Happily Ever After Giveaway Hop-Win Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler


Welcome to my Happily Ever After giveaway,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Valerie from Murphy’s Library.  This hop runs from October 9 to October 14, and you can win lots of new reads.  Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away an ARC of Diane Zahler’s MG fantasy Princess of The Wild Swans.  I love Diane Zahler’s fairy tale retellings, and I think you will, too!


About the book:

Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment–cast by their conniving new stepmother–has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls.

Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish.

With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam–a pretty half-witch and her clever brother–Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.

But if she fails . . . all will be lost.

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following! US addresses only, please.

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This Week’s New and Notable Releases–October 8

This week I am excited for the Signet Regency digital releases.  What’s on your wish list?

Check back tomorrow for the new and notable young adult releases.

Click on the cover for the Amazon product page

After by Ellen Datlow (Oct 9, 2012)

Dark in the Woods by Rosemary Laurey (Oct 9, 2012)

Dark Sun Rising by B.L. Bonita (Oct 9, 2012)

Faerie by Delle Jacobs (Oct 9, 2012)

The Golden Feather: Signet Regency Romance (InterMix) by Amanda McCabe (Oct 9, 2012)

Have Monster, Will Travel by Lila Dubois (Oct 9, 2012)

Skies of Steel: The Ether Chronicles by Zoe Archer (Oct 9, 2012)

Turn to Darkness: A Novella by Jaime Rush (Oct 9, 2012)

The Wagered Heart: Signet Regency Romance (InterMix) by Rhonda Woodward (Oct 9, 2012)

Calling the Shots (Long Shots) by Christine d’Abo (Oct 8, 2012)

Lana’s Lawman: A Loveswept Classic Romance by Karen Leabo (Oct 8, 2012)

Nights in White Satin: A Loveswept Classic Romance by Linda Cajio (Oct 8, 2012)

Saving the Rifleman (War Girls) by Julie Rowe (Oct 8, 2012)

The Three Musketeers: Born to Be Wild: A Loveswept Classic Romance by Donna Kauffman (Oct 8, 2012)

The Three Musketeers: Surrender the Dark: A Loveswept Classic Romance by Donna Kauffman (Oct 8, 2012)

Until There Was You: A Loveswept Contemporary Military Romance by Jessica Scott (Oct 8, 2012)

Review: Until There Was You by Jessica Scott


Title: Until There Was You

Author: Jessica Scott

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

From the author of Because of You comes an all-new contemporary eBook romance. He plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed Army captains will prove that opposites attract . . .

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure–except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.

Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else–including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Blaze of Winter, The Devil’s Thief, and Santerra’s Sin.


I read Until There Was You because it is an original Loveswept release. Loveswept has been a favorite series of mine for years, and I am delighted that Random House is releasing older titles in digital, as well as new titles. Jessica Scott’s first release, Because of You, looked intriguing, but I was swamped when it came out, so it kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the review pile. When I had the opportunity to hop onto a blog tour for Until There Was You, Jessica’s follow up, I eagerly hopped on. I haven’t read many military romances, so I wanted to give myself a little more exposure to them, and after learning that the author is in the Arm has Army experience, it became that much more interesting.

Claire Montoya is a career soldier, and after years of dedicating herself to the military and the war efforts in the Middle East, she was promoted in rank. Now an officer, her current assignment is to prep a newbie unit for the rigors of warfare. They will be deployed in five weeks, and Claire’s good friend, Sarah, is in charge of the unit. With her best friend, Reza, an enlisted man, Claire must get these young soldiers ready for their convoy duties. The task seems impossible; Claire’s superior officers are focused on skills that Claire and Reza deem unimportant to the survival of the troops. With great despair and trepidation, Claire must set aside her personal views about the training and stick to the program, or risk being disciplined and tossed out of the Army.

I found this an fascinating read because I know so little about military life. The story is set after the Surge, when US troops were supposed to provide more of a support function to the fledgling Iraqi government. Life for the deployed soldiers was still frighteningly dangerous, and Claire had been faced with many decisions early in her career that left soldiers injured or dead. She doesn’t want to see any more lives lost, so she is frantic to prepare Sarah’s troops for the dangers they are about to face. She is constantly clashing with Evan, a West Point officer she has been sparring with for years, about the appropriateness of the training schedule. She calls Evan Captain America because of his unwavering dedication to rules and his job duties. Claire is a bit of a rebel, and she’s paid a price for her outspokenness. She has not been promoted as quickly as she might have been otherwise, but she won’t back down when she thinks she’s in the right and that soldiers will be needlessly killed. The conflict between Evan and Claire seemed insurmountable to me. How could either one of them ever compromise on this very basic but personality defining stance? Follow the rules to the letter, or bend them in order save lives.

Until There Was You is a book about conflict and conflict resolution. When we meet Claire and Evan, neither of them is able to adequately work through the conflicts in their life. Claire is driven to train Sarah’s troops as best she can with Reza’s help, but Reza, having seen several deployments, is suffering from PSTD. To keep his demons at bay, he has taken to drinking excessively, partying and hooking up with women indiscriminately. He’s two steps away from being court-martialed, but Claire is skilled at running interference for him. This adds to the tension between Evan and Claire. He doesn’t see how she can, in good conscience, keep covering up for him. Reza is going to get people killed one day, if he doesn’t kill himself first. Claire already tried to save her father from the demons lurking in the bottom of a liquor bottle. Her failure haunts her, and she isn’t ready for a repeat of that.

Evan hasn’t had an easy life either. He feels responsible for his sister’s death, and his guilt has driven him away from his family and away from close relationships. He and Claire make for a sympatric couple because both of them are so damaged. Neither of them can trust themselves to care for someone else for fear of being hurt again, so it’s easy to get behind their relationship and hope that they will somehow find a way to be together, even as messed up as they both are. It is Evan who takes that first, frightening step of accepting his feelings, and of having to face his fear of Claire’s rejection.

One thing that frustrated me about this story was my lack of understanding  of military protocol. I was confused by the chain of command, and about why some of the events would have such disastrous outcomes for the characters. The pacing of the story was also uneven in parts; I found the training sequences fascinating, but found some of Evan and Claire’s missteps irritating in their frequency. Overall, this is an emotional, satisfying read, and I will have to dust off my copy of Because of You for another military romance fix.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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.