Cover Shot! The Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle

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 read The Alchemist of Dreams by Anne Lyle, but it is in my TBR.  With the next book in the series, The Merchant of Dreams, set to release in December, I have a little bit of time to catch up.  I love the covers for these; the lighting and poses of the characters make me want to snap these right up.



Exiled from the court of Queen Elizabeth for accusing a powerful nobleman of treason, swordsman-turned-spy Mal Catlyn has been living in France with his young valet Coby Hendricks for the past year.

But Mal harbours a darker secret: he and his twin brother share a soul that once belonged to a skrayling, one of the mystical creatures from the New World.

When Mal’s dream about a skrayling shipwreck in the Mediterranean proves reality, it sets him on a path to the beautiful, treacherous city of Venice – and a conflict of loyalties that will place him and his friends in greater danger than ever.

Review: Shift by Kim Curran

Title:  Shift (Strange Chemistry)

Author:  Kim Curran


Shift (Strange Chemistry) DIGITAL

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.


When I discovered that Angry Robot Books would be launching a YA imprint, I was excited to check out the Strange Chemistry line.  Every book under this imprint looks good.  I don’t think there can ever be enough books released with fantasy or sci-fi elements, so I was eager to start digging into the launch titles for Strange Chemistry.    First up for me is Shift; I found this one intriguing because protagonist Scott learns that he is a Shifter, and that he can undo decisions he’s made if they turn out to be bad ones.  It’s like having a non-expiring do-over card, except for those occasional unpleasant consequences.   Yes, you knew there would be consequences for using a power that cool, and after seeing the heartbreaking handiwork of one of his Shifts, he decides that maybe it’s not such a great ability after all. 

I thought the pacing for Shift was great.  I powered quickly through this book, and once I got a few chapters in, I didn’t want to put it down.  I wanted to learn more about Scott’s ability and the world he lived in.  This is a great blend of super-hero comic with equal parts futuristic thriller and murder mystery tossed in for good measure.  There were even a few pages that completely freaked me out and got my heart pounding in fear as Scott got himself into some horrific and scary situations.  For a kid who has no idea what he’s doing, he sure manages to get himself into so much trouble!  Life-threatening trouble, too!  I still can’t believe that he made it to the last page relatively unscathed.  That just proves that luck is just as important as mondo-powerful supernatural abilities.

Scott discovers that he has the power to undo decisions he’s made quite by accident.  He is showing off in front of a bunch of his classmates, and his uncharacteristic flash of bravado is just about to get him killed.  Until he wishes with everything he has that he hadn’t decided to act like a moron.  He’s never been cool, and he never will be cool, even if he completes the dare, so he wonders why he even bothered.  Being a pancake after falling from a utility pole just doesn’t seem worth it.  He regrets that he wanted to impress a pretty girl he’s never seen before, and now it looks like it’s going to be the death of him. 

I loved Scott.  He’s self-depreciating, and once he started getting over himself, he is a fun character.  Thrown into circumstances far beyond his control, he finally starts coming into his own.  As he begins to understand the consequences of  both doing and un-doing his decisions, he begins to accept some the less favorable choices he’s made.  He can no longer blame others for his poor judgment, and that helps to give him the kick in the pants he needs to start growing up.  People can live or die by his actions, and there is no blaming anyone else when he messes up.  Instead, he has to put on his big-boy pants and fix the chaos he’s caused.  He needs to risk himself to save his friends from the harm he has caused them, and this time, a simple shift isn’t going to cut it.  For a big nerd, Scott’s take charge attitude impressed me, and his determined charge to the end of the book kept me completely engaged in the story.

I had some quibbles with Shift, but they weren’t enough to ruin the book for me.  Many of the secondary characters are one-dimensional and yawn inducing stereotypes.  I would have liked more depth to all of the secondary characters.  Overall, though, this is a fun read, and it got me geeked to read more releases from Strange Chemistry.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Katie L Carroll, Author of Elixir Bound

Katie L  Carroll is the author of Elixir Bound, a recently released YA fantasy.  Katie L Carroll dropped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her book. Check out what she has to say.

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

[Katie Carroll] Mother, writer, editor, collector of signed books.

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

[Katie Carroll] Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone.

For it is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings who will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.

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

[Katie Carroll] This story all started when my younger sister, Kylene, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 16. In her short life, she inspired so many people to be readers by sharing the Harry Potter books with them. I wanted to give her a fantasy adventure. The story actually turned out to be more about me than her, but it was my way of mourning my sister. I’m working on a second story in the same world as Elixir Bound, and I think this one is going to be more about Kylene!

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

[Katie Carroll] Stubborn, independent, brave.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Katora would never have in her pocket?

[Katie Carroll] Tissues (because she would never admit to crying), lipstick (make-up isn’t practical for a farmer), or a cell phone (there are no cell phones in Katora’s world!).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Katora had a theme song, what would it be?

[Katie Carroll] Regina Spektor’s song “Hero.”

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

[Katie Carroll] My greatest creative influences are writers Lois Lowry, J.K. Rowling, Laurie Halse Anderson, John Green, Melina Marchetta, Donna Gephart, David Almond, Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce…there’s too many to name all the authors that have influenced me. I’m sure I’ve left out some big ones here. Musically I’m inspired by Our Lady Peace, Fuel, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and lots of classic rock bands. My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh.

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

[Katie Carroll] Really the number one thing I need is my brain…I do a lot of writing in my head before I even sit down with my laptop, which I guess would be the number two thing I need. Number three would definitely be time!

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

[Katie Carroll] I would have to say The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I feel like that book took thoughts right from my head and put them into words better than I ever could.

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

[Katie Carroll] My mom used to read to us when we were little. I can remember having such a sense of awe listening to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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

[Katie Carroll] I love hanging out with my 1-year-old son and my husband. I also play a little soccer, take walks to the beach, and read, read, read.

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

[Katie Carroll] Readers can visit my website and blog at I’m also on Facebook and Goodreads

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Elixir Bound from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.