Reflected Voices


April 24th, 2017

Issues with Icons

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April 21st, 2017

Mini Review: The Pawn by Skye Warren

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Review by Poo Penny

This series has a lot of potential. I love a good revenge story. Especially one full of violence. Gabriel, however, is kind of a pathetic villain in this story. And Avery tries so hard to be a strong character, but she falls flat. I feel like the gravity of everything that happened in this book, and all the romanticizing she did will force her to face the situation and turn almost assassin like, and she will have her revenge. I hope. Because, I love a good revenge story. I want it so bad.

There were a lot of laughable moments in this book, that were so unlike Skye Warren, that I was confused. Normally her writing makes me uncomfortable. She is extremely, extremely graphic in her sex scenes, so there is that warning. I have had to put a few of her books down mid sentence because I was just like, no. This is not happening. But hearing an “innocent” character describe sexual encounters as “stuff” was just funny to me.

Grade: 3 stars

Review copy borrowed from our local library

About the book

The price of survival&
Gabriel Miller swept into my life like a storm. He tore down my father with cold retribution, leaving him penniless in a hospital bed. I quit my private all-girls college to take care of the only family I have left.
Theres one way to save our house, one thing I have left of value.
My virginity.
A forbidden auction&
Gabriel appears at every turn. He seems to take pleasure in watching me fall. Other times hes the only kindness in a brutal underworld.
Except he’s playing a deeper game than I know. Every move brings us together, every secret rips us apart. And when the final piece is played, only one of us can be left standing.
THE PAWN is a full-length contemporary novel from New York Times bestselling author Skye Warren about revenge and seduction in the game of love.

April 20th, 2017

Manga Review: The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki

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When I started this, I thought that I would hate it.  It was pretty weird when Natsuru was grabbing his mom’s boobs.  Their entire relationship took a while to get used to, and even though it’s obvious that they are close, I just don’t know. I guess you have to have a few boob references since it is a boys’ comic, but, yuck.

Natsuru is your typical eleven year old boy (boob squeezing aside).  He loves soccer, has just moved to a new town, and accidentally alienated the most popular girl in his class when he rejected her Valentine’s chocolates. He’s having problems with the new soccer coach, a demanding man who makes him feel inadequate, and he soon dreads going to soccer camp. Instead, he pretends that he’s going, and plays hooky, without his mom’s knowledge.

While dodging his soccer commitments, he runs into Rio, a quiet, serious girl in his class.  They strike up a friendship, and Natsuru ends up staying with Rio and her younger brother, Yuuta.  As he spends time with the siblings in their rickety house, things seem kind of odd. That’s when he learns that their father, a fisherman, is away in Alaska, catching crab.  Rio is trying to make ends meet until he returns, stressing that they will run out of money or that the authorities will be called on them before her father returns home.  Natsuru agrees to keep their situation a secret, and they spend the summer vacation together, until Rio’s deep, dark secret shatters their blossoming friendship.

Wow.  This story was not what I expected.  Poor Rio.  This girl is suffering under the weight of the world.  Guilt, abandonment, and fear are her daily concerns.  There isn’t one adult in her life that she can trust and confide in.  Her mother walked out on the family years ago, her grandfather, the one steady anchor in her life, died, and her father was a useless piece of garbage.  In spite of all of that, Rio is a kind, considerate girl who cares for her brother the best she can. When she realizes that Natsuru is having some issues, too, she doesn’t hesitate to welcome him into her home. 

As the reality of Rio and Yuuta’s situation slowly unravels, Natsuru is forced to see life from someone else’s perspective, someone not as fortunate as he is.  Then it’s Natsuru’s turn to grow up and try to be a caregiver for both Rio and Yuuta.  This was a touching read, and I was sorry when it ended.  Despite it’s themes of abandonment and Rio’s unfortunate experiences, the story ends on an uplifting note. The beautiful, expressive art only adds to the emotional pull of The Gods Lie.


Grade: 4.75  5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book

Natsuru Nanao, a 6th grader who lives alone with his mother, strikes up an unlikely friendship with the reserved and driven Rio Suzumura. Natsuru plays hookey from soccer camp that summer, and instead of telling the truth to his mother, he spends all his time with Rio and her kid brother at their rickety house, where a dark secret threatens to upend their fragile happiness.

April 19th, 2017

Review: Frost Blood by Elly Blake

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Review by Poo Penny

Yay! Another special snowflake, get it?, story! Ruby is a fireblood, which means that she can produce a flame, and there are frostbloods, which means that they can control, oh you guessed it, frost! Well, the land, I forget what they call it, is controlled by a frostblood king, and he has basically wiped out all the firebloods. Ruby is the last, most precious. Insert eye roll. Some stuff happens, her mother is killed, she is captured, and her village is burned to the ground.

Flash forward to 5 months later, and Ruby is basically being tortured, being doused with water every day to ensure her flame doesn’t get out of control, and out of nowhere some, dun dun dunnnnn, frostbloods show up to save her. Obviously it makes no sense for a while why frostbloods want to help a fireblood, but they make a bargain with Ruby, and she escapes. They turn out to be monks, and one of them is a master frostblood, who can help her control her flame. Do I also not need to tell you… she excels at it? Yeah, she’s da best. Arcus and Ruby have some weird thing for a long time, which gets awkward for me, and I don’t even understand it because they weren’t together that long? Anyways, I never trusted Arcus. Jerk.

Then Ruby gets captured again, surprise! And that is all I will spoil. I am curious what she will do for the next book, because honestly I feel like she could have ended the story here and I would have been a lot happier with it. It was a solid 2.5 stars, but I have decided from now on I will round down. Also, there wasn’t really anything original about this book, it was very typical YA, including a love triangle. Albeit a brief one. Fun times.

Grade: 2.5 stars

Review copy borrowed from our local library

About the book

The frost king will burn.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.
Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriatingyet irresistibleArcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the kings tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from herand from the icy young man she has come to love.

April 18th, 2017

Review: The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

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I love, love LOVE the concept of this series.  The execution – maybe not so much.  Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the US is now comprised of small independent territories, and the oceans are havens for pirates.  Without citizenship on the land, people on the sea are forced to live in flotillas and floating islands. They depend on pirates for the goods needed to survive, so piracy flourishes. In order to combat them, Reckoners, huge water beasts, are bred and trained to defend a ship that they have been bonded with.  What happens when the pirates try to harness the power and brutality of the Reckoners for themselves?  Mass chaos and a threat that puts the ocean biosphere at risk.

The Edge of the Abyss picks up a month after The Abyss Surrounds Us.  Cas is a trainee on Santa Elena’s ship, Minnow, and she’s being groomed to take over command of the ship from Santa Elena.  There are five trainees vying for the coveted role of Elena’s heir, including Swift, the girl Cas has a love-hate relationship with.  When Cas realizes that there are more untrained water beasts in the sea, she feels even more guilt at abandoning Elena’s pup, Bao.  When she realizes that many of the other pirate ship captains also abandoned Reckoners, she fears that they will destroy the oceans. Suddenly, the petty bickering between the other trainees seems insignificant. Convincing Santa Elena that her livelihood is at sake, as well as the livelihood of every single person who relies on the ocean for a living, Cas must undertake her greatest challenge – track down the beasts and wipe them out.

As long as the story focused on the monsters, this was hard to put down.  The back and forth squabbles between Swift and Cas, though, soon got irritating.  Like in the first book, their relationship is not an easy thing.  Swift killed Cas’ Reckoner, Durga, in the most horrific way possible, and she was also responsible for Cas’ capture by the pirates.  Now that Cas is one of Elena’s trainees, they have even more friction between them.  The see-saw romance got on my nerves.  One minute they would  work out their differences, and the next day – BOOM! Something else happened to put them at odds again, and frankly, it got old after the second or third time.  Then I would hope for some monster action, to get things back on track again.

The battles with the Hellbeasts were well done. They were exciting and vividly described.  I loved them.  I wish there had been more of them.  The ending resolution to all of the story threads was convincing and satisfying, and I’d even like to follow Cas, Swift, and Bao on more adventures, though with fewer personal upheavals. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner shed been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but its not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. Its being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.
But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?
Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

April 17th, 2017

Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

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I love books set in ancient time periods, so I was frothing to get my hands on The Valiant.  Fallon is a female gladiator. What could be more exciting?  A lot, apparently.  This wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for, and I almost DNF’ed it at the beginning, but I persevered.  Ultimately, it was a lackluster adventure, complete with mean girls, a gross, flesh eating cult, and an unconvincing love interest.

Fallon is kidnapped by slavers on her 17th birthday, after witnessing the murder of her true love at the hands of his brother.  This wasn’t the start of her bad day; her father, instead of making her a warrior, betroths her to her true love’s older brother without her consent.  What a crappy birthday present! And to be kidnapped on top of that. Very Bad Day!

Fallon is taken to Rome, where she is sold to a gladiator school, owned by her hated enemy and the murderer of his older sister,  Julius Caesar .  While training, she is picked on by bullies, even while she manages to make new friends in arms.  She also catches the eye of a young Decurion, who is also the son of a senator.  I didn’t buy the instalove at all, and was very disappointed with that aspect of the story.

The fight scenes were fun, but everything leading up to them kind of dragged.  I thought Fallon was boring, and worse, gullible. And the ending – bah – I didn’t find it satisfying at all.  It all felt like sequel bait, so props for the setting and the time period, but the protagonist and the plot fell flat for me.

Grade: 3 stars

Review copy

About the book borrowed from my local library

The youngest daughter of a proud Celtic king, Fallon has always lived in the shadow of her older sister Sorcha’s legendary reputation as a warrior. But when Fallon was a young child, the armies of Julius Caesar invaded the island of Britain and her beloved older sister was killed in battle.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her rightful place in her father’s royal war band. But she never gets the chance. Instead, Fallon is captured by a band of ruthless brigands who sell her to an exclusive training school for female gladiatorsand its most influential patron is none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, Fallon’s worst enemy, the man who destroyed her family, might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, chilling threats and the dangerous attention of Caesar himself to survive the deadly fights that take place both in and out of the arenaand claim her place in history among the Valiant.

December 31st, 2010

LaLa DX license requests

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Hakusenshas LaLa DX has given the world some charming comics: Natsumes Book of Friends (Viz), The Lapis Lazuli Crown (CMX), The Palette of 12 Secret Colors (CMX), The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (Tokyopop), etc. How about some more from that menu?

We could start with Akane Oguras Zettai Heiwa Daisakusen. Its about the engagement of the children of two warring kings, brought together to secure peace between their nations. And they apparently hate each other. Its up to three volumes and is currently running in the magazine.

All I know about Junai Station is that its the debut work of Kei Tanaka and that its one volume long, but the cover is adorable.

How many comics about royals going undercover to investigate their arranged betrothed does one magazine need? LaLa DX already had A Tale of an Unknown Country (CMX), and it also had Himitsu no Himegimi Uwasa no Ouji, written and illustrated by Mato Kauta. In this instance, the princess disguises herself as a boy to see just how horrible her intended really is.

And lest we overdose on the lighthearted cuteness, Ill throw Yuki Midorikawas Hiiro no Isu into the mix. Midorikawa is rightly admired for Natsumes Book of Friends, so it seems like barely a risk to pick up another of her titles. This ones about a young martial artist trying to solve a royal mystery.

Do you have any particular LaLa DX titles on your wish list?

December 30th, 2010

This year, next year

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The indefatigable Deb (About.Com) Aoki has rounded up and ranked critics’ choices for the Best Manga of 2010, and it’s a fine and varied list. I’d also like to point you to Deb’s picks for Best Continuing Manga of 2010, since there’s a lot of overlap between her favorites and mine. I’m particularly pleased by her inclusion of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura na Kiss (Digital Manga); I did some catch-up reading on that one over the weekend, and it just gets better as it goes along.

Looking at Deb’s previews of promising manga due in 2011, I can’t help but pick the five that sound best to me, even if some of them counted as my most anticipated in 2010:

and one that wasn’t on Deb’s list, but I’m very eager to read:

Did some of your favorites from this year not make the critics’ round-up or Deb’s list of ongoing series? What about exciting books due in 2011?

December 29th, 2010

The Seinen Alphabet: V

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V is for& well, not very much, when you make a conscious choice to ignore Vampire and Virgin, but thats just how I roll.

Vagabond (Viz), written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue. This is one of those Japanese comics thats highly regarded both by manga devotees and by comics omnivores, though I think thats generally true of all of Inoues work. Vagabond, which is still running in Kodanshas Morning, though I believe its on hiautus, tells the tale of the quintessential warrior-philosopher.

Mizu Sahara adapted a one-volume manga of Makoto Shinkais animated film, The Voices of a Distant Star. The manga was originally published in Kodanshas Afternoon, and it was later published in English by Tokyopop.

Lots of people would love for someone to publish Makoto (Planetes) Yukimuras Vinland Saga, myself included. This sprawling tale of Vikings is still running in Kodanshas Afternoon.

V is also for Viz, obviously, still barreling along as North Americas major manga publisher. Its jointly owned by Shogakukan and Shueisha, and Viz makes a great deal of seinen manga available for free online in the form of its SigIKKI initiative.

And nobody should ever overlook Vertical, which initially made its manga name by focusing on classic works by Osamu Tezuka and Keiko Takemiya, but has recently begun publishing more contemporary (but still excellent) works, in addition to its prose fiction and non-fiction catalog.


On Twitter, Scott Green reminded me of Voyeurs, Inc. (Viz), written and illustrated by Hideo Yamamoto. It follows the misadventures of a group of surveillance experts. It originally ran in Shogakukan’s Young Sunday.

December 24th, 2010

License Request Day: Cooking Papa

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One of the many important things Ive learned from the entertainment industry is that Christmas is the time of year to make unreasonable demands of higher powers that they are obligated to fulfill if they want people to keep believing in them. Weve basically got them in a corner, so why not go for the big ask? Why not say, Hey, someone should throw caution and logic to the wind and publish a 100-plus-volume cooking manga?

While working on this weeks letter of the Seinen Alphabet, I ran across a mangaka named Tochi Ueyama, who basically only has one title to his credit. This isnt due to laziness, as hes been working on it since 1984. 112 volumes have been published to date. Its called Cooking Papa, and it runs in Kodanshas Morning.

As near as I can tell, its about an average family where the father, a white-collar worker, does the cooking. (The mother, a journalist, isnt very good at it.) Papa helps their son learn his way around the kitchen. Every chapter includes recipes.

Now, I can hear all the buts to the point that they sound like an outboard motor. But its way too long! But cooking manga doesnt have a great commercial track record! But we should pester Viz to publish more Oishinbo instead! But Kodansha isnt taking that many risks yet!

All of those things are true. But if we all adopt our best Cindy Lou Who miens, perhaps mangas heart will grow several sizes. It’s Christmas. We’re entitled to expect miracles. TV said so.

What are some of your Christmas Miracle license requests?

December 23rd, 2010

Pretty maids all in a row

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I saw a story on the BBC about these all-girl pop groups that are cropping up in Japan under the sponsorship of just about everyone, from corporations to vegetable growers associations to urban redevelopment committees. And it reminded me of the truth that, when you put four or more attractive people in a row and give them some common purpose, your chances of achieving your aims improve at least slightly, depending on how appealing those four or more young people are.

They can come together by inspiration or design, it really doesnt matter all that much. Origins in inspiration are obviously more highly regarded than manufacture, but, one or the other, people can still develop attachments to even the most cynically constructed assemblages. If they look good standing in a row, if their types connect in comforting ways, youre in good shape.

The tale of local-produce promotional singing sensations mentioned above also reminded me of the truth that success replicates, even if youll never quite capture the lightning in a bottle that inspired the original. Entire comics companies have been born out of a desire to replicate the grim and gritty success of Wolverine. Intriguing notions become franchises, for better or worse.

In the case of the cast of Kiyohiko Azumas Azumanga Daioh (Yen Press), they are the best they are at what they do, and what they do is be funny and cute, particularly funny. Azumas ensemble seems to have inspired a host of imitators, temperamentally balanced groups of girls with their weapons set on charm. That they will almost certainly never rank any higher than second place, given that its unlikely that Azumanga Daioh will ever drop from first, isnt reason for them not to exist. People didnt stop writing plays about crazy, southern drunks after Tennessee Williams or musicals about neurotic people after Stephen Sondheim.

Of course, not all of these imitations fully justify their existence. I thought the four cute girl students of Ume Aokis Sunshine Sketch (Yen) were totally forgettable, like adorable collectibles rather than proper characters, in spite of their promising art-school setting. The music-club girls of Kakiflys K-On (Yen) are just better enough that I can see myself spending a few volumes with them.

Yes, theres the serious one, the loud one, the dingbat, and the rich girl. Yes, theres the obnoxious teacher who should probably find another career. Yes, they go to the beach and wear kimonos and maid costumes. They basically go through all of the Stations of the Cross. But I enjoyed their company, and I got a reasonable number of chuckles out of their delivery of admittedly familiar situations. I can even abstractly appreciate the thoroughness with which Kakifly has abetted the audiences wish fulfillment  there isnt even the silhouette of a male character to present competition.

But, at the same time, Im not the authors ideal reader, either. I didnt read the magazine, then collect the paperbacks, then watch the anime, then download the soundtrack of the anime, then buy the DVDs, then collect the figurines, play the video game, and track down the sexy fan comics, all while discussing with my friends which character Id ideally like to marry, judging them for their choices. If that sounds like Im judging the franchise for being cynically commercial, Im not. Kakifly and company took a successful formula, turned it into something likable, and built a mini empire out of that. Its better than building an empire based on something awful, right?

April 14th, 2017

Review: His Amish Teacher by Patricia Davids

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This was a quick, pleasant read that had a touch of mystery.  My biggest gripe was that there was too much telling, instead of showing, especially when it came to the Amish way of life and Amish philosophy.  The dry, matter of fact dialog during these infodumps did not hold my attention.  Otherwise, the characters were likeable enough, and while the story won’t stick with me for long, it did keep me entertained for a few hours.

Lillian is a teacher at the small school in her Amish community.  She and Timothy have been friends forever.  After her family moved away for several years so her father could work with his uncle, they unexpectedly moved back after her father and her uncle had a falling out.  Timothy worked hard to reestablish their friendship, and  despite not feeling ready to settle down, he is extremely attracted to Lilian.  The trick for him now is to get her to see that their friendship could be so much more.

Lillian is reluctant to give in to her feelings for Timothy.  She wants to make teaching her career, and Amish women don’t work outside of the home after marriage.  Besides, she knows how important a big family is to Timothy, but she can’t have children.  Instead, she rebuffs his advances time and again, telling him he will eventually find the perfect woman to marry, even though she longs to be that woman. Alas, she won’t let him settle for someone who will make him unhappy, and so she hardens her heart and concentrates on her students.

Timothy and Lillian’s path to love is a rocky one.  There is an arsonist taking advantage of the unusually hot and dry weather, setting farms and fields on fire.  The fire scenes were very well done; they were exciting, fraught with danger, and the near death experience brings the couple closer together.  When Lillian suspects that her brother might have something to do with the fires, she is alarmed and distraught.  She is afraid to voice her suspicions, terrified that they might be true, or that her brother will be unjustly blamed for the destruction.  The search for the arsonist was a steady undercurrent woven through the story.  While the resolution seemed abrupt, it did keep a sense of suspense through the entire book.

The courtship had its starts and stops, mainly because Lillian is torn about what she should do.  Confess to Timothy that she can’t make his dreams of a large family a reality? Confide her fears that her brother has something to do with the fires to him?  I did have a sense that Timothy and Lillian had a strong and deep friendship, and I wondered how they would both get what they wanted.  Lillian her teaching career, and Timothy his large family.  I think the compromise worked well, and while the story didn’t knock my socks off, I found it a pleasant diversion.

Grade: 3.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book

The Teacher’s Choice
For Lillian Keim, instructing children in her one-room schoolhouse is as close to being a mother as she’ll ever get. Lillian has a calling to be a teacher, and she won’t give it up to marry. But her plans–and her heart–are at risk when she begins to feel more than friendship for lifelong pal Timothy Bowman. When Tim rescues Lillian and her class from a fire, the volunteer firefighter suddenly sees what he’s been blind to all his life: he wants his friend as his wife. But something beyond her professional goals is holding Lillian back. He’s got to unlock her secret before he loses his friend–and his forever love.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

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edited to add: If anyone has word of vigils or community gatherings, feel free to post them here.

As I type this, they've caught the young man who shot and killed nine people who had gathered in this church for a prayer meeting. He sat there with them for an hour, and heard them speak, and then he got up and began to shoot.

The gun rights dance has already begun, as has the gun control outcry. Fox is already casting this as a war against Christianity, not yet another chapter in the long and ugly history of race in this country. They even have a pastor who urges his fellow pastors and their male parishioners to arm themselves to protect women and children against future assassins.

Things to come: the mental health of the suspect, a 21-year-old white man. The arraignment, the trial. The late-night-tv standup routines making light of something as unspeakable as the death of four Black girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL in 1963.

Our country has grown monstrous in my lifetime. The military-industrial complex the students on college campuses protested has become our biggest import-export, with the gun being its shining badge and camouflage its hipster wear. Our filmmakers spend billions pouring more and more action, more explosions, more violence, more death onto the movie and tv screens every year.

We have become the Great Satan, so busy making money off of killing throughout the world or supplying those who want to do their own killing that we can ignore the slaughters worked upon us internally. No group matters enough to make the killing machine take responsibility for its weapons: not women killed in a gym, not children in a school, not parishioners in a church.

Am I cynical? Am I jumping the gun, thinking the outrage spawned by this latest mass murder will die down to a collection of grumbles, apart from the meetings of the true believers? Maybe I am. I was a liberal for a long, long time, a liberal and early on, a protester. I have seen so many ventures for change, big and little, sink to the ground because beyond a certain point, our infrastructure only cares about money, not blood. Not life. Not people. Not change. From where I stand, they ought to have the Koch brothers on the twenty-dollar bill. They're the symbol of the level at which things really matter.

Oh, and Fox? This was a RACE murder. Don't call it anything else. How many churches do you think that kid passed, in Charleston SC, to get to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church? How many Christian churches did he pass, and pass up, to get to a historic Black church?

I add this excerpt from an article by Jelani Cobb, Church Shooting in Charleston, in The New Yorker Online, because I think it explains which this shooting at this church is so vile, and Fox's attempt to hijack it out-and-out obscene:

"The African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1793, is the oldest denomination established by black people in the United States. It owes its origins to white discrimination against black Christians in the eighteenth century, and an incident in which black churchgoers were interrupted while worshipping and directed to the segregated section of an Episcopal church in Philadelphia. For black Christians, the word sanctuary had a second set of implications. The spiritual aims of worship were paired with the distinctly secular necessity of a place in which not just common faith but common humanity could be taken for granted."


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RT Booklovers Convention!

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Hey everyone - Tammy's assistant sliding in to remind y'all that she's going to be in Dallas, TX for the RT Booklovers Convention from the 13-16th! The convention itself runs through the 17th.

12:00  1:00 PM Greasing the Wheels: Building Momentum & Reader Commitment in a Series
Location: Hyatt Regency, Atrium Level (2nd Floor), Reverchon Room

11:15  12:15 PM Reality Shifters: Author Chat with Tammy, Kresley Cole, Charlaine Harris, and Gena Showalter
Location: Hyatt Regency, Lobby Level, Pegasus B Room

1:30  2:30 PM YA: From Magic to Gadgets to Alernate Worlds, A YA Fantasy Primer for Writers
Location: Hyatt Regency, Atrium Level (2nd Floor), Bryan-Beeman B Room

11:002:00 PM SIGNINGGiant Book Fair (Young Adult Alley)
Location: Hyatt Regency, Lobby Level, Landmark Ballroom/Reunion Ballroom

3:00  4:15 PM Strong Heroines: Writing Fictional Girls Who Can Save Themselves
Location: Hyatt Regency, Atrium Level, Reverchon Room

6:00  7:45 PM Teen Day Party (Tammy will not be present for the duration)
Location: Hyatt Regency, Exhibition Level, Cumberland Room

The following titles will be available for purchase at the Giant Book Fair signing through Andersons Book Shop:

Alanna: First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, Book 1)
Battle Magic
First Test (Protector of the Small #1)
Sandrys Book (Circle of Magic, Book 1)
Song of the Lioness Quartet
Terrier: Legend of Beka Cooper #1
Tricksters Choice (Daughter of the Lioness, Book 1)
Wild Magic (Immortals, Book 1)

Please note that Tammy will NOT be selling her own books at her table. Make any purchases before lining up.

Please also include your name on a post-it note on the books you would like signed.
This saves time and helps avoid spelling mistakes!

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Every spring I become a couch birdwatcher, courtesy of the Cornell Bird Labs and the Peregrine folks in Harrisburg PA. (Cornell is an expansion--I used to just watch the peregrines, and there's a stork cam in Germany which isn't up yet because it's still wintery there.) If you look at the bar on the link, you'll see other nest sites to check out, but I'm posting the Barn Owl Site

Barn Owl cam

for starters, because Peep #1 has hatched! (And there are more to come)

I love spring. I love this spring, after this last winter. I normally love gray weather--it's easier on my eyes--but even I got depressed this winter. Now I'm out looking at random flowers and actually smiling at the sun. And adding new bird cams to watch the peeps hatch. I hope the stork cam comes online soon. The storks don't know it, but their nest is so big that sparrows nest in the underside.

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April 13th, 2017

Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

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Review by Poo Penny

Here is the deal. I enjoyed the book, but, there were a couple of very stereotypical YA things that kind of get annoying after a while.

Twylla is SUUUUUUUUUUUPER annoying, she has almost no character development in the whole book. She is extremely immature, and she has almost no interaction with people, so a lot of the time she doesnt know how to act. She thinks herself in love after seeing collar bones. FREAKING COLLAR BONES. WTH people.

I liked Merek, although I don’t think we know everything about him yet. And Leif, the other love triangle, GAG, is just blegh. I didnt care for him at all. And there were so many times when I was simply shocked that Twylla and Leif werent caught by other people. Like, yall are being stupid. 

“My mother is a fat woman” was probably my favorite sentence, I laughed pretty hard at that. Just straight to the point, because her mother was the Sin Eater of Lormere. She is dedicated to the job, and always eats the whole feast, which is why she is heavy. Twylla was to be the next Sin Eater, but the Queen found her and discovered her immunity to poison and that she was touched by the gods so she is Daunen Embodied. Daunen Embodied is the Queens personal executioner of traitors to the crown, or so it seems.

Grade: Solid 3.5 stars, damn you GR for not letting me pick half stars.

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book

A startling, seductive, deliciously dark debut that will shatter your definition of YA fantasy. Sixteen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, no one speaks to her. No one even looks at her. Because Twylla isn’t a member of the court. She’s the executioner.As the goddess-embodied, Twylla kills with a single touch. So each week, she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love her. Who could care for a girl with murder in her veins? Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to her touch, avoids her.But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose playful smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the goddess. Yet a treasonous romance is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies-a plan that requires an unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

April 12th, 2017

Review: Pony Express Mail-Order Bride by Rhonda Gibson

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This is the second of the Saddles and Spurs novels that I have read. I have enjoyed both, but I think Pony Express Mail-Order Bride was the best so far.  Though I thought the characters were a bit on the young side (eighteen), and Bella’s lack of trust made unnecessary hardships for the couple, the story kept me engaged from beginning to end.  That’s actually saying a lot, since they spent a lot of time doing every day tasks around the homestead, and there weren’t a lot of diversions other than what kind of sweets Bella baked for dessert, so the author’s writing style is engrossing, and the protagonists’ inner monologues were kept at a steady tempo to draw the reader in and care about the characters.

Bella turns up at a Pony Express relay station with her young nephews in tow.  She’s come to reply to Philip’s ad for a mail-order bride.  Only Philip didn’t place the ad; his brother did to get him back for a placing an ad for him the previous year.  When Bella seems at the verge of tears and at her wit’s end, Philip suggests that they have a marriage of convenience (third marriage of convenience in less than a week in a Harlequin!).  He never wants to get married because he is afraid it will destroy him emotionally if anything were to happen to his wife, just like what happened to his father. Bella, penniless and desperate to keep her nephews, agrees to his proposal of a loveless marriage.

While the boys could often be annoying, (how many times do you almost have to drown to listen to orders to stay AWAY from the river?), the slowly building relationship between Philip and Bella felt natural and believable. They both have dreams that they have had to set aside, and those unfulfilled aspirations poke at them like at tooth pain.  With rumors that the Pony Express might be shut down, Philip suddenly has the opportunity to realize his dreams. 

Bella wants to be supportive, but she’s terrified that she and the boys will have to flee when Bella’s villainous ex shows up, making threats and trying to force her to marry him. I was worried that the awful man would cause a bigger rift between Philip and Bella then he did, mainly because Bella was afraid to tell Philip that she was being threatened by another man. With the help of the local lawman, the threat was neutralized, leaving Bella and Philip closer and ready to admit their feelings for each other.  I have to see if the library has the rest of this series, because the books are a quick, satisfying read, without being too preachy.  I love the settings, and the Pony Express has always fascinated me.

Grade: 4.25 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book


Needing a home and a husband to help her raise her orphaned nephews, Bella Wilson travels to Wyoming in response to a mail-order bride ad. But when she arrives, she discovers Pony Express rider Philip Young didn’t place the ad. With her groom-to-be insisting he’s not looking for a wife, Bella must convince him to marry her for the sake of the children. 

Philip never planned to marry, but he can’t possibly turn away a woman in distress and allow her nephews to end up in an orphanage as he once had. A marriage of convenience is the perfect solution. But when he slowly discovers that family life may be what he’s been looking for all along, can he convince Bella to give love a chance?

April 11th, 2017

Review: Wild Wicked Scot by Julia London

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Review by Poo Penny

Another second chance romance! I would have given this a higher rating, but it reminded a lot of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. The story was centered around Margot and Arron, their arranged marriage, and then their reconciliation.

The parts that reminded me of Outlander were really centered around the Jacobites, mostly the surroundings in the book. I actually liked it, except for the intro. That was a rough intro, and I was expecting to DNF this but I read it on one leg of a recent flight. The intimate times between Arron and Margot are just right, I liked that they were having a hard time communicating, even at the end. I felt that Arron maybe was confessing his undying love for Margot a little early, but then I remember I AM reading a romance, and a Harlequin at that.

Overall, if you like Highland romances I would recommend this one but it was not the best I have read.

Grade: 3 stars

Review copy borrowed from our local library

About the book

Wicked intrigue unfolds as an unlikely marriage leads to a path of risky desire in the lush, green Scottish Highlands.
Born into riches and groomed in English luxury, Margot Armstrong didn’t belong in a Scottish chieftain’s devil-may-care world. Three years ago she fled their marriage of convenience and hasn’t looked backexcept to relive the moments spent in wild, rugged Arran McKenzie’s passionate embrace. But as their respective countries’ fragile unity threatens to unravel, Margot must return to her husband to uncover his role in the treachery before her family can be accused of it.
Red-haired, green-eyed Margot was Arran’s beautiful bride. Her loss has haunted him, but her return threatens everything he has gained. As the Highland mists carry whispers of an English plot to seize McKenzie territory, he must outmaneuver her in games of espionage&and seduction. But even as their secrets tangle together, there’s nothing to prevent love from capturing them both and leading them straight into danger.

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