Spotlight and Giveaway! Haunted Chemistry by Lindsey Loucks

Guest Blog: Thrills & Chills While Doing Laundry (Wait. What?)

By Lindsey R. Loucks

Instead of taking one of the buses speeding through campus during my college career, I always walked, my gaze aimed at the ground for anything shiny and round. If I found treasure in the form of a quarter, it was well worth the few bumps on the head or rude comments I got from not looking where I was going. Like most college students, I was poor.

But I became a pretty successful quarter tracker, and when I’d find one, I’d add it to my carefully stacked pile with the hope I’d have enough to do laundry soon. With all that walking around campus, there were days when I came home smelling a tad ripe.

The washers and dryers were located on the basement floor of my apartment building, and let’s just say that going down there, alone, was the equivalent of walking into a dragon dungeon with my arms loaded with raw meat. That’s what it felt like anyway.

Storage cupboards took up the far wall that led from the stairs to the laundry area, each one about three feet long and three feet wide. Sometimes one of them would be open a crack. The single overhead light only cast a faint orange glow, deepening the shadows inside that open cupboard to an inky black.

Whenever I’d see one of those open cupboards, I’d stop in my tracks while my imagination tumbled over everything that could be lurking inside. Usually the things I imagined involved segmented legs, machetes, Brazilian poison dart frogs, porcelain dolls, or a combination of all of the above, just waiting to spring out.

My pulse racing, I’d give my laundry bag a squeeze and check to make sure I still had my quarters. Then, with my breath held, I’d race past the open cupboard, dump all my clothes into the washer, throw in some soap, push my quarters into the slots, start the machine, and sprint back out before I’d used up all the stored air in my lungs.

It was such a rush! It made laundry day pretty much the best day ever! Of course, I’ve always lived for that pump of adrenaline that fear gives me. I watch scary movies alone in the dark by myself on purpose. I guess I’m weird like that.

On one of my trips to the laundry room, my boyfriend’s brother went with me (I can’t remember why exactly, but I may have told him about the spooky basement). When he saw the wall of cupboards, his exact words were, “A serial killer stores his victims in these, huh?”

And that’s when I stopped doing laundry in that apartment building. Nah, just kidding. I still did. Remember that adrenaline rush thing I was talking about? Yep.

Read more

Review: Midnight Secretary Vol 1 by Tomu Ohmi

 

Title: Midnight Secretary Vol 1

Author:  Tomu Ohmi

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Mad Men meets Vampire Diaries

Kaya Satozuka prides herself on being an excellent secretary and a consummate professional, so she doesn’t even bat an eye when she’s reassigned to the office of her company’s difficult director, Kyohei Touma. He’s as prickly—and hot—as rumors paint him, but Kaya is unfazed…until she discovers that he’s a vampire!!Kaya quickly accustoms herself to scheduling his “dinner dates” and working odd hours, but can she handle it when Kyohei’s smoldering gaze starts turning her way?!


Review:

Midnight Secretary is a very fun, fluffy read.  I wasn’t expecting much from it, and I wasn’t really in the mood for it, so I kept shuffling it from the top of my reading pile, and now I’m sorry I did.  Once I got it in my hands, the cover kind of turned me off.  I don’t find it appealing at all, so here is another instance where I misjudged the book by it’s cover.

Kaya takes pride in her job, and she wants to be the best executive secretary possible so she can get a great job, and so her mom won’t have to work so hard.  After her father died, her mother got a job at Tohma Corporation, and she worked hard to put Kaya through school.  She even helped get her a job at Tohma, and now that Kaya is getting her big break, she’s going to make her mother proud.  The big break turns out to be a mixed blessing.  She’s assigned to be Kyohei Tohma’s secretary.  Kyohei is the younger son of the senior director, and he’s a jerk.  He is a demanding boss, who works long hours, and his exacting expectations have caused countless secretaries to quit.  Kaya is determined to succeed, though, but his dismissive attitude is hard to deal with.

Kyohei has a reputation for being a ladies man, and Kaya quickly discovers that this is true.  He juggles the ladies with consummate skill, arranging meetings with them in his office after dark.  He is quick to disparage Kaya’s looks, and he grumpily complains that she’s not good looking enough to work for him.  Kaya ignores every complaint and quickly proves that she is efficient and dedicated to her job.  When she suspects that Kyohei and his girlfriends are using drugs in the office, she doesn’t hesitate to get to the bottom of her suspicions.  She’s afraid that if there is illegal drug use going on that he’ll get caught, the company will suffer, and she’ll lose her job.  What she discovers is that he’s a vampire, and that the hanky panky in his office  is Kyohei drinking the blood of his beautiful lady friends.  The illegal drug use would probably have been more welcome than working for a blood-sucking playboy!

I enjoyed Midnight Secretary because Kaya is so unflappable.  She takes the discovery that her boss is a vampire in stride, and quickly decides that she’s going to defend his secret and make sure that he is taken care of so that he can continue to perform his job duties.  Well, that and he’s threatened to have her mother fired if  Kaya quits, so she doesn’t really have much choice.  Meeting every challenge that he throws at her head-on, Kaya quickly proves that she is indispensible.  Despite Kyohei’s gruffness, she can’t help but find him attractive, especially after his secret weakness is revealed and he is forced to drink her blood.

The art is very attractive and reminded me of Mayu Shinjo.  The delicate lines are expressive, and the characters are attractive, even Kaya, who hides her baby face behind ugly glasses and a severe hair style.Midnight Secretary is fun and flirty, and I can’t wait to read the next volume. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Yuhi: Ceres Celestial Legend Vol 2 by Yu Watase

 

 

Title: Yuhi: Ceres Vol 2

Author: Yu Watase

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Aya and her twin brother Aki thought they were going to a celebration of their sixteenth birthday at their grandfather’s home, but the funeral-like atmosphere tips them off that something’s not right. Their "birthday present" turns out to be a mummified hand–the power of which forces an awakening within Aya, and painful wounds all over Aki’s body! Grandfather Mikage announces that Aki will be heir to the Mikage fortune, and Aya must die! But Aya has allies in the athletic cook and martial artist Yûhi, and the attractive, mysterious Tôya. But can even two handsome and resourceful guys save Aya when it’s her own power that’s out of control?


Review:

I have mixed feelings about the second volume of Ceres.  On one hand, I love the legend of the Celestial Maiden.  Ceres is tormented with rage and longs for revenge against the man who stole her feathered robes, prohibiting her from returning to heaven.  Worse, he violated her, and she bore his children, trapped in an ugly place she couldn’t escape from.  Now, fate has caused both Ceres and Mikage to both be reincarnated as the twins Aya and Aki.  This has never happened before, and she’s obsessed with winning her vengeance.  Every time she sees Aki, Ceres wrestles control away from Aya and attacks him, even though he has no memories of his previous life.  I find this storyline so compelling.  For centuries, Ceres’s thirst for revenge has kept her trapped, reborn over and over into the Mikage family, only to be discovered and killed during the ritual as her host body turned sixteen.  When I think about how angry I would be after being thwarted time and time again, I am surprised that she hasn’t done more damage to the Mikages and their property as yet.  I would have gone absolutely ballistic, leaving the surviving Mikages to deal with harried property insurance adjustors.

Aya, though, is grating on my nerves.  Is it really wise to chase after Toya in not much more than her underwear, leaving her defenseless when her evil cousin Kagami gets his paws on her?  Ugh, ugh, ugh!  I would not feel like I was in a position of power in enemy territory while dressed in my panties and a bra.  Ugh!  That’s like the nightmare where you forgot to put your clothes on before rushing off to school.  And to so ardently declare her love for Toya, a guy she just met, and a guy who works for the people who are trying to kill her?  Aya, while Yuhi isn’t as interesting, he is a lot safer, so maybe you should go for him instead?  He is more than capable of protecting you, and he can cook!  Take him instead!

I was a little bored with this volume.  Whenever Ceres made an appearance or Kagami had page time, I was all interested again.  Ceres is fascinating because she reveals little tidbits of her history every time she manifests, and Kagami – ah, Kagami.  He is just so evil and conniving that you can’t help but like, even admire him, just a little bit.  He sees an opportunity for the Mikage family to gain immense power, and he’s going to seize it.  With both Aki and Aya in his control, there is nothing he can’t do, once he figures out how to tame Ceres and her incredible power. 

The second volume of Ceres was both irritating and compelling.  Aya drives me nuts, but legend of the Celestial Maidens kept me turning the pages.

Grade:  C+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Aya: Ceres Vol 1 by Yuu Watase

 

Title:  Aya: Ceres Vol 1

Author: Yuu Watase

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Aya and her twin brother Aki thought they were going to a celebration of their sixteenth birthday at their grandfather’s home, but the funeral-like atmosphere tips them off that something’s not right. Their "birthday present" turns out to be a mummified hand–the power of which forces an awakening within Aya, and painful wounds all over Aki’s body! Grandfather Mikage announces that Aki will be heir to the Mikage fortune, and Aya must die! But Aya has allies in the athletic cook and martial artist Yûhi, and the attractive, mysterious Tôya. But can even two handsome and resourceful guys save Aya when it’s her own power that’s out of control?


Review:

Okay, I have a confession to make.  Yuu Watase is like crack for me.  She has a gift when it comes to writing angsty, action-packed series, and I just gobble her stuff up.  It’s a mix of cotton candy, corn dogs, and French fries.  That’s a lot of junk food, but it is so tasty and filling that it’s hard to resist.  And yes, I just compared Yuu Watase’s writing to carnival junk food.  That’s okay, though, because I love carnival junk food!

Aya and her twin brother Aki are turning 16.  Instead of hanging out with their friends as they had planned, their parents demand that they accompany them to their grandfather’s house.  Once there, they discover all of their relatives, somberly awaiting their arrival.  To cap off the really, really weird day, Aya and Aki are given a box to open.  inside the box is a mummified hand, and once they see it, their lives will never be the same again.

Aki collapses in a pool of blood, shredded by some magical force unleashed by the mummified hand. A power awakens within Aya, and she discovers that she’s the descendant of a celestial maiden, and now her family wants her dead!  With her entire family out to kill her, who can she trust?  The Mikage family bodyguard, Toya?  Or the martial artist chef Yuhi?  Who is going to save Aya from her family, and who is going to save her from the destructive power she can’t control?

I love this story!  I have seen the anime, but I haven’t read the graphic novels yet.  I thought it would be fun to read them all, and blog about them as I do.  Hopefully you will be inspired to read them yourself, or watch the anime, which is still one of my favorites.  When it came out, it received some flak, mainly because Aya can be irritating, especially when she gets herself in to trouble, and then has to have one of the guys come and save her.  While I prefer a more self-reliant heroine, I love how Watase brought the legend of the celestial maidens to life in Ceres.  Add in her detailed artwork with her delicate linework, and mixing in a dash of humor to the horror and action elements, and you have an engaging, fast-paced story full of mystery and weird supernatural powers.f

This first volume introduces the major characters, and sets the tone for the rest of the series.  Ceres is the story of a powerful family, and the dark secret they have been hiding for centuries. It is also the story of Aya’s coming of age.  She is a spoiled and overindulged teenager, who thinks life is one big party at the local karaoke place.  She hasn’t had many responsibilities, and she’s never had to really do things for herself.   Now that she’s lost the shelter of her family, she’s forced to deal with her mother’s betrayal, and somehow keep herself alive.  Suzumi and her brother-in-law Yuhi come to her rescue, and now Aya must navigate  treacherous waters as she tries to decide who she can trust.  If she’s wrong, she’s going to end up dead, and nothing’s she learned in high school has prepared her for this nightmare. The cliffhanger at the end made me happy that I have the next volume, and ensured that I would be reaching for it quickly.  This is a fast-paced story with many unanswered questions that beg to be answered.  Only 13 more volumes before we get them!

Grade:  B+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Interview with Erin Quinn, Author of The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love

Please give Erin Quinn a warm welcome! She’s visiting the virtual offices to chat about her latest release, The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love.

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

[Erin Quinn] How about I do it in 1? 

Crazy. I’m a writer with a full time day job and a family. How could I be anything else?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love?

[Erin Quinn] The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love is about a woman who manages to cheat death.  It happens–you hear about it on the news.  People who’ve died and seen the light, their loved ones, or their maker, only to be miraculously revived and returned to the living. 

In Roxanne’s case, however, it’s happened four times.  Now she’s got the attention of a reaper who’s determined that her next death will be her last.  He takes over the body of a suicidal cop with one goal:  track her down, reap her mortal soul and destroy her physical being so there’s no more coming back for Roxanne Love.  But with the human body the reaper has stolen, comes emotion and sensation that he’d never expected.  His mission no longer seems clear and as he and Roxanne evade evil that has seeped into the human world, he discovers that not only can’t he resist Roxanne, he can’t resist life.  But reapers don’t belong among the living and a dark and powerful entity is willing to do anything to make sure Roxanne’s fifth death will be her last.

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

[Erin Quinn] When I was sketching out the basics of this story, I read an article about a young girl who woke up on an autopsy table just before they cut her open.  That sparked a million ideas and as I worked through them, I fell in love with the idea of  a woman who doesn’t die and the reaper who feels she’s cheated him and so comes to collect her in person.  Another aspect that intrigued me was the idea of death longing to be part of the living.  My reaper (Santo) comes to this world filled with arrogance and a healthy bit of curiosity.  Four times he’s held Roxanne in death, four times he’s lost her.  But it’s not until he holds her in the flesh that he realizes that despite what he’s told himself,  it’s not her death he’s interested in..

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

[Erin Quinn] Guarded, giving and generous.

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

[Erin Quinn] Born to be Wild.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Roxanne is never without.

[Erin Quinn] The love and support of her family. 

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

[Erin Quinn] A gun or lipstick

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Roxanne’s greatest regret?

[Erin Quinn] Roxanne thinks she wants to be like everyone else.  In the beginning, her biggest regret is that she’s not ordinary.  Of course, Santo helps her see past that and accept that being extraordinary isn’t such a bad thing..

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

[Erin Quinn] As a young adult, I was a voracious Stephen King reader and a consumptive romance reader.  I would get through one of King’s books and love every word…except I always wished he’d put a little smut in it.  Then I’d get through a Harlequin and wish there’d been a few thrills and chills in it.  So when I started writing, I wanted to combine those elements.  If I can scare you a little while I make you fall in love, my job is done.  :)

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

[Erin Quinn] Coffee, laptop or pen/paper and most important…time.

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

[Erin Quinn] Probably Gone Girl, although that one left me unsettled and depressed so I can’t say I liked it but I definitely won’t forget it.  Brilliant writing and characters, intriguing story but definitely not a feel-good book.  :)

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

[Erin Quinn] Charlotte’s Web.  Read it in first grade and fell in love.  I even wrote to EB White and got a letter in return.  

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

[Erin Quinn] I love movies and good television (Dexter, Game of Thrones, Shameless, Downton Abby…..)  I love to read, of course and I love to spend time with my family.  I have two amazing (almost adult) children and a wonderful husband who pries me out of my office when I’ve been holed up too long.

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

[Erin Quinn]   I’m everywhere!  www.erinquinnbooks.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

About the book:

Love and death make dangerous bed partners.
She cheated death….
All Roxanne Love has ever wanted is to be normal—marriage, kids, the life of June Cleaver. She tries to fit in but can’t conceal her ability to defy death–not from the world, not from the darkest creatures of the Beyond and not from the Reaper determined to destroy her. Now Roxanne is on the run, her only ally a compelling, dangerous detective with secrets of his own. Against her will, she’s drawn to his quiet strength and heated touch. But can she trust him with the truth?
….until she felt death’s kiss.
Incognito as guilt-ridden cop, Santo Castillo, the Reaper’s plan is simple: get close to Roxanne, uncover the secret of her immortality and cut it at the source. Yet with this borrowed body come emotions the Reaper hadn’t expected. Now nothing is clear but his conflicted desire to protect the woman he came to kill. As destiny forces them to face an enemy hell-bent on using Roxanne to wipe out all of mankind, she and Santo must choose between love….and salvation

About the author:

Erin Quinn is an award winning author who writes haunting romance for the thinking reader. Her books have been called “riveting,” “brilliantly plotted” and “beautifully written” and have won, placed or showed in the Booksellers Best, WILLA Award for Historical fiction, the Orange Rose, Readers Crown, Golden Quill, Best Books, and Award of Excellence. Look for Erin’s latest release from Pocket Books, THE FIVE DEATHS OF ROXANNE LOVE, August 27, 2013. Go to www.erinquinnbooks.com for more information.

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

 

Title:  Something Strange and Deadly

Author:  Susan Dennard

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.


Review:

I was disappointed with Something Strange and Deadly.  Honestly, I don’t know if anything could have lived up to the hype surrounding this title, and since I was waiting with such a sense of anticipation, it fell short for me.  The beginning was intriguing – Eleanor is searching for a sign from her brother that he’ll be returning home soon, and poof!  A stinky, reanimated corpse gives her a note from Elijah.  That’s so much better than using a carrier pigeon!  Just wrestle up a corpse when you need to pass a note to somebody!  It will terrify the recipient, but  who’s going to try to incept your missive? 

After it is apparent that Elijah has decided, yet again, to delay his homecoming, Eleanor’s mother decides to use the opportunity to hold a séance, instead of the already planned and paid for  welcoming party.  She has to marry Eleanor off, if they hope to retain their current lifestyle, since Elijah isn’t doing his job and providing for them.  With Elijah a constant no-show, Eleanor’s mother is getting desperate.  With her husband dead and her son failing to care for the family, desperate measures are called for.

I loved the séance.  It’s creepy, and her mother’s foolishness calls forth a very dangerous spirit.  Whoa!  Who would have thought that a parlor game would have such frightening results?  The evil spirit dogs Eleanor’s footsteps for the entire book, so, yeah, thanks, mom, for messing around with stuff you are obviously not capable of handling.

I am trying to put my finger on why this story didn’t work for me, and I think it was because there is so much going on.  And because Eleanor is constantly leaping into danger.  There are zombies lurching around the graveyard?  Let’s go check them out!  There are headless corpses wandering the streets?  Let’s go out without a chaperon and see what we can find out.  While all of the sneaking around showed that Eleanor was headstrong and wasn’t going to take a backseat to anyone, it also proved that she lacked the one thing necessary for living a long and zombie-death free life.  Yup, that common sense stuff.  Eleanor needed to display a little more of it.  A lot more, actually.

Another thing that drove me batty was how the characters snarled, shrieked, growled, and screamed at each other.  All of those noises!  Nobody just talked or held a quiet conversation.  Nope!  That’s just a pet peeve of mine, though, and your mileage may vary.

There is a dreaded love triangle, between handsome, wealthy Clarence and Daniel, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who is on the run from the law.  He’s a gifted inventor, though, and his devices help battle the zombies.  I never liked Daniel, which was another impediment to my enjoyment of the book.  I didn’t like the way either potential love interest treated Eleanor, but Daniel’s demeanor was particularly grating.  Nicknaming her Empress, he was constantly dismissive of her,  at least until the very end of the book when she saved his bacon.    I don’t know that  I would have thrown myself into the midst of a zombie horde to save anybody in this book, other than Jie. 

While Something Strange and Deadly failed to impress me, it will appeal to action lovers.  If the book hadn’t been so hyped for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more. 

Grade:  C/C-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Interview with Nico Rosso, Author of Ironheart and Giveaway!

Nico Rosso is visiting the virtual offices today to chat about Ironheart, which is part of the Holding Out for a Hero. This superhero anthology is super fun, so if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend giving it a chance.  To make it easy for you to get a copy, Nico brought along a digital copy for one of you to win!

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

[Nico Rosso] I’m a romance writer married to another romance writer (Zoë Archer), and I’m happy to talk writing or whiskey or whatever else inspires.

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

[Nico Rosso] Ironheart is the story of two superheroes, Vince “The Anvil” and Kara “SnapDragon” in a desperate fight. Yes, there is a super villain, but Vince and Kara’s real battle is for a second chance at romance. They had a brief fling that she cut off. Now she’s back, but for the right reasons?

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

[Nico Rosso] I knew I wanted to explore the difference between a bad-boy hero and a newer heroine starting to learn what it is to fight crime with super powers. Vince needed to be a little rough around the edges, so the idea of a man who is harder than iron seemed natural. Giving Kara her powers from cosmic energy took her literally and figuratively off the earth, so at first, she would be less grounded and searching for herself.

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

[Nico Rosso] Tough. Principled. Rough.

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

[Nico Rosso] Fire Woman by The Cult. It has some lilting melodies, like she flies on her power wings, and the song also rocks hard, the way she fights when it’s all on the line.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Vince is never without.

[Nico Rosso] The Red Line, a small earpiece phone that connects all the members of the Heroes Guild.

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

[Nico Rosso] A nightlight. Her cosmic energy glows red, so she can easily light up a room.

-A handgun. Even without her powers she’s a formidable fighter. With her power scales around her and linked together in a lashing whip, she is a living weapon.

-Plane tickets. She can gather her energy scales into wings and fly wherever she wants to go.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Vince’s greatest regret?

[Nico Rosso] Even though it was from circumstances out of his control, I think he will always be haunted by the fact that his parents didn’t live to see him saving the world.

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

[Nico Rosso] I like to pull ideas from all kinds of sources, from observing people out on a date, to ancient myths, to fine art and photography. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so I try to keep my eyes open as much as I can.

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

[Nico Rosso] I need inspiration, a hook or some way in to the piece I’m writing. It could be emotional, a interesting plot twist, or just a unique way of describing the environment.

-I guess I don’t need quiet, but I like it. I’ll often listen to music on headphones in order to keep the noise of the outside world out of my head.

-I need to eat. Usually I’ll write until I get hungry, break to eat, then write again.

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

[Nico Rosso] Honestly, the last book I read that really floored me was my wife’s second Nemesis, Unlimited book Dangerous Seduction. I’m really lucky that I get to read her work months before it hits the shelves.

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

[Nico Rosso] Because I grew up deep in movie culture, I came to reading late (except for reading comic books). I remember nearing the end of my college years and really being taken by the novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.

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

[Nico Rosso] Usually, when I’m not writing, I like to be doing something physical or with my hands. Cooking or woodworking or hiking or photography.

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

[Nico Rosso] I can be found on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nico_Rosso

-Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nico-Rosso/113422452057013

-My Website: http://nicorosso.com

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!

Ready for your chance to win a digital copy of Holding Out For A Hero?  Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Didn’t win? You can order Holding Out For a Hero from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the link below.

About the book:

Scarlett Fever, by Christine Bell and Ella Dane
After five years in training, it’s finally time for Scarlett Fever and her fellow superheroes to leave the United Superhero Academy and test their powers out in the real world. There’s only one problem. She’s been assigned to partner with arrogant, by the book, and irritatingly hot, Blade of Justice.
Blade’s whole life has gone according to plan, and he’s more than ready to move on to the big time, protecting a metropolis of his own. But his perfectly ordered life is derailed when he’s teamed up with the fiery maverick, Scarlett Fever.
Sparks fly the moment they arrive in Plunketville, Oklahoma, as they each set out to force the other to request a transfer. They soon discover there’s more going on in this single stop-sign town than blowing up mailboxes and cow tipping. If Scarlett can get Blade to listen to his gut, and he can teach her to use her head, they just might have a fighting chance.

Ironheart, by Nico Rosso
Vince might be hard as steel, but he’s not invincible. Not when iron touches him, especially in the hands of an evil minion. Not when Kara ran away after a whirlwind affair, just when he thought he might be falling in love. And definitely not when she returns, looking for his help.
The archvillain TechHead is coming for Kara and her superhero teammates, and he’s determined to use their combined power to create the ultimate weapon. But Kara can’t fight him alone. She needs Vince’s brutal skill, though being with him means she risks losing her beloved secret identity, leaving her nowhere else to hide.
When TechHead makes a play to capture Kara, Vince has more to lose than just his heart. But he will do anything for the woman he loves, even if it means putting his heart on the line again.

Playing With Fire, by Tamara Morgan
Fiona Nelson has always been one hot ticket—even before she took the conversion serum that gave her superhu¬man abilities. Fiona’s powers come at a price: lack of human contact, or she won’t be the only thing burning. When she loses control of her emotions, her fire powers run rampant… and she’s hurt enough people already. Including herself.
But when the man behind her conversion returns to black¬mail her into helping him gain power, the only person she can turn to is Ian Jones, the man who broke her teenage heart. The man determined to expose the criminal known as Fireball, whose explosive escapades are just a little too close to Fiona’s M.O.
Ian is convinced Fiona’s dangerous, convinced she’s Fire¬ball, and convinced he’ll damn himself if he doesn’t resist a heat that’s always drawn him to Fiona like a moth to a flame—but Ian has his own secrets.
And he’ll learn far too soon what happens when you play with fire.

From the Ashes, by Adrien-Luc Sanders
Sociopath. Killer. Deviant. Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called that and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded count¬less crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire.
Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford–antisocial graduate research¬er, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.
One kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges ev¬erything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. But when his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of hu¬mans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile deeper, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean–or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?

Interview with Adrian Faulkner, Author of The Four Realms

Adrian Faulkner, author of The Four Realms, is visiting the virtual offices today.  Please welcome him.

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

[Adrian Faulkner] Ex-pop culture journalist turned Urban Fantasy writer. Lover of books, movies, TV and games. Good sense of humour. Complete & utter geek.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Four Realms?

[Adrian Faulkner] The story really starts with a dead body. When the novel starts we see half-vampire, Darwin and his friend and fallen angel, Cassidy running along the streets of London after Darwin smells the blood of the corpse. Cassidy’s had him surviving on rat’s blood for a while now to stop him killing, and it’s left Darwin gaunt and sickly. So Darwin sees a freshly dead corpse as a way to get a proper meal and keep Cassidy happy. It’s on the corpse they discover a notebook in a mysterious language.

It’s not long before Maureen Summerglass, an 82 year old gatekeeper between worlds, learns of the death of one of the wizards of the Friary of New Salisbury whilst visiting London. Suspecting a cover up, she breaks a lifetime of protocol and sneaks through the gateway in her cellar into New Salisbury hoping to find answers.

Darwin soon finds that someone else is after the notebook and willing to wipe out every last vampire if necessary. Maureen discovers danger in a world that is unlike that she has been lead to believe but instead one of fast food, black market goods and Tuk Tuks.

Darwin tries desperately to escape the mysterious Mr West and his cohorts, trying to save the vampire survivors in the process. Maureen, meanwhile, discovers that she might just be the first human female to be able to do magic; which is going to come in handy as people are trying to kill her as well.

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

[Adrian Faulkner] The concept for the land of Venefasia where the city of New Salisbury lies was born out of watching a news report on a remote Amazon tribe and seeing one of the kids wearing a Nike T-Shirt. It got me thinking how if the wardrobe from CS Lewis’s Narnia novels existed, it wouldn’t be used for wartime evacuees to go to tea with Fauns but for smuggling black market goods, weapons and drugs. As a result, the world of Venefasia has a bit more of a third world / Iron curtain feel than the typical medieval basis of a lot of fantasy.

At the time I first started work on The Four Realms, Buffy and as a result the kick ass female was really prevalent. I wanted to do something different and as a result decided there weren’t enough elderly protagonists. From that Maureen was pretty much there from day one. She’s been a load of fun to write.

Darwin and Cassidy took a bit more time. Originally they were a bit more “Lone wolf and cub” – an elderly warrior / protector and young innocent. As time went by their ages came closer together. Darwin became a bit more of an idealistic young man, and Cassidy became a lot more fun and kooky. She’s probably the most difficult to write as it’s hard to keep her light and fun with everything Darwin and her go through.

Mr West was the character who brought it together though. Who and what he is… well, that’s a bit of a spoiler but I’m hoping readers will like it and get an idea of the direction I’d like to take the story in through future novels.

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

[Adrian Faulkner] “lack of identity” – He’s half vampire and the vampire council has always viewed him as a bit of a freak. But at the same time it’s hard to identify as human when you need blood to survive. Cassidy wants to bring more of the humanity out of him but that puts him in conflict with his desire to be seen as an equal by his vampire brethren.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Maureen won’t leave the house without.

[Adrian Faulkner] Probably her handbag. It would hold her keys, her purse and about a hundred tissues

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

[Adrian Faulkner] At the start of the book both he and Cassidy are homeless, so I guess a mobile cell phone, keys and money would be obvious answers.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Maureen’s greatest regret?

[Adrian Faulkner] I think over the course of the novel, we see it’s her dedication to the Friary. She’s served them unquestioningly since the mantle of gatekeeper was passed to her by her mother. And as we get to see, they haven’t been too good at looking after her. Her house is a bit ramshackled. She dare not let anyone into the house in case they find the big oak door in the cellar. So she suffers with no heating, in fear of her nosey neighbours, only to discover that the Friary is thinking of closing her gateway and throwing her out on the streets.

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

[Adrian Faulkner] I have three. The first is Star Wars which just unleashed my imagination. It was like an explosion going off in my head when I first saw it. The second was the GI Joe comic book. On the surface it was a stupid toy tie-in but writer Larry Hama didn’t let that stop him from writing some fantastic characters. I remember looking up from one issue back in the 80s / early 90s and thinking to myself “Good story is character driven.” It was a revelation at the time. The final influence is Lord of the Rings, a book so detailed, so imaginative, it still blows my mind.

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

[Adrian Faulkner] A computer. I have been known to write draft chapters in longhand when they’ve been particularly tricky but mostly I like to type them directly into the computer

Diet Coke. This is my poison of choice. I drink way too much of the stuff.

Music. I find it difficult to write without music and own a ridiculous number of orchestral scores from films, television and games.

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

[Adrian Faulkner] Probably Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers. I know Lou so thought I had a good idea of what to expect, but sometimes a friend’s book can surprise you in a really good way. Thoroughly enjoyed it

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

[Adrian Faulkner] Probably CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’d been a big reader before I read that at eight years old but that book was the one that made me want to be a writer. Looking back now, I can see all the faults, but even so I still have a fondness for it.

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

[Adrian Faulkner] In my spare time, I’m a very active Geocacher. This is the hobby where you go hunting for hidden Tupperware in the countryside armed only with a GPS. It’s a lot of fun and is a good source of exercise. That said, I’ve been so busy with the book, I’ve hardly had time to do any these past few months

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

[Adrian Faulkner] I have my own website over at www.adrianfaulkner.com where I blog and give updates. I’m also fairly active on Twitter as @figures

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

The Four Realms is available now!  Please click the link to order a digital copy from Amazon.

About the book

Half-vampire Darwin stumbles across a corpse on the streets of London, and in a pocket discovers a notebook in a mysterious language. Divided between human ethics and vampire bloodlust, Darwin finds himself both condemner and saviour of a race who’ve never considered him one of their own. Now, he must try and lead the survivors to sanctuary in New Salisbury before Mr West completes his genocide of the vampires in his quest to obtain the book…

Maureen Summerglass is eighty-two years old, and a prisoner in her ramshackle home. She is afraid to let people enter in case they discover the oak door in her cellar. Threatened with homelessness and retirement from her job as a gatekeeper between worlds, Maureen breaks protocol when the death of a close friend is covered up… and enters the city of New Salisbury to search for his missing notebook. There, she discovers a world unlike the one of myth and fairy tale she imagined, and instead one of black market economies, brand names and tuk tuks. As she investigates, not only is she in extreme danger, but discovers she may be the first human female able to use magic…

“An imaginative foray into a dark world of danger and adventure. Hang onto your hat!” – Gail Z. Martin, author of The Dread

About the author

Adrian Faulkner has been writing stories since he was 7 and has never really stopped making things up.

He created and, for 10 years, edited Action-Figure, a global entertainment news website covering geek market (toys, collectibles, comics, movies). The site hit a quarter of a million audited page impressions a day and was considered a market leader and industry benchmark. During this time he worked with a number of celebrities including Good Charlotte, Rob Zombie, Mike Mignola and others on promoting entertainment properties and associated merchandise. He has interviewed a number of celebrities including Charlize Theron, Kate Beckinsale and Stan Winston.

He has also written for numerous magazines including ToyFare, Ultimate Adventure, Area51 and Memorabilia (where he was contributing editor) and along with Steve Holland, Alex Summersby, Steve White, Toby Weidmann and Tim Muray has written a book on Sci-Fi Art.

In 2009, he sold the site to allow more time on his fiction. In 2011, he had a short story published in the British Fantasy Society’s BFS Journal.

Adrian lives in Berkshire and in his spare time likes to play World of Warcraft and go geocaching. He is independently ranked within the top 50 geocachers in the country.