Cover Shot! ZOM-B: Baby by Darren Shan

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?

Here is one of my guilty pleasures.  The ZOM-B series by Darren Shan is like crack.  It’s fast-paced and fun to read, and just like with potato chips, I couldn’t stop at one. 

In stores September 2013


No description yet, but who cares? I know it will be full of zombie mayhem!

Review: Secrets and Sins: Gabriel by Naima Simone


Title: Secrets and Sins: Gabriel

Author:  Naima Simone


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


Twenty years ago, Leah Bannon’s beloved Uncle Richard vanished without a trace. Leah, now a private investigator, begins to suspect it was murder. When she reopens the cold case, Gabriel Devlin—-the man she loves but can never have—-inexplicably stands in her way.
Only four people know the truth about Richard’s mysterious disappearance—-Gabriel and three childhood friends…who have all sworn to take that secret to the grave. But a hidden enemy wants those shocking secrets brought to light…even if he has to kill to make it happen.

After experiencing an unimaginable loss two years ago, Gabriel refuses to put himself through the pain of loving someone who could be gone in an instant. But as he thwarts Leah’s investigation at every turn—-both to keep his friends’ pact, and to keep her safe from danger—-the sexy PI makes it impossible for him to protect his secrets. Or his heart…


Funny story about this book.  I don’t usually read romantic suspense, and in fact would probably consider the genre one of my least favorites.  They can get so intense, as the heroine is making her best effort to solve whatever mystery she’s found herself a part of, and people usually die.  Not on the scale of, say, a zombie apocalypse or other worldwide disaster novels, but let’s face it.  Unless you believe in conspiracy theories or have an overly vivid imagination, odds are the dead aren’t going to rise from their graves any time soon.  Now, emotionally, mentally deranged killers?  They are everywhere!  Or so the news sites would have us believe, so I, for one, find suspense novels more frightening than zombie books.  There may very well be a murderer living next door!  Right?  So I go into these novels with a different mindset, and I find them scary, because, well, unhinged people are SCARY!

Leah thinks she’s got her life back on track after being shot in the line of duty and being forced to resign due to her injuries.  She’s now a PI, and while she doesn’t have a sense that she’s helping the community, or serving and protecting the public like she always dreamed she would, at least her job equals a steady paycheck.  When she receives a mysterious letter, she starts to suspect that her uncle Richard, who has been missing for 20 years, was murdered.  Determined to discover the truth, she begins investigating his disappearance, unaware that she will put the lives of everyone she loves in danger. 

While that sounds pretty intense, a murder investigation is nothing next to her complicated relationship with Gabriel.  She’s known him since she was a young girl, has been hopelessly in love with him since she was sixteen, and has watched, helplessly, as he spiraled into depression after the tragic deaths of his wife and son.  Attempting to help him pick up the scattered pieces of his life is a thankless task. Gabriel suffers from an understandable and suffocating case of survivor’s guilt.  A witness to the accident that killed his family, he was forced to watch as every devastating detail played out in front of him.  He can’t allow himself to love again, because then he will lose the last piece of his family that he’s clung to for the past two years.  He’s afraid of forgetting them, and he’s afraid of betraying them.

While Leah’s investigation into the cold case kept me engaged in the story, what I really enjoyed about Secrets and Sins: Gabriel was the interaction between the protagonists. They are both wounded, Leah because she’s lost the career she loved and Gabriel because he lost his family.  His reluctance to start a relationship with Leah was heartbreakingly convincing; he’s already lost one family and it nearly destroyed him.  What would happen if he lost Leah, a woman who isn’t content to sit on the sidelines and watch life pass her by.  She needs to be in the thick of the action, protecting not only her family and friends, but also her clients.  If she sees an injustice, she is driven to right it.  I loved that about her; I believed beyond a doubt that she would have given her life to serve the greater good when she was on the force.  That need and desire to help people is what gave her a sense of fulfillment.  After she had to retire, she felt, like Gabriel, as though she had nothing to live for.  This pair needed to get together in order to heal their broken hearts.

I don’t want to spoil the mystery behind Richard’s disappearance, other than to say that maybe Leah would have been off to have let this sleeping dog lie.  The man she loved and admired so much revealed a dark and shocking personality, one that robbed every last bit of innocence from her.  Not only was Richard hiding terrible secrets, but so were her four best friends.  These are horrid, soul-leaching secrets that changed all of them irrevocably.

After reading this book, I have to re-evaluate my perception of romantic suspense.  Yes, there were a couple of scary moments when the deranged killer almost got the better of Leah, but the pacing, characters, and romance more than made up for them.  And I’m pretty sure most of my neighbors aren’t really insane murderers.

Grade:  B, leaning to B+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Interview with Lorenda Christensen, Author of Never Deal with Dragons

Please welcome special guest Lorenda Christensen to the virtual offices this morning.  Lorenda is here to chat about her new Carina Press release Never Deal with Dragons.

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

[Lorenda Christensen] The editing cruelty begins early, eh? Let’s see…

Accountant by day, writer by night, lover of all things Pepsi and chocolate. And purple.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Never Deal With Dragons?

[Lorenda Christensen] I consider NDWD as a lighthearted urban(ish) fantasy filled with dragons. Sort of a Stephanie Plum meets Dragonriders of Pern with a dash of The West Wing. Confused yet? ?

Never Deal with dragons is a first person story featuring Myrna Banks, a lowly secretary who used to be on the fast track to management, until her ex-boyfriend stole some classified work papers and got her demoted. Now, her ex works for the most powerful dragon lord in the country, and he needs her help.

She takes the job, but only because it gives her a shot to redeem herself and get back on the corporate ladder.

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

[Lorenda Christensen] I’m a sucker for any television show that shows the inner workings of places that normal people would likely label boring. I remember watching a show featuring a female mediator at a law firm, and I thought that it would be really fun to have a heroine in the same type of job, but in an unreal, over the top environment. Huge, scaly, perpetually hungry dragons fit the bill perfectly. ?

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

[Lorenda Christensen] spunky, ambitious, sarcastic

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

[Lorenda Christensen] Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone (the Eva Cassidy version is the best)

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

[Lorenda Christensen] muck boots

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

[Lorenda Christensen] hair gel – Trian’s not one to care about his appearance. Myrna’s lucky if she can get him to run a comb through his hair. Luckily, good genes keep him looking attractively tousled instead of unkempt.

Fake mustaches – Trian might be a spy of sorts, but he’s got better tricks than this up his sleeve.

Plane tickets – Myrna finds it completely adorable, but Trian gets a little antsy when he’s forced to take cross country trips inside a piece of flying metal.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Myrna’s greatest regret? [Lorenda Christensen] Wearing her favorite white blouse to work. (Some of those stains will never come out.)

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

[Lorenda Christensen] I adore Katie MacAlister, Darynda Jones, and Janet Evanovich. I love how they can be funny and move the plot along at the same time. I’ve done my best to do the same.

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

[Lorenda Christensen] Childcare, a power outage, and a long-lasting laptop battery. ?

Seriously, I have so much trouble focusing. Facebook, Twiiter, email…ALL THE PRETTY THINGS. It’s just so hard to stare at that blinking cursor when the story isn’t flowing, and put words on the page anyway. I’m like the dog from Disney’s Up that keeps—squirrel! But I feel like I’m slowly getting the hang of this self-discipline thing. We’ll see how long it lasts.

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

[Lorenda Christensen] I cannot get enough of Karen Chance’s Cassie Palmer series. Hunt the Moon was just fantastic, and I am about to gnaw my own fingers off waiting for the release of Tempt the Stars. It’s a wonder I can still type.

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

[Lorenda Christensen] If we’re going way back, I fondly remember Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion series. But if you’re talking about the romance genre, I’d have to go with Jude Deveraux’s The Maiden. A friend of mine loaned me this on a school bus ride. It was my first exposure to the romance genre. What an introduction! It had all the classics—alpha male, a touch of fantasy, and insta-lust. Be still my middle school heart.

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

[Lorenda Christensen] Like most writers, my first love was and always will be reading. Otherwise, I’m hanging out with my husband and kids. And I’ll admit I’m more than a little addicted to Aaron Sorkin or Joss Whedon productions, so there’s more than a little bit of television in there.

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

[Lorenda Christensen] Because I’m still working a day job, Twitter is the place I feel most comfortable popping in and out of. My handle is @LorendaC

I’m also on Facebook at

And if you want to read a lot of boring information about me, my short stay in India, and a bit more about my writing, you can visit my website at

Thanks so much for the interview – it was a blast.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Purchase link:

About the book:

Consoling a sobbing dragon and serving pig buffets are just part of the job for Myrna Banks. Working for a mediation firm, it’s her job to get humans compensated for damages caused by the dragons who now rule. But her “typical” day is interrupted by Trian Chobardan, an old flame who sneaked out of her bed two years ago, taking her heart and a handful of classified documents with him.

Myrna would love to show Trian the door, but he’s been sent by North America’s reigning dragon lord for help negotiating a truce with a powerful rival to avert war. Myrna agrees to help, even though she’ll be stuck with Trian as a partner.

As the two work together, Myrna finds Trian to be surprisingly supportive—and still irresistibly attractive. Though her brain tells her not to forget his betrayal, her body feels differently. When they learn the enemy dragon lord is planning something no one could have imagined, Myrna has to learn who she can trust before she loses not only her heart, but her life.