Cover Shot! Sweet Chaos by Misty Evans

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I haven’t heard of Misty Evans or her Kali Sweet urban fantasy series before, but this cover for Sweet Chaos got my attention.  This is the second book in the series, and it looks pretty good.  Have you read anything by Misty Evans?

 

Three hundred years later, the ghosts from her past are hunting for revenge.

The past always finds a way to bite you in the ass.

As a three-hundred-year old vengeance demon, I’ve made a lot of enemies. The worst was Queen Maria, the Italian Court’s most devious succubus and a ruler who used me as a weapon of mass destruction to inflict pain and kill hundreds of humans in her torture chambers.

Now she’s back, this time as a ghost, and she’s invited a new friend to the party—a vampire king who wants my head on a stake. Together they’re bringing a war to Chicago that will topple the carefully constructed world I’ve protected for centuries.

But I’m Kali Sweet. I never run from my past…and I’m not about to hide from my present.

In stores now!

 

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Review: A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

 

 

Title: A Midsummer’s Nightmare

Author: Kody Keplinger

Publisher:  Poppy

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Whitley Johnson’s dream summer with her divorce dad has turned into a nightmare. She’s just met his new fiancee and her kids. The fiancee’s son? Whitley’s one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin’ great.

Worse, she totally doesn’t fit in with her dad’s perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn’t even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she’s ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn’t "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn’t her stepbrother…at least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

Filled with authenticity and raw emotion, Whitley is Kody Keplinger’s most compelling character to date: a cynical Holden Caulfield-esque girl you will wholly care about.,

Review:

This is the first book that I have read by Kody Keplinger.  It won’t be the last.   I enjoyed it, but found that the pacing near the end faltered a bit, and I felt that the overall conflict between Whitley and her dad was wrapped up too neatly to be convincing.  Poor Whitley spent most of the book craving any kind of attention from her detached father, any kind of attention at all, after being ignored by him for the entire length of her summer vacation.  Whitley was hard to like at times, but I found her father, a local TV personality, impossible to like, not even  the slightest bit.  Having messed up his first marriage, he pretty much treated his kids as inconveniences, doling out his precious time when it was convenient for him.  I did feel bad for Whitley, because both of her parents failed her, despite her obvious attempts to wring any kind of reaction out of them.  Her mother was far too bitter over the breakup of her marriage to give Whitley the guidance she longed for, and her father was too selfish being a hot-shot to give her the emotional support she so desperately sought.

When we first meet Whitley, she is hung over, just waking up from a night of partying that is appallingly hazy.  She is aghast when she realizes that she slept with a boy she doesn’t even know, and after making him feel like a pile of dog poo when she refuses to give him her number and blows him off, she flees.  Oops!  She’s messed up again!  She’s gotten so drunk she can’t remember what she did the night before, but as she regularly parties like a fiend, she shrugs it off and instead eagerly anticipates spending the summer at her dad’s condo.  She will swim and hang out with him, tossing a few drinks back while they chat and catch up on everything they have missed during the school year.  Poor Whitley, it turns out, is sadly delusional.

When her dad comes to pick her up, he waits until they get to his new house to tell her that he has moved and…wait for it… that he is engaged and will be tying the knot in September.  Right about there I realized why Whitley can’t stand herself.  Even her parents take no interest in her life, and since she doesn’t believe in making friends, she is sadly without any kind of emotional support.  When she meets her soon to be step-mom and step-siblings, she has another rude awakening.  The unknown boy she hooked up with?  He’s going to be her step-brother. Ugh!

I found myself getting  a little impatient with Whitley, because she isn’t a nice person.  She has a chip on her shoulder the size of a whale, and she keeps a wall around herself that even an airplane couldn’t breach.  As the emotional distance between herself and her parents yawned ever wider, she stepped back even farther from the people around her.  Her blind worship of her father grated – it was apparent to everyone but Whitley that he didn’t deserve it.  Both her mother and her father spent as much time ignoring her as possible, for two very different reasons.  Her mom was still not over the failure of her marriage, and could barely keep her act together.  She didn’t have the emotional energy to be there for Whitley.  I understood Whitley’s confusion about her parents.  Neither of them had ever acted like a parent, so no wonder she formed no lasting attachments to anyone other than her brother, who lived on the other side of the country and didn’t have any time for her either.  What a sad situation to be in!

As Whitley’s nightmarish summer slowly passes by, she begins to make emotional connections with Nathan and Bailey, her future step-siblings.  Despite her every effort to avoid getting to know them or like them,  Nathan and Bailey are always there for her, giving her the emotional support that has been lacking in her life.  When she is the victim of cyberbullying, it is Nathan who consoles her.  Though  disapproving of her irresponsible and ill-advised behavior, he never turned his back on her or rejected her.  It was gratifying to follow along with Whitley as she began to mature and take emotional risks.  As she developed friendships  she began to like herself, and with that better opinion of herself, she began to respect herself.  That was when she could honestly evaluate her relationship with her parents, and when she finally recognized that Sylvia, her future step-mom, was also always there for her.  I loved the relationship between Sylvia and Whitley; that was what Whitley needed, and it’s too bad that she didn’t find a caring and compassionate adult until she was about the leave home for college. 

So, to sum it up, A Midsummer’s Nightmare is a quick fun read about a girl who finally finds the family she has been longing for. Whitley is a hard character to like because she has no respect or love for herself, but as her nightmarish summer passes by, she begins to see that change must come from within herself.  Neither of her feuding parents offered her the guidance and stability she craved, but she finally found acceptance from the most unlikely of places.  I love books where the protagonist matures into a relatable character.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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Interview with Laurianne Uy, Creator of Polterguys

Laurianne Uy is the creator of Polterguys, a new graphic novel series with one shy girl and a bunch of hot ghosts.  Laurianne dropped by the virtual offices to chat about Polterguys, and about her road to getting her project published.  Check out what she has to say!

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

[Laurianne Uy] Someone who enjoys writing and creating fun, compelling stories Likes visual art analysis and bubble milk tea. Internet junkie. XD

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Polterguys?

[Laurianne Uy] Sure, it’s the story of Bree — a smart but socially awkward college girl who moves into a house that’s haunted by five cute guys. She’s the only one who can see these ghosts so she has to help them resolve their unfinished business. From someone who’s uncomfortable hanging around boys, Bree suddenly has to live with a bunch of dead ones!

The series is informed by my love of ghost stories, reverse-harem manga and TV shows with awesome girls as lead characters. Some of my favorite movies from the ‘90s were Ghost, Heart & Souls and The Frighteners and I was always drawn to them for the dramatic storylines. But I always wanted to see one with a young girl in the spotlight (Why should guys have all the ghostly fun? XD)

Fruits Basket and Ouran are among my favorite anime/manga because they are incredibly entertaining with just the right amount of bittersweet-ness to them. Both series don’t have the “save-the-world” kind of arcs but their conflicts always felt so personal and intimate. The characters’ struggles were much more relatable that way and for Polterguys, I wanted familiar kinds of problems, too.

And finally, I can’t say enough how empowering shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars are for me as a viewer. Watching these tough girls take on bad guys, saving their friends and just kick ass inspires me to do the same (er…narratively, of course.) I like the idea that stories could inspire young women to be their own heroes in their daily lives. My favorite writers do that for me and this is me trying to pay it forward.

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

[Laurianne Uy] Out of nowhere, I was having breakfast one morning and an idea just came to me- "Ghost harem." Somehow, my mind connected ghosts from shonen manga like Bleach and Yu Yu Hakusho to the reverse-harem shojo trope in Fruits Basket and Ouran. I usually didn’t have strong conceptual ideas like this so I knew this was special. But I did struggle to flesh out the world. My first drafts were pretty depressing and the main character was not very relatable or sympathetic. 

Then, I moved the setting from high school to the university and suddenly, the drafts were getting stronger. It was about this girl and figuring out who she was on her own. Full disclosure, I was pulling from my experiences studying at Berkeley for college after growing up in the Philippines most of my life. I felt like a blank slate coming here and that was fueling my writing much more so than if I had a younger protagonist.

Bree is the survivor out of all the protagonists we tried placing in this unique situation and I’m relieved people have liked her (so far, haha!) As for the ghosts, I retrieved all my mental files on reverse-harem stories I’ve enjoyed and devoured in the past. The boys had to somehow clue you into that reverse-harem trope but also function as believable characters in this world. So I had a football jock as the gentle giant, the kid who’s smarter than a whip and goes to a private school, identical twins with different tastes in fashion, and a cute kid in pajamas. 

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

[Laurianne Uy] Driven. Nerdy. Lonely.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Bree would never have in her bedroom?

[Laurianne Uy] Frilly skirts, sports gear and green lipstick.  

[Manga Maniac Café] Why did you decide to use Kickstarter to fund this project?

[Laurianne Uy] I’ve seen Womanthology do pretty well on Kickstarter and have heard of other webcomic artists get their projects funded the same way. But to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I could successfully raise enough money for the project. It wasn’t a question of whether the project itself was good because we had all the confidence in it. Nathan and I talked it over and we decided we didn’t have much to lose by trying. Kickstarter does streamline the rewards and pre-ordering process and there seems to be a great community of backers already comfortable with being a patron of the arts.   

[Manga Maniac Café] What’s the first word that came to your mind when you reached your campaign goal?

[Laurianne Uy] "MA~~!" (In my head, that sounded exactly like Fran Drescher.) I think my mom and my sister backed us that night when we were this close to getting funded. Haha, it would have been cool if strangers did it for us but they must have wanted the honor (and gotten a bit impatient).

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

[Laurianne Uy] Oh, that’s a good one. Let’s see. The Disney golden years (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin), Friday night cartoons (Spider-Man, X-men and Batman the Animated Series) because I was banned from watching TV on weekdays , CLAMP manga, Joss Whedon’s writing. It’s kind of all over the place, isn’t it? 

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

[Laurianne Uy] A comfy booth (because Nathan and I usually solve story problems in coffee shops so we’re not tempted to get up and check e-mail), paper for recording those sessions, and of course, Microsoft Word.

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

[Laurianne Uy]  The Fault in our Stars. It’s not a comic but the writing and the characters are just so brutally honest. It destroyed me but I loved it so much for doing that. I have this weakness for stories about mortality and dying. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, TV show or comic, I will cry my eyes out if I care about a character, they know they don’t have much time left and they’re struggling with that burden. Nathan makes fun of me for it because I’m so predictable now. He eyes me from the side and prepares the tissue box. 

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

[Laurianne Uy] I can’t remember if I picked this up myself or if it was given to me but the first book I remember owning was Nancy Drew: The Quest of the Missing Map. I must’ve not cared about continuity (Vol. 19? It’s okay!) or the garishly pink cover because there was a map involved! Buried treasure! I loved mysteries and Nancy was a pretty awesome gal. Looking back, she was my proto-Buffy. I was a super shy kid and felt pretty helpless all the time. She could do all these things I couldn’t. My parents forked over a lot of money to the Carolyn Keene estate. 

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

[Laurianne Uy] I draw! I guess I should hand in my artist card if I don’t say that first. Lately, I’ve been challenging myself to draw more complex illustrations and using more copics. It’s hard to experiment with more expensive tools but I do want to get better at them. I also watch a lot of TV drama and try to soak in good writing through osmosis. When I read for fun it’s either the latest Terry Pratchett novel, a graphic novel I picked up from the library or a non-fiction bestseller. 

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

[Laurianne Uy] I blog every week on my website at Laurbits.com. If you’re not into RSS or bookmarking the site, I also have a monthly newsletter you can sign up for so my updates and posts arrive in your inbox. I’m all over your social networks as Laurbits on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Deviantart so you can always hang out and catch up with me on there. 

Thank you so much for having me, Julie. :)

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

Purchase links coming soon!