Review: Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai



   Title: Inside Out & Back Again

   Author: Thanhha Lai

   Publisher: Harper Collins

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next. 


I love books about different cultures or ways of life, and Inside Out & Back Again delivers up an emotionally enthralling account of a young Vietnamese girl’s flight from her home country to the US.  As I read Ha’s adventures, recounted in simple yet moving free verse, I wondered what it would be like to have everything familiar ripped away.  Before the fall of Saigon, life for Ha was happy and content, despite the growing hardships caused by the war.  Her father has been missing in action since she was an infant, but her family still holds out hope that he will return home one day.  She loves her family, she is doing well in school, and she is eager for her papaya tree to finally yield fruit.  Her three brothers are happy, as well, and they are excellent students with bright futures ahead of them.  Everything changes with the fall of Saigon.

Ha’s mother is trying valiantly to raise four children by herself, but life has gotten more difficult.  It’s harder to make ends meet, and the price of everything keeps climbing.  As the communists threaten Saigon, she has a family meeting and asks everyone what they should do.  Should they flee, and try to built a new life in a country without Ho Chi Min and the war?  Ha and her brother Thoi don’t want to go.  How can they leave Ha’s papaya tree and Thoi’s chicken?  The pain of leaving their most prized possessions was a bitter pill to swallow for a new life with no guarantees.  I don’t think I could have done it.  Photographs, clothing, memories; all were left behind in Vietnam.

I loved Ha and found her easy to relate to.  She has been thrust into a new life that she doesn’t want, and one that doesn’t seem to want her.  Her new neighbors in Alabama aren’t very neighborly, she can’t understand the confusing language she is immersed in, and her classmates mock and bully her.  Her teacher doesn’t understand her and doesn’t try to make her feel welcome.  Instead, Ha, a bright, curious girl, is left feeling stupid and ignorant.  As she begins to pick up the language, she wishes she did not understand the names she is called or the jokes that her peers make about her.  She is angry, justifiably, but there is no outlet for her rage.  Ha is the one who must make concessions to fit in with a group of kids who can only see how she is different from them. 

This is a quick read that follows one year in Ha’s life.  Starting in Vietnam on New Year’s, Inside Out & Back Again chronicles her flight from Saigon, life in a refuge camp, and her eventual home in Alabama.  I could not put the book down and I read it in one sitting.  Highly recommended.

Grade:  A

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by library

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Interview with Erin Knightley, Author of More Than A Stranger

Erin Knightley is the author of More Than a Stranger.  She stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and to chat about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about More Than a Stranger?

[Erin Knightley] This story has a nod toward the original social networking—of the paper and quill variety! What started off as a childish rebuke from 11-year-old Evie to her brother’s new friend, blossoms into a years-long correspondence that leads to first love . . . and heartbreak. Years later, when her brother shows up with a handsome stranger in tow, Evie doesn’t want the man interfering with her plans. Unfortunately, there is no denying the attraction between them, and she just can’t seem to stay away. When Benedict needed a place to lay low after a betrayal shakes him to his core, he had no idea his former correspondent would be in residence. Though he knows he should avoid her, he can’t help but be curious about the woman he’s never seen, but who knows him best of anyone in the world . . . even if she doesn’t realize it.

More Than a Stranger was actually my very first novel. That being said, I did rewrite it about seven times, lol! But no matter how often people told me the first book will end up under the bed, I just couldn’t give up on Evie and Benedict and their story. I’m so glad I didn’t! Not only did it catch the eye of my dream agent, Deidre Knight, but it also was a Golden Heart® finalist and ultimately sold at auction. To say this last year has been a dream come true would be an understatement!

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

[Erin Knightley] Believe it or not, the ideas generally evolved organically as I wrote. When I decided I wanted to write a novel, I literally just sat down and started typing—no game plan, no plot charts, no character arcs—just me and my fingers tapping away on the keyboard. There were times when I was writing, and I couldn’t believe that words that were coming out of Evie’s mouth, or things Benedict did. Every now and then I’d be working on a part of a book, and be struck with inspiration about a completely different scene. I’d drop everything and try the new twist, and if it worked, well, let’s just say that there was LOTS of editing in this book. Changing a scene is like pulling a thread in a knitted sweater. Everything is connected and the earlier in the book the change was made, the more revisions I had to do.

Since writing this first book, I have learned a lot about the beauty of plotting and development before sitting down at the computer. And as for coming up with concepts, it usually starts with a question: “What would happen if…” There are endless possibilities for love stories on earth—just look at all the billions of people who have found love since the beginning of time!

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

[Erin Knightley] By far the hardest thing for me is putting my characters through the wringer. I like them—I don’t want to torture them! Of course, it must be done, but for me it usually takes a few drafts before they are truly tested. After all, why do I love romance? Because I love love! I love happiness, and it is darn hard to give your characters the smackdown when all you want is to see them ride off into the sunset together.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Evie would never have in her boudoir?

[Erin Knightley] Well goodness, let me think! Evie’s pretty unconventional in life—she rather follows her own drum. She would never have separate beds—nor would she have any man but Benedict! But most importantly, she would never again have any secrets there – not after the mess secrets caused when Benedict first showed up on her doorstep.

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

[Erin Knightley] I am a true romantic J There is nothing I love more than a sigh-worthy happily ever after, or experiencing the rush of first love all over again. I can remember in middle school we were required to read The Outsiders, which of course is an outstanding book, but one that I balked at being forced to read. Even at that young age, I argued with my friends, saying that there is enough bad stuff in the world as it is. When I sit down to read, I want to walk away feeling better, not worse.

I have always loved writing – in fact, you are looking at the school-wide Young Authors winner for Centerfield Elementary, 1989, my friend! I’m a storyteller at heart, and putting together the two things that I love—romance and writing—led me to a rather obvious conclusion: I wanted to be a romance writer!

PS-Did I mention that I work a day or two a week at a jewelry store, matching up soon to be engaged couples with their perfect ring? I adore it– after all, love is always in the air there!

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

[Erin Knightley] Authors like Sabrina Jeffries, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, and Suzanne Enoch, to name a few. Movies like Love Actually (I may have watched this one once or twice…or thirty times), Romancing the Stone, Pride and Prejudice (did I mention I’ve been hugged by Colin Firth? Now that’s inspiration!), and Little Women. And, of course, we cannot forget my newest obsession: Downton Abbey! As my friend Catherine Gayle says, it’s our Edwardian crack.

Also, my brother, Andy McLeroy, is a composer in his spare time. His music is moving and moody, and is great to get me in the mood to write. Actually, he composed a piece that is based on a scene in More Than a Stranger, which is available as a free download on my website. It is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever heard, and I often play it before sitting down to write.

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

[Erin Knightley] Absolute, total, pin-drop silence.

An endless supply of gum.

Post-it notes. Lots and lots of post it notes.

(If I could say four things, I’d say my co-workers: Sadie (bird-dog mutt), Maggie (black lab mutt), and Darcy (border collie mutt). My three ladies (and, you know- Twitter) help keep the work from getting too lonely.)

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

[Erin Knightley] The Root Cellar, by Janet Lunn. I was in either fourth or fifth grade, and it truly opened up a whole new world to me. The magic was intoxicating, and I wanted more!

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

[Erin Knightley] I’m blessed to live lakefront, so anything that involves the lake is good for me! I love wakesurfing, swimming, boating, lounging on the dock – anything that gets me near the water. The best of all worlds is when my husband and I take a cruise on the pontoon with the dogs, and I have a great book in hand. Heaven!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can learn more about Erin by visiting her website or by following her on Twitter and Facebook.

You can pre-order More Than a Stranger from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.


The Magician of Wall Street–Excerpt and Giveaway!

I’m excited to have an excerpt from Minta Hall’s The Magician of Wall Street, a new release from Entangled Publishing under their Indulgence imprint.  Check out the excerpt, and then fill in the widget for a chance to win a digital copy for yourself!


Oliver Pendragon opened the door of the Tarot-A-While Bookstore and strode in with more assurance than he felt. Never show weakness. Never mind that the object of his quest could toss him out on his butt before he could say three words.

Never mind that if he failed, she’d be dead in a week.

He stood by the shop door, eclipsing the sun’s final evening glimmerings, but no one inside took the slightest notice of his entry. A small clutch of women huddled in the far corner. They sat on folding chairs and leaned forward, breathless as they focused on a woman sitting at a rickety card table.

The shop had the paradoxical charm of a little old lady in black motorcycle leather and spike-heeled boots. Despite the store’s predilection for mind-boggling merchandise in confusing disarray, Oliver noticed a state-of-the-art point-of-sale terminal on the sales counter.

Yes, this store suited Abby.

Anticipation throbbed through him, but he suppressed it. He’d known for months that the day would come when he’d at last be free to claim Abigail Daltry again. But now that he was here at last, he wanted to savor each moment of this long-delayed reunion as much as he wanted to swoop in and whisk her back into his life.

Back into his arms.

Back into his bed.

Oliver stepped forward, still shadowed by the tall shelves, his curiosity piqued by the intensity of the group. The woman at the table held a pack of battered, oversize cards and laid them out in a peculiar pattern on the table. For a moment, he thought she was playing solitaire, then realized the cards weren’t standard playing cards.

He took another step closer, then halted. There, seated in front of the woman with the cards, was Abby. He took a deep breath, fighting for control, and found himself listening with unexpected interest to the other woman’s explanation.

The reader spoke quickly. “…The ninth card reveals your hopes and fears.” A practiced flick of her fingers flipped the card face up. Her face drained of color.

Abby leaned forward just as he was about to move. “What’s wrong?”

The reader looked Abby straight in the eye and her voice took on an ominous note. “Your reading is filled with warnings of a deceiver, a man who is not who he claims, not who you think he is. Beware this man.” With a sure movement but keeping her eyes on Abby, she tapped the last card. “This card shows the final outcome. It reveals the answer to the struggles you face.”

“Turn it over,” Abby said.

The reader hesitated for a moment, then turned up the card. “The Magician,” she whispered as she looked up, straight into Oliver’s eyes. “Beware the Magician,” she warned, while holding his gaze with a commanding glare.

Abby must have noticed the new focus of the reader’s attention because she turned and stared at him, too, causing the rest of the ladies to turn. He fell under the microscopic survey of a suddenly hostile audience.

Visibly gathering her composure, Abby stood and gestured toward him in a mock-courteous introduction. “Welcome to the Tarot-A-While Bookstore, Oliver. Ladies, may I present Mr. Oliver Pendragon? You may have heard of him. He’s known as…” Abby faltered under his glare.

Oliver’s voice felt rusty and his words came out harsher than he intended. “Say it.”

Abby glanced again at the reader and at the cards that accused him from the card table. She reached down and lifted the final card in the layout, holding it out in sardonic offering. “The Magician. Oliver’s called the ‘Magician of Wall Street.’”

From: The Magician of Wall Street, by Minta Hall. © 2012. Available from, from



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Interview with Minta Hall, Author of The Magician of Wall Street

Minta Hall is the author of The Magician of Wall Street, a new release from Entangled Publishing under their Indulgence imprint.  Minta stopped by to introduce herself, and she brought a present!  Later today, you can enter for a chance to win a digital copy of The Magician of Wall Street, open Internationally!

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

[Minta Hall] I’m a little off-the-wall and quirky with an offbeat sense of humor and a love of paranormal twists in stories I write.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about The Magician of Wall Street?

[Minta Hall] Oliver Pendragon’s days as the Magician of Wall Street are over. He’s lost everything: his business partner, his reputation, and the love of his life, Abby Daltry. When Abby’s father offers him a way to get everything back—including Abby—Oliver can’t refuse.

Meanwhile, Abby Daltry wants nothing more than to break away from the controlling men in her life. When a tarot reading reveals that she’s in danger and that her ex?lover will be returning to her life, she’ll do whatever it takes to prove her independence.

Though Oliver will stop at nothing to prove his love and to protect her from the man out to kill them both, Abby finds out the truth about his deal with her father and issues an ultimatum: he can have her or the company. As danger looms and shots fly, Abby has to decide whether to give into the passion that rises to the Magician’s command—the Magician who all?too?easily controls her heart.

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

[Minta Hall] You know, I don’t think there is a fixed method for defining either characters or story. You start with an idea, then start thinking about who fits that idea—what characters might exist. In this case, I thought of a woman receiving an ominous tarot reading: “Beware the Magician!” So…who was the Magician? Why did she need to beware of him? What if he wasn’t a literal magician, but one who was “magic” with money, and—because people you know intimately are far more dangerous in many ways than strangers—what if he’s a former lover? That led to wondering why she’d left him in the first place, and then why he comes back into her life. And so it goes. One question leads to another. It’s a very organic process.

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

[Minta Hall] I think it was hard to be sure that Oliver didn’t come across as too dark. He’s a natural leader, and a strong-willed man. It would be easy to make him seem like a stalker—especially because he tracks Abby down 3000 miles away from where they once lived together! It was important to make it clear that he’s head over heels in love with her—that he’ll do whatever it takes to win her back.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Abby?

[Minta Hall] Intelligent, wary, and loving

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Oliver would never have in his pocket?

[Minta Hall] Tobacco (especially chewing tobacco!), a pocket knife, and a NASCAR keychain

[Manga Maniac Café] What is Oliver’s single most prized possession?

[Minta Hall] Abby! But if you’re talking about a thing not a person, the possession he once has, but has now lost, was his company. He lived and breathed his company—until he had to sell it.

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

[Minta Hall] I think the first thing is meditation. Doing even a brief meditation helps me stay centered and focused. Second is the importance of writing what I love to read. I think most writers tend to write stories they want to read, and I’m no exception. And finally, paying attention to current trends. For example, I fell in love with the TV series “Revenge” this year. O.M.G. That series is so delightfully twisted! Love it!

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

[Minta Hall] My computer. In terms of writing my books, I am all but nonfunctional without a keyboard, though I prefer journaling in longhand.

Some kind of background noise—I usually turn on the TV and have it playing in the background. I don’t actually pay much attention to the program, but the sound keeps me going.

My beta reader. I don’t know what I’d do without her to keep me on the straight and narrow! (Thanks, Caro!)

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

[Minta Hall] The Hunger Games Trilogy. Frankly, I cannot stop with those books. They are phenomenal—totally knock-your-socks-off wonderful. I think I’ve read the whole trilogy three or four times, and discover new things in them with every reading.

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

[Minta Hall] Oh, gosh. I’ve been reading since I was about 3 years old and reading at adult levels by the time I was about 4. I cannot imagine not reading. And I read virtually everything—my parents were worried about me reading “too early” so when I was about 3 or 4 I took to reading cereal boxes and soup cans. Everything turns me on to reading.

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

[Minta Hall] I have set up a bird feeding station right outside my den windows on my deck. The station is a simple make-shift table (a board over some simple supports, covered with plastic to protect it from the weather) and it’s right at window-sill level—about knee height inside the house. I keep seed and suet plus water on the table for birds and it draws a huge variety of birds, plus a couple chipmunks (Alvin the Awfully Cute and Mrs. Alvin) and squirrels (Rocky the Not-So-Flying Squirrel and Mrs. Rocky). This spring I’ve seen all kinds of baby birds stop by with mom and dad, some of them just barely fledged. When I’m working the birds are only about 3 or 4 feet away—if the windows were open, I could literally reach out and touch them. I’m having great fun watching them!

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

[Minta Hall] You can find me at:

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can order The Magician of Wall Street from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  Be sure to enter the giveaway later today for a digital copy!

Waiting on Wednesday–A Trace of Moonlight by Alison Pang

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

I read and enjoyed the first Abby Sinclair book, A Brush of Darkness, but I have been holding off on reading the second book in the series, A Silver of Shadow.  Why? Because I was waiting for the release of the third book, A Trace of Moonlight, which hits stores in October. 


Drinking from the waters of the Lethe and offering herself up as Faerie’s sacrificial Tithe …these just might be the least of Abby Sinclair’s problems.

Abby’s pact with a demon—whether or not she remembers making it—is binding, so she’d better count herself lucky that (in the words of a daemon who knows better) there’s nearly always a loophole. But her friends’ reckless attempts to free her, well intentioned though they may be, set off a disastrous chain of events. In no time at all, Abby turns her incubus lover mortal and gets herself killed, cursed, and married to an elven prince whose mother wants her dead. She might have even been able to recover from all that had she not lost the Key to the CrossRoads to her mortal enemy, who promptly uses his restored power to wreak havoc on the OtherWorld and put its very existence in jeopardy.

Only one person can make things right again, but to find her Abby must place her trust in allies of mixed loyalties, and conquer her nightmares once and for all.

In stores October 2012

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Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson


Title: Hereafter

Author: Tara Hudson

Publisher: HarperTeen


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.


I did not find this ghost story very compelling.  Amelia is a ghost with no recollection of her past.  All she knows is that she met a watery end in a river.  After she saves Joshua from drowning, she is astonished to discover that he can see her and hear her.  Even more amazing – she can touch him.  Can a ghost discover love with a living, breathing guy?

I love the premise of Hereafter, because I am a sucker for love stories where the odds are so firmly stacked against the protagonists that it seems impossible for them to ever get together.  It doesn’t get much harder to find a happy  ever after than for a ghost to fall in love with a living person.  Unfortunately, the narrative style just did not click for me.  Amelia’s endless and overly verbose inner dialog did not engage me in the story.  Amelia’s lack of memories didn’t work either, and I found that being firmly anchored to the present, with no chance of reflection on past events or mistakes, a plot device that didn’t work for me.  She did constantly relive her death, but because she kept running away from the memories, she never stopped to think about why she materialized in the exact same place every single time she had the nightmares about her death.  If she had only looked around herself, she would have discovered many key answers to the questions that were burning in her mind.

Joshua’s relatives are Seers, and they have exorcised lingering spirits for generations.  When his grandmother sees Amelia, she immediately wants Joshua to get rid of her. Permanently.  This would have been a great conflict if it hadn’t been pushed to the background midway through the book.  I am sure that the Seers will play a larger role in Arise, but I would have liked to see them meddle more with the protagonists this volume.

Eli, the evil ghost, came off as a creepy stalker.  He was one-dimensional, and very boring.  I found his aggressive behavior toward Amelia disturbing and his comeuppance lacking.  After your character has been painted to be so evil, I think you need a really memorable end.  I don’t think Eli’s was harsh enough, given his cruelty to Amelia.

I was looking forward to enjoying Hereafter, but the book just didn’t work for me.  Many other reviewers did enjoy it, so it was disappointing that I did not.

Grade: D+

Available in Print and Digital For a limited time, the eBook is only .99 and includes bonus materials!

Review copy purchased from Amazon


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Interview with Rebecca Serle, Author of When You Were Mine

Rebecca Serle is the author of When You Were Mine, a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet.  Rebecca stopped by the virtual offices to discuss her book, so check out what she has to say.

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

[Rebecca Serle] A girl who loves her friends, family, and her job. I can be sensitive, I hope I’m kind, and I try every day to be a source of positivity.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about When You Were Mine?

[Rebecca Serle] When You Were Mine is a modern re-telling of Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of Rosaline— the girl Romeo was supposed to love. It’s about first love, and first heartbreak, and the dialogue between fate and free will. 

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

[Rebecca Serle] Well, the story idea came out of my own heartbreak. I felt like I really knew Rosaline— I understood what it felt like to be the girl who got left behind. All the characters came from Rosaline. She was first. I gave her fierce friends who were going to remind her that she was worth more than the sum of what she would go through. I gave her Rob, and Juliet, and the complicated past she has with both of them.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Rebecca Serle] This book was truly a joy to write. It was hard, because the emotion is real– and a lot of what Rosaline goes through, I was feeling myself. But I loved writing this book. 

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

[Rebecca Serle] Sweet, trusting, loyal.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Rob would never have in his glove box?

[Rebecca Serle] Hmm. Well, a Berkley sweatshirt, for starters. Rob is a Stanford guy. He’d also probably not have a map— he’s the sort of guy who would suffer through getting lost. He wouldn’t have a book, either. MAYBE something like The Motorcycle Diaries, but I doubt it. I hate to break this to you…but Rob isn’t much of a reader.

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

[Rebecca Serle] Probably a photograph of her parents with her on a holiday when she was younger, or maybe a heirloom piece of jewelry. Juliet wants a happy family more than anything else.

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

[Rebecca Serle] My friends inspire me all the time– they way they talk, what happens to them, what remarkable friends they are to me and each other. New York isn’t too bad, either. I love being a part of a creative community here— there is so much to see, do, and reflect.

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

[Rebecca Serle] Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. That’s pretty much it. Music helps, too. 

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

[Rebecca Serle] The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. The same screenwriters who adapted When You Were Mine are adapting The Fault In Our Stars and on their recommendation I read it. It really touched me– I’m not sure I’ve totally recovered from it yet, to be honest with you.

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

[Rebecca Serle] Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It is my first, last, and always novel. 

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

[Rebecca Serle] I like to watch silly television. I like to go to yoga and pilates. Take walks. Go to dinner. Go shopping. I like to have fun! But then again, nothing makes me happier than getting some good words down on a page. 

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

[Rebecca Serle] Come visit me at Or follow me on twitter: @RebeccaASerle — don’t forget to say hi! 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thanks!!

You can order When You Were Mine from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  Available in both print and digital

Interview with Anna Waggener, Author of Grim

Anna Waggener is the author of Grim, a YA fantasy that hits stores June 1.  Anna dropped by the virtual offices recently to talk about her new book.

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

[Anna Waggener] I love working with kids, playing with Photoshop, and taking long walks through the mountains. The quantity of my cream puff and cookie making compliment all three.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Grim?

[Anna Waggener] Grim follows three story lines, the two most important of which focus on Erika, a single mother who suffers a car crash and wakes up in the land of the dead, and her kids Meg, Shawn, and Becca, aged eight, seventeen, and eighteen respectively, who have to deal with the fact that she keeps creeping up in their dreams–even after her funeral. It bridges two worlds (Limbo and New Jersey, which, I’m told, is a bit like Limbo) and two genres, giving important nods to both the "classics" and to children’s lit (and to classic children’s lit) that I grew up on.

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

[Anna Waggener] It sounds cliche, but the character of Jeremiah appeared randomly in one of my dreams. He was just sort of standing there, not really doing anything, but I woke up wanting to figure out what that was all about. As I fleshed him out, I found his story linked to a line that I’d jotted down almost a year before—the line that starts out the book’s prologue.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing Grim?

[Anna Waggener] The editing process. I’m a panster for the most part, and also a perfectionist, which means my early drafts are carefully written in the first place. Then my perfectionist really comes out when I buckle down for edits. Self-doubt is something that I, like all other writers, struggle with on a constant basis, and the editing process really accentuates that for me.

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

[Anna Waggener] Opinionated; Loving; Fierce

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Shawn would never have in his pocket?

[Anna Waggener] illegal paraphernalia (unless Becca put it there); a band-aid; tickets to a musical

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

[Anna Waggener] Photography is certainly one of them, as are travel and people watching. As far as authors, I’m very much impacted by J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and J.K. Rowling, as well as Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett, and so many others. 

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

[Anna Waggener] A computer with a decent word processor and a quiet (but not too quiet) space. I’m not too fussy.

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

[Anna Waggener] I’m reading Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma right now and LOVING it. Before that, Patricia Smith’s latest book of poetry.

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

[Anna Waggener] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, hands down.

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

[Anna Waggener] I would say "take pictures" but I haven’t been on a shoot in a while. I’ve been a student for the vast majority of my life (graduating next week!), so I’m not sure what life in the "real world" will be like just yet, but I both cook and read whenever I can, and hang out with friends. I also love gardening, so my small apartment is rather leafy all year round.

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

[Anna Waggener] Facebook (, Twitter (@AnnaWaggener), or email ( And please feel free to; I’d love to get to know you!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

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