Reflected Voices


February 20th, 2018

Early Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole @avonbooks

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I took one look at the cover for A Princess in Theory and I wanted to read it. Lusted after it, really.  I love the colors and the textures, but most especially I love look of adoration on the models faces.  I wish someone other than my dogs would look at me like that. Maybe Dean does when I suggest another trip to WDW, but those looks are few and far between (in fairness to him, I am SURE I am just not looking at him and therefore missing those gazes of pure adoration).

Naledi is a grad student, studying epidemiology. She is over-worked, under funded, and stressed to the max. She is also annoyed by the rash of scam emails she has been receiving from some conman claiming to be from Thesolo, and stating that she is betrothed to Prince Thabiso. Yeah, whatever, she doesnt have time for such non-sense. After a particularly bad day, she finally breaks her resolve and emails back a big fat F YOU to the sender of the annoying  emails. Go scam someone else, you loser! I have work to do.

Back in Thesolo, the prince and his assistant are overjoyed. They finally have a lead on Thabisos missing princess to be, and make plans to journey to New York to deal with some Thesolo business, as well as the missing betrothed. What Ledi doesnt know is that she really is betrothed to an African prince, and that her parents, friends of the king and queen, deserted the country years ago. Tragically, they were killed in an accident, so Ledi was shuffled from foster home to foster home until she aged out of the system.

I really liked Ledi. Even though she caused her own heart-aches by being so unapproachable, deep down she wants nothing more than to be loved and cherished. Giving up on that dream, she settles for hookups, where she can love em and leave em with her heart still intact. She isnt about to get emotionally involved with any man, not when all shes known is disappointment and heartbreak.

When Thabiso goes to confront Ledi at one of her jobs, she confuses him with a new server and puts him to work. At first taken aback by this treatment, Thabiso finds that he enjoys being someone other than His Royal Highness. Ledi tells him what shes really feeling, and doesnt pull any punches. Hes just a regular guy to her, and he finds that novel and exciting. Taking on the persona of Jamal, he pretends to be something that hes not  and then has serious misgivings when he starts to fall for Ledi. How can she ever trust him after she discovers that hes lied about who he is?

I thought A Princess in Theory was a fun read. Ledi is very relatable, and her determination to do everything by herself, for herself, resonated. She has never had anyone she could count on, and even her best friend could be a flake. Instead of inviting disappointment, she refuses to ask for help. There is nothing she cant handle. Until she finds herself so over her head, she has no choice but to learn to rely on others.

I thought that the villain was way too obvious, as well as the source of the illness striking down the populace of Thesolo, but the book was such a joy I didnt mind. I wish Thabisos parents hadnt been such a-holes, but even that was understandable given what they thought they knew of Ledis parents betrayal. If you are looking for a Cinderella retelling with a modern setting, this might be your crack. 

Grade: 4.00 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .
Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesnt have time for fairy tales&or patience for the constant e-mails claiming shes betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, shes learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail wont convince her otherwise.
Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso cant resist the chance to experience lifeand lovewithout the burden of his crown.
The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

February 19th, 2018

Manga Review: Black Clover V 5 by Yuki Tabata @shonenjump

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Astas rescue from the terror group Eye of the Midnight Sun is anti-climatic. I was kind of bummed. The Wizard King swoops in and BOOM! That was the end of that. All but one of the terrorists escapes, and now Julius Novachrono, the Wizard King, has a another mystery to solve. What is that jewel-encrusted slab in the terrorists possession?

Asta was injured during the attack on the capital, so hes put on leave. He ends up in Nean, where he is visiting a friend. Hes attacked by Gauche when the Magic Knight with a sister-complex catches Asta playing with a group of orphans, including Gauches sister Marie. Gauche is creepy, creepy, creepy. He attacks Asta with his mirror magic, but has to call off the fun when its discovered that all of the children have been stolen away.

Asta, ever the hero, races off the save the kiddos. Gauche in only interested in saving Marie, and the rest of the kids are on their own, as far as hes concerned. Gauche is one of the most unlikeable characters in the series. What a complete jerk. He could care less about his comrade in arms, an elderly nun, or a bunch of helpless kids. Noble this guy aint. I dont think he can redeem himself, but your mileage may vary.

The battle between the evil child snatchers and Asta is pretty one-sided, until the bad guys get a little help from the Eye of the Midnight Sun. Now maybe Astas ticket is up. Hes attacked by a kooky chick with an insatiable curiosity. She wants to know what Asta is. A disgusting lick here and a painful bite there, and shes no closer to an answer. All I want to know is WHAT? How scientific is it to bite your research subject to pinpoint what he is. Yuck! Just yuck. GERMS! Im kind of looking forward to her getting the stuffing knocked out of her in the next volume. Oh, how I hope that happens!

Grade: 4 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

In a world of magic, Asta, a boy with anti-magic powers, will do whatever it takes to become the Wizard King!
Asta is a young boy who dreams of becoming the greatest mage in the kingdom. Only one problemhe cant use any magic! Luckily for Asta, he receives the incredibly rare five-leaf clover grimoire that gives him the power of anti-magic. Can someone who cant use magic really become the Wizard King? One things for sureAsta will never give up!
With Asta captured and Fuegoleon defeated, the Clover Kingdom tries to recover from the attack by the Eye of the Midnight Sun. Meanwhile, the greatest mage in the kingdom launches his own counterattack. Can the Wizard King take these terrorists out before they do any more harm?

February 15th, 2018

Win Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

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To celebrate the upcoming release of Burn Bright, I have a copy of Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs to give away, courtesy of the publisher. I am so excited for Burn Bright, and Im super stoked to be able to give one of you a copy of the first book in the Alpha and Omega series. This is one of my favorite series, period, and if you havent started it yet, I highly recommend it.

Heres some info for the giveaway:

Giveaway is for a mass market paperback, US addresses only.

About the book:

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcerand sonof the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.
Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolfa creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all of the pack.
It is recommended you read the prequel “Alpha & Omega” before reading Cry Wolf.

This is to get you ready for Burn Bright, which releases March 6. I can hardly wait!

Here is the pre-order link for Burn Bright: Amazon

Mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other–one that lurks too close to home…
They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.
With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn..

a Rafflecopter giveaway

February 14th, 2018

Manga Review: Black Clover V 4 by Yuki Tabata @shonenjump

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With the awards ceremony, and the rude reception by the other Magic Knights, abruptly interrupted by an attack on the capital, the warriors get down to the business of repelling the attack. Zombies have descended on the populace, animated by disgraced Magic Knight Rades. He has a huge grudge against his former companions, so hes up and joined forces with a group intent on destroying the Clover Kingdom.

Lots and lots of action in this volume  I loved it! Asta is injured trying to save a little girl from the animated corpses threatening to rip her apart, and he manages to go toe-to-toe with Rades. That is, until Fuegoleon, captain of the Crimson Lion Kings shows up and gives Asta a lecture and a new rival at the same time. Fuegoleon is impressed with how hard Asta has trained and with his never say die attitude. He is also intent on becoming the next Wizard King, so he and Asta are rivals.

Fuegoleon is more my idea of what a Magic Knight should be like. He sternly tells Asta he needs to slow down and think before jumping into a conflict, and that way he will never be defeated. He also chastises Rades for not having any heart. People like him have no place in the Magic Knights  but wait! Just a volume ago, the Magic Knights at the awards ceremony showed how little class and how little heart they possessed by mocking Asta and Yuno because they were mere peasants. So maybe Fuegoleon is cut from much better cloth. I hope we get to find out in the near future, and that he isnt dead, because boy oh boy, things did not look good for him.

Yuno gets a brief appearance, where he battles a creepy old woman who sucks the life mana from others. He gets things started by calling her an old woman, which she really did not appreciate. During the battle, Yuno finally begins to understand the treasure he was given from the dungeon. Yay! That looks like some powerful sh!t! Sadly, he doesn’t get to hog the spotlight for too long, and most of the action takes place in Astas section of the city.

This volume ends on a cliffhanger, so I suggest you have the next volume handy and within reach. While this volume was basically just a bunch of bashing spells and Asta swinging his sword, we get some clarification for the bigger picture, and heck, it was just good old plain fun.

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

In a world of magic, Asta, a boy with anti-magic powers, will do whatever it takes to become the Wizard King!
Asta is a young boy who dreams of becoming the greatest mage in the kingdom. Only one problemhe can’t use any magic! Luckily for Asta, he receives the incredibly rare five-leaf clover grimoire that gives him the power of anti-magic. Can someone who can’t use magic really become the Wizard King? One thing’s for sureAsta will never give up!
The Clover Kingdom is under attack by a mysterious mage who can control zombies! The greatest Magic Knights have come together to protect the kingdom and Asta’s caught in the middle of the ferocious battle!

February 13th, 2018

The passing of the great Christopher Lee

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When I told my husband, he said, "He can't die, he's Dracula."

I've known his work all my life. Long before others discovered him as Saruman in "The Lord of the Rings" I knew him as Dracula, and Scaramanda in the James Bond movies, and Sherlock Holmes. He had one of those voices that made me swoon, and I could recognize it anywhere.

Here is his obituary. I would love to see the movie on Pakistan in which he played Jinna.

He was 93, which is a good age, but I will still miss him. May you thrive and see old friends and make new movies in the Summerlands, Sir Christopher Lee.

The man with his knighthood.

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Review & Excerpt: Shot on Gold by Jaci Burton @Berkleyromance

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This is the first Play-by-Play novel that Ive picked up, and I was interested in it because of the backdrop of the international games. Even I knew that the Winter Olympics were looming when I started reading this, and even though I havent watched much of the Games since I was in high school, I still remember with fondness sitting in the family room and cheering on the home team with the family (how we all saw the action on that little screen, Ill never fully comprehend). Two of my favorite events are represented here  hockey and figure skating. What could go wrong?

NFL hockey player Will Mad Dog Madigan is hyped for his second opportunity to play in the Winter Games. Last time he was a little casual about the partying and having a good time, but this time hes going to savor the experience. He wants to play and represent the US and take home the gold. When he meets figure skater Amber Sloane, his interest is piqued.

Amber is at her third, and probably last, Winter Games. She is determined to win the gold medal that has eluded her in the past. Constantly under pressure from her mother to train harder, shes overcome with a sense of freedom once she steps into the athletes village. Her mother and her hurtful nagging arent allowed inside, and Amber is going to loosen up and have some fun this year. She is going to make friends and mingle, and be a part of the whole experience, which she had missed out on in her previous Winter Games. When she meets Will, he seems like the answer to some of her prayers. They can have some no strings attached fun, and then go back to their lives when the Games are over.

I have a weird relationship with this book. When I would first pick it up after setting it down (to let the dogs out, to fix dinner, to go to work, whatever) I would have a really hard time getting back into the story. But once I had a chapter or two behind me, I was caught up in the book again. I dont know if thats because the past few weeks have been hard for me to become really engaged in anything other than buying more aquarium fixtures for my fish in Fishdom, or because parts of the story werent as interesting to me.

Amber kind of drove me nuts, but with her overprotective, shrew of a mother, I guess its understandable that she would have some issues. Her mother is awful to her, pushing her to do her best, to not eat because shes looking a little heavy, to putting her skating career ahead of all else. When Amber, at 23 years of age, rebels against the constant pressure, her mother isnt hesitant to threaten to withhold funding her skating as punishment for her behavior. So Amber, who isnt a teenager, sort of acts like one because she has basically lived in the box her mother locked her in, expecting her to think only of skating and obey her every demand.

I had a hard time relating to Amber. At 23 I was already a homeowner. I worked two jobs and went to school, carrying a full course load. Amber has no source of income, is completely depend on her parents for every little thing, and, understandably, kowtows to her mothers every demand. I wanted to fist pump when she finally dug her heels in and stood up for herself.

I found the backdrop of the Games very fun. It gave Will and Ambers romance a fun setting. Ambers roommate is a snowboarder, and as Amber lets down her guard and starts befriending other athletes, she gets more involved in the activity around her, instead of hanging out in her room during her time off the ice. Will also pulls her out of her shell, as their romance heats up and they start spending more and more time together. I enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie that developed between Amber and the other athletes, and that by the time the Games were over, she finally had some good friends she could rely on.

Not everything worked for me here, but unique setting and sexy hockey hero kept me entertained.

Grade: 3.25 stars


SHOT ON GOLD by Jaci Burton

Yeah? What are your cravings?

Hmm, lets see. Thick crust pizza with sausage and extra cheese. Lasagna. Chocolate chip cookies. Brownies. Oh, and cheeseburgers. I really love cheeseburgers. With onion rings.

He laughed. Thats a damn fine menu, Amber. Surely you can have some of those things at least once a week, right?

I get healthy proteins, like lean chicken and fish. Only when I finish a competition am I allowed to indulge.

Allowed? Come on, honey, youre a grown-ass woman. You can make your own decisions.

She looked down at her ice cream, suddenly losing her appetite for its creamy sinfulness. She pushed it aside. I do make my own decisions. Like now. Im full.

Will looked over at her cup. You barely ate two bites.

It doesnt take much to fill me up. Which was her mothers mantra.

Eat half of whats on your plate, Amber. Youre thin anyway, so you dont need a lot of food.

Except she was always hungry, and drinking more water never filled her up.

Yeah? Well Im eating this entire cone and two scoops, which I know Ill burn up on the ice. You should do the same.

Will didnt understand how hard it was for her to maintain the balance between strength and figure. But she did. Shed worked so hard, and nothing was going to derail her.

Not even the tempting chocolate raspberry ice cream that sat in front of her.

This had been a mistake. She should have never come here with Will. But since she had, shed politely wait until he finished his ice cream and then shed make her way back to her apartment.

Would you like to taste mine? he asked.

She shook her head. No, Im good.

Sos this mint chocolate chip. And I promise I dont have germs.

Oh, shed love to put her mouth where hed had his mouth. That wasnt the issue at all. Just the thought of swirling her tongue where his tongue had been caused flames to lick along her nerve endings, making her wish they were outside where it was cooler.

Do you like mint, Amber? he asked.

I do.

He leaned forward, offering the cone. Take a lick.

She was going to self-combust if he kept talking to her that way.

Okay. She started to take the cone from him, but instead he wrapped his hand around hers and held the cone steady. She leaned forward and flicked her tongue over the top of the cone, watching the way his gaze was glued to her mouth, which only made her previous heated state grow more incendiary.

She sat back and pulled her hand from his. Its really good.

Yeah, it is really good, he said, and Amber was certain he hadnt been talking about the ice cream.

Shed been hit on by a lot of guys over the years, mainly at skating competitions, and especially at the international games. Shed ignored them all to focus only on her goal of winning. Never before had she been affected by flirting or guys coming on to her. She knew shed be nothing more than a one-night stand, and she wasnt much interested in being some guys forgettable bang.

But there was something about Will Madigan that intrigued her. He was hot, and had a magnificent body. She liked that they were compatible from a skating point of view, but shed had attractive male figure skaters hit on her before and they had certainly been more compatible than Will, so what was the deal with this guy? Why him, other than shed madly crushed on him four years ago when hed never once even looked in her direction.

That was probably it. Hed noticed her tonight, and she felt vindicated. Plus, she was determined to live it up these games.

Though she was going to do it on her terms. She was going to be the one doing the choosing, and it was going to be on her timeline. When she was ready.

She wasnt going to jump in the sack with the first guy on the first night.

Even if said guy was hot and sexy and had eyes that made her melt.

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

In the new Play-by-Play novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Final Score, opposites attract when a figure skater and hockey player lace up their skates–and go for the gold…
Will “Mad Dog” Madigan is making his second trip to the Winter Games, and he couldn’t be happier. Hockey is his life and playing for the U.S. team is a privilege. Then he meets U.S. figure skater Amber Sloane. She’s beautiful, ambitious and driven–everything Will desires in a woman. He would love to show Amber how hot life off the ice can be.
Amber has skated her entire life, sacrificing everything in the hopes of one day winning gold. Now she’s competing for the third and final time. She intends to win, and nothing’s going to get in her way–until she meets Will. He’s an irresistible charmer, and before long Amber is wondering if this sexy hockey player is the perfect guy to show her some moves outside the rink.
But after all the medals have been awarded, Will and Amber will have to decide if what they have together is just a fling or a real shot at true love.

February 12th, 2018

Star Wars the Last Jedi #Rants

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Rant #1

Heroes do not destroy important cultural materials (Jedi sacred texts) or mountain monasteries.
(What do you think happened to the nuns when their monastery was destroyed? Exactly who is going to support them now?)

This is the work of anti-heroes and terrorists.
(Remember Bamiyan? A huge cultural loss.)

That these actions have been normalized as acceptable is troublesome indeed.

* NO, I did not miss that Rey retrieved the sacred Jedi texts

Rant #2

I expect my heroes and anti-heroes to be larger than life, and not whiney wimps.

*Check back, to be continued....

Manga Review: Takane & Hana V 1 by Yuki Shiwasu @shojobeat

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Ive been on a manga kick lately, so when I saw ShojoBeats new series, Takane & Hana, I wanted to give it a go. I didnt even bother with reading the synopsis (I seem to do that a lot). The cover was cute, I had some time to kill, so I picked it up and gobbled it up.

Hana is coerced to attend an arranged marriage meeting when her older sister refuses to go. Afraid of losing his job, Hanas father begs her to pretend to be her sister. Hana argues that at 16, she cant pass for a 23 year old, but goes any way. The meeting is with Takane Saibara, the heir to Takaba Group, a powerful conglomerate with immense sway over the economy. Hanas dad doesnt want to offend the Chairman, Takanes grandfather.

The meeting is a disaster. Takane is blunt to the point of rudeness, and the fundamentals of polite small talk are beyond him. He makes Hana so angry that she throws her wig at him, hitting him in the face, then storms out of the room. For Takane, its a defining moment; finally someone has aroused his interest. Now the jaded man-child is going to get to know her better, at least until his usual boredom resurfaces and he moves on with his life.

Ill admit that the age difference between Hana and Takane gave me the creeps. However, Hanas bold, tell it like it is personality made me set my reservations aside. Unsettled by Takanes interest in her, uncomfortable with the class differences between them, she rebuffs his attention. When he threatens to have her father fired, she agrees to humor him. She then gives him back every little bit of grief his high-handed Im way better than you attitude deserves. He is a complete jerk at first, and it is easy to see why he has to have his grandfather help find him a spouse.

I enjoyed the opposites attract trope. Takane is spoiled, has way too much money, and puts value on nothing but himself. Hana is down to earth, has never had anything handed to her, and values everything around her, especially other peoples feelings. Considering how someone else feels isnt exactly something that Takane excels at. In fact, he downright sucks at it. Hes used to getting his way, hell bully someone if he doesnt get what he wants, and he is so jaded with how others treat him that he rarely considers the feelings of others. Hana isnt impressed with him or his wealth, and that is such a novelty for him that he isnt ready to just let it go.

As the heir to one of the wealthiest families in Japan, he never knows if someone likes him for himself or for his fortune. Hana, not accepting that he could actually be interested in her, speaks her mind and doesnt let him get away with anything. How novel for Takane, to be called out on everything, from the flashy car he drives to the opulent meals he consumes. Hana is just as happy getting a hot dog from a street vendor or going to the movies, and shes determined to show Takane that money isnt everything.

I thought this was a cute read. I liked Hana and her outspokenness. Takane grew on me by the end of the volume. The art is lively, with attractive character designs and awesome shojo clothing. Im looking forward to the next installment

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

The meeting between Takane and Hana ends in an explosive manner, and Hana is convinced that shell never have to see that awful Takane again. But Takane actually seems interested in Hana! Exasperated by Takanes immature attitude, yet amused and intrigued despite herself, Hana wonders if her hilarious rivalry with Takane just might lead to love!

February 9th, 2018

Manga Review: The Promised Neverland V 1 by Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu @shonenjump

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This was a free read at VizMedia.com (until 2/4).  I realized the first volume was a free read the day before it expired, and Im so glad that I made the time to read it. I didnt know anything about the story going in, and by the end of the first chapter, I was like  whoa. This was a fast read, with horror, suspense, and fantasy elements. Im hooked.

Emma, Ray, and Norman are orphans at Grace Field House. They have been there since they were babies. They are now eleven, and they are happy, caring children. Emma is especially fond of her family of fellow orphans, and of Mom, the woman who looks after them. Emma enjoys a warm bed, wonderful food, and lots of time to play with her friends. The children do spend part of the day taking tests, which Emma excels at, but once done with those, they are free to play outside. Sounds fun and carefree, huh? There are only a few rules. Everyone has to leave by the time they are 12, though where they have to go is kind of sketchy. They can never go past the gate to the outside world or the fence in the forest. Its for their safety because its dangerous out there. That doesnt sound so bad, does it?

When one of orphans is the next to leave, she forgets her beloved stuffed animal. Emma and Norman decide to sneak out of the house and return it to her before she begins her new life outside of the orphanage. What they learn will change their lives forever. They discover the forbidden gate open, and going through it, they find a truck. A glance in the bed of the truck yields the grotesque image of Connie, staked through the heart and very, very dead. The terrified kids learn that the orphanage is actually a farm that raises humans as food for demons. Holy Guacamole! I didnt see that coming!

Emma and Norman are determined to save themselves, as well as every kid in the orphanage. That is a pretty tall order, considering that they know nothing of the outside world. They dont even know where they are on a map. They do know that the year is 2045, and the newest book in the library was published in 2015. So what happened in the intervening years? Their guess is as good as mine, and I can hardly wait to find out! While Ray is in favor of leaving the other children and just the three of them attempting to escape, Emma refuses to consider that. Yes, it will be tough to get 37 kids, many under the age of 6, to safety, but she wont rest until they try. Then Ray brings up the likelihood that there is no safe place for them to run to, and isnt that a scary thought? Who knows thats lurking on the other side of the wall that surrounds the Grace Field House?

This is creepy and suspenseful, and impossible to put down. The kids are in a battle of wits with Mom, who they suspect knows that they know the truth about their fates. As they attempt to gather intel for their escape, they are up against time constraints. The next child will have to leave in two months time, and now that they know leaving means being butchered for dinner, they are desperate to flee before another of their own is murdered. I have no idea how they are going to get away; Mom has demon technology on her side and they are completely ignorant of the world beyond the orphanage. I enjoyed this volume so much that I pre-ordered Volume 2 immediately after finishing.

Highly recommended.

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

The children of the Grace Field House orphanage have their happy lives upended when they find out theyre being raised to be fed to demons. Can they escape their fate before its too late?
Life at Grace Field House has been good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious foods and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems&
Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as Mom, all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing. The children of the orphanage are being raised as food for monsters, and their loving caretaker is behind it all! Emma and the others plan their escape, but can they make it out before its too late&?

February 8th, 2018

Review: #Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid

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May Contain Spoilers

I cant lie  when I saw the title for this book, I was dying to read it. I thought it would be a fun spy caper, kind of like Alley Carters books. I had mixed results with this one, mainly because of the protagonist. And you definitely have to suspend disbelief, because some of the plot is so over the top it is hard to swallow.

Peter Smith aka Jake Morrow, is a spy. Part of the CIAs Operation Early Bird program, the former hacker has been given a new lease on life. Instead of serving time, the teen was given the opportunity to work for the government whose computer systems he hacked. Intelligent, fluent in several languages, and supremely confident in his abilities, he was almost killed on a mission that went south. Now, disgraced and only in the CIA until hes finished with high school, he feels he has a lot to prove to his superiors. And to do that, he is determined to take down the dangerous hacker he believes is going to a private school in Colorado. Requesting a transfer to Carlisle Academy, which is known for its stellar STEM program, he settles  in and relentlessly pursues clues on the identity of the hacker.

The book primarily takes place during one day, when the bad guys from the mission that went bad in the Ukraine take over the school and take all of the students hostage. Peter / Jake, through a stroke of good luck, was not in his Chem class when the terrorist arms dealers drop down from the ceiling and take control of the classroom. When he discovers whats going on, he knows that the bad guys are after him, and that they want him dead. He also knows he cant trust anyone, and that he has to move quickly to save his classmates. All of this ruckus makes him forget about the picture a classmate took of him and posted to Twitter, and that is now trending in Colorado. Talk about the end of a career in espionage. If his boss didnt think he was a dufus before, she isnt going to be happy to have his cover blown with the hashtag prettyboy plastered all over the internet.

I guess my biggest disappointment was Peter himself. This guy can do no wrong, at least in his own mind. He came across as self-centered, and his easy dismissal of the students helping him save the day drove me nuts. He is so hard-headed, and even when hes wrong, and he knows hes wrong, he still keeps blindly charging forward. And he thinks that Katie, the resilient girl he has a crush on, is impatient and careless, even when she saves his bacon so many times. Ugh. Peters ego gets in the way of his dreams of being a CIA operative, and he is so focused on himself he almost puts the entire world at risk by thinking that the only reason for the school take over is to kill him.  Its not, but he doesnt figure that out until its almost too late.

While this didnt totally work for me, its still a fun read. The teens do end up saving the day, despite the adults interference into their rescue mission. I loved Katie, and hope that if there is another book, she will feature prominently in the action, at least to keep Peter humble.  Peter / Jake needs the back-up, even if he doesnt want to admit it.

Releases 2/13

Grade: 3 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

A CIA prodigy’s cover is blown when he accidentally becomes an internet sensation in #Prettyboy Must Die, inspired by the #Alexfromtarget story.
When Peter Smith’s classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo–along with the caption, “See the Pretty Boy Run,”–Peter knows he’s in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter’s pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.
Because he’s not really Peter Smith. He’s Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he’s on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettyboy, of all freaking things.
His cover’s blown, his school’s under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he’ll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life.

February 7th, 2018

Manga Review: Haikyu!! V 20 by Haruichi Furudate @shonenjump

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Contains Spoilers

Yeow! This is another volume that is all volleyball, all the time! After a nail-biter of a 4th set, the Miyagi Prefecture qualifier round finals advance to a fifth and final set. Tsukishima is hurt from deflecting missiles hurled at him from Shiratorizawa, and is taken to the infirmary. Kageyama is exhausted from unrelenting play. With Sugawara subbing as the setter, theres a new dynamic to the team. Can they use it to their advantage and pull out a surprise victory?

Wah! I really like Tsukishima now, and with him out of the set, possibly for the rest of the match, I am crying. Hes so cool and logical with his blocking, and hes trying to not let Tendo bug the snot out of him. Tendo has a gift of intense irritation. He targets pretty much everyone on the other team and pick, pick, picks until he gets under their skin. Tsukishima was holding up to his jabs, and sending a few zingers back his way, when he gets hurt. Boo!

Kageyama, needing a break, is benched. Sugawara has big shoes to fill when hes subbed in. Sugawara is another likable guy. He works hard, tries to keep morale up, and fights his own doubts. He has a lot of self-doubt here. He realizes that his fear of failure is holding him back, so he finds the courage to just let go. He makes some amazing plays, botches a few, and is really maturing as a player. Too bad its his last year!

The heat is on between Hinata and Ushijima. Wow! Ushijima does not like Hinata. Hes taken aback because Hinata isnt the most skilled player on the court. Technically, hes probably one of the least skilled. His lack of technical skills, though, are more than made up for in his fervor to play. He is athletic and doesnt recognize his limitations. Gravity and his lack of height mean nothing to Hinata. Ushijima doesnt understand that, and his lack of understanding makes him uncomfortable. I can hardly wait for the next volume when things come to a head between the two of them.

The action is non-stop here, and the pain, sweat, and frustration are clearly telegraphed through Furudates frantic panels. I still dont like volleyball, I still dont understand much about the game, but this manga is an absolute blast to read!

Grade: 4.25

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

Shoyo Hinata is out to prove that in volleyball you don’t need to be tall to fly!
Ever since he saw the legendary player known as the Little Giant compete at the national volleyball finals, Shoyo Hinata has been aiming to be the best volleyball player ever! Who says you need to be tall to play volleyball when you can jump higher than anyone else?

February 6th, 2018

Material Matcha – Rare Craft Matcha Green Tea from Japan

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I love what my two friends Etienne and Morgan have done after quitting their corporate jobs.

They created Material Matcha Uji, one of the most disruptive tea companies of recent years. Now they have their unique craft Matcha green teas after a year of patient development and hard work.

Material Matcha Uji is the brainchild of two foodies at heart, who after years in finance & IT gave up their big corporate jobs to go on a quest for purity: to find and create the greatest matcha green teas ever.

Etienne Denoual, co-founder at MMU, explains: It all started from a deep wish to reconnect with nature and authenticity. When I went back to Kyoto, a city I had lived in for years before, it was a revelation. We just had to do it.

Making high grade Matcha is no walk in the park. Indeed, they faced serious issues: while so-called matcha is booming worldwide (it is often low quality green tea dust), its production has seen a steep decline in Japan. Farmers are facing increasing expenses, weak demand for superior quality matcha, and lower sales value. Even more worrying, the aging tea-making community faces successor problems, endangering its very existence.


The two founders, who willingly admit that two years ago they knew next to nothing about tea-making, and were both rather coffee persons, took a fresh look to the issues and devised an innovative development model: if superior matcha doesnt work in the domestic market anymore, they would take it abroad for the first time, where foodies are thrilled by Japanese delicacies.

Their matcha blends, the result of more than a year of hard work in the fields and in their workshop, are uncompromising, bold, sophisticated, and probably unlike anything you have ever tasted before. Straying from the very classical image of Japanese tea ceremony, their craft matcha belongs to the realm of guilty pleasures, not unlike artisanal chocolate or micro-distillery whiskey.

Because Matcha is a precious and pure material, they package their blends in different raw materials honoring the minimalism of Japanese craft & culture.
“We consider our packages and vessels as something one lives with, a celebration and everyday ceremony of the purity of Matcha.” explains Morgan Josset, co-founder.

Support their Kickstarter’s Crowdfunding campaign
Backed by a devoted community and now ready for production, they are asking backers to help them buy a whole year of harvest of several plots of land that are especially promising. Providing tea farmers financial stability and peace of mind, they push them to always favor quality over quantity, and hope that younger generations will one day take up the torch!

Back them on Kickstarter

The bridge that crosses over the Moon – Togetsu bridge

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The bridge of Togetsu (In Japanese written with the characters !  K: crossing, moon, bridge) is one of the most emblematic of Kyoto. With its 155 meters long it was first built in the 9th century to cross the Katsura River towards the mountain of Arashiyama . Although it has been rebuilt and restored several times, the current version remains in the same place as the original.

Crossing the bridge and strolling along the river bank is a pleasure enjoyed even by the emperors of ancient Japan. It was Emperor Kameyama in the 12th century who named the bridge. He was sailing with his boat at night and enraptured by the beauty of the moment he declared: “It seems that the bridge is crossing the moon.”

A local legend says: boys and girls have to cross the bridge without looking back at any time. If they ignore this rule it will bring them bad luck of not looking back. I wonder if Ghibli was inspired by this bridge to for Spirited Away but instead of not looking back you have to hold your breath.


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After visiting Shirakawa-go we went north all up the way until Fukui. It was my first time in Fukui prefecture. We decided to only visit Fukui City, it was a big mistake… the city is disappointing and boring. The castle was so unimpressive (there is not even a castle, it is a dull government building) that I didn’t even take a single picture of it! If you are curious, this is a picture of the “castle” I just found on Fukui’s government website:

Don’t bother too much visiting the castle. The only beautiful and worth place to visit around Fukui’s city center was the Yokokan garden. The Matsudaira lord, who ruled Fukui at the beginning of the Edo Era lived in these gardens considered by the Japanese Government as a National Designated Place of Scenic Beauty.

One morning is enough to visit the Yokokan gardens. I would not recommend spending the night in Fukui City, leave to the northern coast. Next time I go to Fukui I will focus on visiting the villages on the seaside which they say are beautiful.

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