Giveaway! Win Also Known As by Robin Benway!

 

About the book:

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of Also Known As by Robin Benway? Just will out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following. US mailing addresses only.

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Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

 

 

Title: Also Known As

Author: Robin Benway

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.


Review:

When I saw Also Known As on Netgalley, I immediately requested a copy.  I love YA books featuring spies, espionage, and danger, and this title looked like it had all of that in spades.  Plus, as an added bonus, protagonist Maggie is a gifted safe-cracker.  Seriously, it just doesn’t get any more fun than that!  The first chapter kind of bogged me down, but once I hit my stride, I gobbled Also Known As in just an afternoon.  I didn’t want to put it down, and it had me so engaged in the story that I was able to overlook a few inconsistences that would have driven me crazy otherwise.  This is a fun read, with a confident though in over her head heroine, and an engaging cast of supporting characters.  I really hope Maggie will return for more adventures.

Maggie has been living the life of a spy forever.  Both of her parents are employed by the Collective, and they spend their days trying to make the world a safer place by putting the brakes on gun runners, human traffickers, and other nefarious plots designed to shake up the world order.  Maggie has been cracking locks since she was a toddler, and she fully expects to follow in her parents’ spy footsteps, cracking locks and stealing away with evil doers’ plans to destroy peace and stability.  When she’s given her first solo assignment in NYC, she couldn’t be more thrilled.  All she has to do is befriend Jesse Oliver.  Jesse’s father runs a powerful publishing empire, and he’s planning to run an expose outing Maggie, her family, and the Collective.  If she can’t steal the documents that threaten to ruin her family, they will be in big, big danger.

Now, I’m not even going to wonder why the Collective, a super secret spy organization, is putting an inexperienced spy in charge of saving everyone’s bacon.  Instead, I allowed myself to get sucked into Maggie’s upbeat and very entertaining narrative.  She has all of the confidence in the world, and she is going to make everyone proud of her.  She is going to live up to her legacy and steal those damaging documents!  All she has to do is pretend to be friends with Jesse, and she’s in like Flynn!

Only that’s not how things work out.  As Maggie embraces her assignment, she’s determined to do everything in her power to be successful.  But as she makes friends with a social outcast, and gets caught up in going to school and hanging out with kids her own age, she starts to see that it’s more difficult to pretend that she ever had thought.  And after she and Jesse connect on a personal level, she realizes, to her dismay, that she’s not pretending anymore.  She really likes him, and she really likes her new friend Roux, and she knows her parents are never going to understand her lapse in judgment.  They’ve trained her better than that, haven’t they?

I loved Maggie’s anxiety about hurting her new friends.  Now that she actually has some, she is loathe to lose them.  She is lying to everyone, though, and it’s making her miserable.  Being a teen spy is just not as easy as it sounds!  She can’t let her parents know that she kissed Jesse (and that she’d do it again in a second), or that her friendship with Roux isn’t just for cover.  She is dealing with so many issues that she never considered, it’s no wonder she can’t get a decent night’s sleep!

Also Known As lived up to all of my expectations, and even exceeded them.  The pacing is spot on, the plot never lagged, and Maggie is a fun, likable character, even if she did need to be knocked down a peg or two.  Recommended for fans of Ally Carter.  Check back later today for your chance to win a copy of Also Known As!

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Anna Randol, Author of A Secret in Her Kiss and Giveaway

 

Anna Randol is the author of A Secret in Her Kiss, a new Avon release featuring a spy protagonist.  Talk about a dangerous occupation!  I love the premise, so I asked Anna to stop by the virtual offices to tell us more about her new book.

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

[Anna Randol] Historical romance writer who loves happy endings, my family, dark chocolate, travel, and hamburgers. I wear shoes as little as possible.

[Manga Maniac Café ] Can you tell us a little about A Secret in Her Kiss?

[Anna Randol] Here’s the blurb: A rare beauty, raised in the exotic heart of the mysterious East, Mari Sinclair knows it’s time to end her career as a British spy when she narrowly avoids a brush with death. Unfortunately, there are those who think otherwise—and they are not above using blackmail to keep Mari in the game.

Saddled with a handsome, duty-obsessed "minder" to ensure that she completes—and survives—one last mission, Mari is incensed . . . for her guardian, Major Bennett Prestwood, is simply too dedicated, too unbending, and too disarmingly attractive. But in the face of dark secrets and deadly treacheries, as the true peril to Mari is slowly revealed, loyal soldier Bennett realizes that to save and win this extraordinary woman, he will have to do the unthinkable and break the rules—rules that passion and desire have suddenly, irrevocably changed.

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

[Anna Randol] While researching an earlier manuscript, I discovered a print of a gentleman spy chasing butterflies. It turns out that some British noblemen in the 1800s, and even up through World War I, would use similar disguises to gain access to sensitive locations. Apparently, the rest of Europe had learned not to questions the eccentricities of the British aristocracy! I immediately decided I needed to have a character use the same ruse, but rather than a nobleman, a feisty, half-Greek heroine popped into my head. I knew right away she wasn’t a woman destined for a proper English ballroom and the rest of the story unfolded from there.

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

[Anna Randol] The research on Constantinople in 1815 was definitely tough, but once it was done, I loved being able to immerse myself (and my characters) in such a fascinating land and culture!

[Manga Maniac Café ] What are three things Mari would never have in her boudoir?

[Anna Randol] A British flag. An etiquette book. A letter from her relatives back home in England.

[Manga Maniac Café ] What do you enjoy most about romance? What prompted you to try writing your own?

[Anna Randol] I love a happily ever after! I know it might be cliché, but I love knowing that despite all the horrible things a hero and heroine face, good will triumph in the end. Of course, the hot heroes help, too!

I’ve always had stories in my head, little bits and pieces of scenes I would replay over and over again until they were perfect, but it wasn’t until about five years ago that it occurred to me that they might actually be worth putting down on paper. I’m not sure if it was spurred by my switch to being a stay-at-home mom or if I simply wanted those characters out of my head, but it worked. While writing may be hard some days, I love it!

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

[Anna Randol] Everything sparks ideas for me (fortunately or unfortunately, I haven’t quite decided yet), even something as silly as action films! While most people are enjoying the explosions and gun fights, I’m trying to figure out the perfect heroine to bring the hero to his knees and what changes he’ll need to make to be worthy of her. Other things jumpstart my ideas as well— tidbits from news stories, a line of conversation, a song on the radio.

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

[Anna Randol] Kids in bed. Chocolate. And more chocolate.

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

[Anna Randol] The Babysitter’s Club series! I remember working my way down the whole row of them in the public library. I so wanted to be like Kristy even though I was a total Mary Anne.

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

[Anna Randol] I love to hang out with my husband, even if we aren’t doing anything but sitting on the couch making fun of movies. I also love reading everything I can get my hands on, martial arts, and getting girly pedicures.

[Manga Maniac Café ] Thank you!


You can learn more about Anna by visiting her website and following her on Twitter.

Now for the GIVEAWAY! Anna very generously offered a copy of A Secret in Her Kiss to one lucky commenter.  Want to win it?  It’s easy to do!  Just make a comment on this post!  Tell us why you want to read Anna’s book for a chance to win a copy!  US mailing addresses only. Contest ends March 2.

 

A Secret in Her Kiss is available now!  You can purchase a copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

 

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Cover Shot! A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol

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 don’t know how I missed this cover, because I find it breathtaking.  I love the drapes of fabric, the muted colors, and the blaze of blue from the jewelry.  I love the guy, too!  He looks hawt with his shirt half off.  Really, really hawt.

Have you read Anna Randol’s A Secret in Her Kiss? What did you think about it? 

 

She would gladly relinquish her life of intrigue…

A rare beauty, raised in the exotic heart of the Ottoman Empire, Mari Sinclair knows it’s time to end her career as a British spy when she narrowly avoids a brush with death. Unfortunately her employers think otherwise—and they are not above using blackmail to keep Mari in the Game.

Saddled with a handsome, duty-obsessed "minder" to ensure that she completes—and survives—one last mission, Mari is incensed…for her guardian, Major Bennett Prestwood, is simply too dedicated, too unbending, and too disarmingly attractive. But in the face of dark secrets and deadly treacheries, as the true peril to Mari is slowly revealed, loyal soldier Bennett realizes that, to save and win this extraordinary woman, he will have to do the unthinkable and break the rules—rules that passion and desire have suddenly, irrevocably changed.

In stores now!

 

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Review: Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare

 

Title: Once Upon a Winter’s Eve: A Spindle Cove Novella

Author: Tessa Dare

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

ISBN: B0061SNX1I

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Some wallflowers bloom at night…

A Spindle Cove Novella

Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren’t beating down her door.

Until the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet’s feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He’s wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.

Only Violet understands him. And she knows he’s not what he seems.

She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers—and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable… Love.

Warning: The heroine packs a pistol, the hero curses in multiple languages, and together they steam up a cold winter’s night.

Review:

Once Upon a Winter’s Eve is the first Samhain title that I’ve read, and it’s also one of the growing number of novellas that I have read in.  After recently discovering the appeal of shorter length stories, I have been snapping them up as I see recommendations from bloggers I follow.  I can’t remember where I learned about this particular one, but I’m happy I gave it a try.  At under a dollar, it was a fun read, and a great introduction to both Tessa Dare and Samhain.  I’ll have to go back and read the first Spindle Cove book, A Night to Surrender (which is an Avon release, go figure).

Violet Winterbottom  has retreated to Spindle Cove, where she is nursing a broken heart.  The love of her life, who she now refers to as The Disappointment, loved her and left her, with hardly a word.  Ruined, she is trying to come to terms with her feelings, and is resigned to heed her parents’ demands to return to London.  They are determined to find a match for her, unaware of Violet’s turmoil and her unrequited love for their young neighbor.  When an injured stranger bursts into the Christmas Eve ball she is attending, she’s stunned when the man collapses at her feet.  His incoherent babbling slowly begins to make sense to her.  Gifted in several languages, Violet is tasked with quizzing the man – is he a spy?  What is he doing in Spindle Cove?

This is a fun, fast-paced read with an abundance of action and adventure.  After Violet decides to assist the stranger, she is sent on the adventure of her life.  She is an intelligent and capable young woman, and I quickly began to like her.  And to dislike the man who kicked her to the curb and left her and her bruised heart to fend for themselves.  When Violet is drawn into intrigue by the handsome stranger, she is given the spark that her life has lacked for the last few months.  She embraces the danger and the adventure, and becomes a willing participant in the suspected spy’s attempts at escape. 

While there’s not a lot of depth to this story, there is a lot of fun, and for 79 cents, you can’t beat that.

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Amazon