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.

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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.

Win City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte!

Thanks to Penguin, I have a copy of City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte for one of you to win!  I really enjoyed this quirky book, and I think you will,too!  To enter, just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries by following.

About the book:

Cosmically fast-paced and wildly imaginative, this debut novel is a perfect potion of magic and suspense

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.

     Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.

 

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Didn’t win? You can purchase a copy from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below.

Review: London Eye by Tim Lebbon

 

Title:  London Eyes

Book One in the Toxic City Series

Author:  Tim Lebbon

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The Hunger Games meets the X-Men in an exciting postapocalyptic debut

Two years after London is struck by a devastating terrorist attack, it is cut off from the world, protected by a military force known as Choppers. The rest of Britain believes that the city is now a toxic, uninhabited wasteland.

But Jack and his friends—some of whom lost family on what has become known as Doomsday—know that the reality is very different. At great risk, they have been gathering evidence about what is really happening in London—and it is incredible.

Because the handful of London’s survivors are changing. Developing strange, fantastic powers. Evolving.

Upon discovering that his mother is still alive inside London, Jack, his sister, and their three friends sneak into a city in ruins. Vast swathes have been bombed flat. Choppers cruise the streets, looking for survivors to experiment upon. The toxic city is filled with wonders and dangers that will challenge Jack and his friends… and perhaps kill them. But Jack knows that the truth must be revealed to the outside world or every survivor will die.


Review:

I am a little torn about how I feel about this book.  It was slow to pick up, but once the action started, it didn’t let up.  Until that ever unpopular with me brick wall of an ending.  This one screeches to a halt, without even the slightest hint of resolution or completeness.  Even worse, the ending opens up multiple story threads that need to be explored in the next installment.  While I don’t mind series, I do not like all of these non-conclusions.  Nothing is wrapped up, and the story lurches to a stop just as things were getting really, really interesting.  It’s like waiting in line at Cedar Point to ride the Gatekeeper, getting to the front of the line, and being told that the ride has to close due to inclement weather.  Come back next year for your anticipated thrill ride.  I am so not a fan of these kinds of endings.

London Eye is being billed as Hunger Games meets the X-Men.   Once Jack and friends enter the forbidden, toxic city of London, they are met with one life-threatening misadventure after another, and Jack is willing to risk his own life to discover the fate of his parents.  They were in London during the terrorist attacks that left it an empty husk of itself.  The only people left alive, everyone is told, are horrible monsters. The city has been completely shut off, with no electricity or access to fresh food.  People can not travel in or out without being picked up by the Choppers.  When Rosemary, an old woman with healing abilities, offers to sneak Jack and his friends inside, he jumps at the chance.  He needs to know what happened to his parents, and he won’t rest until he finds out the truth.

Beside the ending, my biggest complaint with London Eye is the pacing.  It is much slower than I’ve become accustomed to in YA dystopian novels.  If I didn’t like Jack and his younger sister Emily so much, I don’t think I would have stuck it out.  The story doesn’t pick up until about mid-way, and it ratchets up to crazy sauce (in a good way), the last 25 pages.  Which made the non-ending even more of a let-down.  I am getting to the point that I don’t even want to start a series until most of the books are already out, due to my ever growing levels of impatience.  With the deluge of titles hitting store shelves every week, I sometimes feel that my reading needs would better served if I held off on series until they are complete.  I am still stinging over the increasingly long wait times between GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Yes, I am one of those entitled readers who expects closure from every book I read.  I like endings, and I need closure. 

Jack and his friends don’t believe the government’s spiel about what happened in London the day the terrorists attacked, releasing Evolve, a biological weapon that sickened and killed most of the city’s residents.  Those who survived were changed, turned into dangerous monsters.  Jack knows in his heart that his parents are still alive, and he just wants to find them and bring them home.  He has been struggling to raise his younger sister, and he knows that they both need their parents.  His friends Sparky and Lucy-Anne also want to discover the fates of their relatives who were in London during the attacks.  When Rosemary shows up, they throw caution to the wind and agree to make the dangerous, forbidden journey into London with her.

As far as the world-building goes, I found it a mixed bag.  I liked the idea of a deserted London, where enhanced humans hide from the vicious Choppers, a government body that captures and dissects the Irregulars in a vain attempt to discover what makes them tick.  As Jack and his small party infiltrated the empty streets, however, I didn’t get a sense that it was all that dangerous to sneak from safe house to safe house.  It wasn’t until the end, during a bloody encounter with the Choppers and the terrifying Superiors, that I felt invested in the danger of the story.   Prior to that, it seemed to me that if you just kept your head down and crept around like a mouse, you wouldn’t draw much attention to yourself and you could just lay low, so I didn’t buy into the hazards of being trapped in the ruins of London.

While I didn’t feel completely engaged in the plot until the end, I am invested enough now that I want to see what happens next.  A sense of urgency and a clear and present threat to Jack’s continued survival was finally, firmly, engaged at the end.  I wonder how he will save all those he cares for, and fend off the Choppers and the terrifyingly powerful Superiors.  I do feel, though, that this book and next could have been combined for a more complete and finished story.  Your mileage will more than likely vary.

Grade:  C+/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Sean Cummings, Author of Poltergeeks

Sean Cummings dropped by the virtual offices to chat about his new release, Poltergeeks. Check out what he has to say!

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

[Sean Cummings] Middle-aged introvert with obsessive compulsive tendencies. Life long cat person who is morphing into the crazy old man on your street.

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

[Sean Cummings] Poltergeeks is book with a strong female protagonist who is snarky, fearless, loyal to those closest to her and who is desperate to prove herself to her over protective mother. It’s a book that is brooding vampire-free where there are romantic elements that differ from a lot of the love triangle formula you see in many young adult books these days. Julie and her best friend Marcus are quintessential geeks (Marcus, more so) who are quite happy about their social standing and comfortable in their own skin. There’s a bit of high school in the book but most of the story takes place on the streets of my hometown of Calgary. The reader is introduced to some very eccentric characters and Betty Priddy tops the list – she’s a blast to write about and the fact that she’s an immortal spirit who steals bodies at death’s door so she can manifest in the mortal plane creates a couple of interesting choices by which she pops into Julie’s life. This is a fun and funny story that gets very dark, very quickly. It’s non-stop action because the clock is ticking for Julie if she plans to save her mother’s life.

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

[Sean Cummings] The book started with the title, actually. The word POLTERGEEKS just popped into my head and I started jotting down ideas. Given that it’s been nearly thirty years since I was in high school I took a gamble when I decided to write something aimed at young adults and I wanted to make the characters as genuine as possible. So there’s mother-daughter angst. There’s a protagonist who wants very much to prove herself. There’s a missing piece to my protagonist’s life in that her father died when she was very young. All of this started to gel once I sat down and worked on an outline and the actual plot took shape very quickly once I sat down with a sheet of paper and a pencil. I wanted to write something different than a lot of urban fantasy featuring teenagers, so I adopted a mindset very quickly that my characters, though low on the social scale at school should still be quite comfortable with their standing in life. In Julie you have the hero’s journey. In Marcus, you have the Watson to Julie’s Sherlock Holmes.

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

[Sean Cummings] Feisty. Fearless. Irresponsible at times. Grounded in her friendships. Extremely loyal. Extremely self-sufficient. Comfortable in her own skin. She’s also a very, very powerful witch – more so than other witches her age. And finally, she’s snarky. A good female protagonist in an urban fantasy needs to be snarky, and Julie’s level of snark jumps right off the page.

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

[Sean Cummings] That’s a good question. He would never have car keys in his pocket because he’s all about saving the planet. He wouldn’t have a Starbucks gift card because he hates evil corporate entities save for McDonald’s. He wouldn’t carry lip balm unless he’s analyzed its chemical components first.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Julie’s single most prized possession?

[Sean Cummings] The faint, wispy memories of her late father who died when she was four. He’s the missing piece in her life – his non-presence has shaped the person that she’s becoming. His legacy is coming back to haunt her in a very dark and dangerous way.

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

[Sean Cummings] Comic books top the list. Anything written by Alan Moore because he re-imagined what a comic book can possibly be with Watchmen. Stephen King, obviously, but also authors like Robert R. McCammon, John Saul and Simon R. Green. Believe it or not, Buffy didn’t influence me, though I did enjoy the show immensely.

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

[Sean Cummings] 1) Silence. I need absolute silence. 2) Coffee. I need that kick start first thing in the morning. 3) Early morning. I can’t write after twelve in the afternoon. I’m a morning person and my creative juices are always flowing when I’ve crawled out of bed to begin pounding away at the keyboard.

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

[Sean Cummings] The one that stands out the most is BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig. I believe that in Miriam Black, Wendig has completely re-written the rules for what’s possible in dark fantasy with a strong female protagonist. Like, completely and utterly demolished them. No, I’m serious. He hopped his ass into a Sherman Tank and bloody well smashed through them with his main cannon firing. Miriam Black is unbelievably damaged goods – she touches your skin, she sees your death. BOOM! How can that NOT mess your mind up? How can you NOT smoke a three packs of cigarettes a day or guzzle whiskey to numb everything. It’s gritty, frightening and at times downright hilarious. This is the first book in a long time where I don’t have a bloody clue the direction the main character is going to go because Miriam doesn’t really have a clue where her life is leading her either. BLACKBIRDS is the best book of the year – hand’s down. I expect you’re going to see a lot of authors writing books with similar style characters because they’ve been influenced by Wendig’s writing. God knows, I have.

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

[Sean Cummings] Oh that’s easy. WHEN THE WIND BLOWS by John Saul. It’s the first "adult" book I ever read and the irony is that its main characters are children. All of Saul’s books deal with themes that can resonate with someone writing young adult. The setting is always a small town where everyone knows each other. There’s always something dark and terrible in that house two blocks away from your house. There’s always something evil lurking in the shadows and it usually revolves around young people.

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

[Sean Cummings] I’m a massive English football fan. Love love love the game! So I watch it on the dish Saturday and Sunday mornings at an obscenely early hour when I should be writing. I like to hang out with my son. I read, obviously. I watch a lot of science fiction and fantasy with the better half. I basically immerse myself in being a happy middle aged man who lives in a nice neighborhood (finally).

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

[Sean Cummings] I’m on Twitter (saskatoonauthor). My website is sean-cummings.ca. I’m on Facebook. My email is info AT sean DASH cummings DOT ca.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Poltergeeks from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below

Waiting On Wednesday–Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

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

Yeah, yeah, everyone seems to be waiting for Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans.  Me, too!  I’m officially tossing my hat into the waiting pile.

In stores January 2013

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In this gripping exploration of a futuristic afterlife, a teen discovers that death is just the beginning.

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

What are you waiting on?

Interview with Ingrid Paulson, author of Valkyrie Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m on twitter @ingridepaulson.com

Facebook:  Valkyrie Rising

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

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