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Results 1 - 25 of 1,336
1. Novella Review: For Her Spy Only by Robyn DeHart


May Contain Spoilers


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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

England, 1814

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

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

The post Novella Review: For Her Spy Only by Robyn DeHart appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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

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

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

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

Nata Romeo's site: www.nataromeo.com

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


May Contain Spoilers


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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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

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

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4. Manga Review: Limit Volume 2 by Keiko Suenobu

May Contain Spoilers


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


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

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

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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

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

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

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5. Review: Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels

May Contain Spoilers


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you gonna cry?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

He’s Just The Hired Help… 

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

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

The post Review: Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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

May Contain Spoilers


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

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

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

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

Grade:   B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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

Dragos Cuelebre is no longer the only dragon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7. Review: Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon

May Contain Spoilers


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

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

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

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

Grade:  A-/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Contain Spoilers


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

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B/B-

B+ for series overall

From Amazon:

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

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

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

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


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

About the series:

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

Rating: B+


Skip*Beat! Episode 1

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

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

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

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 1

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

The post Crunchyroll Morning: Skip Beat!, Sailor Moon Crystal, and Arslan appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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

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

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

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B = BEACH READ!

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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

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

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

May Contain Spoilers

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

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

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

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

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

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

20,390 Words

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

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11. La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco

Review by Ariadna Sánchez
Tacos are consider the most emblematic Mexican dish around the world. Tacos also contribute to the creation of the Mexican identity in every single bite.

La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco is the result of an exhausted research by Alejandro Escalante and Editors Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena. This book gives the readers an amazing journey through history and one-of-a-kind taquerias in Mexico City.  Taquerias serve a variety of options giving the customer a rainbow of succulent alternatives to enjoy.  La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco is written only in Spanish and has already printed their second edition. So if you want to practice your Spanish this summer here is a great opportunity while preparing some tacos, molotes, quesadillas, and tlayudas.  Mmmmmmmmm

The book contains mouthwatering recipes and stunning photographs that will make your senses go wild. Run to the local library and check out La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco for more interesting facts. Reading gives you wings ¡Qué ricos son los tacos!


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12. ONE AND DONE: Moon Knight—It Doesn’t Take Much

You ever see The Raid? It’s this Indonesian action movie. It (and its sequel) is probably one of the best action movies in recent memory.

The plot of The Raid is ridiculously simple. One cop, in one building, against an army of criminals. It is an hour and a half of dudes wrecking shit. It’s eighty minutes of brutal martial arts. It’s something that’s been done lots–you can describe a ridiculous number of movies that way, thanks to Die Hard–but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s absolutely thrilling, a marvel of craft and assured filmmaking.

Moon Knight #5 is pretty much The Raid, but as a comic book.

A gang has kidnapped a girl who was on her way home from a school event at night. They hold her hostage on the fifth floor of a building. Moon Knight spends all twenty-two pages wrecking dudes on his way to the girl.

That’s it. That’s all that happens. It’s not much.

But it is so, so good.

How much you’ll agree with that will depend on your attitude towards plot. As I hinted at by opening this column by talking about an Indonesian martial arts film, a film or comic doesn’t necessarily live or die by how clever its plot is. Tired or thin plots can still result in an exciting story–you’ve just got to make damn sure your execution is stunning.

And Ellis, Shalvey, and Belliare continue to impress. Warren Ellis’ continues his less-is-more approach to story, with almost no dialogue outside of the opening and closing pages. He doesn’t really need much in the way of words, anyway–Moon Knight #5 is a lean, violent, action story that’s mostly carried by Declan Shalvey’s art, which gives Marc Spector’s Mr. Knight persona a slow relentlessness as he tears through thugs. He doesn’t use stealth, nor is he built like a truck. Shalvey draws Mr. Knight in a way that conveys pure surgical finesse, taking on people who can clearly see him coming–just the way he likes it.

That last bit warrants circling back to Ellis’ script. Spare as it may be, it effectively reinforces the notion of who Moon Knight is in this series. He’s a protector of those who travel by night, a hero whom the bad guys can see coming. There’s not too much in the way of new insight into the titular character, but a brief scene towards the end does give readers a bit to mull over and wonder just what exactly Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire will choose to explore for their final issue before the book changes hands with #7.

Color artist Jordie Belliare brings just as much to the table as she always has , working with a tight color palate that never strays too far from the cover’s rusty gold, expanding to include the browns and greens of a dilapidated tenement. Also striking is the color work on Mr. Knight himself–close ups on his biker-gloved hands and exposed forearms give a peek at the man beneath the mask, highlighting how inspired a decision it was to portray the whites of his costume by leaving them devoid of any color.

Last week, I was pretty hard on Superman #32, and comics like Moon Knight are the reason why. While Moon Knight has the luxury of not having to be too heavily serial in its storytelling and is more or less continuity free, it isn’t really doing anything groundbreaking either. It’s just a good story well told.

One commenter last week pointed out that last week’s Superman had a lot of work to do–that what I had seen as a drag was in fact some necessary housekeeping, clearing out poor story decisions made in prior runs. And that’s fine. It doesn’t change my criticism all that much–which is that the book hardly bothered to tell a story.

That, in essence, is why I wanted to do this column in this specific way. I happen to believe that a comic book should tell a story. However spare, however short–it can even be a subplot. Not trying to tell a story is a cardinal sin, something I can’t look past. I buy the comics I review in this column with my own money because I think reviewing comics you get for free makes it easy to forget how damn expensive they are, and makes you more prone to be forgiving of creators content to ship a book that only has the slightest suggestion of a story.

I review single issue comics here, not arcs or trades. And in short, I don’t want to settle for less.

A good story well told. That’s all I want for me, and for you.

1 Comments on ONE AND DONE: Moon Knight—It Doesn’t Take Much, last added: 7/8/2014
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13. Review: The Return of the Rebel by Jennifer Faye

May Contain Spoilers


When the author pitched a review of The Return of the Rebel, I was happy to accept.  I love almost all Harlequin imprints, but with my other review commitments, I don’t often find the time to read one unless there is some outside pressure applied (a blog tour or a direct author request).  I didn’t even need to know plot details beyond the primary trope, which is one of my favorites.  For some reason, carrying a torch for your older brother’s best friend always pushes the right buttons for me.  Adding in Jax’s understandable anxiety for the future, and you have a gripping read.  I wish there had either been more attention given to his trial, or that that plot thread hadn’t been included at all.  There’s actually a lot going on in the book, and I felt that the trial was short-changed, but that is a minor quibble.

Cleo has just been promoted, and she’s under a lot of pressure to not only succeed in her new position, but excel as well.  She went over her supervisor’s head for the position, and he isn’t too happy with her about that.  The hostess at a Las Vegas casino, it’s her job to ensure that her client has a wonderful time so that he drops a boatload of cash at the gaming tables.  She gets off to a rocky start after discovering that her privacy-hungry client is none other than Jax Monroe, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks in her small farming community in Wyoming.  Jax was her brother’s friend, and he was also her first crush. She’s still mortified that she tried to kiss him all those years ago.  Soon after that embarrassing fiasco, Jax packed up and left Hope Springs for good.

Cleo has also relocated from Wyoming.  First attending an Ivy League school in East, now she’s settled in Las Vegas.  She’s desperate to make her mark in town, because her family’s ranch is deep in debt.  Her brother blames her for the financial mess;  her father paid for her very expensive college tuition, diminishing the family coffers.  He was tragically killed in an accident, and her mother blames her for his death.  Estranged from her family, Cleo suffers from guilt and is determined to help bail them out of their money problems.

Her reunion with Jax doesn’t go well, and her supervisor threatens to fire her if her behavior doesn’t change pronto.  Jax, traveling incognito, doesn’t want anyone to know where he is.  He’s the key witness in a money-laundering case, and there is someone out to get him.  When Cleo is the unwitting victim of the attacker, Jax steps in to protect her by whisking her away to a friend’s mansion, where they both are forced to own up to their past, as well as contemplate their plans for the future.

I think Jax’s health concerns made this a winner for me.  He is so afraid that he won’t have a future that he keeps shutting down his relationship with Cleo.  His own parents died young, and he is terrified that he will, too.  He doesn’t want to put a family through that, so he has decided that he won’t allow himself to fall in love, and forget having kids at all.  There’s no way he’s going to put a child through the painful loss of a parent.  He’s coming from a fragile emotional state, and even though he’s bested his disease this time, he’s fearful that it will return, and so he closes up and refuses to allow himself the luxury of falling in love with Cleo.

Cleo is dealing with emotional baggage as well.  She regrets her last conversation with her father, and she has taken her mother’s blame to heart.  If she hadn’t been such a disappointment to her parents, her father would still be alive.  She hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, and the loss of her family eats away at her.  Jax recognizes how important her family is, and suffering from an unpleasant childhood, he urges her to make up with her mother.   I thought each character had a convincing reason to avoid commitment, so it was gratifying as each overcame the past and their painful regrets and rediscovered the wonder of trust and caring.

The Return of the Rebel is a sweet read, and it’s a perfect read while you are lounging in the sun.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by author

From Amazon:

The guy from the wrong side of the tracks… 

Being promoted should be a dream come true, only it means working closely with Cleo’s childhood crush, Jax Monroe. Jax may no longer be the rebel she remembers, but he still gets her heart racing like no other.  

Jax cares too much about Cleo to let her get too close—but keeping his distance is proving impossible! As Jax reveals the extent of what he’s been through, will Cleo show him that some things are too precious to put off until tomorrow?

Purchase At

Amazon   |   Amazon – UK   |  Barnes & Noble   |  Harlequin  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

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14. ONE AND DONE: Up, Up, and Away?


Keeping up with comics is ridiculously expensive if you want to keep up with a number of titles that come out every month. Not everyone can do that–I definitely can’t. So welcome to One and Done, a weekly column where I go to a comics shop and try to find one good book that’s worth the exorbitant price. It’s not easy.

I really didn’t want to spend four dollars on a comic book this time. June has been an expensive month for me, and I didn’t have a lot of leeway this week. Which is a shame, because Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely’s Six-Gun Gorilla finally came out in trade paperback, and as someone who loved Spurrier’s work on X-Men: Legacy I would love to be reading and writing about that right now. But I could only spend four dollars at the shop, not twenty.

Instead, I bought Superman #32. I almost didn’t. Money’s tight, and I know how the vast majority of cape comics work: a dash of plot, a load of action, and a cliffhanger for dessert. Not to mention the fact that publishers are absolutely trigger happy with “events” and “crossovers,” which is pretty coercive and stupid but also has worked for literally ten straight years so of course they’re not going to stop.

Anyway, I should tell you why I bought Superman #32, instead of, say, Trees #2 (which is worth getting, Trees #1 might still be free when you read this. If it isn’t, let me know. I will tweet you a very entertaining plot summary) or Flash Gordon #3 (which I hear is Very Fun Comics). Some of you probably know why, because if you pay even the slightest attention to mainstream comics online, it’s painfully obvious why Superman #32 is A Big Deal. But bear with me for a paragraph or two while I address The Casuals.

On the Hype Scale, Superman #32 lies somewhere between “New J.K. Rowling Book (Non-Harry Potter Division)” and “Apple Releases New iPhone.” This is because Superman–despite bearing the name of and being about the oldest, most famous superhero in the whole world–has not been a very good book for about three years straight. And this week’s issue #32 marks the introduction of an Acclaimed New Creative Team, which makes it the Perfect Jumping On Point. The hope, then, is that this book will stop sucking.

But that’s a very general explanation for the hype. There’s an equally specific one, and its name is John Romita Jr.

Superman #32 is Romita’s first DC Comics work, after a legendary 30-year career of working almost exclusively for Marvel. That’s like Derek Jeter leaving the Yankees to play some games for the Red Sox, to use a sports analogy. He’s joined by writer Geoff Johns, who had an acclaimed tenure telling Superman stories in Action Comics a while back, and has spent much of the last decade remaking the DC Universe in his own image.

He’s a smaller part of the hype, but only because LOOK AT THE TALENT WE POACHED is a much better headline than GUY WHO DID GREAT STUFF HERE ONCE RETURNS TO HOPEFULLY DO GREAT STUFF AGAIN.

They’re joined by Klaus Janson, an inker who a good enough artist in his own right to get people excited about him drawing a book by himself, and Laura Martin, an award-winning colorist. So, the reasons to buy this book are stacked up right there in the credits.

So is it any good? No. Not if you paid four dollars for it.

That qualification is important, and should be adjusted based on how you feel about the reason we’re all here: John Romita Jr.’s art.

I, for one, really enjoy JRJR. He has a distinctive, blocky style that often feels refreshingly blue collar. Sure, his faces tend to all look similar and he can get really weird with anatomy–Superman’s head completely disappears in the fourth figure of that cover illustration up top–but there’s a lot to love about how he portrays things like physique. His Superman–and Clark Kent–is built like a truck, but not bulging with muscles made of marble. This Kal-El is less Greek god, more caped linebacker. It really helps to convey a sense of might, not just strength.

But man, the story on this thing. Let’s start with this. Here is the solicit (that’s comic speak for ad, I suppose) for Superman #32:

““THE MEN OF TOMORROW” chapter 1! A NEW ERA for SUPERMAN begins as Geoff Johns takes the reigns – and he’s joined by the legendary super-talent of John Romita, Jr. in his first-ever work for DC Comics as they introduce Ulysses, the Man of Tomorrow, into the Man of Steel’s life. This strange visitor shares many of Kal-El’s experiences, including having been rocketed from a world with no future. Prepare yourself for a run full of new heroes, new villains and new mysteries! Plus, Perry White offers Clark a chance to return to The Daily Planet!”

There are two plot points mentioned in that solicit. They are the only two things that happen in the book. There is nothing I could spoil for you if I wanted to. There’s some stuff in there about Clark not having much of a personal life and Jimmy Olsen not knowing what to do with his fortune, but they literally don’t go anywhere, as they’re most likely B-story stuff to check in on throughout the run whenever we need a break from Superman punching giant robot gorillas.

Oh, and Superman also punches a giant robot gorilla, but there’s no reason for it other than giving JRJR something dope to draw. That’s something I take issue with. I mean, if you’ve got it, use it, but use it in a justified way. If you want to have a giant robot gorilla fight (and there’s nothing wrong with that, those are awesome), then make it amazing, make it happen for a reason, make the script earn the art it asks for. Don’t waste an artist’s talent or a reader’s time.

One of the things I don’t really understand about how comics are critiqued and received are the standards that we hold creator-owned books like Saga or Fatale or Mind Mgmt to, and the ones that we judge mainstream superhero comics by. Cape comics get a pass on a lot of things: bad dialogue, barely any plot, and a near-sociopathic insistence on buying multiple titles to get a “full story,” as if they still cost ten cents a pop.

You’re going to read a lot of reviews saying how great Superman #32 is. A lot of those reviews will likely be written by people who also adored books like The Wicked + The Divine #1, a book absolutely full of great ideas and hidden meanings and lots of potential energy. Superman #32 has none of these things. So why would we call it good?

Superman #32 is a bad comic book. But ‘The Men of Tomorrow,’ the larger story of which Superman #32 is the first part, could be absolutely fantastic whenever it’s done. Everyone working on it is top notch.

But there are ways to make a good comic book, to tell a good serialized story twenty-two pages at a time. The stands are full of good examples, and we read them every week.

This is not one of them.

As always, support your local comic shop if you can, patronize your local library if you have one, and say hi on Twitter if you like.


Be back in a week.

8 Comments on ONE AND DONE: Up, Up, and Away?, last added: 6/29/2014
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15. Review: Knockdown by Brenda Beem

May Contain Spoilers


Knockdown piqued my interest because it’s a survival story, and it takes place on a sailboat.  The mega-tsunami threatening to destroy every coastline in its path also seemed pretty interesting.  I haven’t read a post-apocalyptic story like this before, so I was game to give it a shot.  I really enjoyed it!

Toni’s at dive practice when her father sends her a text message to hurry to the marina where the family sailboat is docked. She’s worried and confused when he won’t answer his phone, and neither will the other members of her family.  She hears from teammates that disaster is headed in their direction. Mega-tsunamis are rushing toward the Pacific coastline, created after historic seismic events in Indonesia.  They have 18 hours until the tsunamis hit the Oregon coastline.  They have 18 hours to evacuate before the monster waves crush everything in their path.  Only when she gets to the boat, her parents aren’t there.  Only her twin brothers, and some of their friends, are waiting at the dock.  Toni doesn’t want to leave without her mom and dad, but they left strict instructions to head out to the ocean if they didn’t arrive by a certain time, and when they are no shows, the teens have no choice but to brave the open waters without them.

Goodness! Up until the tsunamis knockdown the sailboat, I was on the edge of my seat.  Literally.  The pacing is fantastic; it’s unrelenting and tense, and I could hardly breathe.  I didn’t understand how Toni and her small band of friends were continuing to function.  There is a raging wall of water bearing down on them, and their only hope of survival is to get far enough out to sea, seal up the boat, and hang on as the waves toss it about, flipping it over like an angry child with an unwanted toy.  Having once been caught in rough waters in a disabled boat, I could easily imagine how helpless Toni felt as their vessel was batted to and fro.

I was worried that after the tsunami raged by, the story would slow to a crawl.  That did not happen.  Though the teens survived the waves, they still had to survive the new world they found themselves in.  Coastlines all around the world were ravaged, island nations wiped clean, and most modern conveniences a thing of the past.  With the little group struggling to survive, suddenly the teens find themselves in need of water and provisions.  Worse, as the climate begins to change, sliding towards a new Ice Age, they must find ways to keep warm.

Toni is a capable narrator.  She easily conveys her feelings and fears, her dreams and hopes.  The boat is overcrowded, and tensions and personality conflicts begin to pick away at morale.  When tragedy strikes, it seems that the team will unravel into chaos, and Toni wonders how they will survive afterwards.  She worries that she’ll never see her parents again, and knows that the life she once had is long gone.  I really liked her and found it easy to relate to her.

I didn’t realize that Knockdown was the first in a series, or I might have passed on it.  I’m glad I didn’t.  The ending is satisfying, and I knew that Toni had found a temporary shelter from the destroyed world around her.  I liked the characters and I want find out what happens next, so I’ll be looking forward to Toni’s next adventures.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A sail boat can tip over and come back up again. Sailors call this a knockdown.

In eighteen hours a mega tsunami will hit the Pacific Coast. It will leave in its wake massive destruction and the threat of an ice age.
Sixteen-year-old Toni, her brothers, and their friends race the clock as they sail Toni’s family boat far out to sea. They must get beyond where the wave crests, or the boat will be crushed.

Without their parents to guide them, the reluctant crew improvises. Romances bloom and tempers flare. There is no privacy. Cell phones won’t work. The engine breaks down. They are running out of time.

Even if they survive the wave, there is nowhere in this ravaged world to go. When disaster strikes, it is up to Toni to find the strength to lead the crew when her brothers cannot.

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16. Review: Fireborn by Keri Arthur

May Contain Spoilers


ZOMG! I loved this book!  It’s got a more than capable protagonist, an ill-fated love interest, and, quite possibly, a world ending plague.  Yeah!  I can’t resist this stuff.  There’s great action, three sexy guys, and an interesting murder mystery.  The only thing it doesn’t have?  An ending.  So, yes, it got a knock for that.

Emberly is a phoenix.  She’s working as a secretary at research lab, deciding that in this lifetime, she’ll take things easy.  No derring-do or premature death for her this time around!  She wants to life her normal 100 year lifespan, without the unpleasantness of an early, painful death.  This time, her soul mate, Rory, is the thrill seeker, and they’ve agreed that one risk taker in the family is enough.  If they both die prematurely, that’s it.  No more rebirths, no more re-dos, and no more life.  If both of them are killed, they cease to exist, so they’ve made a pact.  Only one of them is allowed to be reckless per lifetime.

Heh.  Only trouble follows Em like a swarm of mosquitoes on a hot, humid day.  She can’t escape it.  After having a dream that her former lover, Sam, is murdered in the shadiest part of town, she can’t help but go and save him.  While she doesn’t have premonitions very often, and she’s learned the hard way to ignore them, she just can’t sit back and let Sam die.  He’s the love of this lifetime, and even though there are still bad feelings between them, five years after their breakup, she is compelled to save him.  This selfless act hurls her into so much danger that I think she should immediately form a new pact with herself – don’t rescue ex-boyfriends, because the only reward you get is trouble!

Sam and Em broke up because he caught her with Rory, and not understanding her nature, he accused her of cheating on him.  Phoenixes are cursed.  They journey from lifetime to lifetime with their soul mate, but they are destined to never, ever love them.  Instead, they have a love of each lifetime, but those relationships are fated to end miserably.  Sam is Em’s once in this lifetime, and she’s never going to get over him.  I don’t want to give away all of characteristics of the phoenixes, because I enjoyed learning about them so much, but I will say that if Rory and Em part permanently during one of their lives, they simply fade away, so the other is essential to their very existence.  Sigh.   What a major bummer.  Always finding that one perfect guy for yourself, but then always losing him because he can’t deal with what you are and what you need. 

Sam is a cop, and he’s investigating a deadly virus that either kills victims outright, or turns them into murderous monsters.  When Em’s boss is murdered, she’s drawn further into the case.  Her boss, Dr Baltimore, was working on a cure for the virus, and Em was transcribing his notes.  A boring job, but one that paid well.  With a darker, more sinister Sam leading the investigation, Em can’t help but get tangled up in the search for the murderer, especially when the murderer thinks she might have the professor’s missing notebooks.  Soon all kinds of nasty things are after her, but she’s determined to find out who – or  what – is behind the virus and the murder of her boss before they murder her too.  With the help of a private investigator, the lascivious fire fae, Jackson, she’s on the fast track to an extremely short lifespan. 

I could not put Fireborn down.  I even got a little resentful when I had to put down my Kindle to run errands.  I thought the pacing was spot on, and the world-building seemed natural and I found it interesting.  I enjoyed getting the story from Em’s POV – she’s got a great voice and made an entertaining narrator.  The only reason Fireborn isn’t getting an A is because it doesn’t have an ending, and you all know how much I hate that!  I am looking forward to the second book in the series, because this was a winner for me.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Be sure to check out all of the stops on the tour.

Here is yesterday’s stop – ON STARSHIPS AND DRAGONWINGS

And here is tomorrow’s stop  FANG-TASTIC BOOKS

From Amazon:


From New York Times bestselling author Keri Arthur comes a brand-new series featuring heroine Emberly Pearson—a phoenix capable of taking on human form and cursed with the ability to foresee death….

Emberly has spent a good number of her many lives trying to save humans. So when her prophetic dreams reveal the death of Sam, a man she once loved, she does everything in her power to prevent it from happening. But in saving his life, she gets more than she bargained for.

Sam is working undercover for the Paranormal Investigations Team, and those who are trying to murder him are actually humans infected by a plaguelike virus, the Crimson Death—a by-product of a failed government experiment intended to identify the enzymes that make vampires immortal. Now all those infected must be eliminated.

But when Emberly’s boss is murdered and his irreplaceable research stolen, she needs to find the guilty party before she goes down in flames….

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17. The Gentleman Jewel Thief Review at Romance at Random!


My first review posted over at Romance@Random!  If you have time, check out my thoughts on The Gentleman Jewel Thief by Jessica Peterson

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18. My Nana’s Remedies

Review by Ariadna Sánchez

I remember with great pleasure both of my grandmothers, Licha and Carmela. They used medicinal plants to treat illnesses. My abuelitas were amazing curanderas and storytellers. They sure knew how to heal the body and the soul.

The book My Nana’s Remedies written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford and tenderly illustrated by Edna San Miguel is a warm bilingual story that shows the immense knowledge of Nana when preparing a series of herbal remedies to treat her sick granddaughter.  Nana uses native medicine plants to cure from insomnia to a stomach ache. By doing this, Nana passes down to her granddaughter the vast richness of traditions, love, and skills in every remedy she gently prepares. Nana’s remedies bring two generations together to celebrate the beauty of family relationships. Nana’s wisdom is a legacy that will last in her granddaughter’s memory for ever just like the way I treasure my lovely abuelitas in my heart and memory.

At the end of the book, there is a useful medicinal plant glossary by Ana Lilia Reina that provides the readers a precise description of some of the most popular plants used around the world. My Nana’s Remedies is an excellent option to read during the summer. Special thanks to Restaurant Casa Oaxaca for making possible this pretty picture. Visit your local library for more stunning stories. Reading gives you wings. ¡Hasta Pronto!

Author Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford shares her books

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19. Novella Review: Love for Beginners by Sally Clements

May Contain Spoilers


I picked up Love for Beginners because I had a short window of time open in my reading schedule, and a story about a mechanic sounded like fun.  I have enjoyed quite a few Entangled novellas, so I was eager to jump into another one.  While I occasionally had trouble connecting with the characters, I found this an entertaining afternoon read. 

Melody and her friends run a garage, and it’s shop policy to employ only female mechanics.  After Alice breaks her ankle, though, Mel and Betty are run  ragged trying to keep up with repairs flooding the shop.  Alice’s brother, Heath, agrees to fill in for her, and the women are so desperate for help they agree.  Mel has reservations, however.  Heath has a reputation of being a ladyslayer, and the one time they met, he didn’t impress her.  She resolves to keep her distance while he’s working with them, regardless of how charming or good looking he is.

Betty has other plans, though, and sets them up on a date, under the guise that the women are treating him to dinner for helping them out.  Betty promptly backs out, leaving Mel with hostess duties.  She gamely wines and dines their new employee, surprising herself by telling him things she’s never confided to anyone else.  She spills her greatest secrets to him, and for the life of her, can’t figure out why.

Mel has a real hang up with men, stemming from her mother’s constant harping that men are not to be trusted.  Since Mel was raised by her mother, without any assistance from her father, a man she’s never even met, she understands her mother’s distrust of men.  Her dad left them high and dry, and when she asks questions about him, her mother stonewalls her.  Whatever happened must be bad, and in order to save herself from similar heartache, Mel is very cautious in her relationships.  While she wants someone to spend her life with, she wants an equal partnership, without any of that messy sex stuff.  After a disastrous relationship when she was younger, she thinks that maybe her mom knows that she’s talking about, and that men are not worth trusting.

While the story seemed clichéd at times, I did enjoy it.  Heath agreed to help Alice out because he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family repair shop.  He wants to be a photographer, and he’s trying to work up the courage to let his family know.  While he’s helping out at Mel’s garage, he’s also planning on working on his portfolio.  He has the chance of a lifetime to make his dreams come true, and he’s not going to waste it.  When Mel offers to help him with his photography, the two spend more time together, and they can’t help developing feelings for each other.   Can Heath convince her that he’s worth taking a risk on?

Both Mel and Heath are dealing with intense family pressure to follow the path their parents set out for them, and both of them decide that they don’t want to continue down it.  Mel’s mother is suffering from clinical depression, and her illness is causing her daughter a lot of grief.  Mel grapples with her frustration with her mother’s behavior, and the negative fallout from it.  When her mother finally comes clean about her father, Mel’s world view is shattered.  Everything she thought was the truth was a lie, and now she realizes that she has to take a chance on making her own happiness, or face losing the new love she’s finally found for herself.  I loved the ending!

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

She needs a lesson in love, and he’s the perfect teacher.

Mechanic Melody Swan is looking for a man who can share her hopes and dreams, but she swore she would never lose herself to passion. When sexy Heath Starr agrees to temporarily sub in the Under the Hood garage for his sister, Mel sees the perfect opportunity to enjoy being with a man without becoming attached.

Heath came to Meadowsweet to photograph nature, not find a hookup, especially since his last relationship ended in disaster. He vowed he’d never break another woman’s heart, and in turn, protect his own. Still, when Mel offers to serve as his outdoor guide, he can’t refuse.

Mel may say she’s only looking for right now, but her body is speaking a whole different language. And Heath’s viewfinder is drawn to her time and again. When the two find themselves isolated in a rustic cabin, they could both break their promises if they aren’t careful…

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20. Review: The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones

May Contain Spoilers


When I learned that Diana Wynne Jones had passed away, I actually cried.  I have loved her books so much, for so long, and the thought of her wonderful being silenced depressed me.  She was writing brilliant tales brimming with magic long before Harry Potter arrived on the scene, and it’s frustrating that she never attainted the recognition she deserved.  I remember haunting used bookstores and libraries in search of her then out of print books.  At least today, the majority of them are readily available, and quite a few are offered in eBook format.  Win!

I was so excited when I received a review copy of The Islands of Chaldea.  But then I didn’t want to read it, because this is the last new book by her that I will ever have the pleasure of reading.  Completed by her sister, Ursula Jones, I couldn’t have hoped for better.  This is classic Diana Wynne Jones, and I loved every precious word of it.

Aileen is descended from a long line of Wise Women, powerful magic users on the island of Skarr.  Raised by her Aunt Beck after her mother’s death, the story begins with a failure.  Aileen has been confined for the night to seek her magic, but when things go awry, she realizes that she’s not going to receive her vision or her magic.  Feeling like a complete failure, she frets about her lack of powers.  Her no-nonsense Aunt Beck reassures her; sometimes, it takes more than once to receive the gift of magic.

Shortly after, they are both summoned by the king.  The High King insists that they set off on a journey to free his son from Logra, the kingdom that stole him away years ago, and without much choice, off they go.  Beck and Aileen are joined by Ogo, a village boy, and Ivar, an arrogant young prince.  According to prophecy, they must gather people from the other islands of Chaldea to bring down the barrier that separates Logra from the rest of islands.  The barrier has disrupted trade and has everyone worried about what exactly the Lograns are doing on the other side of it.  Are they building an army? Preparing for war?

I love DWJ’s writing so much because her protagonists are so relatable.  Aileen is no exception.  She feels like a failure because she didn’t have her vision, and frets that she might not have any magic.  She is lacking in confidence, though as the journey proceeds, and she is forced to make decisions for the little group, her self-esteem begins to build.  Each challenge gives her another reason to believe in herself, so by the end of the book, she is more than ready to face the villain.  Though she is still terrified of being overmatched, she’s more than ready to give her all to the confrontation, and with everyone’s life at stake, she finds the resolve to stand strong.  It doesn’t hurt that she finds assistance from an unexpected, and very powerful, source.

The other thing I enjoy about DWJ’s books is how magic just is.   There’s no big build up or lengthy explanation for it, but it’s everywhere.  The magic is so natural and such a fundamental part of her stories that I wonder why there isn’t any in ours.  Seriously!  Invisible cats?  Magical songs?  Why don’t they exist in our world?

The Islands of Chaldea is highly recommended for old fans of Diana Wynne Jones, as well as new.  This MG read will appeal to readers of all ages.

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

The Islands of Chaldea is a new novel of magic and adventure by the renowned fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, who left behind many acclaimed and beloved books upon her death in 2011, including the internationally bestselling Howl’s Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci books. The Islands of Chaldea was completed by Diana Wynne Jones’s sister Ursula Jones, an acclaimed novelist and actress.

Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But even though she is old enough, Aileen’s magic has yet to reveal itself. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she’ll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident and her magic blooms. This stand-alone novel is a perfect introduction to the novels of the beloved Diana Wynne Jones.

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21. Review: Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter

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Okay, wow, Curses and Smoke put me through an emotional meat grinder.  I was a bit hesitant to read a book based on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, mainly because I had reservations about receiving a happy ever after.  I mean, this story is framed around one of the greatest natural disasters of the ancient world.  I can’t imagine how the people of Pompeii felt during the earthquake, and then when the mountain exploded with a deafening boom, vomiting a deadly mix of debris 20 miles into the air.  I know how I would feel, and I at least understand some of the science behind the event.  Not so for the citizens of Pompeii.

I loved Curses and Smoke until the last three chapters, and while I would like to leave it at that, I will warn you – there is no happy ending here.  I felt extremely depressed when I got to the end of the book, after a marathon reading session last Saturday.  I even stayed up way past my bedtime to finish, and then BANG!  I couldn’t sleep because I was so upset by the ending.  While my original fears of doom and gloom did manifest, they had nothing to do with the volcano and everything to do with greed and an inflated sense of ego.  So senseless! Ugh!

Lucia’s father runs a school for gladiators in Pompeii.  He is desperately in need of funds to expand operations, so he arranges Lucia’s marriage to a rich patrician, a man forty years her senior.  Lucia is beside herself; she doesn’t want to marry someone older than her grandfather, but her father’s mind is made up. 

When Tages, a medical slave who was her childhood friend, returns from studying in Rome, Lucia is even more determined to find a way out of the upcoming wedding.  She loves Tag, and she will do anything to be with him.  She’s even willing to run away, despite the danger and risks it would pose.  For Tag, however, running away isn’t an option.  He won’t leave his elderly father behind, and Lucia’s father is cruel and doesn’t hesitate to punish his slaves for the slightest offense.  Running off with his daughter would mean a painful death, for both Tag and his father.

I found the details of Roman daily life interesting, and most were seamlessly woven into the story.  The book is told through alternating POVs, following both Tag and Lucia during the four weeks leading up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  While Lucia frets about her impending marriage and her complete loss of freedom, Tag tries to fit back into the daily grind of the gladiator school.  He wants nothing more than to train himself, so he can win his freedom one day, but he’s far too valuable to Lucia’s father to be allowed to fight.  His frustration with his lot in life, especially after rich boy Quintus begins training at the school, radiates off the pages.  He is trapped, and there is no way out of his servitude.  Like Tag, Lucia is also trapped.  She has no say in the path her life will take, and it seems that she, too, will live the rest of her life in servitude to her elderly husband (why does being a girl suck in almost every culture?).

Lucia’s father believes he is under a curse, and he blames Tag for the ill-luck that has befallen his school since the death of Lucia’s mother.  The curse weaves through the story, twisting like a snake from one misfortune to the next.  While I don’t believe in curses, I do believe in karma, and Titurius earned every bit of bad luck that visited him.  The more I learned about him, the less I liked him.  The real tragedy of Curses and Smoke is how his actions brought terrible consequences for the people he should have loved and protected the most.  Instead, he failed everyone close to him, including himself.

Setting aside the ending, which is a complete downer, I really enjoyed Curses and Smoke.  I love the time period and the setting, and the backdrop of impending disaster kept me on the edge of my seat.  Lucia is a sharply intelligent young woman, who notices the strange events taking place around Pompeii  and yearns to discover the reason for them.  She also yearns for the freedom to love a man of her choice, instead of being sold like a brood mare.  If you are interested in Ancient Rome, you will probably enjoy Curses and Smoke, too.


HF Virtual Book Tours invites you to follow Vicky Alvear Shecter as she tours the blogosphere for Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii from May 26-June 13.

Curses and Smoke

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Publication Date: May 27, 2014

Arthur A. Levine Books

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Genre: YA Historical   

When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto? TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master’s injured gladiators. But his warrior’s heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom. LUCIA is the daughter of Tag’s owner, doomed by her father’s greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she’s been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air…

When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them — to Lucia’s father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?

Buy the Book

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About the AuthorVicky Alvear Shecter

Vicky Alvear Shecter is the author of the young adult novel, CLEOPATRA’S MOON (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta.

Author Links

Website Blog Facebook Twitter Goodreads

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Click here for the complete tour – http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cursesandsmoketour/

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22. For The Love of Soccer!

Review by Ariadna Sánchez
All eyes will be on Sao Paulo, Brazil this Thursday June 12th when the FIFA World CupTM 2014 begins. The international soccer competition gathers the 32 best soccer teams from around the world to celebrate the passion for fútbol and brotherhood. The winner of this tournament will take home the prestigious FIFA World Cup gold trophy. For all soccer players, participating in the World Cup is an important achievement, and it is also a life learning experience.  Fans from all over the five continents are anxious and excited to witness the magic of soccer in every kick of the ball.

For The Love of Soccer! is written by three-time World Cup champion Pelé and beautifully illustrated by Frank Morrison. Edison Arantes do Nascimento “Pelé” was born on October 23, 1940 in Três Corações, Brazil. The soccer legend’s first book for children portrays the amazing journey from his childhood until becoming an icon worldwide. Pelé’s strong message to children is to enjoy life to the fullest and the importance of team work.  Pelé uses vivid words to motivated young readers to follow their dreams at the same time he encourages children to do it with love.
Pelé is a positive role model for the new generations around the globe. His tenacity and skills allowed him to play professional soccer for Brazilian Team Santos from 1956 until 1974. He also played on Brazil’s National Team giving him the opportunity to win three World Cups. After he retired from Santos in 1974, Pelé joined the New York Cosmos. In 1975, soccer was not a popular sport in the United States. However, Pelé’s energetic and charismatic spirit made soccer be appreciated by the American society.  Nowadays, soccer is considered a massive fever that has spread making this popular sport part of one’s life.   GOOOOOAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!

Check out the following link for additional information regarding the latest news of FIFA World CupTM , Brazil 2014:

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23. Review: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

May Contain Spoilers

Yeah! I managed to knock another series off my TBR pile!  Graduation Day picks up right where Independent Study left off.  Cia has just been forced to kill a rival classmate, and she is suffering from guilt.  She is terrified of being caught.  She doesn’t know who she can trust.  When she stumbles across a bigger plot to bring down the President, she’s not sure she can carry out the mission she’s been given.  Her task, handed to her by the President?  Kill the ardent supporters of the Testing in order to end the cruel tradition once and for all.

Setting aside the implausibility of the plot – I don’t think many world leaders would task a teenager with offing their opponents – Graduation Day is immensely readable.  Getting inside Cia’s head as she works through the weighty issues confronting her makes this a hard book to put down.  Everyone has an agenda, and you are left guessing who is trustworthy the entire time.  While Cia desperately tries to keep up appearances that she’s just an ordinary university student,  she must decide which side she is on.  Does she do as the President has asked, and commit morally abhorrent acts to end the Testing?  Can she murder someone in cold blood?  Is there anyone she can recruit to assist her in her deadly task?

Most of the plot revolves Cia’s preparations to carry out her new assignment.  She wonders if there is another way to accomplish the end goal, without having to take lives.  Do the people on the President’s list really deserve to die?  What happens if she’s caught?  Is she willing to die herself, to end the Testing?  As she gathers followers and intelligence about the Testing, the people on the list, and even the President, she questions whether she can end the pointless deaths of hundreds of the brightest young people the Commonwealth has to offer.  But when she learns what it means to be redirected, watch out!  Cia’s resolve is firmly solidified, and nothing will keep her from her final goal.

I thought the ending was a bit of a muddle, and I’m not convinced that conditions will really improve for the citizens  Cia fought so hard for.  I don’t understand why Dr Barnes acted as he did; there must have been some other way to prove his point, without resorting to the pact he made with his political rivals.  I also found the way the Commonwealth seemed to exist within a vacuum problematic.  There are little tidbits dropped about world powers outside of the Commonwealth, but nothing concrete or substantial.  Surely there would still be some kind of diplomatic presence from other countries in Tosu City, if only to keep an eye on the government and make sure they weren’t planning to destroy the world again.  The politics didn’t really work for me, though I still found Cia’s predicament engaging and difficult to step away from.

If you enjoyed the first two books in the series, you will also love Graduation Day.  Cia really comes into her own as she puzzles out the plots swirling around her, makes her plans to end the Testing, and agonizes over who she can really trust.  I really enjoyed this journey with her; it was just as nerve-wracking for me trying to figure out who deserved to be trusted, and who didn’t.


Title: GRADUATION DAY (The Testing #3)

Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Pub. Date: June 17, 2014

Pages: 304

Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads

In book three of the Testing series, the United Commonwealth wants to eliminate the rebel alliance fighting to destroy The Testing for good. Cia is ready to lead the charge, but will her lethal classmates follow her into battle?

She wants to put an end to the Testing

In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor, Cia Vale, vows to fight.

But she can’t do it alone.

This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves–and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates.

Who can Cia trust?

The stakes are higher than ever-lives of promise cut short or fulfilled; a future ruled by fear or hope–in the electrifying conclusion to Joelle Charbonneau’s epic Testing trilogy. Ready or not…it’s Graduation Day.

The Final Test is the Deadliest!

About Joelle:

Ever since I can remember I loved telling stories. As I grew up, I started performing those stories on the stage. Creating vivid characters and singing wonderfully complex songs were my passion. I graduated from Millikin University with a Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance and then continued onto DePaul University for my Masters Degree in Opera Performance. From there I went onto perform across the Chicagoland area in a variety of Operas, Operettas and Musicals. I also started teaching acting classes and private voice lessons to pass my passion along to the next generation.

Not exactly the path you’d expect a writer to take.

I’d never dreamed of writing a novel. But I loved to read. Then one day I had an idea and I started to write. I found my passion for creating characters lived on the page as well as the stage. It is my hope that the characters I’ve created resonate with you and make you smile.

I still teach voice lessons and sing for the occasional professional event. But the rest of my time is spent with my husband and son while dreaming up new and interesting stories. I hope that someday I hear yours.


Giveaway Details:

3 sets of the complete series along with a Graduation Day pen and a T-Shirt. US Only

1 T-Shirt US ONLY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

6/9/2014- NightlyReading- Review

6/10/2014- The Book Cellar- Guest Post

6/11/2014- Curling Up With A Good Book- Review

6/12/2014- Fiktshun- Interview

6/13/2014- Manga Maniac Café- Review

Week Two:

6/16/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads- Guest Post

6/17/2014- K-books- Review

6/18/2014- Tales of the Ravenous Reader- Interview

6/19/2014- Parajunkee’s View- Review

6/20/2014- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post

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24. Review and Giveaway: Baiting the Maid of Honor by Tessa Bailey


Tessa Bailey is fast becoming one of my go to authors when I need a fun, sexy read.  I’ve enjoyed almost everything she’s written, and Baiting the Maid of Honor is one of my favorites.  Some of her heroes are too alpha-holey for me, but Reed, while certainly domineering, starts showing his softer side with a little help from Julie.  At first I didn’t think I liked them together because they are complete opposites, but halfway through the story I was totally convinced that she was the woman to make him happy and allow him to finally trust someone. 

Julie is at a Colorado resort for her friend’s wedding (Kady and Colton from Dare to Resist).  The maid of honor, she takes her wedding duties very seriously.  She has agonized over the wedding preparations, wanting all of her friends and the guests to have a great time, while creating the perfect storybook wedding for Kady.  Reed Lawson has proven difficult from the start.  He was late with his RSVP, and she wasn’t even sure he would be part of the groom’s party, let alone be attending the festivities.  All it takes is one look at each other and they can’t keep their eyes, or hands, to themselves.

Julie is a Southern belle.  She’s lived a life of privilege and luxury, while Reed has struggled for everything he has.  Both of their lives changed after the death of a family member.  Reed’s mother succumbed to cancer when he was a young boy, leaving him with a neglectful father, and Julie’s older sister died unexpectedly in a tragic accident.  Serena had been the responsible sister, the one being groomed to help her parents run their successful business, while Julie planned on escaping from home and attending college.  With her sister gone, someone had to fill the void and be the little event organizer and cater to her parents’ every need, so Julie quit school and stepped into the role of perfect daughter.  Suffering from guilt, questioning her own self-worth, she’s made it her mission to make those around her happy.

Reed and Julie butt heads right from the beginning. He belittles the wedding festivities and is a difficult guest, to say the least.  With his harsh upbringing, he doesn’t have patience for a frilly ceremony or a frilly woman.  He’s attracted to Julie, but he knows a high maintenance rich chick when he sees one.  Still, he’s eager to have his wicked way with her, and get her out of his system for good.

I loved the chemistry between the protagonists.  Even when they are both trying to convince themselves that they are completely wrong for each other, they can’t stay away.  The sexy times are hot, hot, hot – I thought my Kindle would combust a couple of times.  My favorite part of the story, though, was how Reed and Julie’s relationship shifted from a week long fling, to the realization, especially on Reed’s part, that they couldn’t live without the other.  I could almost feel his desperation as he fought against being tied to anyone, and then again when he started to think he would lose her.  Reed’s character development made the book for me.

If you like Tessa Bailey, you will love Baiting the Maid of Honor.  If you haven’t given her a try yet, this is a great read to load on your reader or phone and read while lounging by the pool.  I liked all of the characters, and now I’m curious to read the entire Wedding Dare series.

Be sure to enter the giveaway for prize pack that includes a $50 gift card, Tiffany necklace and other fun bridal showed themed surprises.

The Wedding Dare Series

1 Wedding…4 Hot Stories

Falling for the Groomsman by Jen McLaughlin writing as Diane Alberts

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She’s the one that got away. He’s the one she can’t forget.

Photojournalist Christine Forsythe is ready to tackle her naughty to-do list, and who better to tap for the job than a hot groomsman? But when she crashes into her best friend’s older brother, her plans change. Tyler Dresco took her virginity during the best night of her life, then bolted. The insatiable heat between them has only grown stronger, but Christine wants revenge. Soon, she’s caught in her own trap of seduction. And before the wedding is over, Tyler’s not the only one wanting more…

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Baiting the Maid of Honor by Tessa Bailey

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He’ll own her from the very first touch.

Julie Piper and Reed Lawson are polar opposites. She’s a people-pleasing former sorority girl. He’s a take-no-prisoners SWAT commander who isolates himself from the world. Until he sees Julie. When they’re forced together at their friends’ posh destination wedding and she’s dared to seduce another man, Reed takes matters into his own hands. One night should be all he needs to get the blond temptress out of his system, but he’s about to find out one taste is never enough…

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Seducing the Bridesmaid by Katee Robert

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She has a plan. He’s about to change it.

Regan Wakefield is unafraid to go after what she wants, so she’s thrilled when her friend’s wedding offers her an opportunity to score Logan McCade, the practically perfect best man. Unfortunately, groomsman Brock McNeil keeps getting in her way, riling her up in the most delicious of ways.Regan may pretend the erotic electricity sparking between them is simply a distraction, but Brock will do whatever it takes to convince Regan that the best man for her is him.

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Best Man with Benefits by Samanthe Beck

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How far can one favor go…

Logan McCade’s best man duties have just been expanded. Coaxing the groom’s little sister out of her shell should be easy for a high-octane extrovert like himself—or so he thinks until he’s blindsided by the delectably awkward Sophie Brooks. She’s sweet, sexy, and brings much-needed calm to his hectic, workaholic life. Soon, he’s tempting her to explore all her forbidden fantasies…and wondering exactly how far a favor to his best friend can go.

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Don’t miss where it all began…

Dare to Resist by Laura Kaye

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Trapped and tempted, this battle of wills rages all night long…

Colton Brooks is in hell. Being trapped in a tiny motel room with Kady Dresco, the object of his darkest fantasies, will require every ounce of his restraint. She’s his best friend’s brilliant little sister, not to mention his competition for a lucrative military security services contract. Craving her submission is not allowed. But as her proximity and the memory of their steamy near-miss three years ago slowly destroys his resolve, Colton’s not sure how much longer he can keep his hands off…or his heart closed.

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25. Review: Midnight Play by Lisa Marie Perry

I jumped all over this book for two reasons; it features a quarterback hero, and it’s a release under Harlequin’s Kimani imprint.  I haven’t had the pleasure of reading anything under this imprint, and since I am a sucker for all things Harlequin, I started hopping up and down with my arm in the air, shouting, “Oh, pick me! Pick me to read this one!”

Right from the start, I felt a bit sorry for Danica.  She has expended so much effort to live up to everyone’s expectations of her, and all she’s gotten in return is grief.  Her ex-husband, a music producer, confessed to cheating on her, giving her self-esteem a serious dent.  While a bit of distance had grown between them over the past ten years, she still believed in their marriage and she still believed that they were meant to be life-mates.  Married at eighteen, her demanding parents heartily endorsed their union, so when the marriage fell apart, she was left confused, hurt, and wondering where she had failed.  Guys can be such jerks!

After firing Dex Harper, the quarterback of her parents’ football franchise, she’s furious when he goes over her head and requests a meeting with her parents.  As the GM of the team, he should have come to her and not jumped rank.  Fuming about his behavior, she and Dex get off to a contentious start.  He’s angry that he’s been sacked from the team, for reasons that are patently false, and she’s pissed that he won’t just go away.  I have to say that I liked this twist – Danica is in the power position here, and Dex is scrambling to get his job back and prove that he wasn’t on the take like the former owner of the team.

The chemistry between Dex and Danica is instantaneous, and it quickly burns out of control.  She can’t get him out of her head, and he can’t keep his hands off of her.  Too bad there’s that whole firing thing spoiling what would otherwise be a fantastic relationship.  As Danica gets to know Dex better, she sees the real man underneath all of the attitude and brazen behavior.  He’s got a rep as a complete bad boy, and Danica, the ultimate good girl, doesn’t trust him with her heart.  I enjoyed the tension between them, and wondered how they would ever get their happily ever after, especially since Danica was responsible for taking away the thing that Dex loved most.  If he couldn’t play football, he was adrift, and with his history and his reputation, other teams wouldn’t even glance his way.

Danica is gifted as a spin queen, so she offers to help Dex clean up his image so another team will take a chance on him.  I have to say the one plot thread that didn’t make sense to me was the whole firing Dex and then not taking him back when it’s proven that he had nothing to do with the corruption of the former team owner.  Accused of throwing games, he vehemently defended his innocence, and when his playing abilities are questioned, he blames other teammates who have been implicated in the corruption case.  The other players have been released, and no one has proven that Dex was on the take.  His replacement on the team is not cutting it; he’s playing with an injury and can’t play well under pressure, so it didn’t make much sense to me to can Dex, a proven player, for the new guy.

The story really took off for me when Danica started doing things for herself.  This caused a lot of friction between her and her mom, and I have to say – good!  Her mom could be cutting, selfish, and not supportive of  her daughters.  Used to getting her way, she bristles when Danica puts her foot down and pushes back.  Her parents constantly interfere in her life, demand total obedience, and it was so awesome when Danica finally said, “Hell, no!”  Good for you, girl!  Don’t let anyone push you around and dictate what’s going to make you happy!  I really did not like her power couple parents.

Midnight Play was a successful foray into an imprint I hadn’t sampled before, and I’ll have to keep an eye out for more in the future.  As for the Blue Dynasty, I didn’t have any trouble figuring what was going on, even having not read the first book in the series.  I’d like to read more about Danica’s sisters, if for no other reason than to see them give their mom a hard time!




Love evens the score 

As general manager of the Las Vegas Slayers, Danica Blue goes toe-to-toe with players whose size is matched only by their egos. Quarterback Dex Harper is the biggest and toughest of them all, with a hell-raiser reputation that he insists he doesn’t deserve. And Danica, the good daughter who’s always played by the rules, is suddenly tempted to break every last one. 

Football is the only thing Dex has ever been able to count on. To save his career he needs Danica’s PR savvy, and he’s happy to help her discover her inner bad girl in return. But glimpsing the real woman behind that sexy, flawless facade is making him realize how much is at stake. Because getting back on the team could mean losing Danica, unless he’s willing to risk it all—and play for keeps….

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I66GD5G/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i4?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0CCDZ7437VWK9DMJMXG6&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/midnight-play-lisa-marie-perry/1118053061?ean=9780373863648

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/03/now-booking-tasty-review-tour-for.html

Author Info

Lisa Marie Perry encounters difficult fictional men and women on a daily basis. She writes contemporary romance fiction with plenty of sizzle, energy and depth. Flawed, problematic, damaged characters are welcome. Her tales feature exciting multicultural mash-ups, sexy guy-next-door heroes and powerful larger-than-life alphas who are brought to their knees by the love of complicated women.

According to Lisa Marie, an imagination’s a terrible thing to ignore. So is a good cappuccino. After years of college, customer service gigs and a career in caregiving, she at last gave in to buying an espresso machine and writing to her imagination’s desire. She lives in America’s heartland and she has every intention of making the Colorado mountains her new stomping grounds. She drives a truck, enjoys indie rock, collects Medieval literature, watches too many comedies, has a not-so-secret love for lace and adores rugged men with a little bit of nerd.

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