Cover Shot! Crave the Darkness by Amanda Bonilla

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?

Amanda Bonilla’s next installment of her Shaede Assassin series hits stores March 2013.  All of the covers rock!  I love the splash of green on Crave the Darkness.

In stores March 2013



Nothing comes easy for Darian. Her heightened powers make her indispensable to the Shaede Nation, but dangerous missions have driven her lover, Tyler, to his breaking point. Darian must salvage their bond, but a new assignment to protect Anya—a fellow Shaede and the first of their kind to become pregnant in centuries—stands in their way.

It doesn’t help that the two Shaedes are longtime rivals and share nothing besides mutual hatred. But when it becomes clear that someone—or something—is bent on destroying the expectant mother and her unborn child, Darian must put her feelings aside and track down Anya’s would-be assassin.

As she probes into Anya’s past, Darian digs up long-buried secrets—and a connection between Tyler and the mission that could destroy everything between them…

Interview with Cassandra Rose Clarke, Author of The Assassin’s Curse

Cassandra Rose Clarke is the author of the fantastic Strange Chemistry release The Assassin’s Curse.  I loved this book, so I am super geeked to have her in the virtual offices today!  Please give her a warm welcome.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] A writer, reader, movie watcher, dinner cooker, and amateur artist.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Assassin’s Curse?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] The Assassin’s Curse is a YA adventure novel about a lady pirate and an assassin who are thrown together when the pirate accidentally activates a curse that had been placed on the assassin before they met. The story has tons of magic, swashbuckling, and adventurous peril — and a teeny hint of romance.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I wanted to write a high fantasy story because I’d never written one before. Originally, The Assassin’s Curse was going to be a short story, and the character of Ananna was going to be a witch, someone more like Leila. However, as I was working on her character, I thought it would be interesting to make her a pirate — I’ve always liked pirates, and you really don’t see that many stories about them. Naji was always going to be an assassin, though, because assassins are just cool.  Really, the novel grew out of an amalgamation of character types and tropes that I find interesting, or that I wanted to play with or subvert.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Mysterious, intelligent, moody

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Probably “Warrior,” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Ananna feels like a Yeah Yeah Yeahs kind of girl in general, but I think “Warrior” really captures her personality — as well as her adventures in the book!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Naji’s biggest regret?

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Probably casting the spell that gave him his facial scar — Naji always struck me as the sort of person who would put a lot of stock in being conventionally attractive, and when that was taken away from him, he had some trouble adjusting. That being said, his biggest regret is liable to change over the course of the book and/or the sequel 😉

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] This is a hard question! I mean, there are the obvious answers, like a cell phone, a ballpoint pen, or a flash drive. Those things don’t currently exist in her world and won’t ever exist in her lifetime. But if we’re pulling from items that do currently exist in her world? It’s hard to say there’s anything that would never show up in Ananna’s pockets. She’s resourceful. She could find usefulness in pretty much anything.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I pull a lot of influence from popular culture, and I love playing around with tropes. It’s so awesome how you can take these patterns that show up over and over again in books, movies, TV shows, video games, and whatever else, and when you put them together it creates something totally new. It’s a bit like piecing together a scrap quilt.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Quiet: I can’t write with music playing in the background at all. My computer: I’ve never been fond of writing by hand — whenever I try it I wind up throwing out everything I came up with. Daylight: I hate writing at night — or doing any kind of work at night, really. Fortunately my day job gives me a fairly flexible schedule so this isn’t an issue.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] Probably Among Others, by Jo Walton. I devoured it in about two days and then couldn’t get it out of my head for a week or so after. What I loved most about it was the narrator’s voice — it just carried you along with the story. I’d care one or the other about the old school science fiction references, but I loved the 1970s boarding school setting bunches.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I can’t honestly remember I time when I didn’t enjoy reading.  The first book I remember being OMG obsessed with was Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes.  I’d read plenty of books before it, of course, but that book was the one that made me realize just how powerful stories can be. Everything about it captured my attention: the isolated, rural setting, the fact that the family has moved into an old church, the strained relationship between the narrator and her sister, and of course Helen, who remains the creepiest ghost I’ve ever encountered. I reread the book a few years ago when I was home sick, and it still creeped me out!

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] I love watching TV and going to the movies, and I love talking about TV and movies even more, so I’m often doing one or the other. I also love to cook, draw, and paint, and I do Zumba classes a couple of days a week, because Zumba is awesome.

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

[Cassandra Rose Clarke] There are loads of ways to get in touch with me! My Twitter handle is @mitochondrial. You can also leave a comment on my blog (at or email me at I always try to reply when people contact me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase The Assassin’s Curse from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.  Digital edition is only $4.84!


About the book:

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

Review: Blood Before Sunrise by Amanda Bonilla



Title: Blood Before Sunrise

  Author: Amanda Bonilla

  Publisher: Signet

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

“She needed a bargaining chip and this was it. Raif’s daughter’s life for hers. And he knew damn good and well I was right. Just like he’d assured me the night I’d killed Azriel, this was far from over. His daughter was alive, I knew it. And I was going to find her.”

For months Darian and her Shaede guardian Raif have searched for the Oracle who attempted to overthrow the Shaede Nation—and kill Darian in the bargain. But now that they’ve finally found the half-crazed Oracle, for their efforts they are granted a possibility too painful for Raif to imagine, and too enticing for Darian to ignore.

Darian is determined to reunite Raif and the daughter he thought was dead, but her mission quickly proves dangerous when her lover Tyler is almost killed. And when a brooding and mysterious Fae warrior offers his guidance—at an extraordinary price—Darian finds herself willing to risk everything. As her single-minded hunt turns into an obsession, and she and Tyler grow further apart, Darian finds herself caught between the man she loves like a brother, and the man whose love she can’t live without…


Blood Before Sunrise is another action-packed entry in the Shaede Assassin series, and it features a kick-ass heroine and her sexy as hell lover.  Darian is self-assured, cocky, and ruthless, and she doesn’t hesitate to let other people know how deadly she can be.  Once a victim of domestic abuse, she is bound and determined that no one will brutalize her again.  Instead, she strikes first and asks questions later.  While I like a strong heroine, there are times when Darian takes things too far, and that makes it hard to like her.  She is the product of violence.  After being freed from her husband’s abuses, she becomes one with the night.  A trained killer, she does not shirk from bloodshed or pain.  She is proud of what she has made herself, and she hates having to depend on anyone.  This gets her into so much trouble, and made me question her common sense more than once.  It made me hard to relate to her.  There are times when you just have to ask for help; it doesn’t make you less of a person for it, but Darian is carrying so much baggage that she doesn’t understand that yet.

In this outing, Darian is determined to find Raif’s missing daughter.  Delilah, the Oracle, knows where she is, but she’s not spilling the information Darian needs to track Brakae down.  Even after Raif tells  her to drop it, Darian vows to find Brakae and reunite father and daughter.  This is a character trait of Darian’s that drove me nuts.  She doesn’t care what anyone else wants, and regardless of how often she is told to leave things be, she just can’t.  It’s not in her personality to give up.  Not only does this almost get her killed numerous times, it almost causes the end of the world!  Like asking for assistance, there are times when you need to just give up, especially if your continued persistence is going to cause the death of every one you know and love.

While I like Tyler, Darian’s lover, a lot, I also like Raif, and wonder if he wouldn’t make a better match for Darian.  Tyler is bound to her, and until someone starts messing with his mind, he worships the ground Darian walks on.  Raif, on the other hand, doesn’t cut her much slack, and I think a relationship between them would be a little more interesting, as well as volatile.  The conflict between Tyler and Raif was engaging, mainly because it was so one-sided.  Poor Tyler needed a  Xanax, but I don’t think they are available in Jinn strength.  It probably wouldn’t have helped much with his raging jealously issues, anyway.

I love the world building in this series, and love the concept of such a strong, fearless heroine. I did have problems with Darian’s thought processes, though, and found her too impulsive and completely lacking in common sense. She makes so many bad decisions that I feared for her continued good health. Because she kept making the same errors in judgment,  by the halfway point in the story I became fearful that she would never learn from her mistakes. That was frustrating for me.  Otherwise, Blood Before Sunrise blasts along at a blistering pace full of magic, combat, and bloodshed as Darian attempts to extract herself from all of the stupid situations she gets herself into. I wish Tyler and Raif would have had larger roles, because I find them both so interesting. My personality conflict with Darian was my biggest hindrance to totally loving this book.

Grade:  B/B-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

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Review: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J Maas


Title: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord

Author: Sarah J Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury



May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

On a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. She’s been sent by the Assassin’s Guild to collect on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when Celaena learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes – and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about.


I was disappointed with this Throne of Glass prequel novella.  While the first chapter set a hard-edged tone for protagonist Celaena, the rest of the story failed to deliver on a tough, ruthless heroine.  I found it hard to believe that Celaena could ever possibly be strong enough to take over the leadership of the assassins guild.   She is a complete bad a$$ in the opening pages, threatening to take out a fellow assassin for failing to retrieve the corpse of her weapons master, and then she vows to get it herself, come hell or high water.  I loved that about her.  She oozed confidence in her skills and wasn’t afraid to tackle a dangerous, almost impossible task.   Right after that chapter, though, her character softens up, and she loses that ruthless streak that I found so intriguing.

Sent to negotiate with the pirate lord, Celaena is dismayed to learn that she and fellow assassin Sam are not there to collect payment for the untimely demise of some assassins, rumored to have been killed by pirates.  No, they are there to bring back a ship full of slaves.  Prior to discovering the real reason for their trip to the pirates’ island, Celaena comes across as an arrogant, pompous jerk.  Worse, she enjoys coming across as an arrogant, pompous jerk.  She likes the thought of people being afraid of her, with her mask and concealing garb, and this only made her seem like a bully to me.  She hasn’t earned the respect that would have made her truly intimidating.

Appalled at the thought of transporting her new charges into a life of slavery, she decides that she isn’t going to go along with the plan.  She is going to abort the mission. She is going to free the slaves, because most of them are spoils of war; they aren’t soldiers or warriors, they are just innocent people who are the victims of terrible circumstances.  Now, being a compassionate person myself, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to rescue a ship full of innocent people.  What I didn’t get was that Celaena would actually set a plan into motion to do this.  She is supposed to be a harden killer, soon to be the leader of a group of hardened killers.  It is also her duty to carry out her mission.  Will she not complete a hit because she feels sorry for the target of the contract?  I must have been missing something with this storyline, because it didn’t make sense to me, in the context of Celaena’s profession.  Remember, she likes being frightening and intimidating.  Why would she act so out of character and save a bunch of strangers?

At one point during her covert operation to rescue the slaves, Celaena points out that she is not a murderer.  This struck me as an odd opinion for her to have, as money is accepted on her behalf for her to assassinate people, and she has ambitions to be the leader of the assassin’s guild.  When she meets the pirate lord, she wonders which of them has killed more people.  There is no moral high ground for her here.  Someone who accepts payment to kill another person is a murderer, plain and simple.  That’s what attracted me to the story in the first place.  I wanted Celaena to be cold and ruthless, to have no qualms about herself or what she does.  In the first chapter, this is exactly how she is presented.  She is unrepentant in her thoughts and a hair-trigger’s step away from exploding into violence.  She seems to enjoy what she does.  It’s only when we move on to her mission with Sam that the waters are muddied, and she makes the distinction between what is murder and what is not.  I didn’t like that.  I wanted to see a character that I haven’t read about before, one who almost revels in her ability to commit chaos, fear, and mayhem.  That is not the character in this book.

While this novella did not work for me, I did like premise.  I still am intrigued by the thought of Celaena being a cold-blooded assassin.  I wonder if she will find redemption from her life as a murderer for hire in later installments.  But for any kind of repentance to have any impact, she has to actually deserve forgiveness for the terrible things she has done.  So far, she hasn’t come across as a criminal.  She just came across as young and naïve, with a huge dose of overinflated self-importance.

Grade: C

Review copy purchased from Amazon


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