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Review: Lo’Life Book 1 – Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay (Titan Books)

The Blurb:

”The tragedy of suicide is not death. It is what dies within us whilst we live.”

Working the Homicide squad, Alexis Bianco believes she’s seen every way a life can be taken. Then she meets the mysterious Lola and finds out she’s wrong. More weapon than woman, Lola pursues a predator with a method of murder like no other.

The Tormenta.

If you think you’ve never encountered Tormenta, think again. You’re friends with one. Have worked for one. Maybe even fallen in love with one.

They walk amongst us—looking like us, talking like us. Coercing our subconscious with their actions.

Like the long-legged beauty that seduces the goofy geek only to break his heart, causing him to break his own neck in a noose. Or the rockstar, whose every song celebrates self-harm, inspiring his devoted fans to press knives to their own throats. The pusher who urges the addict toward one more hit, bringing him a high from which he’ll never come down. The tyrannical boss, crushing an assistant’s spirit until a bridge jump brings her low.

We call it a suicide. Tormenta call it a score, their demonic powers allowing them to siphon off the unspent lifespan of those who harm themselves.

To Bianco, being a cop is about right and wrong. Working with Lola is about this world and the next…and maybe the one after that. Because everything is about to change. The coming of a mighty Tormenta is prophesied, a dark messiah known as the Mosca.

To stop him, Bianco and Lola must fight their way through a cryptic web of secret societies and powerful legends to crack an ancient code that holds the only answer to the Mosca’s defeat. If this miscreant rises before they can unmask him, darkness will reign, and mankind will fall in a storm of suicides.

Nobody’s safe. Everyone’s a threat.

I don’t read much in Urban Fantasy, to be honest.

I think it’s because there is such a massive emphasis placed on certain things that always seem prevalent in the genre, which, unfortunately, bring it closer to Paranormal Romance. There are plenty of authors I’ve yet to read, and the ones that I have delved into (Kate Griffin, Seanan McGuire and Chuck Wendig, to name a few) have impressed me.

Urban Fantasy has to, in my opinion, succeed at the following:

1) it must be set, largely, in an urban environment. The genre isn’t Country Fantasy. 2) There must be sufficient secondary world-building to make the reader miss the urban environment, and vice versa. 3) The magic has to be interesting and different – Kate Griffin and Chuck Wendig succeed massively at this. Among, of course the other necessities, such as good character growth, and interesting plot, etc.

When I first set to reading ‘Romeo Spikes’ I struggled to get into the book – not because it was badly written (it isn’t), or because it wasn’t interesting (it is), but because it was different. It’s one of the ways that I know I’ll enjoy a book – the difficulty of the read added to the certainty that I want to read the book.

‘Romeo Spikes’ doesn’t have fairies, or fae. There’s no Celtic-feel to it, and neither does it have a Norse flavour. Joanne manages to create a world that is at once surprising as it is interesting, bringing in a Biblical-mythology layer that makes her world fresh and captivating, which allows the characters to react and change as they should in a world they don’t know much about. The exploration of the world, as a reader, was one of the highlights of the book, for sure.

Character-wise, Joanne does jump around a bit, and most of the time it works – the reader will experience different perspectives (on both sides of the novel’s central conflict), and in particular, Bianco and Lola’s character-arcs are really well-written, engaging and attention-holding, with plenty of little clues along the way that will tug and push the reader along as they wonder just where these two stand. The Tormenta are interesting creations, but that’s all I’ll say – read the book and discover them for yourself. :-)

One aspect of the novel that tripped me up was the time-change in some of the chapters – there is very little or no warning, and I found myself having to re-read the chapter’s beginning to get my bearings again, because the plot had suddenly jumped into the past. This interrupted the novel’s otherwise great flow. But that’s my only real problem with the book. :-)

The world-building is great, and I’m sure many other readers will be left thinking about “real” or Historical events and the cool spin Joanne put on them. The characters are all interesting and well-fleshed out, and the book’s climax is a real surprise! And what “magic” there is in the book doesn’t overwhelm or confuse. Joanne’s style has a great flow and her descriptions are crisp, colourful, atmospheric and suitably brutal (at times).

If you’re looking for Urban Fantasy that doesn’t follow the conventional rules of the Genre (which no book should do, but you know what I’m getting at) and also builds an interesting new world, then Romeo Spikes should definitely be added to your shelf. I’m looking forward to the next book! :-)

8 / 10


To order copies of the book, check out the following links: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Book Depository, Exclusive Books. You can also read an excerpt from the novel here, and for more info on Joanne, check out her page on Simon and Schuster here. Don’t forget to browse Titan’s website – plenty more good reading to be had!

Until tomorrow,


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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Uncategorized


Double Review: The Dragon Factory & The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger Series)

It’s been a while since I’ve read the first Joe Ledger super-adventure, Patient Zero, and as you can read in this review, I loved it. :-) It did set the bar extremely high for sequels, and I was really scared of being let down – after all, how do you top a hectically fast-paced, explosively brutal and supremely imaginative novel like Patient Zero?

Well, I don’t have a clue – but Jonathan Maberry does.

The Dragon Factory

As I began with The Dragon Factory I was a bit stunned at how it began – it’s one of those novel-openings that shows the main protagonist in extreme danger – but I thought it was very cleverly done because I actually did worry that Joe would bite the big one in the novel. After the massive dangers he faced in Patient Zero I was sitting there thinking, “Dude, I know you’re good, but jeez, this might be a bit much for even you to deal with!”

At the end of that scene the novel then launches with Joe’s POV chapters, interspersed with POV chapters from a variety of other characters, most central to the tale, others not. One of the very difficult things that a writer sometimes does is not only switching POV but types of POV – Joe’s POVs in the books are First-Person, while the other characters are Third-Person, and it’s a risky venture, swapping POVs like that, because the reader might just be jarred out of the book; Jonathan managed these POV-switches so well that the entire read was practically seamless, so no jarring. :-) Also, Jonathan sets the scene at the beginning of each chapter by giving the reader the place, date and time in which that scene takes place, just in case there is any confusion. So the book’s structure was well thought out and it flowed seamlessly from scene to scene, which helped the pace of the novel pick up when the action began shredding walls and ceilings and stuff. :-)

That’s another aspect of Jonathan’s novels that impress the hell out of me – the pace of these things is absolutely incredible! I first started with The Dragon Factory by listening to the audio-book, but audio books need to be savoured and enjoyed, i.e. you need to be relaxed when you listen to one – and the thing is, Jonathan doesn’t let you relax. In fact, I found myself biting my nails and pacing up and down and punching the air and uttering short and very un-manly squeals when I read the novel. Took me three days, give or take a couple of hours, and at the end of it I was breathless and amazed. :-)

The book’s action scenes are beyond hard-hitting and thrilling – Jonathan puts his characters through so many wringers that a new plural for ‘wringer’ needs to be invented, and his characters are affected by this: they get battered, beaten, struggle to understand the morality of the lives they lead, etc. They don’t just reload and keep on blasting. The book’s plot is as interesting, if not more, than that of Patient Zero, and bigger in scope, too, though the shadow of Patient Zero is there – its effects still felt by all the characters who survived through the events that followed Joe Ledger’s joining the DMS. And the climax is, well, shattering – certainly left me quiet for a long while, while at the same time itching to read the next Joe Ledger novel.

There are many ways to judge how good a novel is, and one of those many ways is the ending – for The Dragon Factory’s climax to hit me as hard as it did and still leave me foaming at the mouth for the next novel means that it’s a damned good novel; Jonathan Maberry has become my own high watermark of Speculative Thriller excellence. :-)

So, 9 / 10 for an insanse, highly enjoyable and utterly unputdownable novel!

To order your copies of The Dragon Factory, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

The King of Plagues

King of Plagues was an extremely clever novel, in many ways – even got me thinking about thriller writers and whether they might constitute a threat to America’s national security! ;-) (Seriously, you’ll have to read it to understand what I mean by that.)

The novels opens some months after the end of The Dragon Factory and there are many repercussions that the characters are still dealing with – which already impressed me because of the real sense of continuity that this series has. The scope of the novel is a bit smaller than in The Dragon Factory but this works for the novel, and through the read I came to agree with this risk that Jonathan took – after all, sequels should be bigger and better than the previous books, but that doesn’t always have to do with length, events, action, etc. The ‘bigger and better’ can also mean that the characters get a tighter focus, so that the conflicts they feel and the shit they go through seems as hectic -if not more- than the bombs exploding around them and the bullets zip past them.

A very surprising character returns in The King of Plagues, and as soon as I realized who this character was I knew that all manner of fireworks were going to explode – it’s also the moment that the novel really kicks into high gear, and because it happened early enough in the novel, well, I finished the book in two days or something – yep, it was that cool. :-) One of the villains in the novel (yep, you read that right – Joe and the DMS faced truly insane odds in this book) was handled so well that when the moment of revelation came (regarding who that character actually was) it was a punch to the gut – really awesomely done! And there was also one very intriguing character who I really hope to see more of – his role was small, but he’s damned memorable (when you meet him you’ll probably agree with me).

The King of Plagues also struck me as being a pretty topical book, because it didn’t have anything extravagantly cool like zombies or genetically modified freaks in it: the novel takes a pretty dark and alarming look at fanatics, insanity and the terrifying willingness of man to hurt man, whether because of a post in an online forum or because of not actually caring enough. But I never once thought that Jonathan was preaching, which I thank him for. :-)

So, is it the best book of the series so far? Yep, I think so. A helluva read, as fast-paced and exciting as I know Jonathan can be, as imaginative as ever, and totally cements Joe Ledger’s position as the most kickass asskicker in Thrillers. Die Hard and 24 just wouldn’t be able to keep up with or stop this man, that’s for sure!

9 / 10

To order your copies of The King of Plagues, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

And head over to Jonathan’s site – this post has info on the latest Joe Ledger thriller, Assassin’s Code, and all you need to know about the Joe Ledger series of novels and short stories. :-)

Also, check this out – snatched it (with his permission) from Jonathan – I think it’s AWESOME:

And I absolutely cannot wait -although I’ll have to, being in South Africa- to read Assassin’s Code! Here’s the awesome cover:

Until next time,



Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Reviews, Uncategorized


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Am I back? Almost!

Hey everyone! :-)

Things are finally starting to take shape on my side of things: I’ve settled into my new place to stay, I’ve spent a very enjoyable two-weeks-and-a-bit in a psychiatric facility (and no, that’s not the meds talking – it really was amazing!), and I’m getting my life in order – which includes learning how to cook, getting my own transport, buying a fridge, and plenty else. :) I’ve also finished the second draft of my (first) Fantasy novel (I even have a title – only took me six months after finishing the first draft) and, for want of a better word, everything ROCKS at the moment. :)

I don’t have regular access to the internet, though, but I have read plenty of books since I ‘froze’ the blog, so I’ll be updating the blog with new reviews hopefully at least once a week – the reviews coming up will include the following:

Rod Rees’ The Demi-Monde: Winter,

Glen Cook’s The Tower of Fear,

David Goyer’s Heaven’s Shadow,

Pittacus Lore’s The Power of Six,

Daniel Polansky’s The Straight Razor Cure,

and a couple of others. :)

Like I said, this won’t be as regular as it was before, but at least they will start appearing again.

Until then.



Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


Un:Bound Video Editions

I am utterly and completely jealous. There, I’ve said it!

Yes, the Un:Bound Video Editons have been around for some time now, but I’ve only just started watching them because I’ve only recently upgraded the ADSL line to a 4meg line. :)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen these videos yet, go on and watch them! They are informative, feature excellent (and fitting) music, and celebrate SFFHUF – what could be better? To my mind, the Video Editions are a completely professional production, and I’m going to spend the rest of this evening catching up because I’m utterly hooked! :)

The first episode features some great people that I’ve only even corresponded with on Twitter and via email, and you also get a peek into the offices at Tor (Julie, Chloe, you have no idea how jealous I am of that awesome wall) as well as OtherWorlds 2010; you even get to see some magic tricks! Had a good laugh at those, I’ll admit. ;)

Check out this link over at Un:Bound to get the low-down on everyone who’s involved in bringing the Video Editions to us. I think you’ll agree that they all do an incredible job! :-)

Here are the links you’ll need:

Episode 1,

Episode 2,

Episode 3,

Episode 4.

Do go through and have a look, and when you’re done, head over the Un:Bound Video Editions blog and check out the out-takes (I love out-takes), behind-the-scenes vids and even vids that showcase how the animations you saw in the first episode were done.

I’m actually sad that it’s taken this long for me to check out the Video Edition, but I’m so glad that I did! :-)

So, congrats to Adele, Vincent, Alasdair, Lee and Kat for an awesome show! :-)



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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


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An Important Update from John Jarrold

Hey everyone, something very important here from John Jarrold – if you, or anyone you know, has been trying to get hold of John then you may have been picking up some problems. Here’s why:


So spread the word – the next big name in Fantasy, Horror or SF might be trying to get hold of John. :-)


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Posted by on August 15, 2010 in Uncategorized


Review: Suicidals Anonymous by J Robert King

Some years ago, I decided that the only way to solve problems and deal with pain was to kill myself. Obviously I didn’t succeed – either that or I’m Patient Zero of a zombie-disease. :-) Anyway, I swallowed approximately 120 strong pain pills and slashed my left wrist (I’m right-handed) and tried to pass from this world. I’m not saying this to shock you, or to gain sympathy, or any positive or negative comments regarding what I did. I’m bringing this up because of what I started reading last night and finished reading this afternoon.

Many might consider Suicidals Anonymous an absolutely terrible novel – because of the taboo subject it focuses on. Others will probably think of the novella as brilliance. Still others, and I’m a part of that minority, will see the novella for what it is – the closest anyone will ever come to understanding the intention to commit suicide.

Rob uses the story of Chris, the *failed* author, and his urge to kill himself to force us to look at just what suicide is and means, but it’s not just suicide that Rob focuses on; things take many turns, shocking, hilarious, deep and very, very dark, and Rob doesn’t allow you to catch your breath. The story absolutely hurtles along, with hardly a pause for toilet breaks or food. Chris is you, me, someone you know. He’s confused, depressed, ebullient, maniacal. I may not have found myself in the situations he found himself in, but I sympathized with everything he went through. How could I not, having survived suicide?

But do you have to be a suicide-survivor to enjoy and understand (at least, on the surface) Chris’ story? Not at all. You may not ‘enjoy’ it, but it’ll probably gut-punch you something heinous. And that is the mark of the kind of stories we all want to read – a story that’ll make you wince, make you swear, make you tremble. A story that’ll make you tremble and want to put the novella down because maybe you don’t want to think about what you’re reading, but you can’t, you’re drawn to the tale, to Chris, to facing the thoughts of suicide you’ve had because of Chris, and to finally understand that wanting to end your own life, on your own terms, for your own reasons, makes you human.

Suicidal’s Anonymous is disturbing, brilliant, funny and uplifting – and not always for the face-value reasons. I urge you to read this and experience it – you may not like it, you may not even understand it, but one thing’s for sure – you’ll look at the world with different eyes.

10 / 10

For more info about Rob and his work, check out his official website here; to order Suicidals Anonymous eBook click here for the US (Kindle), and here for those who frequent MobiPocket. For those wanting a hard copy of the novella, follow this link to Popcorn Press.



Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Reviews, Uncategorized


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Excerpts from Brian Libby’s Storm Approaching – Part 3

Hey everyone, here’s the final part of the excerpts I received from Brian Libby’s Storm Approaching! Enjoy!

A continuation of Chapter 2 – Formation:

She bought some scrolls, and continued to read many others in the Institute’s library— tales of adventure, and legends, and history. (It was sometimes hard, even for the authors, to make clear the difference.) She found herself envying the people she read about who had been brave and daring, even though their lives had often been short. What was her future? She could not decide, especially after her adventure in Jagar’s Chapel. I almost died… I made a fortune… I was brave… I was stupid… I could do things… I was lucky… But her predominant feeling was that she had lived more in those few moments than in all her previous life and that she might go mad if she didn’t get out and do something. She was certainly not a future lace-maker. She did her best, but her best was merely adequate: her hands were too big for fine work.

Inspired by the tales she read, she bought a bow and practiced in the walled garden behind the main building. Awkward with a needle, she was more deft with arrows. Many of the girls chuckled. Jin at least did not laugh (much), and Nella would sit on the grass and watch her friend toiling away.

“What’s it for, Andi? Not many girls are mercenaries.”

“Oh, of course not. But I’m not going to make lace all my life, or work in a tavern, or… Oh, by the sun! I missed again.”

Girls left the Institute by their nineteenth year. The great majority married more-or-less suitable young men (and some not so young) of the artisan or petty-burgher classes, men with whom the Institute thoughtfully made arrangements. Some chose to go to the Higher Schools, or to enter the Church or the Federated Society. A few, like Jin, chose other things. What about her?


At the beginning of her final year at the Institute Andiriel was chosen to be a prefect, one of the four girls to whom was entrusted the management of a wing in the residence hall. This honor surprised many girls. Apparently the matrons perceived qualities in her that her peers had not noticed. Others might have gotten a hint as to what those qualities were by paying attention to what Jin did after the prefects for the coming year were announced: she moved heaven and earth to transfer from Andiriel’s wing to one that would have a different prefect. (Nella, Andiriel’s roommate, stayed put.)

The ensuing year was one that the young women now under Andiriel’s supervision did not easily forget (although those who spoke of a “reign of terror” were surely exaggerating). She simply enforced all the rules. For example, girls were supposed to devote themselves to silent study in their rooms from 8:00 to 9:45 PM. This usually meant only relative quiet: less scurrying about, gossip, and general malingering than usual. But in North Wing during these hours each girl was at her desk and the silence of a tomb prevailed. Regulations said that girls were to have their beds neatly made and their trash emptied before breakfast. Not everyone took this literally, except in North Wing: Andiriel inspected the rooms while the others were eating, and woe betide the inhabitants of messy ones. In her first week as prefect she assigned twenty hours of detention, six of cleaning, and four of kitchen work. In a couple of extreme cases she closeted herself with offenders for “a few words.” What those words were no one knew, but they were apparently very well-chosen, for repeat offenses were rare.

There was also the strange case of Myria, a fifteen-year-old whose marks and conduct were so atrocious that rumor said she was to be dismissed. The Chief Matron moved her to Andiriel’s wing, where a miracle took place: Myria received second-level honors for the quarter and had only three demerits.

At the end of that quarter four girls urgently requested transfers to other wings and eleven requested transfers in. It was all very mysterious, but the matrons left well enough alone. They didn’t quibble with success. Mistress Perra, housemother of North Wing, told the Chief Matron that Andiriel was the best thing that had ever happened to her, for her own supervisory work was largely eliminated. Perra had never seen such intelligent application of energy in the service of scholarship and order.

Three months into the Andiriel regime North Wing posted the second-highest average in the history of the Institute and won the netball tournament. The next Saturday night Andiriel, Nella, and Jin brought back from town a cartload of food, including three gallons of root-tea, and North Wing had a party (for which Andiriel footed the bill). Even those girls who had muttered curses behind their prefect’s back admitted there were some advantages to the system.

But even prefects make mistakes.

There we go, the first two chapters of Storm Approaching! You’ve met Andiriel, the character that will take you through the book, but there’s wayyy more waiting in the wings, including mercenaries, a clever fox, the politics and counter-politics of Empires, and plenty of intrigue. :-)

You can order your copies of Storm Approaching from the publisher, Author House, or from Amazon (US/UK). South Africans reading this can also order the book from Kalahari and Exclusive Books.

And for more info on Brian and his work, you can check out his blog and website. :-)


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Posted by on February 5, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Book Trailer: Fires in Eden Book 1: Crown of Vengeance

This is the first book trailer that’s been done for Stephen’s work, and it’s excellent! Will be diving into this as soon as I’ve finished Stephen’s The Exodus Gate!

Crown of Vengeance is the first book in Stephen’s Epic Fantasy series, Fires in Eden. To order your copies, click here to head over to Stephen’s official website; you’ll find all the info and order-links you need! :-) Also, check out the Fires in Eden website for more info about the series. :-)


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Posted by on January 20, 2010 in Uncategorized


2 Book Deals: Angry Robot & TOR

This news was originally posted over at Realms & Galaxies: Celebrating SFF on the 5th of November 2009.

Pan Macmillan imprint Tor UK has signed a two book deal for titles by novelist Joshua Gaylord, written under the pseudonym Alden Bell.

Senior commissioning editor Julie Crisp bought UK and Commonwealth rights, including Australia and New Zealand , from Angharad Kowal, British rights director at Writers House UK .

The first title in the deal, The Reapers are The Angels, is due to be published in August 2010. Kowal called the book a “dark, literary zombie novel”. The second book in the deal is yet to be titled and does not yet have a publication date finalised. Bell previously wrote Hummingbirds under his real name, which was published by Harper in October this year.

Kowal said: ‘It’s rare to find an author such as Josh who can effortlessly switch from writing about an Upper-East Side prep school in Hummingbirds to what’s been described as, “Steinbeck but with ‘meatskins’” in The Reapers Are The Angels, and still manage to engage the reader equally by always going back to the characters’ humanity. I’m extremely pleased to find a home for Josh’s other passion, literary fantasy, with Julie at Tor.’

Now, I’m becoming a huge fan of zombie fiction, and this promises to be an incredible read! A Literary zombie novel? I’m all in! :-) And for those of you who don’t know, Julie Crisp is Mark C Newton’s editor – awesome editor, awesome writers. :-)

Next up, Angry Robot signs Kylie Chan:

Aussie author Kylie Chan’s Dark Heavens trilogy is “packed with Chinese mythology, kick-ass action and sexual tension” (As If Magazine). Already a major success Down Under through HarperCollins’ Voyager imprint, the trilogy has proven a hit with fans and critics alike. Published worldwide by Angry Robot from April 2010, the trilogy is a must-have for all fans of urban fantasy, and there’s not a misunderstood vampire in sight!

The Dark Heavens Trilogy
Handsome young Hong Kong businessman John Chen employs Emma, a naïve young nanny, to care for his daughter. When she falls in love with her employer, however, Emma discovers he is being hunted by a powerful race of ancient demons, dragons and gods – and they all want him dead. Emma will soon discover it is she who has the power to save them all…

About Kylie
Kylie Chan married a Hong Kong national in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony and lived in Hong Kong for many years. She now lives in Queensland with her two children. White Tiger was her first novel, and she is already well under way writing her second trilogy.

Book 1: White Tiger April 2010 (UK) May 2010 (US/Canada)
Book 2: Red Phoenix April 2010 (UK) June 2010 (US/Canada)
Book 3: Blue Dragon April 2010 (UK) July 2010 (US/Canada)

Sounds good – Urban Fantasy in a new flavour! :-)

And as one last side-note, here’s the cover art for Jo Graham’s third novel, Stealing Fire:

Awesome stuff, huh? :-) I cannot wait for this – really looking forward to seeing how Jo writes the world that witnessed Alexander the Great! :-) For full cover, check out this post over at Orbit. :-)


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Posted by on January 1, 2010 in Uncategorized


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