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1. Novella Review: The Wager by Lily Maxton

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I was in the mood for a short, quick read, so I turned, once again, to the Entangled library to fulfill this need.  The Wager had me at “Novella.”  Yes, sometimes even I am easy to please.

Anne loves to make wagers with her sisters, and when she’s caught “borrowing” a scandalous novel from her host while attending a social function, she’s only somewhat taken aback.  When Michael, Earl of Thornhill, catches Anne red-handed stealing a naughty book, his interest is piqued.  After exchanging a series of letters, the first an apology from Anne that lacks conviction or finesse, their paths cross again, leading to a wager between Michael and Anne.  They’ll have a late night swim race, and if Michael wins, he’ll be reward with a kiss.  If she wins, he must answer a naughty question he dodged during their correspondence.

One wager leads to another, until the final stakes are both their hearts.  Who will win?

I really enjoyed the letters, which showed a believable progression of their affection for each other.  The main conflict in The Wager is Anne’s self-doubt.  A year earlier, Michael thought himself in love with Anne’s older sister, Elizabeth, but she rejected his suit because she was in love with someone else.  Anne now feels that she’s only second best, and refuses to take their flirtations seriously.  At times this made her come across as shallow and spoiled.  She can’t accept that feelings can change, and that Michael’s infatuation with Elizabeth was fleeting.  Her stubbornness almost costs her her happiness, because she’s so focused on the fact that Michael was attracted to her sister first.

This is a quick read with a fun, if somewhat over-indulged heroine, and a very sexy earl. The romance was a bit rushed, but I blame that on the length of the story.  I’m curious to read about Anne’s sisters now.

Grade:  B / B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

 

London, 1818

Anne Middleton never plays by the rules. She is willful when she should be obedient and unabashed when she should be decorous. Worse still, she can never resist a good wager… or a very naughty book. And Confessions of a Courtesan is about as sensational and risque as a book can be.

Michael Grey – Earl of Thornhill – had once courted Anne’s sweet and modest sister. But whilst Anne is certainly no lady of decorum, her bold impulsiveness slips through his armor, and propriety is forgotten. Now he too is immersed in the book of forbidden delights, where each page is an invitation to sin and a guide to pleasures unknown…

Roused by heady desire, Michael tempts Anne in a way she cannot resist – a wager. Thus begins a game of chance, where coins have been replaced by a currency that is far more illicit. And the stakes of seduction are dangerous indeed…

The post Novella Review: The Wager by Lily Maxton appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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2. Review: Sisters’ Fate by Jessica Spotswood

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I love this series so much that I preordered Sisters’ Fate as soon as I noticed it listed on Amazon.  Book 2, Star Cursed, ended on such a great cliffhanger, and I could hardly wait to see what happened next. The wait was agonizing.  There are times when I enjoy a series, but then I lose interest in the period between releases.  The Sisters’ Fate release date was close enough to when I finished Star Cursed that I didn’t forget about it.  Good thing, too, since I have the attention span of a small bug.

The narrative picks up right were it left off.  Maura has erased Cate right out of Finn’s memories, and now she’s nothing but a stranger to him.  What?  Wow!  What an awful thing for her to do!  I hated Maura!  She has one priority, and that’s herself!  She will do anything to earn praise from Inez, the new leader of the Sisterhood, even betray her sister.  And then not be one bit apologetic for her horrible actions.  No wonder Cate simmered with rage every time she had to interact with her sister.  I really wanted to see Cate kick her butt, but I know that wouldn’t have done anything to change Maura’s attitude. 

Cate is worried about how the Brotherhood will react now that Inez has reduced their leaders to mindless vegetables.  Will they start a second Terror, killing any woman or girl suspected of being a witch, without a second thought?  Inez’s agenda frightens Cate, so she attempts to establish ties with the Resistance.  She knows that she has to stop Inez and her followers somehow, but she realizes that she can’t do it alone.  Making an uneasy truce with Merriweather, who runs an illegal newspaper that reports on the actions of the Brotherhood without censorship, things finally start falling into place.  Then her temper gets the best of her, threatening everything she’s worked so hard to accomplish.

To up the stakes, Cate is not only fighting against those that would destroy all witches, there is also a fever raging through New London, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.  Since it originated among the poorest citizens of the city, there’s not a whole lot of concern at first.  So what if a bunch of river rats die of the fever?  When the disease jumps to the wealthier occupants of the city, it’s the perfect opportunity to blame the witches for cursing the populace with the illness.  Once again, the witches become a convenient scapegoat to control the population through fear and intimidation.  The Brotherhood did awful things to anyone who got in their way, and then they orchestrated convincing cover stories for every heinous act the committed. They made powerful, frightening villains.

I thought Sisters’ Fate was a fitting end for the series.  All of the loose ends are tied up, and the conclusion is very satisfying.  I was even able to forgive Maura, at least a little bit.  The romance was well done, and while it ended with a Happy For Now, you know that everything will work out for Cate in the end. 

I highly recommend The Cahill Witch Chronicles.  There’s a sweet romance, action, and interesting world building.  It comes to a satisfying end with Sisters’ Fate, so if you like YA paranormal romance, give this series a try.

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A fever ravages New London, but with the Brotherhood sending suspected witches straight to the gallows, the Sisters are powerless against the disease. They can’t help without revealing their powers—as Cate learns when a potent display of magic turns her into the most wanted witch in all of New England.

To make matters worse, Cate has been erased from the memory of her beloved Finn. While she’s torn between protecting him from further attacks and encouraging him to fall for her all over again, she’s certain she can never forgive Maura’s betrayal. And now that Tess’s visions have taken a deadly turn, the prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another looms ever closer to its fulfillment.

The post Review: Sisters’ Fate by Jessica Spotswood appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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3. Graphic Novel Review: Food Wars! Vol 1 & 2 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

I like food so I thought I’d give Food Wars! a try.  I thought the first volume was okay, but it didn’t blow me away.  Soma’s family owns a diner, and Soma’s number one goal in life is to be a better cook than his dad.  I love this storyline; it kept me reading The Prince of Tennis for a long time (and I need to catch up on that one!).  I’m not sure why I find this trope so appealing, but it is one of my favorites.  The protagonist working to hone his skills, hoping to one day surpass the person who taught him almost everything he knows, yeah, I really like that.

Food Wars! Volume 1 ends the competition between father and son very quickly.  Soma’s dad decides he’s going to sharpen his cooking skills, and he leaves Soma with hardly a word.  Off he goes, we discover, jet-setting around the globe, creating fabulous dishes at 5-star establishments.  Soma, in the meantime, has been enrolled in a prestigious culinary school.  The only hitch? He has to pass a cooking test, or he flunks out of school before it even starts.  His judge is fellow student Erina Nakiri, and she’s one tough critic.  From a blue-blooded family of in the gourmet food biz, she has already created a name for herself in the foodie world.  Noted for her incredibly discerning sense of taste, she has no patience for anything less than the best.  Unfortunately for Soma, that includes him.  When Erina discovers his background is from a humble family diner, she has nothing but contempt for him and his cooking.

 

I think the thing I enjoyed best about Food Wars! is Soma’s personality.  He’s brash and outspoken, but he doesn’t mean to come across as a douche, though he often does.  He just wants everyone to appreciate all kinds of food, especially meals prepared with less expensive ingredients.  He’s also very confident in his own abilities, having worked in the family restaurant since he was a small boy.  He makes himself a target the first day of school by sounding like an obnoxious jerk, making a speech in front of the incoming class that is cringe worthy in its arrogance.  Since everybody has a bone to pick with him now, he suddenly has dozens of classmates rooting for, and even actively participating in efforts to see him fail.  Most of the students come from wealthy families, with esteemed backgrounds in gourmet food industries, and they don’t want his kind there.

Volume 2 introduces a parcel of eccentric personalities for Soma to interact with, as well as his first cooking battle.  If he loses, he’s agreed to pack his bags and leave school for good.  His opponent is a genius with beef, and since her family has made a fortune selling grade A cuts of the stuff, he probably shouldn’t have challenged her to a cook-off using meat as the main ingredient.  That’s what I like about Soma; he feels so strongly about an issue that he jumps to accept any challenge, without having the faintest idea or plan of how he’s actually going to win. It’s always Ready! Fire! Aim! with him, with very entertaining results.

So far, I am enjoying this series. The drama of the food wars is fun, and the descriptions of the food makes me drool. I hate cooking, but even I’m tempted to try some of the recipes included because they sound so darned tasty. I have my usual gripes while reading a comic aimed primarily at boys, and I’m not sure how these 14 year old girls can have boobs the size of their heads, but then I remember that I am not the target market. It’s still fun anyway.

About the book:

Soma Yukihira’s old man runs a small family restaurant in the less savory end of town.  Aiming to one day surpass his father’s culinary prowess, Soma hones his skills day in and day out until one day, out of the blue, his father decides to enroll Soma in a classy culinary school!  Can Soma really cut it in a school that prides itself on a 10 percent graduation rate? And can he convince the beautiful, domineering heiress of the school that he belongs there at all?!

Leaving home for the first time in his young life, Soma moves into the  Polaris Dormitory—a place run by an old crone and filled with crazy and eccentric students! Barely settled in, Soma quickly finds himself in one of Tohzuki’s legendary cooking duels—a shokugeki! Who will his very first opponent be?

Review copies provided by publisher

The post Graphic Novel Review: Food Wars! Vol 1 & 2 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Review: Keeping Secrets by Maggie Dana

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I always have the urge to read a horsey book right before a horse show.  I kept seeing the Timber Ridge Riders series on Amazon, and wanted to check it out, so when I had the chance to do just that, I jumped at it.  I don’t ride hunt seat, so I always find depictions of hunter shows interesting.  The horse care details were spot on, and nothing made me cringe due to inaccuracies.  I’ll tell you what did make me cringe: the behavior of Kate’s rival, Angela.  What a spoiled, selfish girl!  If I was her coach, she would have been booted from my barn.  Her casual treatment of the animals and her teammates had me boiling mad!

Keeping Secrets is a middle grade book, but it will appeal to horse enthusiasts of all ages.  I felt so awful for protagonist Kate.  She has spent the last six months blaming herself for the death of  a horse at her old barn.  A convenient scape goat, she was kicked out, banished for allowing the horse to escape from his stall, get into the feed room, and colic.  What a crappy thing to do to a 14 year old girl.  The old trainer earned zero respect from me, and poor Kate, heartbroken over the loss of her favorite horse, decided that horses would no longer play a part in her life.  Kate’s disinterested father didn’t help her with her grief.  The guy, a professor, was never home, and he probably didn’t even know about the horrible experience Kate was struggling to deal with.  Instead, he traipsed around the planet research butterflies. 

With her father on a trip, she’s moved in with her aunt.  Kate wants a job, so when she hears about a babysitting job, she applies for it.  Her charge is actually her own age, and Holly has been confined to a wheelchair after an auto accident.  Kate’s job is to be her companion for the summer, so her mom can continue coaching riders at the barn behind their small house.  Barn?  Yes, barn!  So even though Kate wants nothing to do with horses, she is stuck having to deal with them every day.  Holly’s dream is to get back in the saddle again, and she drags Kate to the barn every day.  To hide her new discomfort around the animals, Kate lies and tells Holly that she’s terrified of them, and, oh, yeah, she’s allergic, too.  When her secret is outted, she has to earn back Holly’s trust, as well as help save Holly’s mom’s job.

This is a very fast paced read, and I couldn’t put it down.  Once Kate gets back in the saddle, things accelerate even more.  She has to help win a team competition, but guess what?  Angela is out to get her, because Kate rides better than she does, so Kate has to learn quickly to avoid Angela’s attempts to sabotage her.  I loved all of the conflict Angela started.  She’s the perfect girl you love to hate, but because her mother demands constant perfection from her, you feel a smidge, just a smidge!, of pity for her.  She’s afraid that Kate will show her up in front of her mother, and all her mother cares about is that Angela is the best.  Her mother also has a lot of control over whether or not Holly’s mother will keep her job, it turns out, so there’s even greater friction between the girls.  Add in the fact that Angela is a bully and likes to pick on what she considers weaker girls, and you really have the perfect villain.

I enjoyed Keeping Secrets, and I’m looking forward to more adventures with Kate and Holly.  I’m sure that Angela will continue to make trouble for the girls, making for more entertaining reading.

Grade:  B/B+  (I love the cover – that gets an A)

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A valuable horse is dead, and it’s all her fault, which is why 14-year-old Kate McGregor has banished horses and riding from her life … forever!

But her new summer job as a companion to Holly Chapman, a former riding star who’s now confined to a wheelchair, takes her back to the barn—the last place Kate wants to be. 

Can Kate keep her terrible secret from Holly, who is fast becoming her best friend? And, more important, can she keep her secret from Angela Dean, a teenage bully who lives for only two things: winning ribbons and causing trouble? 

Kate manages to keep her secret hidden until an accident forces it into the open … and it’s just the moment Angela has been waiting for.

The post Review: Keeping Secrets by Maggie Dana appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

title: Brown 9780399252518Girl Dreaming

author: Jacqueline Woodson

Date: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin; August 2014

Main Character: Jacqueline Woodson

MIddle Grade Fiction

There are rules to children’s books you know, and Jacqueline Woodson just broke one.

Brown Girl Dreaming is the author’s poetic telling of her childhood and retrospective visits to childhood are supposed to be adult books. Somewhere along when Jackie learned to embrace words and the power they contain, she became entitled to a Poetic License that let this book be produced as a children’s book. Thank goodness!

For me, a Black woman of the same generation who grew up in Ohio with a mother from Mississippi, I quite often found myself pausing and connecting to the story while I daydreamed about my own life. But, this book wasn’t written for me. Will teens relate? Will they find themselves in the spaces Woodson creates when she talks about teeth, not being as smart as, about grandpa’s love and forever friends? I think that they will not only find themselves in these nuances, but they’ll also see how they fit into the larger stories of their family, community and history itself.

In creating a fictional autobiography, Woodson leaves huge spaces that all readers can dive into and find their own meaning. Woodson looks back as adult, but tells the story through the eyes of a child. Her family is her haven whether they’re in New York or South Carolina and even when it looks like things might be going wrong, Jacqueline’s family is perfect in the young girl’s eyes. This girl has a dream to fulfill and we’re going to find out where she gets her strength!

Young Jacqueline is disenchanted with the inaccuracies of memory and the confusion between storytelling and lying.

Keep making up stories, my uncle says.

You’re lying my mother says.

 

Maybe the truth is somewhere between

all that I’m told

and memory.

So, Jacqueline decides to give us her own truths in this story of self empowerment.

I’m so glad Woodson broke the rule!

I reviewed an ARC and am looking forward to adding a final copy to my collection as it will also contain photos.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, two Coretta Scott King awards, two National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. source


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: african american, Jacqueline Woodson, review

3 Comments on Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming, last added: 8/14/2014
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6. Review: Falling for the Pirate by Amber Lin

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

After reading House of the Four Winds, I was in a pirate kind of a mood.  Good thing I had Falling for the Pirate locked and loaded on my Kindle.  I admit that I wasn’t charmed with the beginning, but after Juliana lost her memory, I was a convert.  I’m not sure why I felt that way, because she’s not annoying or a bad person.  Maybe her blind devotion to her missing father, and the risks she was willing to take to clear his name, didn’t work for me?  Or maybe I liked the person she became better when her circumstances better mirrored Nate’s previous meager life?  I’m totally baffled by my first response to her.  Maybe I just needed to get to know her better?

After Nate catches her sneaking around in his new building, a chase ensues, and Juliana is injured and almost drowns, but Nate saves her.  When she regains consciousness a few days later, she has no recollection of her past.  She can’t even remember her name.  Nate finds this all together too convenient;  first, she was sneaking around his property, snooping through the file room.  Second, he discovers that Juliana is the daughter of his greatest enemy.  Her father murdered his parents and destroyed his young life, all for his own greed.  Nate suspects that her father put her up to her midnight burglary.  I have to admit that all of these background details made me a little nervous.  How would Nate ever be able to trust Juliana and put his awful past behind him?  Could he?  How would she react when she regained her memory and learned of the horrible things her father did, and of Nate’s tireless quest for revenge?

Nate’s not really a pirate.  Though he was imprisoned during his youth, he’s an honest, caring man.  But because his hatred for the man who destroyed his family has driven him for the last ten years, he doesn’t allow himself to feel emotions. He lives for his revenge.  He dreams of it, and it’s the only thing that kept him alive during the most trying times in his life.  He’s gruff and abrupt with Juliana, though she slowly thaws his icy interior. Despite his desire to be perceived of as a harsh man, Nate simply isn’t.  His experiences have made a better man of him, and though he doesn’t realize it, he is incapable of being cruel.  Instead, he has a deep-seated need to protect the weak and the helpless from bullies.  I really liked Nate!

While Juliana may have lost her memory, she’s savvy enough to realize that she currently has nothing.  Regardless of her circumstances prior to falling under Nate’s protection, now she hasn’t two pence to rub together.  Everything she has is because of his good will, and she feels an obligation to pay him back.   While this gave him far too much power over her, he doesn’t take advantage of it.  Honestly,  all he wants is for her to exit his life so he can get on with his plans for revenge against her father, but since she has nowhere else to go, he’s kind of stuck with her.  And, yup, before he’s what’s hit him, he’s fallen head over heels for her.

Because this is an amnesia story, I had to leave certain things by the wayside – like a sense of reality.  Juliana’s forgotten memories are just a bit too convenient, but it didn’t bother me too much because I liked Nate so much.  This is a quick and entertaining read that will fill a void in your afternoon or evening.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

London, 1820

After the deaths of his parents and a dark, troubled childhood, Captain Nate Bowen vowed he would have his revenge. But he never expected to have the tool of his revenge dropped so neatly into his lap. Juliana Hargate is not only the daughter of his enemy, but is destitute, very much alone – and exquisitely desirable.

And now that Nate has saved her life, she’s at his complete mercy…

Captive. All Juliana wanted was to clear her father’s name. Instead, she’s been struck with amnesia – unable to recall even her name – and imprisoned by a tall, imposing, and entirely unscrupulous pirate. A pirate whose eyes seem to look past her skirts and many petticoats, and whose touch sends delicious ripples of desire through her. With every passing day, she finds herself tempted to give him the very thing he’s determined to take

The post Review: Falling for the Pirate by Amber Lin appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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7. Shelter Me Review at Romance at Random!

 

I have a new review posted over at Romance@Random!  If you have time, check out my thoughts on Shelter Me by Catherine Mann.

The post Shelter Me Review at Romance at Random! appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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8. Novella Review: Cursed (The Order of the Wolf) by Angela Addams

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I was in the mood for a quick read, so when I saw Cursed, it’s like it was calling my name.  All it took for me to start reading this were the following words: “Vengeance Dealer” and “Werewolf.”  Yeah, I was all over that!  I loved this short read – the pacing is blistering, the romance hot, and I loved the wolves.

I’m not going to lie, though.  It took a long time to like Darcy.  At first, she impressed me with her boldness and confidence.  Then I started thinking about what she was doing and I thought, “Damn, girl!  That is so not right!”  A Vengeance Dealer, Darcy’s clients engage her services to curse the men who have hurt them.  On the surface, that’s just great.  Girl power and all that.  But under closer examination, she’s not much better than the men she’s trying to teach a lesson to.  In fact, she’s worse.  She collects bodily fluids (semen, no less), casts a spell on it, and curses the guy to lust for her for the rest of his life.  She then promptly vanishes without a trace, reveling in the satisfaction of a job well done.  Ugh!

Not to worry, though, because Karma has a particularly nasty joke to play on Darcy.  After having the best sex of her life, she curses her latest victim.  Only to discover that he’s a werewolf.  Ho boy!!  Things can’t get any worse!  Or can they?  Werewolves have a gift for hunting, and they never forget a scent.  Darcy’s on the run for her life, with a very pissed off supernatural creature on her trail.  Her pathetic skills at witchery are no match for Raven and the rest of his pack, and Darcy is about to learn the error of her ways.

I am all about the pack.  I want to get to know each and every one of them.  I think Mayhem is my favorite, but that’s probably because he’s in charge.  Raven is a younger pack member, still coming into his powers, which can be tenuous when he’s emotionally charged.  The guys are members of a popular rock band, and while the idea is really cool, I wonder at the practicality.  How are they going to be guests on daytime talk shows or shoot music videos at the beach when they are confined to their wolf forms during the day?

Anyhoo, Cursed is the perfect read for a lazy afternoon.  It really is a fun read.  The hero is hot, the heroine is redeemed, and then she totally kicks ass.  Where is Book 2?  (It’s not out until October – boo!)

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Her biggest mistake comes with fangs…and a nose for tracking her down.

The Order of the Wolf, Book 1

Wherever there’s a lying, cheating scumbag who’s broken a woman’s heart, Vengeance Dealer Darcy Wells is there. So what if she isn’t the most skilled witch around? She’s only using one spell, which leaves the hapless male suffering tormenting lust for one woman. Her.

The beautiful part? This curse comes equipped with a blinding agent, allowing her a clean getaway. Unrequited lust, coming right up! As far as Darcy is concerned, it’s justice served. Her next target: Raven Glock, rock band bassist and drop-dead-gorgeous sex god.

When Raven lays eyes on the luscious Darcy, he gives her what he promises all the starry-eyed groupies who toss their panties at him—one unforgettable night in his bed. Sex with Darcy is so epic that he forgets his cardinal rule: to get her out before morning.

At the crack of sunrise, Darcy serves Raven a face full of cursed ash. But something goes horribly wrong…and she finds herself magically tethered to one pissed-off werewolf.

Worse, breaking the spell could cost her everything…maybe even her life.

Warning: Sexually explicit language, tattoos, piercings, and giant…um…feet. Wet panties are a given. Author assumes no responsibility for spontaneous ravishment of significant others, pool boys, or local pizza delivery personnel.

The post Novella Review: Cursed (The Order of the Wolf) by Angela Addams appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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9. Review: House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I admit it!  I wanted to read House of the Four Winds because of the cover.  I think it is absolutely breathtaking.  We all know the problem with judging a book by its cover, though.  Sometimes the story doesn’t live up to that gorgeous cover.  In this case, I’m glad I did pick it up.  While the pacing was occasionally frustrating, House of the Fours Winds was a gripping read none the less.

I can’t think of the last Mercedes Lackey novel that I’ve read.  It’s been years and years, so I was curious to see if I’d like her writing style now.  I don’t think I liked it way back when, but after reading this, I’m going to have to give her backlist another look. The storytelling reminded me of Diane Zahler, told to a slightly older audience.  While House of the Four Winds is an adult fantasy, I don’t think there is anything objectionable within the pages, making this a great candidate for a motivated younger reader looking for a challenge.  Clarice, the heroine, is 18, making her highly relatable to a teen reader, and I thought the writing skewed young.

The set up was a bit difficult to swallow.  Princess Clarice is the oldest of twelve daughters, and after her mother finally gives birth to a son, the girls are all informed that they must make their own way in the world.  Swansgaard, their tiny kingdom, would be ruined if the treasury had to provide for twelve dowries.  Instead, each girl will seek her fortune upon attaining the age of 18.  Clarice, gifted with a sword, has decided to become a swordmaster.  Unfortunately, she needs some practical experience if she expects to attract any students, so off she goes, seeking adventure.

Disguised as Clarence, she buys passage on a ship bound for the new world.  Once aboard the ship, she questions the wisdom of her decision.  The captain and the senior officers are cruel men, quick to punish the crew for any infraction.  The only solace is her friendship with the young navigator Dominick.  He is the opposite of the captain; good and kind, he is outraged by the treatment of the crew, but he is powerless to help them.  Until the day the men are pushed too far, and they take up arms against their leaders.  Before she knows it, Clarice finds herself caught up in the munity, even taking an active part when Dominick’s life is threatened.

So, yeah!  House of the Four Winds has a cross-dressing heroine, mutiny at sea, pirates, and magic.  The first 10% of the book dragged for me, and I was tempted to put it down.  I have so many books to read that a slow start almost guarantees a quick trip back to the TBR mountain.  By 15%, though, I couldn’t put it down.  The pacing slowed periodically, but I liked the characters so much that I didn’t mind getting to know them better.  Much of the book is character driven, with bursts of action and danger, and while I was expecting more action, I didn’t mind its absence.  The treacherous journey under the control of the evil sorceress more than made up for it,  and the end of the book was fraught with terrible challenges for the ever shrinking crew to deal with.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book – Clarice is a strong, intelligent heroine.  She saves Dominick far more often than he saves her, and I really enjoyed that.  Instead of waiting for her prince to find her, Clarice took control of whichever situation presented itself, and became her own prince.  That doesn’t happen nearly enough in the books I read.  Now I’m curious to see if her sisters are as confident and capable as Clarice, so I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Mercedes Lackey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Valdemar series and romantic fantasies like Beauty and the Werewolf and The Fairy Godmother. JAMES MALLORY and Lackey have collaborated on six novels. Now. these New York Times and USA Today bestselling collaborators bring romance to the fore with The House of Four Winds.

The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.
Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight. 

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.

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10. Graphic Novel Review: Vinland Saga Volume 3 by Makoto Yukimura

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I love this series, and I can’t figure out why.  It is violent and depressing, peopled with unlikeable characters.  These guys are unrepentant killers.  They cheerfully engage in murder and thievery, and most lack even the barest sense of honor.  I hate Askeladd, and was really hoping Thorkell would bash his head in with his mighty axe, but no!  The evil, self-serving marauder did not meet his end in the third volume of Vinland Saga.

This volume was over 400 pages of non-stop action.  My wrist is sore from the rapid page turning, and this massive book was literally glued to my hands.  Vinland Saga is one of the most exciting graphic novels that I’ve ever read, and the art is stunning in its brutality.  Fans of Berserk really need to read this, because the two series have a lot in common.  Tortured hero who lives by the blade.  Check.  Violent characters who don’t hesitate to make a deadly show of force.  Check.  One horrific bloodbath after another.  Check!  And worked into all of the glorious violence is the political wrangling for control of the Danish throne.  Which brings me to the only character I really like – young Prince Canute, who has been sent to war by his father King Sweyn, in hopes that he’ll be killed in battle. Like I said, there aren’t a lot of people to look up to in the series.  Everyone is out for their own gain, which makes everything they do suspect, even question a father’s love for his son.

The action gets thick and heavy when Thorkell discovers that Askeladd’s men are lying low in a small village after killing all of the inhabitants, save for the one woman who barely escaped with her life.  Suddenly the chase is on.  Can Thorkell catch Askeladd and reclaim the weak Canute for himself?  Askeladd’s men grow more desperate as the terrifying Thorkell and his men march ever closer to their position.  Askeladd’s men mutter darkly among themselves; Askeladd’s luck has turned, maybe it’s time to look to a new leader.  Oh, dear!  Will Askeladd keep control of his men, through the respect he’s earned with the blade of his sword?  Or will they turn on him like a pack of dogs?  More power to them, I wanted to yell.  Take that bastard down!  Not that any of the other warriors are much better, but wow!  Askeladd has done some horrible things in just three volumes!  Indiscriminate slaughter being just one of them.  These guys do like to kill, and they don’t care who gets caught on the end of their blade.

Thorfinn and Thorkell have a fierce battle.  The winner gets Askeladd.   Do you think Thorfinn is going to let an opportunity like that go by?  No freaking way!  Who cares that Thorkell is a giant, towering over his much smaller opponent.  What a great battle!  The art really shone here, with convincing movement and incredibly emotional facial expressions.  I’ll say it again – the illustrations are fantastic, driving the story forward at a frantic pace, catching your attention and refusing to let it go, or to give your poor eyes a break.  Weapons clash, blood spills, body parts fly off the pages.  It is so mind-numbingly intense!

While the battles were exhilarating, my favorite part of this volume was Canute.  He finally found his voice.  He found his resolve, and he found his power, and boy, oh, boy, his father had better watch out.  From a quiet, weak boy, to a proud, determined leader, all in the span of a few chapters.   Yes!  I want to know what kind of man he becomes, to see if he, too, is shaped into a cold, heartless leader like all of the men around him.

I enjoyed Vinland Saga Volume 3 so much that when I finished, I hopped onto Amazon to see when the next volume comes out.  Guess what!  It’s already out!  And at $5.49 for the Kindle, it is MINE!

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by my local library

From Amazon:

A BLOODY COMING OF AGE In a gambit to become the power behind the Danish and English thrones, Askeladd has taken the prince, Canute, and plunged deep into a winter storm behind enemy lines. Canute’s father, King Sweyn, gives him up for dead in his haste to suppress English resistance. But Askeladd’s small band can’t outrun the tenacious maniac Thorkell forever, and when the warriors finally clash, a storm of sweat and gore ensues that will turn a boy into a man and a hostage into a ruler of men!

The post Graphic Novel Review: Vinland Saga Volume 3 by Makoto Yukimura appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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11. "Zorro" book's author and publisher disagree with "review"


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Last week, I covered a new, children's book, Boy Zorro and the Bully (El Niño Zorro y el Peleón), by Kat Aragon. My post opened with "U.S. readers definitely need more and more diverse books. Especially for children, both Anglo and the marginalized children of color. A bilingual book by Kat Aragon, published last month, relates to that need, as well as to the U.S. sickness of bullying."

I closed with, "Our First Voice books should aspire to be superior to others being written. If expecting books to meet such a standard offends someone, I prefer that to my saying nothing about our literature needing improvement. And when mine are published, I'll ask help holding them to similar standards. To help publicize Zorro, I'll give the author, publisher, and illustrator, for that matter, space here if they would like to explain more about the book."

The author and the publisher sent responses to my post and as promised, I include them below, as well as some others. Reading the original post will likely help you understand what's said below.

Reviews of any book are inherently done from personal perspectives; it's simply part of human frailty. Which is why authors sometimes disagree with their reviewers. Based on what follows, I displeased some people, got confused or maybe even don't understand certain things. I do sometimes do that. Although my review can't be considered thorough, it was my best attempt.

Normally, Anglo reviewers don't necessarily go "light" on Anglo writers, except insofar as they go "heavy" on ethnic writers or lit that's not part of the Anglo world. I believe Chicanos, Latinos, all People of Color also need to be as insightful and honest about "their" literature and writers. Maybe, more so.

Back in the 60s-70s, we Chicanos tended to hide our differences, not criticize ourselves in front of Anglos and generally looked with disdain on any Raza who dared to find fault in the Chicano Movimiento, its leaders or its politics. I tried not to be one of those. I continue to try to practice honesty in my writing and in assessing that of others. According to the author and publisher of Zorro, at least, I didn't do that in their case. You decide. 

The comments about my original post:
1. Rudy. Rudy. Rudy. You practically missed the book altogether. Starting with the misclassification of it as “A Latino Book”. This is a book about “Bullying”. You made it a book about Latinos and then used the book as a platform to go off into different tangents about race, skin color, lack of female representation, and injecting the word “punishment” -implying a negative connotation, as though it is related to the injustice of the system – which is indeed a problem, but not in this book.

A children’s book about a bully, that happens to be inclusive of Latinos, particularly Mr. Ramos the principal, and the iconic Mexican character Zorro, should be commended, not torn apart for not addressing every single issue regarding race. Are you helping or hurting those who actually do something in the world to provide quality education in today’s world with our Latino families?

The fact that I selected a publisher (and there aren’t too many), that focuses on bilingual books as a way to be inclusive of Spanish-speaking immigrant parents, and provides a practical solution to include Spanish-speaking parents in the discussion at schools, with language, reading and educational opportunities to improve our society, should be commended not slighted. - Kat A. - Author [of Zorro], Educator

2. I am the publisher at Lectura Books and I would love to clarify the intent of this special book – Boy Zorro and The Bully. The book is quite timely and is intended for the support of very young elementary kids, as a way to have discussions about the topic of bullying and what to do if they experience it, or witness it.

The Boy Zorro character, Benny, is very young, and the Zorro outfit was a creative expression of his young imagination, and perhaps his fascination with superheroes.

Boy Zorro does the right thing by having an adult handle the bully. And, doing the right thing, at the risk of being called a name like “snitch,” takes true courage.

Bullying is a serious topic today, and goes beyond teasing and snitching. Actual bullying happens over and over and creates ongoing fear in the victim – which is the case with the Big Ricky character in the book. Mr. Ramos, the principal, does the right thing, stays strong, and all outcomes are favorable – no matter their skin color or race.

As you can see from the text, Boy Zorro doesn’t “make a difference” simply by going to the principal. He ultimately makes a difference by taking it to the right person (instead of trying to fight the bully), who will bring it to the school community for discussion, accountability and policy.

As a child development expert, I love how this book spells out the consequences so that kids, parents, and teachers know what to expect. It’s also important that the offender, Big Ricky, had an opportunity to see that his actions were unacceptable and would not be tolerated in their community, and yes, there are real world consequences. Consequences should be spelled out clearly and followed through, as in every good parenting and leadership situation.

It’s true, this is a complex time in our society, which is reflected in our schools and I don’t think anyone has an easy fix for bullying. But, I do know that having ongoing discussions, about what is acceptable and what are the consequences, is a terrific model for parents, kids, teachers, and administrators. The book also has an age-appropriate play for young school kids to perform in front of their school community, which invites further opportunity to open up the lines of communication.

If you’d like more bilingual books with girls, boys, people of different colors, histories, traditions, and socioeconomic diversity, visit our website at: www.LecturaBooks.com - Katherine Del Monte, Publisher

3. I like the main character Boy Zorro and his fighting against Bullying. Putting aside the issue of light v. dark skin, the illustrations are great. Hopefully, Zorrito will appear in follow-up books fighting other problems. - Author Giora

4. I like the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of your review. I also like how you offer space to those who created the book for their comments. I remember some awful moments in school, some more terrifying than others. If I had told my Father everything, I feel certain he would've had me transferred -- I was a kid, and valued being with friends more than safety. I think it's great to teach kids how to deal and I also like adult awareness. I also agree that bullies won't teach themselves how and why to stop. Great post, Rudy! - Sylvia Riojas, Independent Writing and Editing Professional

5. Very good review, Rudy. You've really covered all of the pros and cons. Bullying happens both within and outside of cultures and needs to be always in our minds to protect children and show them how to work with and survive it. This book is a good start. - L. M. (Linda) Quinn, Marketing/Technical Writer Living and Writing in L.A.

6. Rudy, as always, you are honest, straightforward, and insightful in your comments. I, for one, appreciate this. No book is perfect. You pointed out plenty of good points about this book, so the author, illustrator, and publisher should feel good. Re: the cons, every book has some. Hearing honest reviews helps us authors keep pushing the envelope toward higher and higher quality. Thanks for not insulting us by expecting less. - Thelma T. Reyna, author

Final aviso: This post is not intended as a literary boxing ring. In my mind, there are no sides. There are opinions, and that's all they are. Anyone who chooses to comment to this post should keep in mind that only "constructive" criticism will improve "our" literature, assuming you include yourself in the "our."

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia, Chicano speculative fiction author (honorable mention, International Latino Book Awards)

0 Comments on "Zorro" book's author and publisher disagree with "review" as of 8/2/2014 12:12:00 PM
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12. Review: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Oliver and the Seawigs is a cute, cute book!  Ten year old Oliver Crisp has spent his entire life exploring all of the unexplored areas of the world, and he’s tired of it.  What Oliver wants is to wake up in his own bedroom, in his own house, and go to school every day.  When his parent sadly realize that there is nothing left to discover, they resign themselves to a boring life living in their long neglected house.  Oliver is delighted, and he is anticipating finally being settled.

Poor Oliver’s non-roaming life comes to an abrupt end.  After not even a day, his parents disappear.  They had taken their dingy out into the bay to explore the new islands that mysteriously appeared during their long absence from their house.  When the raft washes up on shore, minus his parents, Oliver knows he has to take matters into his own hands.  He grabs his explorer pack, hops in the dingy, and sets off in search of his missing mom and dad.

I loved Oliver.  He is a take-charge kid, and he doesn’t panic when his parents go missing.  He has had plenty of disaster training during his adventures with his dare-devil parents, and he immediately puts it to good use.  Little fazes him; not a talking seagull, a near-sighted mermaid, or even an island that isn’t really an island but a living,  breathing creature.  Okay, so the troop of sea monkeys almost does him in, but he quickly tamps down his fears and focuses on the task at hand.  He must save his parents from their own folly.

In addition to encountering one outlandish mishap after another, Oliver and the Seawigs is lavishly illustrated with amusing, cartoony pictures.  Working seamlessly with the prose, the illustrations add even more character to an already charming tale.  I believe this book will appeal equally to boys or girls, as well as their parents. 

Highly recommended.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

 

A lively step up from early chapter books, this seafaring romp is packed with hilarious art, lovable misfits, meddlesome monkeys, and tons of kid appeal.

When Oliver’s explorer parents go missing, he sets sail on a rescue mission with some new, unexpected friends: a grumpy albatross, a nearsighted mermaid . . . even a living island! But the high seas are even more exciting, unusual, and full of mischief than Oliver could have imagined. Can he and his crew spar with sarcastic seaweed, outrun an army of sea monkeys, win a fabulous maritime fashion contest, and defeat a wicked sea captain in time to save Mom and Dad?

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13. Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Magnolia is a hard book to rate.  For the most part, I really enjoyed this Shakespeare inspired YA romance.  It’s Romeo and Juliet in reverse.  Jemma and Ryder have been at odds ever since the 8th grade, when a misunderstanding drives them apart.  Too bad their families keep pushing them together!  Nothing would make their parents more happy than if they became a couple, and their mothers have been doing everything in their power to make that happen.  From the time they were babies, they have shared cribs, vacations, and countless meals, but Jemma’s had enough.  While once Ryder lit up her world, his cruel words have driven them apart, and Jemma can’t wait to get away from tiny Magnolia Branch so she doesn’t have to deal with him anymore.

Second chance at love is my favorite trope, so I was looking forward to reading this.  After overhearing Ryder talking to his friends about her, Jemma’s young heart is crushed.  While she has developed a huge crush on him, she thinks that he’s only being nice to her to please his over-controlling mom.  She’s done everything in her power to avoid him for the last four years, but she seethes with anger every time she sees him.  Worse, they usually end up arguing about the stupidest things, which makes her even more upset.

In her senior year, Jemma has big dreams for the future.  She has a secret plan; she wants to attend film school in NYC, far away from her family and friends.  And far away from Ryder.  When her sister, Nan,  is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, her dreams are derailed.  Her parents have to fly to Houston with her sister for her treatment, leaving Jemma alone and confused.  Frightened for the well-being of her one daughter, her mother refuses to even discuss letting Jemma apply to a school as far away as NYC.  Worried and resigned that Nan’s future is more important than hers, Jemma waits at home, alone, for word of her sister’s progress.

While everyone is out of town, the worst hurricane since Katrina barrels down on Mississippi.  This was my favorite part of the book, because the author captured the intensity of the storm so vividly.  Howling winds, pelleting rains, surging floods – you name it, and Jemma and Ryder had to face these terrible threats alone.  The whole storm sequence was engrossing and I couldn’t put the book down.  Jemma and Ryder are forced to put their differences aside and work together to make it through the storm.  They arrive at a truce, and maybe something more, until life returns back to normal in the aftermath of the hurricane.  Then they are at odds again, but for entirely different reasons.

This is where the story fell ever so slightly off the rails for me, but I don’t want to go into detail because it’s a pretty major spoiler.  Suffice it to say, this latest roadblock to true love seemed very contrived and I just didn’t buy into the tragedy.  And, to be honest, it’s kind of hard to beat the tension and fear of eminent death brought on by the hurricane, so anything that happened after it blew itself out of town was kind of anticlimactic.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Jemma and Ryder are far from friends—until a storm stirs up their passion in this contemporary southern romance from New York Times bestselling author Kristi Cook.

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, The Cafferty and Marsden families are practically royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when the families finally have a baby boy and girl at the same time, the perfect opportunity seems to have arrived.

Except Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen—oh, and also? They hate each other. Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would prefer it if stubborn-headed Jemma didn’t exist. And their communication is not exactly effective: even a casual hello turns into a yelling match.
But when a violent Mississippi storm ravages through Magnolia Branch, it unearths feelings Jemma and Ryder didn’t know they had. And the line between love and hate just might be thin enough to cross…

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14. ¡El Cucuy!


Review by Ariadna Sánchez
The Bogeyman is one of the most iconic figures in the Latin culture. In addition, La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) and El Chupacabras are folkloric characters that seduce old and new generations into a mysterious and magical world. The legends, myths, and folk stories about these unique figures gave birth to a legacy that will last forever in Mexico’s villages and cities as well as the rest of Latin America.
¡El Cucuy! A Bogeyman Cuento in English and Spanish as told by Joe Hayes and phenomenally illustrated by Honorio Robledo is a must read during the summer break.
In Oaxaca, México El Cucuy is best known as el Coco. Hayes description of El Cucuy matches the one my abuelita used to tell me “a gigantic old man with a humped back and a large, red left ear that can hear everything. And he comes to town for lazy and disobedient girls and boys.”
The tale gives young readers a bittersweet experience as the two girls are carried by El Cucuy towards the mountain. The two sisters are afraid and sorry for their behavior with their father and younger sister. One day, a boy losses one of his goats. The goat starts to bleat louder and louder right above El Cucuy’s cave. The girls plea the boy for help. He takes his jacket and uses it as a rope to rescue the girls. The girls climb up. Once free and safe the three children walk to the valley. At last, the girls reunite with their father and sister. Since that day, the two sisters are the most helpful and polite girls in town. The good news is that El Cucuy never appears again.

Joe Hayes adds at the end of the book a special note to readers and storytellers about ¡El Cucuy! Visit your local library for more amazing stories. Reading gives you wings. Hasta Pronto 
Check the following link for more cool books by Joe Hayes: http://www.cincopuntos.com/products_detail.sstg?id=4
Joe Hayes Narrates El Cucuy! - YouTube



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15. Novella Review:

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I’m a huge Kelly Hunter fan, so when this novella popped up at Amazon for .99, I grabbed it with no hesitation.  Didn’t even read the blurb.  I just had to have it.  I am so glad that I hit the Buy button, because this is a fun, slightly angsty read.  And guess what?  The heroine is a costume designer and a co-player, and most of the story takes place at a gaming convention.  Talk about pushing all of my geek buttons!

Eli is still mourning the loss of his girlfriend, five years after her death.  He has cut himself off from almost everyone but his family.  His only joy comes  on Friday, during his weekly online gaming session with Fuzzy aka Zoey, another hardcore gamer.  She is a take no prisoners kind of girl, and Eli has developed a fondness for her over the two years they’ve been gaming together.  When his brothers plot to have them meet in real life, at a local gaming convention, he isn’t happy at first.  He’s down right put out.  His social life is just fine, thank you very much.  He’s reluctant to step outside of his comfort zone, but he doesn’t want to hurt Zoey’s feelings, either, so he agrees to go.

Zoey is delighted when Eli asks her to go to the convention with him.  She doesn’t know that the text she received is from his brother, but it probably wouldn’t have slowed her down if she had known.  That’s what I enjoyed so much about this fun novella.  Zoey is vivacious and full of life, while Eli has been avoiding life for the past five years.  Zoey loves people, she loves making everyone feel special, and she has to be in the thick of the action.  Sitting on the sidelines is not for her.  Jumping into new situations with both feet and never a backwards glance is how she’s wired, while Eli is much more reserved and cautious.  The push and pull between them was engaging, and it was nice to see the heroine take charge for a change.

If I have one quibble, it was with the potential relationship deal breaker, which seemed to come out of nowhere.  While it was the one thing that would have sent Eli packing, it came out of left field.  Other than that, this is the perfect read for a lazy afternoon.

Grade:  B+

Review copy purchase from Amazon

From Amazon:

They were on the honeymoon of a lifetime. Pity it wasn’t theirs.

Eli Jackson has just married the woman of his dreams. Sure, it was part of an online role-playing game and not exactly real, but he totally dominated the wedding battle that followed and his lady wife was very impressed.

Eli never imagined that his brothers would bestow on them a real-world honeymoon package at one of the Gold Coast’s premier hotels. He never figured on costume designer Zoey Daniels being such fun. Together they’re dynamite, but Eli’s not looking for a real relationship and Zoey lives only for the day.
Besides, no one falls in love this fast. Do they?

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16. Novella Review: For Her Spy Only by Robyn DeHart

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I picked up For Her Spy Only because I was in the mood for a quick read.  I enjoyed this quite a bit, but thought the ending was very rushed.  Maybe I just liked the characters so much that I would have liked to get know them even better.  There’s some intrigue, adventure, and an unconventional hero, which was a refreshing change.  Alistair couldn’t be further from a smooth talking operator, and I enjoyed that Winifred accepted him for who he was, and the thought of changing him never crossed her mind. 

When Winifred is stranded in a disabled coach on Christmas Eve, her unlikely rescuer is none other than Alistair, Marquess of Coventry.  Rumors swirl about the reclusive man, claiming that Alistair murdered his young wife, but after meeting him, Winifred dismisses them as idle talk.  Alistair’s dark reputation, however, gets her pulse pounding, and she decides that an affair with him will spice up her life.  She is also the victim of unkind rumors, which began after she was jilted at the altar, so she feels, with her reputation already in tatters, that she has nothing to lose. 

Six years later, Winifred has an unwelcome visitor.  Alistair is standing on her door step, asking after her husband, who has recently passed away.  Alistair reveals that he’s a code-breaker, and in order to protect the Crown, he needs the help of her late husband’s maps to help decipher his latest assignment.  Unfortunately, the maps he needs have been stolen.  Winifred agrees to help him locate the maps, mainly to get him back out of her life.  She has a big secret she’s keeping from him, and she’s terrified that he’ll discover that she’s been hiding his son from him for all these years.

I didn’t blame Winifred one bit for hiding Oliver’s existence from Alistair.  He made it very clear that he never wanted children, and took precautions to prevent an unwanted pregnancy during their brief time together.  Obviously unsuccessful precautions.  Winifred decided to raise her son without telling Alistair, but now she’s terrified that he’ll discover that he has a son.  She’s not certain what his reaction will be, but she’s sure it will be dreadful.

The hero made this read for me.  Alistair is somewhere on the autism spectrum, and while he’s a whiz at cracking codes, social interactions are a trial for him.  He is painfully blunt and has no sense of humor.  Most people bore him with their mindless nattering.  Winifred intrigues him because she doesn’t pester him with small talk, and she accepts him for who he is.   Bullied as a child and shown only distain from his mother, he prefers to keep his own company.  That is, until he is unexpectedly reunited with Winifred and begins to develop feelings for her. Gasp!

As previously stated, I thought the ending was very rushed, but the unusual hero made up for that shortcoming.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

England, 1814

When Winifred is rescued from her snow-stranded carriage by the notorious and reclusive Alistair, Marquess of Coventry, she is instantly drawn to him. Jilted by her betrothed and socially ruined by untrue rumors, Winifred is tired of paying for crimes she didn’t commit and decides to play the seductress London society claims she is. Thinking a night of passion shouldn’t leave any lasting effects, she instead finds her heart marked forever.

Six years later, Alistair is working for the Regent as a spy. A search for Napoleon’s English supporters leads him to the beguiling Winifred, recently widowed with a young son. He hasn’t forgotten how the unconventional beauty warmed his bed, and the heat between them rekindles immediately. The spymaster is determined to uncover all of plucky Winifred’s secrets. Especially the one regarding her son…

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17. Review of Alphabet Wildlife A to Z by Nata Romeo, on THE BOOK REPORT!


Alphabet Wildlife A to Z 
by Nata Romeo
Reviewed by  J.D. Holiday

Children will enjoy the Alphabet Wildlife A to Z. Each letter is taught with Nata Romeo's unique and amazing style of artwork. The images
has a stunning effects in ink and pen, some in colored ink and others in black and white using shapes and various forms of line. Very creative.
It will appeal to new young readers on a few levels as they meet animals from around the world, viewing the book's fresh and innovative artwork, and learning at the same time. This book will surely do its job of introducing the alphabet and teaching them the letters needed to create words.
Alphabet Wildlife A to Z it is easy to follow and will be enjoyed by everyone.





That's my review of Alphabet Wildlife A to Z by Nata Romeoon THE BOOK REPORT!                                                          ~JD


Nata Romeo's site: www.nataromeo.com

0 Comments on Review of Alphabet Wildlife A to Z by Nata Romeo, on THE BOOK REPORT! as of 7/25/2014 12:14:00 AM
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18. Review: We Were Liars by E Lockhart

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Wow! This is a hard book to review, because it’s so important for the reader to go in blind, or it won’t work.  The slow unfolding of Cady’s forgotten memory, like a languid summer day, is suspenseful and engrossing.  I started reading They Were Liars without even reading the blurb, and I’m glad I didn’t.  Knowing too much going in spoils the mystery of Cady’s lost summer, so I hadn’t even read any reviews for the book.  I hate spoilers!

I’ll give you a general overview of the story, with no spoilers, and try to tell you how I felt about it without ruining the read for you.  Deep breath – here we go!

Cady spends her summers on Beechwood, the family island.  Her grandparents, and each of their three daughters, have a house there, and Cady’s summer days are spent swimming, hanging out with her cousins, and enjoying the closeness of her extended family.  Everything seems so idyllic to her, until she turns fifteen.  Then her life slowly starts to unravel; her father leaves her and her mother, moving to Colorado with another woman.  Because her family doesn’t believe in actually expressing your feelings, her mother works out her hurt and grief by erasing every trace of Cady’s father from their life.  Their old furniture is given away, the house in Vermont is redecorated, and only then can they begin their summer vacation.

While Cady is hurt and confused, and hadn’t found the process of rearranging the house therapeutic, her mother continues on as though nothing has happens, and she expects Cady to do the same.  Stiff upper lip, steady square jaw, no emotional outbursts allowed.   It’s during this pivotal summer that Cady realizes how imperfect her family is.  Petty jealousies tear away at her aunts.  Her grandfather takes pleasure in fueling the discord between his children.  And Gat, her cousin Johnny’s friend, a boy she’s known forever, has suddenly stolen her heart, despite her family’s disapproval, because Gat doesn’t fit into their wealthy, white world view.

Cady is an unreliable narrator, and I was never sure when she was telling the truth, or what she thought was the truth.  When she forgets most of summer fifteen after suffering a traumatic brain injury, she frantically attempts to discover what happened.  Why was she swimming by herself?  Why won’t her mom or the rest of her family tell her what happened that warm summer night?

While I loved Cady’s voice, I’m not so sure that I liked this over-indulged, spoiled young woman.  Even though I was at odds about how I felt about her and her equally privileged cousins,  I could not put the book down.  Now that it’s a day after I finished We Were Liars, I can’t even tell you if I liked the book.  All I know is that it held me mesmerized, and all I wanted was to find out the truth behind Cady and her whacked family.  If you are looking for a quick, hard to put down read, We Were Liars has your name written all over it. 

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

The post Review: We Were Liars by E Lockhart appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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19. Micro Reviews: Zombies, Cowboys, and Rock Stars

Here’s a look at some books that I read recently but never got around to reviewing.   

Donna of the Dead is a fun, tongue-in-cheek YA zombie book.  I didn’t take this too seriously, and I enjoyed it better for that.  There’s a ton of action, a little romance, and room for a sequel, which I will definitely read.  Donna’s adventures begin on a cruise ship, and her vacation goes to hell as the other passengers succumb to the zombie plague.  She and her best buddy, Deke, manage to battle their way to freedom, only to seek sanctuary at their high school with a handful of uninfected classmates.  This reminded me a lot of the Buffy the Vampire movie (not the TV series!). If you like campy humor and groan worthy one-liners, Donna of the Dead should appeal to you.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Donna Pierce might hear voices, but that doesn’t mean she’s crazy. Probably.

The voices do serve their purpose, though—whenever Donna hears them, she knows she’s in danger. So when they start yelling at the top of their proverbial lungs, it’s no surprise she and her best friend, Deke, end up narrowly escaping a zombie horde. Alone without their families, they take refuge at their high school with the super-helpful nerds, the bossy head cheerleader, and—best of all?—Liam, hottie extraordinaire and Donna’s long-time crush. When Liam is around, it’s easy to forget about the moaning zombies, her dad’s plight to reach them, and how weird Deke is suddenly acting toward her.

But as the teens’ numbers dwindle and their escape plans fall apart, Donna has to listen to the secrets those voices in her head have been hiding. It seems not all the zombies are shuffling idiots, and the half-undead aren’t really down with kids like Donna…

Last of the Red-Hot Cowboys is another book that is best enjoyed with a sense of humor.  Some of the characters are so odd that I feared for the small Texas town they resided in.  Ava has traveled to Hell, Texas to train at the Outlaws Training Center, only to learns, much to her dismay, that Trace, the spokesman for the rodeo training instructors, refuses to train women for the dangerous arena.  Ava wants to be a bullfighter, and she knows that she rides well enough to protect bull riders after they get tossed into the dirt, but Trace says no way!  I liked the quirky characters and verbal exchanges, but some of the shenanigans had me rolling my eyes.  And the mayor’s hair could be a character by itself!  This is the perfect read for a day in the sun.  The smexy times are hot, and the oddball cast kept me amused.

Grade:  B = BEACH READ!

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A sexy cowgirl gives a rugged Texas loner the ride of his life in USA Today bestselling author Tina Leonard’s seductive new series.

Ava Buchanan dreams of a career on the rodeo circuit. Winning a spot on a one-of-a-kind team would be her ticket to the life she’s always wanted. Ava won’t let anyone stand in her way—not even a stubborn cowboy whose slow-molasses smile and red-hot swagger set her senses aflame . . . and whose talents as a trainer could make her a star. Rodeo might be a man’s game, but Ava knows the right woman’s touch can tame the wildest heart.

Trace Carter believes his mayor’s plan to raise the town’s profile has disaster written all over it, and he won’t allow the Hell’s Outlaws Training Center to be dragged into the fiasco. Yet watching Ava’s delectable body on horseback proves too much of a temptation, and his fantasies stray to her riding skills outside the arena. Soon Trace is fighting like hell to rein in his unbridled desire for the petite brunette before it becomes a passion hotter than the Texas sun.

May Contain Spoilers

I loved this novella!  Poor Lou, a total control freak, chases away the band she’s managing on the eve of their big break.  Desperate to salvage her chance at the big time, she is forced to confront her extreme stage fright, with the help of Zippy, better known as Crash Burns.  Zipman was the big time, until tragedy derailed his career.  Now he has the opportunity to help Lou get over her anxiety about performing onstage.  The chemistry clicked between the protagonists, there’s a great sense of humor, and Lou’s fear of performing live was completely engrossing.  If you are looking for something quick, sexy, and romantic, give Zipless a go.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Rocking, rolling and romancing in New York City — Scottish style!

Unable to perform due to paralyzing anxiety, singer-songwriter Lou Marzaroli has been managing her brother’s band for years, driving them out of Scotland and into the big time. But days before their American network debut, the band is imploding and Lou is relieving her stress in a no-strings-attached sexual encounter with an aging scenester she’s nicknamed Zippy.

The Zipman is sometimes remembered as Crash Burns, formerly of seminal L.A. glampunk band, Snakebite. It’s been years since he’d trashed the eyeliner and hairspray, and he hasn’t written a song since. Now he’s penning lyrics about the mysterious woman he last saw sprinting barefoot in a miniskirt down West Twenty Third. She’s the muse he’s been longing for, and he’s determined to be more than her one night stand.

When the head honchos learn Lou wrote the band’s material, they agree to give her the TV spot, sending her to be coached by their performance guru, Crash Burns. Now Lou must put herself in Zippy’s hands as he coaxes a life-changing performance from her. And the man who used to perform in nothing but a leather thong must find ways to get her confident on stage— and content in only one bed.

20,390 Words

The post Micro Reviews: Zombies, Cowboys, and Rock Stars appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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20. Crunchyroll Morning: Skip Beat!, Sailor Moon Crystal, and Arslan

I’ve kind of been in a funk the last few days, and  I’m not sure why.  I’m having a hard time finding a book that holds my interest for more than a few chapters, so I set my Kindle down this morning and spent some time playing with Crunchyroll.  If you haven’t heard of the site before, Crunchyroll bills itself as “the leading global video service for Japanese Anime and Asian media.”  They offer free streaming of anime and manga, as well as paid memberships for access to a larger library of titles with no advertising.  Everything I’m going to talk about today I viewed under their free offerings.

 

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Chapter 1 by   Yoshiki Tanaka and  Hiromu Arakawa (author of Fullmetal Alchemist)

About the series:

Someday, a boy will become a man, then in time, the man will become a king. Who is the true hero?! An unprecedented story of the struggle to succeed the throne has begun. Hiromu Arakawa, the creator of “Fullmetal Alchemist” illustrates the great historical fantasy novel in a never before seen style!

My thoughts:

Many years ago, I watched the anime of Arslan.  I loved it.  When I discovered that the anime was based on a series of Japanese novels (13 volumes and still on-going, I believe), and that there was a manga series, too, I kept hoping it would get licensed.  It didn’t, but Hiromu Arakawa reimagined Yoshiki Tanaka’s novels for Bessatsu Shonen magazine, and it did.   As FMA is one of my favorite series, I was excited to see Arslan on Crunchyroll. 

The first chapter introduces 11 year-old Prince Arslan.  He’s a kind-hearted boy, in direct contrast to his cold parents.  His father, King Andragoras, is a fierce warrior and his armies have never been defeated in battle.  When the warriors return victorious from recent skirmishes, Arslan saves some boys from an escaped warrior and gets dragged along on his dash to freedom.  The enemy warrior is also 11, but he couldn’t be different from Arslan.  Tough and a seasoned warrior, he refuses to submit to slavery.  As Arslan is dragged around  his city, he is given a different perspective of his enemies’ beliefs than he’s been taught, which leaves him wondering why his kingdom is at war with their neighbors. 

I enjoyed the pacing of the manga, and I liked Arslan.  We don’t get to learn much about him, except that he isn’t skilled in arms and that he is a kind, caring kid.  I love Arakawa’s art, and I would read this just to get a chance to enjoy her illustrations. 

Rating: B+

 

Skip*Beat! Episode 1

Ahahaha!  I love Skip*Beat!  I am so far behind in the manga, but I figure if I watch the anime up to where I left off, I can start reading again without forgetting too much.  I hope.  This is a very funny series about a normally meek, kind girl who completely loses her shit when she discovers that the boy she has loved since childhood thinks that she’s boring and ugly.  Sho, an idol who is just starting to hit the big time, has only been using Kyoko to pay his bills and clean up after him after they move to Tokyo.  Kyoko thought that Sho asked her to go with him because he cared for her, but NO!  All he ever saw her as was an unpaid maid.

Kyoko’s never-ending grudge is released from the locked boxes in her heart, and after she declares her intention to get revenge on Sho’s crappy treatment of her, he mocks her and tells her the only way a little commoner like her could ever get back at a big star like him is to become famous, too, so Kyoko, all guns blazing, decides that she will make it big in show biz, and she will be a bigger star than Sho.

I love this series because it’s funny, Kyoko goes from being a doormat to a butt-kicker, and Ren, Sho’s biggest rival, is hot.  I’m looking forward to watching all 25 episodes of Skip*Beat!, but I think the manga is still ongoing, so I have to catch up on my reading, too!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 1

Ah, there is just something comforting about Sailor Moon.  This reboot of the series is fun, fast-paced, and vividly colorful.  I loved revisiting with Usagi and Luna, and I can’t believe the series is 20 years old.  I never get tired of Sailor Moon, regardless of format, and have enjoyed the manga (both Tokyopop’s awful presentation, and Kodansha’s much better packaged release), anime series, and live-action show.  Usagi is so easy to relate to.  She doesn’t want to do anything that’s hard – homework, studying, exercising, chores – and would rather spent her time eating, napping, and playing video games.  Who wouldn’t!  She’s also clumsy and hardly an athletic girl, so, while I fear that the fate of the world is resting on her shoulders, I know that Luna and Tuxedo Mask won’t let her completely screw up.  If you haven’t watched the show before, give it a try.  There is a reason Sailor Moon is still popular after more than two decades, and that’s because the storytelling is fun, and the characters are so likeable.

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21. Manga Review: Stepping on Roses Vol 9 (Final) by Rinko Ueda

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Now that I have a nifty second-hand treadmill, I find myself reading more digital manga.  It’s just so easy to march along on the track, flipping pages every few seconds.  The workouts go by much faster, I’m getting caught up on some of the series I’ve been neglecting, and I’m getting healthier while I’m multi-tasking.  Who could ask for more?

Stepping on Roses has been my manga crack for a while, but the final volume has been moldering on my iPad for far too long.  I booted it up, clicked Start on the treadmill, and had the most entertaining 20 minutes in a while.  All of my gasping, eeewwwws, and ahhhhhs kept Poppy pretty entertained, too.  Every time something unexpected happened in the story, I couldn’t help but  make some weird sound, which kept disturbing her as she snoozed on the sofa.  Bumble couldn’t have cared less, but I don’t think Poppy enjoyed the last volume quite so much.

Sumi has been fending off Nozomu, telling him that they can’t be married until he’s legally divorced from Miu (I mean DUH!).  Soichiro is performing manual labor in his efforts to work his way back up the ladder so he can take back control of the family business again.  His luck is finally starting to take a turn for the better when he helps a foreign businessman by translating for him when he can’t make himself understood in a business negotiation.  With a new job interpreting for the foreigner, Soichiro and Sumi are pleasantly surprised that they are able to see each other again when Nozomu has business dealings with the man.  Nozomu, not so happy.  In fact, evil Nozomu makes a reappearance, and he tries, yet again, to force himself on Sumi.  You’d think this guy would learn, but no.  Instead, he chases Sumi away, straight into Soichiro’s waiting arms.

While I was happy that Sumi and Soichiro were finally able to be together for a passionate interlude, I wasn’t quite so happy with how rushed the story felt shortly after.  In a fit of jealousy, Nozomu confines Sumi to his house, and arranges to have their wedding in just two weeks.  That’s when things got really weird.  A trip to visit Nozomu’s father yields very unwelcome news for Nozomu, which would have made his marriage to Sumi socially unacceptable. (I’m trying not to spoil this!)  He disregards the revelation, determined to finally make Sumi his.  Ugh and eek!  Soichiro zooms in at the last second to save her, and Nozomu, from this disastrous union, and tra-la-la!  The story’s OVER!

While I was disappointed with the last two raced through chapters, overall, I loved Stepping on Roses.  It is a soap opera at it’s best, with one misfortune after another befalling the sweet, likeable Sumi.  The melodrama has been epic, and I have enjoyed both loving and hating on the characters, especially Nozomu and Eisuke.  Soichiro finally got a clue, but he almost got it too late to save his relationship with Sumi, and considering how messed up that was at the beginning, it’s a wonder that everyone managed to score a happily ever after, and I do mean everyone.  That at least was fun, but the big reveal of Sumi’s real family?  Not so much. 

Grade:  B/B-

B+ for series overall

From Amazon:

Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition: he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi fool high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?

The post Manga Review: Stepping on Roses Vol 9 (Final) by Rinko Ueda appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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22. Review: Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Going Down in Flames is a very fun book.  It features a tried and true premise;  the big family secret.   Bryn’s parents have been keeping a big secret from her, and when she learns that she’s a dragon, she is less than pleased with them.  Her parents have fled from the dragon community because they were forbidden to be together, and Bryn, the offspring of a blue and red dragon, should never have been born.  The governing body of the dragons, the Directorate, has carefully kept the dragon clans segregated, and they are not happy with Bryn’s parents, or about Bryn.  Not at all!  Yet they force her, on her 16th birthday, to move into the boarding school where young dragons are taught to control their powers.  Poor Bryn! The only crossbred, she’s met with suspicion and hatred.  I wouldn’t have been too happy with my parents, either!

The blue dragons hate her, the red dragons think she’s a freak of nature, and only the green dragons, known for their intelligence and curiosity, allow her to move into their dorm house.  If she will allow them to study her, that is.  With no real choice, Bryn reluctantly agrees.  Refusing to attend school will have ruinous results for her parents, so for their sake, she packs her things and heads off to dragon school.  The head of the Directorate, the man her mother ditched for her father, is still smarting from the blow to his pride, and he doesn’t hesitate to take some of that rage out on Bryn.  Soon, attempts are being made on her life, and Bryn has to figure out who is behind them, before they succeed.  And she has to try to fit into the very unwelcoming dragon community, where the Directorate has the last say on everything, from career choice to marriage petitions. 

I usually find stories set in magical boarding schools tedious.  I mean, after Harry Potter, everything else seems redundant.  Going Down in Flames worked for me, though, because I liked Bryn so much.  She’s a strong character who doesn’t put up with any crap, and she fights for what she believes in, regardless of the grief she knows will result.  I’m not so sure I agree with her taste in possible boyfriends, though, especially when that guy is promised to another dragon. 

I found Going Down in Flames a fast, fun read.  There’s humor, action, and a little romance.  Best of all, there are characters that I loved and characters that I wanted to strangle, which made the book very difficult to put down.

Grade:  A-/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

If her love life is going down in flames, she might as well spark a revolution.

Finding out on your sixteenth birthday you’re a shape-shifting dragon is tough to swallow. Being hauled off to an elite boarding school is enough to choke on.

Since Bryn is the only crossbreed at the Institute for Excellence, all eyes are on her, but it’s a particular black dragon, Zavien, who catches her attention.

Zavien is tired of the Directorate’s rules. Segregated clans, being told who to love, and close-minded leaders make freedom of choice almost impossible. The new girl with the striped hair is a breath of fresh air, and with Bryn’s help, they may be able to change the rules.

At the Institute, old grudges, new crushes, and death threats are all part of a normal day for Bryn. She’ll need to learn to control her dragon powers if she wants to make it through her first year at school. But even focusing on staying alive is difficult when you’re falling for someone you can’t have.

The post Review: Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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23. Novella Review: Peanut Goes To School by Thea Harrison

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I requested Peanut Goes to School because it sounded cute.  Super strong paranormal kid heads off for his first day of school.  I haven’t read any of the Elder Races books (I keep calling them Elder Scrolls because that is one of my favorite video game franchises – sorry!), but that did not deter my enjoyment of this fun novella.  Even though he take down a pack of lions, Liam struggles in a social setting with classmates and unfamiliar adults, and I could not put this down.

Told mainly through Liam’s POV, this six-month-old prodigy is the son of Pia and Dragos.  He’s already the size of a large five-year-old, and he is a power to be reckoned with.  He can read and comprehend books in mere minutes (an ability that gets him into some trouble later on, and one that I wish I possessed), has an insatiable curiosity, and has fears just like any normal kid.  When he overhears his parents talking about him, he begins to wonder if he’s “bad.”  The conversation was taken completely out of context, but being a young boy testing his cloaking powers, he kind of deserved to be a bit unbalanced during his eavesdropping episode.  Wondering what they could mean, he loses his usually healthy appetite and gives himself a stomachache from the stress.  Adding to his discomfort, he’s about to head off to his first day of school, where he worries whether or not he’ll fit in and make any friends.

I loved Liam’s voice.  While he is smart and super powerful, he is like a fish out of water in school.  He has no idea how to relate to his schoolmates, and even recess is a puzzle for him.  He doesn’t understand why he has incurred his teacher’s wrath, and he’s already made enemies while defending a human kid from bullies.  Oh, his troubles seem to never end!  But so then does his wonder and joy at this confusing new experience.  He’s determined to figure things out on his own and not rely on his adult caretakers for cues on how to react to conflict.  There’s even a Dark Fae girl who catches his eye.

If you are looking for a short, endearing read, look no further.  While I thought the resolution with the teacher was wrapped up too abruptly, and brought up issues from out of nowhere, the rest of the story clicked merrily along.  While this was my first foray into the Elder Races, it will not be my last.

Grade:   B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

This is a short story (15,100 words or 55 pages) intended for readers of the Elder Races who enjoy Liam Cuelebre, aka Peanut, as a character.

Dragos Cuelebre is no longer the only dragon.

Dragos’s son Liam Cuelebre (a.k.a. Peanut) is springing into existence, reminiscent of the first of the Elder Races who were born at the beginning of the world. At just six months of age, he has already grown to the size of a large five-year-old boy. He can read, write in complete sentences, and his math skills are off the chart.

A white dragon in his Wyr form, Liam also holds more Power than almost anyone else. In an effort to give him a taste of normality, no matter how fleeting, his parents Pia and Dragos enroll him in first grade.

They hope school will help teach Liam how to relate to others, a vital skill that will help him control his growing Power. But school has a surprising number of pitfalls, and relating to others can be a tricky business.

When a classmate is threatened, Liam must quickly learn self-control, how to rein in his instincts, and govern his temper, because there’s no doubt about it—he is fast becoming one of the most dangerous creatures in all of the Elder Races.

PEANUT GOES TO SCHOOL is part of a three-story series about Pia, Dragos, and Peanut. Each story stands alone, but fans might want to read all three: DRAGOS TAKES A HOLIDAY, PIA SAVES THE DAY, and PEANUT GOES TO SCHOOL.

The post Novella Review: Peanut Goes To School by Thea Harrison appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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24. Review: Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I have been having a hard time finishing a book for the last week or so.  Nothing has been holding my interest, and when that happens, I usually pick up a Harlequin to help me over my reading hurdle.  There’s just something about the formula and the guaranteed HEA that I, and many, many others, find appealing.  I picked up Her Cowboy Hero because it has, you guessed it, a cowboy!  Yeah, I can be pretty shallow.

Her Cowboy Hero is a very touching story about loss, acceptance, and finally moving forward instead of avoiding the future  and wallowing in the past.  Colin is still suffering from the tragic accident that took his wife and young son from him, and instead of trying to deal with his pain, he runs away from his memories.  Traveling from one short-term ranch job to another, he has given up his house, his vet practice, and even his siblings.  He never wants to be hurt again, so instead of caring about the people he still has left in his life, he turns his back on them, ignoring their gestures of comfort.  When he runs into Widow Shaw and her broken down truck, she’s the last person he thinks he needs in his life.  The young widow is beautiful, perpetually perky, and so not what he wants right now.  Maybe not, but he sure does need Hannah and her bright dreams for the future.

Hannah is struggling with grief, too.  Her husband was killed overseas, serving the country, and her mother-in-law, the only family she had left, passed away soon after.  Neither survived to see the birth of her son, Evan.  Having  been bounced around from one foster home to another when she was growing up, Hannah is determined to provide a loving, stable home for Evan, even if she has to do it on her own.  With a dream of fixing up the ranch that has been in husband’s family, and turning it into a B&B, she always puts her best foot forward.  Money’s tight and financing is a challenge, but she knows that everything will work out in the end.   Deciding long ago that she could either dwell on all of the unhappiness in her life or find the bright side to any situation, she is the ultimate glass is half-full kind of girl.  Colin, on the other hand, is a cheerless, grumpy cowboy, and he needs to lighten up.  A lot.  Good thing he ran into Hannah.

There were times during the first half of the book that I had tears in my eyes.  I loved how the relationships developed between Hannah and Colin, and Colin and Evan.  Colin has avoided children since the death of his son, and he feels panicky whenever Evan is around.  If he sees him coming, Colin turns and practically runs in the other direction.  When Evan tries to slide head first down the banister, Colin saves him from hurting himself, changing their relationship.

“Mr Colin?”  Evan’s voice was hesitant, but close.

Colin jerked his head up, realizing Evan had partially emerged from his sanctuary.

“Are you gonna cry?”

“What?” Surprised by the question, Colin raised a hand to his eyes, realizing his vision was beginning to blur.  Dammit.  He looked back at the curious little boy, but for a moment, he didn’t see Evan Shaw. He saw Danny’s face, Danny laughingly demanding to be swung high in the air.  Danny, solemn as he nodded his understanding that the oven was hot and that he needed to stay back.  Danny worn out after a Christmas carnival, asleep on his stomach with his little butt curved up in the air.

That now familiar suffocating sensation crowded Colin’s chest.  He shot to his feet, wanting to put as much space as possible between himself and this room filled with all the bright adventure of childhood.

I loved that scene between Colin and Evan.  It marks the point in Colin’s road where he is able to look at Evan and see beyond his grief.  He agrees to keep a secret for Evan, something he is reluctant to do, because he fears the bond it will forge between them, and the pain it might bring him.  It does change their relationship, allowing Colin to finally realize that, while he’s still heartbroken over the loss of his family, closing himself off from others is just as painful.

This conversation between Colin and his younger brother is another of my favorite scenes.  Colin has never seen comfortable discussing his feelings, but he discovers the value in doing just that, despite how awkward it makes him feel.  He also begins to acknowledge that he hasn’t done himself any favors by walking away from his family and friends.

“It’s like I’ve had a splinter in my heart,” he said haltingly.  “It got worse and worse and worse for two years, infected probably.  And Hannah somehow drew it to the surface.  She has this way of getting me to talk-about the accident, about random stuff like picking out nursery furniture before Danny was born.  She’s not only extracting the memories but the pain.”

Her Cowboy Hero is a sweet and touching journey from the grip of grief and despair, to the courage of self-forgiveness and the power of a second chance at love, because everyone deserves happiness-even a cranky cowboy.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

He’s Just The Hired Help… 

What kind of cockeyed Pollyanna is Colin Cade working for? Her porch is rotting, her “guest cabin” is cheerless and her land and livestock have only a geriatric cowboy to care for them. Yet Hannah Shaw is positive she can turn her ranch into a successful B and B—and that Colin’s the man to make it happen. 

But Colin can’t stick around. He lives with the loss of his family by avoiding the memories, and the way he feels around Hannah and her young son is like a knife to the heart. Trouble is, he’s better at ignoring his own pain than someone else’s, and bright, cheerful Hannah has a heart as haunted as his own. She deserves to be happy—but could she really be with him?

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25. Manga Review: Limit Volume 2 by Keiko Suenobu

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

It’s been a long time since I read the first volume of Limit, but I didn’t have any trouble picking up where I left off.  Only five high school students have been left alive after a terrible bus crash in the mountains of Japan, and they are struggling to survive with hardly any supplies.  Personalities clash from the get-go, so not only are they fighting the elements, they are fighting each other.  Morishigi, a victim of bullying, has the only weapon, and she wants some pay-back for all of the humiliation she’s suffered at school.  Konno, a pretty, popular girl, mocked Morishigi mercilessly, so now she gets a taste of grief.  Forced to fight with one of her friends, a girl who is smoldering with jealousy of Konno, Ichinose hesitates to lash out at her friend when Morishigi taunts her,  ripping apart her friendship with Konno and driving Ichinose into a rage.   Yeah, these guys need a conflict mediator, so they are lucky to have Kamiya.

 

I really like the art, and the tensions between the girls makes for captivating reading.  They are all tired, hungry, and scared, and without Kamiya, it’s doubtful that they would survive until they are rescued.  If they ever are, that is.  The adults with the responsibility for their well-being are clueless to say the least, and two days after their disappearance, have yet to realize that they are missing, or that most of the girls from their class were killed in a devastating bus wreck.  The teachers experience a massive miscommunication, and the bus company just wants their bus back so they can continue charging customers for charters.  Not one person in authority takes the time to actually verify that the class made it to the camp.  Not one!

Of all of the girls, Kamiya is my current favorite.  She’s level-headed, determined to survive, and completely focused on the end goal: getting back home to her family.  While the other girls allow raw emotion to sway their decisions and actions, Kamiya always thinks things through first.  She weighs the options and all of their consequences before she does anything, and that is going to go a long way into seeing her back home safely.  I hope. 

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In the second volume of The Limit, Mizuki has found herself in a position where her not only her social life is at risk, but her survival rests in the hands of the young women she was so desperately attempting to avoid. In the wild the strong survive, and while Alisa may not be smart or cute, she is physically strong. So she immediately takes command by gathering anything that may be used as a weapon to threaten the lives of anyone who may attempt to usurp her new found authority.

Mizuki will have to win over the trust of three people who truly despise her. Whether that means doing all the most dangerous tasks to survive or she must endure bullying, right now she understands that unity will be their only way home. Keeping that unity may be improbable, though.

The post Manga Review: Limit Volume 2 by Keiko Suenobu appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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