Sunday, November 29, 2009

Divorced, Desperate, and Deceived, by Christie Craig - Review

Death is easy, comedy is hard
So they say. I think "rom-com" -- romantic comedy-- can be especially hard to pull off; humor is really subjective and what you might find hilarious, I might... well... not. For instance, I totally can't stand Rachel Gibson, but I know she's a huge favorite. What can I say, her humor doesn't make me laugh.

This book had a couple of strikes against it for me. It's third in a series and I haven't read the first two. Overall, this didn't matter too much except for one fairly WTF moment regarding one of the former couples (she's pregnant):
... he tapped her cheek with a fingertip. "Don't start worrying, Lacy. You've got my kid to think about. I'll do all the worrying, okay?*"
I mean, really?? "Don't worry your pretty little head about it!??" Although I threw up a little in my mouth right there, I managed to get past it because they weren't the main couple here and I could ignore them pretty easily.

The other thing, honestly? is the title. I don't mind divorced or deceived, but come on, there's nothing sexy about desperation. Really.

Fortunately, the two main characters really sparkled and they had great chemistry. I believed the romance, and that's the most important thing.

The story had great pacing and Craig powers you through a classic car-chase/road-romance set up. Now, the seriousness of the crime plot seemed really at odds with the "romp" style and it pretty much kept me from buying into the darker aspect of the plot at all. And I had some issues with the way a particular secondary character was written (ie, the fact that his internal dialog made him sound mentally challenged) but I ended up liking the role he played in the plot quite a lot.

Overall, I think this author has a certain style that appeals to a lot of people but just isn't for me. I'm confident that there's an audience for her work though, because I think she really nailed the main characters, and the spark between them.

_____________
*Note: the quote is pulled from an uncorrected proof - there may be slight differences to the final published copy.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided to me by Dorchester Publishing.

In stores now (pub date 11/24/09.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Short Story Saturday: The Meme

What Is It?

Short Story Saturday is a chance to review novellas or short stories and share them with other folks who like short fiction. We're kicking off December 5, 2009.

Do I have to review a whole anthology?

No. The whole idea came from a discussion about how hard it is to review big anthologies with lots of entries. You CAN review a whole anthology and you can still link to the meme, but you don't have to.

What if I want to just talk about anthologies or the short story format and not do an actual review?

That's cool too. We're easy.

How do I join?

Sign up on the Mr. Linky and add "Short Story Saturday" to your tags (this gets you into the Technorati search). It would also be nice if you include a link back to the hosting post in your post.

Alpha Heroes is a romance blog, but I'm too cool for romance. Does that mean I can't participate?

First of all, I think you mean: you're not cool enough for romance, but that's just me. Short Story Saturday is genre-agnostic. Any work of short fiction is good. For now we're excluding poetry and non-fiction.

What's the deal with you and Literary Escapism?

We're swapping months. We figure it's a good idea to have backup. I've got even months, and she's got odds *resists obvious joke*.

Where did those awesome badges come from and where can I get one?

Jackie did them and they are indeed awesome. Feel free to lift them from right here, and use in your sidebar and/or your SSS posts.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Little Behind

Used to be, I'd almost always be waiting around for the best new releases from my tried and true authors. I had my autobuys: La Nora, Kleypas, Krentz, Balogh, Christina Dodd, Stephanie Laurens. Another half a dozen "B" stringers that I'd *usually* buy but didn't track as close.

Since starting this blog and falling in with this disreputable crew of book pimps, it's like I turned on a firehose. I can't keep up. My list of favorite authors is at least fifty long and just when I think I'm caught up, I realize I've forgotten about 3 or 4 of my regulars. I mean, it was close to two weeks after Covet's release that I posted the review. A good three weeks for Demon Forged (I'm so ashamed...). And I let almost a week go by before I even acquired Blaze of Memory. WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME???

I have stuck my toe into a whole bunch of series and completely lost track of what I have and what I don't have. I've acquired bits and pieces of series by Alexis Morgan, Ilona Andrews, Kelley Armstrong, Vicky Petterson, Karen Marie Moning and others.... and all of them are in Nicola-Reading-Limbo because I am missing parts of the series.

This is really more for me than for you, dear reader, so that I can fire up the iPhone and have a place to go while I'm staring at the shelves at the bookstore, wondering which ones I need and which ones I have. And it doesn't even touch any of my favorite historical and contemp authors! That will have to be a post for another day.

OK, so here's my got-it/need-it list:

**Update 11/29/09: Wow, this really worked. I hit my favorite used bookstores yesterday and plugged up a lot of these gaps, without any accidental duplications. What are the odds that the 3 Alexis Morgan books I saw were the exact 3 that I already own?**

Karen Marie Moning, Highlander series:
1. Beyond the Highland Mist (got it)
2. To Tame a Highlander (got it)
3. Highlander's Touch (got it)
4. Kiss of a Highlander (got it)
5. The Dark Highlander (got it)
6. The Immortal Highlander (got it)
7. Spell of the Highlander (got it)
8. Into the Dreaming (novella in Tapestry) (need it)

Kelley Armstrong, Otherworld (novels only)
Bitten (got it - reviewed it)
Stolen (got it!)
Dime Store Magic (got it)
;">Industrial Magic (got it)
Haunted(need it)
Broken (need it)
No Humans Involved (need it)
Personal Demon (got it)
Living with the Dead (need it)
Frostbitten (need it)

Angela Knight Mageverse (novels only)
1. Master of the Night(got it)
2. Master of the Moon (Got it! it's a little tattered, but who cares?)
3. Master of Wolves (got it)
4. Master of Swords (got it)
5. Master of Dragons(got it)
6. Master of Fire (coming in 2010)(need it)

Alexis Morgan- Paladins
1. Dark Protector (need it)
2. Dark Defender (need it)
3. In Darkness Reborn (need it)
4. Redeemed in Darkness (got it)
5. Darkness Unknown (got it)
6. Defeat the Darkness (March 2010)(need it)

Alexis Morgan - Talions
1. Dark Warrior Unleashed (got it)
2. Dark Warrior Unbroken
3. Dark Warrior Untamed (August 2010) (need it)

Anya Bast - Elemental Witches
1. Witch Fire (got it)
2. Witch Blood (need it)
3. Witch Heart (need it)
4. Witch Fury (need it)

Keri Arthur - Riley Jenson
1. Full Moon Rising (got it)
2. Kissing Sin (got it!)
3. Tempting Evil (got it)
4. Dangerous Games (got it)
5. Embraced Darkness(got it)
6. The Darkest Kiss (need it)
7. Deadly Desire (need it)
8. Bound to Shadows (got it)
9. Moon Sworn (need it)

Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels
1. Magic Bites (got it)
2. Magic Burns (need it)
3. Magic Strikes (need it)
4. Magic Mourns (novella in Must Love Hellhounds Anthology)
5. Magic Bleeds. (June 2010) (need it)

Vicki Pettersson - Signs of the Zodiac
1. The Scent of Shadows (got it)
2. The Taste of Night (got it!)
3. The Touch of Twilight (need it)
4. The City of Souls (need it)
5. Cheat the Grave (summer 2010) (need it)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 16 AND a New Meme

It's getting to be that time of year again where the line-up of anthologies starts looking irresistible. What could be more festive than little tidbits from favorite authors, cozy warm/fuzzy holiday themes, and covers like this one:

Hmmm, that'll melt your icicles, eh?

Those of you who've been reading along here for awhile might remember my month-long event last year called Antholopalooza -- wherein I read and reviewed a whole bunch of anthologies and shorts; hosted a couple of guest posts; did a few thinky pieces about anthologies and included a number of T-13s along the way.

Ultimately, I couldn't bring myself to love the format enough to repeat the experience, but I do still pick one up here and there. Frankly, I think the anthology is a dish best nibbled upon, rather than binged. Then, a recent conversation (see comments) with Jackie over at Literary Escapism got some creative ideas flowing. So here's the deal: Starting in December, Jackie and I will be co-hosting a Mr. Linky meme for short-story-related posts, which we are dubbing Short Story Saturdays.

You can review a single short piece, a whole anthology, or post about your love or hate for the format. You'll find mostly romance from me, mostly UF from Jackie, but YOU can choose a short from whatever genre you please. Whatever tickles your fancy-- if you're the type who picks up an anthology and cherry-picks only your favorite authors to read, this is perfect for you. Just review the one story you liked the best (or worst!) and don't feel obligated to finish the whole thing-- I mean, how exactly would you go about reviewing one of those Mammoth books anyway? Makes my eye start twitching a little just thinking about writing -- or reading! a review that long.

Because I am lazy and can't be trusted to maintain any given event EVERY! SINGLE! WEEK! and also because I am totally noble and wish to share the work glory with Jackie and ALSO because it was an idea jointly inspired, Jackie and I will be sharing this dealio. We're officially kicking off December 5th, here at Alpha Heroes. In January, Literary Escapism will take over, and we'll be alternating months from there out. Watch for the cute badge that Jackie whipped up, in your choice of purple or green, and feel free to lift it for your post.

Jackie gives you her introduction to the whole thing here: Short Story Saturdays at Literary Escapism.

Now, it *IS* Thursday (in most places, anyway) and this seems like a pretty good spot to put up a list of this year's most tempting anthologies, just in case you need some enabling inspiration. Note that these lean heavily to romance, but there's a nice sprinkling of UF in there too if that's more your ticket.


Thirteen Tempting 2009 Anthologies

1. That Holiday Feeling – (contemporary) Debbie Macomber, Sherryl Woods, Robyn Carr
2. The Heart of Christmas – (historical) Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, Courtney Milan
3. Holiday with a Vampire III – (paranormal) Linda Winstead Jones, Lisa Childes, Bonnie Vanak
4. An Enchanted Season – (paranormal) Nalini Singh, Maggie Shayne, Erin McCarthy, Jean Johnson
5. Kissing Santa Claus – (contemporary) Donna Kaufman, Jill Shalvis, HelenKay Dimon
6. Hot for the Holidays -- (paranormal) Lora Leigh, Angela Knight, Anya Bast, Allyson James
7. Never After – (paranormal) Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Marjorie M. Liu, Sharon Shinn
8. Must Love Hellhounds – (paranormal) Ilona Andrews, Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook
9. Huntress – (paranormal) Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge, Jenna Maclaine
10. Unbound – (paranormal) Kim Harrison, Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, Vicki Pettersson
11. Strange Brew – (paranormal) Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, PN Elrod, Charlaine Harris, Faith Hunter, Caitlin Kittredge, Jenna Maclaine
12. Deep Kiss of Winter – (paranormal) Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter
13. Four Dukes and a Devil – (historical, paranormal) Cathy Maxwell, Elaine Fox, Jeaniene Frost, Sophia Nash, Tracy Anne Warren (Jackie’s review and the start of it all!)


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Wildest Heart, by Rosemary Rogers - Review

It's Official, I'm In Love
You may recall a bit of a rave I posted last fall for Rosemary Rogers' Sapphire. As far as I can tell, Sapphire is a new release with a 2005 (well, relatively new) copyright, whereas The Wildest Heart is a re-release, originally published in 1974. So I wasn't sure if that would make a difference.

All I can say is, Rogers has still *got it*, baby. This is a fabulous book and deserves your attention if you're a romance lover. If this is Old Skool, then I think the entire cadre of current historical romance authors should take a refresher course. Not that there isn't wonderful stuff coming out every month, but there is really a huge difference in scope and scale, and I want more of this kind of EPIC DRAMA. (I feel a glom coming on...)

Hey, Gabaldon Lovers
At well over 700 pages, if you are an aficionado of the Very Long Book, and the intricate plotting that goes along with it, I think there's a very good chance you'll like this one too. Jamie and Lucas would get along really well, I suspect; if nothing else they could have a good commiseration over wimmin-folk who don't stay in their places.

Skooled
It's true that I'll forgive a bland or linear plot if the characters are great, if the chemistry is there, and if the romance satisfies. But if I can get it ALL between the same set of covers? HELLZYES, that's even better. The plot of The Wildest Heart is what the modern Big Mis wants to be when it grows up. The conflict between the characters is tied to a campaign of misinformation, disinformation, and scandalous secrets that begins before Rowena gets within a thousand miles of Lucas. If she'd ignored the evidence against him, we'd all scoff and call her TSTL.

The book is structured in a "coming of age" format, and starts out with a few scenes from Rowena's late adolescence in India, where she lived with her grandfather, and then moves into a relatively short section in Europe with her mother and stepfather. At one point, I thought maybe that bit should have been dropped... but I'm glad it wasn't. Events in this extended prologue inform Rowena's adult character and give you such an insight to her feelings on certain exchanges that the author doesn't even have to write it in -- you will cringe on Rowena's behalf, just knowing. It's genius, really, and it's something that might not be possible in a book of 350 pages vs. 700.

The plot twists and turns throughout the story as bits of conflicting information emerge, and right along with Rowena, you wonder whose information you can trust. The final twists were jaw-dropping surprises, at least to me, but written with such skill that there's no hint of contrivance or manipulation. The brilliance of this book is that the plot is so complex and yet it's entirely character-driven. The passions and hatreds of two or three generations provide the gearworks that power you through the story.

The Characters
The story is written from Rowena's first person narrative-- which frankly I wasn't thrilled with at first, but soon forgot my objections. Despite her desire to take charge of her life, circumstances and other people continue to buffet her in crazily extreme directions, but she never seems passive. With all this going on, I think the first person is a good way to keep the reader in a place to understand why she does the things she does. Rowena has no allies through a large part of the story, so much of her processing of events is internal.

One downside to this though is that Lucas remains an enigma to the reader as much as Rowena throughout most of the story. He's a bit of a background on which events are acted out, and he's off-stage for a fairly big chunk of the pagecount. Lucas might be the first of the angsty damaged heroes. He's a classic Western hero; taking the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune without flinching or explaining. And yet somehow as readers we see a little of his vulnerability, of his pain and that brings him closer to us.

Things You Don't See Every Day
Like Scarlett O'Hara, Rowena marries the wrong guy in the course of this story. She's not a virgin when she finally comes to the hero. There is rape, but it's not perpetrated by the hero. And Lucas is no white knight. He's engaged in a scandalous affair throughout the book and makes no promises to throw over this influential woman to be exclusive with Ro.

The love-making that seemed so daring in 1974 is far more soft-lensed and less graphic than any given best-seller today, but it's still hot and passionate and evocative:
Naked again, I went to him, and equally naked, he received me. We made love slowly and unhurriedly and inevitably. With Lucas, there was no holding back, no sense of violation. I wanted him, and he wanted me, and for the first time in my life, I learned how it felt to be taken out of myself with longing, and to have the longing fulfilled.
Bottom Line
The Wildest Heart is a long, slow, complex read. It's perfect for sinking into on a cold snowy night or taking with you on vacation. I strongly recommend and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Around the Blogosphere
Romance Rookie
The Burton Review
Books Like Breathing
Revenge of the Book Nerds (heh. love the blog name)
Rundpinne

____________________
Disclosure: Review copy provided by Sourcebooks.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Giveaway Cutoff Approaching

Just a reminder - if you'd like to be entered for care packages of historical, paranormal, or contemporary romance, hop down a couple of posts and leave a comment on my Bloggiversary post before midnight tonight!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Scattered Thoughts

I mentioned earlier that I've had the cold from hell. Seriously, I feel like I've been sick for months, and not just a little sniffly. It's been distracting and tiring and unfortunately the blog is behind kids and job in priorities, and there hasn't been much left over. Fortunately, I'm finally starting to cautiously think that maybe I'm almost better. Almost. I mean, I am much better, but not quite all the way better. You know?

As I look over my last few posts, I keep thinking of things I meant to talk about but forgot while I was actually writing. Rather than go back and do a lot of editing, I thought I'd do a little round up.

Giveaway Deadline
First order of business is my giveaway. I uh, forgot to put a deadline on it. How about, midnight Friday (the Thirteenth!) and I'll announce winners over the weekend. Sound good? OK.

Linkages
I really wanted to get some posts up but I was lazy about linking in the last several posts (as they say in the scrapbooking world, "Done is better than perfect" -- and I got them done!). I've got nothing to Amazon, nothing to the author sites, nuthin' to nowhere. I'll go ahead and add in links to reviews around the blogworld, and as always, if you have also reviewed the book, please feel free to leave your perma-link in comments.

More Thoughts on Demon Forged

Next up, I wanted to go back to the Demon Forged review for a minute. I meant to point out a couple things about Irena's names. So first of all: Irena... Iron... get it? I got it. <grin> . And while I was reading about her talent for metalworking, my mind did wander over for a moment to the Dirk & Steele story about another heroine with a psychic metalworking ability -- Dela Reese, from Tiger Eye. Short snip, pulled from Marjorie Liu's webpage :
Those weapons offered her nothing. She knew quality when she saw it, age and history when she felt it. A simple thing, when one worked with steel as much as she did. When it sang its secrets inside her head.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with Ms. Brook one evening recently, and one of the things we talked about was Liu's writing and worldbuilding, so I know she's a fan. And you know how sometimes rockstars give each other little nods in their songwriting? Like how the line in Hotel California that goes "they stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast" is supposed to be a tribute to Steely Dan? Anyhow, it made me wonder if Irena's fake FBI identity -- Irena Steele -- was a little shout-out to Marjorie Liu. It made me smile, anyway, to think it might be.

More Thoughts on Just One of the Guys
You may have noticed that that particular review is a bit of a stylistic departure for me. I asked a couple of friends to look it over for me and tell me if my faux grouchiness was obviously faux or if it just seemed kind of asshole-ish, cuz I can be a little insecure about my attempts at humor (it cracked ME up, but, you know. I can hear my tone in my head, and it's not always a sure thing that you all can, too). Anyhow, I was reassured on that front, but one of them mentioned, um, Nicola? What the hell is the story about?

As a rule I don't spend a lot of space on synopses, but hell, I didn't even put any links in that one. So here ya go. Jeez--I didn't even get the title quite right. In case you were undecided by my review and would like to know more about the book in my own personal words, this is what I told her:
The protagonist is a woman with 3 older brothers, plus a foster brother. Her dad and all the boys are firefighters. She also rows, faints at the sight of blood, has a huge lazy part bloodhound mutt (I don't know whytf there's a beagle on the cover) and works at their local hometown newspaper.

She's had a longtime crush on the foster brother but neither of them think they should act on it.

The secondary romance is about her mom finding someone other than her dad, who is a workaholic and refuses to retire.
I also meant to say but forgot, that the third wheel in the secondary romance? Bowed out with such grace and fineness of character... well. Again with the tissues.

Bringing It Around
Sunday I was at our local grocery store and wanted a magazine to flip through while sipping at my pre-shopping, fortifying latte. And they were having a 3-for-2 sale on paperbacks. AND they had Tessa Dare, whose first book I finally picked up (and loved) so OF COURSE I need the other two. I noticed that a couple of the Guardian books were on the shelf and I was glad to see they were getting shelf space even though I was already caught up. And then I saw Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh and thought the same thing. It took me two more circuits of the paperback section before it dawned on me that THIS IS THE NEW ONE AND I DON'T HAVE IT YET!! D'oh! Scattered thoughts, people, I'm telling you. Anyway, I started it today and hey! I haven't quite figured out what's going on yet, but there's another psychic metalworking thing going on:
Gritting his teeth, he sought out all the metal in the house. The cool kiss of iron and steel brushed his mind, invaded his limbs. It wouldn't last long, not with Katya's slight form resting trustingly against him--but he'd use the calm while he had it...

I don't know what this means! But I'm intrigued. I'm amusing myself with imagining a reality show where these three characters would get together and have some kind of sculpt-off, or forge-off, or something-- like, one big lump of metal and they have a psychic battle to shape it their way. (Welcome to my brain: it's mostly harmless but mind the gaps). And I'm also wondering if any psychic metalworker could ever possibly top Meljean's scene with Irena's statue. O__O

That's It For Now
There's a strong likelihood that shortly after I post this, I'll think of two or three other Very Important Things I meant to share with the internet. For that moment though, I think that's everything. Thanks for bearing with me!

_________________
photo credit goes to Mary Elizabeth Williams. Isn't she awesome?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Bloggiversary To Me....

Alpha Heroes is Two!
Whoa. That was fast.

236 posts, 63 individual book reviews, 9 series reviews, 9 author profiles, 15 "Thursday Thirteens," three templates, several hundred books, and lots of new virtual friends later, I'm still here.

I've always loved reading, but writing this blog has pushed that love up the scale closer to the "obsession" level. Since starting Alpha Heroes, I've attended a dozen local book signings, two RWA book fairs, and a handful of related author events. I'm thinking seriously about attending one of the conferences, although 2011 is more likely than 2010 financially.

Technically speaking...
When I look back at my first couple of posts, I see: one solid block of text. I knew how to link, so I thought it was pretty clever, that business of linking to images with text. Heh. I'm still not the most talented at finding perfect graphics for my posts, but I try pretty hard to have at least one in every post, and because I'm kind of a hopeless rule follower, I also try to get permission if it seems like an image that isn't obviously public.

I'm nobody's expert at css, but boy have I learned a lot in the last two years. I tend to be a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to formatting, so this last round of template changing and tweaking got really in depth.

Community
Didn't take long before I figured out about linking to other blogs and commenting on them. I don't know about other bloggers, but I crave the comments. I love knowing that people are reading, that they like what I wrote or are engaged enough to debate something they disagree with. You all are awesome and the main reason I'm still here.

I Write a Little Differently
Self-editing is a tough one. There are some topics that I could go on and on and on about (maybe you've noticed the twenty-some -odd JR Ward posts....) but I do make a conscious effort to keep my blog posts kind of middlin'. I'm pretty much incapable of writing a 200-word post. If you see something from me that doesn't require you to scroll, it's probably one of my Lazy Posts, wherein I'm redirecting you to something fun.

There are more than a few posts that are very very long, and some of those I had to kind of stop myself and say, "enough already!" -- I could've gone on for pages and pages with our two Black Dagger Brotherhood scholars earlier this year.

Generally, my posts probably run a bit longer than a typical blog post, but it's how I roll. I'm getting a little better at being concise, but I'm not too worried about it-- I just try to pay attention and not go off the deep end.

I Read a Little Differently, Too
But not too much, I think. I might be a bit more likely to notice writing "tics", as O'Donovan calls them. I don't know. But when I know I'll be writing a review, I do try to pay attention and flag excerpts that I want to talk about -- things I particularly love, or are especially evocative of the character or the author's style.

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm still partial to my vampire credibility index post-- what can I say, sometimes I just crack myself up. Antholopalooza last December was an interesting experiment, both in reading and blogging. I started something about a year ago that I like to call the Lazy Post, which is mostly just a link to someone else's fabulous content (if I were less lazy, I might try to turn it into a meme, but, well. Lazy. It's a problem.) This year, the two-post series with Maria Lindgren Leavenworth and Jessica Price was a huge highlight. And of course, who could forget the Penis Post?

What's Next?
Mostly more of the same, I guess. I'm still having fun reviewing and blogging, and I don't think I'll ever quit reading romance. A few new ideas include a short-story meme that Jackie over at Literary Escapism and I are cooking up, and I've been mulling over adding some author feature pages around my favorites. I've been getting quite a few pings at GoodReads lately, so I've been thinking about doing brief reviews there and linking to the blog. Maybe at Amazon, too. Do you guys do stuff like that?

PRESENTS!!
Wouldn't be a birthday without them, now would it? You of course, are welcome to send me heaps of presents if you're so inclined, but of course I would NEVER presume to ask.

Coincidentally enough, I've been going over my non-keeper shelf today and I have a whole LOT of books that are ready to go to their next reader. So I'm going to bundle some up and give them away. I figure I'll do three packages: historical, contemporary, and paranormal/UF.

I do not guarantee condition, as quite a few of them were acquired used anyway. I'm gonna keep it simple -- leave a comment if you want to be entered and which of the 3 you're interested in. You don't have to comment 3 times to be in for all 3 packages, but you won't win more than one.

And one more time, if you're reading here? you're part of why I keep doing this. So thanks!

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