Cover Shot! Enchanted Ever After by Robin D Owens

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?

This is the coolest cover!  I love the soft, dreamy pastel shades, and the rounded title font.  I also love the mermaid reflected in the water.  Enchanted Ever After by Robin D Owens is high on my wish list!

In stores December 2012.

 

Magic was just around the corner….  
Kiri Palger knew the difference between reality-new house,  hard work and not too many friends-and fantasy-the fun she had playing online games. So when the chance to work for the best gaming company in the world came up, giving her a chance to merge business with pleasure, how could she not apply? 
Suddenly she has more friends, interesting neighbors and an intriguing love interest. But when the game begins to awaken something inside her, Kiri is shocked by the talents she never knew she had… and an evil she’d never imagined. 
Her nice, safe life is imploding around her-and if she takes up  the mantle of her powers, it will never be the same again….

You can preorder from Amazon: Enchanted Ever After (Mystic Circle) by Robin D Owens

Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

 

Title: Spell Bound

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

Also available in digital:

Spell Bound (Digital)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium.  Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

Review:

I have been waiting with a great deal of anticipation for the final book in Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall series.  I found the first book rather predicable, but Demonglass kept me on the edge of my seat.  I hated the cliffhanger ending! How could you do that to me?  I was finally onboard with Sophie and her acidic personality, and then – WHAM!  We ran into a brick wall of “See you later!”  Ugh!

Anyway, a copy finally came in at the library, so I hustled over to pick it up.  On my lunch break.  Even though I couldn’t read it until after work.  I dove into the book as soon as I arrived home, and after that uncomfortable few moments of trying like heck to remember what happened in the previous book, and who all of the characters were, I was in!  There is such a loss of momentum when you have to wait for over a year to read the next book in a series, and most of the time, they don’t work as well for me.  When I am in the reading zone provided by a book, I am also in a particular frame of mind at that place in time.  Sometimes I don’t get it back.  Sometimes I no longer click with the protagonist.  Sometimes I discover, with dismay, that I don’t even like the protagonist anymore.  While she hasn’t changed in the year and a half since we last met, I have.  I am a different person, and there have been times when I have outgrown a series or cast of characters, and I am always bummed when that happens.

Don’t worry, though! That didn’t happen with Spell Bound.  While some of the plot points didn’t work for me, I still enjoyed Sophie’s occasionally grating personality.  Her coping mechanism is to get sarcastic, and I actually liked when she was blasting out snarky comments, or better yet, making unfiltered inner commentary about whatever person happened to be pissing her off.  I didn’t like the back and forth between Archer and her fiancée, Cal, but heck, I usually never like all of the romantic triangles cluttering up YA PNR these days.  It is the one trope that drives me batty, and the one that I find the least interesting.  The resolution to this one was a cop-out, with Sophie not making a decision so much as having it made for her.  I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so I’ll just say UGH!  Sophie gets off guilt free, and I didn’t like that.  I felt that it belittled her emotional conflict and her feelings for both guys was also trivialized. 

Moving on, I love the action in the these books.  Sophie has to always be on her toes, ready to fight for her life.  She also has to be ready to fight for the lives of her friends, and now, her family.  In this supernatural war, there are many casualties.  Sophie is under so much stress to ensure the safety of her loved ones that I’m surprised she didn’t lose all of her hair from the stress.  Worse yet, she didn’t have her powers, because they had been locked away by the villains at the end of the last book!  Her father’s powers had been completely and forcibly ripped from his body.  Sophie was running on empty, and ouch!  it wasn’t easy for her to escape from all of the danger she repeatedly found herself in.  That is one of her traits that I admire most about her character; Sophie has an innate ability to think well under pressure.  While she may lack the common sense to keep her out of danger in the first place, once she’s in it, she is able to stay relatively calm, examine the situation from every angle, and find a way to get her out of trouble without getting killed.  That she is ready to sacrifice her life when the stakes get so high that I would have crumbled into a ball of black despair, is another reason why I enjoyed Sophie, and these books, so much.

All in all, Hex Hall was a fun series, and now that they are all out, I recommend that you give them a try.  Each book was better than the last, and all of the characters, especially Sophie and Elodie, are likeable.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library 

Interview with Stacy DeKeyser, Author of The Brixen Witch

Stacy DeKeyser is the author of The Brixen Witch, a new Middle Grade release with a witch, a curse, and lots and lots of rats!  I invited Stacy to the Café to talk about her latest release.  Check out what she has to say!

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] Book nerd; loves dogs; consumes too much sugar. Whimpers upon realizing she’ll never get to read all the books she’d like to.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Brixen Witch?

[Stacy DeKeyser] It’s kind of two stories combined into one: a story about a village with its own witch, built on the bones of the Pied Piper legend.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] I’d wanted to write a story about a mountain witch for years, ever since visiting the Italian Alps in 2000, where there are local legends about witches. But I could never figure out what her story should be.Then, in 2009, I stumbled across a mention of the Pied Piper legend, and how it may be based on real events. I’d always known that, of course, but  this time I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The tragedy and lopsided cruelty of that story haunted me. Most fairy tales tend to be dark, but this is one of the few where NO ONE lives happily ever after, and NO ONE gets their comeuppance. It bothered me, and so I wanted to write my own version of the story.

As I researched, I came upon Kate Greenaway’s illustrations of the Robert Browning poem, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." Greenaway’s version of Hamelin looked just like the village in the Italian Alps with the witch. Something clicked in my head, and I knew I had found a way to write the witch’s story too.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] Serious. Kind. Brave.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Rudi would never have in his pocket?

[Stacy DeKeyser] Keys — Because his house is never locked.

Marbles — He’s a little too serious to play with marbles.

A handkerchief — He’s a boy. He knows what sleeves are for.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] You know that song about conquering your fears and meanwhile discovering who you’re meant to be? Yeah! That’s the one.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] My mom, Dori Chaconas, who has been writing and publishing since I was a kid, and who showed me that even "regular" people can write books and be published.

Jonathan Stroud, who can weave plot and character seamlessly. A master.

Richard Peck, who says "No one but a reader ever became a writer." Because he’s talking about me.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] A beverage (preferably caffeinated)

Background music (preferably instrumental; preferably with a Celtic flavor)

A deadline (preferably imposed by someone else)

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] I loved The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud . That book is satisfying on every level: It’s expertly plotted and yet the story never feels forced; the characters are vivid and real. It entertains and yet it asks thought-provoking questions. And, it’s hilarious. I especially love the footnotes.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] I was turned on to reading before I ever learned to read. I honestly remember being very small and wishing I knew how to read. I couldn’t wait to start school, because I knew that’s where the magic would happen.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] Well, reading, of course. Traveling. Hiking. Shopping. Eating.

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

[Stacy DeKeyser] I love hearing from readers! I’m on Facebook, and Twitter, and you can email me via my website.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase The Brixen Witch from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital.

Cover Shot! Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

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?

OMG I love this cover! Shades of Milk and Honey floated right under my radar because I find that cover drab and dull, but this cover is gorgeous!  So pretty!  Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal will be in stores 2013

The magical book that might result if Jane Austen’s Emma were set against the Luddite uprising in the Year Without a Summer

Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane and Vincent Ellsworth. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.

Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London.

Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.

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Cover Shot! Story’s End by Marissa Burt

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 loved Storybound by Marissa Burt.  It is one of the best books I’ve read this year, so I am all aflutter with anticipation to get my hands on Story’s End, the next book in the series. I love the cover for this one!

In stores 2013.

No synopsis yet

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Interview with Laura Powell, Author of Burn Mark

Our special guest today is Laura Powell, the author of Burn Mark.  This new Bloomsbury release features one of my favorite romance tropes – forbidden love!  Let’s see what Laura has to say about her new book.

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

[Laura Powell] I’m half-Welsh, half-American, and live in a London attic. I can read fortunes in tea leaves and Tarot cards, and like to bake cakes and binge-sleep in between books.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for Burn Mark?

[Laura Powell] It struck me that a witches’ coven is quite like the Mafia: they’re both secret criminal organizations, hunted by the law, a source of fear and loathing to many, but seen as quite cool and glamorous by some.

Since modern-day witches would make great gangsters, I thought there would need to be a specialist police force to protect people from black magic – the Inquisition. Once I’d got these two opposing forces, I decided that my heroine, Glory, should come from a famous crime coven, while my hero, Lucas, should belong to an equally famous family of inquisitors. When their worlds collide, sparks fly!

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Glory?

[Laura Powell] Stroppy, ambitious, brave

[Manga Maniac Café]  What are three things Lucas would never have in his pocket?

[Laura Powell] Any kind of discount voucher, a lock-picking set, lint

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

[Laura Powell] The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. She’s probably my favourite contemporary novelist. Now that I’ve finished that, I’m on to her post-apocalyptic thriller, The Year of the Flood.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can learn more about Laura by visiting her website.

Check out the trailer!

You can purchase Burn Mark from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

Interview with Gabi Stevens, Author of Wishful Thinking

Gabi Stevens is visiting the virtual offices today to discuss her new book Wishful Thinking.  Wishful Thinking wraps up her Time of Transition series, and it will be in stores next week.  Check out what Gabi has to say!

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

[Gabi Stevens] Gabi loves sushi, blue drinks, Bob, reading, writing, volleyball, Disneyland, travel, and Plants vs. Zombies, in no particular order.

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

[Gabi Stevens] WT is the third and final book in my series about three women who find themselves fairy godmothers. In Wishful Thinking, free-spirit Stormy Jones-Smythe faces great difficulties when she discovers she’s been chosen, including controlling her magic. Because the first two godmothers have gone rogue, the magical Council assigns a Guard to prevent her from going the same route. The magical world forces its boundaries and expectations on her, but luckily even a rigid and strict bodyguard can’t contain her exuberance.

Hunter Merrick has sworn allegiance to the Council and is determined to carry out his duty and keep Stormy under control. Unfortunately, Stormy proves as chaotic as her name implies.

But a threat forces Hunter to choose which side deserves his loyalty, and either choice has dire consequences. And if Stormy can defeat the greatest enemy the Arcani have seen since the time of Merlin, maybe she can rescue a bit of happiness for herself too. If she survives.

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

[Gabi Stevens] I have always loved the Grimm fairy tales. I even studied them in college. So when the time came for me to write a paranormal novel, I wanted something new and different. Fairy godmothers were just the right subject. Of course, these aren’t the fairy godmothers you think they are. Their role is protection more than wish granting, although they do that too. I knew I wanted to use the magic number of three, so I had three women as my heroines, and I love stories about doing the right thing no matter what the cost, so I had my plot. Okay, it wasn’t quite that easy, but I had fun with it. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the Time of Transition series?

[Gabi Stevens] Writing three individual stories that (I hope) stand alone, yet have a cohesive story for three novels. But as I wrote all kinds of neat things started to tie together. I know you’re supposed to plan all these things out, but I don’t plot. And when I needed something to happen in book three, I was surprised to find that I had laid the groundwork in books one and two. I call that real magic.

And then saying goodbye at the end. I love this world and I love these characters. 

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

[Gabi Stevens] Free-spirited, talented, and determined. She was such fun to write because I consider her the character furthest from my own personality (okay, hopefully not the talented part), so exploring her many facets were so educational for me, I admire so much in her and would love to tap those strengths in myself.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Hunter would never have in his bedroom?

[Gabi Stevens] Any stuffed animals (Stormy has a bunch), ruffles, or flower prints. But I’d bet that he’d have all three if the woman he loved wanted them.

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

[Gabi Stevens] Night hours. I love writing at night. For whatever reason, I can focus harder when it’s dark and the world seems more quiet. I don’t need quiet; in fact I enjoy listening to music while I write, but knowing the world is calm and sleepy outside my window, that there aren’t things to do or see, helps me focus. I just wish I didn’t have to get up in the morning to get my daughter on the bus.

Mostly I just need the focus to see what’s going on in my head, because I just write down what I see and hear.

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

[Gabi Stevens] Bubble gum (the semi-hard, old-fashioned, pink kind), sunflower seeds still in the shell, and my computer, although sometimes I just want pen and paper.

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

[Gabi Stevens] A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Loved the intricate story, the history, the voice. I also loved A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James–exactly my kind of fun, frivolous fairy tale.

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

[Gabi Stevens] I’m going to cheat on this on by picking a series. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. I distinctly remember riding my bike to library to get the next book in the series. That and the Oz books by L Frank Baum. I remember reading Glinda of Oz with my best friend on a camping trip. We’d lie in the tent and read by flashlight. It’s the last book in the series and I remember being so sad it was over, but so loving the ending.

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

[Gabi Stevens] I love, love, love to read. I never have much of a TBR pile because I read too fast. When I run out of things to read I have been known to pick up my husband’s engineering journals, not that I understand a word of them. I also love to play games, but watch out. I play to win.

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

[Gabi Stevens] I’m always thrilled when readers find me. They can find my email at www.GabiStevens.com, read my blog at www.GabiStevens.blogspot.com, reach me through Facebook at http://facebook.com/gabi.stevens, or Twitter at https://twitter.com/GabiStevens

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

 


You can order all three books in the Time of Transition series from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

Review: A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang

 

Title: A Brush of Darkness

Author: Allison Pang

Publisher: Pocket Star

ISBN: 978-1439198322

Abby Sinclair #1

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The man of her dreams might be the cause of her nightmares.

Six months ago, Abby Sinclair was struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Now, she has an enchanted iPod, a miniature unicorn living in her underwear drawer, and a magical marketplace to manage. But despite her growing knowledge of the OtherWorld, Abby isn’t at all prepared for Brystion, the dark, mysterious, and sexy-as- sin incubus searching for his sister, convinced Abby has the key to the succubus’s whereabouts. Abby has enough problems without having this seductive shape-shifter literally invade her dreams to get information. But when her Faery boss and some of her friends vanish, as well, Abby and Brystion must form an uneasy alliance. As she is sucked deeper and deeper into this perilous world of faeries, angels, and daemons, Abby realizes her life is in as much danger as her heart—and there’s no one she can trust to save her.

Review:

When I read that protagonist Abby had a miniature unicorn that slept in her underwear drawer, I added A Brush of Darkness to my TBR.  I mean, who doesn’t want a teeny tiny unicorn living in their apartment?  Assuming it didn’t trot about, pooping all over the place.  I was hoping that Phineas would be like Sparky from Laura Bickle’s Embers; a magical creature that both kept Abby out of danger, but also caused trouble for her at the same time.  Phineas turned out to be a fun secondary character, who, despite his small size, manages to pack an incredible amount of attitude into his gleaming silvery hide.

I liked Abby, too, though I have serious concerns about her recklessness and lack of common sense.  She has managed to get herself caught up in a very dangerous situation, one that could easily cost her her life.  Not that she puts much value in that, though, as she is still reeling from the death of her mother, who died in the same gruesome car accident that robbed Abby of her dream of being a professional dancer.  Now she works in a rickety bookstore that stinks like cat piss and cabbages (or maybe dirty feet), and she’s signed a Contract with Moira, one of the OtherFolk.  Moira is not just any Fae, mind you, she’s the Protectorate, and she helps keep the peace between all of the different and dangerous OtherFolk.  When she goes missing, it starts to look like Abby has something to do with her disappearance, and that does not bode well for a mortal woman who is suffering from PTSD.

Sexy incubus Brystion shatters whatever small amount of peace Abby has managed to find for herself.  Barging into the bookstore, he’s hoping that Moira can help him find his missing sister.  When Abby accidently links herself to him, her life will never be the same.  OtherFolk want her dead, she’s under suspicion because Moira is missing, and the incubus causes her heart to race every time she thinks about him.  And she’s having some of the most satisfying sexual dreams of her life.  That is, when she’s not having nightmares about being torn apart by sharks. Talk about disturbing.

For the most part, A Brush of Darkness kept me engaged in the story, right up until near the end, which I found a bit slow and very abrupt.  I loved the mystery, though, and the run up to the last thirty or so pages.  Abby has her work cut out for her.  She needs to find Moira – STAT – as well as Brystion’s sister, before she becomes the next dead succubus to turn up on the CrossRoads.  Abby doesn’t get much co-operation from her friends, either, as they begin to cast suspicious eyes in her direction, especially after she hooks up with the incubus.  It seems that nobody trusts a creature that devours other’s dreams. 

I found the world building and the OtherFolk’s dependence on mortals interesting.  In order to travel back and forth between realms, they needed to a form a contract with a mortal.  Abby’s contract with Moira means that she won’t age for seven years, and she gets one wish at the end.  Since the OtherFolk can’t ever quite be trusted, I don’t think that Abby’s payoff is worth the risk she put herself in, but as she is struggling to forgive herself for her mother’s death, she doesn’t place much worth in herself to begin with.  She is messed up, both physically and mentally, because of that tragic moment, and she just can’t move beyond it, which gives her enemies ammunition to use against her.  It also manifested in a recklessness that often took me by surprise.  I sympathized with her, and wanted her to finally find the strength to forgive herself. 

I enjoyed A Brush of Darkness, and aside from the lag at the end, found it hard to put down.  I’m invested enough in the story and the characters to want to read A Sliver of Shadow, the next book in the series.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours

 

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