Interview with Sangu Mandanna, Author of The Lost Girl

Debut author Sangu Mandanna has a lot to be excited about.  Her debut novel, The Lost Girl, hits stores in August, and it’s already generating a ton of buzz.  Sangu took some time out of her busy schedule to introduce herself and to chat about her book.

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

[Sangu Mandanna] Creative, stubborn… fun? I like elephants. And Sherlock Holmes. And bookshelves with sliding ladders.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Lost Girl?

[Sangu Mandanna] It’s a book about Weavers who stitch echoes, copies, from scratch. And it’s about one of those copies, a girl called Eva who has grown up having to be just Amarra, her original or ‘other’, but all she wants is to be herself. When her other dies, she has to step into her shoes, live her life, convince the world that Amarra is still alive. She’s not allowed to break the Weavers’ laws, she’s not allowed to run away, and she’s not allowed to fall in love with the wrong person. Only she does.

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

[Sangu Mandanna] I read Frankenstein in my second year of university and I remember wanting to write a whole story from the Creature’s point of view, and that made me think of someone stitching life from scratch, which made me think of a sad, eerie Tim Burton-esque Loom, with Weavers stitching echoes out of dust and bones, and I guess the world just slowly developed from there. I didn’t actually write it at the time, just sort of scribbled ideas down, but I didn’t think anything would come of it because I couldn’t see a real story.

Then, that summer, Eva appeared in my head. And I knew I had to write about her. The rest of the characters quickly became just as real and compelling to me. Having said that, if you were to ask my husband, he’d insist a certain character named Sean is a fictional version of him (he’s not).

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

[Sangu Mandanna] Ending it. I love this world and the characters so much. Once I started writing THE LOST GIRL, I realized I could have gone on writing it forever. I still hope to write more about Eva, because her story isn’t over yet, but if I’d let myself keep going it would have been very much a case of STOP NOW, EGAD, THE BOOK’S ABOUT THE SIZE OF A HIPPO.

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

[Sangu Mandanna] Brave, passionate, fiery. And none of them necessarily in a good way, either.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Eva would never have in her bedroom?

[Sangu Mandanna] Unfortunately Eva’s never really been able to choose what she’s had or hasn’t had in her bedroom! But if she could, the three things she’d never have: mango pickle, a Jane Austen novel, and Amarra’s boyfriend Ray.

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

[Sangu Mandanna] Frankenstein was a huge influence on THE LOST GIRL, but other influences would be Daphne du Maurier (her writing is just so beautiful), Tim Burton (because he creates strange, sad, interesting things) and Eva Ibbotson (just because her books are so funny and lovely).

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

[Sangu Mandanna] Music, something to drink, and an exceedingly tidy desk. You won’t believe how much an errant pencil bothers my eye.

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

[Sangu Mandanna] Oh, I can’t. I’ve been reading since I was a wee thing, there are so many books I’ve loved! Though the first book I remember reading by myself was a board-book version of The Night Before Christmas, so I guess that would be it…

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

[Sangu Mandanna] I’m a stunt motorcyclist. No, I’m lying. I only wish I could give you a totally awesome answer like that. But I like very ordinary things. Going to see a movie, standing my baby up on my knees because it makes him give me the most beautiful gummy smile, curling up on the sofa with my husband to watch House. And of course, reading, reading, reading.

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

[Sangu Mandanna] I’d love to hear from readers! My website is, I have a blog at and I’m on Twitter (@SanguMandanna). Readers can also email me at Email or Twitter are probably the fastest ways to get a reply.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can pre-order The Lost Girl from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.  It is expected in stores August 2012.

Interview with Veronica Scott, Author of Wreck of the Nebula Dream

Veronica Scott is making a return appearance in the virtual offices, this time to discuss her new book Wreck of the Nebula Dream.  Check out what she has to say about this futuristic twist on the Titanic.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your new book, Wreck of the Nebula Dream?

[Veronica Scott] The novel is a loose re-imagining of the Titanic disaster, set in the far future, among the stars.

Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.

But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?

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

[Veronica Scott] My grandfather always said he had a relative on the Titanic, a Second Class woman passenger who did survive. I grew up with stories of the sinking and was completely fascinated by it. What would I do if I was in a similar situation? Do you get on the lifeboat? Trust that the ship won’t sink? What if all the lifeboats are already gone?

Science fiction and paranormal romance are my favorite genres, so when I decided to write a book based on the Titanic events, I immediately knew I wanted to set the action in the far future, on an interstellar luxury liner. In my SF I like to write Special Forces heroes, so then I had to figure out how and why a man like Nick would be traveling on such an expensive civilian vessel. Who would he likely meet? Who was a reasonable love interest? That led me to Mara, my very capable intergalactic business executive…and I kept going from there. Who else might need rescuing? What challenges would they face?

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

[Veronica Scott] Making time in the action, after the disaster hits, for the characters (and the Readers) to breathe for a moment or two, and for Nick and Mara to have a chance to develop their relationship. There’s no time for too much romantic heat when you’re trying to escape from a drifting hulk and save your life, but there is some warmth between the hero and heroine. They’re attracted to each other from the first time they meet at the spaceport.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What would scare you the most if you were trapped on the Nebula Dream with Nick and Mara?

[Veronica Scott] Not to provide too much in the way of spoilers, but there are some pretty intense encounters with alien pirates, including a point where Nick has to make a difficult choice between his oath as a military officer and his desire to save his little group of stranded passengers. That would be a frightening moment – if the survivors lose Nick their chances plummet to pretty much nil.

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

[Veronica Scott] Tough, smart, caring

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

[Veronica Scott] Money (they use electronic credits in his universe), tissues, keys (they use electronic access codes)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Was it easy to make the shift from writing historical fiction to writing science fiction?

[Veronica Scott] Actually I started out writing science fiction! But after recently spending a long time immersed in Ancient Egypt for my paranormal romance Priestess of the Nile, yes, it was a culture shock to go back to spaceships and more modern characters.

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

[Veronica Scott] I actually got teary eyed at the ending of Kaylea Cross’s Absolution. But as far as a book I keep returning to and rereading – Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Kiss is excellent.

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

[Veronica Scott] My blog is at and I’m on twitter all the time @vscotttheauthor

Wreck of the Nebula Dream is available from Amazon for the kindle and Barnes & Noble for the Nook at a special 99 cent price. Thanks for having me here today!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thanks!

You can order Wreck of the Nebula Dream from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

Review:The Comet’s Curse by Dom Testa


Title:  The Comet’s Curse

Author: Dom Testa

Publisher: Tor Teen

ISBN: 978-0765360779


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake. Suddenly, mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. Only those under the age of eighteen seem to be immune. Desperate to save humanity, a renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to create a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, the Galahad and its crew—none over the age of sixteen—is launched.

Two years of training have prepared the crew for the challenges of space travel. But soon after departing Earth, they discover that a saboteur is hiding on the Galahad! Faced with escalating acts of vandalism and terrorized by threatening messages, sixteen-year-old Triana Martell and her council soon realize that the stowaway will do anything to ensure that the Galahad never reaches its destination. The teens must find a way to neutralize their enemy. For if their mission fails, it will mean the end of the human race….


I haven’t read many sci-fi novels lately, so when I was given the opportunity to read The Comet’s Curse, the first book in Dom Testa’s Galahad series, I jumped at the chance.  The premise intrigued me; 251 teens are sent away from Earth after a comet unleashes a deadly plague on the planet.  Nobody over the age of 18 is immune to it, and there is no cure.  Fearing that the disease will continue to wipe out a bigger and bigger percentage of the population, a noted scientist urges a desperate plan to save humankind, instead of waiting for a cure that may never come.  Proposing to send a group of gifted young adults into space in search of a new home, his plan is met with mixed reactions.  Some openly oppose wasting the time and money on saving such a small group of kids.  Others see the wisdom of this last ditch effort to preserve the species, and agree to devote the time to implement the desperate plan.

I loved this book when the focus was on the kids on the space ship.  They have had to say good-bye to their families and their homes, and they will never see any of their old friends again.  They have the sad knowledge that everyone left behind will eventually succumb to the virus.  They also have a lot of pressure placed on each and every one of them.  In order to ensure their survival, they all have to work together and learn everything they can to help once they find a new planet to colonize.  They have to know how to raise enough food to feed everyone, how to build shelters, how to provide for themselves entirely.  They will lose contact with everyone from Earth early in their journey, so they are essentially on their own. 

With so much at stake, and so many different personalities packed into a small space, there is bound to be some drama.  Without adults to guide them there is also a lot of self-doubt.  Are they handling each crisis correctly?  Will they be able to fend for themselves?  The chapters spent on the ship kept me totally engaged in the plot, and I was reluctant to set the book aside.  I wanted to know how Triana, the young leader of this group of kids, would handle the challenges tossed her way.  How would she keep the peace between the crew, when even she has clashes with some of the members of the Council, the small group in charge of the mission?  I thought these chapters were great, and started wishing that most of the action took place on the ship.

Which brings me to what I didn’t enjoy about The Comet’s Curse.  There is a ton of set-up, and I found that the pacing for these chapters bogged the story down.  Unbearably so, at first.  We are spoon fed all of the background details behind the comet and the mission to save mankind, and I thought it was a little boring.  I got that the virus was terrible and it attacked its victims in different ways, making it almost impossible to discover a cure.  I got that Dr Zimmer, the man behind the Galahad mission, and Dr Scofield, his most ardent opponent, had vastly differing ideas about how to handle the very dire situation confronting every single human on the planet.  The problem with these chapters were that we are told every tiny detail, but not in a compelling way.  These sections were dry and failed to hold my attention.

Now that the set-up is over, though, I am looking forward to the next book.  The teenaged characters are likeable and engaging, and I want to see how they handle all of the challenges that they are sure to face.  What are they going to do, once they leave the solar system and lose contact with Earth?  What are they going to do when they start to really get on each other’s nerves?  I enjoyed the soap opera elements of the story, and I’m hoping for more interpersonal conflict as the series moves forward.

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by publisher


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The Galahad Legacy Blog Tour with Dom Testa and Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of The Galahad Legacy, the final book in Dom Testa’s Galahad series, Tor Books is hosting a scavenger hunt blog tour!  You can win the entire Galahad series, as well as learn more about Dom and his books.  Today I have an excerpt from The Galahad Legacy for you to enjoy.  If you want to read all of the excerpts, please visit this link at Tor Books.


“Well, besides the smoky haze, I could see things moving around inside. Various sizes. Very graceful. Almost…peaceful.”

Lita stared at Triana for a moment, then said: “The thing you brought back. I take it that was one of the…graceful creatures inside the…” She chuckled. “I don’t know what to call anything.”

A wry smile creased Triana’s face. “Well, for the sake of this discussion, and until we know more, let’s just continue to call the things outside our ship vultures. We can call the floating blobs amoebas. And the thing I brought back…”

She hesitated, then finally shrugged.

“Well, we all know exactly what it looks like, so let’s be blunt. We’ll call it a jellyfish.”


Please visit Bookshelf Banter tomorrow for the next excerpt from the second chapter of The Galahad Legacy.

Want to learn more?  You can follow Dom Testa at these websites:

* Follow Dom on twitter: @HeyDomTesta

* Like Dom on facebook:

Watch Dom discuss his books:

Dom will be making several public appearances in April.  If you live nearby, stop in to say “Hi”

* Saturday, April 14th:  Murder by the Book, Houston, TX;  11:00 am

* Wednesday, April 18th and Thursday, April 19th: Texas Library Association Annual Conference, Houston, TX; various times

* Friday, April 20th:  Barnes & Noble, 1000 Research Drive, Austin, TX; 7:00 pm

* Saturday, April 21st:  Barnes & Noble, 15900 La Cantera Parkway, San Antonio, TX; 2:00 pm


You can enter for a chance to win the entire Galahad series!  Following gets you extra entries.  Open to US and Canadian addresses only.

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Didn’t win?  You can order the series from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

Interview with Aubrie Dionne, Author of the New Dawn Series

Aubrie Dionne is the author of the New Dawn series, a sci-fi romance offering from Entangled Publishing.  Since there aren’t many sci-fi romances out there, I was curious about Aubrie’s series, so I asked her to drop by the virtual offices for a chat.

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

[Aubrie Dionne] Coffee lover, flutist, blogger, closet unicorn lover, driven, hard working, a little too intense at times, clothes hoarder, eye shadow guru, princess wannabe, afraid of public speaking, abhorer of eggplant, pizza devourer, cookie monster.  That about sums it up.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your New Dawn series?

[Aubrie Dionne] This series follows colony ships as they leave a post apocalyptic Earth searching for paradise planets to restart mankind.

There’s everything I’d want in a space opera: spaceships, mysterious aliens, answers to the universe, laser battles, scary monsters, handsome space pirates, evil space pirates, desert planets, ice worlds, jungles, I could go on forever!

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

[Aubrie Dionne] I’m a big worry wart, and I worry about the end of the Earth all the time. I think I watched too many of those Ancient Alien episodes about the Mayan Apocalypse. Anyway, I wondered what it would be like if we could colonize other planets. What if people had to live their whole lives on a ship and each generation furthers the mission to the paradise planet? You know, normal things a musician thinks about while sitting in orchestra counting her rests.

[Manga Maniac Café] What has been the most challenging aspect of writing the series?

[Aubrie Dionne] Ummmm….tying it all together! The third book is my masterpiece. I thought about it for many long and hard hours trying to tie in every single thread from the last three books. I didn’t want anyone to say: what about those mysterious aliens, where did they go? Or what happened to Aries and Striker? Or, she never explained the golden liquid stuff in the orb. I wanted everything wrapped up and dealt with in a satisfying way. That was hard. I’m not sure I pulled it off. You’ll have to read the series to make your own judgment!

[Manga Maniac Café] Why did you decide to write science fiction romance?  What appeals to you most about the genre?

[Aubrie Dionne] I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, so you can see where the inspiration came from. I wish there was a new Star Wars movie every six months, but sadly, they are all done. (WHY? Secret message to George Lucas- make more. ) So, I had to write my own space opera to keep myself busy!

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

[Aubrie Dionne] Music, my flute playing, Star Wars and Star Trek (as stated above), all movies to a certain extent, and other books of all genres.  

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

[Aubrie Dionne]  Computer, internet-for research, Radio Gaia internet radio.

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

[Aubrie Dionne] OMG I have to share this but it’s embarrassing: The Secret of the Unicorn Queen books 4-6. umm. Yeah. The series is beyond awesome if you’re twelve years old in the 80’s. Check it out.

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

[Aubrie Dionne] Play music, spend time with my family, plot in my head!

Thanks for this fantastic interview!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can learn more about Aubrie by visiting her website and her blog.

Aubrie’s New Dawn series is available now! You can order the books from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the links below:


Thanks to Bewitching Book Tours for arranging this interview!


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Interview with Myke Cole, Author of Shadow Ops: Control Point

Myke Cole is the author of Shadow Ops, a new series that blends magic and military special ops units, and it kicks off with the first book, Control Point.  Myke is an interesting guy, and with his background as a military reservist, I was excited to ask him a few questions about his book and how his deployments influenced his writing. 

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

[Myke Cole] I’m a military reservist and fantasy novelist. I’ve done 3 tours in Iraq and responded to Deepwater Horizon and Hurricane Irene.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Shadow Ops: Control Point?

[Myke Cole] I won’t repeat any of the jacket-copy, but I will say that it’s a story about modern military special operations units that use magic. When the direct action team kicks in the door, the guy bringing up the rear of the stick is a Sorcerer. That’s cool as hell (as are the scenes matching modern military hardware up against the monsters you know and love from Dungeons & Dragons), but the book is also asking deeper questions. It examines how the giant bureaucracies we charge with keeping us safe react when they are forced to choose between regulations and individuals. It also looks at what responsibilities individuals have when they’re faced with similar dilemmas. 

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

[Myke Cole] I was working in the Pentagon back in 1998, and just blown away by how process-focused everyone was. They had a rule for every little thing from wearing a uniform to brushing your teeth. I kept wondering "if magic were real, if magical creatures were real, how would this web of rules adjust to handle that?" That question became the basis for CONTROL POINT and the whole SHADOW OPS series.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Myke Cole] Getting the voice of the characters right. The male lead is an African-American army aviator from Vermont. The female lead is a Puerto Rican woman from Los Angeles. I am nothing like either of them, and I worked really hard to make sure their distinct voices came through in a way that will be authentic to readers.  

[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things Britton would never have in his pockets.

[Myke Cole] 1.) A nickel-bag of marijuana. 

2.) A loose 9mm round.

3.) A Hello Kitty keychain-charm

[Manga Maniac Café] How did your military career help you become a better writer?

[Myke Cole]  I wrote an entire blog post on this very topic here:

In short: the military taught me the value in accepting misery, learning to love mud and pain and all the hell that attends life’s toughest crucibles. Being a professional artist is harrowing, and it bears so many similarities to warfighting that I am surprised more people don’t immediately draw the comparison. When you commit to professional writing, you are throwing yourself into a maelstrom of public scrutiny, judgment and (most likely) poverty. It’s a different kind of hell than war, but all hells have this in common: you’ve got to be tough as nails to walk into them willingly. The military taught me to do that.

[Manga Maniac Café] What’s a typical day like in the life of Myke Cole?

[Myke Cole]  I wish I knew. I’ve been a full-time writer/reservist for 9 months now, and I’ve yet to have a typical day. Between interviews, guest blog posts, writing my fiction, doing odd-jobs to bring in extra income, working social media, attending conventions and trying to have a social life, I keep the most random schedule in the world. Thank god for the reserve. It is the one stable force in my life. I know that, guaranteed, one weekend a month, I will get up at the appointed hour (too damn early), put on a uniform and have a regular working day (if you count working all night as "regular").

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

[Myke Cole]  Too many to name, so let me pick out a few of the most important. My friendship with Peter V. Brett is pretty common knowledge, but even if he was my bitter enemy, I’d still be in awe of his writing. His Demon Cycle is the single greatest influence on my writing in all arenas (prose-styling, plot arcs and character development).  In comics, I’d have to credit Frank Miller (much as I think he’s gone insane lately and Holy Terror was really not to my taste) as having the most powerful impact on me. He brought a gritty darkness to comics that really brought the medium into a form that adults could enjoy. In film, it won’t surprise you to know that I’m a George Lucas guy, with Peter Jackson as his worthy successor. Boring, I know, but the truth is the truth.

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

[Myke Cole]  A laptop. I can’t write by hand and after giving it the ol’ college try, I am giving up on the iPad as a writing medium. Even with the bluetooth keyboard and Documents-to-Go, the applications/interface aren’t there yet.

Movie soundtracks. I get really lonely/maudlin writing by myself in my dump of an apartment. I either go to a coffee shop or the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library. I listen to movie soundtracks while I write. It drowns out other noise and puts me in a cinematic mood and won’t distract me with lyrics. This way, I can be surrounded by people and still get writing done.

Coffee. Buckets and buckets of coffee. Not only do I have horrible sleeping problems, but I have found that I’m a lot more focused and creative while caffeinated. 

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

[Myke Cole] Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three. I picked it out of a Scholastic catalog when I was in elementary school. The image of the Horned King on the cover absolutely captivated me. Fortunately, Alexander followed up the image with a book that gripped me and hauled me in. I’ve been a fantasy dork ever since.

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

[Myke Cole] The ugly truth is that I’m officially NO FUN AT ALL. When I’m not writing, I’m either promoting my writing or on duty with the guard. Most of my social life is with publishing people or other writers, and we’re usually talking about the business or writing. I try to hit every convention I can, and I guess there’s some downtime there when I get to hang out in the game room and play D&D or Warhammer 40K. Again, thank goodness for the reserve, because it provides the one break from this. I’ll never forget when I asked to be excused from drill weekend so I could go to New York Comic Con. My commander said, "Let me get this straight. You want me to let you out of drill. To go to a COMIC BOOK CONVENTION!? Are you serious!?"

But she let me go, and it was awesome. I guess I’ve hit on the two things I want to do with my life: write stories about magic and serve my country. That’s pretty much all I want to do. If that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
Have a great weekend!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!

You can learn more about Myke by visiting his website and by following him on Twitter.

Shadow Ops: Control Point hits stores tomorrow in print and digital formats:

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Review: Cinder by Melissa Meyer


Title: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

ISBN: 978-0312641894


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


I love reimagined fairy tales, so I was delighted to learn about Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. The first book of the Lunar Chronicles launches the series with a bang, and kept me reading late into the night.  Set in the future, in the streets of New Beijing, the world building makes this dystopian Cinderella story a fun, interesting read.  The citizens of New Beijing live in fear of a deadly plague that kills indiscriminately.  There is no cure, and it is always fatal. To give Prince Kai even more heartache than watching helplessly as his citizens succumb to the disease, he must also watch his father, a plague victim,  slip ever closer to death.  He doesn’t feel that he is ready to assume the throne, and he frets about the Lunar Queen and her ambitions to rule Earth as well.

Cinder is a mechanic.  She’s also a cyborg, and in her society, she has fewer rights than a vid screen.  She is only a possession, and worse, she is at the mercy of her stepmother, a woman who has no love for her.  Cinder’s skill at fixing things keeps her busy at her repair shop, but all of her earnings go directly to her stepmother.  When disaster befalls Cinder’s younger stepsister, the only person in her family to show her any kindness, Cinder is handed over to the government for medical research.  Yeah, I said her stepmother wasn’t very nice, right? This heartless act was proof beyond believe that the woman had a heart of stone.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot, because it was a lot of fun following along with Cinder as she discovered the truth about her past, as well as learning more about her world.  As she learns more about who she really is, she also learns about the plague and the cruel ambitions of the Lunar Queen.  Just when things start to get overwhelming, Cinder’s relationship with the handsome Prince Kai deepens and grows to friendship, and quite possibly more.  I loved the soft pacing of this story thread, as Cinder and Kai slowly got to know each other.  From totally different backgrounds, they discovered that they had a lot in common, and their romance bloomed very convincingly.  They needed each other, someone to lean on and confide in, and since both of them were isolated due to their relative positions in their society, it seemed natural that they would gravitate toward each other.

Cinder is a cyborg, and she doesn’t want Kai to know what she is, so she keeps it a secret.  She is afraid of how he will react to the knowledge, and fearful that their friendship will change.  At the same time, she knows that  a future with him isn’t possible, so she attempts to keep an emotional distance from him, something that is easier said than done.  Forbidden romance is a trope that I love – how is it possible for them to ever have a happily ever after, especially with all of the other disruption occurring in their lives?  There are so many forces at play to push them apart, and yet they still kept drifting back together.  I enjoyed that aspect of the story very much.

The only reason Cinder didn’t get a slightly higher grade is because of the ending.  Once again, it’s not so much of an end as it is a stopping point to be continued in the next volume of The Lunar Chronicles.  That is my biggest pet peeve about publishing right now; all of the series and all of the cliffhangers drive me nuts.  I usually can’t remember what I read yesterday, let alone what I read last year.  When new installments of series that I am following are released, there is an uncomfortable adjustment period when I start reading the new adventures.  With all of the unread books surrounding me, I don’t feel that I have to time to re-read any, so sometimes the magic doesn’t re-ignite when I pick up a new volume, especially one where high expectations are involved.  End rant.

Cinder is an engaging story with touches of fantasy, science fiction, and romance.  The setting is richly imagined, and the characters and their situations are compelling.  This is a fun read, and I am eager to see what happens next.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Review: Gantz Vol 15 by Hiroya Oku


Title: Gantz Vol 15

Author: Hiroya Oku

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595826626


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Gantz is getting absolutely intense! Our protagonist, the eternally awkward otaku boy named Kei, has hunted a bevy of odd and dangerous aliens living in Japan. The Onion Alien was strange enough, but then there were the dinosaur aliens and eventually some vampires who might not be aliens at all. Gantz moves along at a furious pace, drowning readers in blood and violence, but then holds back for a few tender (and sometimes excessively sexy) moments here and there. It’s a crazy ride so far, a guilty pleasure for many readers. See who Kei is told to hunt next! It will certainly be a surprise.


I haven’t picked up a volume of Gantz in a while, and since I had a free weekend with the New Year’s break from work, I eagerly dove into a few manga series that I have allowed myself to get behind on. I couldn’t think of a better time to catch up, so Gantz was one of the first ones I picked up.

I find this series enjoyable when the hapless characters are trapped in the room, about to be sent off on another mission.  It’s exciting, tense, and explosive once the hunt begins.  The rest of it, I can do without.  The story slips into the realm of ridiculousness whenever Kei is doing something other than blasting aliens to tiny, bloody bits.  I just don’t find him an interesting character, and I can’t relate to his teenage boy issues.  I don’t care if he gets his rocks off or not, and I find his preoccupation with ginormous breasts tedious.  So I remind myself, yet again, that the series isn’t really intended for me, and I flip pages as quickly as I can to get back to the stuff that I like – all of the mindless violence and gore.  Yeah, go figure.

In this volume, Kei is blundering through his personal relationships yet again.  He has gone off to see Reika behind Tae’s back, not thinking that a popular idol like Reika would be stalked by paparazzi.  When their picture appears in the paper, he is soon the talk of his school, and quiet, timid Tae discovers his indiscretion.  At least he had the decency to feel guilty for hurting her feelings.  When she is caught up in his next mission, Kei worries that she will get killed if she keeps hanging out with him, so he is even more determined to break up with her.  Too bad that stupid black ball isn’t going to let that happen.

I suffered through the first half of this volume, but the ending had me all caught up in the action again.  Argh!  It’s insidious!  I don’t want to like Gantz, but all of that over the top destruction keeps me coming back for more.  I have only one more volume in reserve, so hopefully Rightstuf will have a Dark Horse studio sale soon…

Grade: B- for the first half of the book

  B+ for the rest of the book

Review copy provided by publisher