Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard


Title:  Something Strange and Deadly

Author:  Susan Dennard

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.


I was disappointed with Something Strange and Deadly.  Honestly, I don’t know if anything could have lived up to the hype surrounding this title, and since I was waiting with such a sense of anticipation, it fell short for me.  The beginning was intriguing – Eleanor is searching for a sign from her brother that he’ll be returning home soon, and poof!  A stinky, reanimated corpse gives her a note from Elijah.  That’s so much better than using a carrier pigeon!  Just wrestle up a corpse when you need to pass a note to somebody!  It will terrify the recipient, but  who’s going to try to incept your missive? 

After it is apparent that Elijah has decided, yet again, to delay his homecoming, Eleanor’s mother decides to use the opportunity to hold a séance, instead of the already planned and paid for  welcoming party.  She has to marry Eleanor off, if they hope to retain their current lifestyle, since Elijah isn’t doing his job and providing for them.  With Elijah a constant no-show, Eleanor’s mother is getting desperate.  With her husband dead and her son failing to care for the family, desperate measures are called for.

I loved the séance.  It’s creepy, and her mother’s foolishness calls forth a very dangerous spirit.  Whoa!  Who would have thought that a parlor game would have such frightening results?  The evil spirit dogs Eleanor’s footsteps for the entire book, so, yeah, thanks, mom, for messing around with stuff you are obviously not capable of handling.

I am trying to put my finger on why this story didn’t work for me, and I think it was because there is so much going on.  And because Eleanor is constantly leaping into danger.  There are zombies lurching around the graveyard?  Let’s go check them out!  There are headless corpses wandering the streets?  Let’s go out without a chaperon and see what we can find out.  While all of the sneaking around showed that Eleanor was headstrong and wasn’t going to take a backseat to anyone, it also proved that she lacked the one thing necessary for living a long and zombie-death free life.  Yup, that common sense stuff.  Eleanor needed to display a little more of it.  A lot more, actually.

Another thing that drove me batty was how the characters snarled, shrieked, growled, and screamed at each other.  All of those noises!  Nobody just talked or held a quiet conversation.  Nope!  That’s just a pet peeve of mine, though, and your mileage may vary.

There is a dreaded love triangle, between handsome, wealthy Clarence and Daniel, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who is on the run from the law.  He’s a gifted inventor, though, and his devices help battle the zombies.  I never liked Daniel, which was another impediment to my enjoyment of the book.  I didn’t like the way either potential love interest treated Eleanor, but Daniel’s demeanor was particularly grating.  Nicknaming her Empress, he was constantly dismissive of her,  at least until the very end of the book when she saved his bacon.    I don’t know that  I would have thrown myself into the midst of a zombie horde to save anybody in this book, other than Jie. 

While Something Strange and Deadly failed to impress me, it will appeal to action lovers.  If the book hadn’t been so hyped for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more. 

Grade:  C/C-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Interview with Michelle McLean, Author of To Trust a Thief and Giveaway!

Our special guest this morning is Michelle McLean, author of To Trust a Thief! Please give her a warm welcome.  After we chat about her book, you can enter for a chance to win your own copy of To Trust a Thief!

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

[Michelle McLean] Romance and NF writer, mom to 2, degrees in history and English, total sap in love with alphabetizing, office supplies and big poofy dresses

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about To Trust a Thief?

[Michelle McLean] To Trust a Thief is about a young lady who must team up with a master thief in order to find a priceless necklace that both of them desperately need. Along the way, these enemies and rivals fall in love, and they must decide what is more important – loyalty to those who are counting on them, or the love they have for each other. If they make the wrong choice, they might lose everything.

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

[Michelle McLean] It actually started out as something quite different. A tale of a girl healing from a broken heart who falls in love again and they are together from page one. But there was no conflict to the story, nothing really exciting going on. Then one day I was watching National Treasure and thought how fun it might be to incorporate a treasure hunt into the story. With characters who were rivals who I could pit against one another while they fell in love despite themselves. For Min, I wanted a quirky character, someone who was a bit klutzy, but still strong, determined, and intelligent enough to get herself out of her own jams most of the time. Bryant actually started out as a reformed thief trying to make up for his criminal life. But again, there was very little conflict. I needed a tortured bad boy with a heart of gold so he developed into someone much more dangerous and even more swoon-worthy 🙂

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

[Michelle McLean] Intelligent, determined, passionate

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

[Michelle McLean] Oooo, good question. Furious Angels by Rob Dougan. I think of Bryant every time I listen to it 🙂

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Min is never without.

[Michelle McLean] Min always has a book stashed somewhere nearby 🙂

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

[Michelle McLean] Hmm Bryant likes to travel light so you probably wouldn’t find anything at all in his pockets lol But I’ll say a Bible, any sort of identification, or a love token of any kind.

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

[Michelle McLean] Hmmm well answering that would be a big spoiler so I’ll just say that it has to do with feeling like she failed someone close to her.

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

[Michelle McLean] Victoria Holt is probably my greatest influence. She was the first historical romance author I ever read and I was hooked from the first page. I loved the historical settings, the danger, suspense, and mystery of her stories and above all the romance.

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

[Michelle McLean] Goldfish crackers, the book’s “background noise” (different for every book…for my current WIP it’s the movie What To Expect When You’re Expecting which is odd 😀 For TTAT it was movie scores on Pandora), and a deadline always helps 😀

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

[Michelle McLean] The Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout. LOVE those books!

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

[Michelle McLean] I began reading very young. My mom said when I was two years old, she was reading Snow White to me and she tried to skip around a bit. I corrected her and told her word for word the lines she had missed 🙂 I honestly don’t remember ever being without a book, but the first one I remember reading was that copy of Snow White. Fairy Tales in general were my first love 🙂

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

[Michelle McLean] I cross-stitch and play the piano, but mostly if I’m not working on a book, I like to just hang out with my kids. We have a lot of family movie and game nights and my husband is an amazing cook so we like to throw big dinner parties for the neighbors.

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

[Michelle McLean] Come visit me on my blog, website, FB, twitter, Goodreads, the Operation Awesome Blog, Scene 13, and The Naked Hero.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!


Ready for your chance to win a copy of To Trust a Thief?  Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following.

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Didn’t win? You can purchase To Trust a Thief from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.

About the book:

Minuette Sinclair’s parents are in trouble and her fake fiancé is too. A legendary lost necklace might be their salvation, and Min is determined to find it and use it to buy her family and fiancé out of their misfortunes.

Master thief Bryant Westley is also looking for the fabled necklace. He knows Min’s got information he can use so he poses as her dance instructor and tries to seduce it from her. What he doesn’t count on are his feelings for her. He offers to partner up in the search – even though she is a distraction he can’t afford.

Things become more complicated when Min realizes that her convenient engagement means more to her fake fiancé than her and that she’s fallen in love with Bryant. Bryant realizes that he can’t double cross the young lady he’s come to love. Can they find the necklace together and admit their love before it’s too late?

Praise for TO TRUST A THIEF:

“This book has everything–chills, mystery, romance, and heartbreak. I loved every single page.” –Cole Gibsen, author of KATANA

“Michelle McLean’s debut historical romance is a wonderful read. Filled with romance, mystery, intrigue and characters I could really care about, this is a fun read.” – Christine Fonseca, author of the Lacrimosa trilogy

About Michelle:

Michelle McLean is the author of historical and paranormal novels, including TO TRUST A THIEF (Entangled Scandalous Jan 2013), a historical trilogy, BLOOD BLADE SISTERS (Entangled Scandalous 2013), and a zombie fairy tale retelling WISH UPON A STAR (Entangled Ever After Oct 2013). She is also the author of the educational non-fiction book HOMEWORK HELPERS: ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS.

Michelle has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, and tends to be a bit of an overly organized mess with an insatiable love of books and more weird quirks than you can shake a stick at. She is also a contributor on The Naked Hero, and the Operation Awesome, Scene 13, and Scandalous book blogs as well as maintaining her personal blog.

If she’s not editing, reading or chasing her kids around, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book. Michelle resides in PA with her husband and two young children, an insanely hyper dog, and two very spoiled cats.

For More Info:

On Goodreads:

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble:
Books on Board:
Apple iBookstore:

Interview with Tracey Devlyn, Author of Checkmate, My Lord and Giveaway!

Please welcome Tracey Devlyn to the virtual offices today!  Tracey is celebrating the release of Checkmate, My Lord. Check out what she has to say about her latest release, and after the interview, enter for your chance to win a copy of Checkmate, My Lord!

[Tracey Devlyn] Thanks so much for having me at the Café! I really look forward to chatting with everyone.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] Author of historical romantic thrillers, nature lover, dog wrangler, hopeless house cleaner, loyal wife and friend, git-R-done girl

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Checkmate, My Lord?

[Tracey Devlyn] CHECKMATE is about an exiled spymaster, whose enemy is forcing his neighbor to spy on him, or risk losing her seven-year-old daughter. It’s the second novel in the Nexus series.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] Readers met Lord Somerton, Sebastian Danvers, in my debut novel, A Lady’s Revenge. I knew I wanted to move Sebastian’s story to the country and then the idea of his beautiful neighbor spying on him—England’s greatest spymaster—came to mind.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] Protective, list maker, passionate

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

[Tracey Devlyn] I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith (Armageddon theme song)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Catherine is never without.

[Tracey Devlyn] Paper and pen. It’s the list maker in her.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What  will you never find in Sebastian’s bedroom?

[Tracey Devlyn] An orangutan?

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

[Tracey Devlyn] That her daughter Sophie was without a father for so many years.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] Reading, reading, reading. After that, my brainstorming buddies—Adrienne Giordano, Kelsey Browning, and Theresa Stevens—help me enrich my stories in countless ways.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] Computer, quiet, and determination

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

[Tracey Devlyn] Divergent by Veronica Roth. Fantastic young adult dystopian series.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] The Raven and the Rose by Virginia Henley. R and R was my first romance and it made me cry. I knew nothing about romance, so didn’t realize each story has a guaranteed happy ending. I was hooked from book one. It opened up a whole new world for me.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] I enjoy watching movies with my husband and hiking in state and national parks.

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

[Tracey Devlyn] A ton of different ways! | Dangerous Darlings Street Team | Newsletter | | | Discover a New Love

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!


Ready for your chance to win a copy of Checkmate, My Lord? Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following. US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can order Checkmate, My Lord from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.

About the book:

Romancing history one defiant woman at a time

A desperate mother falls in love with the spymaster she’s forced to betray.


Catherine Ashcroft leads a quiet life caring for her precocious seven-year-old daughter, until a visitor delivers a startling ultimatum. She will match wits with the enigmatic Earl of Somerton, and it’s not just her heart that’s in danger.


Spymaster Sebastian Danvers, Earl of Somerton, is famous for his cunning. Few can outwit him and even few dare challenge him–until now. After returning to his country estate, his no-nonsense neighbor turns her seductive wiles on him–but why would a respectable widow like Catherine risk scandal for a few passionate nights in his bed?


“Devlyn’s seamless writing will entice readers and keep them eager for the next installment.” ~ clip_image002 Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“Devlyn delivers an emotional, powerful read.” ~ RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

“Devlyn’s edgy and sexy series is gaining momentum, and historical-romantic suspense fans, particularly those who enjoy Brenda Joyce, will delight in this.” ~ Booklist

“Love the characters, lots of mystery, murderers, spies and lots of romance!!!!!!!! CHECKMATE MY LORD is an edge of your seat exciting read!” ~ Fresh Fiction

About the author:

Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey Toward the heroine’s happy ending). She’s a co-founder of Romance University, a group blog dedicated to readers and writers of romance, and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, Chicagoland’s exciting new reading salon devoted to romantic fiction.

An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at: (Street Team)

A Little Bit Cupid Giveaway!

It’s Valentine’s Day! And you know what that means — love is in the air! And nowhere is that more apparent that at Entangled Publishing. We’re sharing A LITTLE BIT CUPID with you today, and wish you a day filled with romance and of course, CUPID.

A LITTLE BIT CUPID, by Jennifer Shirk: Finding love should be easy, but wedding photographer Pheobe Ward knows better. When Cupid shows up on a crazy mission to help her —and save the world in the process—Phoebe realizes love might be even more complicated than she thought. Even with Cupid showing her Mr. Right , she can’t stop thinking about his best friend, Mr. Wrong. Cal Crawford has never had time for love, but now he’s falling for Phoebe. Which means it’s got to be just plain wrong to set her up with his best friend, right? But even though seeing Phoebe with someone else will break his heart, he can’t walk away from her. Phoebe can’t afford to choose the wrong guy with the fate of the world at stake. But maybe Cupid has it wrong. Maybe she has to rely just a little bit on Cupid, and a whole lot more on her heart. Get your copy today for only 99 cents!
To get you in the Valentine’s Day mood, download A LITTLE BIT CUPID and then enter to win our CUPID inspired giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a swag bag that includes an eBook of A LITTLE BIT CUPID, an eBook of KISSING KENDALL, and a box of chocolates! Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below–today only, so spread the love this Valentine’s Day! a Rafflecopter giveaway

For The Love of Swoon Hop–Win The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore

Welcome to my For The Love of Swoon Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and by The Book Hookup .  This hop runs from February 14 – February 20,  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 The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore. 

Sophomore Cammie Bliss has long been labeled a stalker by her peers, but when a cute new boy named Toby arrives at her small town high school, Cammie has a chance to be "normal." Trouble is, she can’t really help herself and she’s up to her old tricks of "intense observation and following" pretty quick. Making things worse, her younger brother is dating one of the most popular girls in the school, her parents have separated, and her dad has begun to watch their house most nights. Cammie has simply got to figure out why she behaves the way she does, and end it once and for all.

Find out if Cammie is successful in Carley Moore’s hilarious and poignant The Stalker Chronicles.

Just fill out the widget to enter. Earn extra entries for following.  US addresses only, please.

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Review: Texas Christmas by Nancy Robards Thompson


Title:  Texas Christmas

Author: Nancy Robards Thompson

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Busted! When Pepper Merriweather’s superwealthy daddy is arrested for fraud—and the family fortune is kaput—just before the holidays, Pepper suddenly finds herself in need of a job. Despite her high-society connections, no one wants to give her a chance—no one except gorgeous billionaire recluse Robert Macintyre.

When he proposes a position that comes with more strings attached than a symphony orchestra, Pepper knows it’s an offer she should refuse. But beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, Pepper knows she has what it takes to rise to the challenge—but does she have what it takes to keep her hands off her irresistible new boss?


On a recent outing to the library, I caught sight of Texas Christmas.  The cover totally sucked me in; how could I resist that oh so sexy cowboy and the horses?  This cover is like a dream  date for me – the ultimate date would be going riding with some hot dude who likes animals, especially horses, and would actually go on a ride with me.  Sigh. Sadly, this scene is not in the book.  The protagonist, Pepper, doesn’t like horses, and hasn’t since an accident when she was a child.  So, no trail riding with a super sexy cowboy is in this story.

Pepper Merriweather is reeling from her father’s arrest. He’s been accused of defrauding investors of millions, and suddenly, Pepper is facing a very ugly future.  Raised in wealth, she is now scrambling to find a job.  With her father’s face in the papers, it’s getting harder and harder to find the strength to move on with her life.  Everyone is placing blame on her, even though she never worked at her father’s company.  I thought this was especially unfair, because her father wouldn’t have anything to do with her.   They hadn’t spoken in years, and he refused to allow her to visit him in prison.  So Pepper is basically taking heat for a jerk of father who hasn’t been part of her life in forever. 

Pepper meets billionaire Robert Macintyre on a flight home from Paris, where she and her mother have been hiding from the press.  He’s a nice guy, and Pepper’s grateful that he doesn’t mention her father and his alleged crimes even once.  After rescuing her from a very angry drunk who confronts her in the airport, Rob gives her a lift home.  After a steamy kiss, the two part ways, seemingly for good.  However, when Pepper’s good friend insists that Rob hire her, or she won’t make a donation for the children’s hospital he wants to build, Rob and Pepper find themselves together again.  Add in a massive amount of guilt on Pepper’s part, and you have a slow to burn romance.

When Pepper was a young girl, she and her brother were involved in an accident, and Pepper never forgave herself for it.  She isn’t ready to allow someone else to love her, either.   Just look at her father, who can’t find it in himself to forgive her. How can she allow Rob and his young son to get close to her, when all she does is hurt people?  While I found this conflict compelling, I felt that it was resolved too easily.  The pacing of this book felt so off to me, and it hindered my enjoyment of the story.   Pepper and Rob meet early in the book, and then don’t get together again until about 130 pages later.  That didn’t leave enough page time for their romance to convincingly develop.  Instead, the focus of the story is on Pepper dealing with fallout from her father’s crimes, and Rob trying to fund the hospital expansion.  There just wasn’t enough romance to satisfy me, and I was left wanting more.

Grade:  C

Review copy obtained from my local library

Waiting on Wednesday–The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

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

Holly Black could write a book about breakfast cereal and I would buy it, read it, and love it.  So I am eagerly awaiting The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which hits shelves in September.


Tana lived in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

What are you waiting on?