Interview with Laura Lam, Author of Pantomime

Please welcome Laura Lam to the virtual offices today! She dropped by to chat about her new book, Pantomime.

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

[Laura Lam] Writer, reader, traveler, dreamer. Ex-pat Californian in Scotland. Geek chic. I basically just stole my Twitter profile here.

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

[Laura Lam] Pantomime is a YA fantasy that’s primarily set in R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, the greatest circus in Ellada, or so it claims to be. The novel follows two stories set three months or so apart—one is Micah Grey, the new aerialist’s apprentice in the circus, and the other is Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family. Their stories are linked, and you find out what they have in common fairly early on. Ellada is a pseudo-Victorian society set in an alternate world, with possibly magic Vestige, which is advanced technology left behind by an ancient civilisation called the Alder. Gene and Micah learn about their past and how they might be linked to the secrets of Ellada.

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

[Laura Lam] I originally came up with the idea for the character of Micah Grey as an adult for another novel, which I almost completed in dribs and drabs. When I was stuck on it once, I decided to write a “short story” about Micah’s backstory of joining the circus as a teenager. I tapped into the voice of younger Micah right away and the story took a life of its own and became Pantomime. I’ve always been interested in the circus and the setting lends itself to having such a varied cast of characters—the other aerialists, the clowns, the freaks, the workers, exotic tumblers, snake charmers, and a ringmaster.

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

[Laura Lam] Stifled, curious, determined.

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

[Laura Lam] This was incredibly hard! I eventually settled on “16 Years” by Phantogram:

16 year in a private ghost chain

But I know that the miracle changed

Summertime is a whirlwind away

And I know that the lights won’t invade

16 years of mechanical joy

And I know that the lines show the way

Burn a candle for magical days

Now I know that the rest is okay

It’s shooting light and I’m feeling again

Is this love that I’m feeling again

It’s both melancholy yet hopeful.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Gene won’t leave home without.

[Laura Lam] Gene’s not the kind of girl where she won’t leave home without a mirror or makeup. She has no lucky talisman. She’ll happily leave home with just herself and the clothes on her back.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Micah’s pockets?

[Laura Lam] A gold coin (it’s always copper or maybe nickel), a gun, a fancy handkerchief.

Things you will find: chalk for his hands on the trapeze, a sad copper or two, a pot of greasepaint.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Gene’s greatest regret?

[Laura Lam] The way her relationship worked out with her parents.

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

[Laura Lam] Life experiences. Everything creative is filtered through what you’ve experienced and who you are. That’s sort of a cop-out answer, I know, but it’s what it comes down to, at least for me. That and all the books I read and watch have an influence on my storytelling, sometimes in ways I don’t expect until I look back at the finished product.

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

[Laura Lam] Tea or coffee, laptop, motivation.

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

[Laura Lam] The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke.

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

[Laura Lam] Hmm, a tough one. Possibly Animorphs. I read the first 60 and after that I read whatever I could get my hands on.

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

[Laura Lam] Reading, watching television & films, travelling when we can afford to get away.

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

[Laura Lam] I’m easily reachable. I have a website,, which has a contact page. You can also find me on my Facebook fan page here:, or on Twitter as @LR_Lam. I’m on Goodreads and Pinterest as well, but not as often.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Pantomime from your favorite bookseller of by clicking the links below.

About the book:

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

Cover Shot! Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper

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 have one word to describe this cover – YUM! And demonic gladiators? Count me in!  Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper hits store shelves in June


The first installment in this fierce and sensual new paranormal romance series features demonic gladiators, ruthless mafia villains, and a proud race on the brink of extinction.

Ten years ago, Audrey MacLaren chose to marry her human lover, making her an exile from the Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons once worshiped as earthly gods. Audrey and her husband managed to conceive, and their son is the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation—which makes him irresistible to the sadistic scientist whose mafia-funded technology allows demon procreation. In the year since her husband was murdered, Audrey and her little boy have endured hideous experiments.

Shackled with a collar and bound for life, Leto Garnis is a Cage warrior. Only through combat can Dragon Kings earn the privilege of conceiving children. Leto uses his superhuman speed and reflexes to secure the right for his two sisters to start families. After torture reveals Audrey’s astonishing pyrokenesis, she is sent to fight in the Cages. If she survives a year, she will be reunited with her son. Leto is charged with her training. Initially, he has no sympathy for her plight. But if natural conception is possible, what has he been fighting for? As enemies, sparring partners, lovers, and eventual allies, Leto and Audrey learn that in a violent underground world, love is the only prize worth winning.

Win All Four Harlequin KISS Launch Titles!

As promised, today you can enter for your chance to win all four Harlequin KISS launch titles.  Here are the books:

How to Get Over Your Ex by Nikki Logan

The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

The Downfall of a Good Girl by Kimberly Lang

Hitched! by Jessica Hart


And, thanks to Jessica Hart, I have 1 copy of of Hitched! to giveaway too! 

Entering is easy!  Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following.  Open Internationally.

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Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop–Win Crash by Lisa McMann!


Welcome to my Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and  co-hosted by Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf.  This hop runs from January 18th to 24th  2013, and you can win lots of new reads.   Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away an ARC of Crash by Lisa McMann.  This is the first book in her new Visions series.

About the book:

If what you see is what you get, Jules is in serious trouble. The suspenseful first of four books from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.
Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.
What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode…and nine body bags in the snow.
The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.
In this riveting start to a gripping series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann, Jules has to act—and act fast—to keep her vision from becoming reality.

Sounds awesome, huh? For your chance to win, just fill in the widget below.  Earn extra entries for following.  US addresses only, please.

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Review: The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter



Title:  The One that Got Away

Author: Kelly Hunter

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The man who’s always left her wanting more!

Good job? Check. Newly purchased apartment? Tick. Evie’s life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting.

Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He’s also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back – she gave him everything, but he didn’t know when to stop taking.

Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie’s ever done. Until now. Because Logan’s back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever and this time he’s not going anywhere…


I have read three titles from the Harlequin Kiss line now, and each has been vastly different in tone and texture.  My previous forays into the Kiss line were a bit more light hearted and more in line with what I thought this line would be like.  The One That Got Away caught me by surprise.  This is a darker read, with flawed but likable characters.  It delves into the fears of a man whose childhood was marred by abuse, and examines his deepest fear – that he will be as violent, controlling, and selfish as his father.  This fear has shaped his adult life, twisting his relationships and fueling his desperation to keep everyone at arm’s length.  Mix in a hopeless obsession that has festered for over ten years, and you have a story that makes you uneasy and steals your breath away in equal measure.

Evie has worked long and hard to make a successful business of MEP, the architectural firm she runs with her friend Max.  When a huge opportunity looms for them, they both fret about raising enough working capital.  Then Max drops a bombshell.  He asks Evie to marry him so he can access his multimillion dollar trust fund.  Shocked, she agrees, and they travel to Max’s hometown to meet his family, and give Evie another shock.  Max’s older brother, Logan, is the man she spent a blissful week with 10 years ago, a week that ended in disaster.  Both Evie and Logan have been haunted by their brief time together, but for different reasons.  Evie’s heart was broken when she didn’t hear from him again, while Logan ran as fast and as far away from Evie and his obsession for her as he could.  Evie represented everything that terrified him, and he didn’t want to face that monster in the closet of his mind. 

Now, older and ten years wiser, Evie wants to put that week from her past into perspective.  Logan refuses to discuss it.  With the support of Max and his mother, Evie slowly begins to understand the demons that stalk Logan.  She confronts him, time and again, trying to make him understand that they are both different people than they were ten years ago.  I admit that their relationship made me uncomfortable at several points,.  Logan’s fear of being like his father has made him try to repress his inner most desires, and when they batter at him, they terrify him.   Evie and Logan’s relationship is dark and intense, and at times, unhealthy.  I began to wonder if I would be convinced that they could ever have a HEA.  Fortunately, I was, and I became a bigger fan of Kelly Hunter’s because of it.

My one quibble would be the lack of depth regarding Evie’s background, and how her dysfunctional childhood affected her.  We are given a brief sketch of her parents and their inability to commit, but there is no clear picture given.

Grade: A

Review copy provided by publisher

Character Interview: Zander Rush from Nikki Logan’s How To Get Over Your Ex

Please welcome Zander Rush, hot-shot producer for EROS radio station.  He’s here to chat about a recent promotion that is currently the talk of the town.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Zander Rush] Complicated, professional, focussed.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in the life of Zander Rush?

[Zander Rush] Typically, I’d be up early for a run. One hour minimum. Then home for shower and coffee and into the Jag. Stop for drive-through coffee on the way to work. Much better than my own (I have the top-of-the-range machine but I’ve never read the manual). Then it’s pretty much meetings and paper shuffling from 8am until 6pm. No coffee there at all, the machine’s rubbish. Either lunch with clients or one of the local restaurants will deliver to my desk. End of day my assistant nudges me out the door and I grab something on the way home. Then another couple of hours of work, a bit of time on my training schedule and bed.

Rinse, repeat.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Georgia?

[Zander Rush] Shambolic, fearless, real

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the first thing that you noticed about her?

[Zander Rush] Her voice, husky and anxious piping out through the whole studio. But I hadn’t seen her then. Once I met her I became fixated by her manners, even though she was falling apart. She was so unflinchingly polite. Classic Brit.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Have you ever had a promotion backfire like Georgia’s Valentine’s proposal?

[Zander Rush] One man’s backfire is another man’s boon. The network were ecstatic at the exposure it got and I was able to pull it back on track pretty quickly. But no, that’s probably the biggest ‘oh crap’ moment of my life…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the primary reason you offered to foot the bill for the Year of Georgia?

[Zander Rush] It was her money the moment she signed the proposal contract, I just found a way of her earning it that wasn’t truly horrible for her. That two minutes in the lift with her, the look on her face… I knew the money would be the last thing she’d be thinking of but it was also my biggest tool to set things to rights.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Zander Rush] Answering an ad for EROS looking for a production coordinator. That was the moment my life went off track. And then it just kept veering…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Zander Rush] My door key? Heh.


Okay, serious then… uh… my smartphone. There isn’t a brain on this planet big enough to keep all my obligations in it.

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

[Zander Rush] I train. I love to run. The longer and the more peaceful the better. Just me, my heartbeat and the thump of my feet on the track.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.

[Zander Rush] Meaning. Freedom. Family. Garden. Georgia.  They’re all kind of sub-sets of Georgia, really…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Zander Rush] You’re welcome. Invoice is in the mail. Now I have a radio station to run….

To learn more about Georgia, Zander, and the Valentine’s Day proposal gone wrong, read How To Get Over Your Ex by Nikki Logan. You can order a copy from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.

About the book:

Being rejected is one thing. Being rejected live on radio takes it to a whole new level!

After her on-air proposal is turned down by her commitment-phobe boyfriend, Georgia Stone must learn to survive singledom. Unfortunately, thanks to a clause in her contract, she has to do it under the watchful gaze of brooding radio producer Zander Rush.

And so begins the Year of Georgia! Lurching from salsa classes to spy school, Georgia discovers a taste for adventure. Her biggest thrill so far? Flirting with danger—aka the enigmatic Zander. But admitting she’s ready for more than just a fling…? Definitely Georgia’s scariest challenge yet!

Don’t miss the second book in this duet: The Guy To Be Seen With by Fiona Harper

Review: Hitched! by Jessica Hart


Title:  Hitched!

Author:  Jessica Hart

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Planning the most-talked-about wedding of the year is enough to break engineer Frith Taylor out in a cold sweat. She’s used to construction sites, not wedding fairs! But estate manager George Challoner’s offer of help is one that’s too good to resist. George may be the rebel of the prestigious Challoner family, but his insanely good looks are giving Frith wedding fever! Charm personified, he’s making her feel things she hasn’t dared feel before. Maybe her little sister’s wedding won’t be the only one Frith’s planning…?


Hitched! is the last of the Kiss launch titles that I read.  Once again, it showed how much  variety there is across the line.  This one threw me though, because it is written in the first person POV, and I struggled with that.  It screamed more Chick Lit to me than Harlequin Romance, and  I found being constantly in Frith’s head, with no glimpses into what made George tick, disconcerting.  I enjoy getting more input from the hero, and as I was only privy to Frith’s thoughts here, that wasn’t possible.  I never felt connected to George or his motivations, because of that.  Frith’s voice is fun and upbeat, but I have some kind of mental block when I am confronted with category romances written in this point of view.  I always have, and it seems, I always will.

Frith has been lassoed in to helping her younger sister plan her extravagant wedding.  She doesn’t want anything to do with it , though.  Always feeling like an outsider in her own family, she doesn’t get along with her sister’s friends, and her wealthy father isn’t in her good graces.  After her parents divorced, Frith watched her mother spiral into unhappiness.  Her mother was never able to get over her father, and due to his indifference to her, Frith’s relationship with him withered.  Determined to make something of herself without his help, she put herself through school and landed a job at a construction company.  Her dream is work at a huge construction project overseas, and she won’t let anything get in the way of her dreams.  Not sexy George or her sister’s much publicized wedding.  Frith has a plan, darn it, and she’s sticking to it!

I did love Frith’s personality.  She is a planner.  A mega planner, actually.  She works off of five year plans, where everything is spelled out for her as she marches toward her career goals.  George, the estate manager for the construction site she’s currently working at,  is her exact opposite.  He has no plans, and he just takes things one day at a time.  He finds Frith’s planning ridiculous.  How can you live your life if you’re so worried about sticking to a plan?  Frith has developed her five year plan, with no room for a serious relationship, to keep herself from falling into the same trap as her mother.  She will never allow herself to feel that passionately about a man, and so her focus is on herself and her career.  All of her previous relationships were tepid and easily forgotten.  All except one, that is, and that one, awful experience is something that she never wants to repeat. 

At first, Frith is able to resist George and his flirty ways.  She doesn’t trust him, and she feels that he’s a threat to her plan.  As the days tick by, however, and they are both roped in helping with the wedding planning, a companionable friendship develops between them.  This is what I enjoyed most about Hitched!  The romance is slow to build, but once Frith starts to give in to her attraction for George, it quickly steams up.  I am not a huge fan of the love at first sight trope, and am usually not convinced by the HEA, so I liked how Frith and George’s relationship changed and grew.  They both have demons from their pasts to face, and together, I know that they will conquer all of their insecurities.  Frith’s belief in George was also refreshing.  After hearing unfavorable gossip about him, she quickly dismissed it as untrue.  She didn’t let  the drama overcome her feelings for him, and instead trusted him enough to explain the situation himself.  There are so many contemporary romances were the heroine takes gossip at face value, driving the couple unnecessarily apart, so Frith’s trust was nice change.  The only thing keeping me from enjoying Hitched! more is the POV.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Kelly Hunter, Author of The One That Got Away

Continuing with my Harlequin Kiss celebration, today I invited one of my favorite romance authors, Kelly Hunter, to the virtual offices for a visit.  Please give her a warm welcome!  Don’t forget that on Friday, I will be giving away one complete set of the KISS launch titles, so make sure to stop back to enter for your chance to win!

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

[Kelly Hunter] I’m a forty-something mother of boys, with an eclectic work history and a fondness for the unexpected. I travel a lot and live in Australia.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What makes Harlequin’s Kiss line unique from their other series romances?

[Kelly Hunter] The party-line is that KISS features strongly unique author voices, global settings and world views, smart characters and compelling stories. Fun is definitely allowed. The level of sensuality may vary. I adore writing for this line.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you enjoy best about writing for Harlequin?

[Kelly Hunter] The fabulous editors.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The One That Got Away?

[Kelly Hunter] In essence, it’s a second chance romance between two characters who meet again unexpectedly after many years apart.

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

[Kelly Hunter] I can tell you how the idea for the story started… A bunch of romance writer pals and I were sitting around one day (there may have been drinks with little umbrellas involved) discussing (okay, pulling apart) the famed and oft misunderstood Presents Alpha Hero. I was writing Presents Extra at the time and wondering why these super-controlled and oh-so-dominant men didn’t really seem to dominate in the bedroom. Figured I’d attempt to write one that liked to dominate there too. The result was Logan Black. The challenge was to see if I could make me fall in love with him.

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

[Kelly Hunter] Strong. Self aware.

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

[Kelly Hunter] Natalie Merchant’s ‘My Skin’.

Some of the lyrics:

"Oh, I need the darkness

The sweetness

The sadness

The weakness

Oh, I need this."

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Evie won’t leave the house without.

[Kelly Hunter] Her handbag. She’s a practical girl.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Logan’s pockets?

[Kelly Hunter] Bus tickets, comb, junk.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Evie’s greatest regret?

[Kelly Hunter] I kinda don’t see Evie living a life of regret. Even after that first week with Logan, Evie didn’t regret her time with him. She learned from it.

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

[Kelly Hunter] Friends. Music. Stories written by other authors – especially ones that stretch genre boundaries and challenge my perspectives.

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

[Kelly Hunter] Time, a computer and preferably a table and chair – although the last two are optional.

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

[Kelly Hunter] Crush, by Richard Siken.  Sometimes I go in search of new (to me) male author voices; more specifically male authors who write about love and relationships. I picked up Crush at the end of last year and it won my heart – probably because it was so different to what I normally read. It’s poetry. I never read poetry 😉

My favourite line: ‘I said kiss me here and here and here and you did,’ from ‘I Had A Dream About You’.

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

[Kelly Hunter] Something by Enid Blyton involving adventures and naughty children and minimal parental involvement (that or a Faraway Tree).

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

[Kelly Hunter] Spend time with friends and family.

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

[Kelly Hunter] I’m on twitter, facebook, and occasionally I blog. Or you can email me privately via my website.





[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase The One That Got Away from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below. Be sure to check back at the end of the week for your chance to win a set of the first four KISS titles!


About the book

Good job? Tick. Newly purchased apartment? Tick. Evie’s life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting. Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He’s also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back – she gave him everything, but he didn’t know when to stop taking. Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie’s ever done. Until now. Because Logan’s back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever, and this time he’s not going anywhere…