East of West (vol. 1 & 2) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta

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Chelsey at Chels and a Book did a review of East of West a while back that made me reeeealllly want to try it. She’s absolutely right – the story line is a bit confusing a first, but I totally dived into it and picked up the second volume the next time I went to the comic book shop.

East of West (published by Image) is about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in a weird future alternate reality that has a wild west vibe fused with high-technology. The Horsemen are missing a fourth of their group – Death. Death, in case you were wondering, is a complete bad-ass, and he’s out for vengeance. He’s got a list of names, and he means to cross them all off. Meanwhile, the other Horsemen are trying to find him while also trying to bring about the end of the world – you know, because that’s kind of their jam. There is SO much more to the story than that, as early as half-way through the first volume, but I don’t want to spoil it. They were moments that took me completely by surprise and completely sucked me in. Jonathan Hickman had thrown a lot of characters into the mix without always completely explaining who or what they are (Death is accompanied by two other people in white and black, named the Wolf and the Crow, but I don’t really know what their deal is), but the further you get in the story the clearer the story becomes.

Death really is the star of the show here. It may seem odd, but I totally feel for him and am cheering him on.

The ART, you guys. Nick Dragotta is the artist, and Frank Martin does colors, and together they do an absolutely stunning job. Everything is crisp and gorgeous, the colors are powerful and evocative, and the characters are all distinct enough in look and personality that I don’t have trouble telling them apart. (That last part is something I run into with comics sometimes.) There are panels that I would happily frame and hang in my future library room or hallway.

I am REALLY excited about East of West. The third volume should come out in early October I believe, and I can’t WAIT to get my hands on it. I usually prefer to buy my  fave comics in one format (for instance, I have all trade volumes of Chew, Saga, and The Manhattan Projects), but I may start buying the monthly single issues after that. Waiting for a fourth volume would just take too long.

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

Sarah Sunday!

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Hey guys! It’s been a pretty good week, I think, but I kind of want to get to the part of my day where I lay on the couch and read for hours, so we’re gonna bullet-point here.

  • So actually, last weekend was not great… As of last Saturday, I’m not going to visit my father anymore and ideally not talking to him at all for a long, long time. At the visit, he ended up talking some racist bullshit and brought up Ferguson, and it escalated quickly from there, ending with him telling me I can go live with my (insert racial slur here) boyfriend and die. Obviously, the visit ended there. I don’t even know why I bother.
  • As a result of that little conflict, when I got home, I didn’t feel like going to RocCon. Plus, I had only got like 5 hrs of sleep the night before. I took a nap with the honeyman until like 4 pm, and then we went out for dinner and shopping, so that was a good part of the day.
  • Work this week was kind of busy, which is a good and bad thing I guess?
  • I’m listening to You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney, and it’s really interesting so far. It talks about all of the little ways we delude ourselves, usually without even realizing it, and how our environment constantly has us subconsciously altering our behavior. One of the perks of the book is that it’s kind of re-motivated me to work out more consistently and eat better, instead of feeling lousy but just shelving it for “later”. I worked REALLY hard to lose 30 lbs a couple years ago, and I don’t want to be back to where I was. I’ve gained about 10 lbs over the last year since switching to working 5 days a week, and I hate that. My goal is to get rid of those 10 lbs again by Christmas, hopefully sooner.
  • We went mini-golfing for date night this week! And then dinner at Red Robin and walking around the mall looking for corduroys (which apparently are freaking non-existent this year). Mini-golf was fun, AND free – I had some passes from 2010 in my wallet that we used. We should really do that more often. (I’m sure that’s what we said 4 years ago.)
  • We watched the entire season 7 of The Big Bang Theory this week! Which was good… but maybe the worst season so far? Everyone was just so emotional and sappy, and Sheldon was acting very un-Sheldon, and yeah. Maybe season 7 had new writers or something, but I hope season 8 is a little better.
  • I’ve been noticing Gabby scratching behind one of her ears, and this morning I made her sit in my lap so I could look… there seems to be a spot there that she’s scratched so it bleeds a bit. I assume she keeps scratching at it now because it’s healing and itches, but she’ll just make it worse, and I’m not sure what caused her to itch there to begin with (no fleas, as far as we can tell). Anyone with cats have any ideas here? I’d like to avoid an expensive vet visit if it’s something that we can handle.
  • I’m about halfway through Misery by Stephen King, and hoping I can finish today. It’s good, but I think I’m going to need some lighter reads after this. I’ve been reading kind of dark lately, in the spirit of fall and whatnot.
  • I stopped by Lane Bryant to pay my bill, and the manager there asked me if I want to come back for the holiday season, maybe one 4-hour shift a week. I have been thinking of getting a second job for only 4-6 hrs a week, what with Christmas coming up and Treland being away for basic training after that… but I don’t know. If I’m going to have a second job , I’d REALLY rather it be at a book store or something, not giving old ladies bra fits. But the offer is there if I want it. Hmm.

 

Alrighty then. How has your week been?

 

~Sarah

Dawn by Octavia Butler

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Woooo, Diversiverse! Sadly, I only managed one book. And I’m posting my review of it on the very last day. But unfortunately work and game night and date night all got in the way, so here we are. I picked Dawn (The Xenogenesis Trilogy #1) by Octavia Butler. I read Kindred by her YEARS ago and have been feeling more and more ridiculous for not reading more of her.

Dawn is about Lilith Iyapo, and let’s face it, the description on Amazon sums it up better than I can:

Rescued from Earth’s destruction, one woman is called upon to revive mankind
Lilith Iyapo has just lost her husband and son when atomic fire consumes Earth—the last stage of the planet’s final war. Hundreds of years later Lilith awakes, deep in the hold of a massive alien spacecraft piloted by the Oankali—who arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. They have kept Lilith and other survivors asleep for centuries, as they learned whatever they could about Earth. Now it is time for Lilith to lead them back to her home world, but life among the Oankali on the newly resettled planet will be nothing like it was before.
 
The Oankali survive by genetically merging with primitive civilizations—whether their new hosts like it or not. For the first time since the nuclear holocaust, Earth will be inhabited. Grass will grow, animals will run, and people will learn to survive the planet’s untamed wilderness. But their children will not be human. Not exactly.

When Lilith wakes up, she’s isolated and terrified. Teetering on the edge of crazy, she finally meets one of her captors – Jdhaya, one of the alien species called Oankali. She’s scared and repulsed by him – these aliens have a lot of tentacles that they use to see, hear, communicate, and more. She learns how about them, and how they have mastered genetics and tinkering with things on a molecular level. It’s been 250 years since they gathered Lilith and other survivors from the wreckage that was Earth. Now, they’ve studied humans and Earth has healed enough to be lived on again. A group of Oankali will settle on Earth with a group of humans – literally re-populating the world, but not with the same species as before. The Oankali believe in trading – some of their genes for some of the human genes, and the future populations of the world will ideally be a blend of the strengths of each. They want Lilith to assist in Awakening more of the humans, and prepare them to meet the Oankali and survive in the wilderness on Earth. But Lilith finds their plan horrible, and wants to use her position of teaching these humans as a way to save the human race.

This book has crazy awesome kinds of sci-fi elements – weird aliens, genetic evolution, a giant spaceship. Some friendships form that make you care about the characters. Initially, Lilith kind of drove me crazy. Without the Oankali, there would be no human survivors at all – the Earth was about to descend into nuclear winter and everything would have perished. And I would LOVE to be given some awesome alien modifications. Longevity? Sure. Strength? Why not. Eidetic memory? YES PLEASE.

I am kind of eagerly awaiting the day when mankind figures out how to work with genetics in such a precise way, so hearing about aliens that do that kind of thing naturally was totally up by alley. It tickles my love-of-science bone. I  flew through this (which for me is still about 5 days, but shut up I’m busy.)

Also, I noticed that Katie has been including author blurbs – a fantastic idea, since Diversiverse is about reading non-white authors. So here’s a bit about Octavia Butler:

Octavia E. Butler was a bestselling and award-winning author of science fiction. She began writing when she was twelve years old, and she continued to take writing classes throughout her college years. She went on to win the Nebula and Hugo awards, and she was the first author of sci-fi to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work often explores themes of racism, religion, sexuality, and class. In an interview, she was asked: “What then is central to what you want to say about race?” Butler’s response was, “Do I want to say something central about race? Aside from, ‘Hey we’re here!’?”  Butler died in 2006 at the age of 58 outside of her home in Washington.

Basically, Octavia Butler is kind of a genius and I can’t wait to read the others in the trilogy. I read the first few pages of the second book as a sneak peek and oh my gawd, yes. It’s gonna be good.

 

Sarah Says: 4 stars

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

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Alriiiight, completed my first R.I.P. IX read!  Joe Hill is a delightfully creepy dude.

Jude used to be a famous rock star. Now, getting older and tired of the rock star life, he’s just a guy who maintains a stream of out-of-state girlfriends, takes care of his dogs, and has a collection of weird. He has a trepanned skull, a noose from the 19th century, a snuff film. One day his assistant points out that a website has a suit-inhabited-by-a-ghost for sale, and Jude jumps at it. Of course, he doesn’t believe that the suit he purchases actually comes with a ghost. At first…

This was, weirdly, an enjoyable read. It creeped me the hell out at times, but it was evenly paced with enough really disturbing, anxious moments to keep me interested. Jude is a generally likable character, which I didn’t expect. He has a dark story, and despite his initial, kind of gross attitude towards women, I ended up cheering for him and wanting him to be happy. That’s asking a bit much when there’s an angry ghost after you and anyone who’s close to you. The ghost is that of Craddock McDermott, and he’s blaming Jude for his stepdaughter’s suicide. But things aren’t always what they seem, and Jude needs to figure out how to save himself – both literally, and figuratively.

Unfortunately, the coolest twists and the things that gave me the shivers are the exact things that I’m not going to mention, because it wouldn’t be as fun a read if you went in knowing so much. If you’re looking for something dark and haunting for Halloween-time, this is a good pick. The only reason I’m rating it as average is because it might be my least favorite Joe Hill so far – It’s hard to beat Horns.

 

Sarah Says: 3 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall Readin’

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Oh how I miss the joy of making lists on Tuesdays. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week’s topic is Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read List – somewhat delayed I feel, since it’s almost the end of September, but ah well. There’s a little over two more months of fall. Is it likely that I’ll read all ten of these, or even five? Probably not, but I do love just making lists of books, so how could I resist?

 

1. Think Like a Freak by Steven D.  Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – I really feel like the authors of these books should just list themselves as “The Steves”. From the Steves that brought us the other Freakonomics books, comes a book about how to think more analytically about the world around you. I feel like this will be really interesting to listen to on audio. Perhaps I’ll actually get around to it before it’s due at the library. That, or I’ll maybe make it an Audible pick some time. Mayyyyybe.

2. Misery by Stephen King – It was Stephen King’s birthday on Sunday! Which has nothing to do with anything, really. This is one of my RIP IX picks that I’m hoping to start soon.

3. A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean – Because sometimes the cozy weather in fall needs a little romance reading.

4. Bag of Bones by Stephen King – It was Stephen King’s birthday on Sunday! Which has nothing to do with anything, really. This is one of my RIP IX picks that I’m hoping to start soon. (Why yes, I did just copy and paste that…)

5. 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino – I have to be honest, I just grabbed this at the library because I saw a lot of hype about it around the blogosphere, but I really have no clue what it’s about. Any one want to convince me to actually get around to reading this one?

6. Season to Taste by Natalie Young – A charming housewife kills her crappy husband and decides to dispose of the evidence by eating him. I feel like only good things can come from this.

7. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay – Because I heart Bad Feminist and need to see if Gay’s fiction is equally fabulous.

8. Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach – Some sort of sci-fi space opera book about a lady spaceship mercenary. I’m in.

9. Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique – I’ve heard soooooo many good things about how wonderful and beautifully-written this book is. You guys better not let me down here.

10. Black Widow volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto – Well let’s be honest; I have a crap ton more comics on the to-read list right now. But this in particular is a series I’m really looking forward to starting.

 

Let’s hope Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon in October REALLY helps me make a dent in this!

 

~Sarah

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth Chris Hadfield

 

 

“We broke into Mir using a Swiss Army knife. Never leave the planet without one.”

I remember when Chris Hadfield was on the International Space Station, a little over a year ago. Sure, people were always on the ISS, but he was tweeting and Youtube-ing from space! How exciting. I’ve been wanting to read this book since it came out, but I think it was a particularly good idea to listen to it on audio. Chris Hadfield himself narrates, and it’s a GREAT listen.

Chris talks about how since he was child, he’s grown up with the question “What would an astronaut do?” on his mind, and lived his life by it. He dreamed of being an astronaut, but knew that it was highly unlikely – Canada didn’t even have it’s own space program at the time. Still, he made smart decisions – following career paths that he knew he would enjoy, but always with “and this would be a good thing on a resume for an astronaut” as a bonus. I really like Chris’s approach to life – to always be prepared, to not pin your hopes on one big aspiration but instead to make sure that you do work that you really enjoy, and to be passionate.

“If you start thinking that only your biggest and shiniest moments count, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure most of the time.”

He talks about his time flying fighter jets, the application process to become a Canadian astronaut, and the stresses of his work and how it affected his family. His time in space is really fun and interesting to hear about – from the experiments being conducted to the issues that arise for something as simple as peeing in zero gravity. And I learned a lot about the International Space Station – I need to seek out more books about it.

My favorite thing about Chris’s memoir I think is his enthusiasm for space. He consistently talks about his efforts to get children and other people excited about space and the importance of space research and exploration. His fame grew from his time on the ISS, in which he started tweeting pictures from space and posting videos about the oddities of living in space – I highly recommend checking out his Tumblr.  He does a good job at communicating the thrills and wonders of space.

If you’re looking for a fantastic memoir or non-fic to read or listen to, definitely go for An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

“I wasn’t lonely. Loneliness, I think, has very little to do with location. It’s a state of mind. In the center of every city are some of the loneliest people in the world. If anything, because our whole planet was just outside the window, I felt even more aware of and connected to the seven billion other people who call it home.”

 

Sarah Says: 5 stars

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts)

I figured I’d do this today and skip this weekend’s Sarah Sunday, hopefully to free up more time on Sunday to write reviews and whatnot… link up here! And thanks as always to Christine for hosting.

1. I am SO off track. I started getting sick over the weekend, and then thought maybe not, and then I got home from the gym on Monday night and BAM! It hit me like a ton of bricks. I feel like that was bullshit, because I had just been healthy and worked out, so NOT FAIR. Ah well. I’m feeling better today.

2. Also, I’ve been slammed at work, so not really a whole lot of down time. I’ve been coming home after work and collapsing on the couch to watch a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory before heading to bed at 9.

 

3. This Friday we’re hosting game night, I have to get up at like 5 on Saturday to go visit my dad, and then as soon as I get home from that then the honeyman and I are supposed to go to Roc Con, my city’s own version of an anime and sci-fi convention. I’m really hoping that it’s a fun time, even though I’m sure it won’t be nearly as impressive as all of the big-city cons.

4. Amazon announced six “new” devices yesterday – really just updates of their current gadgets. I’m eyeing that new Kindle Fire HD 7. Maybe I’ll be able to get one eventually. They’re also apparently improving the ability to lend e-books, apps, etc to family and friends, but that’s not something I usually worry too much about (although now that I think about it, maybe it would be cool to have access to my sister’s e-books and vice versa. Hmmmm….)

5. I finished Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, which I believe means I’ve officially halfway to completing my goal for RIP IX. I’m obviously going to try to cram more in before the end of October, but yay.

6. I’ve also started (as in I’ve read a few pages each night before passing out) The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku as one of my Diversiverse picks, and I think I’m going to start Dawn by Octavia Butler today. Hell yes, diverse reading!

7. It’s date night tonight. Not sure if we’re going to cook at home and play Borderlands 2, or maybe go to the gym and then to IHOP (realllllly craving that chicken and waffles), or maybe to see a cheap movie… either way, I’m excited to get to spend time with the honeyman. Hopefully I continue to feel better today…

8. I have about an hour left in my Chris Hadfield audiobook. It’s been fantastic to listen to. I need to hop online and watch some of those videos on Youtube he talks about posting while he was on the ISS.

 

9. What Type of Book Are You? I’m apparently a well-loved book. Aww.

10. Dewey’s readathon is coming up in a month! And I’m going to have a few days off of work beforehand to get any chores out of the way and to catch up on sleep so I can aim to actually stay awake for the full 24-hours. I usually don’t even try, but this year I might.

Fight Evil

I like this.

 

Happy Thursday everyone! Go drink coffee and count down the minutes till the weekend.

 

~Sarah

Sarah Sunday (on a Monday)

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Ugh. Monday.

I never got around to posting this yesterday, mainly because I woke up late, went to the gym, went to breakfast, and then came home and did roughly 7 billion loads of laundry whilst reading comics and hoping that if I am getting sick, it won’t be so bad. Anyways, kind of big news to share!

The honeyman officially enlisted in the National Guard, meaning that his chances of ever being sent overseas is very very low, but he is still serving his community and getting career training and opportunities while he’s at it. He did really well on the testing and made his measurements, and I’m very very very proud of him because he worked really hard to get there. On the down side, sometime after Christmas he’ll be leaving for five months for training. Five months without my honeyman. This is something I’m trying not to think too much about, but also can’t help but think about constantly. It sucks, but we’re starting to make preparations and well… we’ll manage. We’ll have to. He’s excited, and I think overall him enlisting is going to be a really good thing.

I spent several hours on Saturday night cleaning out our storage room / my closet – taking everything out, cleaning the floors, etc., and I brought out all of my fall and winter clothes while I was at it – hence the millions of loads of laundry on Sunday. I am feeling very much in the fall mood – it’s been chilly so we’ve been cuddling under blankets more, lighting apple and pumpkin candles, and I’m thinking that this coming weekend I’m going to try to get a few fall decorations up. Last year I really wasn’t in the mood for the holidays, partly because it seemed like too much effort for the tiny apartment. But this year I guess I’m resigned to being in the tiny apartment for at least another year or two, so we might as well enjoy it. And it probably is partly me just really, really wanting to enjoy the holidays with the honeyman since he’ll be going away shortly after.

What else… I bought more comics, as you can see. I really have to take a break and catch up on all the ones I currently have though – the pile is getting ridiculous. I’m kind of mulling over the idea of hosting some kind of comics-themed readathon, but not sure if anyone would be interested? And also not sure when… maybe November? Also, just FYI – Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is right around the corner! October 18th. I’m actually going to be taking a little mini-vacation from work right before then, so that I can clean and cook and relax so that I’m well-rested for the ‘thon. And because you know – I have some vacation days to burn and I need the break.

I’m reading Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill right now, and it is CREEPY. And look at me, already making progress on RIP IV. I’m hoping I’ll finish that in the next day or two, and then I’ll probably start a #Diversiverse pick… maybe something by Octavia Butler? Or Roxane Gay? OH and I’m about halfway through the audiobook of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, which I’m really enjoying. If I can motivate myself to get to the gym more this week, I can listen to it while I’m on machines and get through it faster… but we’ll see.

I have to go to work now, but later I’ll try to catch up on blog reading – if our laptop is cooperating. Happy Monday everyone!

 

~Sarah

 

P.S. Just realized that this is probably the first week in forever that I didn’t include a Gabby pic! Rest assured, she’s adorable as ever – though kind of an asshole for trying to wake me up at 6 am during the weekend.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears Death

 

Well this was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is about a young girl named Onyesonwu, which means (you guessed it) “who fears death?”. Onye is the product of the horrible rape of her mother, committed by a Nuru man who just assisted in wiping out her entire village. She becomes pregnant and gives birth to Onye, who is automatically feared and hated as child conceived in violence. As Onye gets older she starts showing signs of mysterious and powerful magic, which enables her to learn that someone even more powerful wants her dead. Onye sets off on a mission to learn more about herself and her powers and to finally confront the person that wants to kill her.

This is one of those books that I knew I was going to enjoy (and have no trouble finishing) while I was still in first 30 pages or so. Okorafor is a talented writer, and she completely sucked me in by starting with the narration of a passionate young girl, and immediately progressing to the absolutely terrifying story of how she was conceived. I’m not going to lie – the content in this book is disturbing, but that’s exactly the point. It’s a book about pointless hatred and prejudice, and one woman’s journey to overcome it. And I definitely enjoyed the scathing passages about how females were treated and perceived. Onye is a fantastic character. She’s fiery and indignant and all of the things I like to see in characters, especially those of the magical variety.

I don’t want to spoil too much – this is one of those books best read kind of blind, so you can experience each “oh shit” moment as they come. My only reservation about this story is that it felt a little Biblical at times. That didn’t necessarily retract from my appreciation, it was just something that was kind of always in the back of my mind.

Give it a whirl. It would make a great pick for #Diversiverse, which starts in just a couple days. Still time to sign up! I might grab another of Nnedi Okorafor’s books to read as a #Diversiverse pick myself…

 

Sarah Says: 4 stars

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch (#1-7)

RAT QUEENS

 

YOU GUYS. RAT QUEENS. It’s a fantasy comic series (published by Image Comics) about four ladies-for-hire: an adorable tiny thief named Betty, the Viking-like warrior Violet, the foul-tempered elven mage Hannah, and human cleric Dee. The Rat Queens go off on these quests, which tend to include a lot of swearing, fighting, drugs, and sex. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THAT? The series starts off with them trying to find out who is sending assassins after all of the mercenary groups in their home town of Palisade.

Rat Queens is SO FUN. There is nothing like seeing a bunch of great women beating the shit out of trolls. There are personal back stories, assassins, complicated relationships, big plots against the citizens of Palisade – but amid all that is a group of friends who care about each other, and who remember to enjoy the little things like drinking all night, delicious food, and maybe doing some shrooms on the way to their next bout of ass-kicking. While all that stuff is wildly entertaining, I keep reading because I want to see the story lines develop – are Betty and Faeyri going to be become a steady thing? Why did Dee leave her home? What’s Violet’s beef with her brother? Are Hannah and the handsome Sawyer going to work through their issues?

This comic hits that perfect spot in which both the art AND the writing are fantastic. Roc Upchurch does an amazing job with the art – it’s clear and beautiful and the coloring… it’s all just fantastic. If my friends and I ever decided to have our gaming characters drawn out, I would desperately want Upchurch to be the one to do it. The writer, Kurtis Wiebe, has said that this series is like his love letter to D&D-style gaming and fantasy, and he definitely hit his mark there. And besides the delightful fantasy, adventuring aspect – it’s snarky! And full of wit. Humor is the easiest way to my heart. My favorite books (and comics, it turns out) are the ones that make me laugh. I hope this series never ends. I just want to hug it. But I won’t, because that would wrinkle the comics, but still.

 

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Everyone should start reading Rat Queens so that we can chat about how awesome it is, okay? The first five issues are already out in one trade volume, so get on that. As for me, I am counting the days until issue # 8 comes out.

 

Sarah Says: 5 stars for an ongoing favorite