Spotlight: The Marriage Merger by Jennifer Probst and Giveaway!

Today is the release day for the final book in Jennifer Probst’s Marriage to a Billionaire series.  The first book in the series, The Marriage Bargain, will always hold a special place in my heart because it got me reading series romance again.  I really loved that book, and how the author was able to make Nicholas a worthy partner for spirited Alexa.  He was such a pinhead in the beginning of the book!  I did not like him at all, and was getting nervous that I never would.  But enter one mangy dog, and Nick’s attitude on life changed forever.  Alexa was also like a freight train. Once she had a goal, nothing was going to stop her from achieving it. If you haven’t read this series yet, please do consider giving it a go.


About the book:

Her sisters have found wedded bliss with their wealthy,wonderful dream men, but not Julietta Conte. She’s stayed on terra firma as top executive of the family’s corporation, La Dolce Famiglia bakery. Work is her passion, and her trendy Milan apartment her sanctuary . . . until Sawyer Wells, a masculine masterpiece in a suit, lures her out of hiding with an irresistible offer: an exclusive partnership with his international chain of boutique hotels.

Julietta’s been burned before—and trusting her brother-in-law’s friend, whose powerful gaze alone has her rethinking the best use of a conference room, is the riskiest proposition. But with a once-in-a-career chance to take the bakery global, will she mix stone-cold business with red-hot seduction?


Thanks to Gallery Books, I have a copy of The Marriage Merger to giveaway. Just fill out the widget for your chance to win. US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Links to purchase the other books in the series:

Interview with Lisa Luedeke, Author of Smashed

Lisa Luedeke is the author of Smashed, which releases today from Margaret K. McElderry Books.  Lisa stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her new book.

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

[Lisa Luedeke] Yoga- loving


Can’t get her face out of a book;

Loves her quiet, her woods, her lake,

Her family & friends,

Just give her that writing time

And all will be fine.

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

[Lisa Luedeke] Sure. It’s really a story about trying to fill a hole in your life, in your emotional life, and making the wrong choices as you try to do that. Katie’s dad, an alcoholic, abandoned her family when she was twelve, and her mother is never around. She’s basically on her own, with the help of a couple of good friends, and a mentor in her high school field hockey coach, but it’s not enough. After she gets involved with bad-boy Alec, Katie tries to get herself back on track, but one night she makes a mistake she can’t take back, and when lies follow to cover it up, things get out of control.

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

[Lisa Luedeke] When I was seventeen, I was in a terrifying car accident. My best friend and I were asked by a teacher to go on a school errand. We were in my friend’s car and he was driving. It was a cold, wet, November day, and a slushy snow was building up on windy back road in Maine. My friend was a careful driver; we were only going 30 miles an hour—I remember looking at the speedometer. But as we were going around a corner, the slush took hold of the wheels of the car and pulled us into the other lane, just as a car was coming toward us. My friend tried to gain control of the car, to get us back on our side of the road, and we started to turn in the right direction. The last thing I remember was thinking we were going to miss that car by an inch…When I came to, there was blood splattered down the front of my sweater and I thought my friend might be dead.

We were both fine, but that moment wouldn’t leave me for many years. Writing about a difficult time can be cathartic, but I didn’t want to write about that accident. I have no interest in writing memoir. And that particular incident didn’t have the characteristics of a compelling story—it was simply bad luck, bad timing, bad weather.

So I began to do what-ifs…What if an accident was someone’s fault? What if the driver was drunk? And what if the passenger, who was hurt, was not a friend, but someone the driver didn’t even like? Someone she was trying to get away from? As I asked these questions, a situation emerged that interested me, and that’s what I need—a situation that is complex enough to keep me interested as a writer. Then I ask myself, who would find themselves in this particular situation? For me, characters emerge from conflict.

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

[Lisa Luedeke] Self-reliant



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

[Lisa Luedeke] A love note

Bubble gum

A coupon

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

[Lisa Luedeke] Her field hockey stick

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

[Lisa Luedeke] First, the natural world. I think and write best while I’m hiking or walking in the countryside near my home. When I’m out there, I problem solve my current story. Mull over whatever it is that I’m struggling with. Everything begins to get unstuck, to flow, and then a scene will come to me. If I like it, I rehearse it again and again in my mind, and when I get home I’m ready to write.

Robert Cormier & S.E Hinton’s YA books had a great influence on me, particularly The Chocolate War and The Outsiders. I wanted to write books that had the heart of Hinton’s books and the edge of Cormier’s. Cormier’s gone now, but he’s still one of the best writers in the YA field. Interestingly, neither of them wrote about girls (Cormier did in one book, but said he found it very difficult.) I knew I wanted to honestly portray girls’ lives in the pages of my books.

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

[Lisa Luedeke] Ideally, a long walk to get a scene flowing—then a big mug of dark coffee and a quiet space. But I’m learning to write on airplanes!

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

[Lisa Luedeke] Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. It’s an absolutely amazing historical novel about a slave girl from Rhode Island who’s sold to a family in New York City during the American Revolution. I loved the character with my whole heart, and the narrative is gripping—but I also learned a great deal about the revolution and slavery during that time period.

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

[Lisa Luedeke] From my earliest memories, I loved to read. Everything. The Witch Who Wasn’t was an early favorite, though I can’t find it now; I think it’s out-of-print. Go Ask Alice was the book that turned me on to YA literature when I was ten.

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

[Lisa Luedeke] Ashtanga yoga, hiking, skiing, swimming, reading, hanging out with friends & family.

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

[Lisa Luedeke]

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Smashed from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital

Interview with Roberta Rich, Author of The Midwife of Venice

Roberta Rich is the author of The Midwife of Venice, a vivid historical chronicling the struggles of a Jewish midwife in Venice during the 16th century. Roberta stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and to discuss her book.

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

[Roberta Rich] Beautiful, driven, witty, thin and a liar.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about The Midwife of Venice?

[Roberta Rich] Hannah Levi is an accomplished midwife in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice in 1575. She is uncommonly successful with difficult births, using her own invention, “birthing spoons,” a form of forceps. Her reputation spreads outside the ghetto, and one dark night her rabbi visits her with two Christian noblemen who wish to use her services to save the life of a Christian countess.

Because the Catholic Church forbids Jews to attend Christians, her rabbi orders with her to reject the entreaties of the aristocrats. By ignoring him, she puts the people of the ghetto in peril, but for her own urgent and personal needs, she agrees to deliver the baby if the Conte will pay her enough so that she may ransom her husband Isaac, captured by pirates and enslaved on the island of Malta.

Hannah finds herself in the midst of a family plot of greed and succession. Against a backdrop of Black Plague, betrayal, and multiple murders, she must kidnap the child to keep him from being murdered.

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

[Roberta Rich] First came the idea of the birthing spoons, and then I needed someone to use them and so Hannah, my midwife was born. Hannah had to have a husband, so I created Isaac. Then Hannah needed someone to hide her when she was being pursued by the authorities, and that was her sister, Jessica, a courtesan.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing The Midwife of Venice?

[Roberta Rich] Devising a coherent plot is always my biggest challenge. Ideas for characters, setting and dialogue seem to flow but a plot? No.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Hannah?

[Roberta Rich] Resourceful, bright, brave.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Hannah would never have in her medical kit?

[Roberta Rich] Leeches, a crochet hook, and a pair of pliers.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is Hannah’s single most prized possession?

[Roberta Rich] Her silver birthing spoons, a rudimentary form of forceps she invented.

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

[Roberta Rich] Reading history, especially social history- books like Centuries of Childhood by Phillip Aries or Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas

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

[Roberta Rich] My computer, my dog, Stella, and peace of mind.

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

[Roberta Rich] Get Me Out: A Brief History of Childbirth by Dr. Randi Epstein.

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

[Roberta Rich] Little Women or, maybe, Gone With the Wind.

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

[Roberta Rich] Ride my bike and watch movies but not at the same time.

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

[Roberta Rich] If you have a book club and would like to have me appear via Skype, just email me at:

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can order The Midwife of Venice from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.

Review: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro


Title: Deadly

Author: Julie Chibbaro

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 978-0689857393


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Join the search for Typhoid Mary in this early twentieth-century CSI. Now in paperback!

Prudence Galewski doesn’t belong in Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls. She doesn’t want an “appropriate” job that makes use of refinement and charm. Instead, she is fascinated by how the human body works—and why it fails.

Prudence is lucky to land a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of a mysterious fever. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, Prudence explores every potential cause of the disease to no avail—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. But she’s never been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in solving one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century? 


When I first sat down with Deadly, I was just a bit apprehensive.  The first few pages didn’t exactly grab me, and I was afraid I was in for a slow, dull read.  My apprehension quickly disappeared.  This book is fantastic, and I quickly started looking at the world in a whole new way.  Bacteria?  What an interesting organism!  When Prudence was finally allowed a peek through a microscope, her enthusiasm was contagious.  What is this tiny, living thing that makes people so ill?  Just like Prudence, I longed to learn more about typhoid fever and how to stop its persistent spread through 1906 New York.

I love a book that does make me think, and Deadly is one of those books.  Prudence is such a smart young woman, curious about science and the human body, but because she is woman, her inquisitive nature is destined to go nowhere.  She is enrolled at a school to learn how to run a household and be a proper wife, which bores her to tears.  She wants to do something meaningful; she wants to help people, so nobody else has to watch a loved one die of illness. When she is hired to work at the Department of Health and Sanitation, she is given an outlet for her curiosity.  Hired because of her neat penmanship and ability to type, she is quickly challenged to use her mind, too.  Her supervisor’s current task is to find the cause of the typhoid fever outbreak and put an end to it before anyone else dies of the disease.

Deadly is a character driven book, and what characters it has!  I loved Prudence, despite her cool reserve.  She isn’t one to easily show her emotions, but she is constantly plagued by them.  Because she wants to make a good impression on her new coworkers, she won’t allow herself to appear weak or womanly before them.  Instead, she’s all business; she wants to prove that she is worthy of her new position, and she devotes herself to assisting Mr. Soper.  She is also still hurting from her brother’s death and the disappearance of her father, who is missing in action from the Spanish American War.  Because of these losses, she is reluctant to risk being hurt again, so she keeps a wall around her emotions.

As Mr. Soper and Prudence begin to suspect that an Irish immigrant is responsible for the outbreak of typhoid, Prudence is assailed with moral and ethical questions.  Is it right to forcibly isolate Mary for the public good?  Do the ends always justify the means?  These questions had me Googling so many issues brought up in the novel.  How could a healthy person spread a disease they never had? What happened to Mary after the events in the book?  How did the typhoid outbreak end?  The book left me with lots of questions that I wanted answers for.  The mere idea that installing toilets in separate rooms at boarding houses made me realize how far medical advances have come in just over 100 years.  Indoor plumbing cut down on the transmission of so many diseases, and yet there are still millions of people without the luxury of toilets!

If you are looking for an engrossing, intelligent read, look no further than Deadly.  Peopled with wonderful, intriguing characters, this book will make you think differently about science and medicine.  I could not put it down, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was telling other people about it, and discussing germs with them.  Much like the bacteria researched in the story, Deadly will get under your skin, without all of the yucky side effects of typhoid!

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by {teen} book scene


 Subscribe in a reader

Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting


Title: The Pledge

Author: Kimberly Derting

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

ISBN: 978-1442422018


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom….


I enjoyed this book more than the grade below indicates, but I had high, high expectations going into my reading experience, and these expectations weren’t all met.  The Pledge is a highly readable book, with high tension. It was hard to put down, and I was able to breeze through it very quickly.  I was disappointed, however, with some of the decisions that protagonist Charlie made, especially considering the high stakes involved here.  I also didn’t like how long it took for Charlie to put two and two together when the solutions to most of her questions were right in front of her.  That was frustrating at times.

Charlie lives in a highly segregated society.  There is one common language that everyone is allowed to speak, as well as different languages for the various classes in her society.  It is forbidden to even look at a speaker of a higher caste when they are speaking.  As a member of the Vendor class, Charlie isn’t at the bottom of social system, but she is nowhere near the top.  That she can understand all languages, spoken and tactile, is an ability that can get her killed.  It is her one great secret – no one can ever know that she can understand what everyone is saying around her.

Charlie’s parents have drilled and drilled the importance of keeping her mysterious skill a secret, and yet she runs into trouble early in the novel when she allows a girl from a higher caste to believe that she can understand a conversation she is having with her family.  Sydney has been tormenting Charlie and her friends for a long time, so when Sydney’s family stops at the restaurant that Charlie’s parents operate, only trouble can follow.  Charlie lets her anger control her, and almost exposes her secret, and by failing to look down while Sydney is speaking, she still breaks a law, one with a penalty that equals death.  Only by sheer luck and the grace of Sydney’s father is she spared. 

One of the elements of the story that did not work for me was Charlie’s easy acceptance of her ability.  It is something that can get her killed.  It is something that forced her father to go to frightening lengths to protect her.  It is something that shouldn’t be possible, and yet, here she is, fluent in every language, even languages she has never heard before.  It frustrated me that she didn’t seek an explanation for this forbidden skill.  I also didn’t understand why her parents would put her at so much risk by not telling her anything about it.  Charlie is essentially a walking time bomb.  Since she is fluent in every language, since she understands every word spoken around her, by her very nature, she has a difficult time telling when one language changes to another.  She has to focus all of her attention on hiding this, and it is only a matter of time before she screws up, in a big, big way.  I didn’t feel that her parents were doing her any favors by keeping so much about her background a secret.

The other aspect that irked me was her sudden attraction to Max.  This is a common story element in romance, but the love at first sight trope is especially common in YA, and it usually drives me bonkers.  I thought that in this setting, in this story, Charlie shouldn’t have been in insta-love with Max.  There is so much more at stake than a broken heart here, and this one plot thread didn’t win me over.   Charlie is a smart girl, and she knows that discovery of her gift could bring death to her, and quite possibly her family.  I just didn’t buy that she would throw that all away for Max, a guy she had just met.  Even though he was gorgeous.  (And I liked Xander better, which didn’t help me to understand Charlie’s fixation for Max!)

The Pledge is a quick, exciting read, with a very interesting dystopian setting.  Certain elements didn’t work for me, but I still could not put the book down until I reached the final page.  The characters are likeable, there’s some wonderful action, and the ending is satisfying.  Though this is slated to be a trilogy, this book stands on its own, which is a bit of a rarity these days.  If it wasn’t for all of the pre-press hype, my expectations wouldn’t have been so hard to fulfill.

Grade: B-

Review copy obtained from my local library

 Subscribe in a reader