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1. Novella Review: Kingdom Keepers: Unforeseen by Ridley Pearson


May Contain Spoilers


I jumped at the chance to review Unforeseen because I love all things Disney.  My favorite vacation destination is the Happiest – and most Expensive- Place on Earth – the Disney resorts in Florida.  I drag Dean there, year after year, revisiting the same attractions, eating the same Mickey Bars, and riding the same rides, with a few exceptions.  The addition of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom means unseen experiences, as does the remodel of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, so you can bet that we will be hitting the parks again within the next year.  Which brings me back to the novella – I wanted to get a little taste of Disney World before our next trip.


I haven’t read any of the other Kingdom Keepers books, but I never felt lost in Unforeseen.  There is enough background detail provided that I didn’t have any trouble following the story.  It was a bit frustrating not knowing all of the girls’ backstory, because I’m anal that way, but it didn’t impede my understanding of the story.

Jessica is haunted by visions of cracks in the House of Mouse, so instead of brooding about the impending disaster, she sneaks into the deserted theme park to try to unravel the mystery of her dreams.  She meets up with one of the original Imagineers, and he, along with a young college student hoping to one day become an Imagineer himself, help Jess search for clues to unlock the true meaning of her dreams.  Her friend Amanda also sneaks into the park to join her on her dangerous quest.

If you aren’t a fan of Disney or of the parks, this story is not going to work for you.  I loved reading about all of the places I have been, and super secret Hidden Mickeys, and the girls’ journey through the Utilidors that weave the tunnels under the theme parks together.  It was also fun when some of my favorite Disney characters, both good and evil, dropped in for brief appearances. 

The thing I didn’t love? The feeling of incompleteness when I reached the last page.  Unforeseen is all set up for the last book in the Kingdom Keepers series, and it doesn’t stand well on its own.  Did it entice me to put The Insider on my want to read list?  Yes, but it was frustrating to read Unforeseen, and not really receive a payoff at the end. 

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Available exclusively here:


Fairlies Amanda and Jess have won the hearts of Kingdom Keepers fans. Over the years, they’ve protected and supported the five Disney guides with their paranormal abilities. Now for the first time, author Ridley Pearson focuses on the “fairly human” girls, taking us inside Jess’s mind as she and Amanda embark on a journey to unravel her latest prophetic dream.

Jessica’s “gift” to dream of future events is both a blessing and a curse—the same visions that have saved countless lives are pure torment for her. Trapped in a body with a mind that has a mind of its own, Jess is condemned to see things she would often rather not.

Picking up after Kingdom Keepers VI—Dark Passage and leading up to Book VII—The Insider, Unforeseen opens with Jess dreaming of “cracks” in Disneyland. Is this vision something that will consume and destroy her friends, the Kingdom Keepers?
Jess sets out to find answers, embarking on her own nighttime adventure inside the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. There, she encounters an old man with secrets, a young Imagineer-in-training whose future Jess wants to see, and a treasured wonderland about to shatter.

Sometimes, the Unforeseen is better left unknown.

The post Novella Review: Kingdom Keepers: Unforeseen by Ridley Pearson appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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2. A Children's Tribute to Gabriel García Márquez- My Name is Gabito

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Review by Ariadna Sánchez

Last week the world lost one of the most brilliant writers of the century. Gabriel García Márquez is considered a genie of modern literature. His words echo the unique and majestic essence of his intrepid spirit. García Márquez will live forever thanks to his master pieces full of imagination and beauty.

My Name is Gabito written by the award-winning author Monica Brown and delightfully illustrated by Raúl Colón depicts the childhood of the 1982 Nobel Prize Literature recipient Gabriel García Márquez.

Gabito was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, Colombia. Gabito was nurtured by his grandparents along with a 100-year-old parrot named Lorenzo el Magnifico. His grandfather was an important figure for the development of Gabito’s talent.  Gabito loved learning words from his grandfather’s dictionary. Gabito realized that the more he read, the more imaginative his stories became.  Gabito witnessed the struggles of poor banana workers in his hometown. This situation created an urgent sense of justice and equal opportunity for all people. This life experience was evident in his novels because he often shared stories about the banana workers.

Gabito grew, grew, and grew. Gabito became one of the most famous Latin-American writers in the world.  As a result, Gabriel García Márquez became an international figure. Gabito wrote more than thirty books, some of his emblematic novels are Love in the Time of Cholera, Living to Tell the Tale, and the best-seller One Hundred Years of Solitude. During his lifetime, Gabito received the most prestigious awards for his merit. In 1982 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature reaffirming the remarkable gift to produce incomparable stories. Gabito married his boyhood girlfriend, Mercedes Bacha Pardo, and they had two sons named Rodrigo and Gonzalo. This is a phenomenal life for an incredible human being.

My Name is Gabito helps children learn and appreciate the extraordinary journey of Gabriel García Márquez, and it also allows them to discover the dynamism of the renowned author. His legacy will last for an eternity in our hearts and in our mind. Thanks to the Tlapazola community from Oaxaca, Mexico for spreading the legacy of the eternal Gabito.

¡Viva Gabriel García Márquez por siempre!

* * * 

My Name is Gabito/Me llamo Gabito Presentation 

for ELL Bilingual Reading Night

Monica Brown author of  "My Name Is Gabito/My llamo Gabito" talks  about how "One Hundred Years of Solitude" changed her life as a high school student. See more of the interview: http://www.colorincolorado.org/read/meet/brown/

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3. Graphic Novel Review: Vinland Saga 2 by Makoto Yukimura

May Contain Spoilers


Wowzers!  Akseladd is just a prick!  Just when I start liking the guy, he goes and does something so cold-blooded and heartless that I have to immediately dislike him again.  He’s cunning, crafty, and greedy, and he wants to maximize profits for his warriors, even at the expense of what would be considered his allies.  Start a raging forest fire to smoke out the kidnapped Prince Canute?  Not a problem.  Strike down other rescuers so that he can keep all of the reward money for himself?  Certainly not a problem!  This is one guy that you don’t want on your bad side.  Or anywhere near you at all, especially if he or any of his men have projectile weapons!

While  I love the action, and there is plenty of that, I also find the historical details fascinating.  I don’t know much about Vikings, or Medieval Europe for that matter, but Makoto Yukimura is sprinkling the text with interesting facts about the time period.  It’s a chaotic time, with constant conflict between the European groups of the day.  Everyone wants a piece of the pie, and they will do anything to get it.  Murder, pillage, mayhem – it’s the coin of the times.  Trusting anyone seems like a very dangerous proposition, as many of the characters have found out, much to their dismay.  Askeladd’s betrayal of Thors has twisted and reshaped Thorfinn into a killing machine with one goal – to kill the man who killed his father.  I keep wondering what kind of a man Thorfinn would have grown into if he hadn’t stowed away on his father’s boat.  Would he be so consumed by hatred, if he hadn’t witnessed his death?

The main story arc for this volume centered around the rescue of Canute, the teenaged son of Sweyn, Kind of Denmark.  He’s been captured by Thorkell, a Dane who has chosen to help defend London against the Vikings threatening to overwhelm it.  He comes across as sort of a simple guy, whose first love is fighting and testing his strength against other warriors.  Thorfinn has brief, violent run-in with him. He manages to escape from the larger man, and gains some respect from him at the same time, all while proving that he has a lot to learn when it comes to making friends.  Everybody hates Thorfinn, but who can blame them? He acts like a sullen little prick, and seeing the interaction between him and Canute is like watching two different species trying to communicate.  So, while he excels at slaughter, he really needs to work on his people skills.

After two volumes, I am totally hooked on Vinland Saga.  I love the history, the action, and the sheer brutality of the characters.  It’s probably a good thing these Vikings don’t pack mirrors in their gear; I don’t understand how they could stand to look at themselves and not feel one shred of remorse for their behavior.  Then again, in a time when it’s kill or be killed, they all fit right in.

Volume 3 comes out April 29, and I can hardly wait!

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by my local library

From Amazon:

ENGLAND AT WAR The foolish King Ethelred has fled, and Askeladd’s band is one of hundreds plundering the English countryside. Yet victory brings no peace to the elderly Danish King Sweyn, who worries that his untested, sensitive son Canute will never be ready to take the throne. The king’s attempt to force his son to become a man places the young prince within the grasp of the gleeful killer Thorkell! Whoever holds Canute holds the key to the thrones of England and Denmark – and Askeladd has his own reasons for joining the fray! “With its rich visual details, emotional pull and strong characters, this historical epic is an instant winner.” – Anime News Network Winner of the Japan Media Arts Awards Grand Prize for Manga and the Kodansha Manga Award From the acclaimed author of Planetes

The post Graphic Novel Review: Vinland Saga 2 by Makoto Yukimura appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Review: Bang by Lisa McMann


May Contain Spoilers


I thought that Crash, the first book in the Visions trilogy, was a bit repetitive.  Don’t get me wrong – I still couldn’t put it down and read it in short order.  But the never ending replay of the vision haunting Jules became tedious about the 100th time through.  Bang never felt like a CD set on Replay, probably because the vision is Sawyer’s, and Jules does not have firsthand knowledge of it.  Instead, Sawyer’s nightmare is relayed to Jules in painstaking detail as he is forced to watch it over and over again.  That distance made all the difference.

When Sawyer tells Jules that he’s suffering from a vision of an impending disaster, she wants to help him figure out what’s going on so they can stop it from happening.  Sawyer is haunted as the vision becomes ever more gruesome – a pile of bodies lie crumbled in a classroom, staining the floor red with blood.  All he can hear is the bang! bang! bang! of gunfire.  He’s desperate to find a way to make it stop, but if it’s anything like Jules’ vision of the crash, the only way to make it go away is to figure out when the shooting is going to happen and stop it, saving the lives of a bunch of people he doesn’t even know.

Using her experience with her own vision as a guideline, Jules dives in and helps him sort out details of the upcoming tragedy.  Where are the victims?  What are they wearing? Can he tell what time of day the shooting will occur?  They slowly unravel snippets of details about the incident, which aid them as they race to solve the mystery before the shooting happens, or before Sawyer is driven insane by what’s he’s forced to watch all the time.

To complicate matters, Jules and Sawyer have to deal with their families and their animosity towards each other.  The Demarco’s and the Angotti’s certainly know how to hold a grudge.  Neither of their fathers is ready to bury the hatchet on the feud that has simmered between them for years, and both Jules and Sawyer are punished when they are caught together.  Jules is having a terrible time showing any kind of respect for her father.  He’s a liar and a cheat, and she suspects that he’s a coward, as well.  I wonder if he suffers from the visions, too, but hasn’t been able to do anything about them.  Maybe that explains his odd behavior and probable mental illness?

I enjoyed the book because I liked Jules, her siblings, and Sawyer so much.  They are just trying to do the right thing, and not get buried by the weirdness of their families.  They all start to show some independence and resistance to the status quo, though all of their parental relationships suffered for it. 

I don’t want to spoil any of the mystery, so I’ll just sum things up by stating that Bang kept me on the edge of my seat, and I hated to put it down.  It’s a very fast read, with plenty of twists and turns, and enough parental conflict to keep any teenager distracted.  I felt so bad for Jules!  Her home is certainly not a haven for her, and neither is Sawyer’s. I can hardly wait to learn what secrets Jules’ father is hiding in Gasp, the last volume of the Visions trilogy.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

What Sawyer’s seeing might mean murder. The second book in a series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.

Jules should be happy. She saved a lot of people’s lives and she’s finally with Sawyer, pretty much the guy of her dreams. But the nightmare’s not over, because she somehow managed to pass the psycho vision stuff to Sawyer. Excellent.

Feeling responsible for what he’s going through and knowing that people’s lives are at stake, Jules is determined to help him figure it all out. But Sawyer’s vision is so awful he can barely describe it, much less make sense of it. All he can tell her is there’s a gun, and eleven ear-splitting shots. Bang.

Jules and Sawyer have to work out the details fast, because the visions are getting worse and that means only one thing: time is running out. But every clue they see takes them down the wrong path. If they can’t prevent the vision from happening, lives will be lost. And they may be among the casualties…

The post Review: Bang by Lisa McMann appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Me And My Cat?

Review by Ariadna Sánchez

While waiting for the train at 7th Street/Metro Center station in Downtown Los Angeles, a young lady approached me for help. She was confused and worried at the same time; she needed to catch the train toward Long Beach. She was visiting Los Angeles for the first time to meet her nephew. Her words were filled with great expectation and excitement, but her spirit seemed intimidated by the speedy trains that passed by. Finally, we looked at the screen showing the Metro Blue Line schedule. The next departing train to Long Beach opened its doors welcoming all passengers aboard. When she got inside the train, it took only a few minutes before the train began moving. The young lady waved at me as the train vanished into the dark tunnel. I sat down for a moment in the waiting area for my train to arrive thinking about this experience. I put myself in this lady’s shoes and realized that life is a unique adventure full of amazing trips.

Me And My Cat? written and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura is a story that narrates the abruptly transformation of Nicholas and his cat Leonardo. Late one night, an old lady in a pointed hat climbs through the window into Nicholas’s bedroom. She brandishes her broom, fires out some weird words, and leaves. The following morning Nicholas is living “inside” his cat Leonardo and Leonardo is living “inside” Nicholas. Nicholas is shocked to look at himself in the mirror with long whiskers, sharp claws, and purring like a sweet little kitten, MEOW! Outside the house, Nicholas, who is inside Leonardo’s body, realizes that life is tough and complicated for a cat when he is chased by three mean cats and Mr. Stone’s furious dog. Hours later, Nicholas sees himself coming back from school and acting like Leonardo, the cat.  This behavior makes his mother very upset, so she decides to call the doctor. The doctor recommends sending Nicholas to bed early. That night, the old lady in the pointed hat pays Nicholas a second visit. She apologizes for throwing a spell at the wrong person. The old lady brandishes her broom and blurts out some mysterious words disappearing as quickly as a thunder. The next day everything is back to normal, Nicholas is ready for school and Leonardo is actively climbing over the shelf. At school Mr. Gough, Nicholas’ teacher sits on the table, scratches his back, licks his cheeks, and falls asleep.

Can you guess who the old lady in the pointed hat visited last night? Be careful, you might be next!

The story Me and my Cat? stimulates deep perceptions to the young readers. Thinking about others’ needs creates mature and responsible children. Teaching values like respect, tolerance, and acceptance are some ways to show sympathy to new generations for a better community and for a better world. Visit the local library today. Reading gives you wings! Purr

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6. Graphic Novel Review: George RR Martin’s The Hedge Knight


May Contain Spoilers


I admit to having a love-hate relationship with George RR Martin.  The first three books of his A Song of Ice and Fire series are among my favorites, and that’s saying a lot because I read a lot of books.  That’s where the love comes in.  Now for the darker feelings – I read A Game of Thrones in 1996, and I read the next two books within days of release.  The time between each novel increased incrementally, as did the page count, but as the time between A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows stretched into years and years, I became frustrated.  I decided that I would not read any more books in the series until they were all released.  They are so long that I can’t remember all of the subtle nuances of the story, let alone the ever growing cast of characters, especially with the lengthy time between releases.  Worse, I have the irrational fear that I won’t be around to see the end of the series, and that disappointment weighs heavy on my mind.  So while GRRM doesn’t owe me more timely releases of his books, I do owe something to myself.  I owe myself a read without fears, regrets, or frustrations, so my embargo of the main series  continues.  I won’t even watch the TV series until it’s over (not that I have HBO anyway, but that’s another story altogether).


So while I won’t read the novels, I saw that a graphic novel adaptation of The Hedge Knight had been acquired by the library system, and believing it to be a stand-alone work, I promptly requested it.  And waited weeks and weeks for it to arrive, only to learn, after I finished it, that this is a trilogy.  Ugh!  At least the next volume is already available from Jet City Comics, Amazon’s comic book imprint (they also announced the purchase of ComiXology last week, which has me curious about the direction of that acquisition).  So that’s what I get for breaking the embargo!

I really enjoyed The Hedge Knight.  It takes place 100 years before the events in AGOT, and it was interesting to read about the ancestors of the characters from ASOI&F.  It also reminded me of why I like GRRM’s writing so much.  The Hedge Knight is the story of an ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary circumstance, all because he was doing what he thought was right.  Dunk, an orphan from the streets of King’s Landing, was rescued from his extreme poverty by a hedge knight, who taught him the ways of chivalry.  Being a knight meant protecting the weak and innocent.  If you are a fan of GRRM, you know that men of ethics suffer terrible fates, while those who have sworn to adhere to a higher code of conduct rarely do, and yet they survive and thrive.  The concept of fair does not exist in this world, and those lacking the ability to act decisively, and often heartlessly, quickly become victims to the men that don’t hesitate to enforce their will. 

Dunk is a humble man, and knightly vows mean something to him.  When he defends a woman from Aerion Targaryen, and is accused of stealing from DaeronTargaryen, Dunk’s life is on the line.  The two young men are princes, in line to inherit the royal crown, while Dunk is a penniless, nameless hedge knight.  His honor is about to cost him his life, and makes it painfully obvious to him that he hasn’t moved far beyond his humble beginnings in King’s Landing.  When he is challenged to a ritual battle to determine his guilt, he despairs about his impending death.  He needs to find six other knights willing to take up the challenge and fight to the death in defense of his honor.  He couldn’t even get one knight to vouch for him so he could enter the lists for the joust; how will he convince someone to risk his life for him, and take up the sword against the princes?

I thought the artwork fit the story to a T.  The action scenes, especially during the joust, are crisp and exciting.  You can almost feel the power and the speed as the combatants charge towards each other, meeting with a clash of lance and shield.  The art brought the story to life, with color, motion, and emotion. 

I’m glad that I broke the GRRM embargo to read The Hedge Knight.  I was captivated by the story, and read the graphic novel in pretty much one sitting.  I love cheering for the underdog, and Dunk certainly fits that description.  Now that I have been reminded of reason that I love GRRM’s writing so much, I am even more impatient to read the rest of ASOI&F, but I will have to be content with enjoying the rest of The Hedge Knight, because I am not traveling down the road of unfulfilled frustration again!

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by my local library

From Amazon:

In this comic book/graphic novel adaptation set one hundred years before the events in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Hedge Knight chronicles a young squire as he travels the cruel and complex path to knighthood in the Seven Kingdoms.

Shouldering his fallen master’s sword and shield, Duncan (or “Dunk”) is determined to reinvent himself as a knight in a nearby tournament. But first Dunk needs a sponsor, and that requirement sends him down a road studded with friends, foes, adventure, and hidden agendas. One such friend is Egg, who becomes Dunk’s squire, yet even he may hold secret motivations of his own.

In this gripping prequel, Dunk and Egg seek glory in a world both familiar and new to Game of Thrones fans. What the two fortune seekers encounter, however, is a world of distrust and political machinations. Chivalry is not lost while Dunk holds fast to his dreams of honor. But such outdated virtues make him a target—and they may even lead to his ruin. This vivid and elaborately wrought tale brings new dimension to George R. R. Martin’s beloved world.

This edition includes fifteen pages of new supplemental material: sketches, character designs, and original pages by Mike S. Miller, plus variant and original covers.

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7. Review: The Seduction Game by Emma Shortt


May Contain Spoilers


I was drawn to The Seduction Game because of the author.  I read Emma Shortt’s Waking Up Dead and loved it.  Zombies, running for your life, and falling in love – what a combo!  It usually always works for me.  Then I saw that she wrote a contemporary romance, and I thought – what the heck!  I will read it as I wait for the next book in her zombie series!


I enjoyed The Seduction Game mostly because protagonist Kate is a certified nerd.  She’s a sci-fi fan, dabbles in game design, and soups up computers for a living.  When the businesses surrounding her computer repair shop start selling out to a real estate developer, she thinks her life is ruined.  Certainly her business has been financially dinged by the dearth of activity around her place, so she blames Will Thornton for her current anxiety.  She refuses to sell, and is harassed by Will’s right hand man, sleazebag Chris.  He keeps threatening her, making her even more determined to never sell her building to them.

Will has just returned from the UK, and he’s concerned that there is one holdout in his newest development.  He can’t begin the project until Kate sells because her shop is smack dab in the middle of the project.  He’d been assured by Chris that she was willing to sell, only to change her mind because she wanted more money.  Will decides to approach Kate himself to see why she changed her mind.  One look at the pretty geek, however, and he’s smitten.  She’s cute and quirky and a lot of fun to be around.  Bowing under pressure to proceed with his project, though, he wonders if he can seduce her into selling.  Shame on you, Will!  Though he is bothered by a guilty conscious, the fact that he ever considered that in the first place didn’t win him any brownie points from me!

Kate is socially awkward, and she usually avoids social situations. She’d rather stay home and work on her clients’ computers, play video games, or have marathon sessions watching her favorite TV shows and movies.  Will makes her uncomfortable from the start, but with the insistent prodding of her best friend and employee, Meg, she allows him to explain his vision for the building project to her.  As she spends more time with him, she can’t help but feel even more attracted to him.  He’s handsome, nice, and fun to be around.  But is he really interested in her, or is interested in convincing her to sell her building to him?

Kate is a victim of low self-esteem, and she’s still mourning the death of her parents.  After losing the family home years ago, the only thing she has left of them is the building that currently houses her business, with the tiny living space above the shop.  The building is old, but she’s determined to hang onto it, fight for it tooth and nail.  It is her safe zone, the only place she feels comfortable being herself.  I understood her reluctance to sell and put her past behind her; moving on for her meant saving goodbye to her parents all over again.  However, Will made her an offer that she would have been a fool to turn down.  As she begins to buy into his vision for the project, and the jobs and affordable housing the mixed use project would bring, she begins to question her reasons for not selling.  Plus, there’s that undeniable attraction she has for him, and she wants to see if it would go anywhere without the building standing between them.

The side story with Chris, Will’s brother-in-law, was a little too predictable, and there were times when Kate seemed too immature for her age, but overall, The Seduction Game is fast and fun read.  Now if only it had zombies…

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

When millionaire bad boy, Will Thornton, tries to buy computer-geek Kate Kelly’s building out from under her, she refuses to sell. Will might be uber rich, and super successful but she won’t be bullied. Trouble is, she didn’t expect Will to look like one of her fantasy heroes, or to make her heart beat a little too fast. She’s prepared to wait him out, but it’ll take every ounce of her self-control to win this game.

With millions of dollars on the line, Will is positive he can make Kate sell. He’s played the game better than anybody and charming is his middle name. Problem is, the snarky, geeky, computer-wiz is nothing like he imagined—impossibly cute and a match for him in every way.

The game is on but can two such radically different people come out winners in the game of seduction?

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8. Review and Giveaway: Prince’s Fire by Amy Raby

May Contain Spoilers


I have had an eye on Amy Raby’s  Hearts and Thrones series since the first book, Assassin’s Gambit, came out last year.  When I had the opportunity to hop on the review tour for book 3, Prince’s Fire, I jumped.  I really enjoyed this book, and it wasn’t a hindrance that I dove into the series three books in.  I never felt lost, and all of the characters were introduced in ways that didn’t leave me wondering about their relationships with each other.  As soon as I get a chance, I am going to read Archer’s Sin, a novella featuring two of my favorite characters from Prince’s Fire. 


Prince Rayn is visiting Kjall to work out a trade agreement.  He is expected to fail miserably by his political enemies back home in Inya, so he’s surprised when he’s offered the hand of the imperial princess to strengthen the ties between the two kingdoms.  Inya is a smaller nation comprised of thousands of islands.  Weak militarily, Inya does have something that Emperor Lucien desperately wants; brimstone.  With the means to produce gun powder, Lucien believes that he will have the weapons to deter more wars for his kingdom.  He wants nothing more than to live in peace, leaving the warlike traditions of his father, Florian, far in the past. 

Rayn is mistrustful of the offer, and he doesn’t want to trade the brimstone to the Kjallians.  He’s still holding a grudge against Lucien’s father for murdering his aunt, and he refuses to listen to his advisor when he’s counseled to accept the princess as his bride.  She’s the daughter of a murderous lunatic, so surely her sanity, as well as Lucien’s, isn’t to be trusted.  This turns out to be an ironic position for Rayn to hold, because his own father is suffering for mental issues that are having an adverse effect on his own nation. 

Rayn’s refusal to see beyond Celeste’s father’s behavior irritated me to no end.  After meeting her, his impression of her was that she was shy and intelligent, but he would not forgive her for her father’s actions.  Since she was a young girl when Florian was terrorizing the world, it wasn’t like she could have intervened on behalf of the nations he was destroying.  It took Rayn better than half of the book to forgive Celeste for something that she had no control of, and I found that frustrating.

Celeste is a very intelligent woman.  She’s also suffering from a low self-esteem, thanks again to being the daughter of the emperor.  Kidnapped by one of Florian’s rivals, she was forced to marry him, and suffered from his abuse until Lucien rescued her.  Celeste wants to do nothing other than study her beloved mathematics, but when her brother suggests the union with Rayn, she’s intrigued by the handsome prince.  She’s hurt that he can’t forgive her for her lineage, but so be it.  If he refuses her, she’ll continue work on her math treatise and mend her wounded heart with the comforting nature of mathematics.

When an attempt is made on their lives, they are thrown together in a struggle for survival.  Thrown off a ship in the middle of the sea, they manage to make it to shore with the help of their magic.  Rayn is a fire mage, and he keeps them warm in the frigid water with his powers, while Celeste is a mind mage, who can compel creatures, like the shark that takes them to land, to help them.  I thought their magic complimented each other, and while I didn’t completely understand all of the nuances of the magic system, I found it interesting and I would like to know more about it.

As the attempts on Rayn’s life continue, the other thing about him that I found annoying surfaced.  In Inya, bodyguards are a sign of a weak king, and they aren’t employed, while in Kjall, they are part of imperial life.  This reinforces his poor impression of both Celeste and Lucien.   Rayn refuses to have bodyguards, even though it’s obvious that somebody wants him dead.  This, to me, was just another example of Rayn’s immaturity.  Dude!  The Land Council has made no secret that they are out to enrich themselves, at the expense of both your people and your family, so you need to get over yourself and do whatever is necessary to protect your kingdom! Argh!  Some people are just slow learners!

Well, it’s a good thing Celeste was around to give Rayn a helping hand.  She is obviously going to be the brains of the relationship!  After uncovering the plot to end Rayn’s life, Celeste decisively moves to save Rayn’s life, despite his rejection of her.  She steals her brother’s ship with the help of his wife, Vitala, and off they go in a desperate attempt to save the prince’s life, and his kingdom, too.  I guess if Rayn had been a little quicker on the uptake, the novel would have only been half the length, so I will try to overlook his stubbornness and inability to think outside of the box.

These minor quibbles aside (victim blaming is such a hot button for me), Prince’s Fire is an enjoyable, sexy read.  I’m looking forward to reading more stories set in Amy Raby’s Hearts and Thrones series.

Grade:  B


Prince’s Fire

Hearts and Thrones #3

By: Amy Raby

Releasing April 1st, 2014


The imperial princess has been offered in marriage to the Prince of Inya as part of an alliance needed to ensure Kjall’s military prowess. And despite having been hurt in the past by men using her to gain power, Celeste finds herself falling for the passionate fire mage.

Prince Rayn has no intention of allying his country with the militaristic Kjallans. But his political enemies at home may be the greater threat. The princess’s beauty and intelligence catch him off guard, throwing an unexpected and dangerous hurdle in the way of his plans.

As a deadly political plot threatens Rayn’s life, the attraction between Celeste and Rayn ignites into a sizzling affair. But to save her people and herself, Celeste will have to discover if Rayn’s intentions are true or risk having her love burn her yet again….

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/01/now-booking-tasty-review-tour-for_6800.html

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Princes-Fire-Hearts-Thrones-ebook/dp/B00F9EZCMI

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/princes-fire-amy-raby/1116934331?ean=9780451417848

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/princes-fire/id709600981?mt=11

Author Info

Amy Raby is literally a product of the U.S. space program, since her parents met working for NASA on the Apollo missions. After earning her Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of Washington, Amy settled in the Pacific Northwest with her family, where she’s always looking for life’s next adventure, whether it’s capsizing tiny sailboats in Lake Washington, training hunting dogs, or riding horses. Amy is a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist and a 2012 Daphne du Maurier winner.

Author Links

Website: http://amyraby.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/Amy.Raby.Author

Twitter: @amyraby


Celeste followed her older brother, Emperor Lucien of Kjall, down the sun-drenched pier at the docks of Riat. Shielding her eyes, she gazed at the Inyan ship Magefire which rode at double anchor in the harbor. It looked like an interloper among the heavy Kjallan warships. Its masts were higher, its lines sleeker, its hull paler in color.

Sailors and dock workers moved aside to clear a path for them. The emperor was an infrequent visitor to the docks. He moved at a brisk walk, limping almost imperceptibly on his wooden leg, his eager eyes fixed on the barrels rowed in earlier this morning.

Beside Celeste gamboled a large black and white dog, who darted longing glances at the ocean waves that lapped at the sides of the pier. And on all sides were the Legaciatti, their bodyguards and security staff.

“You’re going to love this,” said Lucien. “A stone that burns.”

Celeste smiled; she knew his real reason for dragging her out here. Celeste wasn’t naturally sociable except with a few trusted people. She had a tendency to lock herself with her work in her rooms, where the hours slipped by faster than she intended. Her brother interrupted her now and then, when he thought she needed sunshine and conversation.

The dock guards before the barrels stood straight and stiff, awed by the presence of the emperor. Lucien studied the label of the first barrel and signaled the nearest guard to open it. Celeste ran forward to see its contents revealed.

Inside was a bright yellow powder. Celeste scooped up a handful and let it sift through her fingers. “This isn’t stone.”

“It’s brimstone.” Lucien dug into the substance and cupped a handful of it, staring reverently as if it were powdered gold. “It’s been pulverized into this powder. Do you know where the Inyans gather it? Along the edge of a volcano.”

“What poor sod gets stuck with that job?” She had no personal experience with volcanoes, since there were none in Kjall, but everyone knew a volcano had destroyed the nation of Dori.

“A well-paid sod, I hope. But Inya’s volcanoes are more manageable than Dori’s. The Inyans have a system for controlling them. Ask the prince about it when you meet him.”

Celeste was trying not to think about the prince. He’d come in the Magefire to negotiate a trade agreement with Kjall and had brought the barrels of brimstone as a demonstration of good faith. What the prince didn’t know was that Lucien wanted more than a trade agreement. He wanted an alliance, and to secure it, he meant to offer Celeste’s hand in marriage. Celeste had never met the Inyan prince, and in a matter of months, he could be her husband.

Scooping up a double handful of brimstone, she asked, “Does it really burn?”

“Absolutely. Come and see.” Carrying his own handful, Lucien gestured her to follow. The black and white dog wagged its tail beseechingly, and he addressed it. “Oh, just get in the water, Patricus. Everyone knows you want to.”

With a joyous bark, the dog leapt off the pier and splashed into the ocean.

As they walked the length of the pier, passing by the staring dock workers, Celeste cradled the powdery treasure in the folds of her syrtos to shelter it from the breeze. At the end of the pier, they descended a wooden staircase to a sandy beach.

Lucien found an open space with nothing flammable around and, with the foot of his wooden leg, dug a crude hollow in the sand. “In there.”

Celeste poured her brimstone into the hollow, and Lucien added his. Though the brimstone had a consistency similar to the sand, it was a brighter yellow.

Lucien took Celeste’s hand and backed away from the hole, drawing her with him.

A bit of movement caught her eye—a dark shape appearing and disappearing among the white froth of the breakers. “Don’t light the brimstone yet. Patricus is coming.”

“I see him,” said Lucien.

Patricus burst from the waves and loped up the beach.

“He’s sopping wet,” said Lucien. “Shake it off, Patricus!”

The dog kept coming. His feet sank into the soft sand, but he pumped his legs and scrambled on, sending the sand flying out behind him.

“Shake it off!” Lucien commanded.

Patricus galloped to Lucien and shook, spraying sand and seawater all over him.

“Pox this animal.” Scowling, Lucien brushed sand off his imperial syrtos and turned to the Legaciatti, who were covering their faces to hide their grins. “Where were you? Some security detail.”

“We don’t interfere with the imperial dog, Emperor,” said one of the Legaciatti.

Lucien muttered to Celeste, “I don’t get half the respect Florian did.”

“They love you. Everyone does.” This was not true, of course. Lucien had numerous enemies. But Celeste felt that if those people truly knew Lucien, they would love him as much as she did.

Lucien grabbed Patricus by the scruff and gestured to the fire mage in his security detail. “Light the brimstone, Jasper.”

The fire mage waved his hand, and the yellow powder ignited.

Celeste gasped. The flame was blue. “Three gods, that can’t be right. It’s unnatural. Like a Vagabond fire.”

“It stinks like the Vagabond’s breath.” Lucien waved away the smoke.

Celeste got her first whiff of the fumes and choked. He was right; the burning brimstone smelled like something rotten. She backed away and so did Lucien, dragging Patricus with him.

Lucien beamed like a delighted schoolboy. “Have you ever seen the like?”

Holding her nose, Celeste shook her head.

“Only the gods could devise something so strange and wonderful. No wonder it’s needed for making the most important substance in the world.”

“Chocolate?” said Celeste.

Lucien gave her a look. “Gunpowder, as you well know. Put the fire out, Jasper.” When the fire was out, he released Patricus, who fell into step at his side, wagging his tail. He offered his arm to Celeste, and they headed to the carriage, followed by the Legaciatti.

“Where are the Inyans?” asked Celeste.

“Up at the palace,” said Lucien. “They’ve had a long sail. They need to rest, freshen up. So do we, I think, after that brimstone.”

“I wish you had told the prince in advance that you were going to offer him my hand.”

“And spoil the surprise?” Lucien grinned. “Trust me, it’s better he should see what he’s getting. If you can’t sell this alliance, no one can.”

Celeste shook her head. Lucien thought the world of her, but he was her brother and obviously biased. She was not as pretty as he suggested. “When will you make the proposal?” Her stomach knotted at the thought of seeing her potential marriage partner for the first time at a formal event, with everyone’s eyes on her. She’d heard a few things about the prince: that he was twenty-two years old, a good match to her own age of nineteen, and handsome. Those were points in his favor, but they were surface traits and told her little about whether she would be happy with the man. Or whether he would be happy with her.

“I don’t care for official presentations,” said Lucien. “The last one I attended turned into a fiasco. Instead I’ve arranged a small dinner party. You and me and Prince Rayn, plus a few officials to balance things out and keep the conversation flowing. What do you think?”

She let her breath out. “That sounds less intimidating.”

They had arrived at the imperial family coach, an imposing blue-and-gold conveyance which comfortably seated six and was drawn by a quartet of matched grays.

Lucien took her hand and squeezed it as he lifted her into the carriage. “Courage, sister. It will all work out.”

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9. Review: Turned by Virna DePaul

May Contain Spoilers


I picked up Turned because I was in the mood for something a little different, and because it’s the first book in a new series.  I don’t intentionally read a lot of vampire books because I prefer a good zombie apocalypse to torment my protagonists, or werewolves, because they just kick butt.  All of that Mine, Mine, Mine, the snappy teeth, and the pack dynamics just work for me.  But I decided to venture into the dark world of vampires, which, in the case of Turned, includes gangs, cults, and rogue vampires.  Oh, and lots of sexy times.  Fun!

Ana is a former gang member.  She has recreated her life, leaving behind the gang and opening a coffee shop in Seattle.  She served a two year prison sentence, and she’s still haunted by the events that caused her incarceration.  On the day she was going to leave the gang and take her younger sister as far away from the crime-seeped life they were living, a rival gang interrupted her jump out ceremony, guns blazing.  When the smoke cleared, Ana was arrested, and her sister disappeared without a word.  Having searched fruitlessly for her for years, she’s approached by a dark, dangerous man who promises that he’ll hook her up with Gloria if she agrees to work for Belladonna, a covert branch of the FBI.

What Ty doesn’t tell her is that he’s a vampire, and that he needs Ana’s help to crack a crime ring that is selling Hispanic immigrants as blood slaves to other vampires.  Ty was turned against his will six months ago, and now he wants the Rogues responsible to pay.  They turned him, turned his friend, and killed his sister.  Struggling to keep his lust for blood and sex under control, he considers himself a monster.  He failed his sister and his friends, all because he thought he was a badass.  He had no clue that there were real monsters lurking in the dark, and now that he’s one of them, he’s searching for a way to return to what he was – human. 

Both Ty and Ana are damaged.  Ty because he was turned against his will, and Ana by a lifetime of being spit on by the people she loved.  She’s only ever been able to count on one person, and she will do anything to ensure that Gloria is safe and happy.  Ty and Ana are both are suffering from tunnel vision as they seek to achieve their goals.  Ana finds it so hard to trust anyone,  or count on anyone, so she is used to doing things for herself, so she doesn’t give Ty much of a chance to prove himself to her. Ty thinks he’s a monster, not fit to be loved, so he denies his feelings for Ana, thinking that he’ll soon be tired of her.  Ha! Foolish vampire!  Once Ana gets under his skin, there is no getting rid of her!

I felt that the pacing faltered near the end.  Ana and Ty find themselves in grave danger, they receive assistance from a surprise source, and then BOOM!  Book two is set up as the attention is shifted from Belladonna busting the masterminds behind the blood slave ring, to busting up a sex ring.  Events at the compound happened so quickly, and the villains were dispatched with equal speed, leaving me feeling a bit let down.

Turned is a gritty vampire yarn, packed with action, blood, and seduction.  It kept me reading late into the night.  I enjoyed the introduction to Virna DePaul’s dark and sensual world, and I’m curious to read more.  I’d really like to learn more about the full-blood vampires lurking in the background, hiding among the humans while manipulating them at the same time.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Perfect for fans of J. R. Ward, Nalini Singh, and Lara Adrian, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Virna DePaul’s new series of paranormal romances introduces readers to a thrilling world where vampires secretly co-exist with humans, seduction rules the night, and the stakes are nothing less than life and undeath.

Welcome to a mesmerizing world where vampires hide among humans. This centuries-old species has its own rules, code of conduct, and taboos. Only the FBI knows that vampires exist—and although the Bureau agrees to keep their secret, it also plots to give humans the upper hand.

Turning mortals into vampires is forbidden.

But there are creatures who refuse to play by the rules.

Ever since he was turned, FBI special agent Ty Duncan has had one mission: bring rogue vampires to justice. As a recruiter for Belladonna, a shadow agency formed to keep vampires in check, Ty must tap Ana Martin, a troubled ex–gang member and one of the few mortals who can infiltrate places that his kind and the law cannot. From their first encounter, Ty fights a hunger to make Ana his own.

When Ty claims to have information about Ana’s missing sister, Ana has no choice but to trust this captivating stranger who awakens her deepest desires. But as she and Ty climb the heights of pleasure and passion, an enemy is conspiring to destroy them both.

Can Ana help Ty find his humanity in a love that could heal them both, or will their passion lead them into a darkness impossible to escape?

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10. What If You Had Animal Teeth!?

Review by Ariadna Sánchez

Being a mother is a fascinating role full of amazing experiences. On Monday, I took my son to his regular dental appointment.   Can you guess what happen? The X-rays showed that his baby teeth were preventing the new one from coming out. As a result, his gums were a bit swollen. The dentist suggested that it was necessary to remove a couple of his baby teeth to avoid pain or infections. My son was quite nervous, but as soon as his teeth were out everything was back to normal. On our way back home, my son wondered if animals also go through this painful process. In order to find an answer, we headed straight to the library. We got the best books on the topic. We learned that animals loose more teeth than humans sometimes. One thing is for sure, we all need our teeth in order to enjoy a delicious snack. Munch!

The book that we enjoyed reading the most is What If You Had Animal Teeth!? written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Howard McWilliam. It is appealing, brilliant, and educational. The book provides the young readers cool facts about the animal kingdom while it lets their imagination run wild thinking what it would be like to have beaver, camel or giraffe’s front teeth. The stunning artwork creates the perfect complement to understand the great and unique characteristics of each animal. The creatures that appear in the publication are: Great White Shark, Elephant, Rattlesnake, Naked Mole Rat, and Vampire Bat, among others. 

Taking care of your teeth hasn’t been so much fun. Brushing twice a day and using floss regularly can help your smile last a lifetime. Big smiles make the world a happy place to live.

By reading this book, you are killing two birds with one stone because it brightens your mind with good oral care tips while learning about nature. Reading gives you wings. Smile as much as you can!

0 Comments on What If You Had Animal Teeth!? as of 4/9/2014 1:57:00 AM
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11. Graphic Novel Review: Vinland Saga V 1 by Makoto Yukimura

May Contain Spoilers


I have been interested in Vinland Saga since the license was announced for US publication.  When it came out, however, I balked at the sticker price.  $19.99 per volume!  Instead, I requested the first two books from the library, and once I received them, I understood the price point.  These are hardcovers, and they are 2 in 1 omnibus releases, clocking in at over 450 pages.  After sitting down with the first volume, I find the price completely reasonable; the end product is beautiful, the pages are nice, thick paper, and the binding is rock solid.  The translation rocks, too!  All in all, Vinland Saga Book One is worth every penny!

This series will appeal to fans of Berserk, A Bride’s Story, and Claymore.  The art is lush and breathtaking, with a realistic style.  The actions panels are incredibly rendered, and all of the action, bloodshed, and flying  body parts are easy to follow.  Every single illustration is highly detailed from the ships to the weapons, and if you like knowing exactly what the characters are feeling, you’re in good hands here.  Every nuanced emotion is clearly conveyed, from Thorfinn’s fierce determination to Thors’ reluctant reservation to put his people at risk in battle.

On the surface, Vinland Saga is an action tale about Vikings.  It’s also the story of a man’s love for his family, and the ruin it brings him, and the rage burning in a young boy’s heart.  After his father is murdered, Thorfinn vows vengeance for his death, and his every action from that moment is to make himself stronger so he can claim his revenge.  This is A Game of Thrones set on the cold seas, in little boats that are skillfully navigated from one battle to the next.  The politics are brutal, the sakes are high, and dying a warrior’s death, on the field of battle, bathed in the blood of your enemies, is the name of the game. 

Book one sets the groundwork for Thorfinn’s quest for revenge.  He’s six when he witnesses the treachery of men without honor, and it changes him forever.  Raised by a kind and just man, he learns that his father was a Jomsviking deserter.   Thorfinn enjoyed a carefree childhood, but after he learns the truth about his father, he wants nothing more than to be a fierce warrior, too.  Little does he know that he will get his wish, only with consequences far greater than he could have ever anticipated.  When we first meet him, he is surly and belligerent.  He is also a killing machine, who fearlessly leaps (literally) into battle with his twin blades flying.  He must earn his duels with Askeladd, the man responsible for his father’s death, by completing missions during the Viking clan’s frays.

I loved this book, and I’m excited to discover new manga series because of it.  I haven’t been reading many graphic novels lately because I am burned out on the episodic publishing schedule (especially when I am invested in a series and it gets CANCELED!), but this series is presented in a nicely sized chunk so that didn’t bother me so much.  Now I want to start catching up on some the series that I have allowed myself to fall behind in, and I can hardly wait to read more Vinland Saga!

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by my local library

From Amazon:

The Viking invasion of London has reached a fever pitch, and Askeladd and Thorfinn rush to take part in the carnage! Their goal is the capture of Cnut, the son of King Sweyn Forkbeard and heir to the throne of Scandanavia and the Danelaw. But standing in their way is Thorkell, one of the Viking world’s most daring warriors. The defeat of a living legend will be a formidable test of Askeladd’s cunning and Thorfinn’s ruthlessness, and of their ability to set aside personal grudges and fell a common enemy!

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12. Review: Vampire’s Hunger by Cynthia Garner

May Contain Spoilers


It seems as though I have fallen into a zombie rut again.  I don’t know why I keep turning to these books, because they are starting to give me nightmares.  Seriously!  Vampire’s Hunger isn’t even that graphic, and I woke up during the night after I finished it from a scary dream.  Heart pounding, can’t fall back asleep nightmare.  Good thing the puppers were there to cuddle!  I am taking a little break from zombies, but I bet it won’t last long!


Kimber is a necromancer.  She works with the police, raising the dead to find out who murdered them.  After a summoning goes wrong, she discovers that she’s unleashed the zombie apocalypse.  In addition to fending off zombies, she has to deal with the threats of the rest of humankind who also blame her for bringing doom upon the human race.  I would so not want to be in her shoes.

Duncan is the second in command of the local vampire clan.  He has been lusting after Kimber for years, but she keeps rebuffing his advances.  She doesn’t trust vampires after they murdered her family, and she’s not about to get close to Duncan.  He vows to protect her and her friend Natalie as society takes a nose dive.  Along with the fairy Aodhan, Duncan has his work cut out for him.  His queen, Maddalene, wants Kimber to raise her consort from the dead, and she just won’t take no for an answer.  Sworn to obey her every command, Duncan is torn between his growing feelings for Kimber and his loyalty to his queen.

Vampire’s Hunger is a fast, sexy read.  I liked the setting – the world has just ended, and Kimber is still adjusting to her new normal.  She blames herself for the zombie plague, and she is determined to figure out a way to put an end to it.  The day she brought Richard Whitcomb back to life something went wrong, and she is going nuts trying to understand why the Unseen, the source of her power, has changed.  The day she called Richard back, something felt wrong and evil, and when she tried to release him back to death, he fought back.  The entire episode was a complete disaster, challenging Kimber’s skills to keep him under control.  It also marked the start of the zombie apocalypse, leaving one unfortunate observer bitten and infected.  Yup, Kimber’s slip up resulted in Patient Zero and the end of the world.

I originally started reading this book because I saw the word zombie in the blurb, but I think it was more focused on the vampires.  I felt that the zombies were more of an obstacle for Kimber and  her friends to get around than an actual threat.  There were a few battles with them as they traversed from Kimber’s apartment to Duncan’s vampire enclave, but it was the vampires that were the real danger in Vampire’s Hunger.  Duncan’s queen is a nutbag, and she is going to force Kimber to raise her dead consort, come hell or high water.  Kimber knows that the attempt will kill her; it’s hard enough raising someone who just died, let alone someone whose original death was a hundred years ago.  The Unseen isn’t being very friendly to her, either.  Something dark, evil, and dangerous keeps lurking in it’s depths.

The main conflict between Kimber and Duncan is Kimber’s distrust of vampires.  She is afraid that Duncan will lose control and drain her of every drop of blood in her veins, leaving her a lifeless husk.  Her family was murdered by vampires, and they haven’t done much to gain her trust since then.  Duncan, however, has been nothing but protective of her, watching over her and Natalie and working with Aodhan to keep them safe.  Still, with the insane Maddalene threatening everyone she cares about, it’s no wonder that Kimber has no love for vampires.  Duncan refuses to go against his queen, even though he knows that she is off her rocker and that she is becoming increasingly unstable.  I was disappointed that it took him so long to decide to do something about her, but once he makes up his mind that Maddalene is too much of a liability to keep her power over the clan, he quickly moves against her.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, but Vampire’s Thirst comes out in May, so I didn’t give it a ding for that.  I enjoyed Vampire’s Hunger, and I am looking forward to book 2.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, civilization no longer exists, and only the strongest survive. The few remaining humans must band together with supernatural beings to battle unspeakable evil-or all hope will be lost.

Kimber Treat is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift: she can raise the dead. As a necromancer who works with the police, she communicates with murder victims to bring their killers to justice. But after a normal session goes horribly wrong, Kimber realizes she’s summoned something dark and sinister. She’s unwittingly unleashed the apocalypse, and everyone blames her . . . except Duncan MacDonnough, the devastatingly handsome vampire she can’t stop fantasizing about.

As society shuts down and flesh-eating hordes close in, Duncan vows to protect Kimber. He can keep her safe from others-but not from the insatiable carnal hunger he feels for her. Now racing to reverse the chaos she’s unleashed, Kimber can’t afford any distractions. But even as she succumbs to Duncan’s seduction, she fears that he has a hidden agenda. And with the line between life and death starting to blur, his secrets might kill her-or worse . . .

Approx. 50,000-60,000 words.

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13. Chavela and the magic bubble

Review by Ariadna Sánchez

Bubble gum

bubble gum

in a dish

How many pieces do you wish?

Chewing chicle and blowing bubbles is one of my favorite’s hobbies. I love bubble gum but not as much as today’s character. Chavela and the magic bubble is written by the award-winning author Monica Brown and sweetly illustrated by Magaly Morales. Chavela chews gum all day long. She can chomp: pink, blue, orange, white, twisted rolls, gumballs, sour cherry, rainbow-colored, and even sugar-free chicle. Chavela is very good at blowing bubbles. She can blow big colorful bubbles shaped like balloons and tiny ones shaped like jellybeans. Chavela is a creative girl with a great imagination.

One day, Chavela’s abuelita shares stories about her hometown Playa del Carmen, the rainforest, the birds, and butterflies. Later, Chavela goes inside of a tiny corner store and an unusual package catches her attention. The package says Magic Chicle ‘Deep in the rainforest of Mexico there is a magical sapodilla tree.’ Her abuelita explains that gum is made from chicle, the sap of the sapodilla tree. She also mentions to Chavela that her great-grandfather was a chiclero (a person who takes care and harvests the sapodilla tree).

At home, Chavela opens the Magic Chicle and begins to chew piece by piece until nothing is left. Then she blows with all her might an enormous bubble that lifts her up into the sky. The wind is pushing her toward the rainforest, the land of the sapodilla trees. A girl holding a doll with a pretty blue dress greets Chavela and they begin to sing “Tengo una muñeca vestida de azul…” Chavela plays with the children under the shade of the sapodilla tree all day long. She is so tired by the afternoon that she falls asleep. As the moon rises, Chavela wakes up a little bit worried because she doesn’t know how to get back home. Suddenly, drops from the sapodilla tree fall on the tip of her nose. She realizes that by chewing and blowing with all her might, she will be able to return home. In a blink of an eye, Chavela is lift up to the sky heading north. Chavela’s abuelita is waiting for her with a smile and a pretty doll with a blue dress. Chavela’s trip and each piece of bubble gum is a connection with her cultural heritage. Remember that reading gives you wings!

To learn more about the harvesting process and the importance of sustainable farming practices visit http://www.gleegum.com/, the website of one of the few U.S manufactures of natural chewing gum. Also to learn more about rainforest and what you can do to help save then visit www.rainforestfoundation.org , www.savetherainforest.org and a Spanish link to read http://www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/publicaciones/librosDig/pdf/VegetacionMxC12.pdf

If you want to listen to the entire song “Tengo una muñeca vestida de azul” click the following link:

0 Comments on Chavela and the magic bubble as of 4/2/2014 1:09:00 AM
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14. Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare


May Contain Spoilers


I haven’t read many historical romances lately, so after a seeing a lot of positive buzz for Romancing the Duke, I decided it was time to read Tessa Dare’s latest release.  I have read a couple of her books, and have enjoyed each one.  I found this one utterly charming, just like the feisty protagonist, Izzy.  I raced through, and was sorry when I reached the last page.  I really need to hit up more of Tessa Dare’s backlist.

Izzy is desperate and impoverished, which prompted her to hire a coach and head off to the remote Gostley Castle after receiving a letter that one of her father’s benefactors has left her an inheritance.  Since her father’s death, she has been barely getting by.  He died suddenly, and Izzy learns, much to her dismay, that he never bothered to update his will, so all of his possessions have been willed to her cousin.  They have hated each other since childhood, and he’s absolutely crowing that she has been left with nothing.

Rather bitter that her life’s work has been for naught, she’s angry that her father neglected to see to her welfare.  She gave up everything to assist him with the serial he wrote for the newspaper, using her as the main character.  The Goodnight Tales garnered quite a following, even after his death, and Izzy is constantly asked about them by her father’s fans.  I loved this premise-she is even followed by cos-players who are so enchanted with the story that they dress up like their favorite characters and have formed clubs to celebrate The Goodnight Tales.  If it wasn’t for their popularity, she would probably have fared even worse after her father’s demise.

After arriving at the castle, she meets grouchy Ransom, the Duke of Rothbury.  He isn’t in the mood for visitors, and he promptly attempts to chase her away from his moldering castle.  Injured in a duel, he is suffering from a disfiguring scar, as well as blindness, from the misguided fight.  He isn’t happy to have a woman in his home, and he’s even less amused when he discovers that he no longer owns his family’s estate, and that Izzy has just inherited it.  Refusing to believe it, because he would never sell Gostley Castle, they come to an agreement.  While he was licking his wounds in private, he ignored his business correspondence.  Izzy agrees to help him go through the massive pile of letters, for a fee, to see how the castle was sold.  She needs the money to fix up the pile of crumbling stone, and he needs to discover who has been cheating him out of his money and property.

I found it difficult to sympathize with Ransom at first because he brought about his own misfortune; but Izzy – Izzy!  She is the victim of an unfortunate set of circumstances that left her with nothing but the few dresses in her travel bag.  Her father was a miserable caretaker for not ensuring that she was left with the means to provide for herself after his death.  Now that she has a roof over her head, she is going to fight tooth and nail to keep it.  I loved Izzy and her attitude, and how she refused to be cowed by the gruff, angry duke who refuses to give in gracefully and accept that Izzy is now the owner of the castle.

The secondary characters are also a treat, from the cos-playing fans of The Goodnight Tales, to Izzy’s new acquaintances at the castle.  Romancing the Duke made me laugh, held me spellbound, and even made me gasp with dismay when Izzy reads a fan letter to Ransom, and discovers that The Goodnight Tales is partly responsible for his turn of poor luck.  I hated to have the book come to an end, and I am now eagerly awaiting the next book in the series,  Say Yes to the Marquess.  In the meanwhile, I will have to revisit Spindle Cove; I have a few sitting unread on my Kindle!

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

n the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?
Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

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15. Novella Review: The Art of Goodbye by Gwendolyn Heasely

I really enjoyed Where I Belong, so I was eager to catch up with Corrinne and see what she’s been doing since her days in Broken Spoke, Texas.  The Art of Goodbye takes place over the evening before she leaves for college, with brief flashbacks to the spring, when she visited Broken Spoke to attend prom with her new friends.  That evening didn’t go quite as she had planned, so Corrinne has carefully crafted a schedule of events to celebrate her last night in New York City.  She is on a rigid time table, and when these plans don’t go as expected, either, she learns a valuable lesson.  There is no art to saying goodbye, and sometimes, things just happen.  Trying to control every situation to make a perfect memory isn’t possible and it’s better to just go with the flow.


When I started reading this novella, I was so disappointed with Corrinne.  It seems as though she had completely reverted back to her old overindulged, spoiled self.  Her evening is all about her, her, her.  Forget what the other participants in her plans want.  She has been planning this night all summer, and things are going to go according to her schedule.  Period.

Only the night doesn’t go at all like she planned.  Bensen, her boyfriend with an expiration date, wants to extend their relationship.  She’s taken aback by his suggestion, because she thought they had an agreement.  They would have fun during the summer, and then move on, with no hurt feelings, when they both headed off to college.  A long distance relationship, especially with Bensen, just isn’t in her future.  I really felt bad for Bensen, as Corrinne made it painfully clear that their relationship didn’t mean half as much to her as it did to him.

To further throw her perfect evening out of whack, Corrinne runs into Bubby, not once but twice.  She is still smarting about how prom night ended between them, and all of her plans for this evening are driven by the need to be in control now, since everything was totally out of control then.  Because of that night, she has blown the significance of this evening so far out of proportion that it would be virtually impossible for her not to feel let down.

As the night continued to snowball, and Corrinne continued to see her plans derailed, she started to take a close look at herself and how she was acting.  She was partly responsible for the disastrous outcome after prom, and she’s finally willing to own up to her role in that fiasco.  She has been blaming Bubby for their falling out, when in reality, she had just as much to do with their misunderstanding as he did.  I thought her childish behavior was mostly responsible, and I kept hoping that she would eventually man up to her own mistakes, instead of just dumping everything into Bubby’s lap.

She does redeem herself at the end, after realizing that there is no perfect moment.  This allows her to reflect on her behavior, and put her priorities into perspective.   While I was nervous about the resolution, I was happy to see that Corrinne does get a happily ever after, despite it being somewhat unrealistic. 

Fans of Where I Belong will enjoy spending more time with Corrinne.  I think this novella would be a let down for readers who haven’t read the book yet, so do yourself a favor and give Where I Belong a spin, too. 

About the book:

The heroine of Where I Belong is back in The Art of Goodbye, a romantic digital original novella about first loves and second chances.

It’s Corrinne Corcoran’s last night in town before heading off to college, and she’s determined it’ll be the most epic night ever. She’s planned every detail of each hour of the night, from what dresses she’ll wear, to what parties she’ll hit, to which of her best friends will be with her. But Corrinne’s perfect plan for her last night in New York goes awry when she runs into a ghost from her past, and the boy she’s never been able to forget—her ex-boyfriend, Bubby, from Broken Spoke. And Corrinne starts to wonder if her expertly planned goodbye to New York City was as perfect as it seemed. . . . Set over the twelve-hour period before Corrinne sets off for college, The Art of Goodbye will make you believe that true love can find you when you’re least expecting it . . . again.

HarperTeen Impulse is a digital imprint focused on young adult short stories and novellas, with new releases the first Tuesday of each month.

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16. Novella Review: Driving Mr Wrong Home by Shirley Jump

Driving Mr Wrong Home was not my favorite novella in the Billionaire Matchmaker series, and I’m not sure why.  It has all of the elements I usually find engaging; a second chance at love trope, a road trip across the country, and a feisty little dog that demands pets and attention.  I think the problem I had is with the heroine’s personality, and I didn’t feel that she really changed much during the story.

Gabby is a struggling artist and a reformed bad girl.  She’s had a couple benign brushes with the law, flaunted her opinions in a too public arena, and as a result, she derailed her career and put her livelihood as an artist in jeopardy.  In a misguided fit of frustration, she used a commission opportunity to vent her temper, and the ensuing fallout destroyed her self-esteem.  Reinventing herself into a more cautious – and career-minded – adult, Gabby is focused on her career and getting back in the good graces of the art world.

She’s excited to receive a message from Mr B – he wants to meet with her to discuss a business proposition.  While she’s hoping desperately that he wants to commission some artwork from her, she is deflated to discover, through his butler, that he would like to retain  her services to babysit his Jack Russell terrier, Charlie, while he travels out of the country.  While the offered paycheck is more than enough to ease her immediate monetary fears, it wasn’t quite the break she was hoping for.  That, coupled with a surprise reunion with her best friend from high school has her on edge.  She’s trying to put her rebellious past, and the regrets of her youth behind her, and seeing TJ again just brings everything crashing back.

TJ was a nerd in high school, but he’s remade himself, too.  Now hot and sexy, he’s also a self-made man.  Wealthy and successful, he has pined for the one thing he couldn’t have – Gabby.  Determined to make one last ditch effort to win her heart, he’ll do anything to spend time with her.  Even lie about being poor and needing a ride to California so he can ride shotgun with her.  And off Gabby, TJ, and Charlie set on their road trip across the country.

I was disappointed with Gabby’s character.  She was impulsive and fun-loving when she was younger, but now  she’s risk-averse and strictly business.  She’s tempted by her conflicted feelings for TJ, though.  After rejecting him at a school dance, she’s still smarting over his rejection of her after he went off to college.  I had a hard time with her definition of TJ; a nerd with the ability to make her eyes glaze over with boredom once he started talking about computers.  That just didn’t mix for me, and made her seem self-indulgent and even selfish that she found something that he was so passionate about to be so boring.  I am aware that I am taking a small piece of the story and giving it far more weight that it would otherwise deserve, but that passing thought of Gabby’s really bugged me.  (Probably because I was and still am a nerd and have been accused of the same thing!)

I liked TJ and his determination to win Gabby back.  He acknowledges that he was wrong to ignore her after he left Chandler’s Cove, but his reasons for avoiding all things having to do with home rang true.  And he was able to accept that they each matured during the intervening years, and he put their separation into perspective by recognizing that now they were ready to have their happily ever after.  And so while I have mixed feelings about Driving Mr Wrong Home, I can firmly say that TJ (and Charlie) made the story for me.  


Title: Driving Mr. Wrong Home
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Shirley Jump
Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
EBook: 59 pages
Release Date: March 7, 2014
ISBN: 978-1622665037
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Can a feisty four-legged matchmaker help four best friends find the romance of their dreams?

When a handsome man from Gabby’s past agrees to a cross-country road trip, her master plan to re-launch her art career quickly morphs into an unexpected, romantic reunion.


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17. Novella Review: Love in the Shadows by Barbara Wallace


Love in the Shadows features Charlie’s mysterious owner, the billionaire Mr B, and Jenny, a woman who has lost the ability to trust in love.  She’s been running from her past and has settled in Chandler’s Cove, making friends with Mia, Marney, and Gabby.  A dedicated school teacher, she has worked hard to remake herself, and she’s content with her friends and her new life.  That is, until she meets Nick.  Suddenly she’s confronted with a riot of emotions, which has her running scared and leaves Nick with confirmation that he is truly a hideous monster.

Nick was seriously burned in an accident that left him disfigured and alone.  His fiancée took one look at him and declared that he was no longer husband material and that no one could ever love him.  When Megan walked out on him, she also left Charlie, the puppy she insisted on purchasing.  Like with Nick, she became bored with Charlie,  and left the two of them in her dust.  Best thing that ever happened to either of them!

I thought that the novella length hurt this story.  Both Nick and Jenny are suffering from self-revulsion, and both of them are hiding themselves from the rest of the world.  Nick lurks in darkened rooms, avoiding contact with anyone other than Cyrus, his butler, and Jenny has stamped out her former self, becoming someone she feels is capable of respect. They both guard their true selves from everyone else, even their closest friends.  When Jenny storms into Nick’s mansion, insisting he make good on Charlie’s errant behavior, the sparks fly.  She ends up leaving in a huff, with Charlie firmly in tow, and her real self precariously near the surface.

After Jenny discovers why Nick is always hiding in the shadows, she attempts to coax him out.  While I loved his reaction to her efforts to draw him into the light, I wasn’t convinced by the sudden change in either of them, but this was due mainly to the abbreviated length of their courtship.  They were both such interesting, damaged characters that I would have enjoyed learning more about them. 

Love in the Shadows wraps up the Billionaire Matchmaker series, though reading order isn’t a requirement for any of the novellas.  All of the stories work as stand alones, though it’s more fun to read them all, and to learn about all of the couples Charlie nudges together.


Title: Love in the Shadows
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Barbara Wallace
Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
Ebook: 80 Pages
Release Date: March 28, 2014
ISBN: 978-1622665068
Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Can a feisty four-legged matchmaker help four best friends find the romance of their dreams?

Jenny is a woman on a mission – she’ll even resort to dognapping to make her point! But can she teach a reclusive, emotionally-wounded tycoon that love heals all things?


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18. When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of the Hip Hop

Review by Ariadna Sánchez

Feel the rhythm

Feel the beat

Music is energy

Music is heat.

I love music! Music creates harmony between my body and my soul. I personally enjoy the rhythm of the beats as the music flows. In the book When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of the Hip Hop written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III shows that music can transform communities.

Clive Campbell lived in Kingston, Jamaica. When he was thirteen years old he moved to New York City. Music and basketball are Clive’s passion. Clive calls himself “cool as Clyde” after his favorite basketball player Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Since Clive’s height is six feet and five inches, his friends call him Hercules. Clive decides to call himself Kool Herc.

DJ Kool Herc transforms a neighborhood using music, which gives the the young community of the Bronx a fresh perspective. DJ Kool Herc does not like fighting; instead he opts for a turntable and some speakers. His ability to mix music is amazing, everyone loves hearing his music. The break-dancers love to dance the breaks. They can make incredible jumps like gymnastics. Some of the most popular moves are: the turtle, windmill, toprock, downrock, and one handed handstand freeze. DJ Kool Herc legacy is a form of expression, which brings together a community to share their talents as one big family. Visit your local library to read this book that will make you dance. Remember that music and reading gives you wings. Hip, hop, hippity hop!

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19. Review and Giveaway–Gilded by Christina Farley


I loved this book!  Gilded is a fun fantasy based on Korean mythology, and it has a ton of action, death-defying fight scenes, and even a little romance.  Protagonist Jae Hwa Lee is not a shrinking violet; she is out there giving back as well as she gets.  I think I enjoyed the book so much because Jae Hwa doesn’t wait for a guy to save her (though one does help her throughout her adventures), and because it takes place in South Korea.  There aren’t enough books with Asian settings, so I am eager to try each one that I discover. The fact that I had such a great time reading this is like winning the lottery.


After moving to Seoul with her father, Jae Hwa discovers, much to her dismay, that her family is cursed.  Descended from Princess Yuhwa, the oldest daughter of each generation has been stalked, wooed, and killed by Haemosu, a Korean demigod.  He is still smarting after Princess Yuhwa’s rejection, and he won’t rest until he has his revenge.  That, unfortunately for Jae Hwa, means that she and everyone she loves is in grave danger of being abducted by Haemosu and trapped in his otherworldly kingdom. 

Jae Hwa is a black belt, as well as a skilled archer.  It’s a good thing she is, because she needs every advantage if she’s going to escape from Haemosu’s clutches.  She’s also suffering from a lot of pent up angry.  Since her mother’s death, things just haven’t gone right for her.  Her father works all he time, and how she’s been uprooted from her home and her friends.  She doesn’t feel like she fits into her new surroundings, and she just wants to go back home.

Then her grandfather tells her that the only way to save herself and her new friends is to leave the country, so she begs for her father to send her back to the States.  He flatly refuses, and tells her that her grandfather has lost his mind and believes in fairy tales ever since the disappearance of his sister, Sun.  When she meets her aunt, Eun, her father forbids his sister from discussing the crazy story fabricated by their father about the disappearance.  Wow! Talk about being in denial!  Jae Hwa’s father would have saved everyone so much heartache if he had just opened his mind – as well as his eyes- and accepted that things just weren’t right with their family.

Of course Eun ignores the order, and begins to teach Jae Hwa how to defend herself from Haemosu.  She is warned to never let him touch her, because that will put her under his power.  While on a school ski trip, the unthinkable happens, and Jae Hwa is taken by Haemosu to his kingdom.  Only her stubbornness saves her from getting stuck there and being Haemosu’s latest trophy bride.  As they continue to battle, Jae Hwa’s learns that she has powers of her own, and she is going to go down fighting.

Jae Hwa’s only challenge is not being whisked away by a mythical demigod; she must also train to protect herself, while keeping up with massive amounts of homework.  Good luck trying to have normal friendships, too!  With spiritual beings constantly tampering with her life, she just doesn’t have time to hang out and go shopping or catch the latest movie releases.  And that cute boy in her class?  Forget that!  How can she possibly concentrate on dating someone when all she wants is to go back to LA?  Oh, yeah – and stay alive!

Gilded is like a Korean comic in prose.  Jae Hwa faces one challenge after another, all while trying to do what’s best for her family and friends.  She wonders if she should just give up and go to Haemosu, but then she realizes that the deadly cycle of the curse will continue, and more helpless girls will meet their doom in Haemosu’s kingdom.  I didn’t like her at first, but as she begins to find herself, and feel comfortable in her own skin, she becomes a very likeable young woman.  She is tasked with an impossible job, and as Haemosu keeps getting the best of her, she despairs at ever breaking the curse.  She makes some really dumb decisions, but with so many lives at stake, it’s easy to forgive her for not always displaying good judgment.

If you enjoy fantasy or stories based on mythology, chances are you will also enjoy Gilded.  The setting and unrelenting action scenes made this book for me. 


YA Fantasy

Release date: Mar. 1, 2014

A Korean god. An ancient curse. Can she escape becoming GILDED?

A girl with a black belt and a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows discovers an ancient Korean god has been kidnapping the first-born daughters of her family for generations. And she’s next.

Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.                                       

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There’s also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own — one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for.

Hardcover: 978-1477847015

Paperback: 978-1477810972

Ebook: ASIN: B00FN2KR3K

Audio: 978-1480589278

Available at Amazon, BAM, IndieBound and Barnes and Noble

“An amazing contemporary fantasy that explores the vast legends of Korea, this richly detailed novel kept me turning the pages well into the night. Jae Hwa starts off as a strong character and ends as a noble one, using both her brains and her brawn to win the day–she’s exactly the kind of girl YA literature needs.”

~from Beth Revis, NY Times Bestselling author of Across the Universe series

“Farley brings South Korea’s fascinating culture and mythology into vivid detail in this shining debut, and Jae is a compelling heroine. An exotic, thrilling read, GILDED had me utterly entranced!” 

~from Jessica Khoury, author of ORIGIN and VITRO

Online Presence

Website: ChristinaFarley.com

Twitter: @ChristinaFarley

YouTube: www.youtube.com/chocolateinspired

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChristinaFarleyAuthor

Tumblr: http://christinafarley.tumblr.com/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/book/show/16173250-gilded

CHRISTINA FARLEY, author of Gilded was born and raised in upstate New York. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. She taught at international schools in Asia for ten years, eight of which were in the mysterious and beautiful city of Seoul, Korea that became the setting of Gilded. Currently she lives in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown. Gilded is her first novel. For more details, check out her website at www.christinafarley.com. Christina holds a master’s degree in education and has taught for eighteen years. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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20. Enter The Runaway American Dream with Non-Humans

Los Angeles, 2041 – it’s twenty-six years after a NASA probe brought back a strange disease causing many of our familiar toy-like objects to come to life. This is a new world order where cute and fearsome creatures fight for their right to exist in a world that fears them! It’s Blade Runner meets Toy Story in Non-Humans!

Get a copy of Non-Humans Volume 1: Runaway American Dream TP on Amazon.com and help support Rabbleboy.com

  • Series: Non Humans (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Image Comics (October 15, 2013)

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21. Review: Safe in the Tycoon’s Arms by Jennifer Faye


Safe in the Tycoon’s Arms is kind of an angsty read.  Single mom Kate is struggling to pay the medical expenses for her young daughter, who is suffering from a brain tumor.  Already in debt up to her ears, she’s finally found a surgeon willing to perform the operation that may save Molly’s life.  The only catch?  It’s an experimental procedure, and her insurance company won’t cover any of the costs.  Now Kate has to come up with a down payment for the hospital charges, or they won’t allow the doctor to perform the operation.  At least the guy is being decent enough to waive his fees….


When a good Samaritan lets Kate stay at a house close to the hospital while the owner is out of town, neither Kate nor Lucas, the guy who owns the mansion, expect a late night run-in.  Lucas’ out of town business has gone sour, so he’s returned home unexpectedly.  He reluctantly agrees to let Kate stay the rest of the night, but then he’s determined to find her somewhere else to stay.  After realizing how worried and upset Kate is as her luck keeps getting worse, he allows her to stay temporarily.

This is fast read, and the emotions keep battering away at the reader.   I was so conflicted over Lucas; he was hard for me to like.  Like Kate, he is divorced, but unlike Kate, he has allowed his wife to have complete control of their daughter, even though the lack of contact with her is eating him alive.  His ex is manipulative, and now that she’s remarried, she doesn’t want anything to do with Lucas.  To avoid making Carrie a pawn like his feuding parents did to him while he was a boy, he has decided to gracefully bow out of her life.  He doesn’t want to confuse her, and now that he’s a complete stranger to her, he doesn’t want to frighten her by insisting on spending time with her. 

Scarred by his ex’s betrayal and the subsequent loss of his family, Lucas has shut himself off from the rest of the world.  He lives to work, and spends his focus on making the family jewelry company even more successful.  His emotions are stunted, and when Kate charges into his life, he is left feeling uncomfortable and off kilter.   He doesn’t want to get involved with her, but after seeing how sweet and kind she is, he can’t just kick her out when she has nowhere to go.  Instead, he offers her a job.  He has allowed the family home to fall in to despair, and Kate, an interior designer, is the perfect person to oversee the much needed repairs of the house.  Kate agrees on one condition-when the work on the house is complete, she wants to hold a fundraiser for Molly’s medical bills at his home.  Reluctantly, he agrees.

Now, here is what I didn’t like about Lucas.  Any time the pressure was cranked up and he was forced to feel something, he would run.  Or threaten to not allow Kate to hold the fundraiser at his house.  Thankfully, he was soon apologizing for his immature behavior, but it still bothered me that when the going got tough, he got going. 

Both Kate and Lucas have lost all trust in other people.  Both had dysfunctional parents, followed by dysfunctional marriages.  As they struggle to overcome the scars from their previous relationships, they both begin to heal and to finally put the past into perspective.  It takes a lot of work, and it’s not an easy task.  Just when it looks like they have made progress, an outer conflict interferes and forces them to backtrack.  As they learn to make peace with the failures they have experienced, they grow closer, and are able to accept that relationships are hard work, and if both parties aren’t willing to make an effort, any relationship is doomed to fail.  Putting aside their pride and opening themselves up to rejection isn’t easy, but when they finally take a chance, I was convinced that they had found a happy ending. 

Check out my interview with Jennifer and enter to win some fantastic prizes here – http://www.mangamaniaccafe.com/?p=10198

Safe in the Tycoon’s Arms

By: Jennifer Faye

Releasing March 1st, 2014


The man behind the headlines…

When billionaire Lucas Carrington returns to his New York mansion, he never expects to find beautiful stranger Kate Whitley making herself at home. Invited by his aunt to stay, he soon discovers she’s a woman in need. She’s raising funds for her sick daughter, so he agrees to let her stay—temporarily! 

Kate may not belong in Lucas’s high-society world, but she sees there is more to this tycoon than the headlines suggest. Yet with so much at stake, can she trust herself and her heart with New York’s most sought-after bachelor?

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Safe-Tycoons-Arms-Harlequin-Romance-ebook/dp/B00FBZMY7Q

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/safe-in-the-tycoons-arms-jennifer-faye/1116871047?ean=9781460327463

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/safe-in-the-tycoon-s-arms/_H1w_C36QE-vlvSSqfYC1g?MixID=_H1w_C36QE-vlvSSqfYC1g&PageNumber=1

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Safe-Tycoons-Arms-Harlequin-Romance-ebook/dp/B00FBZMY7Q/ref=la_B00HDOYIHM_1_5_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387315713&sr=1-5

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2013/12/now-booking-tasty-virtual-book-tour-for_19.html

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22. From North to South/ Del Norte al Sur

My bilingual book From North to South/ Del norte al sur, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, is back in print & now available in paperback edition. The book is available at http://www.leeandlow.com/ 

Thanks to all readers who had emailed me asking for the book.  It is great to know that it has touched many lives. 

Here are some emails.

"Like you, I am an elementary school teacher. Most of the students in my class are Latino and, of course, immigration and deportations are huge issues. I've been trying to purchase your book From North to South but have been unable to do so. It seems like it's not selling anywhere! Do you know how I can get 6 copies of that book?"

"From North to South is truly a deeply moving book and so important in our community. One of my grad students  used it with families and their response was very heartfelt as one of the grandmothers was living the situation with her son who was deported. The grandmother is caring for her grandchild left behind."

"Thank you so much for writing From North to South.  It's so important for children to understand why they are separated from their parents.  The numbers are only increasing, unfortunately.
My fiance was recently removed to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  I bought your book and took it to him last time I was there.  He wrote inside the book, and I mailed it to his children for their Christmas present.  Recently, I was at an immigration conference (I work in the advocacy field) and spoke to an attorney who is working with several mothers who have been removed.  I recommended the book and she bought a few and mailed them to Guatemala for the parents to write in for their children. Anyhow I thought you'd enjoy knowing that the book is making an impact in the lives of children."



Review by Ariadna Sánchez

From North to South is written by René Colato Laínez and tenderly illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Colato Laínez’s story portrays the struggle of hundreds of immigrant families who suffer because of their legal status in the United States. From North to South shows the challenges and effects of family separation while dreams and hopes are abruptly stopped by the border fence.

José and his parents live in San Diego, California. One day, José’s mom is arrested and deported to Tijuana, Mexico during a raid in the factory where she works. After weeks of being away from  his mother, José and his father finally had the opportunity to go to Tijuana, Mexico to  visit her mother at a shelter called Centro Madre Assunta.*

As soon as José sees his mother, he desperately runs into her mother’s arms.  This event brings relief to the whole family and their broken hearts. José and his parents spend a very special weekend at Centro Madre Assunta. As a one big family, José and his mother spend some time with other children and women that are waiting to reunite with their loved ones on the other side of the border. They play games, plant seeds, eat, and rejoice for being part of this big family at Centro Madre Assunta. José’s dad is a legal permanent resident, so this means that José’s mom will soon be getting her legal status.

When it was time to say farewell to his mother, the sun also began to hide behind the mountain. As his mother read a story, José fell asleep on his mother lap. This very painful separation marks José’s family forever. Like a giant magnet, “the north” pulls José and his father back to San Diego while “the south” holds his mother back in Tijuana. Time and hope are her best allies to calm her broken heart.

Remember reading gives you wings!!!

*Centro Madre Assunta is a shelter located in Tijuana, Mexico. Centro Madre Assunta provides a refuge for women and children who have been deported or are trying to cross the border to meet again with their relatives in the United States. For more information about the shelter visit the following links:

0 Comments on From North to South/ Del Norte al Sur as of 3/12/2014 1:44:00 AM
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23. Novella Review: The Sheriff’s Secret by Susan Meier



The Sheriff’s Secret is part of The Billionaire Matchmaker series, which features a four-legged matchmaker.

The Sheriff’s Secret is a quick, sexy read, and even though Dell could occasionally be a shallow jerk, I really enjoyed this story.  Marney is a jewelry designer whose work has been picked up by a shopping channel, so she is enjoying her success and reaping in the benefits of her hard work.  Single again after catching her husband cheating on her, she’s lost everything in the divorce; her condo, their mutual friends, and even her parents’ respect.  They can’t get over how she could allow her ex to get away.  He was a lawyer and made them feel like they had made a huge jump socially.  Never mind that he was a cheating scumbag and that Marney is doing just fine on her own, her parents just won’t let her forget what a prize she let go.


Sheriff Dell O’Nell is attractive and he knows it.  When Marney makes a 911 call, thinking that an intruder is in her house, he accuses her of reporting a false alarm.  He believes the only reason Marney called was because she knew they would send Dell over.  Dell lives on the property next door, and while Marney was admittedly ogling him, she certainly did not make the call hoping to use the emergency dispatcher as a dating service.  So, right off the bat, their relationship gets off on the wrong foot, and it stays that way until The Kiss.  And the Next Kiss. And Everything That Happens Next.  And in between, Marney learns Dell’s secret, which makes him even more wary of her.

I thought this was a fun story.  Marney and Dell are continually drawn to each other.  Their physical attraction is undeniable, though neither of them wants a serious, committed relationship.  They are both still smarting from their previous, disastrous marriages, and they don’t want to go through anything like that again.  When Marney starts getting a little too fond of Dell, though, she knows she’s in deep, deep trouble.

I wanted to read The Sheriff’s Secret because one of the characters is a dog, Charlie.  I am a sucker for dogs.  Charlie is a smart little guy, and he knows that Marney and Dell need a little help admitting their feelings for one another.  This little matchmaker excels at plying his wiles and getting his way.  I liked how Marney poured her heart out to the dog.  Her relationship with Dell is a secret, so she has no one else to confide in except for the always attentive Charlie.

There are three other novellas in The Billionaire Matchmaker series featuring Charlie and Marney’s best friends, and because I enjoyed The Sheriff’s Secret so much, I hope to share reviews of the other stories soon as well.


Title: The Sheriff’s Secret
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Susan Meier
Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
Ebook: 80 Pages
Release Date: March 14, 2014
ISBN: 978-1622665044
Goodreads |Amazon |Barnes and Noble

Can a feisty four-legged matchmaker help four best friends find the romance of their dreams?

Marney’s 9-1-1 emergency help arrives in the form of a rugged, blue-eyed cop. Now she has the perfect bodyguard to keep her safe during those dark, steamy nights…


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24. Review: The Remaining by DJ Molles #zombies

May Contain Spoilers


This book came along at a perfect time.  I am under a lot of stress and in a bit of a funk, and my usual romance comfort reads weren’t holding my interest.  When that happens, I usually turn to post-apocalyptic titles, and bingo!  there was The Remaining on Netgalley.  This was such a good read!  I read it in almost one sitting, and if you enjoy zombie tales, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  This is so far from my usual read, too, in that there wasn’t one speck of romance anywhere.  This is a straight up run away from zombies and try to save the world adventure yarn.


Lee Harden has been holed up in a bunker in his basement.  He’s part of a special unit of the US Army, and when things get dicey in the world, he is ordered to lock himself in the bunker and await orders from his superiors.  Every other time has been a false alarm, but this time, the world as Lee knew it really did cease to exist.  With only his dog Tango and his strong sense of duty to rely on, he has been tasked with the impossible.  To survive, rescue, and rebuild the US government.  Good luck, Lee!  You are going to need it!

The time Lee spends in the bunker, just waiting for his orders dragged a bit for me, but once he dons his personal protection gear and heads upstairs – whoa!  I was on the edge of my seat for almost the entire book!  Argh! My contacts were glued to my eyes by the end because I stopped blinking!  It was almost like I was afraid I would miss something if I took my eyes off my Kindle for even a second.  I was disappointed by the non-ending, but heck, I always am.  The story stutters to a complete stop, like someone stopping just an inch before toppling off the edge of a cliff.  Ugh!  At least four books in the series are currently available, with book five due early next year.  If I space them out over the rest of this year, I won’t go nuts waiting to find out what happens next.  Plus, I need a give my overworked heart a little rest.  There are parts of The Remaining that made me jump! 

This series was originally self-pubbed.  Orbit picked it up, gave the covers a face-lift, and re-released the first four books in January in ebook format.  Print editions are on tap starting in May.  I love zombie books, and The Remaining managed to fly under my zombie radar, so I’m glad I finally discovered the books.

Lee is skeptical that a killer virus has over taken the population.  Once you catch the disease, you become a mindless savage.  A mutated form of the rabies virus, there is no hope once you become infected.  Lee quickly learns that the infected are violent, strong, and take a lot of fire power to stop.  After he’s almost killed by a teenage girl,  his whole attitude changes.  If one teenage girl gave him so much trouble, what is going to happen when he encounters an adult male infected?  Good thing he has his bunker full of ammo, food, and water to fall back on.  He also has power, so it’s not like he roughing it.  Hot showers are just a shower stall away.  Until a miscalculation costs him his safe house, and every advantage he was counting on.  How is he going to save the world without supplies?  How is he going to defend himself against the infected?  How is he going to protect the ragged band of survivors he’s managed to rescue?  Things are looking mighty grim for Lee, and the odds are stacked even more against him after some unpleasant run-ins with rogue normals.

I found the story so appealing because Lee’s mission is so hopeless.  He’s working on nothing but adrenaline, but he doggedly continues with his directive.  Just when it seems like things can’t get any worse for him, they do, and yet he still refuses to give up.  He always keeps a level head, falling back on past combat experience to get him through the nightmare he’s found himself in, and this is a nightmare of epic proportions!

Fans of John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising will fit right in here.  If that series isn’t your cup of tea, The Remaining probably won’t be, either.  If you enjoy a fast-paced, non-stop action zombie thriller, give The Remaining a try.

Grade:  B+ (This would have gotten an A had there been an ending!)

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a soldier waits for his final orders. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace. The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed. Some day soon, the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his mission: SUBVENIRE REFECTUS.


This is the first novel in the action-packed series:

Book 1: The Remaining
Book 2: The Remaining: Aftermath
Book 3: The Remaining: Refugees
Book 4: The Remaining: Fractured

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25. Novella Review: Love Unleashed by Jackie Braun


Review may contain spoilers

Love Unleashed is the second book in the Billionaire Matchmaker series that I have read.  As I stated previously, the big draw for me is Charlie, the rambunctious little canine who acts like a catalyst to brings the couples together.  The protagonists of this novella are Mia, a florist, and Gideon, the town vet.  It features my favorite trope;  Mia rejected Gid when he proposed six months ago because she is terrified of commitment, and both are still hung up on the other.  Mia is carrying around a ton of baggage that is preventing her from trusting Gid.  After bouncing between her drug addicted parents and the foster care system, she feels that she can’t trust anyone and that all relationships are doomed to failure. 


Charlie gamely steps in by eating the contents of her trash can, as well as a lace bra.  When he begins vomiting, Mia panics and calls Gid.  He agrees to see the dog immediately, opening the path to a strained reunion.  Before Mia knows what’s happened, they have fallen back into physical relationship.  Gid stresses about getting his heart broken again, and Mia worries about Gid putting his house and vet clinic on the market.  All Gid wants is to settle down with the woman he loves, but Mia still isn’t ready to trust him completely.  And with Gid on a timeline-his new job in California starts in just a few weeks-it doesn’t seem that there is enough time to get beyond the hurdles that keep getting in their way.

My favorite part of Love Unleashed is Gid’s unwavering love for Mia.  He’s willing to give her space and not push about her past, though this too becomes a thorn in their relationship.  While Mia has made it crystal clear that she doesn’t want to discuss her past, she is bothered that Gid never asks her about it.  It did take me a while to warm up to her, but she is a mess emotionally and she doesn’t want to be hurt again.  With Gid as her anchor, though, and with Charlie slyly pushing them together, she learns that love is to something to cherish, not to run and hide from.

My biggest disappointment? I didn’t think the interaction between Mia and Charlie was as cute as it was with Marney and Charlie.



Title: Love Unleashed
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Jackie Braun
Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
Ebook: 80 Pages
Release Date: March 21, 2014
ISBN: 978-1622665051
Goodreads |Amazon |Barnes and Noble

Can a feisty four-legged matchmaker help four best friends find the romance of their dreams?

The last thing Mia wants is a relationship yet the headstrong florist can’t keep her hands off her sexy-as-sin ex-boyfriend. Will she open her heart before he leaves town for good?


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