Novella Review: Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean


Wish Upon a Star (Entangled Ever After)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fiancé Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both—and all of humanity—into jeopardy.

Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as the second zombie uprising threatens them all.


‘Tis the season for zombies, witches, demons, and various other undead creatures, so I am trying to pack my reading schedule with horror stories.  The funny thing is that I usually don’t like them, and I can’t stand to watch horror movies.  As I have pushed outside of my reading comfort zone, though, I have discovered a new appreciation for scarier books, provided that gore isn’t the central theme.  I like seeing how ordinary people react to extraordinary situations, and that is what I enjoy best about dipping into the treasure trove of zombie apocalypse stories.  How are the protagonists going to reconcile themselves to the new normal, which is terrifying and may bring death at any moment?

Wish Upon A Star isn’t long enough to really delve into how Ceri and Jason’s lives and outlooks are going to change after zombies enter the picture.  This is an action read, and the primary focus is on saving Ceri’s daughter from the zombies shambling through the large building that they are all trapped in.  After Ceri’s ex-husband Russell unwittingly unleashes  a zombie apocalypse, Ceri and Jason, the only man she ever really loved,  and the man who left her at the alter, are left to pick up the pieces.  Ceri’s ex-husband was  a mad tinker, and he wanted to create and control the undead – until his creations turn on him.  Yikes! That is always a possibility for evil psychos – don’t these guys watch horror flicks? 

Huddled safely in Russell’s safe room, Ceri sees, to her shock, that her daughter is hiding in an office on the top floor of the building with her mother.  She and Jason are in the basement.  There are a gabillion hungry zombies between her and her family.  What follows is an action packed race to secure her daughter and mother back in the safe room before the military blows up the building.  Setting aside a few improbabilities, like will the room really survive having a huge building crumpled on top of it, this is a fun read.  It has one of my favorite romance tropes, too, and Ceri and Jason rediscover the love that they lost years ago.  Nothing like a zombie horde to put the trust back into a relationship.  After saving each other’s bacon many times on their journey to the top floor, how can they not realize that they are meant for each other, forever this time?

If you are looking for a light seasonal read to get you in the mood for things that go bump in the night, Wish Upon a Star is a good choice.  It’s got a little bit of everything, though the short length eliminates much depth to the story.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Barbara Dunlop, Author of A Cowboy’s Temptation


Please welcome USA TODAY bestselling author Barbara Dunlop to the virtual offices this morning! Barbara is celebrating the release of A Cowboy’s Temptation.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] I write contemporary romance, most of it with a comedic slant.  I live in northern Canada.  And, though I write 3 – 4 books a year, I still have a day job that I enjoy very much.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about A Cowboy’s Temptation?

[Barbara Dunlop] A Cowboy’s Temptation is the fifth book in a six book series for Harlequin Desire titled Colorado Cattle Barons.  The series centers around two families with deep roots in Colorado ranching country.  In A Cowboy’s Temptation, rancher and current Mayor of Lyndon City, Seth Jacobs runs afoul of inn owner Darby Carroll over the extension of a railway into town.  They battle for the hearts and minds of the townspeople, while fighting a growing attraction to each other that culminates in a secret affair.  Cowboys are some of my favorite heroes, rugged, sexy, principled, so I’ve really enjoyed the writing I’ve done in this series.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] It’s hard to go wrong with cowboys. And they seem to work extraordinarily well in the Desire line.  I also have an affinity for writing sibling relationships, especially brothers.  I love the way people who have known others their entire lives can manage push each other’s buttons.  I started Colorado Cattle Barons with two brothers, fraternal twins, actually—Caleb and Reed Terrell.  They’d been estranged since they were eighteen when their mother died.  Both blamed their hard-nosed father for her illness and death.  Caleb chose to leave the ranch, while Reed chose to stay and fight for his mother’s heritage.  In the first story, Caleb returns to the ranch to confront his twin brother and falls in love with Mandy Jacobs, bringing the Jacobs family into the series.  After that, there were many siblings, secret siblings, cousins and friends to choose from to carry the series forward.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] He’s a cowboy, so rugged, sexy, principled.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel

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

[Barbara Dunlop] Seth is never without the multi-tool/knife on his belt.  There are a million things a cowboy can fix with that.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] You won’t find a lot of makeup in Darby’s bathroom, or perfume, or fancy hair products.  She’s a  down to earth woman.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] Seth wishes he could have stayed on the ranch instead of running for Mayor.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] The early, incredibly creative romance novelists like Sandra Brown, Iris Johansen and Kathleen Woodiwiss.  I also greatly admire work by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lisa Kleypas and Aline Adams.  It’s a joy to read their stories.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] A computer, a clear head and quiet.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You are so prolific! What’s your secret to keeping your stories so fresh?

[Barbara Dunlop] Ironically, I think the more you write the better you get at it.  There are thousands of stories out there, and thousands of ways to approach them.  When you stay in practice, you have the tools you need to take on the next project.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What has changed the most in publishing since you sold your first manuscript?

[Barbara Dunlop] When I published my first book in 2000, there were limited avenues for writers if they wanted to put their work in front of readers.  That’s all changed today.  There are many channels for publication, and there are authors succeeding in virtually all of them.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was your biggest distraction while working on A Cowboy’s Temptation?

[Barbara Dunlop] Although I love my day job, it does take up quite a lot of time.  I’m constantly balancing obligations and focusing on time management. 

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

[Barbara Dunlop] Most recently, I loved Lisa Kleypas’s trilogy: Sugar Daddy, Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] My first book was Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss.  I don’t think I’ve looked back since.

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

[Barbara Dunlop] If I’m not working, I’m usually writing.  Though my husband and I do try for movie night on Fridays.

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

[Barbara Dunlop ] It’s easy to contact me through my web site

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

Purchase link

About the book:

In this Colorado Cattle Barons novel by USA TODAY bestselling author Barbara Dunlop, a cowboy seduces the enemy 

Mayor Seth Jacobs has plans, and he won’t let do-gooder Darby Carroll ruin them. Her need for peace and quiet is standing in the way of a crucial railroad project. Now he must put his cowboy charms to good use and persuade Darby to see things his way. But seduction is a two-way street, and Seth soon realizes he underestimated his opponent. Now that he’s caught in his own trap, his desire for this woman could be his downfall….

About the author:

USA Today bestselling author Barbara Dunlop sold her first book to Harlequin in 2000.  Since then, she has sold more than 35 novels.  She has won a number of writing awards and is two-time RITA award finalist.  Married to her high school sweetheart, they live on a hobby ranch in Canada’s north amidst ruggedly beautiful mountains, where bears wander by their log house, and moose and deer graze in the fields.

Meet Malachim Jerrod from Naima Simone’s Secrets and Sins: Malachim and Giveaway

Please welcome Malachim Jerrod from Naima Simone’s Secrets and Sins: Malachim.  Be sure to enter the giveaway after getting to know Malachim better.

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

[Malachim Jerrod] *Snort* You’re asking an attorney to say anything in five words or less? Okay, I’ll play along. *leans back in leather office chair with fingers laced over his stomach* How about stubborn, suspicious, loyal, and the best trait of all? Able to keep my mouth shut.

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

[Malachim Jerrod] *spreads his hands wide, palms up* I’m here at my office from morning well past dark. Working to save my ass and my law firm. *smirks* It’s a full time job.

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

[Malachim Jerrod] *smile drops from his mouth* Madonna—the saint, not the singer. Brilliant. *frowns* Liar.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you find most exasperating about her?

[Malachim Jerrod] I guess you didn’t catch the “liar” part? *shoots out of his chair, slides hands in pants pockets, and paces to the window. Stares out.*She’s…wrapped in them—lies.

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

[Malachim Jerrod] Let me guess. You expect me to say helping Chay, Gabe, and Rafe bury Richard Pierce’s body? *shrugs* Sorry to disappoint. Actually, the one thing I would change in my life would be not killing Richard myself.

Read more

Spotlight and Giveaway! Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean

Interview with Michelle McLean

Do you write in different genres?

I do! I love writing in different genres. It lets me explore different aspects of creativity and work out different parts of my brain. I write historical, paranormal/urban fantasy, and contemporary romances, and educational non-fiction. Along with a bit of poetry and a picture book or two 🙂

If yes which is your favorite genre to write?

I really don’t have a favorite, unless you count romance 🙂 But sub-genre-wise, I love them all. Historicals allow me to delve into the past which I absolutely love (my bachelors degree is in History). Paranormals and urban fantasies allow me to play around with the supernatural and other-worldly things which I also absolutely love. Contemporaries allow me to switch up my every day world a little. And my non-fiction allows me to tap into my analytical side and help people with educational matters, which I also really love. I’ve penned poetry since I was little, and have written several picture books for my kids that I still read to them. I can’t imagine not writing any of these.

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

Wish Upon a Star was originally a fairy tale retelling that was a mashup of Pinocchio and Rumplestiltskin. Most of the fairy tale elements were taken out in edits, but my main character was based on the blue fairy and spends a lot of time wishing on stars 🙂

Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?

I almost always title the book afterwards. I like to use a line or some words or a theme that is special to or prevalent in the book to use as a title and often that doesn’t come across until it is finished. The one exception is a novella I’m working on. I heard a line in a song that I just loved and built a book idea around it 🙂

What books/authors have influenced your life?

Victoria Holt has been my biggest influence. She was my first authorial love 🙂 Once I graduated to novels (at a fairly young age) I read everything I could get my hands on. I was always raiding my mom’s shelves and she had a ton of Victoria Holt’s gothic romances. I fell in love with the genre immediately. And when I decided to write my own first novel that type of story was in my head. A historical romance full of romance, danger, and mystery 🙂 I write other genres as well, but historical romances, especially gothic, will always be my first loves.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

One of the books I’m working on has several shape poems in it. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep them in there as it won’t show up correctly on all digital devices, but they are really fun to create. In the book, I have poems shaped like an hour glass, an ankh, a lightning bolt, a broken heart, a pyramid, an eye, a music note, and several others. Here is one, shaped to look like a drop of blood.

He holds

my face so tenderly,

in hands that had killed.

For me. Fingers gently touch

my cheeks. His lips kiss away my

tears, my blood. “Breathe,” he whispers.

His lips brush mine. “Just breathe.” I shudder,

my breath escaping at his command. “If you insist,”

I try to joke. Fail. Shouts fill the night air. “Go!” I cry.

They mustn’t find you with me. Go!” He freezes, his storm

gray eyes on our hands, clasped between our pounding hearts.

The horror on his face mirrors that on my own. One last caress, so

bittersweet. He wavers. “Go,” I breathe. He steps back, back, raised

hand stained black with blood. Mine, his, theirs. His pained howl rips

through me, burning his image on my soul. “For you I’ll live,” I whisper,

unwilling to breathe, unable to stop. They will come for me, their hands

grasping, to return me to my clan. “Go!” I plead. One last look and he

runs, his tortured fury echoing through me, his pain my own. They

come, see me bathed in blood. “Who did this?” they ask. I shrink

from their touch. Gently they lift me, murmuring, “Let us help

you.” I swallow my protests, settle into their strong hands.

They ask, over and over, but I don’t speak. And they

don’t suspect. They take me home. I care not.

I’ll breathe because I promised I would.

But oh how it hurts. He is gone…


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The first draft. I’m horrible at first drafts. Editing, I love. I can revise very quickly and enjoy doing it. Pulling a first draft out of me is like yanking my own teeth. I’m not sure why, because I really love to get the stories down on paper. But those blank pages just staring at me are hard to fill sometimes. Give me a completed manuscript to polish up any day 😀

When you’re not writing what do you do? Do you have any hobbies or guilty pleasures?

Mostly, I read 😀 I used to do a lot of cross-stitching and I play the piano. I love movies and spend a lot of late nights with my favorites. But mostly, I read 🙂

What is next for you? Do you have any scheduled upcoming releases or works in progress?

I have a non-fiction book on how to write poetry that should be releasing at the end of the year. And next year, the last book in the Blood Blade Sisters trilogy will be releasing, along with a new historical romance set in the 1920s that will come out next summer. I’m also working on the book with the shape poems and have a fairy tale retelling series I’ll be shopping around soon 🙂


Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean

ISBN: 9781622663323

Book Description:

Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fiancé Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both—and all of humanity—into jeopardy.

Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as a zombie uprising threatens them all.

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Jason sank down beside me and pulled me toward him, pressing a kiss against my temple.

“Are you okay?” he asked, brushing soot and a few burned leaves from my face and hair. The smell of burned plastic and singed hair coated everything. But it could have been worse.

I leaned against him for a moment before trying to push to my feet.

Jason stopped me. “Rest for a minute.” He reached into my backpack and pulled out another bottle of water.

I took it gratefully, gulping down half the bottle before handing it to him to finish off. When he was done, he bent down, kissing a drop of water from my lips. His hands cupped my face. “I’m sorry. For everything. All of it. Everything I put you through. These wasted years without you.”

“I’m sorry too.” I pulled away and looked up at him. “If we get through this—”

“When we get through this. Not if.”

I gave him a small smile and nodded, knowing he knew what I wanted to say without having to voice the words. “When we get through this, maybe we can talk. About things.”

He gave me one more lingering kiss. “I’ll hold you to that.”

“But for now,” I said, brushing a lock of hair from his forehead.

“Rain check?”

“Rain check.”

About the Author:

I grew up in California and have lived everywhere from the deserts of Utah to the tropical beaches of Hawaii to the gorgeous forests of the east coast. The oldest of five children, I am generally an organized mess with slight Obsessive Compulsive tendencies. I have a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, an insatiable love of books, and more weird quirks than you can shake a stick at.

I am the author of Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, (Career Press Jan 2011), To Trust a Thief (Entangled Scandalous Jan 2013), a historical romance trilogy Blood Blade Sisters (Entangled Scandalous 2013), and a zombie fairy tale retelling Wish Upon a Star (Entangled Ever After Oct 2013). In addition to my novels and non-fiction work, I write picture books and a bit of poetry. If I’m not editing, reading, or chasing my kids around, I can usually be found in a quiet corner working on my next book.

I currently reside in Pennsylvania with my husband and two young children, an insanely hyper dog, and two very spoiled cats.







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