Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers Review


When I first learned about Grave Mercy a few years back I was immediately intrigued by the concept of a convent of nun assassins, who were considered handmaidens of Death.  I tagged the book as something to pick up when I had the time, but it just never happened.  When the opportunity to review the novel came up a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance; I would finally see if the idea of deadly sisters enthralled me as much as I anticipated…

Ismae Rienne should have never been born, but when an herbal abortifacient fails to work, the young woman is born scarred.  The people of her small village consider her marked as one of Death’s daughters, and she is abused by her mother’s husband and shunned by all else.  On her wedding night Ismae’s boorish groom panics at her disfigurement, allowing followers of the old gods to spirit her away to the convent of Saint Mortain on the Ile de Sein and open her up to a world where Ismae can gain control of her own destiny.  Immune to poisons and illness and trained as a perfect weapon the young woman ends up in the court of Brittany.  Ismae’s orders are to help protect Anne, the young duchess, ascend to the throne of Brittany while dispatching any traitors in the court’s midst, but treachery and betrayals run rampant, and it’s not always easy to tell which courtier is a liar. At the same time the young assassin finds herself drawn to her protector at court, Anne’s older half-brother, Gavriel Duval, but is he as innocent as he seems, or is he also playing the game of politics?

Robin LaFevers’ universe in Grave Mercy appealed to me on a multitude of levels.  First, the historical detail provided for the time period (15th century France) reflected the research and work the author put in before crafting her story.  Despite being an alternate universe piece LaFevers took time to make the historical bits blended into her tale as accurate as possible, which I greatly appreciated.  The details helped immerse me into Ismae’s world and paint a picture in my mind.  Second, even though the setting is a time where women were treated as men’s property Ismae was given agency through her affiliation with the convent of Saint Mortain.  The story even emphasized the difference between the main character’s life in her small village and the freedom of the convent. Throughout the novel LaFevers presented women who found a way to control their own lives even if they had to manipulate their men to do so. The book never allowed the time period to justify mistreatment of women; it presented the way things were and often set the women themselves to find a way to flourish within the mores of the time. Third, what wasn’t there to love about nun assassins? Admittedly, the nuns of Saint Mortain aren’t exactly the type of sisters many of us would picture given their propensity to use seduction and womanly wiles to gain access to a target.  At the same time the adherence to old gods over new and the fragile movement toward modern Christianity rang very true to me.  The convent used the trappings of Catholicism to protect their allegiance to the old god of Death, which wouldn’t have been uncommon for the time period, while protecting discarded women and giving them freedom from men’s control, a time old tradition.  Lastly, the characters themselves made me dive into Grave Mercy every chance I got because their vibrancy and depth intrigued me.  Ismae and Duval were far from perfect, but their humanity made me root for them against the odds.  Ismae’s affection for her fellow initiates, Sybella and Annith, also charmed me, and each member of Anne’s court was presented as an individual, not just a caricature.

My only complaint with Grave Mercy is that it’s written in first person present tense, which can be a little hard to relax into.  It took me a few chapters to fully get into the story due to adjusting to the writing, but I felt rewarded when the plot finally sucked me in fully.

Overall, anyone who loves darker stories with a touch of romance and intrigue should check out Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy.  The history angle blended with a dynamic plot will keep you riveted to the last page.  As an added bonus the ending doesn’t try to tie everything up neatly because that just wouldn’t fit the characters; Duval’s final gesture towards Ismae shows that he has taken the time to understand her emotional needs and truly puts them above his own.

I just hope that the remaining two books in the series are just as good, and I hope to read them soon.

4.5 Uses of Arduinna’s Snare out of 5

Posted in reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Must-See Indie Comics TV: Fanboy Comics and More Head to CBS This Fall

Being an indie comic creator is a tough path; getting your product created and distributed to readers requires a lot of leg work, often crowdfunding campaigns, and TONS of self-promotion. When small press can get their creations into national media it’s a gift beyond belief, which is why Fanboy Comics is so excited about their upcoming feature in some CBS shows along with other smaller creators.

FBC managing editor Barbra J. Dillon (@barbrajdillon) produced the following press release:


LOS ANGELES, CA – October 20, 2014 – As new and returning television shows premiere their new seasons this Fall, Fanboy Comics is excited to announce that it will make its first appearance on the small screen in CBS’ The Millers and Hawaii Five-O, along with fellow indie creators The Yuan Twins (Arrested Development, Declan and Chang: Sweet F.A.) and Jared Sams (Spaceman Dead)!

Having first captured the attention of CBS through the epic comic book series, Penguins vs. Possums (by creative team Sebastian Kadlecik, John Bring, and Lindsay Calhoon Bring), Fanboy Comics was provided with the opportunity to highlight the series, as well as its other titles, through both The Millers and then later Hawaii Five-O. Bringing indie comic books to the mainstream, Fanboy Comics’ graphic novels, t-shirts, posters, Penguins vs. Possums figurines and prints, and more will decorate the set of The Millers: Episode 2, which will air on Monday, October 27, 2014, at 8:30 p.m./EST. In addition, comic book creators, retailers, and actors The Yuan Twins will co-star in the episode as a pair of nerdy twins attending a comic book convention. Adding more indie into the mix, the Yuans will be donning Spaceman Dead t-shirts, the comic book series created by LA-area writer/artist Jared Sams.

In addition, Fanboy Comics’ graphic novels and products will also be decorating the set for Hawaii Five-O: Episode 6, which will air on Friday, October 31, 2014, at 9 p.m./EST.

Be sure to mark your calendars, set your DVRs to record, and join us in tuning in to The Millers and Hawaii Five-O next week to see indie creators uniting on the small screen!

Fanboy Comics (FBC) is a comic book publisher and an online conglomerate of geek media, providing its readers with daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts that span the pop culture spectrum. FBC seeks to provide an outlet for up-and-coming artists and writers with a desire to create new works and media. By facilitating in-house collaborations and providing support and empowerment, FBC hopes to enable the production of professional and marketable creator-owned works. Fanboy Comics’ graphic novels, Something Animal, Identity Thief, The Arcs, and Penguins vs. Possums: Volume One, are available online at Fanboy Comics may also be found on Facebook and Twitter (@FanboyComix).

More information on The Yuan Twins may be found by visiting their comic book shop, Cool Cats Comics and Cards, on Facebook and Twitter (@coolcatscomics),
and Jared Sam’s Spaceman Dead, as well as his other comic books, may be found at

Posted in reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

First Race in a While

I slowed down (read as completely stopped) participating in races over the summer months because my body hates the heat and humidity of Austin summers. While I run with Patience or alone between around 5:30AM and 8AM most races don’t start until 8AM, which makes my innards want to shrivel up. However, because my dad is a prostate cancer survivor he convinced me to register in the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk this coming Saturday, October 18. Part of the deal was that he would do the one mile survivor walk, so we would be participating together. Ironically, Dad never got around to registering during the time he suggested I participate. I had to complete his registration three days ago when he couldn’t make the site work! At least Dad cared enough to ask for my help when the page wouldn’t load on his work computer…


I’m both excited and nervous about this weekend even though I know I can complete a 5K without too many difficulties. I wasn’t doing yoga when I did the races last spring, so I didn’t have the extra work on my muscles. It’s also been several months since I did a run later in the morning (for me 9 is kind of late!). On the plus side Austin has been having cooler, dryer mornings, so even with a 9AM start time the weather should be ideal for a nice run. I also know the course since the Stars and Stripes race in May was also at Camp Mabry, so I know how I should pace (there’s a hill right in the middle that you have to run up, turn around and go back down immediately).

My only real goal for this race is to stay under 30 minutes again (if I could do it in May I should be able to do it now). I’m not a serious enough runner to be concerned about placing in the top three; I just want to try to go for a personal best. Besides I get another nifty T-shirt as part of my registration fee!

Posted in exercise | Tagged , | Leave a comment

It’s Been One of Those Weeks…

I’m just not mentally up for a funny, insightful, or meaningful post of any kind this week. My “twins”:


Suzuka 2014

and Miki

Miki 2014

spent the day at the vet on Monday and Tuesday for pee samples/urinalysis (everything turned out fine, so no kidney problems at this point), but I was frazzled from coordinating the extra morning/evening stops plus I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday morning while Dad scheduled a signing for real estate stuff (property my parents have been trying to sell since 2008, so it’s a big deal) at the same time.

Yesterday I got hit with a double whammy of two accidents on my route home, which doesn’t have any good alternates through downtown, so I got home late, which meant unhappy beasties and crunched schedules. At least I had an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to watch and successfully made Beth’s incredible chocolate chip pumpkin bread recipe with soy free, dairy free chocolatey chips.

Allergies are also kicking my butt, and I wish sleeping and doing nothing were an option. Unfortunately, that’s not a viable choice, so I just need to make it to the weekend even though I’ve got plenty of commitments there as well!

Posted in update | 2 Comments

Why ‘Free’ Should Have Just Been Yaoi or It Would Have Been More Honest to Just Make It Porn

Before getting into the meat of my post I should share that I was a competitive swimmer for ten years, five of which involved participation at the USS (United States Swimming aka Olympic prelim) level. I’m used to seeing teenage boys traipse about in swim trunks or less in the name of sport, and I once had a ‘paper suit’ (special competition material that was super tight) that was so sheer when dry you could see my underage cleavage (yes, there will be loads of search engines hits from that phrase…). I don’t fundamentally have a problem with how bodies are displayed by swimmers. HOWEVER…

Free Logo

Free is a relatively new anime based off a series of light novels inexplicably called High Speed (makes me think it’s about NASCAR or Formula 1 personally) about a group of high school boys who form a swim club to re-experience the bond of competing together. It’s also quite possibly one of the most unintentionally, hilariously homoerotic shows I’ve ever watched with way more butt and crotch shots than you’d expect from a show about solely male swimmers and open muscle fetishization (okay, it’s through the eyes of a female character, but it’s still, well…awkward). I’m not the first person to recognize the potential of the show (check out Octopimp’s incredible parody 50% Off at his YouTube channel; for the record I totally want a “Thug Seme” shirt even if it’s inappropriate for me to wear!), but I may be one of the few who finds it vaguely uncomfortable to watch even as I laugh hysterically. I feel wrong objectifying animated teenage boys even if they do wear next to nothing, gyrate erotically in the first ending theme, and practically dress like stripper characters in the ending theme for Eternal Summer (seriously, Rin is doing suggestive pelvic thrusts while wearing a police officer uniform), especially because the show isn’t supposed to be about sex! I also don’t think that the characters were necessarily created for my gaze, although who can tell since the main cast comes across like a character list from a yaoi game!

I have no problem with guy-guy relationships or yaoi (guy-guy stories that are actually written for women). My first introduction to the games was an older Spray game called Gakuen Heaven

Gakuen Heaven Logo

which became an obsession despite it having no voice actors, so I had to read the entire thing (thank goodness for auto-skip of previously read portions on play through). While it had explicit content, and the characters were way too old looking HS boys (okay, Kazuki isn’t actually in HS, but it’s better to ignore that fact to get around the creepiness of his lifelong devotion to Keita, the player character who is only sixteen). On my first play though I was shocked when I got the poor innocent player character violated with a pen in the PE equipment shed when I ditched the student council president I’d been courting for his VP because I thought the pres was too stupid to compete with in the strange campus MVP tournament (I never said the plot made much sense; it’s mainly a vehicle for hooking up with one of the other hot students). After my first shocking misstep I learned how to maneuver the world of Japanese dating sims, found a distinct taste for ‘megane chara’ (glasses characters), and dove headfirst into the world of Japanese adult video games for women.

As a result I can see how Haru (cool, quiet type who probably has a hidden secret; sadly everyone knows that Haru can be bribed to do almost anything if he’s promised swimming), Makoto (boy next door type who is just generally nice and reliable), Nagisa (shouta (underage boy) type complete with more subversive personality than you’d expect from his demeanor), Rin (rival/bad boy type who really just needs the right person to unlock his softer side), and Rei (the megane chara who is super smart and super focused; probably a closet sadist) all fit neatly into the character boxes for these games, but Free is touted as a sports anime. Admittedly, the swimming sequences are excellent, and the climax of season 1 is more realistic than I would have gambled on for anime. However, I struggle with feeling like a dirty old lady leering at underage boys as the show repeatedly turns their athletic prowess into something that objectifies them as mere pieces of meat.

I have no idea who the audience was for the light novels, but the anime series toes the line between serious sports show and porn so closely that I actually wish it just had gone all the way. At least then I could feel a little less creepy about all the animated man flesh and excessive male bonding flashing across my screen. Straight up yaoi would have clarified the matter; the pretty little boys are meant to be ogled by women as they happily explore true love/hawt sexy times with one another.

Posted in humor, opinion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Fanboy Comics to Publish ‘Penguins vs. Possums #5’!!!


This official press release came out yesterday: September 22, 2014, on the Fanboy Comics website.

LOS ANGELES, CA – September 22, 2014 – Fanboy Comics (FBC) is PvPositvely overjoyed to announce that it will publish the fifth issue of the creator-owned series Penguins vs. Possums on October 29, 2014. Following the release of the Penguins vs. Possums: Volume One trade paperback, Issue #5 will continue to unveil the secret war between the two species, which has begun to spill to the surface.

Created by Sebastian Kadlecik, John Bring, and Lindsay Calhoon Bring, Issue #5 will have a heavier focus on its human characters, as they begin to uncover clues to the penguin and possum war. Will they put the pieces together, and will they be forced to CHOOSE A SIDE?

The comic book will also feature pinup work by artists David Scott Smith (Space Base 8), Jared Sams (Spaceman Dead), Joshua Hauke (Tales of the Brothers Three), and Kyle Cummings (See Kyle Draw).

Penguins vs. Possums #5 will be available for purchase on the Fanboy Comics website starting on Wednesday, October 29, 2014. In addition, attendees of Comikaze Expo (October 31 – November 2, 2014) in Los Angeles, CA, will have an opportunity to buy copies of the comic at the Fanboy Comics booth. In advance of the release, a free digital preview of Issue #5 is currently available on the graphic novel’s website,

Founded in early 2010 by self-professed “geeks” Bryant and Barbra Dillon and Sam Rhodes, Fanboy Comics seeks to provide an outlet for up-and-coming artists and writers with a desire to create new works and media. By facilitating in-house collaborations and providing support and empowerment, FBC hopes to enable the production of professional and marketable creator-owned works.

Fanboy Comics’ previous graphic novels, Something Animal, Identity Thief, The Arcs, and Penguins vs. Possums: Volume One, are available online at

For more information on Penguins vs. Possums #5, please visit Penguins vs. Possums may also be found on Facebook and Twitter, @pvpcomic.

Posted in indie, update | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Oldy But Goody: My 2009 Spider-Woman Impression

Many of you will recognize this post from the Zootoo contest, but there are a few lucky individuals who were not privy to my grand fence climbing adventure.  I thought it would be worthwhile to share it again to prove that last week’s back injury was hardly the stupidest thing I have ever done. At least yard work is something necessary when you live in a house!

“Long story short…I locked myself out of the house while walking the dogs this morning and had to climb the fence to get inside to grab the key (I leave the backdoor unlocked in case of such an emergency, but the back gate is locked to prevent idjits from accidentally letting the dogs out).

The details…Perdita, my dobie x, is very aggressive towards children plus she’s already broken two hands-free leashes (I use them for running/jogging with her), so I rigged up a mountain climbing harness with two leashes. Being a moron, it never occurred to me that I should remove said jerry-rigged device when climbing the fence after I tethered Miki and Perdy.  The chain leash got stuck on the fence along with a portion of my sweatpants, and I somehow ended up hanging upside down in a bad Spiderman impression on the backside of my fence (thank goodness it was dark!). I somehow managed to pull myself up on the fence to unhook both the leash and the pants, but I did bad things to my butt muscles on my right side. However, yes, mountain climbing harnesses really can support your weight! I’m not huge, but I’m hardly a tiny girl! I didn’t realize until much later that I also ripped a hole in my sweat pants. Crud.”

Years later I have ripped dog walking clothes in far less exciting ways such as tripping and falling or flat out wearing out the fabric.  However, just imagine someone hanging backwards over a fence with their foot hooked onto the top by a chain leash and chunk of sweats while one largish dog and one medium dog stare up in anticipation.  I’m sure I was quite the sight!

The participants:

Perdy Miki and Jewelery April 9 001Me After Cap10K finish






Posted in Animals, exercise, humor | Tagged , | Leave a comment