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1. Review: The Vault by Emily McKay

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This series is proof that even if the first volume doesn’t work for you, maybe the rest will.  I couldn’t get through The Farm – I’m not sure why.  I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood, or the pacing left me feeling impatient, or if it was just the wrong day of the week to start reading it.  I set it aside and moved on, forgetting about it,  until I was given the opportunity to review The Lair.  Now there was a book I couldn’t put down! 

I really enjoyed creepy darkness of Emily McKay’s nightmarish world.  A virus has ravaged America, turning its victims into mindless, violent monsters with a never-ending craving for blood.  To stave off the annihilation of humans, young Americans have been quarantined onto Farms, their blood collected and fed to the starving Ticks.  After forming an uneasy alliance with a vampire, Lily and Carter, two teens,  are determined to save the world.  Their little rebellion faces one challenge after another, and Lily lies in a coma at the end of The Lair, victim to the virus.

The Vault picks up right where The Lair left off.  Carter is desperate to obtain the cure for virus, which Sebastian claimed is hidden in his territory.  Carter and Mel, Lily’s twin sister,  can’t enter the lab where they think the cure is secured because of the security measures the vampire left in place to guard his domain.  They need Sebastian, or at least parts of Sebastian, to get inside.  The problem?  Mel left Sebastian staked to the ground after the battle with Roberto.  While she goes back to see if he’s still alive or salvageable, Carter heads to Sabrina’s territory.  The cruel vampire is rumored to have some vials of the cure, and a desperate Carter will do anything to get his hands on them if it means saving Lily’s life.

The Vault kept me on the edge of my seat as Mel and Carter attempt to save Lily from turning into a monster.  Told from all three characters’ POV, they all struggle to survive in their new deadly world.  Lily wakes from her coma, and she knows that it won’t be long before she turns into a Tick.  She can already feel her humanity and her reasoning skills slipping away.  Together with Marcus, Ely’s brother, she heads for a Farm, where she thinks she’ll find safety and medical assistance.  I enjoyed her POV the most, and was a bit disappointed when her voice went silent for part of the book.  I would have loved a first hand account of her experiences, instead of relying on Carter to narrate that part of the story.

There’s a lot of action in The Vault, which made it a rollercoaster read.  My biggest nit-picks? Sabrina was such a one-dimensional character I had a hard time taking her seriously, and Carter got a little (okay, a LOT whiny) near the end.  I just didn’t have the patience to deal with his sudden hang-ups about his relationship with Lily.  They both survived the end of the world, for goodness sake!  Just cherish the love that somehow flourished amid so much death!  Lily did, and even Mel got a HEA, so Carter’s reluctance to take things at face value grated on me.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

There is no rest for the damned in this thrilling follow-up to Emily McKay’s The Lair and The Farm, in a series New York Times bestselling author Chloe Neill calls, “Equal parts Resident Evil and Hunger Games.”

In a world where vampires rule and teenaged humans are quarantined as a food source, there is only one choice—resist or die. But fighting the vampires comes at a terrible cost to twin sisters Mel and Lily and their best friend Carter . . .

With Lily exposed to the vampire virus and lying in a coma, it’s up to Mel and Carter to search for the cure. Time is not on their side. With every passing heartbeat, Mel is becoming more and more purely vampire.

Desperate, Carter and Mel decide to split up. Carter will recruit human rebels from the Farm in San Angelo to infiltrate the guarded kingdom of the vampire Sabrina and steal the cure. Mel will go back to her mentor, her friend, her betrayer, Sebastian, who is the only one who can access an underground vault that may house the secret to the cure.

That is, if he’s still alive after she staked him to the ground. Now her worst enemy may be their best hope for curing Lily—and saving the human race.

The post Review: The Vault by Emily McKay appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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2. Review: Sheikh’s Desert Duty by Maisey Yates

 

Please note that this review was originally posted at Romance @ Random

May Contain Spoilers:

I enjoy Maisey Yates’ writing, and I have a secret fascination with sheikhs, so how could I possibly resist Sheikh’s Desert Duty?  While I did ultimately enjoy the book, there are two plot points that kept me from enthusiastically recommending it.  Instead, I say read it with the following reservations.

First, it’s a kidnap trope. Zayn catches Sophie eavesdropping on him when he’s threatening James Chatsfield with bodily harm. The cad has gotten his younger sister pregnant, and Zayn just wants to choke the pompous ass to death.  When he discovers Sophie lurking in the shadows of the alley after James has made a hasty retreat, he isn’t sure how much she’s overheard.  To protect his family’s reputation and to stop yet another scandal from tainting the family name, he makes a drastic decision.  He’s going to take Sophie to his desert kingdom of Surhaadi until the entire thing blows over.

Sophie is a journalist digging up dirt on the Chatsfield family. They are trying to ruin her friend’s life, and Sophie’s not going to just sit idly by as Spencer Chatsfield takes over Isabelle’s hotel chain.  She is out for any information that will stop the sale, including hiding in rainy alleys spying on James. She doesn’t expect to be abducted.  But after Zayn makes a call to her boss, she finds herself on his private plane, jetting across the world.  Zayn has promised her boss an exclusive on his upcoming wedding, and now Sophie has no choice but to accompany him to Surhaadi.  If she doesn’t deliver the story, she’ll lose her job.

I don’t care for abduction stories. The hero holds all of the power, and the heroine is basically under his control.  Zayn never took advantage of the situation, but I am still not convinced that any romantic feelings under these circumstances would be real. Sophie even makes a reference to Stockholm syndrome, which made the background for their relationship even more jarring to me.

The other thing I didn’t like was that Zayn was engaged to be married. While his fiancée never makes an appearance, and it is made abundantly clear that he has no feelings for Christine and that their union was purely political, it still bothered me.  It made me question his character and wonder if he would be faithful to Sophie.  And for a guy who was avoiding scandals, this screamed “SCANDAL!!”

So, that’s what bothered me about the story.  Now I can share what I enjoyed.  I liked Sophie.  She is smart, funny, and driven.  After watching her mother ruin her life after falling in love with a married man, Sophie swore that she would never let that happen to her.  Love was a toxic thing for her mother, preventing her from seeking happiness.  Instead, she fawned after the crumbs of attention that were thrown her way.  Sophie’s father was never a presence in her life, and she resented that.  Her mother ignored her, her father never acknowledged her, and so she was determined to prove her worth to everyone.  Putting herself through school, struggling for everything she had, she worked with one goal in mind.  She wanted to make something of herself, confront her father, and make him see how worthy she is.

Love never played a part in her plans, and after a disappointing mashing of lips when she was in college, she determined that men were just not worth her time of day.  Zayn is the first man to make her heart race, and she finally begins to understand why her mother kept longing for the love of her life.  Sophie knows that Zayn is to be married soon, but she can’t stop herself from falling for him.  This finally made her see things from her mother’s perspective, though Sophie tells herself that she’s not going to let her feelings for Zayn to get out of hand. Ha!

Because of the problems I had with the plot, I can’t wholehearted recommend Sheikh’s Desert Duty.  I did enjoy it, but I had to push the problematic elements far to the back of my mind.  Since reader tolerance varies, some people might not be concerned with these points.  Yates’ writing is lively and engaging, so I would suggest reading it for that reason alone.

Grade:  B-/C+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

 

A Chatsfield Scandal!

Journalist Sophie Parsons needs a scoop to stop the sale of her friend’s hotel chain. And she’s found it! But being abducted by a sheikh goes way beyond the call of duty… 

Sheikh Zayn Al-Ahmar has a wedding to arrange, a sister to protect and a country to rule. He’s not going to let one woman bring it all down with a headline! Kidnapping Sophie seemed like a good idea, but soon her delectable company puts everything he values at risk.  

Only one mistress can rule Zayn’s heart—will it be Sophie, or his duty?  

Welcome to The Chatsfield, New York!

The post Review: Sheikh’s Desert Duty by Maisey Yates appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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3. Santiago Stays


Review by Ariadna Sánchez

Santiago Stays is the latest book of award-winning author and illustrator Angela Dominguez. Dominguez’s story is charming, delicate, and easy to read. Her narrative is about a young boy who tries to play with his French bulldog Santiago. The boy offers Santiago diverse colorful options like playing with a toy, going for a walk, and even eating a hamburger to captivate his attention. What the boy didn’t know is that Santiago had a very important job to do that’s why he could not play with him. When the boy lost control and became loud, her little sister woke up with a cry. As soon as she saw Santiago, she smiled. The boy now realized why nothing made Santiago looses his post. “Good Boy, Santiago” the boy exclaimed.

With engaging and simple text, young readers and listeners enthrall in the artwork illustrations created in pencil, ink, marker, and tissue paper.

Santiago Stays is a highly recommended book especially for pet lovers and families who enjoy great stories. Reading gives you wings! Visit your local library to emerge in the fascinating world of books.

To read more about Angela Dominguez please check the following links:


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4. Review: Mai Tai’d Up by Alice Clayton

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is the first novel by Alice Clayton that I’ve read.  I have been avoiding reading her, because I’m getting tired of New Adult in general, but when I saw in the blurb that protagonist Chloe runs a pit bull rescue, I couldn’t start reading this fast enough.  I was expecting a spicier romp, but Mai Tai’d Up turned out to be a sweet friends to lovers story, with a great sense of humor, a heroine who won’t settle for the easy way out, and a lot of dogs.  Oh, there’s also a couple of very hot smexy times near the end of the book.

Chloe Patterson decides on the morning of her wedding that her fiancé, Charles, isn’t the man for her.  He doesn’t make her heart go pitter-patter, he’s a stick in the mud, and he has a little willy.  Sure, he’s rich and powerful, but she doesn’t love him.  And he doesn’t love her.  So she packs up her car (after getting kicked out of her pissed off mother’s house), and heads up the coast to her father’s vacation home in Monterey.

At first, I didn’t much care for Chloe.  She’s a former beauty queen, she was raised in luxury and has never wanted for anything, and she seemed very young and immature for a 24 year old.  She let her mother run her life, and she didn’t really have any goals outside of being a housewife and raising a passel of kids.  I had a hard time relating to that.  It’s not until the wedding is looming right before her that she takes a close, hard look at what her life would be like if she married Charles, and she runs like a bat out of hell in the other direction.  It’s after they have a disagreement about her volunteer work that she realizes that a future with Charles would soon be tedious and unfulfilling.

After settling in her father’s place, she takes up an offer from a friend.  While working with therapy dogs during her pageant days, she met Lou and was smitten – with his pit bull.  Lou wants to open a branch of his rescue organization in northern California, and Chloe decides to accept the challenge.  Her new home has more than enough land to host the rescue, and before you can say “Adopt me!” she’s got a game plan, as well as a life plan, and she is excited to finally have a goal that is hers and hers alone.  It’s not something that her mother wants her to do, it’s something that she wants to do. For herself.  It’s exhilarating!

All rescue organizations need help, and Lou gives Chloe a lead on a good vet to help care for her charges.  Lucas is a 3rd generation veterinarian working at his family’s clinic, and he’s gorgeous.  Chloe can’t stop drooling over him.  The problem?  Lucas is still smarting after his bride-to-be left him at the altar.  How can she possibly come clean about her past behavior when she did almost exactly the same thing?  Besides, they are both on the rebound, and Lucas is leaving the country soon for a 12 week volunteer trip to provide veterinary services in Belize.  Instead, they agree to be buddies and just hang out together.  Lucas can show Chloe around town and help her with the pit bull rescue.

I enjoyed this book so much!  It’s light and fast-paced and it never dragged.  I liked seeing the relationship between Chloe and Lucas grow and blossom into something more than friendship.  They have a lot in common, and they both have a great sense of humor.  They are also supportive of each other’s goals, and they are there for the other.  When Chloe needs help picking up a rescue, Lucas is right there to give her a hand.  When he wants company on a paddle board outing, she’s game, as long as she doesn’t see any fins in the water.

The rescue plays a big part in the plot, and because I am such a huge proponent of pet adoption, I loved all of the details.  The rescue gone wrong had me sniffling.  The dogs gave Chloe the agency to change into a more caring and compassionate person.  They also gave her the determination to stand up to her controlling mother.  And what can I say about Lucas?  I love vet heroes. 

Mai Tai’d Up is the perfect vacation read.  It’s funny and sweet, it’s about a cause I care about, and it has a super adorable hero.  It kept me up reading late into the evening, and was very hard for me to put down.  Now I’m excited to read some of the author’s backlist.  Where should I start?

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Looking for the perfect mix of smart, sexy, and sassy? Mai Tai’d Up continues New York Times bestselling author Alice Clayton’s Cocktail series, which began with Wallbanger and continued with Rusty Nailed and Screwdrivered.

The gossip mill in the seaside community of Monterey is churning about Chloe Patterson, the newcomer who is starting a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. It’s rumored that she’s a former beauty queen (true) who ditched her fiancé the morning of their wedding (also true). And that while she’s not looking for a new man, the good-looking local veterinarian has his eye on her. Absolutely, positively true.

When Lucas Campbell isn’t at the family veterinary clinic, he’s paddle boarding in Monterey Bay. Recently single, he’s definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but he still can’t resist taking a second, third, and fourth look at the recent arrival of Miss Golden State.

Neither Lucas nor Chloe has any interest in being tied down. Being tied up, however—now there’s a thought. But are a few Mai Tais, a moonlit night, and the music of Frank Sinatra enough to allow them both to forget their past? Let’s hope Ol’ Blue Eyes knows what he’s doing.

Mix one part tiki, one part kinky, and a splash of old black magic matchmaking, and it’s time to be . . . Mai Tai’d Up.

The post Review: Mai Tai’d Up by Alice Clayton appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Review and Giveaway: Hello Kitty HELLO 40

About the book:

In 1974, Hello Kitty stepped on the scene, and she’s had the world wrapped around her little red bow ever since. Here, some of her biggest fans—from comic artists to muralists to toy creators—pay tribute in story and art.

Foreword by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, creators of Babymouse

My thoughts:

I am a huge Hello Kitty fan.   I own notebooks, pens, pencils, a tea set, a rice bowl, a cookie tray, and many other items emblazoned with the iconic character.  I was crushed when I broke my Hello Kitty sugar bowl, but I eventually got over the shock (a few years later).  I was confused this summer when reports shocked the world that she was not a cat, but a British girl instead, because, really, how many girls have cat ears?  And those whiskers? The Sanrio PR machine quickly responded that while Hello Kitty isn’t a human girl, she isn’t entirely a cat, either.  Huh?  I quickly shoved all of that nonsense back in a corner of my brain, and I am content to clearly state that, to me, Hello Kitty is a CAT!  What do you think?

Anyway, getting back to Hello Kitty: Hello 40, A Celebration in 40 Stories (Plus One for Good Luck) – this is a fun book.  A compilation of short comics by international artists, it’s a fitting tribute for Kitty White’s 40th birthday.  Featuring a fascinating variety of artistic styles, each artist celebrates her special day, contributing short stories and thoughts on how Hello Kitty affected their art and pop culture in general. 

The production values are very high, with a study hardcover binding, heavy paper stock that will stand up to repeated reading, and bright, vivid colors.  If you are a Hello Kitty fan, or if you have one on your holiday gift giving list, you really can’t go wrong with this book.  It’s also available digitally, for those who prefer an electronic format.

Thanks to VIZ Media, I have a copy to give away.  US addresses only, please. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Review and Giveaway: Hello Kitty HELLO 40 appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Review and Giveaway: Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean

This is the my first Sarah MacLean, and I have to admit that I was attracted by the cover first and foremost.  While I thought things got off to a slow start, I become wrapped up in the plot and had a hard time putting it down.  I really enjoyed the protagonists, and found that they complemented each other perfectly.  Both of them have secrets to protect, and they will  do anything to ensure that their skeletons remain locked in a closet, out of sight.   Duncan, while wealthy beyond his dreams and the owner of several influential newspapers, is being blackmailed by the one person who knows of his past.  Georgiana, ruined at 16 and now the single mother of a precocious 9 year old, burns with rage at the society that shunned her, and how dismisses her daughter Caroline as so much trash. 

I didn’t completely buy into the admission fee for Georgiana’s gaming club.  I couldn’t see how anyone would be compelled to turn over their deepest, darkest secrets in order to gain entrance to the gaming tables, but maybe the thought of imminent disclosure was titillating in and of itself.  The fact that Chase, Georgiana’s male alter ego, never hesitated to bring ruin to those she felt deserved it, made me question the common sense of all of these wealthy men.  It’s not like Chase was known to be a kind-hearted guy who loved kiddies, puppies, and his fellow man.  No, he was out to get those that slighted him, and he didn’t make it a secret that he would divulge the dirt on his customers at any time.  This did drive me to distraction at the beginning of the book, making it difficult to me to engage in the plot.

When one of Duncan’s papers, a gossip rag, prints a particularly damaging cartoon about Georgiana and her daughter, she’s driven to do the one thing she’s avoided since she was a young girl.  She fears that Caroline’s future will be bleak, and that her scandal will rub off on her, so she’s determined to marry man with a title to protect Caroline.  She believes that the title will insulate both of them from the past, and open the door of opportunity for Caroline.  But it’s Duncan who turns her head.  It’s Duncan who she feels a blinding attraction to and can’t get the thought of him out of her head.  Despite her feelings for him, she knows that they have no future together because he don’t have that all important title to save her daughter’s future.

For his part, Duncan has some incriminating secrets of his own.  Even though he’s drawn to Georgiana, he knows that a future with her is impossible.  He has lived in fear for years, terrified that his deepest, darkest, most damning secrets would be revealed, and that he would eventually hang for them.  He could never subject another person to that gnawing fear. But that doesn’t stop him for longing for something that he can never have, and he longs for Georgiana.  He believes that she needs to be rescued from the elusive, villainous Chase, and he is driven to distraction trying to learn what hold he has over her.  This did get slightly tiring, and I wished Georgiana would just fess up and get that elephant out of the room.  Chase’s hidden identity nearly destroys Duncan and Georgiana when he unwisely enlists assistance in flushing the shadowy scoundrel from his hiding place.

I liked that Georgiana was a strong, stubborn woman who refused to allow the opinions of others destroy her.  Instead, she found strength in her wrath against society, becoming an extremely powerful figure who could destroy the lives of others at a whim.  She also refused to give up the name  of Caroline’s father, causing her brother to gnash his teeth in frustration. It’s hard to defend the honor of the women under your protection when they don’t cooperate with you!  I never got the sense that Georgiana needed protection from anyone, and that’s what I liked best about her.  She is not a simpering miss, even when she’s attempting to gain the good opinion of the society that distains her.

I really enjoyed Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, and I’m looking forward to exploring the author’s backlist.  I would like to get to know the supporting characters better, especially Pippa, who also seems like a quirky, interesting lead.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover
The Rules of Scoundrels # 4

By: Sarah MacLean

Releasing November 25th, 2014

Avon Romance

Blurb

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking-in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered…until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear…including her heart.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/09/never-judge-lady-by-her-cover-rule-of.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17828895-never-judge-a-lady-by-her-cover?ac=1

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Never-Judge-Lady-Her-Cover-ebook/dp/B00IRC8ATQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/never-judge-a-lady-by-her-cover-sarah-maclean/1120522016?cm_mmc=affiliates-_-linkshare-_-mdxm68jzjz8-_-10%3a1&ean=9780062068514&isbn=9780062068514&r=1

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/never-judge-a-lady-by-her-cover/id833843816?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/never-judge-a-lady-by-her-cover-1

Author Info

Sarah MacLean grew up in Rhode Island, obsessed with historical romance and bemoaning the fact that she was born far too late for her own season. Her love of all things historical helped to earn her degrees from Smith College and Harvard University before she finally set pen to paper and wrote her first book.
Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband, baby daughter, their dog, and a ridiculously large collection of romance novels. She loves to hear from readers. Please visit her at www.macleanspace.com

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.sarahmaclean.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahmaclean
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahmaclean
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1598076.Sarah_MacLean


Rafflecopter Giveaway ($50.00 Gift Card to Choice Book Seller and Print Set of Rules of Scoundrels Books 1-3)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Review and Giveaway: Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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7. Review: A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise by Maggie McGinnis

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I decided to read A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise  because both protagonists are veterinarians.  Hayley is a big city vet, tending to pampered show cats, while Daniel is a large animal vet in rural Montana.  Hayley really wanted to be an equine vet, but obligations to her uncle changed her focus to small animals instead.  One of the things I enjoyed about the book was Hayley’s enthusiasm for Daniel’s line of work.  He’s an overworked vet, the only animal caregiver for hundreds of miles.  Even though he has two young daughters, he finds solace in his busy workload.  Since the death of his wife, he’s been trying to cope with his grief and be a loving father, but there are times when he’s overwhelmed juggling his work and home schedules.

Hayley is a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of girl; she has no intentions of ever settling down, and her longest relationship lasted a record two months.  Visiting Montana for her friend’s wedding (Kyla from Accidental Cowgirl), Hayley realizes that she needs to stay far, far away from Daniel.  Daniel doesn’t do casual, and Hayley doesn’t trust enough in love to risk a commitment.  Daniel is also fighting with his mother-in-law over custody of the girls, and it’s obvious that she disapproves of both Daniel’s work and the sudden appearance of Hayley in his life.

I loved the humor, and immediately wanted to read the first book in the series (which is in my Terrifying Tower of TBR, so there are hopes that I will get to it yet!).  The setting was also a huge plus, as was Daniel’s work.  I am fascinated when the vets come out to the barn, and like to watch them work on the horses, as well as ask questions about the procedures they are performing.  There’s a feeling of that in the book, as Hayley pitches in to assist with the equine care.  She desperately comes to love Montana, treating larger animals, and Daniel and the girls, but she doesn’t see a way to leave her own practice in Boston to take a chance on a permanent relationships with Daniel.

After she returns home from her vacation, she and Daniel stay in contact, calling and Skyping.  This part of the story felt very real, too.  Their long-distance relationship blossoms into something much deeper than friendship, and I found that their period of separation strengthened their ties to each other.  They really listened to what the other said, and used the information gained to do thoughtful things.  Usually I’m bored when the protagonists are apart, but that was never a complaint here.

Though Christmas plays a part in the story, it isn’t until the end of the book.  I mention this because when I told my mom how much I enjoyed A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise, she said that she didn’t care for holiday themed books.  Most of the story takes place during Hayley’s summer vacation, so even if you don’t like Christmas reads, download the sample from Amazon and give this a try.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In a captivating novel spiced with holiday magic—perfect for fans of Rachel Gibson, Susan Mallery, and Molly O’Keefe—a rugged Montana man mends a Northeast girl’s jaded heart.

Boston veterinarian Hayley Scampini tends the city’s pampered pets but dreams of the rural life of a country vet. She’s single and determined to stay that way, convinced that love isn’t permanent enough to trust. Then a vacation to the Whisper Creek dude ranch introduces her to Daniel McKee, a sexy single dad who runs the kind of veterinary practice she aspires to—and rattles her conviction to keep men at a distance.

Managing a thriving practice, coping with the loss of his wife, and fighting a custody battle with his in-laws over his twin daughters, Daniel couldn’t be more overwhelmed. Hayley is a godsend, accompanying him in the field and winning over his girls. It doesn’t take Daniel long to realize he’s falling for this woman, hard and fast. So before Hayley returns to Boston, he extracts a promise: that she will return to Whisper Creek for Christmas. It’s the perfect time and place to show Hayley that the promise of a beautiful life together is something she can believe in.

The post Review: A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise by Maggie McGinnis appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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8. Oaxaca al Gusto


Review by Ariadna Sánchez

December is here! A special and sweet way to share time with the beloved ones is through cooking. Oaxaca al Gustois by renowned British author Diana Kennedy. Kennedy takes audacious readers to an amazing and delectable journey into one of the most colorful and one-of-a-kind cuisines in the world.

The southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is a complex and diverse region with a huge variety of flavors and gourmet dishes. The secret behind each recipe is reveal by Oaxacan natives. Kennedy travel from north to south and from east to west of Oaxaca to capture in words and by photograph the essence behind the three hundred recipes most of them from home cooks.

Oaxaca al Gusto is organized by regions for an easy search. Along with each recipe, readers can check some cooking techniques, learn from the community, and admire the stunning and appetitive images. In addition, Oaxaca al Gusto contains a special chapter that focuses on the three main components of the Oaxacan cuisine: corn, chocolate and chiles. Follow by a complete glossary, an extended biography of author Diana Kennedy and last by not least a note to the cook.  Oaxaca al Gusto is definitely a mouthwatering experience!

Have a safe and great Thanksgiving celebration and remember that reading is delicious. Visit your local library to merge into the fascinating world of books.

To read more of Diana Kennedy’s experiences please follow the next link:


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9. Novella Review: Sweet Cowboy Christmas by Candis Terry

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I have been struggling with this review, and I don’t know why.  I thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Cowboy Christmas, but I just can’t seem to put my thoughts down in any coherent manner, so I will instead give you my Top 5 reasons why you should read it

1.  This romance will put you in the mood for the holidays.  I read it last week, and afterwards, I was geeked for the holiday season.  Christmas plays a big part in the story, because Chase lost his father on Christmas years ago.  He’s still not over his loss, and he dreads the holidays, because he certainly doesn’t share in the holiday cheer that surrounds him.  Faith loves Christmas and giving to others, so she wants to help Chase regain his love for the holidays

2.  Both Chase and Faith are running unsuccessfully from their pasts.  Chase can’t get over the loss of his father, and now he’s just had a health scare himself.  He’s not sure who he is anymore, because he’s been told he has to give up his fast-paced, stressful life or he’s not going to be around much longer.  Faith is still smarting from a romance gone bad.  Her ex belittled her and she still hasn’t recovered her confidence after his contemptuous treatment of her.

3.  Chase is a caring guy, who realizes a good thing when he sees it.  When he learns that Faith’s confidence is still suffering from her past disastrous relationship, he isn’t shy about letting her know how special she is.

4.  The interactions between Chase and Faith are humorous, sweet, and romantic.  The ranch setting is the perfect backdrop for their budding romance.  How can galloping across a field and then sharing a kiss not be romantic?

5.  Sweet Cowboy Christmas is a novella, so you don’t have to invest a lot of time to reach the happy ending.  This is a great choice if you have some free time in between your own holiday preparations.  Who knows?  It may even get you in the mood to put out some extra Christmas decorations.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Mistletoe, holly, and cowboys, oh my! Christmas in Texas has never been sweeter.

Years ago, Chase Morgan traded in his dusty cowboy boots for the shimmering lights of New York City and a fast track up the corporate ladder. But when his shiny life is turned on end just in time for Christmas, Chase knows he needs to reevaluate—even if that means going home to Texas to endure his least favorite holiday.

When Mr. Tall, Dark, and Smoking-Hot walks through her door at the Magic Box Guest Ranch, Faith Walker sees just another handsome, rich exec looking to play cowboy for a week—at her expense. She’s sure the grumpy-but-sexy-as-hell Scrooge will put a crimp in her holly jolly plans. Until a sizzling kiss has her seeing him in a new light.

Chase is haunted by secrets, and even though it goes entirely against her “hands off the guests” rule, Faith is tempted to help him leave the past behind. As the magic of the season swirls around them, she is determined to succeed, because now she is certain one sweet cowboy Christmas will never be enough.

The post Novella Review: Sweet Cowboy Christmas by Candis Terry appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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10. Review: Twice Tempted by Eileen Dreyer

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I was in the mood for a historical romance, so I fired up my Kindle and started reading Twice Tempted.  I was hooked from the first page.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but a sweet romance, sprinkled with spicy interludes and a light spy thriller wasn’t it.  I enjoyed as the mystery slowly revealed itself, as well as the secondary characters helping Alex and Fiona solve it.  They actually made the read for me, because Chuffy and Mairead were so unique and their eccentricities were delightfully surprising.

Fiona isn’t having a good day.  The man she has obsessed over for the last four years has just delivered the heartbreaking news that her older brother Ian has been killed.  Worse, her cranky grandfather promptly throws Fiona and her twin sister Mairead out on the streets, because the honorable old man can’t abide the thought of Ian’s scandal rubbing off on his good name.  His granddaughters were only tolerated because Ian was his heir.  He can’t forgive them for the stain of growing up in the slums, and he can’t wait to be rid of them.

Alex, Ian’s friend, is dismayed to find Fiona and Mairead gone when he returns to inform the girls that Ian is still alive and the news of his demise was premature, as was the outrage he was accused of.  Now Alex truly is a man of honor, and he is consumed with guilt for not being there to protect the girls.  Four years ago he delivered Fiona to her grandfather’s estate, and after stealing a kiss from her, he thought that she was in good hands.  Little did he know that Fiona was verbally abused by the marquess, and constantly made to feel unwelcome in her new home.  Alex had only known love and support from his own family, so the thought that Fiona and Mairead would be treated so poorly never occurred to him.  Now he’s determined to find her and give her the life she deserves.

When Alex locates the young women, they are not interested in his plans for their future.  Both Fiona and Mairead are consumed with their intellectual pursuits, and they have no intention of giving up their mathematics and astronomy for a life of luxury.  Fiona has serious trust issues stemming from her childhood in the slums, and she doesn’t believe Alex is capable of delivering on his promises.  She fought to keep her and Mairead safe and fed, and it wasn’t always easy.  I have to say that I don’t understand where Ian was during this time; after their mother died, why didn’t Ian do anything to see the girls in a safer environment?  There was no excuse for him to have left them alone and defenseless for so long, regardless of his circumstances. Ugh.

I had a hard time putting Twice Tempted down, especially as Alex and Fiona became more enmeshed in the plot that threatened to destroy both of them.  They both have trust issues due to their pasts, and secrets they are keeping from each other.  I enjoyed the action, the romance, and how the diverse characters interacted, gaining strength and confidence from their new friendships.  This was a fun read!

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Fiona Ferguson’s troubles began with a kiss . . .

It feels like a lifetime ago that Alex Knight saved Fiona from certain doom . . . and stole a soul-shattering kiss for good measure. Wanting nothing more than to keep her safe, he left her in the care of her grandfather, the Marquess of Dourne.
But Fiona was hardly safe. As soon as he could, the marquess cast her and her sister out on the streets with only her wits to keep them alive.

Alex has never forgotten that long-ago kiss. Now the dashing spy is desperate to make up for failing his duty once before. This time he will protect Fiona once and for all, from a deadly foe bent on taking revenge on the Ferguson line-and anyone who stands in the way . . .

The post Review: Twice Tempted by Eileen Dreyer appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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11. Awesome Adventure Time “The Original Cartoon Title Cards” Art Book

The first of two beautifully lavish books created to celebrate the distinctive designs behind the Adventure Time title cards. Combining sketches, works in progress, revisions and final title card art, the book will take readers on a visual guide of the title card development, with quotes from each episode and commentary from the artists – Pendleton Ward, Pat McHale, Nick Jennings, Phil Rynda, and Paul Linsley.

 


  • Hardcover: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (September 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783292873
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783292875

 

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12. The STORM WHALE – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: The STORM WHALE Written and illustrated by: Benji Davies Published by: Henry Holt and Company, LLC., 2013 Themes/Topics: whales, loneliness, father/son relationships Suitable for ages: 3-7 Fiction, 32 pages Opening: Noi lived with his dad and six cats by … Continue reading

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13. Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

Summary: Mortal Heart is the final book (SAD FACE) in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin trilogy (Book 1 reviewed here; Book 2 reviewed here). The books take place in medieval Brittany and France, a setting which the author has obviously researched... Read the rest of this post

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14. Luciano Floridi responds to NYROB review of The Fourth Revolution

In the October 9th edition of the New York Review of Books, philosopher John Searle criticized Luciano Floridi’s The Fourth Revolution, noting that Floridi “sees himself as the successor to Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud, each of whom announced a revolution that transformed our self-conception into something more modest.” In the response below, Floridi disputes this claim and many others made by Searle in his review of The Fourth Revolution.

John Searle’s review of The Fourth Revolution – How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality (OUP, 2014) is astonishingly shallow and misguided. The silver lining is that, if its factual errors and conceptual confusions are removed, the opportunity for an informed and insightful reading can still be enjoyed.

The review erroneously ascribes to me a fourth revolution in our self-understanding, which I explicitly attribute to Alan Turing. We are not at the center of the universe (Copernicus), of the biological kingdom (Darwin), or of the realm of rationality (Freud). After Turing, we are no longer at the center of the world of information either. We share the infosphere with smart technologies. These are not some unrealistic AI, as the review would have me suggest, but ordinary artefacts that outperform us in ever more tasks, despite being no cleverer than a toaster. Their abilities are humbling and make us revaluate our unique intelligence. Their successes largely depend on the fact that the world has become an IT-friendly environment, where technologies can replace us without having any understanding or semantic skills. We increasingly live onlife (think of apps tracking your location). The pressing problem is not whether our digital systems can think or know, for they cannot, but what our environments are gradually enabling them to achieve. Like Kant, I do not know whether the world in itself is informational, a view that the review erroneously claims I support. What I do know is that our conceptualization of the world is. The distinction is trivial and yet crucial: from DNA as code to force fields as the foundation of matter, from the mind-brain dualism as a software-hardware distinction to computational neuroscience, from network-based societies to digital economies and cyber conflicts, today we understand and deal with the world informationally. To be is to be interactable: this is our new “ontology”.

The review denounces dualisms yet uncritically endorses a dichotomy between relative (or subjective) vs. absolute (or objective) phenomena. This is no longer adequate because today we know that many phenomena are relational. For example, whether some stuff qualifies as food depends on the nature both of the substance and of the organism that is going to absorb it. Yet relativism is mistaken, because not any stuff can count as food, sand never does. Likewise, semantic information (e.g. a train timetable) is a relational phenomenon: it depends on the right kind of message and receiver. Insisting on mapping information as either relative or absolute is as naïve as pretending that a border between two nations must be located in one of them.

The world is getting more complex. We have never been so much in need of good philosophy to understand it and take care for it. But we need to upgrade philosophy into a philosophy of information of our age for our age if we wish it to be relevant. This is what the book is really about.

Feature image credit: Macro computer citrcuit board, by Randy Pertiet. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

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15. Novella Review: Can’t Wait by Jennifer Ryan

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Kicking off the holiday reading season, I picked up Can’t Wait by Jennifer Ryan because I liked the cover and because it has one of my favorite tropes.  I can’t get enough stories with the heroine falling for her brother’s best friend.  The setting didn’t hurt either; all of the action takes place on a ranch in Montana.  While Montana would not be my first choice if I were to ever relocate (the winters last forever!), the whole ranch thing is so appealing to me that it makes me giddy.  Working with and around horses all day long seems so much better than herding IT professionals on a daily basis.

Summer has fallen so hard for her brother’s best friend that she’s had to move out of the main house and into the smaller cabin on the ranch by herself because being so close to him is driving her crazy.  The flirting and longing looks she casts in Caleb’s direction should be clear for everyone to see.  Everyone but Caleb, it seems.  He’s not taking the bait, no matter how hard she casts her lures.  She’s at her wits end and decides to take a different route; to heck with the subtle approach, she’s going to let him know exactly how she feels.

Caleb is far from indifferent to Summer, but because he owes so much to Jack, he can’t go after his best friend’s sister.  Jack kept him sane and alive during his stint in the military, and now Caleb is helping Jack run his ranch. He has too much to lose if things don’t work out with Summer, but the temptation is driving him to distraction.  But being a man of honor, he can’t allow himself to show his interest in her.

I really liked Summer because she is a woman who knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it.  She knows that they would be good together, if Caleb would only give her a chance.  Summer isn’t just working against Caleb’s sense of honor, she’s also battling his PTSD.  Both Caleb and Jack saw and did terrible things while overseas, and they are both haunted by the experience.  Caleb’s distress is so severe he can’t sleep at night, but once he opens his feelings to Summer, she gives him a sense of peace he had been lacking.  She becomes his anchor, something that he desperately needed.

The story takes place in the run up to Christmas, and Summer’s holiday traditions are seamlessly incorporated into the action.  Who wouldn’t want to go on a snowy trail ride in search of the perfect Christmas tree?  The snowball fight I could have lived without, but only because of my aversion to being cold and wet.  I was definitely in the holiday mood by the time I finished reading Can’t Wait.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Originally appeared in the e-book anthology All I Want for Christmas Is a Cowboy.

Jennifer Ryan, author of the New York Times bestselling The Hunted Series and the upcoming Montana Men Series, takes us to the very beginning in this Christmas prequel about two people who finally receive the one thing they’ve always wanted … each other.

Though she is the woman of his dreams, Caleb Bowden knows his best friend’s sister, Summer Turner, is off-limits. He won’t cross that line. Summer shares a connection with Caleb she’s never felt with anyone else, but the stubborn man refuses to turn their flirtatious friendship into something more. Summer will have to take matters into her own hands if she wants her cowboy for Christmas.

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16. Reflections on the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of The Death of Klinghoffer

The question is not whether it was appropriate for the Metropolitan Opera to stage this important and controversial piece, but rather, did they do it right? Did they mount it so that its poetic, dramatic and musical potential was well realized?

The challenge is great. Poet Alice Goodman’s libretto operates on multiple levels. Using poetic imagery, she not only explores the stories of the individual characters and some elements of the complex relationship between Jews and Palestinians but also larger human dilemmas. She sets the specifics in the context of the elements: earth (desert), water (ocean) and the sun (which effectively burns with fierce intensity throughout much of the second act of this production.)

The director, Tom Morris, has added the plant kingdom. Building on the Exiled Jews’ line, “the forest planted in memory,” he has the chorus bring on a small forest of young saplings – many of which are produced from large trunks. In so doing, he adds additional layers of meaning and memory – both that of the reforestation of Israel, but also that of the baggage of refugees everywhere, and specifically of the luggage lugged with false hopes to the camps.

It is at once a piece recalled in memory and an evocation of a present reality. As a memory piece Goodman does not need to tell the story sequentially and is free to present the events from multiple perspectives.

Here, too, Morris and his set designer, Tom Pye, have effectively amplified the libretto. By manipulating the set pieces they show us the killing of Klinghoffer first from the back and then from the front – vividly embodying different views. They also chose to portray the moment when Omar, a young terrorist, shoots – shifting our perspective in a different way. It effectively destroys any sympathy that we might have developed for him in his earlier aria/dance.

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Metropolitan Opera House, by Niall Kennedy. CC-BY-NC-2.0 via Flickr.

The success of this production stands on three pillars. One is the strong and subtle conducting of David Robertson. A second is the casting. The singing was uniformly excellent and the principals were believable. Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer (Alan Opie & Michaela Martens) presented a particularly interesting casting challenge, since it is crucial that their voices are beautiful and yet have an appropriately mature timbre. Both these demands were satisfyingly met. The third pillar of the success lies in the decision to reject the more abstract and cerebral approach taken in the original productions and to ground the work in particular and recognizable locales with the performers costumed in character-appropriate clothes.

The production team also chose not to represent Leon and Marilyn with dance doubles as was originally done, which increased our ability to empathize with their suffering. The convention was, however, retained for Omar. His is a mute role but for one major aria in which the piece takes the irredeemable step from threat to murder. The aria was sung by a woman in a dark burqa. However, she was not alone with him. On a receding diagonal behind her stood a line of identically dressed women evoking generations of tradition handed from mother to son. As she sang, Omar went through painful convulsions–of indecision? of fear? After the aria, he began his fateful walk towards Klinghoffer, gun in hand.

The set established three different locales – the first two were fluid and sometimes simultaneous. One was a lecture hall (or theater) represented by a lectern stage left; the other was the cruise ship, Achille Lauro, represented by railing pieces, deck chairs and by two moveable double-level ship’s deck units. When the Captain lies to the authorities about the violence onboard, the lectern becomes integrated with the ship as a stand for the phone. This choice effectively forces him to move out of memory to re-living one of his most painful choices during the high-jacking.

The final scene, in which the Captain admits to Marilyn that the terrorists have killed her husband, has a setting all its own. Inexorably, two giant panels close in – reducing the stage to a triangular space empty but for a single chair. Are we in the ship’s hold? Are we in a truth chamber or one of horrors? We don’t know, but it is a formidable and unforgiving space. And, indeed, neither the Captain nor Marilyn can escape.

Over a period of two dozen years, the director Peter Sellars brought together the team of John Adams and Alice Goodman to co-create three vitally important works: Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) and Dr. Atomic (2005). All are based on recent events with profound implications for our times. All three are oratorio-like. The stories are dramatic but their form is static. And yet we are drawn to these pieces. Confronted by the issues they embody – as we are in our media, our wallets and in the political choices made by our leaders, do we cry out for a distanced format? Do we seek a cool presentation that gives us time to review and reflect? Surely. And yet, in these quasi-operas, I miss the visceral excitement generated by works in which conflicts between unique individuals are directly portrayed in singing and acting. For me, the success of the Met’s production of The Death of Klinghoffer is that it restores some of this urgency, vitality and feeling.

Headline image credit: Full House at the Metropolitan Opera. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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17. Review: Siren’s Treasure by Debbie Herbert

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I love books about mermaids, and I enjoyed Debbie Herbert’s first novel,  Siren’s Secret, so I was eager to dive into Siren’s Treasure (excuse the bad pun!).  Jet is my least favorite character of the three Borsage mermaids,  though, so it did take me a while to warm up to her.  She made some terrible decisions in her past, and they are about to bite her in the butt.  She has always felt like  an outsider with the merfolk, and her mother’s emotional distance left her desperate for acceptance.  She falls for the wrong man, giving her ex a powerful weapon to blackmail her with.  Regretful that she’s given him so much power over her, Jet fears she will never be rid of him, and that she’s put her race in danger of discovery.

When FBI agent Landry Fields enters her life, Jet is at a low point in her life.  Her shady ex has been released from prison and now he wants to go back into business with her, and he’s not taking no for an answer.  She’s just won a tough competition at the mermaid games, but nobody is excited for her triumph.  She wants to know why she’s treated so poorly by other mermaids, and why her mother insisted she spend so much time on land, but her mom’s not fessing up.  Frustrated and lonely, Landry’s intrusion into her life takes her by surprise.  She’s attracted to him, and even though they are at odds over his latest case, Landry can’t help but feel drawn to Jet as well.

I found the pacing of the story a little uneven, until Perry and his thug friends abduct Jet.  They need her to salvage something for them, and the thought of the millions it will bring them has them desperate to do anything to earn her cooperation.  Perry’s new acquaintances are dangerous, and they think everyone is disposable, even Perry.  They won’t hesitate to use extreme force to get what they want, because they have even more dangerous clients waiting to bid on the salvage, and they won’t take kindly to being disappointed if Jet doesn’t find it.  Failure is not an option!

The abduction/rescue sequence of events kept me rapidly turning the pages.  I loved this part of the book.  I liked how the other mermaids worked with Landry to rescue Jet, and I enjoyed getting to know Jet’s mother better. She’s a great character; even though she and Jet might have had their misunderstandings, nobody is going to stop Adriana from saving Jet from the unsavory criminals that have snatched her away.  I also loved how, ultimately, it was Jet who saved Landry, and his complete faith in her that she would succeed at that endeavor.  

Despite some bumps for me, I enjoyed Siren’s Treasure, and I’m really looking forward to Lily’s book.

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by Author

From Amazon:

Deep in the bayou, a strange and beautiful world of merfolk exists… 

Mermaid Jet Borsage never fit in with her own kind. Her dark hair and eyes set her apart from the other merfolk. Which was why she fell for the wrong man, and why she is still paying the price. One that has made her unwilling to trust any man. Until she meets Landry Fields… 

Agent Landry Fields is investigating Jet’s former boyfriend, but he knows Jet is hiding something, as well. At first he believed the beauty was involved in her ex-boyfriend’s dangerous undersea excavations. But when he realizes he is falling for a real-live mermaid, Landry’s by-the-book beliefs are rocked. Now can he save Jet and her clan from modern-day pirates to claim a future with the feisty beauty?

The post Review: Siren’s Treasure by Debbie Herbert appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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18. Mini Manga Reviews: Catch Up Post

I have been reading a lot of manga, but I haven’t had enough to say about each volume to write up a full review, so here are some brief impressions, starting with a new imprint Manga Classics.

Review:

I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, and somehow I have managed to not see the many film adaptions of this classic, so I was thrilled when this turned up in my mailbox. I was a little leery that it would be boring, as some other novel to comics have been, but I was pleasantly surprised with everything about it.  The art is lovely, the script is engaging, and I spent an enjoyable hour savoring Udon’s well produced book, and I’m looking forward to reading more in their Manga Classics line. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

About the book:

Beloved by millions the world over, Pride & Prejudice is delightfully transformed in this bold, new manga adaptation. All of the joy, heartache, and romance of Jane Austen’s original, perfectly illuminated by the sumptuous art of manga-ka Po Tse, and faithfully adapted by Stacy E. King.

Now that the entire series has been released, I have a new goal – finish reading Vampire Knight.  I love this series, but I have to admit that half of the time I don’t understand what the heck is going on.  I read Volume 14 twice, and while I think I get it, the plot is still as clear as mud. 

When Yuki obtains Kaname’s memories, she learns about the woman he cared for.  She sacrificed herself to make weapons for the humans, so they could defend themselves against the vampires.  Yuki and Kaname spend most of pages apart, and when they are together, there is an emotional chasm between them, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away any time soon.  Kaname is doing some horrible things, nobody understands what he’s thinking or why he’s acting this way, and poor Aido is going to pay the price for Kaname’s behavior.

Aido is one of my favorite characters, so it was rough reading the last few chapters.  He has been a true friend to Kaname, and his repayment has been less than ideal.  Why, why, why?  I feel bad for Yuki, too.  Things aren’t any easier for her now that her vampire nature has re-emerged, and she’s lost Zero’s friendship.  Kaname isn’t offering up much support for her either.

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

About the book:

The Vampire Hunter Society has imprisoned Aido in order to interrogate him about Kaname’s connection to Sara Shirabuki. Meanwhile, Yuki wants a fresh start with Kaname, but circumstances arise that may force them apart.

Food Wars is a fun manga.  I didn’t think I’d like it at first, because Soma can be so abrasive, but that’s what I like about it now.  He’s a super confident guy who has complete faith in his culinary skills.  He’s under a lot of pressure at his exclusive cooking school, but he doesn’t even break a sweat at the thought of failing.  He has earned the wrath of the entire student body by declaring his intention to graduate at the top of the class, and oh yeah, have fun eating his dust as he blows by the competition and takes over the spot as number one student.  I love the cooking challenges; the food always looks so tasty, and the tension cranks up pretty high.  Just when it seems like he doesn’t have a chance of passing, he brainstorms and viola!  anything is possible, including beating the rich kids at their own game.  I’m looking forward to the fourth volume.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

About the book:

The “teamwork and friendshipbuilding” camp from hell begins! While most students are already petrified by the threat of instant expulsion for low marks, the unveiling of the teachers responsible for judging their dishes ratchets their fear to a whole new level! Just which anxiety-inducing teachers hold the culinary futures of Soma and the rest of the Polaris crew in their hands this time? Includes the one-shot “Your and My Romance Counseling”!

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19. Review: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I didn’t have to think too hard when a review request for Juliet Marillier’s latest release hit my inbox.  I didn’t even have to read the blurb; I was in the mood for something different, and lo-and-behold Dreamer’s Pool magically appeared.  I haven’t read Juliet Marillier in a long, long time, so I was eager to see if I still enjoyed her writing.  I do!  This is an engrossing book, with only a few niggles to distract me from the story.

Blackthorn has been waiting to take her case before the midsummer council, suffering in jail to have a chance at her revenge.  She’s been horribly abused by her jailors, but that bright, shining promise of her hearing has kept her going.  When she discovers that Mathuin, the chieftain responsible for her imprisonment, has no intention of letting her live to face the council, she’s given a strange proposition. Conmael, one of the fey, promises to release her from her cell and save her from her cruel fate, if she will put her quest for revenge aside for seven years, and serve as the healer in Dalriada, far to the north.  In addition, she must help anyone who asks for her assistance.  If she doesn’t keep her word, she’ll be punished with another year of servitude added to her initial term of seven years.

The first person to ask for help is fellow prisoner Grim.  His sun sets and rises on Blackthorn’s existence.  Her presence in prison gave him a reason to survive, and now that they are free, he’s going to follow her wherever she leads him.  He’s like a giant puppy, loyally trailing in her wake.  Blackthorn is less than happy  about her hulking traveling companion, but she’s afraid of the consequences if she sends him away.  Seven years of waiting to go after Mathuin is a long time for her rage to simmer, and she doesn’t want to add anymore time to her period of service. 

When the two arrive in Dalriada, they are both wary of the Dreamer’s Wood, which stands ominously next to the old wise woman’s hut.  Something about the woods unsettles both of them.  When Prince Oran’s fiancée has trouble in the woods, Blackthorn must rush to her aid.  Lady Flidais’ maid, Ciar,  tragically drowns in the Dreamer’s Pool, and Blackthorn is too late to save her.  Giving the young woman what comfort she can, Blackthorn resigns herself to a houseful of loud, chattering women until Oran can fetch his intended. 

Prince Oran is a dreamer and a romantic, and he’s fallen in love with Flidais after exchanging a series of letters with her.  After she arrives, however, her behavior is nothing like he had expected.  The things that she claimed to love mean nothing to her now, and her beloved dog, Bramble, becomes agitated and snappy whenever his mistress is near.  As Oran’s misgivings mount, he desperately asks Blackthorn for help.  Help that she can’t refuse to give.  Can she solve the mystery of Flidais’ strange behavior before Oran is bonded to her in marriage?

I loved Blackthorn.  She’s cranky, tough, and a survivor.  After experiencing terrible, terrible things, she still finds the strength to keep going.  Her time in prison would have destroyed someone with lesser resolve, but her fury helps her to survive from one day to the next.  Her rage is a double-edged sword, though.  While it ensured her survival in prison, it blinds her to the truth and makes her gullible once she’s serving as the wise woman in Dalriada.  This drove me nuts at one point in the story; for such a clever woman, Blackthorn is taken for a ride by a few artfully told lies.  I wanted to scream when it sent her for a tailspin, making her set aside her promises  and act like a brash fool.

I wasn’t overly fond of Oran.  He’s the opposite of Blackthorn.  While he’s noble and kind, he’s also blinded by love.  He’s fallen in love with the Flidais from the letters, and he’s so confused when the real Flidais fails to live up to the Flidais of his imagination.  His uncertainty completely unbalances him, turning him into someone he’s not.  He can’t figure out what to do, and he allows himself to be manipulated time and time again by Flidais.  I was starting to fear for the future of his kingdom because he could be so dense!

Grim is a compelling character, too.  He’s a man of few words, and he likes it that way.  Not one for small talk, he and Blackthorn make a great team.   He lives to serve Blackthorn, something that she’s not entirely comfortable with.  She just wants to be left alone, but his blind devotion slowly begins to break through the shield she’s built around her heart.  I enjoyed how their friendship grew, and how both of them learned to trust because of it.

There was one point in the story that I just wanted to knock Blackthorn and Oran’s heads together.  They were being so stubborn and so naïve and all I wanted to do was beat some sense into them.  Grim, on the other hand, steadfastly performed his duty to listen and observe those around him.  He didn’t allow his emotions to color his thinking, he patiently pursued the truth for Blackthorn.

Dreamer’s Pool kept me entertained from the first page.  Blackthorn and Grim took me on a long journey, and along the way, I got to know them, as well as like them.  I’m looking forward to their next adventure, but in the meantime, Marillier has an extensive backlist that I need to explore.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier “weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page” (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland….

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

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20. Review: Stranded with the Rancher by Janice Maynard

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Stranded with the Rancher caught my attention because the hero breeds thoroughbreds.  I’ve already stated that I have a one track mind when it comes to romances; include a few animals or just dangle their presence out there and I’m all over it.  The storm angle sounded interesting, too.  I get very anxious when the weather turns violent, so the thought of huddling in a storm shelter while a storm rages outside had me intrigued. 

The storm descriptions were kind of scary and oh-so hard to step away from.  I know that I would not have handled being trapped in a small storm cellar with half the grace that Beth managed.  I go all crankypants when the power goes out, and the thought of not being able to take a hot shower in the morning is enough to make me psychotic.  So when Beth and Drew flee from a twister, I was hyperventilating just the slightest bit.  When they were unable to open the storm shelter door, I was completely hooked on the story.  Now what?  I kept asking.  How are they going to get out?  What if there are bugs in their little bunker?  What if they have to sleep on the cold, hard ground?

Thankfully, their rescue isn’t too far away, and the experience buried the animosity that had boiled between Beth and Drew.  Beth had a hard life, and now that she’s purchased a small farm, she is determined to turn it into a thriving business so she never has to worry about making ends meet again.  Her roadside vegetable stand has got Drew up in arms.  He claims the constant traffic is scaring his million dollar horses, and the stand detracts from the beauty of his property.  He’s been trying to get her to move or buy her out, but she steadfastly refuses.  After the tornado, life has a different prospective for both of them.  Drew and Beth can’t deny their attraction, and with her house damaged by the twister, Beth wonders if life wouldn’t be easier if she just sold to Drew.

I liked the pacing, and thought that the story flowed effortlessly after all of the excitement caused by the storm.  The  nearby town is in ruins, and both Drew and Beth pitch in with cleanup and humanitarian efforts.   Beth’s brother, Audie, shows up to cause stress and chaos for her.  Audie’s a reckless, selfish man, and his frequent run-ins with the law are a testament to how messed up his life is.  Every time he needs money, he shows up at Beth’s.  He has stolen from her, embarrassed her, and made it generally impossible for her to harbor loving feelings for him.  It seems that all he’s good at is disrupting her life.

Drew was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, while Beth’s mother begged for money on the streets and sold everything of value for a few extra bucks.  Beth scrabbled for everything she has, and if she’s honest, she is a bit jealous that Drew’s had everything handed to him.  This resentment is what originally made their relationship so combative.  Drew always gets what he wants, so Beth was determined to never give him her property.  He wanted it to expand his pastures, using her land, and he was having a hard time taking “no” for an answer.

I loved how their relationship changed after the storm.  Drew is a thoughtful, caring man, and once he’s gotten to know Beth better, all he wants to do is help her.  His desire to help Beth causes a lot of conflict between them, because of Beth’s pride.  Having lived on handouts as a child, she refuses to accept them now that she’s an adult.  After helping with the relief efforts, though, she slowly realizes that relying on your friends isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of being part of strong community.

Stranded with the Rancher will appeal to both fans of small towns and cowboys.  Being part of the Desire imprint, there’s some steam, but not too much.  Overall, I found it a very entertaining read, and I’ll be tracking down Janice Maynard’s backlist.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Enemies forced together just might become lovers in USA TODAY bestselling author Janice Maynard’s Texas Cattleman’s Club tale 

For billionaire horse breeder Drew Farrell, the day starts with the usual argument with ornery neighbor Beth Andrews. But within minutes, he and the irritating beauty are huddled together in a storm cellar praying for their lives. They call a truce…and seal it with an unexpected kiss. 

They emerge to a scene of utter devastation. Their passion to rebuild is only rivaled by the very personal passion they’ve just discovered…until Beth’s past catches up with her, and a very different type of storm erupts….

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21. Review: Unleashed by Rachel Lacey

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I took one look at Unleashed and was smitten.  How could I resist that cute cover?  It’s like the dog is forcing his human companions into close quarters, because he knows what’s best for them.  I envy a dog’s view of the world; everything is better with company, there is never a time when play isn’t appropriate, and there is nothing to bring contentment like a cuddle and a hug.  If humans acted more like dogs, methinks the world would be a much happier place.

Matt and Cara are both stuck in neutral.  Cara, a cancer survivor, is waiting for the 10 year anniversary of her remission. Until she hits that milestone, she is afraid to live.  She’s working as a nanny, as well as volunteering at the local animal shelter, just biding her time.  She refuses to even consider a serious relationship, because what happens if her cancer comes back?  She only fosters dogs, never adopting one permanently, because what would happen to it if she fell ill again?

Matt has made plans to sell his place and move back home to be with his mom.  She’s not doing too well on her own, and he wants to help his younger brother take care of her.  He doesn’t have time to look for romance, because he’ll be leaving town soon.  But when his path collides with Cara’s, they both have some serious thinking to do.  What if this is the love of their lives, but the timing is all wrong for falling in love?

I loved this book.  Cara’s foster dogs play a huge part in the plot, and Matt is a great guy.  After their initial misunderstanding, when he accuses her of fighting her dogs (they aren’t even pit bulls, and I was getting geared up to dislike Matt because he was acting like a self-righteous ass), they start to develop feelings for each other.  They were attracted to each other immediately, but it was the shift from lust to like that resonated with me.  There wasn’t much about Unleashed that didn’t work for me.  Sure, there were little annoyances with Cara, but knowing her medical history and how fearful she was of falling ill again, her behavior made perfect sense to me.  There is even a little mystery for Matt to solve; he’s a PI, and his latest case is causing him all kinds of grief. 

Unleashed is a fun, refreshing read, and I’m so looking forward to the next book in the series.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

 

What happens when you find the right one at the wrong time?
Cara Medlen has a serious case of animal attraction. And it’s not because of all the foster dogs she’s rescued. She’s got it bad for her incredibly sexy neighbor. Her one rule: Don’t get attached. It’s served her well with the dogs she’s given to good homes and the children she’s nannied. Yet the temptation of Matt’s sexy smile might just convince her that some rules are made to be broken.

Matt Dumont doesn’t need his skills as a private investigator to detect disaster on the horizon. Cara is everything he thought he’d never find-gorgeous, funny, and caring. But there’s no way he can start a relationship just as he’s about to move to another state. Talk about bad timing. As their attraction sizzles too hot to deny, they’ll have to make a decision: forget the consequences and let loose, or forget each other and let go…

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22. Review: The Turning Season by Sharon Shinn

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Shinn’s older books, so I was curious to see if I’d still like her writing style now.  I haven’t read any of the other books in the Shifting Circle series, and I didn’t feel that I was missing anything by not reading them.  The Turning Season stood well on it’s own, though now that I’ve read it, I would like to read the other books in the series.

 

Karadel is a shape-shifter and she hates it.  She hates the unpredictability and the disruption to her life, and she yearns to be normal.  She has a small group of close friends who help out with her animal menagerie when she’s unable to because she’s changed into something else.  She experiments with the DNA of other shifters in an attempt to make her own change cycles more regulated.  Living outside of a small town, she works as a vet, as well as offering shelter and medical care to other shifters in need.

The Turning Season reads like a day in the life of a reluctant shape-shifter, and though the pacing might be slow for some readers, I really enjoyed it.  I liked how powerless Karadel felt about her shifts; she has no control over when or what she will change into.  This makes it difficult to do many of the things that I take for granted.  Planning a vacation, a date, or even holding a steady job outside of the house is nearly impossible for her.  Going to school if you are a teenage shape-shifter is definitely not a good idea.  Karadel has a contingency plan in place for when she does change, and her close friends make her chaotic life possible.

Her  impulsive friend Celeste inadvertently turns Karadel’s life on end.  After Celeste changes shape in public, Karadel’s got serious damage control to orchestra.  Worse, Celeste’s life is in danger, and the small community of shape-shifters is in danger of being exposed.  This is so not a good time to start having romantic feelings for a local guy.  Worse, he’s normal.  How can Karadel ever share her secret and be herself with him, when she’s having such a hard time accepting herself for who she is?  Then, to make things really difficult, throw in a murder and make your ex the main suspect.  Karadel’s quiet life goes from bad to worse, and she isn’t sure who she can trust with the truth.

I thought the love story was sweet, and that Joe was the perfect match for Karadel.  I found all of the characters engaging, even the sly sheriff who always seemed to be sniffing around for the truth.  All of the shifters had different challenges to deal with regarding their ability, and I found it interesting how they dealt with them.  Overall, I enjoyed the world Shinn created for her shifters, and more importantly, I enjoyed getting to know all of them.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

In national bestselling author Sharon Shinn’s latest Shifting Circle novel, a woman must choose between hiding her nature—and risking her heart…

For Karadel, being a shape-shifter has always been a reality she couldn’t escape. Even though she’s built a safe life as a rural veterinarian, with a close-knit network of shifter and human friends who would do anything for her—and for each other—she can’t help but wish for a chance at being normal.

When she’s not dealing with her shifts or caring for her animal patients, she attempts to develop a drug that will help shifters control their changes—a drug that might even allow them to remain human forever.

But her comfortable life is threatened by two events: She meets an ordinary man who touches her heart, and her best friend is forced to shift publicly with deadly consequences.

Now Karadel must decide whom to trust: her old friends or her new love.

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23. Veterans Day 2014 • Review: Take This Man • On-line Floricanto Eleven Eleven

Veteranspeak, or 5 Questions To Ask a Veteran

Michael Sedano


MiG Alley below, Homing All the Way Killers above

I’ve been a Veteran since August 1970, forty-four years since I walked away from Ft. Lewis Washington, discharge in hand but still in my Class A uniform. In a curious parallel, that was early in the predawn darkness, just like that January day in 1969 when my busload of inductees stood in the predawn fog of Ft. Ord.

Ever wonder what to say when you learn someone was once boots on the ground? Veterans of my era will spin you some memories to one or more of these conversation ice-breakers. I was Army, other services have similar answers. Kids from Bush and Obama’s Iraq and Afghan wars are likely to understand the questions--the answers are the cement that links a majority of Veterans with one another.

What was your MOS?
Military jobs have code numbers, the Military Occupational Specialty, M.O.S. The best known is eleven-bravo, 11B, Infantry. Me, I was trained as an oh five bravo intermediate speed morse code radio operator, a defunct trade in military communications, even then. Assigned to a rugged anti-aircraft missile site guarding MiG Alley at the Korean DMZ, I worked an oh five charlie field wireman's job. Mid-tour I lucked out and took a job in the Colonel’s office, writing military propaganda as an acting 71Quebec Information Specialist.

Short and Shorter. Sedano 3d from right, with shades.
When did you DEROS?
Short, short-timer. We counted the days until we would “get back to the world.” Upon arrival overseas, clerks calculate your Date Estimated Return from Overseas. If all goes as planned, you’ll be heading for the airport on your "dee-rhos" date. Not every Veteran served overseas. A stateside post meant serving the full two year hitch. Draftees doing one of the hardship tours—Vietnam and Korea—often put in a thirteenth month in order to earn discharge upon DEROS. I put in thirteen months, two weeks, three days, seventeen hours seven minutes and thirteen seconds in Korea, but who’s counting, que no?

RA or US?
Did you sign up, or were you Drafted? Draftees were assigned US serial numbers, volunteer tipos were Regular Army. On the sidelines were ER and NG, Enlisted Reserve and National Guard. The latter pair did Basic Training then went home. Everyone in today’s military are RA, or in barracks vernacular, Lifers. For a long time I knew my serial number by reflex. It was stamped on the dog tags to identify our bodies. I've forgotten the number now, and that's a good thing.

Would you want to see your grandchildren in uniform?
Not involuntarily.

Would you do it again?
Gente I know, to a man and woman say, Yes. I told an Army recruiter friend that I would go if I could take the place of one of the kids he was signing up. No way in Hell would I volunteer for the Draft, but if they called me again, I'd go.

Veterans and active duty wearing a uniform get free chow at  a number of chain restaurants today. A DD214 gets you fed, too. So there's that.

Veterans get to understand important yet amorphous concepts like Duty and Honor. I remember telling a friend about my cannon fodder post had the north invaded. The friend asked why I would hold my ground instead of running before it was too late? I told him it was my Duty. His eyes told me I was a fool. Así es.

Not short.

Take This Man Grossly Captivating Memoir

Review: Brando Skyhorse. Take This Man. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
ISBN 9781439170878

Michael Sedano


Take This Man, along with its author Brando Skyhorse, occupy a unique spot along the continuum of U.S. ethnic literatures. These people, Brando and his mother, aren’t chicanos, but could have been. And they aren’t Indians, but they’re passing. His mother prefers fantasy history and invented Indianness, she becomes Running Deer Skyhorse, her son Brando Skyhorse, son of a chief. This is Identity run awry.

Take This Man revolves around Maria Skyhorse’s story, but at the memoir’s core lives a boy looking for a father in the men his mother regularly brings home. They all leave. Then she finds a replacement. Herein lies a challenge for readers: don't judge.

Maria’s acts gouge with such ferocity they steal the spotlight from Skyhorse’s more intimate explorations, overwhelming the author’s memories in his struggle to sort out identity and family and fatherness from his mishmash of an upbringing.

Skyhorse engrosses his reader with sordid details that make it tough to like that woman, Brando’s mother. While disgusted readers will grow furious at events, the author denies them an ally in their feelings. Skyhorse's tone is nearly emotionless, he refuses the reader's escape valve for the horror. The only release is turn the page, there's more.

It’s hard not to judge the people Skyhorse had in his life, not to want to spread chisme about those lowlife fathers, so consistently awful the child’s memory of fathering is a guy ferreting out hiding places, robbing piggy banks to buy a night’s drinking and gambling. Mother's not dumb but the easy way out is her route, such as her work-at-home telephone sex worker job. It brought in good cash and she didn't have to give up her food stamps. Marie laughed, ate well, and grew fat.

The little boy’s life is so gutwrenching I find myself wondering that people like this live among us, asking myself, he can’t be making up this stuff, can he? Skyhorse pulls off a tour de force voicing  disarming neutrality. Animated wit and punch-line paragraphs add depth to the mostly fast-moving account. It’s a challenge separating the creative from the nonfiction. Just turn the page.

The crud just piles up for this boy. Five husbands, lots of boyfriends, flings on the road, Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, ritualized humiliations. One example suffices to illustrate the savagery of Brando’s mother, her insanity, and Skyhorse’s own neutrality as he recounts a time he couldn’t produce some coupons to pay for a bus.

The mother shouts, I’ll just leave you here! You’ve taken enough of my life from me! Mother’s fury and hatred for men finds at-hand Brando easy pickings, normally with her mouth. In this instance, however, Maria gets lethally physical.

My mother grabbed my throat. Then she pulled me across the trailer the way a girl would drag a lifeless doll up a flight of stairs. She threw me shivering onto the bathroom floor and then snatched one of Nakome’s leather knife holsters and stabbed at my neck with it…. My mother wrapped her hands around my neck again and pushed my face in the toilet water while I flailed my short arms trying to reach the flush handle.

After Maria locates the boxtops she explains to the son how his carelessness led to the bathroom incident. Skyhorse matter-of-factly clarifies her logic for the reader, Not being given the box tops wasn’t an excuse; I should have asked for them.

The slight bitter aftertaste here is among the few instances where the memoirist’s otherwise controlled voice deviates from its straightforward, low-affect style. This son does not judge his mother. The author, ever a good son, won’t have readers criticize her, either. That’s just the way she was, this is what is available to remember.

Which, of course, is not what happens. Brando Skyhorse, the writer, isn’t disingenuous in what he’s chosen to recall and detail. That mother so burdens his life it takes over the book. The son-writer runs out of room for his main goal, and only skims the surface of the boy’s understanding of fathering and his relations with his biological father and daughters. Then again, the author notes, he hasn’t got this worked out yet.

With Take This Man, Brando Skyhorse should have exorcised the demons of his mother and fathers. He said good things about most of the men. He was kind to his mother and in that way gets back at her. Now the author can rekindle the spark seen in Madonnas of Echo Park, and hinted at in the Bukowski homage of this memoir, to drop the "creative non-"and get on with it.


On-line Floricanto for November 11, 2014
Elizabeth Cazessús, Henry Howard, Ashley Garcia, Jackie Lopez, Iris De Anda

Los Rehenes, Elizabeth Cazessús
Guilty of Being Brown (Showdown in Arizona), Henry Howard
Illegal, Ashley
Blessing for James' Place, Jackie Lopez
#bringbackourgirls, Iris De Anda


Los Rehenes
Por Elizabeth Cazessús

…el viento del crimen a la altura del delirio.
Rodolfo Hasler

es la hora de escribir un poema acerca del mundo
de diagnosticar las formas en que amedrenta
con su odio y deslava el rostro de la sinrazón
para justificar mil malabares políticos

es hora de escribir que estamos al acecho
de ladrones, de gangsters, de la avaricia
de la falta de libertad y la zozobra
de la mezquina relación de las entelequias

es hora de callar lo escrito
aquello que no tiene razón en la sobremesa
congestionadas las entropías mediáticas
ante verdades telúricas y tan llanas

es hora de nombrar en lo oscuro
la íntima ejecución de los días
la denuncia, el porvenir y la esperanza
con un silencio atroz que no deje dudas

es hora de contar metrallas, muertos, a los que corren,
de ver la película en las calles y al desnudo
dilucidar acaso en la espesura
de ciertas e inexplicables densidades

es hora de escribir un poema acerca del mundo
de éste y no del otro repleto de metáforas
ya no podemos escapar, no hay letras de salva
Somos rehenes de la impunidad que nos cohabita.

(del libro Hijas de la Ira)



Guilty of Being Brown (Showdown in Arizona)
By Henry Howard

I had a nightmare the other night.
I dreamed I went to buy the morning paper,
And the headline screamed
For all the world to see,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”
And I cried, because I knew
I was now legally unwelcome here.

My mother took the paper and milk from me
With trembling hands,
And told me in her soft Mexican voice
That Papa had been arrested on his way to work.
For the crime of driving without a Green Card,
He was found Guilty of Being Brown.

We did not have time to kiss him goodbye,
Or even make him a sandwich
On his way back to a country he had not seen
In twenty years.

I woke with my heart pounding,
And my eyes full of tears.
I slowly relaxed,
Realizing it was just a dream.

Then I drove to the store in my first car,
And the morning paper screamed
For all the world to read,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”

It was my 16th birthday,
and now I, too,
Had been found Guilty of Being Brown.



I am a Los Angeles activist and Peace Poet, whose literary focus has been on human rights since 2001. Published most notably as a featured writer on Quill and Parchment.com, and the legendary Sam Hamill's global anti-war poetry protest, Poets Against the War (beginning in February, 2002), my most recent work was published as a full-length compilation of peace and justice poetry called "Sing to Me of My Rights: Poems of Oppression and Resistance" (editor/publisher Mark Lipman, Vagabond Books 2014). Immigrant rights have been a focus of my street-level activism since 1980, when I learned in college of the murder of El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero--followed, of course, by the rape/murder of the four U.S. churchwomen that December. I was active in the Sanctuary Movement from 1984-98, and a member since 1986 of Refuse and Resist! and La Resistencia. I have never been to our Southern border, but it looms large in my consciousness. The horror of our country's involvement in the collective Central American slaughter, and the residual xenophobic policies towards immigrants, both documented and undocumented, reflected in legislation such as SB1070, haunts me to this day, and inspires me to take to the streets. I have one philosophy that sums up all my activism, including my writing: NO HUMAN BEING IS  ILLEGAL!

Contact me about the poem or order my book. I am also available for readings at public and private events, and will travel to Arizona, Northern California or Nevada to share my work at open-mic events. EL PUEBLO UNIDO! JAMAS SERA VENCIDO!




Illegal
By Ashley

You say I am illegal because of my flesh,
Racism-pigmentocracy,
Separation-marginalization,
Apartheid, a race apart.
Even after the laws change,
Discrimination still exists
Cradling fear and fight of flesh-hood
Same flesh, different color.
Illegal,
So is it my flesh, my body, or my being?

You say I am illegal because of the land I stand on.
I do not belong here.
The land sits underneath the sky,
Shall we fight over clouds?
However, this is no different than the land I was born from.
Migration to illegal immigration,
I am, me, the im- in immigration,
The prefixed knot in the rope,
The prescribed not of ‘im’ and ‘il’
Illegal,
So is it the land, my body, or my being?

You say I am illegal because of love,
An endearing criminal at best,
Same heart, different passion,
Love is not a crime.
What matters is within:
not the shape of our skin
377: I went sleep in 2013 and woke up in 1860,
Illegal,
So is it my heart, my body, or my being?

You say the I of me, the me of I is- Illegal.
The law versus: Land, love, and life,
No! No being is illegal,
Neither my body, flesh, nor heart,
Not even my soul,
It is time,
To set my soul afire and let it free.

This poem was first published on Orinam on Dec 20, 2014 at http://orinam.net/illegal/ and is being republished with permission of the author


Ashley was born and raised in Southern California. Her parents are from Mexico. Ashley has been published both online and in-print. A poet, aspiring writer, and is currently learning classical dance. This poem "Illegal" was first published on Orinam on Dec 20, 2014 at http://orinam.net/illegal/ and is being republished with permission of the author




Blessing for James' Place
By Jackie Lopez

James, I bless you from the tip of my hat to the bottom of your feet.
James, never covet another’s house because your place is blessed for having feasted.
I do believe you are entitled to a blessing.
I do believe you become disjointed at the ends when I don’t come around.
Don’t worry.
I will come around every Thursday night at 7 in between meals.
I happen to have happiness around.
I happen to have a misnomer claiming that I am “mad,” but that is how it should be
because I am quite the crazy little pajama party girl.
The mockingbird is singing outside of your studio.
The melancholy moon is twisting in her bed.
She heard you have blasted fun.
The pavement to your studio has been watered by daffodils.
The encouragement of the nonchalant is ever present.
There’s an artistic renaissance running around naked in your studio.
There’s a show girl at your doorstep.
There’s a criminal lurking around, but you know better, there is never a love that can be considered a crime.
If you watch your watch words, you will find me misbehaving.

When I was lost and had no matrimony to offer,
you took me in.
When the painters, poets, musicians, prophets, dancers, and one-night-stands came by,
you gave them an apple dessert to eat.
It so happens that I have come a long way from my home,
and I am able to salute you on a happening basis.
When the ticket to the train I was going on fell through,
I took to hiding in between the sheets.
Now I have you to call friend.
If ever you need a helping hand, if ever you are lonely and blue, call me telepathically.
I shall send the angels to rescue you because you deserve it, James Watts-and you, too, Juan Pazos.
Thursday night dinner is for dancing and being ludicrously in love.
It is for harnessing a misbehavior and going about town.
It is for the young at heart and for the philanthropists.
I summon all the powers of the Universe Complete to bless your studio now
and forevermore or for as long you endeavor to stay home.
When I saw your rocket scientist artwork, I became a lucid woman.
Simple things mean so much more when they are shared with friends.
So, keep on trucking.
I shall meet you on the other end of a transcendence.



Jackie Lopez is a poet and writer from San Diego. She was founding member of the Taco Shop Poets and has always pursued a study of history of which has influenced her writing. She has taught in San Diego City Schools and has been published in several literary journals. She has just finished her Magnum Opus titled “Telepathic Goodbye” described as a long poem of 25, 333 words. She is now looking for a publisher for this. You can catch her work on facebook under “Jackie Lopez Lopez” where she shares her work with a daily poem. She has a radio interview that will come out later this year. Her email: peacemarisolbeautiful@yahoo.com






#bringbackourgirls
By Iris De Anda

ruby rage shouts escape
as our young girls disappear
there is no sleep
when night falls without them near
days and days and days have passed
can you remember their bright eyed brilliance
forsaken flowers with petals that wither
under boots of beatings and men with guns
they are killing them softly
raping them daily
silencing their spirit
every time one of them dies
can you feel it in your body
walk around so heavy
carry unseen sadness
on the bridge of our backs
they are our future failing
mountains crumbling
deserts flooding
stars extinguished after lightyears of shining
blood moon tainting the night sky
mothers wailing to the goddess
bring back our schoolgirls
bring back our daughters
they are the martyrs of this modern plague
where men get away with murdering women
while the world looks away
closed eyes to our girls plight
makes the whole world blind
you do not want to see
what you would rather neglect
because it’s not your daughter, sister, or niece
you pretend to respect
can you protect morning dew from the blazing sun
the young woman from the older man
a system that teaches a girls life is worth less than his pen
there is no gentle here where our daughters cry
only rivers of pain
flowing back to the Niger
years of disdain
growing darker by the hour
bring back our sisters
bring back our feminine
bring them back
backdrop of africa
blackout of femicide
backbone of generations
backyard of transgressions
giveback our girls
payback our pain
paperback our stories
comeback our angels
we are waiting
arms wide open
feet tired from running with you and for you
tongues chanting
all the ways we could pray for you
hearts broken
night and days we wait for you
bring back our girls
bring back our girls
bring back our girls


Iris De Anda is a writer, activist, and practitioner of the healing arts. A womyn of color of Mexican and Salvadorean descent. A native of Los Angeles she believes in the power of spoken word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. She has been published in Mujeres de Maiz Zine, Loudmouth Zine: Cal State LA, OCCUPY SF poems from the movement, Seeds of Resistance, In the Words of Women, Twenty: In Memoriam, Revolutionary Poets Brigade Los Angeles Anthology, and online at La Bloga. She is an active contributor to Poets Responding to SB 1070. She performs at community venues and events throughout the Los Angeles area & Southern California. She hosted The Writers Underground Open Mic 2012 at Mazatlan Theatre and 100,000 Poets for Change 2012, 2013, and 2014 at the Eastside Cafe. She currently hosts The Writers Underground Open Mic every Third Thursday of the month at Eastside Cafe. Author of CODESWITCH: Fires From Mi Corazon. www.irisdeanda.com

0 Comments on Veterans Day 2014 • Review: Take This Man • On-line Floricanto Eleven Eleven as of 11/11/2014 2:52:00 AM
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24. Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brutally frank look at one of the most racially charged moments in the history of the United States.  Sarah Dunbar is a teenager, and she’s one of the first black students to attend a traditionally white school in the south.  Sarah is a bright girl with a promising academic future – until her parents enroll her Jefferson High School.  She faces opposition every day, and the honor student’s schedule is full of remedial classes, because the school administrators don’t want these new, unwanted students holding back the rest of the class.  The white students don’t want her there, their parents don’t want her there, and even the faculty looks the other way as she is tormented daily. 

After reading this, all I can say is “Wow.”  I don’t know where Sarah found the strength to endure the daily abuses she suffered at the hands of her white classmates.  To say that she was constantly bullied understates her situation.  She was taunted, called names, spit on, tripped, pelted with spitballs – the list goes on.  There was no one at school for her to ask for assistance because the teachers practiced selective blindness when it was happening.  Before even starting at Jefferson, Sarah and the small group of teens who were selected to attend with her were given training and strict instructions to never talk back, to always be polite, and to never fight back.  I don’t think I could have done it.  I know I wouldn’t have lasted more than a day or two if I had been in Sarah’s shoes.

Linda is one of Sarah’s white classmates.  Her father is the editor for the local newspaper, and he is very outspoken in his thoughts on integration.  He is totally against it and he’s still fighting it, tooth and nail, even after the court order paving the way for Sarah to attend the former all white school.  Linda’s relationship with her father is contentious, but what she wants most in the world is his approval.  Even a shred of attention is uplifting.  To gain his approval, she parrots his views on the colored interlopers at her school, but as she gets to know Sarah, against her will, she starts to question her own poisonous views.

I enjoyed getting to know the girls so much.  The story is told in alternating POV, and Sarah’s narrative made it difficult to put the book down.  It took a while for me to warm up to Linda, because of the things she said and did.  Every now and again she would do the right thing, then, in the next breath, she would do something to negate her selfless acts.  Argh!  She made me so frustrated!

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot.  Lies We Tell Ourselves is a thought-provoking read that will make you angry, sad, and ultimately, hopeful.  I loved the ending, and it left me reassured that both Sarah and Linda would find their place in the world, and they would meet each new challenge with courage and strength.

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever. 

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. 

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.” 

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another. 

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

The post Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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25. Advance Review: SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1 has a god complex

supim2014001 dc11 lr Advance Review: SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1 has a god complex

By David Nieves

As humongous and “earth shattering” as event comics can be they usually aren’t the endgame a publisher has in mind. The payoff usually lies in what comes after, whether it’s in the form of another event or a new series. Unfortunately for Marvel the pattern that’s developed is a stale event followed by a great series; one example that comes to mind was Dark Avengers coming after the Secret Invasion event. Marvel’s latest case, AXIS, while convoluted at times, has set the stage for Tom Taylor to play on the other side of the big two field with Superior Iron Man.

Taylor never did get to write a nice Superman for DC, and it appears that he won’t get a chance to pen stand-up Tony Stark either. That’s far from a bad thing. Superior Iron Man is about exploring an ultra narcissistic Tony Stark after his personality turn in the pages of AXIS. Stark’s new found god complex has him release a new version of Extremis on the population of San Francisco. This shell head isn’t out for philanthropy; instead he’s set to capitalize on the public’s newfound seduction with perfection. Once you see who Tony is put on a collision course with at the end of the book you’ll definitely want to keep this on your must read list. New readers worried about having missed Iron Man’s turn in the pages of AXIS have two paths about their dilemma. We’re told at the beginning of the book that Tony Stark’s personality was altered by the battle with Red Onslaught. If you can accept that fact at face value there’s no need to go back and read AXIS because it has very little to do with the progression in these pages. However, it’s easy to see why some will want to go back and see the events that led up to Stark’s turn.

Another face making his Marvel debut is artist Yildiray Cinar. He brings his hardline realism to the pages of the book just as poignantly as he did for DC. It’s minimalistic and guides the story to that strength by using a small number of panels on the pages that don’t feature Stark and then ramping up when Tony hits the scene. You won’t see tons of hyper detail found in Iron Man stories of this modern era, but Cinar manages to illustrate the unique dark tone of Superior Iron Man on a solid level.

SUPIM2014001 int LR 677x1028 Advance Review: SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1 has a god complex

Superior Iron Man is a fantastic start. Tom Taylor shows he’s a master at plotting a story and hooking readers from the get go. This series looks to explore a Tony Stark unbound by the chains of ethics. If you were worried this would be some kind of carbon copy of Superior Spider-Man’s narrative, rest assured it isn’t. Instead of a villains journey; we’re on a ride to explore the existential struggle of not Tony’s demons of insecurity but his super ego gone astray, which could prove to be more dangerous for everyone. In a week full of great comics, Superior Iron Man stands out as a must read.

2 Comments on Advance Review: SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1 has a god complex, last added: 11/15/2014
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