Interview with Jenny Brigalow, author of Children of the Mist

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Jenny!  Can you please describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jenny Brigalow] I’m a mum, a writer, a dreamer, a chocoholic and a hopeless romantic.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Children of the Mist?

[Jenny Brigalow] COTM is a Young Adult paranormal with a strong romantic element. It’s about skater girl Morven Smith who turns sixteen and develops boobs, acute appendicitis and a pair of pointy teeth. Whilst she is stunned by her metamorphosis into vampire, her best mate, the enigmatic Zest, is not. For the young werewolf it’s the answer to a prayer. He’s been alone for a long time. But when fate conspires to push them apart, Zest is filled with dread. In Scotland Morven will discover the truth of an ancient feud. Must the past always repeat itself? And, in the end, can they both survive?

Read more

Review: The Lair by Emily McKay

The Lair

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

When I was contacted about participating in the blog tour for The Lair, I hesitated.  I had tried to read The Farm last summer, but there was so much going on in my life that I had give up and return it to the library.  I thought the premise sounded interesting,  though, and I love post-apocalyptic reads, so I thought What the heck?  Sure, I’ll give it a try.  Let me say that The Lair can be read by itself.  I was only confused a few times, and the author did a nice job recapping the previous book, without the references feeling awkward or out of place.  As someone who hates to read books out of order, or hates starting a series in the middle, I never felt that nagging burst of frustration with The Lair, and I don’t regret reading book two without having first read book one.  I guess I should try this more often with longer series that I’m interested in, but that seem too overwhelming to start at the beginning.

Read more

Review: Cursed by S J Harper

Cursed: A Fallen Siren Novel

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.

She’s cursed. He’s damned. Together, they make one hell of a team.

Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.

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: The Outside by Laura Bickle

 

Title:  The Outside

Author: Laura Bickle

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

After a plague of vampires was unleashed in the world, Katie was kicked out of the safe haven of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. She enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two friends and a horse by her side

And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can they be trusted, and are they even people at all?      In this sequel to The Hallowed Ones, it’s up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to sacrifice in return?


Review:

Last year, I read The Hallowed Ones, and it totally creeped me out.  It was scary and suspenseful, and protagonist Katie was brave, level-headed, and firmly grounded by her Amish beliefs.  I eagerly awaited The Outside, the next book in the series, which picks up right where The Hallowed Ones left off.  The end of the world has come, in the form of a terrible sickness that turns its victims into blood sucking monsters.  Katie, her English boyfriend Alex, and Ginger are trying to stay alive after being expelled from Katie’s Amish community.  They have no shelter, dwindling provisions, and the vampires are dogging their every step.  Only sacred ground is keeping them safe at night, as they trek north to find Alex’s family.  Winter is coming (sorry GoTs fans!), and the odds of their continued survival are bleak.

While I didn’t think The Outside was as suspenseful as the previous book,  I still had a hard time putting it down.  This outing is all about the running.  Running from vampires, running from the weather, running from the knowledge that the world has ended and there few survivors of whatever horrible virus has turned humanity into monsters.  Along the way, they meet some of the desperate survivors, and Katie and Alex are at odds about what to do with the weapon they receive to alter themselves to survive the fight with the Darkness.  Alex jumps at the chance to save himself and have a better way to protect Katie, but Katie struggles with her decision about what to do.  She has already gone against her belief system so many times, and she’s afraid that this measure of self-defense will steal away whatever humanity that she has left.  I thought that this method of battling the vampires was genius, in a Ha! Take THIS evil vampires!! kind of way. 

What I enjoyed best about The Outside was Katie’s struggle to accept the bad things that had happened to her.  She made some choices in both books that had very serious repercussions for both herself and for Alex and Ginger, and while she regretted some of the outcomes, she never regretted the initial decision to save Alex.  That one choice was the catalyst for everything else that happened; being shunned, being forced from the protection of her community, seeing the terrible things she saw while she was Outside.  She is angry with the Elders for not believing the Hexenmeister, and for how their treated Ginger.  She’s hurt that her parents did nothing when she was kicked out of the community, yet she can’t stop worrying about them.  Even though her friends and everyone she knows have turned their backs on her, she is still willing to give up her life to save as many of them as she can.  She’s a very admirable character.

One quibble with the book, and it’s the same quibble I have with most post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, is how quickly they start to feel repetitive.  The steps are always similar to this – travel as far during the day as possible, forage for food and water, seek a safe place to sleep, encounter monsters and life-threatening events along the way.  Stop to rest after finding a safe haven, then gear up and get back on the road, facing even more danger than before.  The pattern and the pacing occasionally frustrate me.  Katie was an interesting enough character that I remained engaged in this story.  With her Plain upbringing, she’s even better prepared for the end of the world than most heroines.  Katie hasn’t been exposed to modern conveniences, so she’s used to a more rugged life-style.  She knows the land, and knows how to forage.  She hasn’t had a cushy life, but instead had chores and obligations to her family and her community.  I thought this gave her a huge advantage that made her survival more believable.

I enjoyed Laura Bickle’s foray into YA, and look forward to her next project.  I like her voice and I really like her characters.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Meet Katie From Laura Bickle’s The Outside

Please welcome special guest Katie to the virtual offices! Katie is on the run for her life, hiding from the undead.  Hopefully, they haven’t followed her here.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Katie} Faltering, but not yet broken.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your typical day like?

[Katie} Before the end of the world, I had a peaceful Amish life. I worked on my parents’ farm. I raised Golden Retriever puppies and helped take care of my little sister, Sarah. There was plenty of work to be done: tending the garden, working the crops, feeding the cattle, cooking, laundry, and cleaning. But it kept me busy, and for the most part kept my mind from wandering to all the interesting things that must be in the outside world: comic books, Coca-Cola, jeans, and make-up.

But after…after the end of the world…I am on my own. I’ve been exiled from my community. With my two friends, Alex and Ginger, we search for other survivors by day. By night, we try to fight and outrun the vampires. We eat whatever we can scavenge and try to find safe places to sleep. Winter’s coming, and there’s less and less food as it grows colder.

I miss home.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Katie} I know that my parents would want me to regret being shunned in the first place. Fearing contagion, the Elders made a rule that no one was to come in our community, and no one was allowed out. But I found Alex, an injured man, just beyond my fence. I brought him into our barn to heal.

I know that my parents would want me to say that I regret this, and that I regret falling in love with him. But I don’t.

The thing that I regret is not being able to make my family and my community understand what terrible evil was coming, that it could affect us just as much as it has the outside world. They didn’t believe me then. But I know that they do now.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s the one thing do you prize above all others?

[Katie} Of all things, certainly my faith. Though I wrestle with knowing that God has chosen not to intervene in this evil that has spread over the earth, I still treasure it.

In terms of material things? The only thing I really have is the Himmelsbrief my village Hexenmeister created for me. It is a letter to God, a beautiful and powerful thing. It deters the vampires, and I credit it with my survival so far.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Why do you think the world has become such a dangerous place?

[Katie] I have heard many explanations for this. My village Hexenmeister has said that the Darkness has always been with us. He says that it was with us even in the Old Country. He remembers the old ways of dealing with the Darkness: with stakes and fire and sunlight. People believed in it then, and struck it down before it had the chance to take root.

Others tell me that it is a scientific evil. That something has crawled out of a radioactive experiment in a place half a world away. Chernobyl? I can’t remember what it was called. Some think that a meteor fell. Others think that it is a virus.

I don’t know the answer. All I know is that there is Darkness and light, and that one must choose a side.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Why do you think you have survived, while so many others have not?

[Katie} Alex says that it’s because I’m used to being without modern conveniences: that I know how to make my way without electricity, cars, and telephones. I know what’s edible in the forest and which animal tracks to follow and which to avoid.

I think it’s partially because of the Himmelsbrief. Without it, I would have been devoured long before.

And it’s also because I am not truly alone. I have my friends, Alex and Ginger. We have a horse and have just been joined by a wolf. The wolf is good with hunting…more dog than wolf. He is good with finding chickens, and he shares what he finds.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.

[Katie} No more blood and Darkness.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Katie} Thank you so much!

Purchase link:

About the book:

One girl. One road. One chance to save what remains…

After a plague of vampires is unleashed in the world, Katie is kicked out of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. Now in exile, she enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two “English” friends and a horse by her side. Together they seek answers and other survivors—but each sunset brings the threat of vampire attack, and each sunrise the threat of starvation.
And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can these new people be trusted, and are they even people at all?
In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, it’s up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to leave behind in return?

Review: Shadow Hunter by Kait Ballenger

Title:  Shadow Hunter

Author:  Kait Ballenger

Part of the After Dark Anthology

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Shadow Hunter

Vampire hunter Damon Brock’s first assignment with the Execution Underground is Rochester, New York, a city crawling with the undead. But he isn’t the only hunter in town gunning for vamp blood. Tiffany Solow is fierce and ruthless when it comes to slaying the monsters that destroyed her family-and she works solo. But being alone is no longer so desirable when she meets the mysterious hunter who wants more than just her turf. As they work to massacre the local covens, the line between good and evil blurs when they are forced to decide between their lifelong beliefs… and their newfound hearts


Review:

When the author approached me to review this novella, I jumped at the chance.  I hadn’t had the chance to read a PNR in a while, and there’s something about a group of people who are brave enough to face down slavering monsters that I find appealing.  This is the introduction to the Execution Underground series, and it’s also the romance between Damon Brock and Tiffany Solow.  While Shadow Hunter didn’t work for me completely, it did serve to get me interested in the series.  But, yeah, that non-ending.  Oh, how I don’t like those, so make sure you have Twilight Hunter near at hand (or at least on pre-order), because you are going to want it!

Damon is suffering from guilt and remorse after the death of his best friend and partner, Mark.  Mark was killed in a raid on a vampire nest, and Damon hasn’t forgiven himself for allowing his friend to die.  Worse, he has to live with the guilt that he left Mark’s sister, Tiffany, with no family.  Damon and Tiffany had been exchanging letters for years at the urging of the higher ups in the Execution Underground because he was having trouble dealing with his emotions and stress.  So, it was either write to someone, or pour his guts out to a shrink.  Damon’s correspondence with Tiffany begins with one sentence, and grows into something deep and meaningful to him over the years.  Tiffany doesn’t hesitate to pour her feelings into her letters. and before long,  they have fallen for the other.  They never acknowledge these feelings before Mark’s death, however, and after, Tiffany is too busy being angry and resentful  that Mark was killed, to feel anything but rage and betrayal. She blames Damon for abandoning her brother to vampire killers.

Damon has sworn to get revenge on Caius, a very old and powerful vampire, so he moves to Rochester, New York with every intention of tracking him down and killing him.  He is dismayed to discover that Tiffany has the same goal in mind.  When she tries to capture him and turn him over to Caius in a bid to prove how loyal she is, they both get a rude awakening.  After a tense standoff, Damon and Tiffany are reluctantly forced to work together.  There is something not right going on in Rochester, and they are going to have to join forces if they hope to put a stop to Caius and his nefarious plot to destroy the vampire hunters.

Shadow Hunter featured one of my favorite tropes – younger sister falling in love with her older brother’s friend.  I loved the twist here – after falling in love through the letters, Tiffany blames Damon for causing Mark’s death so he could bask in the glory killing an ancient vampire.  Wow!  Though the fireworks started exploding before she realized who he was, Damon still had to do some fancy footwork to get her to trust him again.   

I enjoyed the world building and am looking forward to revisiting this paranormal version of Rochester.  While I found a majority of the book a quick and exciting read, I felt that it lost steam when Damon was choosing his team, the heroes of future installments of Execution Underground.  I also didn’t like the ending, which is to say, there was no ending.  Shadow Hunter stops with a complete cliffhanger, something I am not fond of at all.  So, while I felt letdown when I hit the last page, I am looking forward to Twilight Hunter, which will be in stores in August. 

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by author

Interview with Angela McCallister, Author of Bad Mouth and Giveaway!

Angela McCallister dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her new release BAD MOUTH.  Check out what she had to say!  Be sure to enter the giveaways, too!

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

[Angela McCallister] Sometimes geeky, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. Loves family, good friends, good food, books, romance, and dark humor.

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

[Angela McCallister] A human with a vampire grudge is forced to work with a human-hating vampire prince to solve a chain of vampire-on-human murders. Their attraction is shocking, but they won’t let that get in the way of their prejudice—until close proximity reveals what lies beneath their racial allegiances. The trouble is some of the murders were committed with Kade’s blessing, and if Val learns of it, there’d be more hell to pay than with just his life. She could tip the delicate balance between the vampire castes and bring on a war like none before. If race weren’t enough, his dark secrets ensure the growing connection between them is doomed.

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

[Angela McCallister] I listened to Bad Mouth by indie band Fugazi, a song I’d heard many times over, but one day it struck me the title would be great for a vampire story. I found out there were no books by that name so I had to write one, lol. As I always do, I began with the characters. What was the worst pairing possible? A human-hating vampire and a vampire-loathing human, of course. To complicate their relationship, he had to be involved in some bad stuff that validated her opinion of vampires. Kade had to have proof humans deserved his antipathy, thus he gets to deal with some bad humans. I compounded that with a very touchy situation within Kade’s two-caste vampire society, a quite insane pair of vampires (his parents) as the head of the society, an opportunistic gang of Slavers, and societal protocols that bind their decisions tighter than a gnat’s behind. Heh, the relationship may be the easy part in all of this.

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

[Angela McCallister] Determined. Courageous. Virtuous.

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

[Angela McCallister] Unequivocally, it is Demons by Imagine Dragons. Every. Darn. Word. I can’t even pick a key phrase from the lyrics without posting most of the song. Google the lyrics, but I warn you, you’ll want to hear the song and then you’ll want to download it. It’s beautiful and tortured and very Kade.

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

[Angela McCallister] Her pepper spray, lol. Her assistant, Alice, talks her into carrying a gun with her later for safety, but she’d adopted the pepper spray well before the book begins. Also a habit picked up from Alice :)

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

[Angela McCallister] A suit he’s actually worn. He’s a vampire prince, but you’d never know his riches because he’s eternally in a T-shirt and worn jeans. A condom because the only disease vampires succumb to is vesania (a kind of madness) and because pregnancy would have to be intentional in his particular case. Finally, food of any sort. Vampires may eat if they so choose, but not this prince of vampires.

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

[Angela McCallister] Not being able to save her ex-husband from himself.

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

[Angela McCallister] When I first started as a pre-teen, I read a lot of McCaffrey, Asimov, Heinlein, etc., but I got into a horror phase and devoured Clive Barker, Brian Lumley, Stephen King and the like and then a fantasy phase with Piers Anthony, Robert Jordan, Weis & Hickman. Now, I can’t get enough happy endings so when I re-caught the reading bug on deployment, my favs were Gena Showalter, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Karen Moning, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan. So I’m pretty sure this is why I went the paranormal route first, though that doesn’t mean I don’t have plans for some contemporaries. Guess I was destined to be as eclectic as my reading tastes, lol. Believe it or not, I even had a Louis L’Amour phase, and I’d still love to find a romance version of the Sacketts. Feel free to send suggestions ;) PS—I’ve already devoured every American historical by Pamela Clare, lol.

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

[Angela McCallister] Me, myself, and I. I once “wrote” two-thirds of a novel while driving cross-country from Pensacola to Point Mugu. I jotted it all down on my laptop each night once I got to my hotel.

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

[Angela McCallister] Tiffany Reisz! I’m dying because she cliffhangered right off the end of The Prince and I neeeed that next book.

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

[Angela McCallister] Why, Dr. Seuss, of course :) I got obsessed with reading from the time I could actually do it, and it never ended. I honestly couldn’t say which of the books it was since it was so long ago, but it was definitely one of those vibrant, creative treasures.

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

[Angela McCallister] Outside of writing, reading, and critting? Hmm. If I were to pick something outside of the literary world, I’d say gorging on my addiction to cheesy scifi/horror movies. Surely that must come from my taste in books in high school, lol.

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

[Angela McCallister] Very easily and in many ways. Check out my website (http://www.angelamccallister.com), my Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/AngMcCallister), my Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AngelaMcCallisterAuthor), my Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/AngMcCallister), or my Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/AngelaMcCallister). I’m also on Linkdin and Google+, but forgive me. I barely know what to do with those *g* Come and visit the Chick Swagger Blog (http://chickswagger.com) where I blog with a very fun, feisty, and talented group of Chicks. I’m on Manic Readers, The Romance Studio, World Lit Café, and I have my author page on Amazon.

It’s been a great pleasure, Julie! Thanks so much for inviting me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Giveaways!!

We have two giveaways today!  First up, Angela is giving away one author-signed paranormal book bundle and one $50 Amazon/Barnes and Noble gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And next, just fill out the widget below to enter for a chance to win a copy of Bad Mouth. Open Internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Purchase links:

 

 

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bad-mouth-angela-mccallister/1115161563?ean=9781622668052

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/bad-mouth/id639380665?mt=11&uo=4

About the book:

After her ex-husband’s obsession with vampires, Valerie Craig is on a mission to stop transformations. Of all vampires, Kade Rollins is the worst of the worst, but when multiple murders plague Seattle, Val is forced to enlist his aid. Kade’s crude wit and seductive nature attract her like no other, but she can’t ignore his violence toward his human servants, no matter her yearning to forget.

She’s torn when she learns Kade may be behind the murders. Val’s worked hard to protect humans from vampires, but the truth surrounding the murders could ignite a bloody battle between their races, one humans are sure to lose. Someone is pulling strings to build a vampire army and spark the war—setting Kade up to kick it off. But if she trusts the vampire prince, she risks her job, her integrity, and her heart if he betrays her as all the men in her life have.

About the author:

Angela McCallister is a US Navy Sailor and author of Paranormal Romance repped by the fabulous Nalini Akolekar. Spoiled by the gorgeous weather of Southern California, she spends her days reading and writing whenever she’s lucky enough to be away from work. In fact, she’s never to be found without a book hidden somewhere on her person. Over the past two years, her writing has finaled in multiple RWA writing competitions, and her debut Paranormal Romance, BAD MOUTH, won MERWA’s 2012 Everything But The Kitchen Sink Competition.

Find her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AngMcCallister), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AngelaMcCallisterAuthor), or on her website (http://angelamccallister.com/).