Tag Archives: urban fantasy

New GT domain! GraveTells on WordPress retired…

Check out the brand new GraveTells.com domain!

This week marks the official launch of our new expanded blog site, with lots of great goodies still to come.  Now that we’re all fancy schmancy, we will no longer be posting any updates to the old wordpress domain site (yes, this one).  Gravetells.wordpress.com is officially retired.  Go ahead and finish this article then head over to the new site, because all the fun is now over THERE, on gravetells.com!

We have a lot of exciting things planned for this inaugural celebration month, so if you aren’t yet a subscriber (or if you are a current subscriber to this wordpress.com domain), go here to get all our updates in your email or RSS reader.  And don’t forget FaceBook and Twitter!  As for the blog, not only do we have two fantastic new Contributors, we have over a dozen book reviews for you, many of them ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), so you can get the scoop before the book even hits the stands.  Still craving more?  We’ve also got author interviews, Q&As, guest blogger appearances, and exciting new contests in the works.

That said, GT is still being polished, so some of the review pages may not look as pretty as they did on the old site.  Don’t worry – we’re working as fast as we can to get everything cleaned up to fit the new theme.  We’re also posting all our reviews on the major bookseller and review sites, so all this is going to take a few months, but shouldn’t detract from the overall experience.  Just so you know what’s going in in case you see anything funky.  =)  Feel free to contact me if you come across any links that no longer work or that lead back to the old site instead of this one.

Take a look around the new site and let us know what you think!  ❤

Don’t forget to remove this old site from your RSS and Email subscriptions, and add in the new GraveTells.com feed!  GO HERE to subscribe to the new site, if you haven’t already.


Caught in the Smex Beam

I think it is fair to say that in PNR/UF novels, there are a few things that are expected and accepted:

  1. The hero will be gorgeous and well hung.
  2. The heroine will be attractive, smart, perhaps funny, but most of all likeable and relatable to the reader.
  3. The story will have elements that drag us in, besides the two pretty people it centers on, and transport us to another reality.
  4. The hero and heroine will be irrevocably caught in the Smex Beam.

“What exactly is a Smex Beam, Captain?” you ask.  Ha ha, fear not reader.  Your Captain is here to offer guidance and instruction.

The Smex Beam is the magic that exists the first time our fated lovers meet and never lets go.  They may be engaged in a fight to the death (perhaps with each other), they may be walking down the street contemplating quantum physics, they could even be falling out of a dressing room while trying on too tight jeans.  The point, young paduan, is that when it hits, the Smex Beam obliterates everything else.

Suddenly, there is no one else on the planet that holds any interest for our couple. No matter how much they may fight it, no matter the obstacles, which can include and are not limited to: zombies, vampires, werewolves, assorted fey creatures, car accidents, gun battles, psychic attack, old lovers, fear of commitment, fear of her mother, fear of his mother, paralysis, demons, magic spells gone wrong, angry gods/goddesses, being sucked into another dimension, differences in species, ancient prophecies…….

It. just.doesn’t. matter.  The Smex Beam conquers all.

When you are in its sights, there is no escape. Cupid wishes his arrows worked this well.   Star Trek’s tractor beam? Heh! Old news, old tech.  Captain Kirk wishes he could have had this on the Enterprise. (As if the guy wasn’t already busy enough with all those hot alien chicks.  Just sayin’.)

We readers love it. Every tension-filled scintillating moment, every hungry look and heat-filled glance at our hero’s amazing pack – ahem- pecs,  every time one or the other tries to escape its clutches, we come screaming back for more.  It helps drive the story and plot arc, keeps us turning pages at a break neck pace, reading until our eyes burn and our chin is resting on our chests.  We have to know, will they make it out together?  Will our couple realize their amazing gift of love and unending lust as bestowed by the Smex Beam?

But of course!  This is romance, silly!  The Smex Beam doesn’t make mistakes, and while occasionally we may think someone has managed to slip its sticky tentacles and go running down the side of a ravine, they are always dragged back, lamenting their own stupidity.

What, you want evidence?  Examples, you say, of these lusty lovers caught in the inescapable clutches of true love and exceedingly good sex?  No problem, here’s a little list of my favorites:

1) Edward and Bella, the Twilight Saga.   Sure, he’s a hundred something year old vampire who reads minds, eats mountain lions, and is condemned to high school hell for eternity.  She’s the clumsy, too perfect daughter of the town sheriff with blood that smells so delectable Edward can’t stop obsessing over how he’s NOT going to eat her.  He runs off to Italy to try to save her soul, she jumps off a cliff and hangs with his sworn enemies, a bunch of stinky dog smelling  shape shifters.  His skin may be freezing cold, but that doesn’t stop them from gettin’ down and dirty in the ocean off a little island named after Edward’s pseudo-mom.  With marriage comes a baby who doesn’t need a carriage but an iron crib and a newly transformed wife who won’t ever die and doesn’t need sleep.  What do they do with all that free time at night?  Hmm, let me think…..

2) Cat and Bones, the Night Huntress Series.  Cat’s an uber hot red head born to a mom convinced her half breed daughter is mostly evil.  Bones is a two hundred plus year old vamp that spent his human years earning his keep on top of, under, next to, well, just inside a bunch of aristocratic British bitches before he got shipped to a penal colony for putting his hands where they didn’t belong.  Add some silver knives, sexual tension you can’t cut with a Sawz-All, a smokin’ hot hero who is incredibly open with his feelings, a sexually repressed heroine you just love to root for, witty banter and action sequences so slick and tight your heart beats almost as hard as during the sex scenes, and it just can’t be denied that these two are definitely in the direct path of the S.B.

3) Clay and Elena, Women of the Otherworld.  Clay is the Enforcer of the North American Pack, Elena is his lady love, mate and wife.  These two had such a strange and rocky start to their story with Elena taking off and Clayton quietly stalking her from afar (the issues are heavy and myriad, both had difficult childhoods – actually that may underplay it, but you’ll have to read the books if you want to know) that the angst was almost unbearable.  Clay is no angel, and a reader can’t help but understand his lady love’s anger and bad attitude, but his single minded determination and focus are in the end some of his best qualities. Well, that and his unswerving devotion to tough as nails Elena.  Clay is so physically attractive as to be almost unbelievable, but he has eyes only for Elena, no slouch in the looks department herself.  Last I checked in with these two, they were living the PNR/UF dream with minimal death threats, a healthy pack and great sex life.

4) Mercy Thompson and Adam Hauptman, Mercy Thompson Series.  This series is more urban fantasy that paranormal romance, but I beg you to give it a look-see.  There is sex, yes, but it is not graphic and the romance is not the main arc of the plot, but it is so well written and paced that you’re rooting for these two from book one.  Mercy is a shape shifting coyote, Adam is the super powerful and incredibly sexy alpha of the Columbia Basin Pack.  These two engage is some really funny contests of wills that involve, among other things, a cat named Medea, a broken down Volkswagen Rabbit, and pancakes.  Mercy tries to consciously run from Adam while her subconscious is just pulling her in closer all the time courtesy of the Smex Beam.  She may be dodging rogue spells cast by angry Fey, trying not be a vampire snack and confused (at first) by her feelings for her first love Sam, but she is inevitably and quite happily conquered by the unstoppable force of the Beam and the drowning chocolate brown of a certain alpha werewolf’s eyes. (The bod attached to those eyes is certainly a bonus….)

5) The hellren and shellans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  A series that is running strong nine (or is it ten?) books in, a girl can’t stop rooting for these couples.  The danger, the sex, the passion of a mated male, the sex, the unswerving devotion in the face of danger, the sex, the shit kicker boots and leather, the sex……

These guys and gals overcome bodily injury and constant peril to be together.  They battle their sworn enemies the lessers, train endlessly, fight personal demons, and fight obstacles that seem insurmountable to be together.  What other explanation could there be than the Smex Beam?  Who would go through the nonsense that the universe throws at these people for nothing but a good lay?  No, there is more at work here to cause the levels of love, devotion, respect, and downright horniness these people feel for each other.

“But Captain”, you ask, “just where did the Smex Beam come from? Who, in all their infinite wisdom and intelligence invented the Smex Beam?”

That, dear reader is a topic for another post.  I will however, give you her initials.

G.O.E.


Shame On You!

Are you ashamed of what you read?

One day in a bookstore, I overheard a man berating his wife for browsing through the Paranormal Romances. She apologized and promised not to read such “filth”, and of course she knew vampires weren’t real. I started to wonder how many readers of Paranormal Romance novels faced the same sort of criticism from family and friends.

By paying closer attention to what people said when discussing books, I learned that many regard PNR as either “Fluff” or “Trash”. Fluff apparently refers to books that show only idealized events and characters. The unbelievably romantic vampire with the tortured soul who hates what he is but suddenly his existence is given meaning when he meets the innocent and perfect heroine. The Trash label seems to be assigned to the grittier PNRs with their truly evil villains, heroes that don’t mind getting a little blood on their hands, and heroines who are perfectly capable of, and willing to, kick ass – and the hero and heroine enjoy an active and inventive sex life.

I found few people willing to admit to reading PNR, and those who did sort of laughed it off, giving the impression they were either embarrassed about it, or didn’t read it seriously. The covers often seem to cause discomfort in readers, too, even though many are gorgeous. But people have a certain expectation from a book with a man’s beautifully sculpted pecs and washboard abs enhanced by a mysterious tattoo – good literature isn’t it.

Almost all Romance, including all the sub-genres, takes more than its fair share of belittlement. But Paranormal seems to receive an extra helping of negativity. I’ve talked with many readers who hide what they read – a cover to conceal the cover, an e-reader, reading only when there’s no chance of anyone seeing what their book is, and on and on. Many authors, myself included, use pen names – you wouldn’t want your teen-age son taking flak from everyone at school because his mother writes about vampires having sex either.

It took me a long time to get past being ashamed of some of my choices in reading material. I only recently admitted to extended family and friends what I write. I don’t care what strangers think, and if my friends and family can’t accept the work I love doing, then they might not care for me as much as I thought.

The truth is, I have nothing to be ashamed of – at least in relation to my reading and writing.<G> And neither do you.

Of course we know vampires and werewolves, and those other creatures aren’t real. Neither are space aliens or elves or zombies, and on and on. They’re fiction, meant to entertain, no matter the genre. Good Paranormal Romance is as well written as any other genre. Good writing is good writing, no matter the subject matter. As for the accusation of having no plot, much to the contrary, Paranormal Romance plots are often intricate, full of twists and turns, and many are more complex than those from any other genre. That’s what happens when you combine two or more genres into one book, and do it well.

Those sex scenes – nothing to be ashamed of. Mainstream fiction, literary, and other genres have sex scenes as well. Granted, not as many, or as well written, but they’re there. And maybe that’s the problem. Romance writers in general have made an art and a science of writing sex scenes, but the sex in Paranormal Romance is often… more. The very nature of our paranormal beings turns ordinary sex into something exceptional. Perhaps the detractors are jealous, either of the ability to have that incredible sex all the time, or of the ability to write it in such a way that the reader almost experiences it.

Because I have immediate family members who could be negatively impacted by the public perception of the genre I choose to write, I will continue to use my pen name. I wouldn’t want them to be hurt by the comments of those who consider Paranormal Romance to be porn with vampires. But hell will freeze over before I hide what I read again.

Do other peoples’ opinions about your choice of reading material cause you discomfort or shame? What do you do about it? Is there a way for you to “take back your books”, even in a small way?


Fangtastic Friday: Twilight-inspired artwork & comic by Mangled Stare

This month, Austin comic artist Will Rodriguez celebrates the 10-year anniversary of his quirky web comic Mangled Stare, a dedicated accomplishment in today’s fickle entertainment market.  The Mighty Mangler may be the brain and brush behind MS, but he’s quick to give credit to his family for the handy supply of situational humor and for the occasional coloring assistance of his junior-graphic-artists-in-training.  When asked about awards and honors earned by Mangled Stare, Will said…

Aside from the praise and admiration of my family, no other awards really carry the same priority or worth. ^_^ (Though, I don’t mind mentioning that I have held the Chipotle Chowdown Champion title at each convention I’ve attended in the last 6 years.)

Aww.  And, congratulations… I think?  *wink*  Earlier this month, MS published a comic that Twilight fans everywhere, especially the significant others of TwiFans, will appreciate…

Psst – click to make it bigger and open in a new window!

Q&A with the Mighty Mangler!

From the comic, it’s clear that your honey is staunchly Team Jacob.  How do you feel about all the Twilight hype?

You’d never know if not for  her “Team Jacob” tshirt, keychain, posters, or bumper stickers, huh? Yes, my wife is extremely Team Jacob. I think Stephanie Meyers took a genre and turned it on its ear. She spun a story that built a very strong and dedicated fan-base and I applaud her for that.

So you visited Forks on your Spring Break… how exactly did she talk you into that? (hopeful TwiFans everywhere are holding their breath…)

She smiled and asked me in her sweetest girlie voice. >_< We were planning a road-trip and since I’d never seen the Pacific Ocean, I agreed that a drive to the west coast would be fun for the whole family. Besides, my wife supports my artistic endeavors and other geeky obsessions so it’s only fair that I support hers.

Did you enjoy the trip?  What did you like best about it?

Well, we all had a fantastic time. The drive from Texas to Washington is a beautiful one. Utah was just breath-taking and the Quileute Reservation was humbling to visit. The best part of the trip, though, was when we surprised my wife by telling her that we were staying in the “Jacob Cabin” right on the treaty line, from the books. The entire cabin was Twilight-themed and each of the rooms was named after a member of the Black clan. We had the entire cabin to ourselves and made use of that fact with all of our children.

Do you have any advice for fellow TwiFan significant others?

Unless you have a significant other who enjoys a battle, fake it! Even if you think vampires should be fanged, stone-cold murderers, pretend to like it or, if nothing else, don’t bad-mouth a Twihard or their stories. Play your cards right and you’ll reap all the benefits of his or her Twilight addiction. ^_-

Can we look forward to any other Twilight-inspired comics in the near future?  (Breaking Dawn is coming!  *nudge nudge*)

My wife is counting down the minutes until the first part of Breaking Dawn releases! If she has any say in the matter (and she nearly always does), I can guarantee plenty more Twilight humor from Mangled Stare.

How did you get started in comics and what have you done to keep yourself motivated all these years?

When my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child, I knew that my childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist had no better springboard than the milestone of parenthood. I wanted to be able to leave a legacy for my children and show them that any of their dreams were achievable. Their praise and the continued support of my wife and readers, in addition to my love of cartooning and making folks laugh, make motivation easy. Ten years-easy, as a matter of fact!

Do you have any goals or plans (besides world domination, of course) for Mangled Stare that you’re excited about?

World domination comes with WAY too much responsibility! Keeping my three kiddos in line is enough for me, thanks. I am working on a graphic novel with a great friend of mine which will serve as a sort of precursor to Mangled Stare. I’m also working on some other stories I’ve been dying to tell since high school through animated cartoons as well as future graphic novels.

What advice would you give to young artists just starting out in the industry?

Be true to your craft. Never “settle” or compromise your passions for creativity in the attempt to “succeed.” Hone your craft and never stop learning. Art is organic and dynamic, so you should never stagnate your style. Draw something every day; anything! Just keep drawing. Accept constructive critisism and avoid being defensive; art is subjective.

And finally (no, you can’t skip this one!), declare your Twilight “Team”!

Well, if I have to choose, I guess I’m team Alice, though I’ve always had an affinity for werewolves over vampires, just because shapeshifting is cooler than drinking blood…

Pfft, blasphemy (from the GT Team Edward corner)!  Thanks to Will Rodriguez from Mangled Stare for allowing GT to pepper him with Twilight fangirl-type questions and feature his work.  =)  Best of luck and we hope to see many future Twilight-inspired MS comic strips!

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Psy/Changeling news from Nalini Singh

Last week on her blog, Psy/Changeling and Guild Hunter series author Nalini Singh announced the starring couple for her next Psy/Changeling novel and teased a little of the new content…

The book will feature Adria and Riaz. The Arrows will also play a strong role, as will Councilor Kaleb Krychek.

What I haven’t shared until now, is that Hawke and Sienna will also have a very strong presence in this book. We’re going to see the next step of their relationship, and I think the book will interlink very closely with Kiss of Snow in that sense.

I can’t share anything more at this stage – I’ll probably talk a little more about the book once I have a completed near-final draft.

Oh, and the yummy image at the top of this post?   That’s the UK cover of Kiss of Snow.  Thinkin’ about snagging one?  Maybe just a little?  *wink*

To stay up to date with all the latest news, straight from Ms. Singh herself, subscribe to her Newsletter (be sure to click the confirm link sent to your e-mail after you sign up).

Related links:

http://www.nalinisingh.com/ (The Psy/Changeling series website)

Nalini Singh blog

Nalini Singh Newsletter subscription

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Release day: Night Walker (The Night series #1) by Lisa Kessler


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Lisa Kessler’s Night Walker, the first novel in the new Night Series from Entangled Publishing, is now available at your favorite bookseller!  If you missed my review of Night Walker, check it out here and then go pick up your own copy and get to know Calisto and Kate.  If you need to stop for a few, to ogle the cover eye candy, that’s perfectly acceptable.  *grin*

Here are some online purchase links…

Enjoy!

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Q&A with Karen Chance: Cassie & Pritkin & demons, oh my!

Karen Chance, author of the infectiously fun fantasy Cassie Palmer series, posted a new Q&A about the books and characters on her “The Cassandra Palmer Series by Karen Chance” page on Facebook, and in it she answers some burning questions fans had about characters and events in the books.

*** Spoiler note: If you have not read the Cassie Palmer series but plan to, and want absolutely no knowledge of any goings-on before reading, skip down the the “It’s all in the shorts…” section of this post. ***

Fan Q&A with Karen Chance

What exactly is a warlock? 

 Charley Sheen. It can also be a term for a mage who specializes in demonology, can summon demons and can put some of them in thrall.

In Claimed by Shadow, Pritkin confronts Cassie and Casanova in Casanova’s monitoring room, Billy comes in and starts making wisecracks, and Casanova takes a swat at him. Cassie explains that Casanova is able to hear Billy due to “his demon senses.” Pritkin is also in the room, though, and he cannot hear Billy.

They’re both Incubi. I would put it down to Casanova being in a vampire host while Pritkin’s other half is human, but other vampires cannot hear Billy either. Does this have something to do with Casanova being an Incubi possessing a vampire (thus being a spirit, sort of) while Pritkin is a half-Incubi, half-human physically living in this world?

Firstly, Casanova isn’t in a vampire host.  The vampire who calls himself by that name does so because his incubus (or succubus, if you prefer, since he thinks of it as female) used to possess the real Casanova.  But the incubus isn’t Casanova and the guy who calls himself that isn’t either.  Basically, he’s being pretentious.

Secondly, Pritkin isn’t a demon.  He isn’t even possessed by a demon.  He’s a human-demon hybrid, and like all hybrids, he received some of each parent’s abilities while missing out on others.  Some of the incorporeal demon races can interact with non-demon spirits, but Pritkin didn’t inherit that particular talent.

As for Casanova, when his demon is in residence, so to speak, he gains a good deal from it, including extended senses that other vampires do not have.  It’s one of the reasons he made the deal in the first place.  Hope that helps.

What did Pritkin think Mircea thought he was? If this question is a little confusing, I’m talking about Cassie and Pritkin’s conversation in the restaurant. When Cassie tells him Mircea thinks he’s a warlock, Pritkin seems to feel that there was something Mircea wasn’t telling her. What did Pritkin think Mircea actually thought?

Pritkin and Cassie were having two very different conversations in that instance.  Cassie thought they were talking about the recent attacks on her life.  Pritkin thought they were having a discussion about the few times they had…gotten close.  So he wasn’t thinking about Mircea’s claim that he was a warlock, but rather the motivation behind it—namely a reasonable sounding excuse for keeping Pritkin away from Cassie.

In Touch the Dark, when Pritkin and Cassie first make eye contact in the Senate’s chamber, “something that looked almost like fear crossed” Pritkin’s eyes.  What was it he saw that shook him up?

You need to recall why Pritkin was actually there.  He said it was to claim Cassie on behalf of the Circle (since she was a human magic worker, the vampires had no real right to her).  But in reality, that wasn’t his mission at all.  Of course, the Circle would have been happy to have the vamps merely hand her over, but they didn’t really expect it. And Pritkin was hardly the man they would have sent for a diplomatic mission in any case.  He was there to investigate Cassie, and if she was determined to be a serious threat, to eliminate her.  In other words, he was there in his usual role as an assassin.

The Circle thought it was being clever.  It would kill two birds with one stone—get rid of a pythia who was outside its control and remove one of Jonas’s chief supporters at the same time.  Because the vamps would almost certainly kill Pritkin after he took out Cassie.  It never entered their minds that Pritkin might have a problem going through with the assignment.  He was, after all, a well-known demon hunter.  But killing dangerous rogue demons is a little different from killing A) a human being, B) a woman and C) someone who was about the same age his late wife had been when she died.

Of course, Pritkin hadn’t really thought about it, either.  He was focused on the logistics of the mission and the fact that he was going to have to deal with the Senate, which never made anybody’s day.  But then he came face-to-face with the reality of his situation.  Which was a young, unarmed human female with big blue eyes, tumbled blond curls and a happy face t-shirt.  Who was staring down Jack the Ripper despite having absolutely no way to defend herself.  She was tiny and delicate and courageous and vulnerable and obviously mental for not cowering in a corner and…

And he was appalled.

He was also afraid, because he’d never had a target like this.  And because, to protect the Circle, he might be called upon to kill another young woman, this time on purpose.  And because, for the first time in his career, he wasn’t sure he could do it.  So, since he was Pritkin, he proceeded to act like a dick to hide his fear and to steel himself against her.

Are demons that are incorporeal on Earth (like incubi) corporeal in their own realms in Hell?

First of all, it depends on which realm you mean, because in my universe, “Hell” is a human catch-all name for many, many different areas.  Are you familiar with Buddhist cosmology?  Because if so, the Cassie Palmer universe is structured something like that.  Basically, lots and lots of hells, each one different from the others.  And some of them can support corporeal life (because some demons are born with bodies), but others would be toxic for anything other than a spirit.

Second, it depends on which demon.  Some of the usually incorporeal types can save up enough power to form themselves a body (like Saleh).  Others are spirits wherever they are (like the incubi, except for Rosier, who’s special like that).  And still others are what is called two-natured and can take either form (like Sid).  See “A Family Affair” for an explanation of how it all works.

Pritkin got a pretty nasty wound from a Fey weapon while he was in Faerie. Will it leave a scar?

No.

In HTM, Mircea told Cassie that he borrowed the limo from a friend during their date in London? Who did he contact?

A member of the European Senate who lives there.  Her name—and you knew it was going to be a woman, didn’t you?—is Marsilia.

It’s all in the shorts…

If that wasn’t enough Cassie Palmer goodness, there are three  new “coming soon” shorts listed on Ms. Chance’s “Freebies” page on her site.  The cover art for all three is there, and we get to see two delectably smoldering cover images of everyone’s favorite dirty sexy war mage, John Pritkin, and one of the inimitable master vampire Mircea Basarab.  Check ’em out below and drool to your heart’s content (tip: click to open the full-size image in a new window for optimal ogling)

Not yet a fan of the Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance?

You’re missing out on some seriously hair-raising, skin-of-your-teeth, preposterously droll fast-paced action and a witty, charming, steamy, riot of a good time!  Want to learn more?  Check out Ms. Chance’s Cassie Palmer website and meet all your soon-to-be-favorite new characters.  Or you could just pick up Touch the Dark and get started RIGHT MEOW!  You should probably do yourself a favor and just go ahead and get all 5 books while you’re there, and save yourself an impatiently harrowing trip back out after you finish the first one in record time.  Seriously, good luck putting these down to do something so annoying as, oh, sleep or eat!

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