Question – When Do You Know How You’ll Rate A Book?

Julie from Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks asked on her blog when you know how you’ll rate a book.  I hope she doesn’t mind me answering this here.  I think this is a great question, and I was also curious about how all of you would answer it.

For me, I don’t know what grade to give a book until I finish it.  That’s if I finish it.  I give each book 100 pages to convince me to read to the end.  If a book doesn’t hold my interest or have me engaged in the story by the 100th page, I put it away.  Maybe I’m not in the mood for that type of story at that particular moment in time.  Maybe I can’t stand the characters and don’t want to spend any more time with them – ever.  Maybe another book caught my interest, and with my short attention span, I continued to read the newer book over the previous one.  There are so many reasons why I might put a book aside that they would take up an entire post.

If I am engaged in a story enough to journey beyond the 100th page, I try not to pass judgment until I finish it.  There have been so many books that start strong and have me completely immersed in the story, only to fall apart at the end.  Maybe the protagonist does something out of character.  Or suddenly becomes TSTL (too stupid to live).  Maybe the pacing slows, and then I find my attention wandering.  These are the most disappointing reads, because they had so much promise, but ultimately let me down. 

Then there books that grab you from the first sentence and never seem to let you go.  I think of these as Holy Crap This is a Good Book.  They are few and far between, but you know from the moment that you pick it up that you are holding a winner in your hands.  They consume your every thought, but even these I hesitate to rate until I reach the last page.  What if the plot unravels at the end?  It is so energizing when they hold strong and leave me literally breathless at the end.  These are the books that keep me reading and blogging!

What about you?  When do you know how you’ll rate a book?  If you aren’t completely engrossed in the plot, how long will you keep trudging along?

Thanks to Carmel from Rabid Reads for helping me discover Julie’s blog.

Interview with Susan Gee Heino, Author of Passion and Pretense

Susan Gee Heino is the author of several Regency romances.  Her latest, Passion and Pretense, hits store shelves on March 6.  Susan dropped by the virtual offices to tell us about her new book.

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

[Susan Gee Heino] Susan Gee Heino is a lover of humor, strange creatures, and Mr. Darcy. She writes Regency romance and dreams of magical house elves.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Passion and Pretense?

[Susan Gee Heino] I had so much fun writing this book! It is the story of Miss Penelope Rastmoor, a slightly spoiled rich girl in 1820 London. She’s a little too clever for her own good and frequently gets herself into trouble. Penelope’s brother, Anthony, is tired of dealing with all her drama and decides the best thing to do is get her married off. Then she’ll be someone else’s problem, right?

But Penelope has dreams of her own and they don’t involve marrying some dull dandy and being stuck in England all her life. She wants to travel and see the world–Egypt especially. So, she comes up with a plan. If she pretends to be hopelessly in love with a real loser, someone her brother can’t stand, it stands to reason Anthony might do anything to separate them–even send her off to Egypt.

Her plan backfires, of course, when the scoundrel she selects to play the part of doting fiancé turns out not to be quite the loser she expected. Lord Harry is unshaven, unruly, uncouth and unremorseful. He’s also irresistible. With secrets of his own, he’s been using Penelope just as much as she’s been using him. Danger is afoot, with kidnapping, thievery and deception all around them. It’s beginning to look like this time Penelope has gotten in way over her head. Worse, she realizes the only thing real is the way she’s come to feel about her not-so-real fiancé. Lord Harry, however, is full of surprises.

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

[Susan Gee Heino] Penelope Rastmoor plays a role in one of my previous books, DAMSEL IN DISGUISE. I really loved her in that story and I thought it was high time she got her own. She’s somewhat older and wiser in this book than she was in that, but still the same sneaky, scheming little charmer. I’ve had lots of fun creating her and watching her finally find a happily-ever-after.

I needed a hero who could stand up to such a feisty heroine, and Lord Harry definitely fits the bill. He’s awesome! In my mind, he’s sort of a Regency Indiana Jones, sans bullwhip. He’s smart, independent, cocky, but is a man on a mission to rescue someone he cares about. Penelope has a passion for Egyptology, and so does he. This is just one of the many things that make them perfect for each other, although it does take them a little while to realize it.

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

[Susan Gee Heino] So much research! My other books take place in the English countryside in 1816. That really narrowed down the research for me! (Lazy author in the room? Yes, I’m raising my hand. lol) But PASSION AND PRETENSE takes place in London, 1820. I had to dig up a whole batch of new details to keep the story real and accurate.

On top of that, I had the element of Egyptology to research. Now, we all know how easy it is to find books and articles and websites all about the beautiful artifacts and history of the ancient Egyptians. However, most of what we now know about Egyptology was unknown to the people of 1820. King Tut? Not found until 1922. Reading hieroglyphics? Nope. Though the French discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799, it was not until 1822 that Champollion published his first translation of the Egyptian symbols. So, not only did I have to research ancient Egypt, but I had to research what people in 1820 England would know of it. That was fascinating, but kind of slow going.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Penelope would never have in her boudoir?

[Susan Gee Heino] This is a toughie! Penelope tends to be a bit unpredictable, so just as soon as I say she’d never have a butterscotch Pekinese wearing a jacket, a geriatric etiquette teacher, or a book about the dangers of world-travel, the dear girl might run out and collect just these items. I’m not saying she’d do it specifically to get on my nerves, but I think I’ll hold off commenting. Just to be on the safe side.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you enjoy most about romance? What prompted you to try writing your own?

[Susan Gee Heino] I love the happy endings. There’s just something so wonderful, so hopeful, about reading a story where people endure all sorts of hard times only to realize in the end that love is real and it’s worth sacrificing for. Sigh.

I’ve always had stories and characters swimming around in my crowded brain, yelling at me to get them down on paper. It just seemed right to put my efforts into romance. It’s what I love to read and the foundational themes of love, forgiveness, trust, honesty and commitment are things I believe very strongly in.

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

[Susan Gee Heino] I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. Do I write like her? Oh, heavens no! I wish. But then again, I’m not writing to her audience. I’m writing for modern readers. I do love her plot devices and the way she builds characters, playing them against one another for optimal effect. I would love to think a few drops of that have seeped through into my own stories.

Since I have a background in theatre, I tend to create from a staging perspective. How many characters can I fit in this scene? Will the lighting be adequate for the action? How can I use space to keep things interesting? I love farce and absurdism, so undoubtedly elements of those show up in my work, too.

When I read for fun today, I read a lot of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kristin Higgins, Julia Quinn, and my wonderful pile of old Traditional Regencies from the 80s and 90s. I gravitate toward fast paced fiction with snappy dialog and quirky characters and storylines. This is what I hope I’m giving my own readers.

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

[Susan Gee Heino] I need my family to go away–all three of them! LOL When my children were small, I could write pages and pages all day long in ten minute stretches, between feedings and naps and diaper changes and conflict negotiations, etc. As they’ve aged and changed, so have I. Now I try to get all my creative writing done during the school day and save my editing and promotional efforts for times when everyone is home. I’m totally ADD and need minimal distractions so I can focus on all my imaginary friends.

That said, the three things I need to have present are my plotting chart, my collection of favorite pens, and lots of coffee.

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

[Susan Gee Heino] The Black Stallion. I was an average reader up until the 5th grade when I got my hands on that book and read it through. I was horse crazy and totally hooked. I made my mom take me to the library so I could hunt down every Walter Farley book ever written. I think I read them all twice. Two years later, I discovered Romance. I never went back to horses. LOL

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

[Susan Gee Heino] Um… I can’t remember. It seems like I’ve been on deadline forever… LOL Actually, I do have a few hobbies. I love to sew, scrapbook, garden, fall asleep in front of the History channel, and hang with my kids. My husband is a minister, so I’m also fairly active in church and community stuff. The biggest thing I do outside of writing is care for animals. I’m such a softie, we’ve taken in all manner of hard-luck cases. I get so much enjoyment from all the furry, feathered, finned darlings that I hardly mind all the time it takes to clean up after them. Usually.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!

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Waiting on Wednesday–The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

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

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda looks like awesome-sauce.  The premise is intriguing – how does the protagonist hide what he really is, when he is so different from everyone around him?  I’ll have to wait until May to find out!


Don’t Sweat. Don’t Laugh. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.

Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.

When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?

Expected in stores May 2012


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Leap into Books Giveaway Hop–Win Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood!

Here’s a chance to win free books!   I am a Reader, Not a Writer and Jinky is Reading are hosting the Leap into Books Giveaway Hop.  The giveaway is February 29 – March 5.   There will be a ton of chances for you to win some new reading material.  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.

I am giving away an ARC of one of my favorite books of 2012: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood!  This book is awesome!   You know you want to win!

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget.  Earn extra entries for following on Twitter, Goodreads, or subscribing to receive an email with blog updates.  Easy, Huh?!

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Guest Post: A Touch Morbid Character Intro by Leah Clifford


Check out this interview with Zach and Sebastian from Leah Clifford’s A Touch Morbid.  I am so glad that {teen} Book Scene arranged for Leah Clifford to conduct the proceedings, because Sebastian is as prickly as a porcupine today!

Sitting at a table in Milton’s coffee shop, I’m joined by a couple of the characters from A Touch Morbid. Zach, the guy sitting directly across from me is smiling, sipping at a steaming cup of tea and seeming at ease. He’s good looking, but not enough to stand out from a crowd, friendly though not overly so. I can tell he’s a little uncomfortable. He’s used to working behind the counter. In fact, he still has his apron on, though he’s switched out rubber gloves for actual ones to keep from spreading me Touch. I am, after all, mortal.

The other Sider isn’t nearly so calm. Refusing to slide in beside Zach, Sebastian, Kristen’s Second in command, has pulled up his own chair, which is almost totally blocking the aisle. He has dark hair, and darker eyes that canvas the room, the door, the bit of sidewalk outside through the window. He’s made it clear he doesn’t trust me, which only amuses me. Maybe he knows I could kill him in a few words.

“So Sebastian,” I start out. “You seem a bit edgy.”

He shoots me a glare and checks his phone. “If Kristen calls, I’m out of here. It’s not smart, forcing us to meet you out in the open like this. The Bound know about us now. The Fallen are after us. You’re risking our lives for an interview?”

I raise an eyebrow, but before I can answer, Zach’s chuckle cuts me off. “Dude, her publisher would KILL her if she offed us in an interview,” he says, and I give him a wink.

Sebastian doesn’t answer, tapping out a text. “Ask your questions,” he mumbles.

“Zach,” I say, “working here at the coffee shop Eden’s crew frequents has given you quite a front row seat to the drama. But you were here in Manhattan before her. What did you think when she first showed up?”

He leans back in the booth, his smile a careful flicker before he answers. “She wasn’t too keen on me working here. Like she was afraid I was gonna accidently pass Touch to the customers or something. Once she realized I wasn’t an idiot, she wanted me to join up with her crew. I think she trusts me. But I’m better off on my own. No offence to you guys that do the group thing,” he says, nodding toward Sebastian.

“There’s safety in groups,” Sebastian argues. He’s part of Kristen’s Bronx crew. She runs a tight ship, even if she’s more than slightly unbalanced herself. Apparently, schizophrenic grave robbers make wonderful territory leaders. I’m silently begging Zach not to press Sebastian about Kristen. Sebastian’s loyalty to her, just like the other Siders in the Bronx, is unbreakable. The last thing I need is these two to fight.

Zach seems to catch the warning in my eye. “Yeah well, when the Bound angels come raging after us all holy fire and thunder, it’s gonna be easier for them to find a group as opposed to one guy.” He holds out his gloved hands and shrugs. “All I’m sayin’.”

“Sebastian, what do you think of some of the others, the angels in particular? Luke and Gabe. Az if you’ve met him.”

“I’ve only met them in passing, really. Kristen is much closer to them. From what I know of them, I don’t trust them. Especially Gabe.”

“Why not?” I ask.

Sebastian looks at me like I should know. I’m the writer. Maybe I should. It’s obvious he cares about her. After all, Kristen and Sebastian have a bit of a past. Nothing too couple-like, but I’ve always wondered if maybe he wanted more. I’m just not sure why. Is he jealous of Gabe? Is it possible he doesn’t know that Gabe’s not playing for the same team as him? Kristen tends to keep the different aspects of her life separate. Without answering and without another word, Sebastian stands and heads out of the coffee shop.

“Well, he’s pleasant,” Zach manages, and then drains the last of his tea.

I roll my eyes. “Yeah. Never really been able to get a handle on that one. Sometimes I wonder if he’s a bit of a loose cannon,” I say, staring after the retreating Sider before turning back to Zach. “Well, I guess we better wrap this up. Any final thoughts?”

Zach smiles as he starts to head back over behind the counter. “I’m standing by my lone wolf theory. At least Eden’s group isn’t as nuts as the Bronx group.”

You can learn more about Leah and her books by visiting her website

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Teaser Tuesday–Above World and The Song of Achilles

Jenn Reese’s Above World is a compelling Middle Grade read.  I like both protagonists, and I am worried about their continued health and  safety.  In order to save their people, they are willing to take dangerous risks even the adults of their city refused to undertake.  So far, they are not having an easy time, either!

Aluna scowled at the mention of etiquette, but didn’t fuss.  She’d put up with far more than social humiliation in order to train with the hunters back home.  Warrior training!  Suddenly, being a prisoner didn’t seem like such a bad fate after all.


I love Greek mythology, so I had an attack of giddy anticipation when I saw that Madeline Miller wrote a book about Achilles and Patroclus.  I love these characters, and could hardly wait to dive into the book.  I only just started it, but I am already hooked.  (The picture is from the UK cover – I like that one better than the US version)

I waited for him to make a joke out of it, some witty jape about my disgrace.  He did not.  Perhaps, I thought, he is too stupid to.

He rolled onto his side to face me.  A stray lock of gold fell half into his eyes; he blew it away.  “My name is Achilles.”

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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{teen} Book Scene Interview with Marni Bates, Author of Awkward

Marni Bates is the author of Awkward, a recent release from KTEEN.  With a little help from {teen} book scene, Marni was able to drop by the virtual offices to answer a few questions about her book.

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

[Marni Bates] At the time, I was trying to publicize my autobiography Marni and I was getting frustrated with the amount of effort it takes to promote something. It’s hard! But it got me wondering what would happen if I had the opposite problem. What if my goal in life was to fly under the radar and then suddenly (by no fault of my own) I became an overnight celebrity? What would that be like? As far as my characters go, I’m not quite sure how they came about. I mean, I definitely see a lot of me in Mackenzie (although she is way cooler, in my opinion) but the others just captured my heart and I rolled with it. Especially Logan. I had a lot of fun figuring out what made him tick. I also went to bed for a long time muttering his name as I tried to puzzle him out. It’s just a good thing I was roommate free during that particular point in time!

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

[Marni Bates] I am both fascinated and horrified by how our culture treats women. I think girls in particular receive really toxic messages about what it means to be attractive, popular, or important. My family has always placed a great deal of importance on having a boyfriend (although they will deny it if asked) and that’s been a constant source of frustration for me. Until I can introduce someone to them over dinner, it’s a black mark against me. And I think that the desire to prove that I can indeed attract male interest encourages me to engage in really unsafe behavior. I find that scary. Terrifying, actually. It makes me constantly question whether I’m making a good decision for me or if I’m secretly wanting to impress someone else.

That makes me want to write about strong girls in hard situations who are determined to find a way to accept themselves.

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

[Marni Bates] I need ambient noise because when I’m alone in a quiet house I inevitably procrastinate. So I find that if I have a delicious caffeinated beverage (usually a mocha frappachino with whip cream), a window table at Starbucks, and indie rock music pounding through my headphones . . . I’m a very happy writer.

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

[Marni Bates] Who Is Bugs Potter? by Gordon Korman. I read it in elementary school and I have a very clear memory of forgoing my lunch to keep reading . . . and then falling off my bench howling with laughter. My best friend has never let me live that one down. Anyhow, I fell in love with reading because I discovered that it was a way to enter a world way more hilarious than anything I saw on a regular basis. Oh, and there’s this scene where these jewel thieves are pretending to be plumbers except the boys also pretend to be plumbers because they want to approach the famous actress too, but then they actually mess with the toilet and . . . dying of laughter. Trust me, you have to read it to get it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe ] Thanks!


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Review: My Favorite Mistake by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka


Title: My Favorite Mistake

Author: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

Publisher: Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1599906423


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tommi, Zara, and Kate are all elite riders on the A Circuit. Tommi, the billionaire heiress, is training a young horse to prove she can make horses a real career. But when her new beau, Alex, convinces her to skip a horse show to party in the Hamptons, the results could be disastrous. Zara, the celebutante wild child, is finally taking her riding seriously. Until the new "nanny" her dad hires threatens to upstage Zara’s party girl status. Then there’s Kate. She doesn’t have money to burn like the others, but she does have Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy. But when the pressure of being a working student builds, Kate’s perfectionist tendencies threaten to get in the way of her relationship and her riding.

Readers who are growing out of the Canterwood Crest series or searching for an A-list fix have found just what they’re looking for in the A Circuit series.


If you have been following the blog, you know that it’s no secret that I love horses and books about horses.  When I first saw the A Circuit, I was so excited to read it that I almost expired from heart palpations.  Seriously!  There are so few books around that offer an accurate view of horse shows and owning horses that I was instantly curious to see where this book fell.  Would it feel authentic?  Yup. it did, so I was eager to read the next book in the series, My Favorite Mistake.

I wasn’t as charmed this time around, because I have a hard time relating to the wealthy protagonists.  While I feel right at home with Kate, and could emphasize with her financial struggle to compete in the horse show world, her fellow barn buddies did not endear themselves to me.  Tommi, at least, didn’t grate on my nerves like Zara did, and I even appreciated her internal struggle when she receives an offer on her project horse, Legs.  An aggressive rider from another barn wants to purchase him, but Tommi has serious reservations about his continued health and happiness if she sells him to her.  This  concern for her horse’s welfare totally redeemed her in my eyes.  When she started flaking out and putting her new boyfriend ahead of her dreams and ambitions for the future, I got annoyed with her, because she never seemed to be the wishy-washy type.  She didn’t seem to be the kind of girl to put a boy ahead of the goals she has been striving to conquer, and I did feel let down by her sudden change of personality.  The internal conflict about Legs did win her lots of brownie points, though.

Zara is just an annoying, selfish brat.  Both of her parents are celebrities, and they are both busy advancing their careers and are often not home.  Zara feels that she is not at the top of their priority lists, and she acts out to get their attention.  She comes across as self-centered and unlikable, though she occasionally manages to pull through and actually think about somebody else.  Everything is handed to her on a silver platter, including her awesome horses.  She doesn’t appreciate anything she has, and she goes out of her way to annoy her father.  Too bad he doesn’t pay any attention to her, which makes her act out even more.  I don’t feel that her character is developing much, and I think that is why she is my least favorite of the three very different protagonists of this series.

Kate is having some issues this time around.  I was so disappointed with her by the end of the book, because so much of what is troubling her could be easily solved if she would just open up and confide to her friends.  Kate is anal, bordering on OCD, and she is starting to really harm herself as she continues to push herself at the barn and at shows, finding little time to take care of herself or even eat.  She puts so much pressure on herself to be the best at everything, and in the process, she is compromising her health.  What made this so frustrating is that she has some wonderful friends who have the means to help her.  They genuinely like her and want what’s best for her, but with all of the barn drama, they don’t notice that she is suffering.  Even boyfriend Fitz is too caught up in himself to consider that Kate might be having some serious issues, even after seeing the evidence first hand.

Even though this installment of the series didn’t hit all of the right notes for me, I still enjoyed it and the view into the competitive world of showing hunter/jumpers.  It isn’t much different from the Morgan circuit – everyone is out to have the class of a lifetime and win.  While we don’t have half as much money, or nearly as much drama at our barn, we still manage to have just as much fun. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher


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