Interview with Ingrid Paulson, author of Valkyrie Rising

Ingrid Paulson is the author of Valkyrie Rising, a book I am chomping at the bit to get my hands on.  Ingrid very kindly took some time out of her busy day to answer a few of my questions.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] Science nerd and avid reader turned young adult writer. Former Olympic athlete (not really).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Valkyrie Rising?

[Ingrid Paulson] I’m a huge fan of girl power stories, so I set out to write the kind of book I would want to read. In a nutshell, Valkyrie Rising is about a girl (Ellie) who comes into her own while visiting her grandmother in Norway. Boys start mysteriously disappearing, including her brother, and it’s up to Ellie to save them all and overthrow an ancient power. And along the way learns a few unexpected things about her family history.

But I think the copy on the back of the galley says it best:

Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s astonishingly epic coming-of-age.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] A few years ago, I went on a trip Norway with the Paulson women, and I was so inspired by the mountains and fjords that I wanted to write a book based on the setting alone. I knew right away it would include Valkyries—I’ve always loved the idea of strong warrior women.

I was actually working on a different book, but Tuck and Ellie captured my imagination so suddenly and completely that I sat down and started sketching out scenes. The rest of the story came together around those two characters and the setting.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Ingrid Paulson] There are about a million challenges in writing a book–it’s hard to pick just one! But I think I struggled most with the ending and ended up re-writing it several times. I’d set up big stakes in the first three-quarters of the book and it was hard to tie everything back up together in a satisfactory way while keeping the action fast and light. Fortunately, I had an amazing editor who helped me work through those issues.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] This is hard because Ellie changes a lot during the course of the story. But the girl she becomes by the final scene is determined, resilient, and brave.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] Tucker is the type to always travel light. It’s not likely he’d have anything but his cell phone and a credit card or two. But he’d definitely never have another girl’s number, even if he’s likely to be slipped more than a few. He also wouldn’t be caught dead with anything relating to school or homework. Part of his casual confidence thing is never admitting he puts work into anything.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] I love reading and that definitely inspired me to start writing. And this might sound creepy, but I also really enjoy people watching (I’m a shameless and painfully obvious eavesdropper). I think that contributed a lot to creating the other people who reside in my head.  In the case of Valkyrie Rising, travel was also a huge influence—I was fortunate enough to stumble across incredible vistas in Norway that made me itch to describe them on paper.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] I need coffee and silence. When I hit a tricky scene or plot issue, I often work it out on a long run, so I guess I need running shoes too.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] That is a hard question! I think the biggest contributor to my love of reading was a father who would sit and read to me for hours and hours on end. His love of books is infectious. However, I was a huge fan of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein and can still recite embarrassing amounts of their works.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] Lately, I feel like I’m always either writing or secretly thinking about writing while pretending to pay attention to something else. But I live in San Francisco, pretty close to the bay, so I just love being outside and wandering the city with my daughter. I love to travel (who doesn’t) and spending time with my friends.

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

[Ingrid Paulson] My websites is: www.ingridepaulson.com

I’m on twitter @ingridepaulson.com

Facebook:  Valkyrie Rising

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Valkyrie Rising from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital.

Waiting on Wednesday–Furious by Jill Wolfson

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

Oh, look! A new twist on Greek mythology.  The Furies seem to be popular right now, and I’m curious to see what Furious by Jill Wolfson is all about.  In stores April 2013

 

Three high school girls become the avenging Furies of Greek legend.

We were only three angry girls, to begin with. Alix, the hot-tempered surfer chick; Stephanie, the tree-hugging activist; and me, Meg, the quiet foster kid, the one who never quite fit in. We hardly knew each other, but each of us nurtured a burning anger: at the jerks in our class, at our disappointing parents, at the whole flawed, unjust world.

We were only three angry girls, simmering uselessly in our ocean-side California town, until one day a mysterious, beautiful classmate named Ambrosia taught us what else we could be: Powerful. Deadly. Furious.

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Review: The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone

 

 

Title: The Seduction of Phaeton Black

Author: Jillian Stone

Publisher:  Brava

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In the gaslit streets of Victorian London, phantoms rule the night, demons dance till dawn, and one supernatural detective dares to be seduced by the greatest power of all. . .

He’s The Man With The Magic Touch

A master of deduction, seduction and other midnight maneuvers, Phaeton Black is Scotland Yard’s secret weapon against things that go bump in the night. His prodigious gifts as a paranormal investigator are as legendary as his skills as a lover, his weakness for wicked women as notorious as his affection for absinthe. But when he’s asked to hunt down a fanged femme fatale who drains her victims of blood, he walks right into the arms of the most dangerous woman he’s ever known. . .

She’s The Devilish Miss Jones

Pressing a knife to his throat–and demanding he make love to her–Miss America Jones uses Phaeton as a willing shield against the gang of pirates chasing her. As deadly as she is, with a derringer tucked in her garter, Miss Jones is not the vampiric killer he’s been staking out–but she may be just what Phaeton needs to crack the case. As the daughter of a Cajun witch, she possesses uncanny powers. As a fearless fighter, she can handle anything from Egyptian mummies to Jack the Ripper. But when an ancient evil is unleashed on the world, she could be his only salvation. . .or ultimate sacrifice.

 

Review:

The Seduction of Phaeton Black is like An Affair with Mr Kennedy on steroids.  I have to admit that I was a little leery before I started reading Jillian Stone’s latest release.  How could it live up to my high expectations?  I loved Mr Kennedy, a sexy romp with a Scotland Yard detective who could easily give Remington Steel or James Bond a run for their money.  He is gifted in everything that he does; he’s a magnificent rider, a crack shot, and can hold his own in a fist fight.  Best of all, he’s a wonderful lover and partner.  Guys like Mr Kennedy don’t exist in  real life because the pressure of being that perfect would quickly cause a seizure.  Cassie had me pulling my hair out a few times, because for such an intelligent lady, she could be so dumb, but Zak needed  to be a hero, and a woman with more common sense wouldn’t have needed rescuing.

In steps Phaeton Black.  I admit that it took me a while to warm up to this guy.  He is rather juvenile and thinks with his crotch instead of his brain.  Probably because most people thinks he nuts due to all of the paranormal sightings he has, but still.  He showed an appalling lack of discretion and caution, but I did finally start to appreciate his character.  He’s a flirt and a player, with no plans of ever getting shackled to one woman.  He doesn’t want kids, either, because he’s afraid that they will be as messed up as he is.  After the death of his mother when he was a young lad, his father had no patience for Phaeton or his supernatural abilities, and quickly packed him off to boarding school.  Poor guy.  I guess an emotional blow like that will warp anyone, especially a guy who sees all of the scary things that go bump in the night.  Best to just pretend to not see them at all.

When America Jones takes him hostage in a dark alley, Phaeton is quick to turn the tables on the desperate lass.  Even though he’s the one held at knife-point, he is quick to take advantage of the situation.  This is the only part of the story that I didn’t like.  I wanted Phaeton to be noble.  He wasn’t.  He was a cad at best, and a sex offender at worst.  Yuck.  Not sexy, not worthy of high regard, and it took almost the entire book for him to redeem himself in my eyes. 

I enjoyed the world building here, and found the addition of paranormal beasts to Victorian England fun and interesting.  Well, not fun for Phaeton, but certainly entertaining for me.  This guy is oozing with supernatural abilities, but because he has repressed them and never learned how to use them, he finds sightings of supernatural creatures disturbing.  America embraces her gifts, and she longs for Phaeton to do the same.  It’s not healthy to suppress  all of that power, and it puts him at a distinct disadvantage when the beasties are on the prowl for a new victim to snack on.  Phaeton’s association with Dr Exeter, a mysterious meddler with powers that give Phaeton pause, slowly convinces him look at his own abilities in a new light.  I am extremely hopeful that between America and Exeter, Phaeton will learn how to develop his gifts without worrying about how others perceive him.   After getting into trouble with his superiors at Scotland Yard, and his father’s rejection, though, I understand his reluctance to do that.

The pacing faltered near the end, but otherwise I had a hard time putting the book down.  I loved America and Exeter, and once Phaeton’s questionable charms finally wore me down, I liked him, too.  It just took a lot longer because he has so many flaws and weaknesses.  Once he started thinking with the head on his shoulders, and not the head in his pants, I did find him much more likeable, and now I can hardly wait for his next adventure.

Grade:  B, leaning to a B+

Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours

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Win Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter!

Are you looking for an awesome summer read?  Do you like YA paranormal romances?  Want to win a copy of Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter?? 

Goddess Interrupted is the sequel to The Goddess Test.  Here’s a plot synopsis:

KATE WINTERS HAS WON IMMORTALITY.

BUT IF SHE WANTS A LIFE WITH HENRY IN THE UNDERWORLD, SHE’LL HAVE TO FIGHT FOR IT.

Becoming immortal wasn’t supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she’s as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he’s becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate’s coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.

Henry’s first wife, Persephone.

Sounds good, huh?  If you enjoy Greek mythology, this is the summer read for you!

To enter for your chance to win, just fill out the widget below! You can earn extra entries by following. Contest ends June 13th.  Contest open to US and Canadian addresses.


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Review: Endure by Carrie Jones

 

Title: Endure

Author: Carrie Jones

Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA

ISBN: 978-1599905549

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

It’s all-out war (and no-holds-barred romance) in the climactic conclusion to Carrie Jones’s bestselling series.

Zara is at the center of an impending apocalypse. True, she’s successfully rescued Nick from Valhalla, but it simply isn’t enough. Evil pixies are ravaging Bedford, and they need much more than one great warrior; they need an army. Zara isn’t sure what her role is anymore. She’s not just fighting for her friends; she’s also a pixie queen. And to align her team of pixies with the humans she loves will be one of her greatest battles yet. Especially since she can’t even reconcile her growing feelings for her pixie king . . .

Unexpected turns, surprising revelations, and one utterly satisfying romantic finale make Endure a thrilling end to this series of bestsellers.

Review:

I have mixed feelings about the final volume of Carrie Jones’ NEED series.  Endure is a page turner, but despite the rapid pacing, there was something missing for me.  The earlier books in the series introduced a scary new paranormal creature to me – Pixies.  Prior to reading Need, when I conjured pixies in my mind, they were little impish creatures, hardly worthy of concern.  This series charged that vision into a nightmare.  Large, powerful pixies, ruled by an all consuming need, turned out to be pretty frightening after all, especially when paired with an isolated, snowy landscape.  I loved the Maine setting, and the pixies,whispering enticingly from the shelter of the woods, freaked me out.

In Endure, Zara has sacrificed her humanity to save Nick from Valhalla, and here is my major dislike of this story.  Nick has turned his back on Zara, and now considers her a monster.  I just wanted him to get over himself!  Dude, Zara gave up everything to bring your sorry butt back to life, so the least you could have done was thank her.  Geez!  Instead, Nick puts on a pout, tells Zara he doesn’t know who she is anymore, and treats her like…well, a pixie.  Really?  This is how you display your love to the brave young woman who was willing to give up everything for you?  Who was willing to face her nightmare opponents head on, to save you? So disappointing!

I liked Astley better than Nick, and that surprised me.  Up until this volume, I loved Nick.  He is so bad ass.  He’s a werewolf, and until his visit to Valhalla, he would have done anything to protect Zara and his friends.  Just like she was willing to do for him.  Until all of that turned out to be a lie.  Then Zara was left with Astley, a kind and good pixie.  A kind and good pixie king.  The kind of guy who accepts you for who, and what, you are.  Astley did not care whether Zara was pixie or human, and that’s when I jumped onboard with Team Astley. He was always there for her, whether she wanted him to be or not.  He was always supportive, always willing to put himself in harm’s way to keep her safe.  Zara wasn’t the only one willing to takes risks for those she loved, and that’s what endeared Astley to me.  Nick, you can learn a few lessons from him.

Romantic triangle and personality shifts aside, the other problem I had with Endure was the sheer density of the plot.  Pretty much every plot device is packed into this book, from evil, psychopathic bad guys, to global goose chases, to cataclysmic shifts in weather patterns,  to Norse gods, giants, weres, elves, and…well, I’m sure you get my drift.  There was just too much for me to absorb at times, and it made the plot feel cluttered.  Sometimes, too much of a good thing is just too much.

Overall, I enjoyed the NEED series very much.  The ending left me satisfied, content that Zara and her friends had saved the world from evil pixies, prophesies, and the rage of Loki.  I’m looking forward to seeing Carrie’s next project, because I find her writing style compelling, and I can identify with her characters.

Grade: B-

Available in both Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: A Beautiful Evil by Kelly Keaton

 

Title: A Beautiful Evil

Author: Kelly Keaton

Publisher: Simon Pulse

ISBN: 978-1442409279

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Myth and mayhem inhabit a richly reimagined New Orleans in this sequel to Darkness Becomes Her.

After the epic graveyard battle at the end of Darkness Becomes Her, Ari and her friends know what they’re up against: Ari is facing the Medusa curse and is haunted by the image of what she will become. To make matters worse, the heinous goddess Athena has kidnapped young Violet and is threatening to destroy Ari.

Ari, along with the superhot Sebastian, is doing everything she can to learn more about Athena and to get Violet back. But the battle of good and evil is bigger than she realizes, and she’s about to be pulled into a world more horrific than she could ever imagine….

Review:

I was disappointed with this installment of the Gods and Monsters series, but, in all honesty, Darkness Becomes Her was a tough act to follow.  I loved that book, and had built up so many expectations for this sequel, expectations that fell flat.  I enjoyed A Beautiful Evil when the fists and swords were flying, but Ari acted in so many frustratingly foolish ways that she almost earned the brand Too Stupid To Live.  What saved her from that?  Even though she lacks any common sense, she is still a bad ass gorgon in training.  When she gets herself together enough to actually use her powers, she is one pretty cool character.

I love the world-building.  Every nasty supernatural creature that you can think of has taken up residence in and around New Orleans.  Vampires, shifters, witches.  All cohabitating in relative peace, but it’s clear that some of the leaders in the Novem are lobbying for more power than they currently have.  To make things even more tenuous, there are Greek gods and goddesses stirring up trouble, demi-gods on the loose, and blood-thirsty creatures roving around the Ruins.  Not a safe place to call home, but it sure is never boring.

Ari is training to learn to tap into her powers, but because they scare the crap out of her, she isn’t learning much.  She fights against them, terrified of turning into the gorgon.  I do agree that having snakes for hair would qualify for everyone’s idea of a bad hair day, but think about how awesome it would be to turn your enemies to stone.  Maybe not quite so cool to turn your friends and family into marble sculptures, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.  Or not, and just lock those frightening powers up inside and never learn to use them.  Unfortunately for Ari, that is not a practical solution.

Things fell apart for me when Ari kept trying to take the fight directly to Athena.  After getting her butt handed to her on a platter, inside the goddess’s own temple, Ari didn’t learn a lesson.  She didn’t learn that it is good to back off, train, become stronger, and then go back to fight again.  No, she, Sebastian, and Henri march right back into Athena’s clutches, giving the immortal psychopath another opportunity to torture, maim, and humiliate all of them.  It made no sense to me.  Not only are you going to put yourself in harm’s way by starting a fight that you have no hope of winning, you are going to put two more of the people you care about in the direct path of danger, too.  While I guess I could buy into her desperation, given enough belief suspension, what irritated me was Ari promptly passing the buck.  Does she blame herself for this?  No, she blames Athena. 

Caution: Possible Spoiler

In less than twenty-four hours one of my greatest fears had come true.  Athena had struck again, hurting someone I cared about.  Two someones.  Sebastian was hurt and Henri was…gone.

Really, Ari?! It’s your impulsiveness that created the situation you are currently wallowing in, not any fault of Athena’s.  I thought that Ari was smarter than that, and this headlong flight into danger, with nary a plan, did not sit well with me.

The battle at the end redeemed the book enough that I will read Book Three.  I do want to see how Ari resolves her conflict with Athena, and how she untangles the curse that will turn her into a gruesome monster in just a few years’ time.  Maybe, if my expectations are not Mount Olympus sized, I will enjoy the next book in the series more than this one.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Medusa the Mean by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

 

Title:  Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean

Author: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Publisher: Aladdin

ISBN: 978-1442433793

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Medusa wants to be more like her two sisters and the other kids at Mount Olympus Academy — immortal. Is that too much to ask? As one of the few mortals at MOA, it’s hard not to get jealous when you’re surrounded by beautiful, powerful goddessgirl and godboy classmates. And it isn’t easy making friends either, especially when you have snakes for hair and one mean reputation!

Review:

I have been interested in The Goddess Girls for a while, but I was reluctant to go back and try to catch up on the series.  Medusa the Mean is the eighth installment, and when I had the opportunity to be part of a blog tour, I jumped at the chance.  I ‘m glad that I did, too.  I had no problems following along with the plot, and found this to be a very fun MG read.

Medusa has a few issues.  She wants to be popular, and she wants super hottie Poseidon to notice her.  The problem? Nobody is tripping over themselves to be her friend.  Who wants to be BFFs with a mortal girl with snakes for hair?  Her own parents don’t even seem to care for her, so it’s easy to see how Medusa developed an Olympus sized chip on her green shoulder.

I was extremely sympathetic toward Medusa.  She is one of the only mortals to attend Mount Olympus Academy, and she feels that she doesn’t fit in.  She longs to be immortal and to have powers like her sisters.  It’s hard being the only triplet  without special powers!  Medusa is so desperate to obtain immortality that she falls for gimmicks that keep getting her into trouble.

Despite her desire to have friends, Medusa is wary of her peers.  Being the object of ridicule will do that, and Medusa is often the butt of jokes and teasing.  It seems that only her snakes accept her for who she really is.  With her trust issues, she keeps rejecting the friendly overtures from the girls she longs to be friends with.  I could relate to Medusa and her social awkwardness.  It’s hard to make friends when you worry constantly that people are only setting you up for a joke.  Instead, she reacts with snarky comebacks, or worse, ignores everyone in the vicinity.  While she keeps finding fault in herself, she feels that she must also find fault in others.

Medusa the Mean is a quick, feel good read.  Though I was starting to worry that Medusa would never catch a clue, she eventfully learns that being friends is a two-way street.  She learns that if she wants people to like her, she can’t be selfish and self-absorbed.  Most importantly, she has to accept herself for who she is, and stop judging people based on their looks, instead of their personality.  I enjoyed the characters and the setting, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more books in the Goddess Girls series.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {teen} Book Scene

 

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Cover Shot! Envy by Elizabeth Miles

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?

Since I can’t get enough of re-imagined Greek myths, I need to get busy and read Fury by Elizabeth Miles, so I’m all good to go when Envy hits stores in September.  I love the colors and the title font for this cover.

 

The second book in the dark, sexy, commercial, paranormal trilogy reminiscent of Pretty Little Liars, where Furies are getting their revenge…

 

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