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1. Review and Giveaway: Grave Matters by Lauren M Roy

My thoughts:

I loved Night Owls, so I was eager to dive into Grave Matters.  While it didn’t quite have the punch that the first book did, I enjoyed revisiting with Val, Elly, Cavale, and the rest of the Night Owls gang.  The characters are what makes this series stand out for me, and I had a blast getting to know them better.  There aren’t any that I dislike, and I even like the not so nice Stregoi vampires, led by Ivanov and his second in command, Katya.

Elly gets most of the attention in Grave Matters.  She’s working as a bodyguard for Ivanov, the head of the Boston vampires.  She has a tenuous relationship with the vamps, and as one incident after another start piling up and none of them make any sense, she begins to wonder if she’s putting a little too much trust in her employer.  After she exorcises a ghost from a neighbor’s house, things get really weird.  There’s a necromancer in town, and he’s causing all kinds of trouble.  There’s also a rival vampire coven threatening Ivanov’s turf, so Elly has a lot on her plate. 

There’s a lot of vampire politics and jostling for power.  There are also an increasing number of the necromancer’s newly risen dead getting in the way and mucking things up.  The necromancer interferes with both Cavale and Chaz, making them both determined to uncover his identity.  While Cavale is a bad ass and more than capable of defending himself, Chaz is faced with the uncomfortable truth that he’s the weakest link of the Night Owls gang.  Lia and Sunny can probably take on an entire town and emerge victorious, shy Justin, still adapting to his new undead existence, can more than hold his own, and Elly puts Chaz’ fighting abilities to shame.  Add in Val’s reluctance to put him in danger, and you have a guy wrestling with his sense of self-worth.  Chaz decides to do something about his state of helplessness, and finally comes into his own during the climax of the story.

There’s lots of action, and Elly is the main participant in the fighting.  Cavale is in stealth mode, trying to track down the necromancer.  When Chaz unlocks the key to the necromancer’s runes, they all have the uneasy realization that an ancient Mesopotamian god of the dead might be involved in the strange and deadly goings on, both in Boston and their towns.  I thought this was a great twist, because, really, how do you defeat a god, and a god of the dead at that?

If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy series to take for a spin, the Night Owls books are great.  They have great characters, fun plot twists, and lots of tense moments.  The character interactions are my favorite aspect of the series, and there are just enough personalities to get to know without being overwhelming.  The books are also very fast paced; nobody gets to sit on their thumbs for long before they’re scrambling to put out a paranormal fire or save somebody from an unpleasant end.  I can hardly wait for the third book in the series!

Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy’s thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life…

Elly grew up training to kill things that go bump in the night, so she’s still getting used to working alongside them. While she’s learned to trust the eclectic group of vampires, Renfields, and succubi at Night Owls bookstore, her new job guarding Boston’s most powerful vampire has her on edge—especially when she realizes something strange is going on with her employer, something even deadlier than usual…

Cavale isn’t thrilled that his sister works for vampires, but he’s determined to repair their relationship, and that means trusting her choices—until Elly’s job lands all of the Night Owls in deep trouble with a vengeful necromancer. And even their collective paranormal skills might not be enough to keep them from becoming part of the necromancer’s undead army…

Check out more stops on the tour!

ON STARSHIPS AND DRAGONWINGS

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The post Review and Giveaway: Grave Matters by Lauren M Roy appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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2. Review and Giveaway: Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye

Today I have a review and giveaway for Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye!

If you have been following the blog, you already know that I enjoy all genres of fiction.  Reading level is irrelevant.  I love anything from picture books on up and I always have.  When I saw Witherwood Reform School, I thought it would be worth checking out, so I was happy to hop on the blog tour.  I haven’t read Obert Skye previously, but I have heard of his Pillage trilogy and have it on my TBR.  Witherwood Reform School is the start of a new series about Tobias and Charlotte Eggars, a brother and sister who get themselves into more trouble than they’ve ever been in before.  And to think it all started with tadpoles and gravy!

Tobias and Charlotte are mischievous kids, and they’ve already managed to drive off several governesses.  Their latest, Martha, is like a thorn in their sides.  She’s lazy, mean, and after threatening harm to Charlotte, Tobias has had enough.  He very cleverly sneaks tadpoles into the gravy, fully expecting to be amused when Martha runs screaming from the house.  What he doesn’t expect is for her to choke on a mouthful of mashed potatoes, hurl up the grossly contaminated gravy, and run screaming from the house – right as Ralph, the kids’ put-upon father, returns home early from work.  Ralph is not in a good mood; he’s just been fired from another job, and his children are the last straw.  He orders them into the car, drives out to the middle of nowhere, and drops them off at the gates of Witherwood Reform School.  Then he leaves them standing in the rain, intending only to give them a scare.  He then gets into an accident and loses his memory.  Poor Ralph!  Poor Tobias!  Poor Charlotte!  Their lives are all about to become a lot more complicated!

There is something weird going on at Witherwood, and it’s not just the creepy teachers and scary monsters patrolling the school grounds. As Tobias and Charlotte are forced to attend classes and do dishes and slave away on KP duty, they realize that something is not right.  There are guys wandering around in lab coats, singing guards walking the halls, and mysterious rooms they are told never to enter.  They are locked in their room at night, and they don’t even have pillows!  That right there would be reason enough for me to escape.  I mean, how are you expected to get a decent night’s sleep with NO pillow?

The tone of the story is very dry, and reminded me of Lemony Snicket.  Witherwood Reform School is fast paced, and a very quick read.  Charlotte and Tobias are likeable protagonists, even if they have a tendency to create mayhem.  They are clever, which serves them well with their attempts to escape, but also unlucky, because every attempt is foiled, leaving them in more trouble than before.  My only complaint is that it reads like a serial – think of Darren Shan’s Zom-B.  It ended on a cliffhanger, none of the important plot points were resolved, and it has a feeling of incompleteness.  I think it will appeal equally to boys or girls, assuming they don’t mind the non-ending and are ready to follow the series for the long haul.

 

 

Obert Skye is the author and illustrator of the Creature from My Closet series: Wonkenstein, Potterwookiee, Pinocula, and Katfish (forthcoming September 2014). He has also written the bestselling children’s fantasy adventure series Leven Thumps and Pillage. He currently lives indoors and near a thin, winding road with his family. Visit him online at abituneven.com or follow him on Twitter at @obertskye.

After a slight misunderstanding involving a horrible governess, gravy, and a jar of tadpoles, siblings Tobias and Charlotte Eggars find themselves abandoned by their father at the gates of a creepy reform school. Evil mysteries are afoot at Witherwood, where the grounds are patrolled by vicious creatures and kids are locked in their rooms. Charlotte and Tobias soon realize that they are in terrible danger—especially because the head of Witherwood has perfected the art of mind control. If only their amnesiac father would recover. If only Tobias and Charlotte could solve the dark mystery and free the kids at Witherwood—and ultimately save themselves.

US addresses only, please

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  2/18: Little Red Reads

2/19: A Reader’s Adventure

2/20: Stories & Sweeties

2/23: The Hiding Spot

2/24: Bumbles and Fairytales

2/25: Manga Maniac Café

2/26: The Book Monsters

2/27: Mundie Kids

3/2: Milk & Cookies: Comfort Reading

3/3: Green Bean Teen Queen

The post Review and Giveaway: Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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3. Review: The Promise of Rain by Rula Sinara

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I didn’t read any further in the blurb than “elephant research and rescue camp” before I added The Promise of Rain to my TBR.  Imagine my delight when the library actually acquired a copy so soon after the release date!  It’s one of the first novels in the Harlequin Heartwarming line that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed the story, I have mixed feelings about certain aspects of it.

Anna Bekker’s life revolves around two things: her four year old daughter, Pippa, and the elephants she’s studying.  When the head of the research department back in the States starts exerting pressure on her about expenses and results, she knows that her funding is in danger.  When she’s told someone will be visiting the camp to audit the books, the last person she expects is Jackson Harper, her former best friend and the love of her life.  He’s also Pippa’s father, a fact that she’s kept secret from him.  Jack is beyond pissed that he’s been kept in the dark about his daughter, and he thinks a wildlife camp in the middle of the Serengeti is the last place she belongs.  It’s dangerous!  There are wild animals! Snakes!  GERMS!  Yes, Jack is a germaphobe, but  that’s not the biggest reason I couldn’t connect with him.  He’s also manipulative, emotionally stunted, and clueless. So, yeah, I didn’t much care for Jack.

Anna, on the other hand, I loved.  She’s dedicated to her daughter and to the elephants she’s researching, and the thought of losing her funding is keeping her up nights, sleepless and worried.  Having her future rest in Jack’s hands is galling, especially when he’s so angry with her about Pippa.   When it turns out that he’s keeping quiet about a conflict of interest regarding her funding, she thinks the chasm between them can’t get any wider.  Then Jack threatens to fight for Pippa’s custody, and she realizes just how wrong she was.

The romance didn’t work for me.  Jack is too anal and too uptight, and if there was any chemistry between Jack and Anna, I didn’t see it.  While they both have trust issues, Jack just didn’t seem like he would ever be capable of being the kind of partner Anna needed.  If I hadn’t liked Anna, the elephants, and the secondary characters so much, The Promise of Rain might have been a DFN for me.  Instead, I loved the details of Anna’s work and the descriptions of the camp and the wildlife preserve. The romance, unfortunately, fell flat for me.

Grade:  C+

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

He wants to take her child out of Africa…

The Busara elephant research and rescue camp on Kenya’s Serengeti is Anna Bekker’s life’s work. And it’s the last place she thought she’d run into Dr. Jackson Harper. As soon as he sets eyes on her four-year-old, Pippa, Anna knows he’ll never leave…without his daughter. 

Furious doesn’t begin to describe how Jack feels. How could Anna keep this from him? He has to get his child back to the States. Yet as angry as he is with Anna, they still have a bond. But can it endure, despite the ocean—and the little girl—between them?

The post Review: The Promise of Rain by Rula Sinara appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Review: dark deeds, secrets and lies lurk beneath the masks of Secret Identities #1

secretidentitiesStory by: Jay Faerber & Brian Joines

Art by: Ilias Kyriazis

Colors by: Charlie Kirchoff

Letters by: Ed Dukeshire

Publisher: Image Comics

Secret Identities #1 wastes no time in establishing it’s universe. On the opening pages we’re thrown into a two page splash of super heroics familiar to even the casual comic reader. A team of eight archetypal heroes, known as the Front Line, converge in battle over downtown Toronto. They include a beautiful and deadly alien woman, a rock-bodied hulk , and a silver-suited man of super-human speed. A portal has been opened over the Canadian city, spewing wave after wave of nasty hell-creatures crashing over our heroes.

But before you can say excelsior, differences that root the team more in the genre of titles like Planetary and The Authority begin to emerge. The being who opened the portal? A failed televangelist turned satanic messiah. The muscle-bound hero Punchline, who swoops in like Superman to save the bacon of the power-girlish teammate Luminary is a woman: her secret identity is a failed, depressed comedian. And Luminary herself? She doesn’t hide her identity as the willful daughter of the President of the United States; creating a political quagmire by refusing to use her team to expand her father’s presidential powers.

Jay Faerber, a veteran of titles like Teen Titans, Generation X and New Warriors splits writing duties with Brian Joines, who previously worked on Faerber’s Noble Causes and spin-off Dynamo 5. Clearly it’s a fruitful pairing; the story crackles along at breakneck speed, peeling back the heroic images to reveal the strange secret identities beneath. There’s a palpable, intriguing darkness hiding behind the familiar costumes and super-team set-up. Do the heroes really know each other, or even themselves? There’s tension, twists, intrigue: what more could you ask from a debut issue? How about beautiful art from Ilias Kyriazis that manages to be fresh and dynamic, while also honoring the look and feel of the mainstream super hero tropes that form the story engine of Secret Identities. Kyriazis crams a lot of action and detail into his panels, but they never look overstuffed or confused. As the issue draws to a close, the team is ensconced at HQ: the mutilated body of a giant cyborg whose defeat marked the first victory for Front Line. If issue two continues or improves on the formula set out in issue one, Secret Identities could prove a sleeper hit for Image.

 

0 Comments on Review: dark deeds, secrets and lies lurk beneath the masks of Secret Identities #1 as of 2/20/2015 7:45:00 PM
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5. Review: Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I don’t read many inspirational romances, but I stumbled upon Karen Witemeyer a while back, and I really enjoyed her writing.  When I saw Head in the Clouds at the library, I thought it sounded cute, so I checked it out.  I could relate to Adelaide, a young woman looking for her very own hero.  Charmed by Jane Eyre and other novels, she longs for a man to protect her and take care of her.  What she finds is even better; she discovers the love of her life, but she also finds the strength to protect and care for herself and her loved ones.

Adelaide has fallen in love with the idea of being in love, so she quits her teaching job and follows her destiny to Fort Worth.  Only once she arrives, she discovers that the man she’s been pining for is married and has a family.  Humiliated and angry with herself for allowing her impulsive nature to leave her without a job or a place to live, she answers an advertisement in the newspaper to be the governess to a sheep rancher’s daughter. Before she can blink, she’s headed to central Texas with two other applicants, to meet both Gideon, the sheep rancher, and his daughter, Isabella.  Talk about a stressful job interview!  It took two days of hard travel to reach her destination, and then she had to vie against two women with more experience and better teaching credentials than she possessed!

After charming Isabella and the rest of the rest of the household, she scores the job.  Now she learns that Isabella hasn’t spoken a word in months, and she’s mourning the death of her mother.  Adelaide is determined to help Isabella out of the shell she’s surrounded herself in, and help her find joy and laugher once again.  Adelaide’s teaching methods, which utilized role-playing and creative play, were fun to read about.  I loved the teacher – student interactions.  Isabella has had an unhappy time, and she’s having a hard time being a kid.  Adelaide slowly and patiently draws her out of her shell, much to Gideon’s delight.

The romance is very sweet, and the biggest hurdle they must overcome is class difference.  Gideon is British, the son of a baron, and he thinks he has to marry someone refined and elegant, two things that Adelaide is not.  Adelaide was raised on a cattle ranch, and she can ride and shoot as well as any man.  Gideon thinks his parents won’t approve of her, so he firmly resists his attraction to her.  Until danger threatens both Isabella and Adelaide, and then he realizes that life is too short to worry about what other people expect of him.

There’s a lot of action in Head in the Clouds, and Adelaide proves her worth in difficult situations.  I liked that she didn’t wait for someone to save her or Isabella, but instead made her own opportunities to save herself.  She’s brave, fiercely protective, and intelligent – how can you not like a heroine with traits like those?

There is a lot of religion in the book, but it didn’t seem intrusive or out of  place because of the setting.  If this had been a contemporary, it probably wouldn’t have worked for me, but I expect that with the harsh surroundings and difficulties involved in ranching in the 1800s, that faith would have a large place in both Gideon and Adelaide’s lives.  I am not a particularly religious person, but the prayers and requests for guidance didn’t bother me, but I will mention it in case that’s not your cup of tea. 

I haven’t read many inspirationals, but I liked Head in the Clouds so much that I want to rush out and try other authors in the genre.  If you read them, do you have any recommendations for me?

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America’s wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn’t uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon–and intrigues him at the same time. But he can’t afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.

When Isabella’s uncle comes to claim the child–and her inheritance–Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man’s evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?

The post Review: Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Review: Agent Carter explodes with action and sacrifice

AgentCartersnafuAs I was drying my tears following the dramatic conclusion of this week’s episode of Agent Carter, ‘Snafu’, all I could think about was that I wanted more. More Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, whose range and presence eats up every frame of this small-screen show that plays like a big-screen adventure. More of the fabulous, smart dialogue and fantastic supporting cast; more of the beautiful costumes and period lighting — just more! More than just next week’s season finale. If you haven’t been watching Agent Carter yet, in the name of good comic-based television I implore you: read the recaps at ABC.com, binge watch episodes 3-7 and set your DVR to ABC next Tuesday at 9pm/8c.

When we last left Agent Carter she was handcuffed to a desk at SSR, on the receiving end of what was sure to be an impassioned interrogation at the hands of Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). So it was a surprise when ‘Snafu’ opened instead on the show’s second flashback to Russia. While the last flashback showed us a young Dottie (Bridget Regan) snapping necks in 1937, this one takes place in 1943 and concerns the whereabouts of that other Russian mole: Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown). It seems during WWII, Ivchenko was already in full command of the Professor X-like mind control powers he used to push Agent Yauch to commit suicide in last week’s episode. Here he uses them as mental anesthesia on wounded soldier undergoing an amputation.It’s an odd bit of exposition that serves only to define the mechanism of Ivchenko’s powers, which are pretty clearly articulated in later scenes.

Thankfully, the episode quickly plugs us back into the Carter vs. the SSR interrogation scene we’ve all been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Agent Sousa seeks to pin nearly all of the SSR’s unsolved mysteries on Carter’s double-agent machinations: the Raymond/Brannis/Krzeminski murders, theft of the Nitramene bombs and connection to Stark’s weapons cache.

Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham) looks on from behind a one-way mirror with Ivchenko by his side, pulling Dooley’s strings with every twist of his gold hypno-ring. Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) comments on Dooley’s “unorthodox” choice to allow the Doctor to view the proceedings; thank goodness someone is looking on with a critical eye. Sousa, blinded by his heartbreak over Carter’s perceived betrayal, lays into Carter in the most brutal way possible: crediting her defection from SSR to Howard Stark’s ability to “get in deep” with her.

Incredibly, the temperature is turned up still higher on the proceedings as the interrogation drags on. There’s some smart direction in cross-cutting the scenes of Sousa, Thompson and Dooley all taking their turns grilling Carter. It builds the tension so that when Carter unleashes her thus-far concealed opinions on their opinions of her it feels like a revelation. Rather than take umbrage at being seen as a “stray kitten” left at Dooley’s doorstep, a “secretary turned damsel-in-distress” to Thompson or Sousa’s “girl on a pedestal transformed into some daft whore,” Carter remains calm and stands firm. “You’re behaving like children,” she tells them, “what’s worse, what’s far worse, is that this is just shoddy police work!”

And this is the appeal of Agent Carter in a nutshell: using the rampant sexism of the 1940s as a cloak of invisibility for women who serve as double agents on both sides of the emerging Cold War conflict. This being a Captain America spin-off, Agent Carter is clearly the white hat: empowered by the integration of women into the war effort, now struggling to maintain her position. Dottie shows us the other side of the same coin: empowered by integration as a child into a super-spy program, she relishes in her amoral, powerful position post-war.

Jarvis (James D’Arcy) arrives with a half-baked plan to spring Carter from her interrogation with a faked Stark-confession, but only succeeds in throwing suspicion off of Carter long enough to buy them some time to try and figure out Leviathan’s endgame. Ivchenko continues his campaign of brainwashing the Chief. By acting as a mental marriage counselor to Dooley, whose marriage seems to have suffered from to his devotion to SSR, he hopes to gain his trust — and access to Stark’s weapons store. Carter soon realizes the only way out is through, and finally divulges the truth of her double-life to the SSR team. Sousa and Thompson both believe her confession, and that’s enough for Dooley to send the boys off on Dottie’s trail.

What follows is one of the best action sequences to date. Dottie smiles as each SSR Agent underestimates her: hesitating to attack as she disarms or kills them, one after the other. Her prowess leaves even Sousa speechless: as she escapes he watches her execute a controlled fall through the center of a ten-story staircase as effortlessly as if it were a jungle-gym. Meanwhile, Dooley clears the SSR lab of it’s staff with Ivchenko by his side, shopping for Stark technology. Ivchenko makes off with “Item 17″ in just in time for Dottie to appear driving the getaway car. But before they can truly get away, says Ivchenko, they must test item 17 to ensure it “still works.”

Unfortunately, before he left, the bad doctor talked the Chief into strapping on a glowing prototype vest of Stark design. Jarvis, apparently the wikipedia of bad baby technologies, explains it was intended as a heat source for troops in cold conditions. Like nearly all of the Stark bad babies, though, there’s a dangerous flaw: the self-sustaining battery invariably overheats when activated, eventually becoming an explosive device. Warning the team that Ivchenko got inside his head, the vest nears it’s boiling point and Dooley says goodbye to SSR. Wigham, Murray and Atwell play the scene for all it’s worth: wringing every bit of heartbreak from Dooley’s parting lines to both Thompson; “Tell my wife I’m sorry I missed dinner” and Carter: “Promise me you’ll get the son of a bitch that did this!” It’s a nice touch that he leaves the avenging in the hands of Carter, who knows a thing or two about Avengers. Dooley spares Carter a parting: “atta-girl!” before bravely taking a swan-dive through the office windows just in time, exploding in mid-air.

The remaining SSR team mourns the loss of Dooley before discovering that Ivchenko stole item 17 — one of the few bad babies Jarvis can’t identify. Dottie, however, knows exactly what item 17 can do as she wheels it into a movie theater concealed in a baby carriage. A twist of the knob and the device begins to emit gas. She abandons the carriage and locks the theater doors behind her as the gas begins to take effect on the unsuspecting theatergoers. They cough, then get angry and begin to fighting each other like wild animals. They scream and tear at each other, sparing no one and leaving behind a pile of bloody corpses. It seems we finally have our answer to the mystery of Finow! Ernst Mueller (Jack Conley) may have been a creepy Nazi but he wasn’t lying when he claimed the Russian soldiers had “already been torn apart” before he and his soldiers arrived on the scene. Whatever item 17 contains, it made those unlucky Russians and movie patrons tear each other apart.

More favorite moments (there were so many!):

  • I won’t pat myself on the back too hard that my earlier suspicions of the Doctor proved correct; he was so shady I rewound episode 5 to make sure I hadn’t missed him hypnotizing Carter into bringing him back to the US.
  • Funny that the episode opened on Ivchenko playing mental chess with a wounded soldier; wonder how he’d fair against Magneto
  • “Howard Stark has never scrambled my mind or any other part of me!” Oh Peggy, you slay me!
  • Bravo to Bridget Regan, who can even make buying a baby carriage effectively sinister
  • All the switchboard ladies of the SSR telephone center giving a collective “ooh” at Jarvis’ claim to have a signed confession from Stark
  • Hayley Atwell breaking my heart with: “just wanted a second chance at keeping him safe.”
  • The moral of the story is: always look for street parking!

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7. Manga Review: The Legend of De Marco by Abby Green and Sae Nanahoshi

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Occasionally confusing presentation, but I loved the art, so the book gets props for that.  This is a revenge story.  Gracie’s brother Steven runs off with a million of his employer’s euros.  Rocco De Marco isn’t amused.  If news of this leaks to the public, it will ruin his company.  When Gracie shows up looking for Steven, he makes a brash decision; he’ll keep her in his penthouse until Steven turns himself in.  Gracie, after putting up a fuss, realizes that she has nowhere else to stay.  She’s just been fired from her job, and after her landlord made a pass at her, she packed her suitcase and moved out.

Rocco accuses Gracie of helping Steven steal his money, and at first he doesn’t believe that they are siblings.  Gracie decides to prove that he’s wrong, and to make the best of a bad situation.  Rocco’s housekeeper just quit, so he offers Gracie the job.  Thinking that she can keep an eye on Rocco and learn if his people find her brother, she accepts the position.

Despite his belief to the contrary, Gracie and Rocco have a lot in common.  Both come from humble backgrounds, and both were treated horribly by a parent.  While Gracie is still struggling to find success, as well as keep a roof over her head, Rocco has made a fortune, all in an effort to get back at his father, who treated him like trash.  The final feather in his cap, marrying a socialite with a sterling pedigree, will seal his revenge.  Too bad he’s falling for Gracie, a woman with no social cred and someone he doesn’t even trust.

While this wasn’t a complete win for me, the art more than made up for some of the plot’s shortcomings.  Rocco is handsome, whipcord lean, blessed of gorgeous hair and a face to stop the hearts of ladies the world over.  Gracie is sweetly tomboyish, though stunning later in the book when she attends social outings with Rocco and she’s decked out in beautiful dresses. 

The ending wraps up a little too quickly, but I recommend this fast read if you have Scribd account.

Grade:  C+

Review copy read on Scribd

From Amazon:

Her little brother, Steven, has disappeared with a million euros in tow? Gracie, seeking a more detailed explanation of what happened, rushes to the company where her brother works. The president of the company, Rocco De Marco, meets with her to explain that her brother has stolen money from them and disappeared. Furthermore, they are also questioning her as if she is an accomplice to the crime. “You are an important person in relation to the incident. Until Steven appears, we would like you to stay in the company penthouse on the top floor of the building.” Isn’t this imprisonment?

The post Manga Review: The Legend of De Marco by Abby Green and Sae Nanahoshi appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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8. Review: Drifters by John L Campbell #Zombies

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I LOVE this series!  I meant to read a romance on Valentine’s Day, but once I picked this up, I couldn’t put it down. This works fairly well as a jump on point for the series if you don’t want to go back and read the first two books (which you really should!). I think the action flowed better, and we finally get to find out what happened to Angie’s family. Some of it is devastating, because the real monsters in zombie fiction are usually the surviving humans.

The action picks up pretty much where it left off in Ship of the Dead.  Angie, Vlad, Skye, and Carney are on the Black Hawk, headed to the safe house at Angie’s parents’ ranch.  When they get there, all they discover is devastation.  It looks like a small army has overrun the bunker, killing Angie’s father and cleaning out their stockpile of weapons and supplies.  There’s no sign of Dean or Leah, so Angie staunchly believes that they are still alive.  Dean is an urban warfare specialist; surely he found a way to keep himself and their daughter alive.

Told through a series of flashbacks and present time chapters, at first I was a little confused by the flow of time.  Probably because I had to think, just a teeny bit, and I usually don’t like to do that when reading about zombies.  Just let them keep coming, and the protagonists keep running away, and I’m happy.  The timing of the events jumped around, ebbing back to Dean and Leah, and then surging to Angie’s frantic efforts to find him.  It all ties up near the end, but it was a slight shift from previous installments in the series, and it took me a few chapters to get used to.

We have a whole new cast of characters to love to hate, and I was counting down the pages until they meet their long overdue end.  This time, it’s a bunch of bikers and an Army deserter kicking the ant hill, and boy, did I want to see these guys suffer.  A couple of them got off way too easily, and I thought they deserved worse than they got.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the scum that sacrifices his companions to zombies, only to end up outwitting himself and getting eaten in the end.  Yeah!  Or the guy who brutalizes everyone, and then gets turned on, meeting a bloody, justified fate.

Once again, the fighting is fierce, the zombies are relentless, and the bad humans are BAD HUMANS!  All of those new characters to wish death upon, as well as a few to cheer for their survival. I think that’s why I enjoy the series so much; I get so caught up in the characters and their struggles (both good and bad) to survive, and the tension is so great that it’s hard to disengage from the story. I save these for the weekend, so I don’t have to go anywhere and can just sit like a lump and read them to the last page.

There’s a scary new type of zombie, and I can hardly wait for September, when Crossbones hits store shelves, to find out more about them. If you are a chicken sh!t like me, read this on an eReader at night, turn off the lights, and prepare to be FREAKED out! Fun, fun read

Grade:  A-

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

The survivors of the Omega Virus make a desperate effort to find the living. But the walking dead aren’t done with them yet…

Helicopter pilot Vladimir Yurish is a man of his word. The last thing he wants is to abandon the safety of the U.S.S. Nimitz and his newly adopted son Ben. Still, a promise is a promise, no matter how close to death it brings him…

Angie West has fought hard to keep strangers alive, but now it’s time to tend to her own. Only, when she finds her family missing and their hideout burned and looted, she realizes the threat to her family isn’t just the undead—the living can do so much worse…
Halsey has done well for himself, given the circumstances. Between his secluded ranch and precise shooting, the plague hasn’t touched him. Until a Black Hawk crashes on his property, bringing the war to his front door…

Amid the chaos of a destroyed civilization, the survivors encounter a new threat. And these new monsters can’t be outrun—or outwitted…

The post Review: Drifters by John L Campbell #Zombies appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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9. Review: Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 packs a punch

Screen shot 2015-02-14 at 5.14.20 PMWriter: Jeremy Whitley

Artists: Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Publisher: Action Lab

This installment in the ongoing Princeless series is everything you could want from a title like Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1. A tough and self-assured lead, whose Father trained her from childhood to be a quiet, efficient warrior of the high-seas as opposed to a princess waiting in a tower for rescue. Yet in the latter situation is exactly where Raven Xingtao, the pirate princess, finds herself in the opening pages of the book. Yet it’s two other princesses on a large pink dragon that end up breaking into Raven’s tower. Adrienne is clearly not “wearing her husbands armor” as a Knight loitering beneath the tower discovers to his peril, and Bedelia formidably wields a large Harley-Quinn style mallet. Raven easily falls in with the trio leading to several action packed scenes.

Admittedly, this is was my first brush with the Princeless series, but the story was easy enough to follow. I would have liked to learn just a little bit more about Raven and her brothers before the issue ended, though. We’re fed some tantalizing bits–such as the fact that her brothers put her in the very tower she escaped from, apparently with the blessing of Raven’s Pirate King father. This is quite a reversal from the flashback scene that opened the issue, which found the King grooming a young Raven to follow in her great-grandmother Ming’s fierce, legendary pirate-of-the-Rim-Sea footsteps.

Rosy Higgins Ted Brandt are a lovely art team on this book, giving the story and action the look and feel of an animated series that would have fit right into the Disney’s afternoon programming block. Sadly, in those days princesses did not get to save themselves. Writer Jeremy Whitley seems more than aware of this fact, and the whole package makes Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 incredibly appealing to anyone who wants a little less damsel-in-distress and a little more Kick-Ass in their fairy tales.

 

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10. Manga Review: One Hot Texan by Jane Sullivan and Masako Ogimaru

 

Review:

What a happy day!  I discovered a plethora of Harlequin manga on Scribd!  I love reading these, but I don’t like buying them, because I can read one in less than an hour.  Needless to say, my subscription at Scribd just became even more of a value.  There are tons and tons of these there, so I’ll be contentedly squeezing them into the review schedule.  Just as an FYI, the site just added comics from Marvel, IDW, Dynamite, and others, so if you enjoy comics, check out their selection.  I’m not a collector (anymore), I just want to read them, so the subscription based system works great for me and takes up less room in my house!

After browsing the Harlequin manga, I settled on One Hot Texan because, well, why not?  I was hoping for cowboys and horses, and I kind of got that, just not how I expected.  Cole McCallum hasn’t had an easy life.  His mother walked out on Cole and his father, and then his father was convicted of crimes and sent to jail.  Cole was sent to Texas to live with his grandmother, but he hated the small town and the gossip that followed him everywhere.  He couldn’t wait to leave it all behind him, and when he turned 18, that’s just what he did.  He packed up, left the grandmother who always loved and believed in him, and made it big in real estate.  But then trouble found him again, and brush with the law costs him his fortune.

Back in Texas, he needs to find a wife pronto of he’ll lose the ranch that his grandmother left to him.  While marriage of convenience stories aren’t my favorite, I did enjoy this one.  Cole meets shy Virginia, and he offers her a business deal.  She’s struggling to pay off bills since her mother passed away, so if she’ll marry him for the time required to inherit the ranch, he’ll give her a cash settlement that will pay off her bills and allow her to follow  her dream of attending college.

Ginny has been brow beaten by her mother her entire life, and as a result, she’s quiet, introverted, and longing for a change.  She wants to do something with her life, but her mother’s hateful words haunt her.  She was constantly told that men were evil, and they only wanted one thing, and worse, that she wished Ginny had never been born.  Obviously, Ginny’s mother needed counseling, and so does Ginny!  She keeps Cole at arms length, reminding him time and again that theirs is strictly a business arrangement.  As time passes, she begins to care about him, and she begins to wonder if maybe, just maybe, they can make this into a permanent arrangement, but then reality intrudes, and she sees that it’s impossible. Cole just wants the ranch, so he can sell it and start over with his real estate career.

Overall, I enjoyed One Hot Texan, but I thought that Ginny’s issues were far too complex to believably resolve in such a short comic.  Cole, too, has his trust issues, but he doesn’t really acknowledge them.  I did like how tender and protective he could be, but then he blew that by treating Ginny horribly when he thinks she purposefully did not take her birth control.  Dude!  You have a responsibility to help make sure she doesn’t forget to take them; the fact that she has a prescription does not absolve you of your due diligence.  How did you run a successful business? Oh, wait…you had a lapse of judgment there, too!

Except for the temper tantrum mentioned above, I did like Cole.  He just needed a kick in the pants to help him realize what was important in life. 

Grade:  C

Read on Scribd

From Amazon:

After spending his whole childhood being raised in an unhappy home, Cole McCallum turned rebellious, dating nothing but superficial women and gaining a bad reputation. He was the most despised person in town, except for those women smitten with him. Now, Cole needs a partner for a marriage of convenience and he picks the town’s latest bloomer, Virginia. He’s looking forward to giving this inexperienced virgin girl a night she’ll never forget. After their simple wedding ceremony, Cole kisses her deeply in their shared hotel room while caressing her body—and is met with an unexpected response!

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11. Review and Giveaway: Worth the Risk by Claudia Connor

Review:

I actually wanted to read Worth the Risk before Claudia Connor’s other book, Worth the Fall, was even on my radar.  I saw that the heroine was a hippotherapist, and that’s all I needed to see.  I didn’t even read the blurb beyond “one therapeutic horseback ride at a time.”  Yup, throw a random horse reference in there, and I’m on board.  But then Worth the Fall was highly recced to me, and despite my aversion to all of those kids, I read it.  And loved it.  And I loved Worth the Risk more!  So the author is now on my auto read list.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so I will be purposefully vague about some key plot points.  I figured a lot of them out, but I don’t want to rob the experience of these discoveries from you, so I’ll just give a general background about the story and why I liked it so much.

Hannah works as a therapist, helping disabled and emotionally battered kids with her horses.  She has a fierce passion for her profession; she suffered through unspeakable brutality when she was a teenager, and horses helped rouse her from of the shell she crawled into.  She lives for her horses and her young clients, so she’s stressing about a letter that she received from the city, questioning the ownership of her property and barn. 

After a very bad day, when she had to unexpectedly put her beloved dog to sleep, she meets gorgeous Stephen.  Having been drilled by her brothers to never trust anyone, she refuses to give him her number, but, taking a step outside of her comfort zone, agrees to meet him later for a drink.  Hannah just wants to forget that she’d be going home to an empty house, and she doesn’t want to deal with her suffocating brothers’ sympathy. 

Five years ago, Stephen also suffered from a heinous act of evil, and he’s been running from it ever since.  He’s cut ties with his family, severed ties with his own emotions, and has poured all of his energy into his company.  When he sees Hannah crying in the grocery store, he feels a twinge of curiosity, as well as attraction.  When she refuses to give him her phone number, he’s even more determined to get to know her.  Their drinks turn into a dinner date, but Hannah still refuses to divulge personal information about herself.  He thinks that she’s just being cautious, and sets his sights on getting what he wants – Hannah.

I enjoyed Worth the Risk for many of the same reasons I liked Worth the Fall.  Both Hannah and Stephen needed each other; they are sadly incomplete alone.  They both feel stifled by their caring, and in Hannah’s case, overprotective, families.  They both had a piece of themselves ripped brutally away, and they were and can never be the same as before.  They have trust issues, don’t want to get involved with anyone, and are reluctant to commit. 

To complicate matters, Hannah’s land is in jeopardy, and Stephen’s partner is scheming to purchase it, with or without Stephen’s approval.  Hannah brings some grief on herself here because she wants to take care of her problem by herself, so she can start to feel self-sufficient.  That comes back to bite her in the behind.

Both characters are easy to relate to, and Stephen, despite his own self-loathing, is kind, caring, and considerate.  He senses that Hannah is skittish, and he woos her with care, even if he doesn’t know why he’s doing it.  He’s made a vow to never fall in love again, and it’s a promise he has every intention of keeping.  Reading along as they gently batter down their reservations kept me completely engrossed in the book, and I read it in just a few hours.  It’s a little angsty, moving, and hard to put down.  Best yet,   I like all of the McKinneys and all of Hannah’s brothers, and keep thinking, Yeah!  Who will be the star of the next book in the series??

Highly recommended

Worth the Risk
The McKinney Brothers # 2

By: Claudia Connor

Releasing Feb 3rd, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

When a McKinney brother falls in love, powerful emotion and overwhelming desire are never far behind.

Two hearts locked away . . . Hannah Walker spends her days coaching children through injury and trauma, one therapeutic horseback ride at a time. She knows all too well how violence can change a child and leave scars that never heal. It’s easy for her to relate to the kids; what isn’t easy is the thought of facing her own harrowing past.

Millionaire playboy Stephen McKinney could use a little coaching himself. Five years ago he encountered his most horrible nightmare—and the nightmare won. No matter what he achieves, nothing can make up for that awful night . . . or so he believes.

Both desperate for a second chance . . . Stephen is used to getting what he wants. And he wants Hannah. So when she turns him down, he’s intrigued. What he doesn’t know is that her secrets will lead him to a place he never wanted to go again . . . to a side of himself he’s tried to forget . . . a side that would scare Hannah away from ever loving him. Now his only chance to win her trust is to bare his soul, risking everything he tried so hard to protect.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/11/worth-risk-mckinney-brothers-2-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22747252-worth-the-risk?from_search=true

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

Claudia Connor is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of heartfelt contemporary romance. Claudia attended Auburn University, where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees in early childhood education, and completed her studies in Sawbridgeworth, England. Always a lover of happy endings, she enjoys movies, reading, and travel, but spends most of her time typing out the love stories of the almost real people that live in her head. Claudia lives near Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and three daughters.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads

Rafflecopter Giveaway ($25.00 eGift Card to Choice Book Seller, Loveswept Mug and Romance at Random Nail Polish)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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12. Review: The Lone Sheriff by Lynna Banning

 

Review:

The Lone Sheriff caught my attention because the heroine, Maddie, is a Pinkerton agent, much to Sheriff Jericho Silver’s dismay.  He’s having a hard time catching the Tucker gang, a violent band of outlaws with a long list of crimes to their credit.  Jericho is expecting help from an experienced Pinkerton agent, but when Maddie steps off the train from Chicago, he feels like he’s been blindsided.  No way can a city slicker lady help him apprehend the bad guys.  Sorry, Jericho, you are about to have your world turned on its axis.

This is a fun read because Maddie is one feisty, capable woman.  She deals with Jericho’s objections to her assistance calmly and logically, and she’s determined to show him she’s more than able of pulling her weight.  Why, she can shoot better than he can because a previous run in with the Tucker gang has left him with a gunshot wound to his right wrist, a serious handicap because he can’t shoot as well left-handed.  Maddie brushes aside his resistance to her help, and slowly wins him over.  Though now that he cares for her, there’s another issue; Jericho watched as a friend died in his place, and he vowed to never let that happen again.  He works alone so he can’t put anyone else at risk. 

The historical western setting was a nice change of pace from the usual Regencies and contemporaries  I read.  The story takes place in Oregon during the 1870s, in the tiny town of Smoke River.  Maddie is  from an affluent family back East, and she’s also a widow.  She was unhappily married to a banker, and she swore she would never give up her freedom again.  Being an agent for the Pinkerton Agency gives her a purpose in life, and she feels that her work is very important.  She takes it very seriously, and isn’t amused that Jericho thinks so little of her skills.  Not to worry, though, she has ample opportunity to show him how wrong he is, both about gender equality and needing a little help from friends.

The Lone Sheriff is a quick, engaging read.  There are gun fights, tracking the outlaw gang, and quiet times spent in Smoke River.  I enjoyed getting to know Maddie, Jericho, as well as the rest of the town’s inhabitants.  The greatest conflict is Maddie’s reluctance to stay in Smoke River; she likes Chicago and all of the cultural amenities it provides.  She doesn’t think she could stand living in such a tiny place, and while she’s struggling with this decision, I couldn’t help but find her a little spoiled and over-indulged.  Would she make the right decision? 

This is the first book I’ve read by Lynna Banning, but it won’t be the last.  I liked Smoke River, and I’m looking forward to picking up Smoke River Bride.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by author

From Amazon:

A WOMAN DETECTIVE? NOT ON HIS WATCH! 

As if tracking down train robbers wasn’t hard enough, now Sheriff Jericho Silver’s backup has arrived, and she’s a gun-toting, head-turning beauty. She sure spells trouble. 

Madison O’Donnell had the perfect life—a beautiful home and all the ladies’ luncheons she could stomach—but it left her bored to tears. Now a widow, she’s determined to fill her days with daring deeds and wild adventures. 

Jericho is equally determined that she’ll be on the next train home. But this is one lady who won’t take no for an answer…. 

“Another delightful, quick and heartwarming read.” —RT Book Reviews on Smoke River Bride

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13. Review: Getting Hit By Stray Bullets Has Never Felt This Good

STRAY BULLETS : SUNSHINE AND ROSES #1

StrayBulletsSAR01_Review

 

 

Story & Art: David Lapham

Publisher: Image Comics/El Capitan

 

 

 

 

It’s no secret that Stray Bullets is one of the best comics being published today, possibly ever. David Lapham’s latest Sunshine and Roses remedies the missing gratuitous violence of Killers at the cost of diverting from that arc’s engaging plot. However, this is the most brutal and meaty the Stray Bullets series has been in awhile, and that speaks volumes for what you’ll find in these pages.

Linear storytelling has never been Lapham’s aim for the series. It’s allowed him to take chances and experiment with the world he’s created. David Lapham has done some traumatic breaking of characters, jumped time periods on a whim, and killed his cast in ways that haven’t even been invented yet. Stray Bullets Sunshine and Roses #1 follows the story of Kretchmeyer, a suave would be gangster trying to get in the game. He begins a romance with a feisty east coast woman named Beth. Unknowingly, the secrets of their lives begin to intertwine and unravel in a crime/love story that hasn’t been told this well since True Romance.

Black and white comics might not be for everyone but if they’re done right you hardly notice the lack of color. Laphan does it right. His art has a way of simplifying the complexity of the narrative down to raw emotion. It’s a treat to ride this tense roller coaster of lust and violence because each page is more striking than the one before it.

If you’ve never read Stray Bullets, the beauty of the series is its never closed nature. Almost every issue is a self contained story. Whether you start with the original number one or this latest Sunshine and Roses arc you’ll never feel as though you’re in a story that’s already years in unfolding. For long time Stray Bullets fans… rejoice! It’s back and it’s just as good as ever!


 

Dave currently playing :Grimm Fandango, currently eating: cereal, currently complaining about: fat free milk @bouncingsoul217

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14. Review: The Millionaire Rogue by Jessica Peterson

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I liked The Millionaire Rogue so much better than Jessica Peterson’s debut effort,  The Gentleman Jewel Thief!  It takes place in the same time frame as the first book in the series, through Thomas Hope and Sophia’s POV. I liked Hope so much better than Harclay, and Harclay was my major sticking point with the last book.  He’s such a selfish sot that I had a hard time seeing him as a romantic lead.  He didn’t behave in a manner expected of heroes, and his reasons for behaving so badly were nonsensical.  It made me feel better every time Hope referred to his nemesis in a derogatory way, because somebody needed to call the jerk out for his poor behavior!

In The Millionaire Rogue, we see how Hope comes to possess the French Blue, and how its theft almost bankrupts him and his dreams to continue the family banking business.  Lassoed to assist the Crown in derailing Napoleon, Thomas reluctantly resumes his association with Henry Lake.  Lake is a spy, and Thomas owes him big time.  Lake helped him escape from France, and also saved him from a shipboard accident that left Lake maimed.  Coerced into helping his old friend gain an advantage for England against the French, Hope agrees as long as it’s the last time.  As in – the very last favor he’ll grant Lake, who has a creepy aversion to using normal methods of contacting acquaintances, like walking through the front door.  No, Lake would prefer to creep through shadows and crawl through open windows, scaring the bejesus out of Hope every single time.

I liked both Thomas and Sophia, and thought that they suited each other well.  Sophia is making her debut, and she needs to snag a wealthy, titled bachelor in order to save her penniless family.  Though she is attracted to both Thomas and the dangerous situations she finds herself in because of him, she knows that they have no future. He is a working man, and a banker to boot!  After the diamond is stolen and Hope’s fortunes quickly decline, it’s even more impossible for them to be together.  Witnessing the fall of Hope’s bank, wealth, and dreams made Harclay seem an even bigger cad.

The action flowed more smoothly than in the first book, with coach chases, hiding from French cutthroats, and evading a French spy with a grudge.  I still didn’t like the goofy scheme to recover the diamond from Eliason’s ship, but it was much more abbreviated version here, which made it more palatable.  I would really like to read more about Withington, Sophia’s targeted catch for the season, and hope that we will have the opportunity to see him find a HEA.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In an age of stately decorum, the Hope Diamond was a source of delicious intrigue—and a font of unimaginable adventure…
Though not of noble birth, Thomas Hope has a skill in banking that’s made him one of the richest, most trusted men in London. Still, he keeps his dubious past hidden. So when an old acquaintance calls on Hope to help acquire the infamous French Blue Diamond, he’s desperate to be discreet. He never expects that his biggest concern shouldn’t be losing his reputation, but his heart…

Sophia Blaise is determined to make a brilliant match with this season’s most eligible, most titled bachelor, but her true passion has been ignited by the incredible stories she hears while secretly transcribing the memoirs of a notorious Madam. After a night of clandestine writing ends with Sophia caught up in a scandalous adventure of her own—with an alluring banker—she begins to question whether she’s suited to the proper life she’s always known…

Caught up in a thrilling exploit and unexpected romance, Sophia must make a choice between what her head knows is safe and what her heart desperately desires, before both slip from her grasp forever…

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15. Review: Once Upon A Hard Time Is A Good Time For The Goon

By Davey Nieves

The Goon: Once Upon A Hard Time #1 

unnamed

 

Story & Art : Eric Powell

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

 

 

 

If there’s a textbook that exist on making comics, then Eric Powell probably wrote about half of it. The five time Eisner Award winner consistently crafts quality stories with every book he produces. His latest, The Goon: Once Upon A Hard Time is yet another example of how great a work of art comic books can be.

After the events of Occasion of Revenge, the witch coven that demolished Goon’s life is closer to their goal of total control of the unnamed town. Powell shows how a character like The Goon can only be bent but never truly broken. The series opening picks up in the middle of his vengeful rampage against the Magpies who played him for a fool and shattered his world. It wouldn’t be a Goon story if it wasn’t coming at him from all sides as he’ll also have to deal with an angry Don Rigatti who’s seeking payback of his own for Rory’s death in the perevious series. For anyone looking for the humor of the older stories, there’s none to be found here. This story is an unrelenting tale of a man pushed too far.

Books like this are rare. Once Upon A Hard Time uses emotion to justify its sheer gorgeous brutatlity. There’s anger, grief, and fervor bursting from the panels drawn by Eric Powell. Each nuance shows just how much the characters have become part of him. There’s only a handful of panels where Goon isn’t holding a bottle or a weapon, or a bottle to use as a weapon. After all these years of creating Goon stories, Powell doesn’t relent on any of the most minuscule details when it comes to character.

The previous Occasion of Revenge story marked a turning point for the character in more ways than one. Powell’s inking experiments on his own work refined his detailed touch and added more power to the emotions already expressed on the page. All this helped the shock value of seeing those bright colors on the final pages. Once upon a Hard Time continues the affair with color splash but Powell’s evolution in rendering emotion is what sets it apart. Every ghoul, monster, and human like face expresses feeling in a way that few horror books can. You’ll see just how far he takes it in the panels with spider.

Perhaps the most unique thing about Dark Horse’s 50th issue of The Goon is how new reader friendly it is. That’s odd because it really isn’t suppose to be. If you’re already a fan of The Goon you won’t be able to understand the direction of this issue unless you’ve read Occasion of Revenge. Those that have never read Goon, who can accept the premise at face value will find themselves in such a violent and gorgeous world that can’t help but go back and read them all.


Goon or Goonies Dave rants about it on twitter @bouncingsoul217

 

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16. Review: Ship of the Dead by John L Campbell

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Yay, they finally got Ship of the Dead at the library.  I enjoyed Omega Days, and was eager to meet up with Xavier, Angie, Vlad, and Skye as they continued to navigate the terrifying new world they now shared with the walking dead.  Not place is safe, no one can be trusted, and there’s always a ravenous dead monster ready to chomp you up!  Yes, me, premium chicken sh!t, and enormous fan of zombie fiction.

Like Omega Days, Ship of the Dead is a lightning fast read.  It’s all about the action, action, action, too, which makes it hard to put down.  Told from multiple POVs, I did occasionally become irritated when one of my favorite characters was ignored for a few chapters.  I always wanted Carney’s inmate buddy, TC, and the fallen televangist, Brother Peter, to DIE!  Soon!  Painfully!  Perhaps even many times over.  These guys are just scummy, and didn’t deserve to contaminate the air everyone else was breathing.  Patience is a virtue, or so I’ve been told, but nothing would have been as satisfying as a rotting zombie grabbing one of these guys and biting off an ear.  Or an arm.  Even more fun would have been if Vlad’s Black Hawk had landed on them and smooshed them!  One can only hope, and that hope, unfortunately, was not realized.

All of the splintered groups of human survivors from Omega Days join together on Alameda, and they decide, as a group, to storm the listing USS Nimitz, clear it of zombies, and make it their safe haven.  Easier said than done, right?  Right!  With limited man power, training, and arms, this small group of determined refuges have nothing to lose.  If they stay were they are, the walking dead will just eat them, eventually.  But the ship will have power, medical supplies, food, and water!  How could they not attempt it?  It’s a suicide mission for many, and these are painful losses to a group that is so small to begin with.

I think Ship of the Dead shares many similarities with John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising, but with less (thankfully) military jargon.  Or maybe there are only so many ways to present a zombie apocalypse.  So it’s a good thing that I love my zombies!  This really is one genre of horror that I never get tired of.  I love reading about how people react to the monsters suddenly out to eat them, and more compellingly, how they react to other survivors.  You’d think that everyone would be willing to work together to help everyone survive, because there’s strength in numbers, but nope!  Some people are just evil and are out only for themselves.  Why aren’t they the ones that get taken out early in the book?? 

If you enjoy zombie fiction, give this quick, adrenalin fueled books a try!

What’s your favorite zombie series?

Grade:  B+  because it’s just that much fun!

Review copy obtained at my local library

From Amazon:

Father Xavier Church never wanted to be a leader. Nonetheless, he’s grown attached to his fellow survivors, and he won’t let anyone cause them harm—though he may be the one who inadvertently leads them to destruction…

Ex-con Bill Carnes may crave freedom, but he still prefers sticking with the group rather than fleeing to Mexico with his former cellmate TC. Maybe he’s changing. Or maybe the look in TC’s eyes is more dangerous than the undead…

EMT Rosa Escobedo gave up on hope after she watched the man she loved rise from the dead. But when a patient seems to start getting better, she can’t help but hope for a cure, even if it means risking her life…

As the numbers of the dead swell, the living are running out of safe havens—especially when the biggest threats lie within their own ranks.

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17. Review - Mama Cried by Talia Haven


<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->
  • Publisher: Sheehan and Haven; 1 edition (January 9, 2015)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Print Length: 12 pages
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00S2RKNFU
  • A heart-wrenching story of the final day and afterlife of young Jenny and the anguish of those left behind. Is forgiveness possible from the victims or can judgment of the criminal pose more peace for all involved? Find out in Talia Haven’s quest to find solace in Mama Cried
  • Purchase at Amazon...



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

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A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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18. Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

By Davey Nieves

EFFIGY #1

Effigy 2015 001 000 195x300 Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

 

Story: Tim Seeley

Art: Marley Zarcone

Colors: Ryan Hill

Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Publisher: Vertigo

 

 

Gloomy, hard-hitting, make no apologies stories have been the status quo for fans who pick up any Vertigo book. After all this is the line that gave us The Sandman, Y: The Last Man, and The Wake.  Effigy by Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash)and Marley Zarcone may only get two out of the three, but this book is a rare occurrence where that’s actually what makes it a must read.

Writer Tim Seeley crafts a story about unhealthy obsessions that feels like it could only be told in this day in age given how many cautionary tales childhood actors have turned into. Effigy follows Chondra Jackson, a once bubbly star of a futuristic kids-as-cops series called Star Cops who after a downward spiral of typecasting and an ill-advised sex tape bottoms out into the life of a far less glamorous small-town cop. The night-and-day portrayal of Chondra captures her disconnect prom prominence exquisitely. This first issue doesn’t read so much as a behind the music type story, but more of a caution as to what the world around you can become when live most of your life in the clouds then have to deal with crashing towards reality. As she goes from being a glorified meter maid to a true detective we’ll see the high price of fame take it’s toll on those close to her and complete strangers who probably want to love her to death… literally.

Marley Zarcone’s art starts strong with so much energy in telling the back story of Star Cops. Then by design it settles into a more rural style. While not quite as energetic, it plays into creating a dichotomy of Chondra’s two lives. At first glance Ryan Hill’s colors seem like such a basic job, but when you see the panels containing more visual effects; it actually works in better highlighting these moments. The art does more than just add to Chondra’s already engaging story, it buttresses the –child-star to messed up adult– dark tunnel the audience is going to be taken through.

In a week where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a good comic, Effigy carves out a noticeable place for itself and on your pull list. Issue one sets up a world of glamour, ritual murder, and mystery that could lead to this series being one of Vertigo’s best 2015 books.


Dave has never been a child star but had a childhood crush on Winnie Cooper and Stephanie Tanner here more about it @bouncingsoul217

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19. Review: Montana Darling by Debra Salonen

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Montana is a popular setting for romances lately.  While I would love to visit in summer, a winter in the state, with the snow and the cold and the wind, holds no appeal for me.  Therefore, I choose to complete my travels to the 41st state through books.  Sorry, large, northern state, but Michigan winters are far too long for my liking; I hate to think what a Montana winter would be like!

I typically pick up a romance set in Montana for cowboys.  While Ryker wasn’t a cowboy, he was still an engaging hero.  He’s a prize winning photographer who has lost his way since the death of his fiancée and his unborn child.  Needing some solitude, he’s pitched a tent on the 10 acres that his father left to Ryker and his brother.  The piece of land is the brightest spot of his childhood, the place where he and his father and his brother spent their summers camping, fishing, and hanging out.  After his father’s fatal heart attack when he was a senior in high school, a rift between Ryker and his mother drove him away from home, and he’s been globetrotting since.  Until the accident that robbed his fiancée, he had been blissfully happy.  Now, a year later, he’s still mourning and not ready to deal with people yet.

Imagine his surprise when Mia turns up outside his tent, accusing him of squatting on her land.  She and her ex-husband purchased the property, and after moving back home from Cheyenne, she wants to pour the foundation for  her new house as soon as possible, but Ryker is holding up the show.  Mia is also grieving; her husband cheated on her, she had a battle with cancer that left her scarred and broken, and she just wants to start over with her two kids.  Ryker’s claim that the land belongs to him has put a wrench in her plans, and she’s not going to go down without a fight.

I really liked this story.  Both Ryker and Mia are hurting and they need each other to heal and become whole again.  After undergoing invasive surgeries and chemo, Mia is understandably struggling with her sense of self.  The thought of being intimate with  anyone is a no-go, and she can’t believe that Ryker would really be attracted to an older woman.  Ryker, on the other hand, is easy going, but he never wants to be hurt again, so he’s vowed to never put himself in that position again.  So, no falling in love.  Of course, both Ryker and Mia break every one of their rules and rediscover the power and strength of love.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and am thrilled that she has a large back list.  I liked the supporting cast of her Big Sky Mavericks series, and would like to get to know the characters better.  All in all, Montana Darling is a sweet romance with two likable protagonists.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Mia Zabrinski’s lost enough– her marriage. Her job. Her body image. Mia is ready to rebuild her life in her hometown of Marietta,Montana, and she’s damned if she’ll let some stranger camp on her land and claim squatter’s rights.

Ryker Bensen doesn’t have much– and that suits him fine. Less than a year ago, he had everything: a beautiful girlfriend, a baby on the way, a career that earned him fame and a very comfortable living…until he didn’t. When beautiful Mia shows up and orders him off what she says is her land, Ryker realizes she might be the spark he needed to jumpstart his interest in living again.

The Big Sky Mavericks series
Book 1: Montana Cowgirl
Book 2: Montana Cowboy
Book 3: Montana Darling

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20. Review and Spotlight: Bridges Burned by Chris Cannon

 

My Thoughts:

I loved Going Down in Flames, so I was eager to revisit Bryn and her friends in Bridges Burned.  I was a bit disappointed with it.  There was too much boy angst, and the non-ending diminished my enjoyment.  The action picked up in the second half, but it was all setup for the next book in the series.   The book doesn’t end so much as it tapers off to nothing.  I found this very frustrating.

Bryn is settling in at her new school, and as long as she has Zavien, she’s sure she can put up with the mockery and cold shoulders she’s receiving from some of the other students.  As a crossbred dragon, she’s looked on as something forbidden and aberrant, and with the controlling Directorate calling the shots for all of the dragons, her future doesn’t look too bright.  Even though her grandfather is a powerful Blue dragon, there are many in the dragon society who object to her existence.  Her parents, both promised to others, ran away from their restrictive culture and blended in as humans.  When Bryn turned 16, her heritage came banging on her door, and she was forced to attend the dragons’ academy to learn to control her powers.

One of the things I loved about the last book was Bryn’s forceful personality.  She’s pissed that her peers treat her like dirt, she’s fed up with people trying to kill her, and she can’t stand the rigid social structure that she’s been forced into.  Dragons can only marry dragons of the same clan, and even then, only with the Directorate’s approval.  It galls her that her future rests in their hands, and she’s infuriated that she can’t be with Zavien, the Black dragon she loves.  She didn’t take crap from anyone, and since she’s so powerful, she could defend herself from even the most obnoxious of her detractors.

Cut to Book 2, and I kept wondering what happened to that Bryn.  Now she is consumed with Zavien, letting him dictate their relationship.  Did I mention that he’s been promised to another, and that he’s engaged?  Because for the formalities involved in dragon marriage contracts, he can’t just void his engagement.  All through the first half of the book, I thought he was taking advantage of Bryn, twisting the truth about the future of their relationship and lying to her outright.  He really pissed me off.  I don’t like cheaters, and worse, I don’t like cheating heroes.  I didn’t find Zavien or his behavior heroic, and I wanted to slap Bryn and tell her to get over herself.  He wasn’t worth the grief he was putting her through.  She was like a shell of herself, and it infuriated me.  So deep was my aggravation that I almost set the book aside.

I kept doggedly at it, however, and things improved in the second half, after Bryn is forced to move in with her grandparents.  I think Zavien’s absence from the storyline at this point made it more palatable for me.  Jaxon, who I thought was a spoiled bully in the first book, quickly gained my favor.  He and Bryn are thrown together again and again as an enemy faction attempts to tear the dragon society apart at the seams.  This unknown enemy attacks the school on several occasions as they work to divide the dragon clans and cast suspicion on the Directorate, and these upticks in action kept me reading, especially the attack on Dragon’s Bluff.

After all of that intense, pulse-pounding action, the book just stops.  That was so frustrating!  There’s no question that I’ll continue with Book 3, but I’m hoping that Bryn focuses more on herself and less on Zavien, because, really, who wants a lying, cheating boyfriend, regardless of how good looking he is?  So, while Bridges Burned was a bit of a mixed bag for me, I am invested in the story and would like to see what happens next.

Bridges Burned <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = "O" />
By Chris Cannon
January 27, 2015
 
 
Don’t just fight the system…burn it.
Since discovering she is a shape-shifting, fire-breathing dragon on her sixteenth birthday (surprise!), Bryn McKenna’s world has been thrown into chaos. Being a “crossbreed”—part Red dragon and part Blue—means Bryn will never fit in. Not with dragon society. Not with the archaic and controlling Directorate. And definitely not when she has striped hair and a not-so-popular affection for rule-breaking…
But sneaking around with her secret boyfriend, Zavien, gets a whole lot harder when he’s betrothed to someone else. Someone who isn’t a mixed breed and totally forbidden. And for an added complication, it turns out Bryn’s former archnemesis Jaxon Westgate isn’t quite the evil asshat she thought. Now she’s caught between her desire to fit in and a need to set things on fire. Literally.
Because if Bryn can’t adapt to the status quo…well, then maybe it’s time for her to change it.
 
BUY IT ON AMAZON, ITUNES, BARNES AND NOBLE, & KOBO: http://www.entangledpublishing.com/bridges-burned/
 
~*~ABOUT CHRIS CANNON~*~
 
 
Chris Cannon lives in Southern Illinois with her husband and her three dogs, Pete the shih tzu who sleeps on her desk while she writes, Molly the ever-shedding yellow lab, and Tyson the sandwich-stealing German Shepherd Beagle. She believes coffee is the Elixir of Life. Most evenings after work, you can find her sucking down caffeine and writing fire-breathing paranormal adventures. Going Down In Flames is the first book in Chris Cannon’s shape-shifting dragon series.

Excerpt:

On the drive back to school, Bryn reflected on how her life had recently gone to hell. It had all started when flames shot out of her mouth on her sixteenth birthday, proving she wasn’t completely human. Since then she’d been shipped off to a secret school for dragons—the Institute for Excellence—where she was learning how to control her shape-shifting dragon powers. She’d faced discrimination, death threats, and poisoning. She’d been blown up and involved in a battle to the death with a radical Revisionist member—and she’d been there for only a few months.

Though not everything about her new life was bad. She had a sexy boyfriend, Black dragon Zavien Blackthorn, and two good friends, Clint and Ivy. Being a crossbred dragon meant she had both the Red and Blue dragons’ breath weapons, fire and ice, and even though she was the only crossbreed, she could still outfly even the fastest Blue. Of course, that’s why some of the other Clans hated her. She’d upset the natural order of things in this color-coded world, where the Directorate dictated what Red, Black, Green, Orange, and Blue dragon Clan members could do as a profession and whom they could marry. It was absurd. Yet most dragons didn’t question it.

Part of Zavien’s appeal lay in the fact that he headed up the student Revisionist group that petitioned the Directorate to change outdated laws. Bryn glanced at Directorate lawyer Merrick Overton, who was driving the Cadillac SUV hybrid she was riding in. Her classmate and former nemesis Jaxon Westgate rode shotgun. She and Jaxon no longer hated each other. Scratch that: he no longer hated her based on his father’s vendetta against her mother, but that didn’t mean they were friends. Funny how saving someone’s life could turn you from enemies to…what? Not friends. Frenemies, maybe? Who knew? It’s not like she wanted to hang out with him, but there was a weird level of trust between them now that she didn’t know what to do with.

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21. Review: Gotham Academy #4 Just Schooled You Son

By Davey Nieves

Gotham Academy #4

STK659751 198x300 Review: Gotham Academy #4 Just Schooled You Son

Story: Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan

Art: Karl Kerschl

Color: Msassyk, Serge LaPointe

Letters: Steve Wands

Publisher: DC Comics

 

Written by Becky Cloonan(DEMO, Killjoys) and Brenden Fletcher(Batgirl, Assassin’s Creed), Gotham Academy #4 continues its mystery as young Olive Silverlock uncovers the ghost of the north hall. The academy itself is much like Gotham City, written with an atmosphere that makes it feel living but never outshines the characters. Along the way Olive’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend Kyle continues to reach a breaking point as a possible new interest literally catches her. It’s not just her love life that’s bending. Like any young girl, Olive finds fitting in has challenges of its own. In this issue her self-esteem will be tested as she stumbles upon gossip she might not be ready to deal with.  Readers are enticed with more details as to Silverlock’s forgotten summer and the burning question of what happened to her mother.  These pages flow so well together that once you hit the end of the book it feels like a crime not to dive right in to the next issue. One of the very few minuscule problems I’ve had with the series is the way issues leave readers on a cliffhanger but subsequently pick up moments after it in the next chapter. Hopefully with the major punch this issue ends on that won’t be the case for issue five.

While the book is a rich ensemble full of unique voices from Olive’s sister figure the spunky young Maps all the way through to Headmaster; issue four is more Olive’s book as you really see her three sides. Who she is among friends, who she is to herself, and the part of her she doesn’t know. Moments in the book like her confrontation with the “ghost” of Jane Cobblepot illustrate it best.

Gotham Academy is consistently a pretty book. It plays with a Manga influence that in most other American titles would be a deterrent. Karl Kerschl’s (Majestic, Teen Titans) line work is the first part of this recipe. Where a lot of Manga-style books stumble is in the framing of their shots. Kerschl’s work doesn’t suffer from that one bit as everything feels like a natural camera position. When you add the colors of MSASSYK and Serge LaPointe it makes the page vibrant in a way few books are. The end result feels like a hybrid of Anime, cinema, and emotional Disney animation.

The series isn’t without imperfections of its own, since the first issue there’s a stumble that merely tugs on you in the way a fly tugs on an elephant. It probably only knows it’s there but doesn’t really ruin their day.  Gotham Academy has so many moving parts that some thing feels as though it falls by the waste side when I’ve seen it. Bruce Wayne’s brief appearances; they almost feel shoehorned in. Granted the book is only in the orbit of the Batman universe by association, but that means the series should get to a point where it only needs Bat appearances when absolutely necessary. It’s a minor complaint that does little to hinder the enjoyment overall, but you know… internets.

Growing up in the 90’s, for me it was all about: Batman: The Animated SeriesPepsi, and the band Rancid. Perhaps what stood out to me most about TAS was how much I cared about the players who weren’t Batman. Two-Face, Leslie Thompkins, one and done Charlie Collins, even Gotham City itself were all stories I invested in. As of late, Bat group editor Mark Doyle has added books to the bat-ecosystem that have captured a similar type of magic previously only on Fox Kids programing. Gotham Academy has been an underrated prime example of it. Issue four continues its unfolding of the institution’s connection to Gotham’s lore through the lens of adolescence.

Ultimately, Gotham Academy is a niche audience book that outstretches its boundaries by being energetic and refreshing. While its Young Adult nature might not appeal to the hardcore superhero crowd; there’s a good story about a troubled girl trying to find herself, which in a way makes her relatable to millions of people out there. If the Gotham Academy team is a band, then issue number four is their Let’s Go. What’s scary and exciting about that is the possibility that issue five could be their And Out Come The Wolves. For the non-punk rock fans out there, what that boils down to is Gotham Academy #4 figures out the strengths of the series. Issue five could be where everything fires on all cylinders and I have no doubts that it will be a book I can enjoy being a 72yr old man and then pass on to my adolescent niece. In short the definition of all age storytelling.


If words like Gretzky, Clutch, Zayn, and Archie are in your vocabulary then feel free to follow and unburden your anger at Dave on twitter @bouncingsoul217

 

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22. Review and Giveaway: Her Highland Fling by Jennifer McQuiston

 

This morning I have a review of Jennifer McQuiston’s novella, Her Highland Fling, as well as an excerpt and an awesome giveaway.  Enjoy!

My Thoughts:

I am always game to read a novella.  Their compact length makes them perfect to squeeze into an overloaded reading schedule, and for authors I haven’t read previously, it gives me a good idea whether or not I want to make the time commitment for a longer book.  When I saw Her Highland Fling, I was intrigued.  I’ve picked up a couple of Jennifer McQuiston’s other works, but I haven’t gotten around to actually loading them on my Kindle yet, so I was more than happy to download this and start reading.

William McKenzie is stressing about the financial health of his village, so he organizes the Highland Games, hoping to lure Londoners and their wallets to his humble hometown.  He even foots the bill to refurb a room at the local inn, all to impress the reporter he’s arranged to visit Moraig.  The joke’s on WIlliam, though.  Instead of the reporter he’s expecting – one of the male persuasion – a beautiful woman descends from the coach and immediately turns his life on end.

Poor William!  He’s so devoted to improving the fortunes of the villagers that his usual sense of humor has fled.  Worse, he can’t seem to form a coherent sentence when Penelope is around.  He comes off like the village idiot, and that was my only sticking point with the story.  Pen has a stutter, and was bullied mercifully because of it.  I was disappointed when she constantly referred to William in less than flattering terms.  Yes, they got off on the wrong foot, and yes, she misjudged him terribly, but for someone who was made fun of and didn’t care for it, I expected a little more tolerance from her. It made me not like her at first, probably because I felt that I knew William so well, and how can you not like a guy willing to don his plaids in the middle of the afternoon on a hot summer day, all to secure the future of his beloved home?

The tone of the story is light, and it clicks quickly along.  I loved William, and slowly warmed up to Penelope.  Once she sets her sights on William, he has no chance against her onslaught.  Determined to finally have a fling and get some first hand knowledge of the opposite sex, Penelope quickly determines that the Highlander is perfect for her research, even if he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.  William is just so tongue tied around this fiercely independent woman that he can’t get out an intelligent thought, which makes him perfect for Pen’s plans to love him and leave him behind.  

Her Highland Fling is a fun story, and I enjoyed my visit to Moraig.  It’s a very fast read with plenty of humor and one very determined spinster ready for her walk on the wild side.  Did I mention the water fairies?   

 

 

Her Highland Fling
Second Sons #2.5

By: Jennifer McQuiston

Releasing January 27th, 2015

Avon Impulse

Blurb

Let the Games Begin…

William MacKenzie has always been protective of his Scottish village. When Moraig’s economy falters, he has the perfect solution to lure wealthy Londoners to this tiny hamlet: resurrect the ancient Highland Games! But for this to work, William knows he needs a reporter to showcase the town in just the right light.

A female journalist might be a tolerated oddity in Brighton, but newly minted reporter Penelope Tolbertson is discovering that finding respect in London is a far more difficult prospect. After receiving an invitation to cover Moraig’s Highland Games, Penelope is determined to prove to her London editors just how valuable she can be.

Penelope instantly captures William’s heart, but she is none too impressed with the gruff, broody Highlander. However as she begins to understand his plans, Penelope discovers she may want more from him than just a story. She’s only got a few days…but maybe a few days is all they need.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/12/her-highland-fling-novella-by-jennifer.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22836685-her-highland-fling

Buy Links Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Her-Highland-Fling-Jennifer-McQuiston-ebook/dp/B00M719Z1K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418837254&sr=8-1&keywords=Her+Highland+Fling+by+Jennifer+McQuiston

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-highland-fling-jennifer-mcquiston/1120159653?ean=9780062387226

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/her-highland-fling/id904016482?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/her-highland-fling/AzKXHXcFjUu4ftwXCWhiNw?MixID=AzKXHXcFjUu4ftwXCWhiNw&PageNumber=1

Author Info

A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal. Jennifer can be reached via her website at www.jenmcquiston.com or followed on Twitter @jenmcqwrites

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.jenmcquiston.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenmcqwrites

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6163186.Jennifer_McQuiston

Excerpt

Fling (n.): “Vigorous dance” (associated with the Scottish Highlands), from 1806.

Period of indulgence on the eve of responsibilities,” first attested 1827.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary

Chapter One

Moraig, Scotland, 1843{/H1}

All the world hated a hypocrite, and William MacKenzie was no exception.

But today that trouser-clad hypocrite was his brother, James, which made it a little hard for William to hate him like he ought.

As James sauntered to a stop beneath the awning of Moraig’s posting house, his laughing gaze dropped to William’s bare knees and then climbed northward again. “If you’re trying to make a memorable impression,” he sniggered, “all that’s missing is a good breeze.”

“You are late.” William crossed his arms and tried to look menacing. “And I thought we agreed last night we would share this indignity.”

“No, you agreed.” James shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers and offered up a shite-eating grin. “I listened and wisely withheld a formal opinion.”

William bit back a growl of frustration. For Christ’s sake, he knew well enough he looked like a fool, standing in the thick heat of early August, draped in the MacKenzie plaid. And there was no doubt he would be teasing James unmercifully if the reverse were true.

But today they were both supposed to look like fools.

And James had a far better set of legs.

As though summoned by his brother’s fateful words, a ghost of a breeze stirred the wool that clung to William’s sweat-moistened skin. He clapped a hand down over his sporran, ensuring the most important parts remained hidden. “You live in Moraig, just as I do,” he pointed out to his errant brother. “You owe it to the town to help me make a proper impression for the reporter from the London Times.”

“Oh, aye, and I will. I had thought to say something properly memorable, such as ‘Welcome to Moraig.’ ” James raised a dark, mocking brow. “And we shouldn’t need to put on airs. The town has its own charm.”

“Well, the tourists haven’t exactly been flocking here,” William retorted, gesturing to the town’s nearly empty streets. Hidden in the farthest reaches of Scotland—far enough, even, that the Atlantic coast lapped at its heels—the little town of Moraig might indeed be charming, but attempts to attract London tourists had fallen somewhat short. If William had anything to say about it, that was going to change, starting today.

The only problem was he should have said it a half hour ago.

He took off his Balmoral cap and pulled his hand through hair already damp with sweat. While he was willing to tolerate looking like a fool in order to prove Moraig was the perfect holiday destination for Londoners seeking an authentic Highland experience, he still objected to having to look like one alone. “We’ve an opportunity to get a proper story printed in the Times, highlighting all Moraig has to offer.” He settled the cap back on his head. “If you have an issue with the plaid, you could have at least bestirred yourself to put on a small kilt.”

James burst out laughing. “And draw attention away from your bonny knees?”

As if in agreement, a series of catcalls rang out from a group of men who had crowded onto the sidewalk outside the Blue Gander, Moraig’s inn and public house.

One of them held up his pint. “Lovely legs, MacKenzie!”

“Now show us your arse!”

William scowled in their direction. On another day, he might have joined them in raising a pint, but not today. Moraig’s future was at stake. The town’s economy was hardly prospering, and its weathered residents couldn’t depend on fishing and gossip to sustain them forever. They needed a new direction, and as the Earl of Kilmartie’s heir, he felt obligated to sort out a solution. He’d spent months organizing the upcoming Highland Games. It was a calculated risk that, if properly orchestrated, would ensure the betterment of every life in town. When David Cameron, the town’s magistrate, had offered to invite a reporter up from London, it had seemed a brilliant opportunity to reach those very tourists they were aiming to attract.

But with the sweat now pooling in places best left unmentioned and the minutes ticking slowly by, that brilliance was beginning to tarnish.

William peered down the road that led into town, imagining he could see a cloud of dust implying the arrival of the afternoon coach. The very late afternoon coach. But all he saw was the delicate shimmer of heat, reflecting the nature of the devilishly hot day.

“Bugger it all,” he muttered. “How late can a coach be? There’s only one route from Inverness.” He plucked at the damp collar of his shirt, wondering where the coachman could be. “Mr. Jeffers knew the importance of being on time today. We need to make a ripping first impression with this reporter.”

James’s gaze dropped once more to William’s bare legs. “Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt of it.” He leaned against the posting house wall and crossed his arms. “If I might beg the question . . . Why turn it into such a circus? Why these games, instead of, say, a well-placed rumor of a beastie living in Loch Moraig? You’ve got the entire town in an uproar preparing for it.”

William snorted. “Sunday dinners are enough to put this town in an uproar. And you know as well as I that the games are for their own good.”

Though, God forbid his nolly-cocked, newly married brother lift a hand in the planning.

Or be bothered to put on a kilt, as it were.

William could allow that James was perhaps a bit distracted by his pretty wife and new baby—and understandably so. But given that his brother was raising his bairns here, shouldn’t he want to ensure Moraig’s future success more than anyone?

James looked up suddenly, shading his eyes with a hand. “Well, best get those knees polished to a shine. There’s your coach now. Half hour late, as per usual.”

With a near groan of relief, William stood at attention on the posting house steps as the mail coach roared up in a choking cloud of dust and hot wind. Scrawny chickens and stray dogs scuttled to dubious safety before the coach’s barreling path, and he eyed the animals with a moment’s concern, wondering if perhaps he ought to have tried to corral them into some hidden corner, safely out of sight.

But it was too late now.

A half hour off schedule. Perhaps it wasn’t the tragedy he’d feared. They could skip the initial stroll down Main Street he’d planned and head straight to the inn. He could point out some of the pertinent sights later, when he showed the man the competition field that had been prepared on the east side of town.

“And dinna tell the reporter I’m the heir,” William warned as an afterthought. “We want him to think of Moraig as a charming and rustic retreat from London.” If the town was to have a future, it needed to be seen as a welcome escape from titles and peers and such, and he did not want this turning into a circus where he stood at the center of the ring.

As the coach groaned to a stop, James clapped William on the shoulder with mock sympathy. “Don’t worry. With those bare legs, I suspect your reporter will have enough to write about without nosing about the details of your inheritance.”

The coachman secured the reins and jumped down from his perch. A smile of amusement broke across Mr. Jeffers’s broad features. “Wore the plaid today, did we?”

Bloody hell. Not Jeffers, too.

“You’re late.” William scowled. “Were there any problems fetching the chap from Inverness?” He was anxious to greet the reporter, get the man properly situated in the Blue Gander, and then go home to change into something less . . . Scottish. And, God, knew he could also use a pint or three, though preferably ones not raised at his expense.

Mr. Jeffers pushed the brim of his hat up an inch and scratched his head. “Well, see, here’s the thing. I dinna exactly fetch a chap, as it were.”

This time, William couldn’t suppress the growl that erupted from his throat. “Mr. Jeffers, don’t tell me you left him there!” It would be a nightmare if he had. The entire thing had been carefully orchestrated, down to a reservation for the best room the Blue Gander had to offer. The goal had been to install the reporter safely in Moraig and show him a taste of the town’s charms before the games commenced on Saturday.

“Well, I . . . that is . . .” Mr. Jeffers’s gaze swung between the brothers, and he finally shrugged. “Well, I suppose you’ll see well enough for yourself.”

He turned the handle and then swung the coach door open.

A gloved hand clasped Mr. Jeffers’s palm, and then a high, elegant boot flashed into sight.

“What in the blazes—” William choked on his surprise as a blond head tipped into view. A body soon followed, stepping down in a froth of blue skirts. She dropped Jeffers’s hand and looked around with bright interest.

“Your chap’s a lass,” explained a bemused Mr. Jeffers.

“A lass?” echoed William stupidly.

And not only a lass . . . a very pretty lass.

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The post Review and Giveaway: Her Highland Fling by Jennifer McQuiston appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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23. TURNING PAGES: I'LL MEET YOU THERE, by HEATHER DEMITRIOS

out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each otherdoesn’t make any sense. - RumiThere's a... Read the rest of this post

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24. Review: Quantum & Woody Must Die But Not Just Yet

By Davey Nieves

Quantum & Woody Must Die #1
QWMD 001 COVER HAWTHORNE 195x300 Review: Quantum & Woody Must Die But Not Just Yet

Story : James Asmus (Gambit, Thief of Thieves)

Art: Steve Lieber (Hawkman, Whiteout)

Color: Dave McCaig

Letters: Dave Lanphear

Publisher: Valiant

 

 

 

 

Full disclosure, while I’ve read and enjoyed many of the relaunched Valiant titles like Bloodshot and Harbinger, however I never got around to reading the first Quantum and Woody series. Now curiosity has won me over and I decided to dive right in starting with Quantum and Woody Must Die #1. After belly flopping in the pool I can say Peter Venkman put it best in this classic line “ I’ve worked with better, but not many.”

Quantum and Woody is a weird book but then again that’s what you get when you have two brothers who don’t resemble each other in the least, whose father was downloaded into a goat. The duo also each has a power that complements the other. Woody shoots energy blast from his fingertips while Quantum has the ability to generate force fields. As if this story didn’t need any more stipulations, bracelets they must clang together once every 24hrs or they’ll die also bind them to each other. What truly makes them unique is the under the surface stuff a writer like James Asmus brings out in these characters.

In the opening of the series, readers are eased into their world as the pair seemingly puts a halt to an armored car heist by a team of rough-and-tumble females. This is really the beginning of something bigger as a sinister power-harvesting plot is revealed. Much to the apropos of the characters, they stumble upon the corporation carrying out this plan and destruction ensues.

The best parts of the book have very little to do with the action or the overall plot. Quantum and Woody’s strength is in exposing their faults, which Asmus does by letting us see the pair in a therapy session. Even a visit to a veterinarian becomes this funny segment like something out of morning radio. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the N.W.A references and racial humor in the book but I’m willing to bet I won’t be the only one. A big plus for Q&W newbies like myself or if you’re looking for something new to read; this first issue is very accessible to their world. Even the banter between the brothers never feels like too much of an inside joke.

Steve Lieber’s art seems right for a book like this but sort of feels as though it misses the mark a bit. Just flipping through the pages you can see the Allred like influence on the style, but the necessary blend of zany and lucid never balances enough. This series is meant to be strange and should take more chances with that license going forward and I fully expect that to happen with a Kubert school guy like Lieber on art duties. I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention something that really stuck out in the issue. Dave Lanphear’s lettering is standout in the book. Title cards, onomatopoeia, and presentation all function in carrying the narrative along smoothly. While lettering is vital to every comic book, it doesn’t always stand out like in Q&W.

Even with the hiccups, there’s more to enjoy than hate here. Quantum and Woody Must Die #1 is best described as an odd couple written by Arthur Conan Doyle on speed and it has me strongly considering adding it to my own pull list.


 

Follow Dave on twitter @bouncingsoul217 as he spouts random ideas for new businesses.  

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25. Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

By Davey Nieves

EFFIGY #1

Effigy 2015 001 000 195x300 Review: Effigy #1 Burns Bright

 

Story: Tim Seeley

Art: Marley Zarcone

Colors: Ryan Hill

Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Publisher: Vertigo

 

 

Gloomy, hard-hitting, make no apologies stories have been the status quo for fans who pick up any Vertigo book. After all this is the line that gave us The Sandman, Y: The Last Man, and The Wake.  Effigy by Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash)and Marley Zarcone may only get two out of the three, but this book is a rare occurrence where that’s actually what makes it a must read.

Writer Tim Seeley crafts a story about unhealthy obsessions that feels like it could only be told in this day in age given how many cautionary tales childhood actors have turned into. Effigy follows Chondra Jackson, a once bubbly star of a futuristic kids-as-cops series called Star Cops who after a downward spiral of typecasting and an ill-advised sex tape bottoms out into the life of a far less glamorous small-town cop. The night-and-day portrayal of Chondra captures her disconnect prom prominence exquisitely. This first issue doesn’t read so much as a behind the music type story, but more of a caution as to what the world around you can become when live most of your life in the clouds then have to deal with crashing towards reality. As she goes from being a glorified meter maid to a true detective we’ll see the high price of fame take it’s toll on those close to her and complete strangers who probably want to love her to death… literally.

Marley Zarcone’s art starts strong with so much energy in telling the back story of Star Cops. Then by design it settles into a more rural style. While not quite as energetic, it plays into creating a dichotomy of Chondra’s two lives. At first glance Ryan Hill’s colors seem like such a basic job, but when you see the panels containing more visual effects; it actually works in better highlighting these moments. The art does more than just add to Chondra’s already engaging story, it buttresses the –child-star to messed up adult– dark tunnel the audience is going to be taken through.

In a week where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a good comic, Effigy carves out a noticeable place for itself and on your pull list. Issue one sets up a world of glamour, ritual murder, and mystery that could lead to this series being one of Vertigo’s best 2015 books.


Dave has never been a child star but had a childhood crush on Winnie Cooper and Stephanie Tanner here more about it @bouncingsoul217

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