Saturday, April 28, 2012


Rapunzel has 70 feet of golden magical hair that has healing powers. Her guardian, Mother Gothel, stole her as a baby because she wanted to stay young and beautiful forever. The flower that did the same thing was taken from her and given to Rapunzel's mother as a remedy, passing the power on to her daughter. She tried to cut off Rapunzel's hair, but it loses its magical properties and becomes useless. Rapunzel is now a young adult and reasonably would like to see the floating lights that happen every year on her birthday. Mother Gothel refuses to let her go, even if it's for her birthday, and explodes in true evil stepmother fashion. Meanwhile, Flynn Rider steals a crown from the royal family, ditches his accomplices, and hides in Rapunzel's tower. She subdues him and plans to show her mother she can handle herself, but Mother Gothel explosion ensues before she can show anything. Instead, Rapunzel asks for paints that take 3 days to get so she can force Flynn to take her to see the floating lights. Her journey with Flynn Rider will take her places she has never been and change her life forever.

The first time I saw Tangled, I was completely unimpressed. I thought the story was ok, but the songs just fell flat for me. I have no idea why I thought this, but upon a great many rewatchings, I grew to love everything about: the characters, the songs, and those small moments you only notice after watching it at least a dozen times. Something just clicked in me and I fell in love with the film. The characters are dynamic and wonderful. Rapunzel is incredibly naive because she's never been in the outside world, but she definitely isn't stupid. Her naivete and kindness actually helps them cross the land to the castle to see the lanterns of her dreams. Plus her hair gets them out of a lot of sticky situations. Flynn Rider is a cocky, egotistical, self serving jerk on the outside, but a sweetheart on the inside. I really liked that their relationship is built on friendship and getting to know each other as opposed to the typical fairy tale instalove. Pascal, Rapunzel's pet chameleon, is just about the cutest thing ever and plays an instrumental role in the story. Maximus, the horse bent on capturing Flynn, is more like a dog than a horse, which was kind of weird, but still cute.

The best part of the whole film is Mother Gothel and her relationship with Rapunzel. Their relationship is built on a heap of lies and Mother Gothel only wants Rapunzel for her hair. Mother Gothel only calls Rapunzel endearing names like Flower (for the original flower that kept her young) and constantly strokes her hair because it is valuable to her and the actual girl is not. She is pretty evil, but not in the black and white, easily discerned way like most Disney villains. She's more like an actual abusive mother. She laces veiled insults with compliments to Rapunzel and says she's just kidding after many of the hurtful things she says. She also never admits being wrong and never really apologizes for anything. This is to keep Rapunzel under control, but keep her marginally content so she won't run away. It's heartbreaking to watch because Rapunzel lived with this her whole life and internalized many of Mother Gothel's insults. The damage of this is most apparent in the scene when she first leaves the tower, alternating between celebrating loudly and crying over betraying her mother. Mother Gothel manipulates everyone around her and will do anything to get what she wants.

The music really grew on me over time and I've fallen in love with all of the songs. When Will My Life Begin is a fun song describing the many many things Rapunzel does in a day while she feels like she's really doing nothing in the bigger picture. The song is upbeat and fun, but with longing behind the happiness, just like Rapunzel. My other favorite song is I See the Light. It depicts the moments when Flynn and Rapunzel's relationship moves to more than friendship and feature the most beautiful moment in the film when the lanterns are released above them. The harmonies are beautiful and their feelings are completely believable.

Tangled is a complex film that appeals to children as well as adults. It's the best Disney movie since the 90's in my opinion. It's a little darker and more believable than the usual Disney fare because there are people in the world just like Mother Gothel. She manipulates everyone around her to get what she wants and psychologically and verbally abuses Rapunzel to keep her complacent. I think this is a wonderful retelling of Rapunzel and I would recommend to any fan of fairy tales. I would also recommend a viewing of the short Tangled Ever After because it's hilarious and adorable!

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fairy Tale Songs 2

More fairy tale songs!!!!

1) Beauty and the Beast by Nightwish

I absolutely love this band and their mix of operatic vocals and metal guitars. This song puts a spin on the tale Beauty and the Beast with the couple reminiscing about when they met and how they came to fall in love. Then it seems she has fallen in love with another, leaving the Beast alone, ending the tale much different than most versions of it. The songwriter, Tuomas, was inspired by the Disney version of the film.

2) Brick by Boring Brick by Paramore

Paramore is one of my pop-rock guilty pleasures. This song is about a girl who dreams of fairy tales and magic and wants a happily ever after, but crumbles when it doesn't happen for her. I love the various fairy tale allusions and the video with its fantastical and Alice in Wonderland look.

3) Sonne by Rammstein

The video for this song is epicly awesome. It takes the Snow White tale and retells it in a twisted and dark way. The dwarves are basically slaves for Snow White. They brush her hair, polish her apples, and get her gold dust for her. In turn, she abuses and debases them. What makes it all the more twisted is her dress is the same pictured in the 1937 Disney film. The lyrics go with the song as Snow White acts as the dwarves' sun and they have no idea what to do without her. The sun, like Snow, isn't nice: she can burn and hurt as well.

The Selection

America Singer is part of  the low end cast reserved for artists and musicians. Her family isn't the richest and sometimes struggles to make ends meet. Her situation is nothing compared to Aspen's, the boyfriend she has in secret who is a lower caste than her. When the Selection comes about, her mother sees it as a dream come true. Thirty five girls are chosen out of all the applications of every girl who wants to be in the running (which is just about all of them within the eligible ages) to go on a reality television show and try to woo the prince. The girls' families get money and prestige and the girl who marries the prince shoots straight to the top of the caste system. Even the girls who don't win rise above their born stations. America is one of the thirty five girls and it's her worse nightmare. She has no interest in a stuffy, boring prince when she has true love at home, but her family needs her help. So she is in the running for a crown she doesn't want in a palace periodically under attack. Things change when she actually meets Prince Maxon. Will she win The Selection or will she choose her true love at home?

I kind of expected to hate The Selection because it's all about romance and love triangles. However, the writing really drew me and and the characters are just wonderful. I described this to my friends as The Bachelor mixed with The Hunger Games without the killing. I appreciate that the romance is right up front so I know what I'm getting into when I read. I get annoyed when books look like they would be awesome dystopias but turn out to be romance centered and the dystopia is pushed to the background. The dystopia in this novel is interesting: a futuristic society after the fall of the US where inhabitants are born into a caste and can never move up. Each caste has a kind of theme where the people in it can only do a limited amount of jobs. It sucks if you have no interest in the caste's jobs like America's little brother. I think it makes sense that music and art are so low in this system because of how our society views them. Music and art are considered luxuries and are the first be cut in schools when money is tight even though they are essential to every society in existence. I would love to see more of this world.

America is a great assertive and strong character. She doesn't let the low caste she was born into hinder her in any way. She cares fiercely for her family and will stay as long as possible to benefit their lives as much as possible. Her romance with both Aspen and Maxon actually make sense and isn't just the instalove that is so prevalent in YA novels. They grow to like each other over time and actually build a relationship. America has complicated feelings about these two love interest and I wasn't annoyed for one second like I thought I would be.

The Selection is a great romantic dystopian read that mixed a fairy tale with science fiction. The characters are wonderful and their relationships are believable. I was just a little annoyed that The Selection wasn't finished by the end of the novel. I will definitely be reading the next book and I hope the world building gets more detailed and explains more about the dystopia.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fairy Tale Songs: Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn is a dynamic musician that has changed a lot throughout her career. Her first album is Enchant and it's full of fairy tale stories, violin flourishes, and her awesome voice. Her music defies classification and doesn't fit into any one genre.

1) Rose Red

This song brings to mind Rose Red of fairy tale fame, but turns the tale on its head and introduces modernity.  She sings about seizing your own destiny and not waiting for a prince for rescue like so many fairy tale heroines do. I love this song, especially the celtic violin flourishes behind the main melody.

2) Rapunzel

This is a straight forward song telling Rapunzel's story. She keeps singing and singing in hopes that someone will save her. It can also be interpreted as finding your own voice and connecting with people.

3) What If

This song is reminiscent of the relationship between Cinderella and her stepmother. The stepmother views her as a servant and less than nothing and Cinderella is actually so much more. The same might be said of many of the heroine/stepmother relationships in fairy tales.

I love that although all of these relate to fairy tales, people listening to them today can definitely relate and create their own interpretations of these songs. I highly recommend her other music as well even though her subsequent albums are much different, leaning more towards an Industrial and Victorian inspired sound.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Twelve years ago, Gretchen, Ansel, and their sister were playing in the woods when their sister went missing. She was right next to them and then she was gone. Now, Gretchen and Ansel are on the road, kicked out by their stepmother. They randomly find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina with a broken down car and practically no money. After being shunned by quite a few of the townspeople, they are directed to someone who is equally shunned, Sophia Kelly. She runs a candy shop and it's rumored that girls disappear after her festivals every year, never to be seen again. Gretchen and Ansel don't believe the rumors and are shocked by how welcoming and nice Sophia is. They settle into a routine and revel in having a home and a family. Gretchen is convinced that whatever is taking the girls at the festival is the same witch that took her sister. She's ready to stand and fight to avenge her sister and save any more girls from being victimized. Is Sophia somehow involved in the disappearances? Will Gretchen ever find out what happened to her sister?

Sweetly is a companion novel to Sisters Red, one of my favorite fairy tale retellings ever. They have none of the same characters, but as the book goes on, it becomes clear that there are definitely common elements. This is a modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Each character (except for the parents) are present, but fleshed out and modernized so they seem more like real people than flat fairy tale characters. Gretchen is much like Gretel because she always feels like that little girl that was left without a sister. The passage of time didn't do much to alleviate her pain or helplessness. This story is really one of her coming of age and growing from that helpless little girl into a strong woman willing to face her fears. This also parallels the original fairy tale as Hansel and Gretel leave their home as children, overcome a trial guided by nature, and return successful and rich to their family. I loved reading about Gretchen's journey. Sophia isn't what one would expect as the child eating witch from Hansel and Gretel. She's super sweet and welcoming, plus she makes the most delicious chocolates. I seriously had huge cravings for chocolate when reading Sweetly. But, underneath that sweetness, there is a bitter center that is stays hidden through most of the novel. These updated characters kept my interest and drew parallels to the original Grimm tale.

While I loved the characters and the writing, the plot dragged a little for me. Between the revelation about what happened to Gretchen's sister and the big finale, there was definitely a drag in the plot. It left me wondering when something big would happen without building any suspense. I also felt that the elements common with Sisters Red took away from the Hansel and Gretel story a little bit. In Sisters Red, I never forgot it was a Red Riding Hood story and the characters and plot played with the ideas and concepts throughout. Near the middle of Sweetly, I forgot it was even about Hansel and Gretel. It didn't have that strong bond with the original tale that I expected.

Despite some issues, I really enjoyed Sweetly. This retelling tapped into deep emotions of loss and sadness and brought the frightening and violent aspects that worked so well in Sisters Red. I am definitely going to read Fathomless, the next companion novel about The Little Mermaid. Jackson Pearce is a wonderful author and think she can reveal how dark the story really is.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Check out Fairy Tale Fortnight!

Head over to The Book Rat and check out Fairy Tale Fortnight! If you love fairy tales and retellings and the new fairy tale movies, you would love it! There are giveaways, author interviews, coming attractions, and fairy tales galore. Plus I have a guest post coming out there soon, so join the fun! :)

Monday, April 23, 2012


** Spoiler free review **

Life at the fort is never easy. There are lot of very different people forced together for survival plus the masses of undead outside. Each and every decision they make could lead to their survival or their certain death. These decisions usually fall on Travis' shoulders as he was voted in as mayor. Beyond his responsibilities, Travis is starting a new family with Jenni and hope is going strong for the survivors. Many find new love, create new families, and begin to flourish despite all the carnage and zombies in the outside world. They discover another survivor haven run by the remains of the government who want to take over their fort. They also find out about a huge horde of thousands and thousands of zombies heading toward their fort. Who will live and die? Will their society survive these obstacles?

Siege is the third and final installment of Rhiannon Frater's As the World Dies series.  These characters are so amazing and vibrant and memorable. There are a lot of named characters and I would have thought it be hard to remember them all, but they all have defining characteristics and their own outlook on life. Some of them are horrible human beings in my book, condemning other people because of lifestyle choices and infractions against their religion or simply putting their own needs above the needs and lives of others. In the face of the complete and utter breakdown of society, I would think people would put aside such petty differences. Others are people I wish I knew like loca Jenni, fiery Juan, tough Nerit, Crazy Calhoun, brilliant Jason, and so many others. The character development is phenomenal with this series and I'm sad the series is over.

This book is amazing and a crazy emotional rollercoaster. I laughed and celebrated with the characters and I literally sobbed when some of them died (which was kind of embarrassing when I read the book in public). The deaths are numerous and I felt them more intensely than most novels. Despite all the death and undeath surrounding our survivors, they still manage to feel happiness and hope. They actually live instead of simply surviving. They build new families and have a warm sense of camaraderie for the most part. The true family in the fort never wavers and never abandons their loved ones.

The action in Siege is amazing and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the novel, waiting to see what happened to my favorite characters. Zombies are not the only things that threaten our intrepid heroes. Humans do a lot of damage and sometimes use zombies to do their dirty work. The only part I didn't like about the book was how involved ghosts became in the action and came to be a kind of deus ex machina. Their existence is fine because it's a supernatural universe, but when they influence things to much it bothers me a little. Other than this one tiny thing, this book is wonderful and this series deserves a place on every zombies fans shelf.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Siege Blog Tour: Rhiannon Frater Guest Post

This is an awesome day on my blog because Rhiannon Frater is here with a guest post about strong female characters in her epic zombie series. I can't gush about this series enough: it's incredible and all zombie fans need to read it. Her new book Siege, the final in her As the World Dies series, comes out in mere days on the 24th.

Women, Society and the Zombocalypse
Rhiannon Frater

I honestly didn’t set out to write a feminist take on the zombocalypse when I started writing AS THE WORLD DIES as an online serial. I just wrote about the sort of people I that exist in my everyday life.  The characters all evolved naturally as I wrote, as did their complicated relationships and sometimes disastrous choices.  It was only later that I fully began to understand how ground-breaking having two female leads in the genre actually was.
Admittedly, Jenni and Katie were born out of my desire to read a zombie story that was from a woman’s perspective. AS THE WORLD DIES was born as online serial in 2005. At that time zombie fiction was inundated with the lone gunman wandering across the zombie-infested lands. Women, children, and men who weren’t Rambo in disguise were merely zombie fodder.  The women played the roles of the love interest (who often died), the victims, and the zombies.  It became demoralizing to read over and over again stereotypes who bore no real resemblance to any of the women in my life.  So when the characters of Jenni and Katie invaded my mind one day at work, I wanted to write their story and share it with others.
When I started the serial, I wanted to write about real men and women with flaws and strengths struggling to rebuild society in the zombie wastelands.  If history has shown us one thing, it’s that humans survive in communities. I didn’t want to create a world of alpha males and subservient women, or vice versa.  I wanted to write about real people dealing with real life issues while facing the undead hordes. I didn’t want to shy away from the difficulties of creating a new community. Differences of opinion, religion, culture, etc. were definitely going to cause problems at some point. Little did I realize that the issues my characters tackled in the online serial (which ran from 2005-2007) would become hotbed issues in 2012.  Religion, gay rights, and gender equality are all topics the people in the fort are forced to deal with while still dealing with bandits and zombies.

Oddly enough, I never thought about any of the females in my story as being “strong” or unusual. The positive reaction to the characters was definitely a reaction to all the stereotypical women in these kinds of books. People were genuinely surprised to reach such positive portrayals. The readers weren’t surprised that the women were strong and competent; they were surprised to see an accurate portrayal of themselves, their wives, their girlfriends, mothers, and sisters. Quite a few male friends have told me that they loved how certain female characters reminded them strongly of the women they love.  Female fans have also shared how refreshing it was to see women doing the types of things they would do in the zombocalypse—like killing zombies.
Jenni and Katie aren’t wonder women or superhuman like Alice in the Resident Evil films. They aren’t perfect either. Each has to deal with the aftermath of the destruction of their lives and they always make the right choices.  But they aren’t afraid to fight for their own lives and those they love. They step up and take part in the planning of the new community and fight for the survival of everyone.

Though I get a lot of kudos for my female characters, I don’t feel that any of my male characters suffer from standing alongside competent women.  I didn’t want to resort to the alpha male stereotype with my male characters, but I also didn’t want to weaken them. Travis and Juan (and in SIEGE, Kevin) all play vital roles in the story and are just regular men facing horrible circumstances.  They understand that to survive everyone has to work together and have their own strengths and weaknesses.  One of my greatest compliments was when someone told me that he could totally see himself hanging out with my male characters because they were just “dudes.”

There are, of course, men that don’t like the women playing such a strong role. One of them, Shane, becomes a dangerous foe to Katie when she has to kill his brother after he becomes infected.  It’s in Shane and his cohort that we see a more dismissive attitude toward women and other people in general.  Shane and Phillip are great at entering the zombie-infested towns and salvaging for supplies and serve the community well, but their attitudes toward women, especially bisexual Katie, creates serious problems for the burgeoning society.  Shane and Phillip challenge the rules of the new society with their behavior. One particularly upsetting scene between Shane and Katie immediately causes a rift among the people in the fort as people take sides in a “he said, she said” battle.
Animosity also arises against the few LGBT members of the society, with lines being drawn along religious lines in SIEGE. A contingent of the survivors is convinced the zombocalypse is God’s judgment on the earth and believe the LGBT members of the fort should be evicted.  During the heated discussion, many different viewpoints are expressed by various characters. I remember one reader, who is a lesbian, being hurt by the words of Peggy, a character she loved.  That particular scene was probably one of the hardest I wrote, but I felt it was something that could occur and couldn’t get ignored.
Now in the heated political climate that exists today, the argument is terrifyingly timely.

One of the things that’s often missing in fiction, especially post-apocalyptic fiction, is the strong friendship bonds that exist among people.  Often the survivors are not really friends, but people just thrown together that barely get along.  In AS THE WORLD DIES, I enjoyed portraying various types of friendship bonds. There are best buddies, Juan and Travis, BFFs Ken and Lenore, and Jenni and Katie’s strong, sisterly friendship. 
Though people comment on all three friendships as being refreshing and similar to ones they share in their real lives, the one that stands out the most is the friendship between Jenni and Katie. Women are not often portrayed as being friends in fiction. In fact, a lot of heroines are often the only women in the book.  Jenni and Katie’s friendship was one of the things my editor at Tor really enjoyed. It’s so rare to see female best friends who love and support each other. Usually women are portrayed as rivals. Since I have close female friends in my life it felt only natural to have Jenni and Katie be close.

In closing…I am very happy that readers embrace the characters and feel they are an honest, realistic version of people they have in their own lives.  I am also pleased that readers have enjoyed the dynamics of the new and growing society in the middle of the zombocalypse. 


Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of the AS THE WORLD DIES zombie trilogy and the author of several other books: the vampire novels PRETTY WHEN SHE DIES and THE TALE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE and the young-adult zombie novel The Living Dead Boy and the Zombie Hunters. The first two books in her zombie trilogy, THE FIRST DAYS and FIGHTING TO SURVIVE, are available now in bookstores. SIEGE will be in bookstores on April 24, 2012.

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If you are like me and can't wait to get your hands on Siege, head over to Addicted to Heroines to enter to win it!!!

Friday, April 6, 2012


Lex Bartleby is a terror. She acts out, attacks people, and has a horrible attitude. No one is immune from her verbal or physical attacks: teachers, classmates, every clique, her own family. Her family is completely fed up with her behavior. Even her twin sister stops defending her. Her parents' last resort solution is to send her to live with her Uncle Mort in upstate New York to work on his farm. Lex doesn't really know why she acts this way and of course she doesn't want to be shipped off to shovel manure or milk cows. When Lex arrives, she finds there is no farm and he lives in a bizarre town called Croak. It turns out he is a Grim Reaper and he is there to recruit her to become one as well. She takes to it quickly, but can't let go of her sense of justice as she watches murderers and criminals walk away time and time again. While she struggles, mysterious deaths pop up with no known cause and completely white eyes. These deaths keep showing up and start to become more frequent. Can Lex follow the rules and keep her Reaper job? How are these mysterious deaths happening?

I picked up Croak on a whim because I thought the plot sounded pretty cool: kind of like Dead Like Me for younger teens. At the outset, I wasn't really impressed. I was annoyed by Lex and her "I hate everyone" attitude that didn't have any reason behind it. I felt incredibly sorry for her parents and her twin sister, but I kept reading, hoping it would improve. After she got to Croak, everything became exponentially better, mostly because after began Reaping, her behavior became tolerable. It took a while for Lex to get used to everything and dispense of her horrible attitude, but once she did, she really belonged and was accepted. I loved the world building of Croak and their inner workings. There are two types of reapers: Killers who release a soul and Cullers who collect the soul. They work in teams and use their scythes to transport to the dying person (where time is frozen) to release and collect their soul. The Junior Reapers are all around Lex's age and all had the same anger and behavior problem that Lex did, but they came from much worse situations. None of them had any families or parents to speak of and Mort stepping in saved many of their lives. The dynamic between such different people was delightful to read. This city's sole purpose is to house Reapers and the people that make everything run smoothly. I loved that all the places and even the restaurant menus had morbid and punny names.

The language really sucked me into the novel and I ended up reading it in a few hours. The majority of the novel was pretty light in tone with a good amount of humor to lighten the morbid themes and plot. The last portion of the novel becomes very dark, sinister, and frankly depressing with some unexpected plot twists and turns. It was a little surprising, but showed that the world of death isn't just fun and games. The ending was very powerful and tragic and left me wanting more.

Through Lex's journey, I really grew to like her and I even enjoyed her budding romance with her partner, Driggs. I can't wait to read more Lex's story and the second book can't come out fast enough for me.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Tess Davies is a maid and tired of being trapped in a society where upward mobility is practically impossible. She has dreams and ambitions that can't be realized in England. Luckily, the family she works for is taking the RMS Titanic to America, where dreams come true every day. She could get a fresh start and get away from her awful (and actually broke) employers. She just has to survive the voyage there. The night before the voyage, she is attacked by a horrible man and saved by a handsome young man. She dismisses the incident as an act of random violence. On board, she realizes both these men are also passengers and her attacker, Mikhail, continues to harass her. The younger man, Alec, continues to save her and she is drawn into a power struggle between the two men. Mikhail wants to enlist Alec into the Brotherhood, a nefarious organization for werewolves that has power on every level of society. Can Alec keep away from the Brotherhood and keep them from hurting Tess? Can Tess escape her horrible employers and start an new life in America?

When I picked up this book, I just thought it was a historical fiction romance set on the Titanic. But then BAM: werewolves. I was a little shocked, but continued reading anyway. I usually really hate books about werewolves because good characters inevitably become raging jerks with the only change being a werewolf in a great many other books. Thankfully, this wasn't the case. Alec was a perfectly nice character, but not much about him was that interesting beyond his lycanthropy. There didn't seem to be much reason for Tess to fall head over heels except that he's pretty and rich. The werewolf Brotherhood served as the main villains of the story and they upheld very traditional and misogynistic views. They viewed themselves as close to gods and women as inferior and therefore unworthy of such power. The other, lesser villains were the Lyle's, Tess's employers. They also represented tradition and the old society where the poor stay poor. Their family represents hypocrisy, privilege, and a deep rooted sense of entitlement. These two villains were shown to be quite the same. Both used intimidation and their power to belittle and use others for their own amusement. The werewolf organization exposed the harsh realities and truths behind English society during the time period and exaggerated them. This was my favorite aspect of the novel.

Tess was a wonderful character. She seemed like a modern girl stuck in a past era where the poor and women didn't have very many opportunities to become successful. I loved her firecracker personality and the way she cared for everyone around her no matter their station. Her romance with Alec was a little boring. It was another case of instalove where their relationship is essentially built on nothing. Tess's relationships with her friends were much more dynamic and interesting because they seemed organically built.

Fateful was a fun, fast read. I wished that the sinking of the Titanic took a little more time than it did, but overall, I enjoyed the story. Although I like that it's a stand alone book, I wouldn't mind reading more about Tess and her future.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins