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review 2016-01-31 15:11
Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues is Highly Recommended Dark Fantasy
BLACKGUARDS: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues - J.M. Martin,Bradley P. Beaulieu,Carol Berg,Richard Lee Byers,David Dalglish,James Enge,John Gwynne,Lian Hearn,Paul S. Kemp,Snorri Kristjansson,Joseph R. Lallo,Mark Lawrence,Tim Marquitz,Peter Orullian,Jean Rabe,Cat Rambo,Laura Resnick,Anthony Ryan,Mark

Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues by J.M. Martin
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues is Highly Recommended Dark Fantasy:: This collection is largely Dark Fantasy. As the subtitle says, this not just about Assassins--there are plenty similar lawbreakers featured: Thieves, Smugglers, and Mercenaries. As J.M. Martin clarifies in his introduction:

"Blackguard, by the way, is actually pronounced ‘blaggard,’ as in haggard. The term seemingly originated from scullions and kitchen-knaves, in particular those in courtly caravans who were in charge of the pots, pans, utensils, and the conveyance of coal … one could extrapolate that a ‘blaggard’—also ‘blagger’ in some texts—is a ‘rag-tag deceiver with grandiloquent habits.’"

Crowdfunded Gateway: Anthologies often function as a way to speed-date authors. Want to get acquainted with those who write about a theme you crave? Then find a thematic anthology and shop around! The Sword & Sorcery genre spawned from short stories; for many decades anthologies needed no classification. But in the last few decades, within the dark fantasy genre associated with S&S, there has been a move toward themes—which is great (i.e., Rogue Blade Entertainment’s Rage of the Behemoth and Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters come to mind). Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues provides a whopping 27 stories—24 of which are linked to established series. The “Roll-Credits” section in the end is designed to link readers to the authors they just liked. Classy. This book was launched via Kickstarter and Ragnarok Publications delivered a solid product. Me? I was just a Bung Nippers level supporter, but am still part of the band wagon and proud to be acknowledge in the contributor section.

Variety: A menu of 27 entries starts off with ~4 female protagonists, which was unexpected and enjoyable. The range of characters and milieu is truly broad. There is surprisingly little redundancy. As mentioned above, the Sword & Sorcery genre was influential: Michael J. Sullivan and Paul Kemp offer duos reminiscent of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar “Fafred and Mouser”; and Jon Sprunkseemed to write a pastiche/fan-fiction of Glen Cook’s The Black Company.
Many are tales of betrayal and grim situations; the most impactful was Peter Orullian ’s "A Length of Cherrywood" which was uber-dark, but very well written--this story is one you’ll enjoy reading once, and then never again. Not all these are grim. There are several comedic entries, the funniest for me wasRichard Lee Byers’s "Troll Trouble" which had me laughing out loud. There are several others that have the protagonist as savior/hero, or the target of blackguards; Kenny Soward’s "Jancy's Justice” was one such which also offered a bit of steampunk/gnome technology. The last several entries really cast the net: James Enge casts Odysseus as a blackguard, Lian Hearn provides some Japanese inspired darkness, Snorri Kristjansson offers Viking flare, andAnton Strout brings a psychic- sorcery into contemporary art crime.

Personal Favorites: S.R. Cambridge’s "The Betyár and the Magus" blends magic into western-European history—great characters and setting. Equally entertaining & well written was Shawn Speakman’s dose of druidic/Celtic lore; his "The White Rose Thief" made me aware of “Rosenwyn Whyte” a musician with a dark past which I am anxious to read more about. Tim Marquitz ’s "A Taste of Agony" got me intrigued about the “outlaw, eunuch assassin Gryl”, even though the story’s mission was obscure. Anthony Ryan’s "The Lord Collector" offered it all—an intriguing world of assassins, dark magic, and interesting characters.

Art: The cover art by Arman Akopian is nicely done and representative on the book’s contents (yes, there are plenty of female protagonists). Interior art for each of the stories is bonus flare, well done by artists Orion Zangara andOksana Dmitrienko

Source: www.selindberg.com
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review 2014-09-04 00:00
BLACKGUARDS: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues
BLACKGUARDS: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues - J.M. Martin,Bradley P. Beaulieu,Carol Berg,Richard Lee Byers,David Dalglish,James Enge,John Gwynne,Lian Hearn,Paul S. Kemp,Snorri Kristjansson,Joseph R. Lallo,Mark Lawrence,Tim Marquitz,Peter Orullian,Jean Rabe,Cat Rambo,Laura Resnick,Anthony Ryan,Mark Project successfully funded on Kickstarter. Initial pledge goal more than doubled! I'm looking forward to reading this anthology.
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review 2014-07-03 05:38
Tapestry of Lies (Weaving Mystery #2) - DNF
Tapestry of Lies - Carol Ann Martin

60 pages in and this book falls in the category of "life's too short and my TBR pile is too high".  I haven't even gotten to the murder yet, but these characters are so unlikeable I find myself hoping for a mass lynching.


Della, the MC, starts off by calling Jane, her best friend, flaky because she believes in ESP and tarot and talks about how she wants to roll her eyes over Jane's "feelings".  Della's love interest (who's also supposed to be her best friend since childhood) makes snide comments about how high her heels are, how bad a cook she is, and makes cracks about how she has to stick her nose into everything and "investigate".


I suspect the author is trying for snarky camaraderie but she's failing rather badly - I love snark and sarcasm, but this feels like a group of frenemies instead of the scooby gang.  Disrespectful and unkind.


The first book in this series, Looming Murder started off so well, I remember being really excited about having another great series to look forward to.  It all went downhill in the last part of that book, but I had my fingers crossed it was just a first-book-blip.  Nope.  Tapestry of Lies is worse, and if I'm hoping one of the MC's is the murder victim, it's time to walk away.

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text 2014-06-11 20:40
Barbie Story Collection
Barbie: Story Collection (Barbie) (Step into Reading) - Bill Gordh;Carol Pugliano-Martin

A Dress-Up Day (written by Jessie Parker)

One Pink Shoe (written by Salile Orr)

School Days (written by Apple Jordan)

Two Princesses (written by Bill Gordh)

Lost and Found (written by Carol Pugliano-Martin)

A Day at the Fair (written by Carol Pugliano-Martin)


(Read and reviewed by my youngest daughter)


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Well, I'd have to say my least favorite was probably School Days. My second was probably One Pink Shoe. My third, well, this is a tricky one but it would probably be A Dress Up Day. My fourth favorite was tied between Two Princesses and Lost and Found. I would like Two Princesses better, but that's such a weird lunch. I probably do but that is a pretty weird lunch. You got to admit, I mean like seriously, cheese bread, carrots, and nuts- ewe a disgusting lunch! I would not eat that. My favorite though was (drum roll please, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum) A DAY AT THE FAIR! It is fun to read.

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review 2014-03-30 00:27
Looming Murder (Weaving Mystery #1)
Looming Murder - Carol Ann Martin

This is the first in the Weaving mystery series.  The main character, Della, has left the corporate world after she caught her boss embezzling and was almost falsely implicated herself.  In the aftermath she decided to follow her dream of opening a weaving shop.


The mystery itself is solid.  There are a number of suspects with good motives and I never suspected the person who was the ultimate culprit.  Della's new friends are fleshed out and likable. I am looking forward to visiting them again and again.  The small town setting was very friendly and cozy. 

There was just the whole Matthew issue that detracted from the story. I have already read the second book and I can attest that it gets better as it goes along, but it did take away from the story in this installment. 


In an overly complicated plot point, Della and her friend Matthew have decided to trade homes and Della steps up shop in Matthew's house.  When the store has only been open a week or two, Matthew suddenly decides he wants his house back and Della has to find another place to live and open her business.  


This part of the story really bothered me.  I would imagine that Della had to print business materials, do advertising, etc all with the old address and now after just a couple of weeks she has to move?  Why would she set up a business without a longer term lease?  Also, she acts like it's hunky-dory for Matthew to just move back and isn't mad at him.  If someone did that to me, I'd be furious and would tell them so.


Once Matthew comes back he continues to act like a putz and is extremely unlikable.  He is being set up as a possible future love interest for Della, but I can't help but hope that she gets over him and find someone better.  He is very moody, snaps at her a lot, and just generally talks down to her. I hope Della can find someone that treats her with more respect. 

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