review: Gossip Girl: For Your Eyes Only V 2 by Cecily von Ziegesar & HyeKyung Baek

 

Title: Gossip Girl: For Your Eyes Only Vol 2

Authors: Cecily von Ziegesar & HyeKyung Baek

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759530270

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Queen B has fallen off her throne and landed in Brooklyn (of all places!), where she’s sharing an apartment with V. It’s hell at first, but somehow they find a way to make it work – and B even discovers that she has some domestic talents she never knew existed! But now N and S are a couple, and heartbroken B’s desperate attempts to maintain her reputation have put her on "sweet" little J’s foul side. And when it comes to these girls, revenge is a dish best served HOT!
Can you take a little heat?

Review:

I will be the first person to admit that I hated the first volume of this manga series.  The characters rubbed me the wrong way, and I found the plot boring and trite.  Fast forward to volume two, and guess what?  I enjoyed this outing much, much better.  The plotting was better, Blair had to eat humble pie, and the rest of the cast were a little more agreeable.  I gobbled this up in one sitting, and now I have a new appreciation for the series.  I can hardly wait to read the next installment.  What a difference from my first venture into the Gossip Girl franchise.

Blair, Blair, Blair, you finally got a teeny bit of what was coming to you.  How does it feel to have no money and to see how the other 99% live?  Without your mommy’s AMEX card and access to your endless closet, you really had to learn how to rough it.  After moving in with Vanessa, you were even forced to share a bathroom, eat weird new things that were fried in fatty goodness and, horrors, you were recruited to do the cleaning in order to earn your modest vittles.  And best yet, you discovered something that you excel at!  Who knew that Molly Maid was lurking in your not quite pure soul?

I found this volume much more humorous, but mainly because Blair, who really is a Queen B, was the butt of most of the jokes.  Things don’t go her way here, and because I didn’t like her the first time I met her, I was overjoyed.  Go clean the toilet, witch!  Wear the same jeans twice in one week!  See how the rest of us do things!  lol – yup, Blair is one character that is fun to hate on.  So imagine my surprise when I actually started to like her by the end of the book?  I never saw that coming!

Now that I am in Blair’s corner (for this volume, at least!), I am looking forward to seeing her go up against her new adversaries.  While she certainly deserves to be reviled,  I now want to see her get her revenge against her tormentors.  Since she can be so mean herself, I am sure that she will cook up a tasty dish of vengeance pie.  I am just hoping that she retains some of her newly discovered perspective on life, but I have my doubts.  The next volume should be jam-packed with really bad behavior, and, to my chagrin, I find myself looking forward to it.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Jennifer L Armentrout, Author of Obsidian + Giveaway

 

Jennifer L Armentrout’s new book, Obsidian, was recently released by Entangled Publishing. The first volume in her new Lux series, Obsidian features danger, excitement, and the obnoxious boy next door.  Who just happens to be really, really weird.  Maybe it’s because he’s not from around here?  Jennifer dropped by to share more information about Obsidian, and to let us get to know her better.

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

[Jennifer L Armentrout] Author with a love of caffeine, books, puppies, zombies, but not zombies eating puppies or drinking caffeine.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Obsidian?

[Jennifer L Armentrout] Obsidian is about Katy, a girl who loves books and is coming to grips with losing a parent when she moves to West ‘by God’ Virginia. Her immediate concern is the fact that the internet service sucks and being a book blogger–well, that blows. And then she meets Daemon, and after a mean case of hate at first sight, she quickly realizes that there is something very different about Daemon and his sister.

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

[Jennifer L Armentrout] It started out as an email between my Editor and I. She asked if I ever thought about writing about aliens in high school. My first response was a huge, belly splitting LOL, but the more I started thinking about it, the idea starting growing. The first character I had in mind was Katy and then Daemon. The rest built around them. So, it was kind of funny, because I went from having no intentions of writing it to having the first draft done in 8 days.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Katy would never have in her purse?

[Jennifer L Armentrout] A Kindle, lip balm, wallet, and if her purse is big enough, there would be book shoved in it. She would also have a cell phone, even though service is dodgy where she lives and gum she never chews. 

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

[Jennifer L Armentrout] Believe it or not, but boredom is one of my greatest influences. I bore. Easily. And I have a short attention span. At a young age, I discovered that reading cures that and then finally, that writing also fixed that. So not being bored is a huge influence. Also, a really good book motivates me.
 
[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jennifer L Armentrout] An empty road, some sort of background noise that isn’t an actual person in my room, and probably some form of caffeine.

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

[Jennifer L Armentrout] I’d have to go with early LJ Smith novels.

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

[Jennifer L Armentrout] I read. A lot. Also work out and spend time with the family.

Thanks for having me!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!


You can learn more about Jennifer by visiting her website and by following her on Twitter.

Obsidian is out now! It is available in both print and digital format.  You can purchase it from B&N or by clicking the widgets below:

 

Now for the giveaway! 

I have one digital copy of Obsidian up for grabs!  This giveaway is open Internationally.  This is an easy contest to enter – just leave a comment telling me what superpower you think would be cool to have.  Please leave an email address so I can contact the winner.  The giveaway closes December 31st.  You must be at least 13 to enter.

Waiting on Wednesday–Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

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

I loved Owl in Love, so I am eagerly anticipating Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl.

 

Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her widowed mother, young half-brother, and two stepsisters—and she must maintain Crawley Hall. Althea, in short, must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors—or suitors of any kind—in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then Lord Boring comes to stay with his aunt and uncle. Althea sets her cap to become Lady Boring. There’s only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has set his own cap.

In stores June 2012