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May Contain Spoilers
I decided to borrow The Great Zoo of China from the library because it has dragons in a modern setting. The Chinese discovered a cave filled with dragon eggs 40 years before, and they have been secretly studying their new treasures, in addition to building a zoo to showcase them. In their intense competition with the US, the Chinese are seeking to create a vacation and pop culture behemoth to rival Disney World. If there are occasion setbacks, like when the dragons attack and eat their caregivers, well, that’s just an acceptable price to pay to finally bump the United States out of their position as the number one world leader.
This is a very fast, exciting read. I couldn’t help but compare it to Jurassic Park, which I read, oh, a gabillion years ago. Jurassic Park, like so many of Michael Crichton’s works, is heavy on the science in an effort to make his world more believable. The Great Zoo of China is like Jurassic Park lite. Not so much science, but the action more than makes up for it. The first 22% or so is set up for making the zoo believable, but it comes across as a huge info dump. Once the dragons go on their bloody rampage, the pace picks up, the info dumping is left largely behind, and protagonist CJ Cameron falls into one hair-raising predicament after another. While at times I echoed CJ’s “You’ve got to be kidding me!” the dragon battles and desperate attempts to escape a painful end gobbled up in their massive jaws kept me turning the pages. Rapidly. I couldn’t put it down and finished in just a few hours.
The overabundance of exclamation points was jarring, and I thought they took away from the tension of the action. After the first few, I wished I could replace them all with nice, sentence ending periods. Alas, I suffered through many, many exclamation points, which soon had me cringing each time I saw one. I thought they over emphasized the dragons’ actions, and instead of making the moment more exciting, just made me think, “oh, brother.”
If you need a book for lounging around the pool, The Great Zoo of China is a great choice for your summer reading list. It’s pure popcorn, with a kick ass heroine with nerves of steel. The dragons are frightening death machines that easily match the might and power of the most advanced military helicopter, and evil villains who want to protect the zoo, and their country’s reputation, no matter the cost, just add to the chaos after the dragons revolt.
Rated F for FUN
Review copy borrowed from my local library
In the blockbuster and bestselling tradition of Jurassic Park comes the breakneck new adventure from the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly whose imaginative, cinematic thrillers “make you feel like a kid again; [they’re] a blast” (Booklist).
It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed.
A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.
Of course it can’t…
May Contain Spoilers
I really enjoy Cathy McDavid’s novels, so I’m a little puzzled why I haven’t read more of them. I like that her characters are every day people. There’s not a billionaire in sight, just ordinary folk working hard to get through each day and provide for their families. They could be my neighbors. They could be me. McDavid has a way of taking average problems and building them up into something that’s easy to relate to, and like Donna Alward, simple daily tasks become compelling efforts to better oneself and make the most of each protagonist’s strengths.
Ryder Beckett is returning home to help his family run The Big Easy, an equestrian facility. He hasn’t been back in years, and he’s still unable to forgive his mother for lying about his youngest sister’s parentage and breaking up their family. He can’t understand why she kicked his father out of the house, why she divorced him, and why she hasn’t been paying him the agreed on profits from the The Big Easy. He’s reluctant to return, but after being fired from his high-paying marketing position, he doesn’t have much choice. He’ll help out at the family business until he has another option and can return to the career his poor choices have derailed.
Tatum Mayweather is struggling to raise her three young children on her own. A former teacher, she was pink-slipped and watched in horror as everything she worked so hard for was taken away from her. She lost a job she loved, her house, and even, for a brief period of time, her kids. The Beckett’s offered her a job that allowed her to rent another place and reclaim her children from her meddling mother-in-law. Through all of her misfortunes, her ex-husband was too busy competing on the rodeo circuit to lend a hand or even send some money her way. Tatum learned the hard way that the only person she could count on was herself, and that there’s no one else out there who will be there for her or her kids.
When Ryder comes back to The Big Easy, he notices the pretty Tatum leading her visibly lame pony into the barn. Not quite ready to face his family, he helps her with the pony. Then he realizes that she’s his sister’s best friend, and that he’s known her since childhood. He’s immediately attracted to her, and Tatum has had a hopeless crush on Ryder since she was a girl. Can she get involved with him, after learning that he’s just biding his time until he gets another big city job? Or should she just ignore the feelings she has for the handsome cowboy?
Ryder and Tatum are working to promote the equestrian center and the rodeo events they host, as well as their bucking stock, which is Ryder’s father’s pride and joy. I enjoyed following along as they worked through their tasks, especially getting ready for the rodeo. You’d think that as much as I like horses that I would have attended a few rodeos myself, but nope, I haven’t been, so it’s fun to read about them.
Money is a huge issue for Tatum, something I can certainly relate to. Feeding the kids, keeping a roof over their heads, unexpected medical bills – all of these weigh heavily on her mind. Ryder lost a plum job, and the offers he’s receiving now are disappointing. It’s a huge step back for him, and he’s frustrated that one mistake cost him so much. He feels underutilized at home, though, and he just can’t forgive his mom for turning her back on his dad. Both Ryder and Tatum have to learn to forgive and let go of the past, starting with themselves. Life didn’t work out how they had planned, and they are both slow coming up with a new one. Tatum is worried about losing her kids again, so she doesn’t want to do anything to antagonize her MIL, and number one on the list would be dating Ryder, so she resists. So hard. But she can’t say no to him.
If you enjoy sweet romances with a more real life slant, I recommend that you give Her Rodeo Man a try. Despite the lack of glamorous locations or palatial mansions, it’s a solid, satisfying read with believable conflicts.
Review copy borrowed from my local library
Twenty-five years ago, the Beckett family was irrevocably divided by lies told and secrets kept. But Ryder Beckett comes back to The Easy Money to reconcile with his past and help run the rodeo arena until he can find a new job. He’s quick to fall into old ways—taking care of the horses, trying a few of his old rodeo tricks…and falling for Tatum Mayweather.
Ryder’s childhood friend has become a beautiful woman. But how can he get involved with a single mother of three when he’s only at the ranch temporarily? Tatum deserves a stay-in-one-place kind of guy, and that has never been Ryder. Is the pull of family enough to keep him in Reckless, Arizona? Is this where Ryder truly belongs?
I recently received a gorgeous copy of Outstanding In the Rain
by Frank Viva, as I was one of the lucky prize winners of Tundra’s Reading Club blog contest. When the package arrived I quietly tore open the shipping packaging, excited to dive in before it disappeared... clutched within the little hands of one of my kiddos. I managed to sneak in a quick read before my youngest noticed it in my studio and "borrowed" it for a few days. :) *yes! I love that she is so excited about books*
I managed to borrow it back to read it again( a few times) and write my review.
First off, let me just say I am a bit of a picture book design nerd, so before I even get to the actual story, I have to talk about the design. I really love the large trim size, the height of the portrait orientation nicely compliments the action inside. And seriously, how eye-catching is this cover? We all remember catching raindrops on our tongue- looove it. The satin-y matte dust-jacket helps to accent the fun, retro vibe of the stylized illustrations and limited colour palette of both the cover illustration and interior artwork. I know I have probably said this a ton lately but... I am so loving the trend of decorative/illustrated end papers. I love how it enables the illustrator to stretch out the story and add their visual contribution... even before the story starts!
(So... you can imagine, how thrilled I was when Cheryl Chen, my editor at Fitzhenry & Whiteside, gave me the thumbs up to create illustrated end papers for Gerbil, Uncurled( written by Alison Hughes) due out this Spring. I can't wait for you to see them!)
Anyway, back to this book!
front end paper spread
back end paper
The decorative end-papers set the stage; the front end-paper depicts bustling Coney Island’s beachfront board-walk in daylight then, to wrap up the story just so, the back end-paper ends depict the same setting but in two-tone night-time, moon/street-light perfection with the last few patrons(whom have braved the rain) are illustrated in little hits of colour.
Even the hand-lettered font of the title(see top image of the cover) is exciting and visually appealing. It sets the tone of the book wonderfully, introducing the fun word play of oronyms and mischievously hinting at the soon -to-be discovered die-cuts, with the tag line at the bottom of the cover -“A whole story with holes”.
The story begins with a young child and his mother arriving at Coney Island by train. Here they spend their special day together going on rides, eating treats and exploring. Along the way, things don’t go quite as planned and they encounter a few unexpected surprises. Viva does a wonderful job of depicting the enjoyable ups and unexpected downs of childhood. Oronyms- phrases that sound the same but have different meaning, are used creatively throughout the book. Each page is skillfully designed to place these oronyms within a die-cut shape on the right-hand page which, upon turning the page, is now on the left-hand page, becoming an integrated surprise element within the illustration. The cut-outs vary in size and shape, to compliment the text and their placement works to advance the story with successful visual appeal. Maybe this would be easier to describe with a visual?
Here is an example from the book:
“ ‘Ice cream’, I say, my birthday surprise, he exclaims.” The word “cream” is placed within an oval shaped die-cut under “ice” which after the page turn becomes “ scream” when the boy sadly drops his treat. “ ’Oh no!’ I scream, with tears in my eyes”. The left-hand page now contains the oval die-cut, the shape of the boy’s mouth (showing his teeth). The teeth peek through from the previous page which was the front detailing of the D train entering Coney Island station.
At times, due the restriction of using oronyms on each page, the rhyming text feels slightly forced, but all-around I think Viva succeeds in creating a delightful story unified by superb design. With features such as the fun die-cut elements, and retro-flavoured, colour-blocked illustrations all combined with playful oronyms, within kid-centric text, this book is sure to elicit giggles and high-fives from kids and adults alike.
Sending out a big "Thank-you, Tundra" for having these fun Tundra Reading Club contests on your blog. It is such a great way to promote your new titles, and interact with book-loving folks. And...who doesn't love the chance to win free books for that TBR pile?
Story: Jeff King
Art: Stephen Segovia
Colors: Aspen MLT
Inks: Jason Paz
Letters: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
We’re about a quarter of the way through DC Comics event, Convergence. So far we’ve seen a lot of xenophobic worlds bent on destroying one another at the behest of Brianiac’s global caretaker Telos in all the satellite books. Seeing, literally, the exact same threatening words from Telos in multiple books is making that premise wear a bit thin. The event’s spine series has a little more going on than those titles, but we’re at a point where Convergence needs to punch it to fifth gear. So why is it starting to feel like it’s stuck in second?
After saving the mysterious Deimos in the last issue, the survivors of Earth-2 will follow him to the bowels of the planet in order to discover the key to stopping Telos evil multiversal Tijuana cockfight. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson and Thomas Wayne who, without spoiling events, are in for the fight of their lives against a small army of Bruce Wayne’s most formidable nemeses. It’s this part of the story that carries the tension and climax of this chapter to an ending that, while predictable, is so far the series biggest moment.
Sure there are a few problems with the pacing and dialogue in the issue. In fact, it feels like Convergence #3 is unintentionally a two-act book with it not introducing anything new. There’s a heavy sense of over explaining things in the front half of the book while the second half moves too quick to the dramatic finish. I can forgive most of these problems because Stephen Segovia’s art is lavish action. The fight scenes and scale of Convergence have been on point art wise for the series, but the plot needs to keep up or it runs the risk of becoming ineffectual.
Convergence began with surprising promise from its zero issue. It played on the powerful force of nostalgia to get readers in touch with parts of the DC universe they’ve sorely missed. While powerful, nostalgia alone can’t carry an event. Issue three moves the narrative along more than any chapter thus far, but for being this far in, with this many orbiting tie-in books; the stakes need to have more weight by better defining the threat of Telos. If it’s not an Earth 2: Society post Convergence prequel, it needs to start showing it by actually having the different Earths start doing something.
May Contain Spoilers
I checked out The Sheik and the Bought Bride because the original novel was written by Susan Mallery, without realizing that it was illustrated by Takako Hashimoto, the same artist who worked on A Mediterranean Marriage, my review from last Friday. I love her artwork! Her illustrations are delicate and airy, and the exotic village in El Deharia was brought vividly to life, both through background details and Victoria’s wardrobe. Her clothing was beautifully rendered and I loved seeing all of her costume changes.
The plot is a bit ridiculous, but because the art was so pleasing, I just “bought” into it. Victoria’s father is an unrepentant gambler, and after losing to Prince Kateb, he offers up his daughter Victoria to cover his debt. In addition to getting caught cheating, he earns Kateb’s distain by purchasing his freedom with his daughter. Victoria, enraged by both her father’s gambling addiction and Kateb’s implication that she’s part of a scheme to make a play for his money, agrees to accept her father’s debt as her own, but only if she never has to see her father again.
Kateb promptly relocates to a village in the middle of the desert. His younger brother is next in line for the throne, because their father believes his temperament and business skills are better suited for leading their small kingdom. Kateb also tells Victoria that he was forced to kill a man when he was a boy, and the ugly scar that mars his handsome visage is both a reminder of his actions and the rebellion against his father that instigated the incident. The tribesmen don’t need to constantly see his face, because they will only be reminded of the time some of them rose up against the king.
This is fun read. Victoria is anything but demure, and her boldness both infuriate and intrigue Kateb. He’s dead set against falling for her, but there is something about her vivacious personality that he just can’t ignore. When she asks him to help an abandoned young boy, and helps the local craftspeople organize and sell their wares on the internet, she becomes popular with the villagers. Even his old caregiver champions Victoria and appreciates the new life she’s instilled in the previously staid palace.
Besides the lovely art, there is action, a swordfight, and the romance to kept the reader engaged. And, wow, I would love to own some of Victoria’s purses and shoes!
Grade: B / B+
Review copy borrowed from my local library
Victoria was handpicked to be an assistant by the crown prince of the desert kingdom of El Deharia. So then why would the Imperial Guard suddenly break into her room and drag her away wearing nothing but a negligee? Her good-for-nothing father has been in trouble for gambling before, but to think he would have tried to cheat at cards against Prince Kateb… The prince’s personality is as fierce as his scarred face. He earned the scars amid a failed kidnapping, during which they say he killed a man. Rejecting palace life, he has been known to disappear to a desert village for months at a time. Victoria despises her father, but can’t abandon the promise she made to her dying mother. She pleads with the prince to set him free, and the prince agreed…on one condition. She would become his lover, and join his desert harem!
May Contain Spoilers
Wow! Some times you strike gold when randomly checking books out of the library. I didn’t even read the blurb for A Wife in Wyoming. I just saw the cover, which I find very appealing, and clicked Borrow. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve been reading Harlequin American Romances forever, and I’ve never noticed Lynnette Kent before, but I enjoyed this so much that I immediately glommed onto her expansive backlist. Thank goodness for Scribd!
Caroline Donnelly wants to start a program for troubled teens at Circle M Ranch. Home to the Marshall brothers, Ford Marshall is visiting the ranch for the summer to help with the day to day operations after his oldest brother is injured in a fall from a horse. What he doesn’t need is a bunch of delinquents running around his property. He’s outvoted, though, and Caroline moves into the outbuildings with her charges, surly kids who don’t want to work and who have more attitude than is good for them. Caroline, a social worker, refuses to give up on them, and she insists that with the help of Ford and his brothers, they can provide positive role models for them and set them back on the right track.
Things don’t go smoothly, and Ford is more certain than ever that they are making a huge mistake. A high-power attorney from San Francisco, he’s worried about the liability of having the kids underfoot. What if one of them gets hurt and the parents sue them? They could lose the family home. With all of these worries clouding his mind, he’s also attracted to Caroline. She’s the daughter of a wealthy rancher, and she has always been off limits for Ford. In high school, she was pretty and popular, at the center of attention. She rode for the rodeo team, was a gifted barrel racer, as well as a straight A student. Fifteen years later, he still thinks she’s out of reach, despite his own personal and financial success.
I just loved this story. The kids added tension to the plot, and they kept Ford and Caroline hopping to ensure they stayed out of trouble. The teens are on the ranch to learn ranching skills, but none of them knows the first thing about it. They can’t ride, they resent their chores, and they constantly grumble about what they’re expected to do. I enjoyed their introduction to horsemanship, as well as all the page time the horses were allotted. Yup, once again my personal bias is showing. Throw a few horses in there, and I am one happy camper.
Caroline and Ford have a lot of issues to work through. Growing up poor, he pursued his high paying job to help out his brothers. He sends money home, and he doesn’t feel that he can just give up his position in San Francisco. Caroline is emotionally invested in her job and her charges, so relocating isn’t an option for her, either. Their romance seems hopeless, because neither will budge on this. Even with Ford’s brothers letting him know that they want him home and that they don’t need his money, he still feels obligated to return to a job he doesn’t have a real passion for.
A Wife in Wyoming pushed all the right buttons for me. It has horses, the rodeo, families in turmoil, and a feel great ending. I am certain that Ford and Caroline are going to enjoy their HEA, and I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the Marshalls find theirs.
Grade: B+ / A-
Review copy borrowed from my local library
Ford Marshall returns to Wyoming temporarily to help his brothers run the Circle M. He’s looking forward to some hard work, but also peace and quiet—until Caroline Donnelly hijacks his ranch for her program to help troubled teens.
Now he’s got unruly kids to deal with, a thousand chores and a growing attraction to Caroline that he isn’t sure he wants to deny. But Ford has nothing to offer a hometown girl. He has to return to his job in the city at some point soon—his brothers depend on that outside income to keep the ranch afloat. So why can’t Ford get the idea of a Wyoming wife, and coming home for good, off his mind?
May Contain Spoilers
Harlequin manga is my crack! I purchased A Mediterranean Marriage when it was on sale for .99, and I decided to read it last night because, after a stressful week, I had the attention span of a small bug. This was perfect for my mood. It’s fast paced, the art is lovely, and the exotic locale was painstakingly rendered for my reading enjoyment. The biggest disappointment for me was Rauf, the incredibly jerky hero, who has a grudge against Lilly and treats her terribly, all because she turned him down three years ago and his delicate ego still hasn’t recovered.
Lilly’s family owns a travel agency that Rauf has invested in. Three years after being rejected by Lilly, he’s still smarting from the perceived slight. When her company fails to pay contractual dividends for two years, he thinks he’ll finally get his revenge. Lilly comes to his office in Istanbul to explain, as well as to sell some property in Turkey, and Rauf is prepared to make his displeasure with her family and their lack of payments well known. Lilly, however, has documents and bank statements showing that the dividends were, indeed paid, but the money wasn’t going into Rauf’s coffers. Instead, it was going to a company impersonating his, and Lilly’s family has been scammed for the last two years.
Rauf agrees to give Lilly’s family more time to come up with the money they owe him if she’ll accompany him in Turkey for a week. During that time, she’s to help go over all of the documentation she’s brought so Rauf’s legal team can go after the scam company. Because Lilly’s company is almost bankrupt, she has no other options, so she reluctantly agrees to go along with his request. All the while she has to hide the fact that she’s in love with Rauf.
Rauf, having been burned by beautiful women in the past, instantly suspects Lilly of lying to him. He doesn’t believe anything she’s told him, and he believes that she’s trying to cheat him out of the money her company owes him. What’s really sticking in his craw, though, is the constant memory of her rejection. How dare she?! How could she possibly be indifferent to his charms? I thought he was a complete butthead, and if that’s how he treated women, no wonder they only hooked up with him for his money. He remains unrepentantly petulant until the last two pages. If the pacing and the illustrations hadn’t been so skillful, I wouldn’t have enjoyed A Mediterranean Marriage as much, because it was so hard to like Rauf. Lilly is a star, though, forgiving and honest, and Rauf, darn the man, was lucky she forgave him.
Grade: B / B-
Review copy purchased from Amazon
Lilly flies to Istanbul to appeal to Rauf Kasabian in person, an investor in her family’s travel company. He is suing the company for allegedly failing to pay its dividends, but she is unaware of any fraud. Rauf, who has gorgeous hazel eyes, coldly abandons her right after taking her virginity because he sees her as a wicked, calculating woman. Unbeknownst to Lilly, he plans to manipulate her for his own desires, thinking she is a fraud and a crook…!
May Contain Spoilers
So I couldn’t resist the polo. Where there is polo, there are polo ponies, or so my thought processes would like to think. And yes, there were horses in Susan Stephens’ In the Brazilian’s Debt, but alas, not enough to keep me happy. The biggest disappointment, however, was Chico, because he treated Lizzie so terribly after having sex with her. He went from being Mr Hottie Sex God to Biggest Jerk on the Planet in 0 to 60, and I was like, “What?”
To say that Lizzie comes from a messed up family is the understatement of the year. When she was 15, Chico and his mentor, Eduardo, visited her family’s stud farm in Scotland, and Lizzie and Chico formed a fast friendship. Or so she thought. She confided in him how awfully her parents treated her, and the terrible things that went on in her house, and she begged to go back to Brazil with him and Eduardo. Chico promised to help her, but he suddenly left without a word to her. Heartbroken, she watched as her parents brought ruin to the family legacy with their greed and depravity. Only Lizzie’s grandmother’s intervention saved them from losing the land and farm that had been in the family for generations.
Years later, Lizzie’s the last hope for saving the family farm. She’s won a scholarship to Chico’s polo training program. In the intervening years, Chico has become a polo legend, and he’s worked hard to establish a multi-million dollar empire. Chico came from the slums, and only Eduardo saved him from a life of poverty. Now he gives back, by mentoring poor youths, and by teaching his equine skills to a select few. He’s surprised to see Lizzie among the latest group of students; she left him high and dry after her mother accused him of raping her. He’s still angry that she didn’t take his side, or that she ignored the letters that he wrote to her afterwards.
There’s a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings for Chico and Lizzie to work through, but they both feel the same attraction for each other. Though Lizzie tries to avoid Chico, it’s nearly impossible. Still, she resists her feelings for him because finishing the training program means so much to her, and as the instructor, Chico is off-limits. Until a sultry night, when she throws her inhibitions away. And then he treats her like a Class A Jerk, and my affections for him withered and died like my neglected house planets.
He did manage to get back into my good graces, at least a little bit, after a family tragedy forces Lizzie back home to Scotland. He’s very supportive, and sends her parents packing when they appear on the scene like so many vultures. They are so awful they’re actually entertaining. They both deserved an extended vacation at the local penitentiary.
I didn’t like Chico when he was in Brazil. Chico in Scotland was more tolerable. Given their history, he knew how poorly Lizzie had been treated by her parents, and that her grandmother was the only family member she could trust. His casual treatment of her during the party was just…there are no words. He knew what her parents were like, and that at 15, she had no control over their actions (not like she had any control over them as an adult!). She deserved better, and I thought she forgave him far to easily.
Review copy borrowed from my local library
Paying for the past…
Lady Elizabeth Fane has two choices: lose her family’s Scottish stud farm or swallow her pride and beg Chico Fernandez for help. She’s never forgiven the arrogant Brazilian polo star for abandoning her years before, so instead she will collect on the debt he owes her.
Yet in the sultry Brazilian heat passions flare, revealing feelings Lizzie thought she had long conquered. That is until Chico finally reveals the truth behind his desertion and Lizzie realizes that he not only has power over her body but it’s she who is in the Brazilian’s debt!
May Contain Spoilers
Under a Painted Sky was such a fun read! The time period is unusual – 1849 America. The adventurous protagonists, Samantha, a young woman of Chinese descent, and Annamae, a runaway slave, disguise themselves as boys and head west from Missouri, hitting the Oregon Trail and pretending to be prospectors. I love anything to do with the Oregon Trail, and this book is exciting, suspenseful, and completely engaging. All I know is that I would never have had the courage to do the things both Samantha and Annamae are forced to do to save themselves after an accident forces them to run for their lives.
Samantha is having a terrible day. First, she loses everything in a terrible fire that claims the life of her father, then she’s tricked and almost forced to work in a brothel. Annamae saves her, and they both head west, looking for Sammy’s father’s friend, who headed to California on an unknown errand for Sammy’s father. The girls run into a group of cowboys, and the boys agree to let them travel with them for a while. The girls must hide their true identities, learn to survive in the wilderness, and protect themselves from unwanted attention. Sammy knows that the law is looking for her, and she’s terrified to show her face to fellow travelers on the Oregon Trail. Andy’s going to be in just as much trouble after running away, but she’s determined to find her older brother, who is somewhere out west.
I loved this book so much. The details of life on the trail are fascinating and compelling. Any little mistake can spell disaster or death, and Sammy is like a fish out of water. At least she can ride, a huge help now that they are traveling with Cay, West, and Peety and their horses. Andy is given the least well behaved mare, and she can’t ride a lick. Talk about learning on the fly! I’ve been riding for years, and I don’t think I could ride all day long, for months on end. Wouldn’t it be fun to try, though? The lack of running water or flush toilets gives me pause, though. I like my conveniences too much to reenact a journey on the Oregon Trail.
The fast pace of Samantha and Annamae’s adventures will keep readers on the edge of their seat. Deep down, though, Under the Painted Sky is really the tale of friendship and grit; both girls face seemingly insurmountable challenges, but they refuse to give up their dreams or each other. Highly Recommended
Grade: B+ / A-
Review copy borrowed from my local library
A powerful story of friendship and sacrifice, for fans of Code Name Verity
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.
May Contain Spoilers
Written in the Stars is an emotionally compelling story, and man, did it make me angry! To think that there are still cultures that value the lives and dreams of girls so little that they would sell them into marriage when they are still basically children makes me so frustrated for the future of all of us. The protagonist Naila is a hard-working honor student with one goal in life – going to med school and becoming a doctor. When she lies to her parents and sneaks off to prom, she’s punished in the most demeaning way. She’s taken to Pakistan, lied to by her parents, and married off against her will. Good-bye, intelligent, science-minded young woman. You are going to be a cloistered housewife for the rest of your life, and all of those endless possibilities that were once open to you? Gone. All of those people your medical skills could have saved? Nope, your parents thought being barefoot and pregnant at seventeen was a more worthy pursuit for your keen mind. Sigh.
Naila’s always been an obedient child, but when she enters her senior year in high school, she and Saif, also of Pakistani descent, can no longer deny their feelings for each other. Saif’s sister, however, brought shame on their family by marrying an American, and Naila’s parents and their friends won’t have anything to do with the family anymore. They gossip mercilessly about them, and no longer invite them for parties or gatherings. Saif’s parents, they whisper to each other, did a terrible job raising them, and both Saif and his sister are disgraceful. Naila must keep her feelings for Saif a secret. She knows her parents would never understand or approve of her feelings for him, so their relationship is confined within the school walls. Naila is just waiting to graduate, so that she can get out of her parents house, move into the dorm on campus, and have a little bit of freedom with she studies to be a doctor.
Her world shatters when she’s caught with Saif at senior prom. Her parents promptly book the next plane to Pakistan, not even allowing her to attend her graduation. Once at her uncle’s home, she starts to think that things will be okay. Her parents are happy being back home with their families, and Naila is enjoying getting to know her cousins and her aunts and uncles. She’s annoyed with all of the gatherings her mother keeps dragging her to, expecting her to dress up and answer bewildering questions about herself. After a month, it all gets very tiring, and she just wants to get back to Florida so she can attend orientation.
Then she learns, to her horror, that her parents are searching for a husband for her. She’s basically trapped, and has no one to turn to. Her parents have taken her visa, her passport, and her spending money. She’s in a rural village, and has no way to get to the airport. Her parents are suddenly strangers to her, and she despairs at ever going back home to Florida.
Written in the Stars is hard to put down. Naila’s narrative is so engaging that you don’t want to leave her world, as hopeless as it is at times. She’s an intelligent young woman, though, and she doesn’t give up hope of getting the future she dreams of. Just when she thinks she’s out of options, a new door opens, if only she has the courage to step through it.
The details of life in rural Pakistan are colorful and vivid. The reader explores Naila’s fascinating new world with her, and her daily activities come to life. Most compelling, I think, is how powerless and how inconsequential she was to her family. Her parents really thought they were doing what was best for her, but I had a very hard time understanding them, especially her father, who had to give up his own dreams of becoming a doctor to run the family dry cleaning business. Family honor is of utmost importance, but being an American, the concept of doing everything your parents tell you, even into adulthood, is incomprehensible to me. Though Written in the Stars ends on an upbeat note, it’s sobering to think of all of the girls in situations where there is no happily ever after.
Review copy borrowed from my local library
This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
May Contain Spoilers
I read Rot & Ruin last year and loved it. It was one of my top 10 reads for the year. I loved how Benny and Tom’s relationship changed as they faced one life-threatening adventure after another, and how Benny grew from an angry, petulant teen in to a courageous young man. When he learned the truth about First Night, when the zombie plague wiped out most of human population, he finally saw his brother in a new light and forgave him for abandoning his mother. It’s one best bonding moments in young adult fiction, but really, the whole book is about Benny learning how to come to terms with his feelings for his brother.
Dust & Decay didn’t work as well for me. It’s still a page turner, with loads of pulse-pounding action, but the deeper emotions from Rot & Ruin are lacking until the very end. After seeing the plane at the end of the previous book, Nix and Tom want to go and find it. Where there is a functioning plane, there must be an enclave of survivors with more technology than they have. Lilah doesn’t like being in town, and Benny’s just along for the ride. The closer it comes time for them to leave, the less certain he is that he really wants to go. Nix, however, has nothing left in town since her mother died, and she wants to see what’s out beyond the fence. She’s tired of being afraid and she’s tired of living with a bunch of people who are terrified at the thought of expanding out into the Ruin.
Things go wrong almost from the moment they step into the Ruin. They are attacked by wild animals, keep stumbling upon zombies, and run into creepy individuals that make even Tom uneasy. The predicaments they find themselves in are exciting, and I constantly wondered how they were going to get out of them unscathed. It really was hard to put the book down.
The disconnect for me is with the villains. They are one-dimensional, and that made them boring. They are all bad, for no reason. They don’t have an interesting backstory to explain their brutal ways, and because they are defined only by their evil deeds, with no real reason why they are committing these atrocities, there was nothing compelling about them. I love a bad guy that has some depth, that I can feel even a twinge of compassion for, because something happened to turn them into monsters. The only thing that happened to these guys is the same thing that happened to everyone else, but most of the surviving humans don’t run around killing children and anyone else weaker than them.
There is a terrible, horrible thing that happens near the end that also spoiled some of my enjoyment, but after reading George RR Martin, the demise of favorite characters doesn’t pack quite the same punch as it used to. Until that moment, there wasn’t much emotional connection to the story for me, and that’s why Dust & Decay fell a bit flat for me. That being said, it’s still an adrenaline rush, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Flesh & Bone.
Review copy read at Scribd
Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot & Ruin. It’s also six months since Benny Imura and Nix Riley saw something in the air that changed their lives. Now, after months of rigorous training with Benny’s zombie-hunter brother Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny’s best friend Lou Chong are going with them.
Sounds easy. Sounds wonderful. Except that everything that can go wrong does. Before they can even leave there is a shocking zombie attack in town. But as soon as they step into the Rot & Ruin they are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, insane murderers and the horrors of Gameland –where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all…could the evil Charlie Pink-eye still be alive?
In the great Rot & Ruin everything wants to kill you. Everything…and not everyone in Benny’s small band of travelers will make it out alive.
I really enjoyed Four Nights with the Duke. The setup is fantastic; 15 year-old Emilia is at a recital, and after retreating to the library, she’s forced to hide from a group of boys who noisily approach the room. Among them is Evander Septimus Brody, the handsome lad she’s fallen in love with. Vander’s mother and Mia’s father are in the midst of a scandalous, not so secret affair, and one of their parents has given Vander The Love Song of E. Septimus Brody, the poem Mia wrote to immortalize her feelings for Vander. Mia is embarrassed and infuriated over the boys’ callous jokes about her poem, and she angrily storms from her hiding place, gives them a set-down, and declares that she would never marry any of them, even if they were the last boys in England.
Oh, how times change. Thirteen years later, Mia is desperate. Both her father and her brother have been killed in an unfortunate accident, and if she doesn’t marry soon, her beloved nephew will become the ward of his villainous uncle. Mia was jilted at the altar not a month before, and with no other options, she blackmails Vander into marrying her. She has in her possession a treasonous letter written by his father. If anyone else learns of it, he will lose his title, lands, and beloved stables. So now it’s Mia’s turn to flaunt a letter in Vander’s face, and he has no choice but to comply with her schemes.
However, he burns her letter outlining the conditions of their marriage before reading it, and comes up with conditions of his own. Vander thinks that Mia is still in love with him, and so he scornfully declares that he’ll not bed her unless she begs for it, and then, he’ll only pleasure her four nights a year. Since Mia was planning on an annulment, she fiercely insists that she will never beg him to bed her. So, yeah, both of them are so wrong it’s laughable.
I enjoyed Four Nights with a Duke so much because I liked all of the characters. Mia has body image issues that challenge her self-worth, and at first, Vander takes advantage of this to wound her emotionally. I was starting to think that he couldn’t redeem himself for this behavior, but Mia doesn’t always play fair, either. For her nephew Charlie’s sake, she chained herself to a man who can’t forgive her for being her father’s daughter. Vander struggles with the shame caused by his mother’s affair. His father spent his adult life in and out of an asylum, and he blamed his mother and Mia’s father for all of the family’s troubles. It isn’t until he learns the other side of the story that he can finally begin to heal from this childhood hurt.
This is a fast read with cleaver dialog, two wounded people trying to heal, and lots of smexy times. I was entertained from the first page to the last, and found Mia and Vander’s courtship both amusing and touching.
Four Nights with the Duke
Desperate Duchesses # 8
By: Eloisa James
Releasing March 31st, 2015
As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him-so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.
Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia’s audacious proposal, but there’s one thing he won’t give his inconvenient wife: himself.
Instead, he offers Mia a devil’s bargain… he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.
Which Mia will never do.
Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart-and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can’t afford to lose.
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/12/four-nights-with-duke-desperate.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21331590-four-nights-with-the-duke?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/43059-desperate-duchesses
Buy Links Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo
A New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest to goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence. Visit her at www.eloisajames.com.
Author Links Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
~ A Music Recital ~
The Duke of Villiers’s townhouse
At fifteen, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington already had a pretty good idea of what hell was like. Mia’s governess had taught her all about Dante’s nine infernal circles.
Mia’s first circle had required her to make her debut at fifteen, under the aegis of a hired chaperone, because her mother was dead. Her second circle had added a far worse indignity: her charming, widowed father was conducting a flagrant affaire with a married duchess that everyone in the fashionable world knew about.
She had entered the third circle over the last year or so, when against all reason, she had fallen desperately in love with the same duchess’ son, Vander. He was the most sensitive, intelligent boy in the world (or so Mia thought). And he was beautiful too, with a face that resembled the stone angels that guarded baby’s graves.
The remaining circles of hell? All six?
They were revealing themselves in rapid succession. Mia had begged her father to attend the Villiers musicale on the chance that the object of her adoration, Evander Septimus Brody, future Duke of Pindar, would be present. It seemed probable since the Duke of Villiers’s eldest son, Tobias, was best mates with Vander.
As it turned out, the house was indeed overrun with boys on holiday from Eton and among the horde was Vander, who roundly ignored her. Mia didn’t mind that: she was happy worshipping him from afar. He was too godlike for someone like her.
Besides, it wasn’t as if he danced attendance on any other girl. He and the other Etonians spent their time swigging brandy although it was not yet noon, cursing loudly, and generally pretending to be far older than their fifteen years. Mia finally retreated to the library, a tranquil room with book-lined walls.
She was searching the shelves for anything resembling her favorite novel, Eliza Heywood’s Love in Excess, when she heard, to her horror, the sound of boys approaching. Even worse, she quickly recognized the voices as those of Vander and his friend Tobias, who seemed to be calling himself Thorn these days.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Print Bundle of the entire backlist of the Desperate Duchesses series, books 1 – 7, Including, Book 1: Desperate Duchesses; Book 2: An Affair Before Christmas; Book 3: Duchess By Night; Book 4: When the Duke Returns; Book 5: This Duchess of Mine; Book 6: A Duke of Her Own; Book 7: Three Weeks With Lady X)
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The Four Points #1
Story: Scott Lobdell
Art: Jordan Gunderson
Inks: John Ercek, Mark Roslan
Colors: Valentina Pinto
Letters: Josh Reed
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Despite the criticisms of delayed books and hyper-sensualized characters; for more than a decade, for better or worse, Aspen Comics has let their books speak for themselves. They, along with companies like Boom! and Image, bring new characters for the part of the market that doesn’t want the same old pliable superhero comics. Their newest debut, The Four Points, builds on the notion of a shared universe inside the publisher.
Issue one introduces three captivating female characters. Gia Sorentino, the institutionally committed daughter of billionaire philanthropists. Her Earth element powers put her in tune with everything that normal people can’t hear. Ivana Ghoul, a near invulnerable Russian wind rider with some deeply rooted trust issues. Then there’s Ara, a woman who uses her command over fire to pass herself off as a goddess on an island in the south pacific. Gia must bring these volatile elements together to defend the planet from the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Our heroines will have their ranks completed after being joined by a character very familiar to anyone that’s read the publisher’s flagship titles.
Writer Scott Lobdell introduces a hot concept to Aspen with Four Points. While it certainly isn’t revolutionary to bring a group of superpowered females together to fight evil; here, it’s solid. The opening chapter is all about the gravity of the situation and the unstableness of the elements he’s trying to bring together. Four Points #1 speeds through a lot of exposition and teases the potential chilling evil and blockbuster action we’ll see in the series. It moves so fast and drops the audience on a cliffhanger in a way that’s reminiscent of the writer’s X-Men work.
Jordan Gunderson’s art is a bit of a mixed bag of fine simple visual comic storytelling and large scale spread. The designs of the characters have that necessary majestic fantasy touch the publisher is known for, but you’ll see a few disproportional figures that jar you a bit. He did some excellent work on EA: Assassins, so I can’t wait to see what he does with bigger action scenes in this title, especially if he has the lead time he needs.
Four Points is a bit of a surprise. As a reader, Lobdell’s work has always been strange to me. He’s a writer that’s either into what he’s doing or he’s not, and it’s very easy for the audience to pick up on which Scott you’re getting. This new book feels like something he’s put a lot of energy into and even the slow opening is enough to invest your precious comic time. Four Points is an idea that’s right place at the right time for Aspen, which hopefully builds on everything in these pages.
Find out what Dave’s four points are on twitter, three of which are pizza toppings, or complain with him about the cringe worthy moments of looking at a computer screen when you type in an incorrect password.
May Contain Spoilers
I saw this at the library and had to check it out. Why? Because they don’t have many Harlequin Comics and they are like my crack. They’ve also greatly improved from the first ones I read, where the words didn’t even stay inside the word balloons. Why even have word balloons, if the text is going to drift lazily beyond their borders? It used to drive me crazy, so I’m happy to report that that particular issue is now a non-issue.
Chloe is a housekeeper for the wealthy Carstairs family, and one day, while doing her thing, she’s startled by a handsome man swimming in the pool. His face and leg are marred by terrible scars, and Chloe learns that he’s Declan, the eldest Carstairs son, and that he survived a horrible mountain climbing accident that took the life of his brother.
Chloe also discovers that he’s blind, and that he’s irritated with people mollycoddling him. He’s frustrated that he needs assistance, so Chloe does her best to help him without robbing him of his pride. She’s confused when Declan demands to know who was visiting with his brother, Adrian, before he died. Adrian, she insisted, kept to himself. She doesn’t share that he also stalked her and intimidated her, making her feel threatened whenever he stayed at the mansion.
Declan is still reeling from Adrian’s death. The last thing he said before he fell off the mountain was that he couldn’t go on with his broken heart. He then showed Declan a photo on his cell phone, the photo of a beautiful woman who took advantage of his little brother and then spurned him. Declan vows that he will find her and extract his revenge upon her.
Declan and Chloe begin to grow close, and after a night of unbridled passion, Declan regains his sight. But wait! Now that he can see Chloe, he recognizes her as the woman on Adrian’s phone. Shocked, he flees from the mansion without a word to Chloe. Chloe is understandably hurt when she doesn’t hear from him in months, and then is suddenly called to work at a party he is hosting. Once there, he springs his attack, accusing her of using and abusing his brother, and blaming her for Adrian’s death. These two have quite an obstacle to overcome!
First off, the art is lovely. The characters are long and lean, and everyone has hair that seems to take on a life of its own. Facial expressions are easy to decipher, and the action flows seamlessly from panel to panel.
The story, however, felt too abbreviated. The introduction is well done, with Chloe helping the stubborn Declan with the things he can no longer do without his sight, but the conclusion was rushed and unconvincing. Since these Harlequin Comics are only about 150 pages, there is a lot of story to fit into a short amount of space. Declan treated Chloe horribly and completely misjudged her, and I didn’t think he groveled enough for her forgiveness.
This is a common complaint I have with the manga based on Harlequin novels, but that being said, I still managed to purchase a bunch of them on Amazon over the weekend because they were priced at .99. Who could possibly resist that? If you’re curious about these comics, there are several titles available on Scribd, and you can check your local library too.
One day, Chloe, the housekeeper of the wealthy Carstairs family’s villa, meets a mysterious man by the mansion’s pool. He has a strong, sun-kissed body with a long scar running down his thigh and a deep scar carved into his cheek. Learning that Declan is the owner of the house, Chloe tries to hide that she was gawking at her boss by greeting him. It is then that she realizes that he is practically blind. It is the beginning of their dangerous relationship, and Declan is on a mission to find the woman who jilted his deceased little brother.
Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win One True Heart here
May Contain Spoilers
This is the first Harmony novel that I’ve read, and while I was a little worried about jumping on board so late in the series, I had absolutely no difficulty getting up to speed with the small Texas town. For a small place, a lot goes on in Harmony! There’s a mugging, sleuthing, a kidnapping, a rumored murder, and even a threat to national security! One True Heart was pure popcorn, and I enjoyed my visit. It was easy to get caught up in all of the activity, and the characters were a varied and likeable bunch.
The story starts from Millanie McAllen’s POV. She’s a wounded warrior returning to the States. Having been wounded in the line of duty, she’s now laid up with a cast on her leg and the fear that she’ll never walk without a limp. She knows her service days are over, and now she’s listlessly approaching her future. Once she had her career path carefully mapped out, but one heroic act drastically changed the course of her life. Returning to Harmony, Texas, the rural town she lived in until she was nine, and the place where many of her relatives still reside, she’s just looking for a place to heal and the quiet to figure out what to do next.
She meets Drew Cunningham, and the two are inexplicably drawn to each other. Drew is a victim of violence, too, and it’s rebooted his life as well. After surviving a horrific episode five years ago in Chicago, he’s withdrawn into himself. He is no longer comfortable in crowds, and the idea of putting himself out there fills him with anxiety. Teaching part time a local college, he spends most of his time writing and wallowing in his own company. He hasn’t been on a date in five years, but something about Millanie makes him want to come out of his shell.
Drew and Millanie are the main couple. Their relationship is constantly challenged by Drew’s PTSD and Millanie’s suspicions of him. She has one more task to perform for the government before her service days are over. She’s been asked to search Harmony for a suspected terrorist, and Drew fits every point on the profile list. Add in his reluctance to discuss himself or his past and you have one very torn Millanie. Her gut tells her that Drew is exactly what he appears to be; a kind, gentle professor, but his silence when she asks him even the most innocent of questions point to a man with something to hide.
I had my doubts about the longevity of Millanie and Drew’s HEA, mainly because of their inability to communicate during most of the story. My biggest disappointment was that he never did confide in her about his past and the reason he’s living in Harmony. Millanie discovers the circumstances behind his silence by utilizing her Google-fu, and I just wish that they had discussed it with each other instead.
There are three other characters who round out the cast. Johnny Wheeler is a salt of the earth farmer, that is until he’s accused of murdering his wife. Then he’s thrown in jail, and it doesn’t seem that he’ll ever get out. Circumstantial evidence implicating him in another crime makes him look guilty as sin, and he despairs at ever being released.
While he’s in the slammer, there is one bright spot during his incarceration. Fortune-teller Kare Cunningham knows he’s innocent (she saw it in his palm after all!), and she’s made it a one woman campaign to prove his innocence. Kare comes across as a total ditz, but she’s really a genius. I liked her the best, because she’s funny, compassionate, and quirky. She doesn’t see Johnny as a romantic interest, much to his dismay, so he has a lot of work to do to convince her that they should be together. Their courtship is very cute.
Beau Yates is a up and coming country star, back in Harmony after his father has a heart attack. Beau’s father rejected him and was enraged with his music. Beau is hoping for a reconciliation, but not really expecting one. While he’s in town, he runs into Trouble, the girl who made his youth bearable. They would race down the back roads of Harmony in her convertible, wild and free from their worries. The adult Trouble, or Lark, has matured into a somber banker. While their past meant a lot to Beau, he’s starting to doubt that it meant anything to Lark, and now all he wants is to leave town and get back into his life, and far away from his disappointment.
Beau and Lark’s relationship didn’t work as well for me because we never get Lark’s POV. If we had been able to peek inside her head, I might have understood some of her behavior better. She’s like a yo-yo with her feelings for Beau, and I didn’t know why she wasn’t just melting all over this handsome, successful guy. Then, after he practically manhandles her, he did earn himself some wariness from her, but I would have really liked to get her side of things.
One True Heart packs a lot in to one book. There’s something for everyone here. You have a mystery, some suspense, three couples to fall in love with, and a whole bunch of meddling townspeople. I found the ending jarringly abrupt, but otherwise, I enjoyed my visit to Harmony, Texas.
If you are reading the series, which is your favorite book so far?
Release Date: April 7 You can pre-order a copy at www.jodithomas.com
Review copy provided by publisher
New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas takes us back to Harmony, Texas—a small town where love blooms and secrets of the past threaten to alter the future…
Millanie McAllen is always logical. But after returning to her childhood home, she learns that some things are beyond explanation—like her undeniable passion for Drew Cunningham…
After finding success as a singer on the road, Beau Yates returns to Harmony to make peace with his dying father—only to find the woman he’s been dreaming of for years. But the secrets they discover might be too much for him to bear…
When Johnny Wheeler is charged with his wife’s murder, he turns to the only person who believes he’s innocent. Fortune teller Kare Cunningham’s life has always danced around reality—but Johnny is able to ground her like no other…
As their paths cross in new, captivating directions, the townspeople of Harmony need to learn to love and let go in order to live together in their little slice of heaven.
About the Author:
Jodi Thomas is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 41 novels and 13 short story collections. A five-time RITA winner, Jodi currently serves as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
May Contain Spoilers
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Daughter of the Sword. I was pleasantly surprised, and ended up enjoying it. While it was more a police procedural than urban fantasy, with historical flashbacks thrown in to breathe life into the backgrounds behind the swords, I had a hard time putting it down. The setting helped – a whole bunch. I’m not going to lie; I love reading about Japan, and Mariko’s job as a detective with the MTPD gave the story a colorful backdrop.
Mariko is the only female detective with the Metropolitan Tokyo Police Department and she’s got her sights set on being a narcotics officer. When her old, encouraging superior officer retires and is replaced with Ko, she knows she’s got her work cut out for her. Ko wants her making coffee or bringing him tea, and he has no patience for a woman in his department. Mariko is on a probationary period with Narcotics’, and Ko has threatened to dash her career at the first hint of impropriety from her, and even if she’s on her best behavior, he’s still going to send her packing at the end of her probation. He makes no secret that he doesn’t want her on the team, and Mariko bristles at his dismissal of her skills.
When she gets a tip that someone is planning to start pushing hard drugs on the streets, Ko dismisses her out of hand. The police and the yakuza have an unspoken agreement; the police look the other way on smaller offenses, and the yakuza make sure hard drugs stay off the streets. Ko sends her to investigate an attempted robbery to get her out of his hair. Mariko is angry at being assigned to a case that isn’t even a crime. The sword wasn’t stolen because the homeowner interrupted the robbery.
The owner of the sword is Professor Yasuo Yamada, and once he enters the picture, I couldn’t read fast enough. Yamada has studied the weapons created by Inazuma, a sword smith of extraordinary skill. Most scholars doubt he even existed, but Yamada has no doubts. He’s seen several of Inazuma’s blades, and Yamada believes that each has magical properties. Mariko scoffs at his claims, but as she gets to know Yamada, and as a demented killer continues to try to steal Yamada’s sword, she starts to wonder if the swords are somehow connected to the rumored cocaine shipment.
Mariko becomes a student of Yamada’s; in addition to being an expert about the history of the swords, he’s also an expert swordsman. Even though Mariko still doesn’t believe in magic swords, she does believe that someone is dead set on stealing Yamada’s sword. When a group of armed thugs break into Yamada’s house with the intent to kill him, Yamada, a frail seeming, nearly blind 89 year old, swiftly puts an end to their aspirations, looking all the world like a samurai warrior of old.
I really enjoyed the flashbacks. Each of the swords has a history, and each is explored through a series of flashbacks. The swords are cursed or blessed, depending on the will of the one wielding it and the intention behind their attacks. The characters in the weapons’ pasts get pretty much what they deserve, too. Their behavior dictates their successes and failures, and while some learn from their mistakes, others never do and suffer horribly for it.
I liked Mariko, too. She has to put up with a lot of crap from Ko, but she still finds a way to circumvent his orders and do what she thinks is right. She’s tough, not easily intimidated, and she goes up against yakuza members and drug dealers with equal ferocity. Her mom gives her pause, but otherwise, she’s got guts and nerves of steel.
If you’re looking for something a little different, Daughter of the Sword is worth a look. It’s a pleasant break from the shifters and alternate realities that I’ve been reading, and I could easily relate to the strong female lead.
Review copy provided by my local library
As the only female detective in Tokyo’s most elite police unit, Mariko Oshiro has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. But when he gives her the least promising case possible—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—it proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.
The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it.
Mariko’s investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.
May Contain Spoilers
After the smashing success of What a Bachelor Needs, I decided to give One Night with Her Bachelor a spin. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well for me, because I didn’t find the hero very appealing. Yes, Gabriel is going through a rough patch, but, still, Dude, you have to bathe regularly. He lives in his grandfather’s cabin in the middle of woods, a good hike from civilization, and the thought of living without electricity does absolutely nothing for me. My idea of camping is checking into a Fairfield Inn, and that’s roughing it. So a guy without a job, the internet, furniture, or a way to charge a Kindle – yeah, that’s not happening.
We meet Molly Dekker, a single mother working hard to provide a happy home for her exuberant son Josh. On the weekend Josh is off on a camping trip, Molly decides she’s going to do something for herself. She’s going to hike into the woods, find Gabriel’s cabin, and proposition the man she’s had the hots for since she was a girl. Gabriel was her brother’s best friend, and when he was injured in the line of duty, he lost everything after the tragic accident.
Gabriel is a former Air Force pararescueman, and when he’s sent to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter, he arrives too late to save Molly’s brother. Worse, he’s terribly wounded, and his injures rob him of his job. Unable to remain in the service, he’s now at lose ends. Suffering from PTSD, he retreats from his family and settles into the cabin in the woods, living like a hermit. He only goes to town when he needs supplies, and when Molly shows up on his doorstep, he isn’t amused. He’s not even sure what to think after she makes him an offer she thought he’d be delighted to accept. All Gabriel wants is to be left alone.
While she’s trying to talk Gabriel into bed, she discovers her son has gone missing from his campsite. Fearing the worst, she and Gabriel rush off in search of him. When they find him, he’s been seriously injured, and Gabriel quickly takes matters into his own hands. He rescues Josh, saving his life, but the boy is left paralyzed.
With Josh’s medical bills, Molly is now struggling to make ends meet. She blames herself for Josh’s condition, and regrets ever going to Gabriel’s cabin. She’s afraid to leave her son alone now, stifling his efforts at independence. When her friend discovers how poorly she’s doing financially, she organizes a charity auction to help her raise money, despite Molly’s protests.
As you have probably already guessed, Molly ends up with Gabriel as her bachelor. While there were sparks between them and some of the dialog was very fun, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in their HEA. They struggled to communicate, and their conflict resolution skills left a lot to be desired. They are both still so emotionally raw from the enormous potholes in their lives that it was hard for me to believe they were up to the complications that go hand in hand with a relationship. Gabriel can’t even confide to Molly about his accident, because he still hasn’t come to terms with it himself. When he finally does, Molly was justifiably irked at his lack of trust in her.
So, bottom line – while I liked getting the scoop on the backstory for the series, aspects of One Night with Her Bachelor just did not work for me. The hero wasn’t my cuppa, and the couple’s inability to communicate didn’t give me a sense that they’ll enjoy their HEA.
Review copy provided by publisher
Bid on a date with this wounded warrior for an unforgettable night of adventure. Aim high—and bid higher!—because no one comes close to local hero Gabriel Morales.
Molly Dekker hates being the town charity case, but when her son Josh is seriously injured she has no choice. She lets her best friend organize a bachelor auction to help pay her massive bills and make Josh’s life more comfortable. She can’t bid on any of the men, but a surprise bidder gives her a gift she never expected: a date with the man who saved her son’s life—the only one she’s in danger of losing her heart to.
Former Air Force pararescueman Gabriel Morales made a career of flying to the rescue, until a tragic helicopter crash stole more than his livelihood. Being auctioned off like a slab of beef isn’t in his recovery plan. But one look, one touch and one night unlocking Molly’s pent-up passion make him realize how badly he needs to be rescued…and how badly he wants to rescue Molly right back.
Will Molly and Gabriel’s never-quit attitude have them rushing head-first into love? Or will Gabriel’s secret pain stall their relationship before it can get off the ground?
May Contain Spoilers
I was kind of avoiding the Bachelor Auction books because, at first, they didn’t interest me. I just read a book where the hero was auctioned off, so the premise wasn’t even catchy. But then. But THEN! I saw that Kelly Hunter wrote What a Bachelor Needs and I was so on board I forgot my life vest.
I have read and enjoyed many of Kelly Hunter’s works. I love her dialog and how the protagonists interact, and the secondary characters are always fun to meet, too. All of that is true here. There is so much humor in WaBN that I actually laughed out a loud a few times, startling the puppers. It’s okay, though, they have already realized that mom is kinda weird, but her love is genuine, so they didn’t scurry off to locate a hiding place.
Single mom Mardie is struggling to provide a safe, secure home for her young daughter Claire. The victim of domestic abuse, she was in one horrific marriage and she’s not going to make that mistake again. On the lowest night of her life, Jett Casey, the guy she’d been crushing on since high school, saves her after she’s taken a beating in an alley. Mardie is mortified that Jett is her rescuer, and despite her objections, she allows him to call emergency services so she receive the medical attention is obviously needs.
This meeting changed both of the their lives. It made Mardie realize that she deserved better and that she was worth something. It overwhelmed Jett with guilt because he didn’t think he did enough for Mardie. He just let her go, back into whatever hellish situation he’s momentarily saved her from. When he has a chance to do something about it a few years later, he takes the opportunity to assuage his guilt very seriously.
Mardie doesn’t have two nickels to rub together, and she’s too proud to ask for help from anyone. When her friend buys Jett for her, she’s not happy. But Jett, a competitive skier, is sidelined with an injury, so he’s offered to be the winner’s handyman. Mardie’s house needs a lot of TLC, so she’s finally convinced that letting Jett fix a few things will make it a safer environment for Claire. She also learns that occasionally asking for help isn’t a bad thing, a hard lesson for her to learn.
I loved Jett. He is such a kind, giving guy, and he only wants to help Mardie. He’s a ski god, enjoys having a good time, and has women throwing themselves at him. But once he starts tinkering around Mardie’s house, he only has eyes for her. She fights the attraction she feels for him, but their chemistry shines on every page. Mardie’s reservations are completely believable, too. Once the week is over, he’s just going to go off on his merry way, traveling the world and winning more titles. Mardie doesn’t think she has anything to offer him, despite his protestations to the contrary. She’s still fighting the demons from her past, and she doesn’t think she can ever trust again.
What a Bachelor Needs is a fast, fun read with snappy dialog and a kind, compassionate hero who is very heroic, and, hey, he does home improvements! If that doesn’t make Jett Mr. Perfect, I don’t know what would. If you have a couple hours to fill this weekend, I highly recommend getting cozy with this book.
Review copy provided by publisher
Your date with ski champ Jett Casey is an either/or deal. He’ll take you off-piste for the ultimate Montana ski adventure or he’ll put his handyman skills at your disposal for a week. Which one would you choose?
Single mom Mardie Griffin has a run-down old house in need of fixing and a memory of Jett Casey as her savior in a time of great need. So when her friends acquire Jett’s services at a bachelor auction and send him to fix up her house, she sets aside her mistrust of men and lets him in.
Elite athlete Jett Casey has the world at his feet and no desire for stability. But there’s one woman he’s never forgotten and if he can help make her safe this time, maybe she’ll stop haunting him.
No strings, no sex, no commitment. Just fix things. Surely it can’t be that difficult…
May Contain Spoilers
At one time, I loved romances with sheikhs. I loved the desert setting, the opulent palaces, and the armchair travel. Current events have diminished some of this enjoyment, though, so it’s with a bit of trepidation that I pick one up any more. I can’t remove myself from reality enough to enjoy them as exuberantly as I once did. I saw some positive reviews for The Sultan’s Harem Bride and since it was at the library, I decided to give it a read before diving into Anne Bishop’s Vision in Silver.
The story worked for me because the author didn’t completely ignore current events. Heroine Jacqui is suffering from PTSD after witnessing a suicide bombing that took the life of her best friend and fellow news correspondent, Imran. Once a woman who thrived on adventure and danger to get to truth for her news reports, she’s now uncomfortable in crowds, jumpy at loud noises, and drowning in guilt because it was her lead that got her friend killed, while she walked away physically unscathed. Emotionally, she’s a wreck, and when she’s given the opportunity to research the lives of women who lived in Jazeer’s harem, she jumps at the chance. It’s really her last option; she’s quit her foreign correspondent job and is struggling to find something meaningful to do instead.
She and Asim clash from the get go. Asim is distrustful of journalists, and he needs to protect his younger sister from more grief from the press. He can’t believe that his grandmother invited Jacqui to the palace. Jacqui is also partly to blame for the death of his cousin Imran. Nobody can know that Samira is hiding at the palace, instead at an island resort, a story he’s carefully fed to the press. Asim is skeptical of Jacqui’s motives, and he vows to keep a close eye on her.
I enjoyed The Sultan’s Harem Bride, but there were a few elements that marred that enjoyment. I thought Asim, though he could be a caring man, acted like a jerk too many times, and he always thought the worst of Jacqui, without any basis for his behavior. Then, after their steamy affair burns up the sheets, he continues to look for a suitable bride to help him rule his country. His parents had a destructive, toxic relationship, so he refuses to even consider marrying for love, and instead is looking for a biddable woman to give him heirs. The thought of considering Jacqui for the position never occurs to him, or when it finally does, he dismisses it because she’s all wrong for him. Really? She’s good enough to keep as a toy, for however long their attraction lasts, but she’s not good enough to marry? I’ve read this trope a few times in the past few months, and it irritates me every time. It’s hard to actually like the hero when he’s so dismissive of the heroine.
Despite my reservations, I liked Jacqui and Samira, and I’m looking forward to reading Samira’s story, The Sheikh’s Princess Bride, in April.
Grade: C / C+
Review copy obtained from my local library
WANTED: Desert princess to join harem
Sultan Asim of Jazeer has hundreds of women at his beck and call. So why does he want the only one who threatens to reveal his family’s shameful secrets?
Journalist Jacqui Fletcher jumped at the chance to write a history of the harem—not to become a sultan’s plaything! But it’s hard to remember her assignment when the sultan’s sensuous caresses spark a fire she’s never experienced before…
Asim is looking for a pliable princess for a marriage of duty. Brave, beautiful Jacqui couldn’t be more wrong for him. So why does holding her feel so right?
The post Review: The Sultan’s Harem Bride by Annie West appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
May Contain Spoilers
This isn’t so much a review as a compilation of what I love about The Others series. There are already a ton of reviews, so instead I’ll try my best to compel you to read Vision in Silver if you haven’t already.
The series just gets better and better. I have enjoyed seeing how Meg’s introduction to the Lakeside Courtyard has changed the Others, and how they have changed her. Meg is struggling to understand simple human interactions, since she was isolated by the Controller in her cell at the Compound and she wasn’t allowed to have normal socializations. A prized belonging, she was valued for her skin, which when cut, causes her to prophesize. Her man who controlled her made a fortune on her, paid for by Meg with her blood. Once she was able to run away to the Courtyard, she finally found a measure of independence working as the Others’ Human Liaison. Now she has to figure out how to survive outside of the Compound, where she finally has a choice over her own life.
Because Meg is addicted to the euphoria that overcomes her when she cuts, she constantly battles the urge to pull out her razor when she thinks there’s a danger to her new friends. Meg is having a hard time tamping down the need to cut, but under the watchful gazes of the Others who inhabit the Courtyard, she is having some success with her addiction. Until she gives in to the urge and damages some of the relationships she’s worked so hard to develop. When Meg first arrived at the Courtyard, the Others were indifferent to their new employee. Sure, they found her amusing, but as her cheerful and caring personality slowly won them over, one by one, they all developed a need to protect her. Witnessing her losing control of herself shakes the tough Nathan to the core, and I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to get past her lapse in judgment. Nathan is a protector, so being forced to hurt Meg wounded him deeply.
When Meg first came to the Courtyard, Simon only thought of humans as meat. Humans working in the Courtyard were off-limits, because I guess even the Others consider eating your employees bad manners, but otherwise, the annoying humans were prey. By Vision in Silver, there are two kinds of humans – cleaver meat and the members of Meg’s pack. Simon, and many of the rest of the Others, realize that there will be advantages to having a pack of humans willing to work for the good of everyone. With the growth of the Humans First and Last movement, it’s become even more important to have humans they can trust for business dealings with the humans. As the violence against the Others escalates, Simon begins to wonder if a new type of Others will transform into Humans. What a scary thought. The Others are so powerful that the humans have no hope to win a war against them, but they are so arrogant that they don’t even know the many forms of their enemies. There are older, frightening, and terribly powerful beings in the wild that think of the humans as fleas, and the only thing keeping them from wiping them out is Simon’s experiment in the Courtyard, where humans and Others live together. I’m curious to see how long this tolerance will last, as the HFL movement continue to strike out at them, as well as betray other humans, all in the name of victory.
As Meg tries to find ways to cope with new situations, she is also given the task of helping the other cassandra sangue who were rescued in Murder of Crows cope with their new surroundings. Some of the girls are unable to handle the sudden changes that have overwhelmed them, but one girl desperately grasps ahold of the idea of living. She’s moved to a small settlement, where some Wolves are given guardianship of her. She refuses to name herself, despite the Wolves urging. She doesn’t need a name. She’s uncertain of new surroundings, and thinks that she’s given up one form of captivity for another. When Jackson gives her colored pencils at her timid request, she’s finally allowed to answer another call instead of cutting herself. Through her art, her ability to see the future flourishes. I love, love, loved her chapters, as she slowly, tentatively reached out and explored her new world. Jackson is just as confused as she is, but he strives to help her settle in and feel more comfortable in her new home. I got a little teary eyed when she finally gave herself a name. I hope she has a larger role in the next book.
The emotional pull between Simon and Meg is the slowest burning romance. Like – ever. Neither one of them knows how to show their feelings, so they stumble along, trying to figure out just exactly what it is that they are feeling for each other. Simon gets jealous when others give Meg the attention he wants to, and at the end of a long, hard day, all he wants to do is curl up with her, a movie, and a bowl of popcorn and decompress. He’s fiercely protective of her, and she is just as protective of him. There’s a lot of tap dancing here, because nothing between them makes sense to either of them. You know that Simon is doomed, though, when he thinks of Meg and also thinks “Mine.” How long before he connects the dots? Because almost everyone in the Courtyard have already figured it out.
I usually don’t like reading books in a series one right after another. No matter how talented the author, their writing style begins to grate after too many back to back books, and repeated phrases become distracting. That did not happen with The Others. Right after I finished one, I wanted to jump right into the next, and that’s the only bad part about reading a series that is incomplete. It’s going to be a long, long wait until Marked in Flesh releases next year!
Grade: A (or I want MOAR NOW!)
Review copy provided by publisher
The New York Times bestselling author of The Black Jewels Trilogy transports readers to a world of magic and political unrest—where the only chance at peace requires a deadly price…
The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.
Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.
For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…
The post Review: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Giant Days #1
Story: John Allison
Art: Lissa Treiman
Colors: Whitney Cogar
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Boom! Box
1. Unless you religiously follow web comics, you’ve probably never heard of John Allison.
a. True, but you should be reading Bad Machinery.
2. Giant Days is a book about____
a. Three girls beginning their first year of university in England.
b. The angst that comes along with wanting to reinvent yourself in a new place.
c. A bet settled by a cafeteria blunder.
d. All of the above.
3. Susan Ptolemy’s problems begin____
a. At the beginning of page one.
b. When a mysterious boy from her past named McGraw transfers to her school.
c. She catches her friend in a compromising moment.
d. She doesn’t have any problems (No that would be an awful story).
4. Esther De Groot is_____
a. The trio’s drama magnet.
b. A raven haired goth with horrible luck when it comes to boys.
c. A former member of a Black Metal Society with a weird mystical tattoo.
d. All of the above.
5. Daisy Wooton is______
a. Home schooled and naive.
b. Not a pervert, just enjoys watching napkin folding videos.
c. Both A&C
d. None of the above.
6. Lissa Treiman’s art in the book is______
a. Quirky, a mix of newspaper comic strip with the emotional grandiose of Scott Pilgrim.
c. Stick figures
7. What’s happening in the page above
a. An example of Whitney Cogar’s subtle yet distinct color work with the characters.
b. A funny visual gag you’ll see throughout the story.
c. Susan asserting herself as the group’s leader.
d. All of the above.
8. Does Giant Days have any flaws?
a. Yes, it’s too perfect.
c. Yes, for a book set against the background of higher education they never entered a classroom.
d. Yes, a slice of life story needs a little more emotional stakes.
9. Should you buy Giant Days?
a. No, you should only read books with capes and tights where nothing relevant happens.
b. Yes, because you’re a well rounded person who can appreciate comical stories with down to earth characters.
10. Extra credit essay:
Giant Days is a book with the feminine voice of HBO’s GIRLS and the charm of the Sunday comics in the newspaper. John Allison crafts characters with genuine yearnings who blend together nicely. Lissa Treiman’s art is the best compliment a cleaver and whimsical story like this could get. Though first issue felt like it needed a bit more build in the tension, the series is worth getting on board for. I can’t wait to see these chicks get into more problems.
You’ll need to repeat the course – @bouncingsoul217
Blog: Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog
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Welcome to another edition of In Tandem, the read-and-review blog series where both A.F. and I give our two cents at the same time. (You can feel free to guess which of us is the yellow owl and which of us is the purple owl...we're not telling!)... Read the rest of this post
Hit 1957 #1 (of 4)
Story : Bryce Carlson
Art: Vanesa R. Del Rey
Colors: Niko Guardia
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Hit: 1957 is the second volume in the Bryce Carlson series and continues its dark and violent dive into the depths of 1950’s corruption in Los Angeles. While it certainly doesn’t blaze new territory, it does deliver on the promise of sharp noir with only the slightest of hiccups.
Writer Bryce Carlson picks up the series two years after the events of the original. Mickey Cohen is out of jail and the LAPD have seemingly regained control of the city. The underworld is however a different story. A battle for Los Angeles has been raging between infiltrating crime boss Domino and detective Harvey Slater’s morally gray area task force. That’s really the direction the story goes, as Slater must deal with the war on organized crime, pressure from internal affairs, and the kidnapping of Bonnie Blair.
Russ Manning Award winner Vanesa R. Del Rey takes on art duties for the book and in a word, it’s stellar. She has a knack for cinematic angling. When you combine her heavy lining with the moody colors of Niko Guardia it makes for a noir combination that’s just right. The opening sequence of the book illustrates that magic hour pop of the day just right. This natural auburn cast by the setting of the sun is depicted as an augment on the emotional tone of the characters. Though it isn’t all sunshine, towards the end of the book its look feels a little inconsistent with some of the face work.
Overall the book is solid, though its jumps can be a bit jarring at times. Carlson writes a story for California history buffs. You’ll see a lot of seediness, which marred an influential period in the economic and social development of Los Angeles. In a book like this you won’t always be able to tell the good guys from the bad, and that’s the mark of any good noir. Crime stories aren’t fast by nature and their fury heats to a boiling point subtlety and that’s what you’ll see here. Hit: 1957 isn’t blazing any new trails with its content or plot devices, but it does so many things right that it warrants picking up for a chance at your pull list.
Gotham Academy #6
Story: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher
Art: Karl Kerschl, Mingue Helen Chen
Color: Msassyk, Serge Lapointe
Letters: Steve Wands
Publisher: DC Comics
As much as we love reading about the adventures of the world’s greatest detective, you have to figure Gotham city is probably a pretty messed up place to grow up. Walking down the street could get you turned inside out by Joker gas or someone in a skintight cat outfit could shred you to pieces. Even adolescents in this world have it rough. This is mostly due to Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. They put kids in buildings with Arkham inmates, fire hazards, and sinister looking headmasters. All these obstacles put forth for our enjoyment in Gotham Academy #6.
The issue wraps the first story arc and sheds a little more light on Olive Sliverlock’s forgotten past. What issue six finally does is make good use of a Batman appearance. It’s powerful, and not just because of the fight with Killer Croc. This chapter of Gotham Academy puts Olive on a collision course with the caped crusader. Neither character is shown to be on the right side of the argument, which makes this matter poignant to the series and a mystery we’re sure to want answers about. Cloonan and Fletcher write the usual whimsy and angst sprinkled voice that cast of characters has become known for in the series. It’s just that now the team has managed to raise the stakes for all of them.
In addition to the usual fantastic Disney animated style art of Karl Kerschl, issue six brings Mingue H. Chen on board for some key flashback sequences and an epilogue that leaves us wishing DC would just skip Convergence altogether. Her style is noticeably more painted than that of Kerschl but it never jitters the reader. The two artists blend pages smoothly and that’s the best you can ask for when sharing illustration duties on a single story.
Gotham Academy is one of the best new ideas DC has published in awhile. If you’ve been on the fence about trying this series, go do it. Issue six, as a standalone, has major hook and you’ll definitely be enticed enough to pick up the pieces you’ve missed. One usually has to read a Vertigo published book to find this much depth in a comic.
Now that the kids are united it’ll be even more fun to see how they’ll be divided.
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May Contain Spoilers
Please Remain Calm picks up right where This is Not a Test left off, but from Rhys’ POV. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I actually liked his narration better than Sloane’s. Rhys is a straight forward kind of guy, and while he is torn up over what he had to do to his parents on the first awful night of the zombie apocalypse, he has done a fairly good job of moving past the ordeal. While he does suffer from nightmares, he counts himself lucky to be alive, and he is determined to stay that way, so that his parents’ deaths will mean something. Unlike Sloane, he is not suicidal, and he strives to find some sort of normal in the new horror of his existence.
Rhys and Sloane are headed to Rayfield, where a refugee camp has supposedly been established. They make a major blunder, though, and are soon running desperately away from a group of zombies. They are separated, and Rhys is saved by Jesse and Lisa, a couple who are making their way to their safe house in the woods. They also have their four year old daughter with them, and Jesse is understandably suspicious of Rhys. He doesn’t trust him, and he doesn’t want to put his small family in danger. He warns Rhys that if he messes up, he won’t hesitate to eliminate him.
Please Remain Calm has a lot more action than This is Not a Test. Because Rhys and his new companions are outside, with no shelter, they are tempting targets for roaming zombies. Regardless of how careful they are, it’s inevitable that there will be encounters with the undead. They are adrenaline fueled battles for survival, against foes that just don’t stop. The zombies don’t ever quit, and where there is one, there are usually many more. Every shadow, every boulder, every tree is a possible hiding place, and the tension kept me flipping the pages. I gobbled this novella up in short order, and immediately hoped that there will be more in the future. The ending is ambiguous, leaving everything up in the air, so be forewarned.
Grade: B / B+
Review copy obtained from my local library
In Please Remain Calm, the gripping sequel to Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test, Rhys and Sloane are headed for a safe haven when they get separated along the way. Rhys is determined to reunite with Sloane until he discovers people who might need him more–people who offer him the closest he’ll get to everything he’s lost, if they can just hold on long enough. Rhys thinks he has what it takes to survive and find Sloane, but in a world overrun by the dead, there are no guarantees and the next leg of his journey will test him in unimaginable ways…