Friday, December 19, 2014

Reviver Book Review

I don't usually read horror, but my cousin was in town and she loves the genre. So we downloaded the audio book from the library (love my library!) and played it on the road on our way to Thanksgiving dinner. I was hooked.

Reviver by Seth Patrick begins with Jonah Miller performing a revival. This is not the kind of revival we usually think of. In Jonah's world, there are people who can revive the dead for only a few moments. There are two main reasons to do this: 1) the dead are revived to say good-bye to loved ones, and 2) the dead are revived to name their killer. Jonah's job is to ask the murdered dead about their deaths and try to get information on their killer. Everything is routine until Jonah's most recent revival. When the dead woman Jonah revives speaks to him in a voice he knows is not her own, he realizes there is something in the darkness beyond death and it's watching him.

After a famous writer is murdered, Jonah becomes involved deeper than he intended in the case. He is just an information gatherer, but the murdered writer wants Jonah to investigate and he won't get out of Jonah's head until he does.

I enjoyed the mystery of this book. The reader learns and discovers clues with Jonah which is engaging. The speaker did a good job with conveying the intensity of the prose. He also made it entertaining by performing accents for the different characters. I liked the secondary character Never who is Jonah's sounding board and the person who keeps Jonah "sane."

This alternate world where the dead can speak again one last time is explained well. At the open of the story, the "science" of revival is still quite new. The author does well showing the pros and cons and the evolution of revival.

The book tipped a bit too far into the supernatural toward the end where the final scenes were overly orchestrated. I liked the mystery of the book, but the mysticism and the still relative newness of the concept of revival within the plot was a little heavy. I didn't know that it was a trilogy when I started listening. So I suppose all things will be revealed by the end.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Herbie Galloway Guest Post

here is a link that will take you to the book:
about the author: Having always been a storyteller, I was asked by a friend of mine if I would create a story with her being one of the characters. She had always dreamed of being a fairy. I said “Sure,” not having much knowledge of what being a fairy was. Churning my brain, I began the research. Every night, a piece of the story arrived while I slept, filtered in the subconscious mind. Being a writer, I get to savor the story like a fine meal, embracing every moment until sadly, happily, and unexpectedly it comes to the end.
synopsis:A human is accidently transported back to an enchanted world where fairies live, and he begins to acquire magical powers, eventually becoming a wizard. At the same time, a fairy egg is hatched using a special technique by unicorns. They take the newborn with them, raising her to be a humble lady and a fierce warrior. The Lady of the Lake brings them together to challenge the evil witch queen and her minions.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kathy Bennett Guest Post

I want to thank Tasha for having me as a guest on her blog. I love talking about how I came to be a writer and how I put my stories together.

My promise to my readers is that I write authentic crime while telling arresting stories. As a retired twenty-one year veteran of the Los Angeles Police department, I weave small bits and pieces of my experiences as a police officer into the stories I write.

Police work is not always pretty and sometimes the reality can be troubling to those who don't wear the badge. Those who do wear the badge usually learn coping mechanisms for the evil acts people inflict on one another. Most police officers like to think they are trained to handle whatever the streets throw at them – and usually they are prepared.

However, a year or so ago, police officers all over Southern California and, in particular, the LAPD were on edge – and with good reason. A former LAPD officer felt he'd been wrongly fired from the department and wrote a rambling statement outlining his grievances. He named the people he held responsible and threatened to murder them. Not satisfied with documenting how he felt he'd been wronged, he went on a killing spree. He started with the daughter of an LAPD captain and the daughter's fiancé. Then he declared war on police officers and started killing them.

Law enforcement officers are conscious of the fact they have an imaginary target painted on their backs. Their uniforms and marked vehicles are intended to identify who they are and what they do. But in this instance, officers in Southern California were being hunted by a former cop, someone who knew their tactics and how police would respond.

After identifying the suspect, law enforcement officers all over the country were on the lookout for the former cop, and the whole Southland was on edge. It was this fear and anxiety consuming the community and law enforcement that I wanted to capture in my book, A Deadly Denial.

I was already retired from the LAPD when the manhunt occurred, but my husband was still an active LAPD officer. On the night when the disgruntled cop's so-called 'manifesto' was discovered on Facebook, my husband came home and told me that he'd known that particular officer while the suspect was a recruit. The recruit officer had injured himself during training and he had been assigned to my husband's unit, to assist in preparing shooting targets for other recruit officers.  

After my husband told me the story, together we read on Facebook the long-winded writings of the revengeful former officer. The more I read, the more alarmed I became. My home office faces the street and I sit in front of a large window. I reached over and pulled down the window shade. My husband thought I was over-reacting. But as we would later learn, the fugitive's crime-spree continued and police officers from other law enforcement agencies paid with their lives.

In my book, A Deadly Denial, LAPD officers are being murdered every few days. While my novel doesn't mirror the actual event, I think I've captured the mood and intensity of the search for a suspect who has committed multiple murders – including those of police officers. While cops are specially trained for emergencies, crimes, and disasters, having another officer intent on murdering you is not taught in the police academy – at least not prior to the actual incident I've just recounted.

Cops killing cops is the stuff that's supposed to be fictional, but I'm sad to say in Southern California we learned all too well it can happen. Hopefully from now on, the only place we'll see a police officer killing another cop is in a fictionalized account…something that an author, like me, would write.  

 Details for A Deadly Denial

Title: A Deadly Denial
Series: LAPD Detective Maddie Divine, Book 3
Release Date: July 30, 2014
Pages: 293 pages
Publisher: Kathy Bennett
Age: Adult! These books feature commonly used street language and violence. 
Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Book Summary:
Someone is killing cops in Los Angeles. Detective Maddie Divine is assigned to the elite Robbery Homicide Division to join the hunt for the cop killer. With officers being murdered every few days, the suspect list grows longer as secrets, deceit, and denials are uncovered.

Maddie Divine – Maddie's keeping a secret and if her co-workers knew, they'd put her in a padded cell and give her a rubber gun. Meanwhile, her former partner, Cash McCool, has some explaining to do. But will she accept his justification for his actions? 

Cash McCool – He and Maddie were on the brink of a relationship. What drove him away, and how does he react when he and Maddie are assigned to track the cop killer together?

Rex Rango – Why can't this newlywed cop say no to a female deputy chief and stay out of her bed? He thinks he's gotten away with his betrayal, but he's wrong.

Jill Rango – Two months after her wedding, personal and professional scandals have Jill fighting to hang on to her husband and her badge. When one of her secrets is exposed, she's suddenly on the short-list for a murder rap. 

Holly Banks – Married to an older man, Holly has manipulated men all her life. As her list of lies increase, the LAPD's suspicions grow that Holly is involved in something a lot more serious than artful string-pulling. Holly says she's innocent…but is she telling the truth?

Edison Watts – The early-morning radio 'shock-jock' fans the flames of alleged police corruption, while protecting his reputation, king-sized ego, and secrets of his own. Will his whole empire be lost as a result of one drunken mistake?

Jacqueline Girrard – After turning in a key piece of incriminating evidence in a murder investigation, the statuesque stunner sets her sights on Maddie's partner. Will the easy-going detective jeopardize the investigation by falling victim to Jacqueline's charms?

Sale links:

About Kathy Bennett:
Kathy Bennett is no stranger to murder and mayhem. She served twenty-nine years with the Los Angeles Police Department – eight as a civilian employee and twenty-one years as a sworn police officer. While most of her career was spent in a patrol car, she’s also been a Firearms Instructor at the LAPD Academy, a crime analyst in the “War Room”, a Field Training Officer, a Senior Lead Officer, and worked undercover in various assignments. Kathy was honored to be named Officer of the Year in 1997.
On the personal side, she’s married to a Los Angeles Police Officer, Rick and they have one daughter and one granddaughter. Kathy likes to go hiking with Rick and their two Labrador Retrievers, incorporating photography into many of their adventures. Attempting to recapture some of the excitement of working the streets, Kathy can periodically be found in Las Vegas risking a few bucks.  


Friday, December 12, 2014

Miss Maryland/Children's Miracle Network Donations!

Hey ya'll!
I'm hoping to participate in the Miss Maryland competitions this year, but first I need to raise some money for the Children's Miracle Network! By donating to help me compete, you will also be helping sick children in the Maryland area and supporting the Miss America Organization.
I had the best time being Miss Queen Anne-Hillsboro VFC Fire Prevention Queen 2012-2014, Distinguished Young Woman of the Eastern Shore for the Class of 2014, and Job's Daughter Honored Queen for Bethel 7 (Dover, DE) and hope to have great times with the Miss Maryland organization as well. Besides those "royal" titles, I also love lifeguarding, scuba diving, travelling and writing for PrincessReviews! If you could help spread the word about donating, or donate anything yourself, I'd greatly appreciate it!
Thank you!

PS. Each contestant also needs a platform, or cause other the CMN that they'll be supporting. After finding out about the dangerous situation many immigrants from Central America face while trying to relocate to the USA, I've decided my platform will be to bring attention to this and try to get care packages sent to the countries with the most migrants (starting with Honduras) in hopes of bettering their lives without facing the horrid journey to the states. So by helping me compete you will also be helping this in the long run, should I be successful in any competitions.
Any questions for me I'd be glad to answer. Thank you :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cheer Bow Shop

As many of you may or may not know, I am a cheerleader. Throughout my many years cheering, most of my cheer bows have been the plain white, or a simple design my coach ironed onto our plain white bows. For being so plain, white, and boring, these simple bows usually end up costing around $7 per bow. Why they are so outrageously priced, I have no idea.
Now that I am in college, every penny counts. This is especially true when you are also on a sports team, such as the cheer team, where added costs due to sporty affairs can really put a hole in your pocket. That is why my group's backspot decided she was done with expensive white bows - she was going to make our bows for a lot cheaper (see picture of iBase bow).
Customizable "iBase EC Cheer" bow created by
Aidan Murphy of CheerBowLife
modeled by Tasha Nicole Haight
They turned out fabulous! They are so cute and much, much better than the plain bows and cost nearly half the price! Turns out, they are A LOT cheaper to make than to buy! Aidan Murphy, designer and creator of these bows, agreed. She decided to get crafty and come up with a few more designs and is now opening her own Etsy store to sell them at quite a steal.
Check out the links below to see her online store and her company's instagram.
Aidan is an International Business major at Eckerd College. She is part of the Disney Alumni Association and, along with all her accomplishments and participations with the school, she is a cheer enthusiast and a true gem to cheer with.
The bows she crafts are so well put together, they will surely last a lifetime.While labeled cheer bows, any bow lover could certainly wear them at anytime!  They make great gifts and would be perfect for entire teams to get creative, cheap bows. Bows usually run $5-10, depending on the difficulty of the bow. Compared to other Etsy shops and online retailers, that is certainly a steal!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Hook Island, FL


Hook Island. I'm not sure where it is; I was brought on a boat. We started in the Boca Ciega Bay, but I know for certain that is not where Hook Island is located. The bay water is brown and disgusting and dirty and gross and this water was a bluish-green almost like in the Caribbean. We probably ended up somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico...anywhos it's near St. Pete Beach, Florida. It's just an island. No buildings, no anything. Trees and sand and water. That's what it is. Plenty of boats pull up and dock there. Barbecues, camping, and bonfires are common. I liked it. Just beware of the strong current and sand spurs. Other than that, wear sunscreen and have fun!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Warrington Farm, Queenstown, MD


Warrington Farm is kind of a rip off in my opinion. $2 to pet a couple animals (cows, pigs, and horses) maybe isn't so bad, but $30 for a pumpkin is, especially when down the road at Blade Orchard you can get pumpkins just as large for $6. Besides the price, Warrington doesn't even grow their own pumpkins. They buy them at Councell Farms in Cordova, just like anyone else can, then they sell them at a higher price to make a profit. Definitely a not-nice move. But they're right off the highway and are in a convenient location, so if you want convenience and don't care about prices, feel free to stop by.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ringling Museum, Sarasota, FL

Back in August, I visited the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. This museum is all about the Ringling Bro's Circus. Being as I went on a field trip, I did not get much time to explore but the little I could I found interesting. I wish it had been an actual circus, but the miniature displays that were actually quite large were very impressive. It was like being a giant looking down upon a circus or like God watching from above - the figurines moved and everything! The museum however was only one part of the place however. Outside there was a garden and there were several other buildings still left for me to explore by the time I had to leave. The giftshop and Starbucks on site made the heat more bareable, but took valueable time away that I would have liked to spent in another building or looking more at the cool trees outside, or maybe even playing on the playground I saw. Because I went on a field trip, I'm not sure the price, but I'm sure it would have been well worth the money if I was able to see everything and might even be worth a trip back to finish looking.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Homeless in Hollywood Book Review

*****Spoiler Alert*****
Homeless in Hollywood by Jim Alexander Rice is an account of the author’s single-minded determination to break in to the business as an actor/scriptwriter. Over a two to three year period, the main character (author) lives hand-to-mouth on a Hollywood filming studio, dodging guards while trying to gain employment and a movie deal. It is inspiring and a bit scary at times. As much as I would like to be a best-selling writer, I have not felt the passion for it as the author so obviously has.

The story was easy to read and follow. The danger and suspense of the constant threat of discovery brings an emotional draw to the tale. At times the extreme differences between the people who worked at or were stars of the Hollywood studios compared with the number of homeless people “living” just beyond its walls seems surreal. Why is there such a disparity? The author’s account feels like a fairy tale when he crashes studio parties and rubs elbows with the rich and famous; and a horror story when he’s sleeping on a catwalk with only a pilfered donut to eat for the week.

I read the book through to a point just past the middle, but then I skipped to the end. The reason for this is that about at that point, the story loses momentum. The detailed description of the day-to-day struggle became a bit repetitious and tedious. I was not getting any new information about the situation and so I did skip the parts between about page 140 and when the main character (author) is actually apprehended for trespassing.

There is not a classic "happy ending" for the main character.  However, insights and reflections on being homeless and having an unsurpassed passion for a dream/goal give the reader much to consider in the end.

Rating 3.5/4

UPDATE: Homeless in Hollywood is non-fiction. It is the true account of one man's struggle and sacrifice to achieve his dream/goal of becoming an actor and screenwriter. I read Homeless in Hollywood word for word up to about page 140. As the the text began to repeat itself, I skipped ahead to a point where the narrative no longer took place on the movie studio lot and where the author suffered the repercussions of trespassing on the lot for 3+ years. During the author's time on the lot, there were many instances where gaining food was scarce. I did not mean to infer that he only ate ONE donut a week. There were many times he had plenty to eat while attending parties or from food set up for actors and extras during filming of shows, etc.  The point I was trying to convey was that food was scarce on many occasions especially when there weren't any productions going on. Period. Please chalk that up to me being in a hurry and my not wanting to give away too much information about the events of the book.

When I use the word surreal in my review, it is that at one particular studio party that the author crashes, he drinks heavily and the description of the event is like a pleasant dream (fairy tale). I apologize to my readers if this image I had in my head did not come through in my review. And incidentally, by "horror story" I meant that I was disheartened by the thought of someone having to sleep out of doors and wondering if they'll make it through the night. That thought is just horrible to me and I pray for those homeless and those losing their home especially in the recent housing crisis.

It was a very descriptive narrative that at places draws you into the author's life. However, there are many places that the moment-by-moment description pops the reader right out of the book. There is often too much detail. I have read biographies that have read like reports and biographies that read like prime-time TV drama. But part of the art of writing is to engage the reader, even if it is based on fact. Parts of the book did not engage me so I gave it 3.5 out of 5. Please forgive my typo. Since I could not give it 3.5, I gave it a 3 because being engaged in someone's narrative is important for enjoyment. And ratings are just that, an opinion on the enjoyment level.

I hope this clears up any confusion. I welcome criticism and discussion.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Review Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty
Liberty IslandNew York CityNY 10004

First tip: Book your trip well in advance if you want to go up to the pedestal and the crown. You must be at least 4 feet tall in order to go to the crown. There are no elevators to the crown, just hundreds of steps.

I booked this trip online. It was only about $18/adult. This price includes access to the pedestal if there are enough tickets for it on the day you want. The park service only gives out a certain number per day. Book early. I believe the crown access is $4 more. If you don't get pedestal or crown access the price is the same just to walk around the island and Lady Liberty.

There is one elevator that is run by the ranger so there is a long wait. If you're healthy, you can head up the hundred or so steps to the pedestal. Once there, the access to the outside is about three feet of space all around. You have to squeeze by people to walk around the entire statue. If you have crown tickets, you have to walk up a winding staircase of another hundred or so steps. We only went to the pedestal because my son was not tall enough.

The rangers were really helpful and everything ran smoothly. We had our tickets scanned and we boarded a ferry. The rule of the ferry is to get as many people as possible onto it at one time. It has an upper deck and lower deck. There was a place onboard to buy snacks and gifts.

Once we were on the island, there were shops and places to eat. There is a locker available for $2 I believe, to store book bags and such. You are not allowed to take anything up to the statue except a camera and your wallet maybe. Be sure to ask.

The museum is on the ground level and is very interesting. You can get headphones in almost any language for a self guided audio tour. There are scale models of the statues face and one foot so you can get an idea on how large she really is.

The ferry runs on a regular schedule so you can also take it to Ellis Island where immigrants entered the US. It has a museum. We did not get off the ferry at Ellis Island because we ran out of time.

There is parking near the ferry pick up on the New York side and one on the New Jersey side, however, I recommend public transportation. Driving in New York is not pretty.

It was a unique experience and I recommend going.

Rating 5/5

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park
2 West StreetNew York City,NY 10004 (Financial District)  

This was the first time we had been to New York. We were going to the Statute of Liberty so we decided to splurge a bit and stay in Manhattan. The Ritz Carlton near Battery Park was the perfect location. We were within walking distance to the Statue of Liberty ferry, the 911 Memorial and Wall Street. We visited the Bull on Broadway Street and the American Indian Museum (which is free as part of the Smithsonian).

The hotel staff were very helpful and pleasant. I was impressed that they remembered our names every time we came through the lobby. Everything was clean and nicely decorated. When we arrived, they had welcome cookies and milk for our children. I thought that was a nice touch. 

The room was spacious and had a view of the street and nearby buildings instead of the river. But we didn't mind. It did have a mini bar but you have to request for it to be unlocked. We did not need it. There was turn down service and a room safe.

We did try the hotel restaurant, but did not care for the food too much. The children's pizza looked better than the duck we tried. The sauces were a bit too oily for our taste. There was no place to store any food or beverages brought back to the room.

The hotel is pretty easy to find using GPS. There is valet parking or you can try to find another parking garage nearby, but then you have to walk back. The valet parking is in addition to the hotel rate and came to about $70 per night. If you have to take your car out for any reason, you'll be charged additional time on your stay. If you just need to get something out of your car, be sure to let them know that so they won't start the time over. That was the only thing about valet parking we didn't like was that we did not have easy access to our car throughout our stay. It takes about 20 minutes for the staff to retrieve your vehicle.

We got a good rate on the days we booked using a government discount. We booked over the telephone with no problem.

It was a nice stay for a one time splurge. It is not really a family type hotel, but they try to accommodate for children in small ways.

Rating 4/5

Friday, October 3, 2014

Review Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

6th and Independence Ave., SWWashington DCDC 20560 (National Mall)

First tip: Go early in the morning.

This was an amazing museum. Anything that you could think of relating to air and space was there. From the very beginnings of the thought of flight to looking out beyond our solar system. There is so much to see and discover. There are two floors and 10 or more separate sections of exhibits. There are airplanes suspended from the ceilings. There are satellites and rockets that had at one time actually been in use. There are many interactive exhibits and so much information that we could not see or read everything. There is a two-floor gift shop as well to purchase child-sized space suits, toy airplanes, science games, T-shirts, hats, postcards, books, etc.

It is a Smithsonian museum so it is open free to the public, but they do accept donations. It was a wonderful visit. If you see anything in Washington DC, this is one of the places to go.

Rating 5/5

Friday, September 26, 2014

Review Homewood Suites Alexandria

Homewood Suites Alexandria
4850 Leesburg PikeAlexandria,VA 22302-1102 

We booked this hotel because it was near Washington DC. Once you get off the highway, it is easy to find. Parking is very tight especially if you have a large truck or van. The parking is right off the main road, so make sure you secure your belongings and your vehicle. It did seem to be a pretty safe area, just a lot of traffic.

The hotel is very nice and the staff were pleasant and helpful. We were impressed with the suite. It was stocked with almost everything we needed to enjoy our stay. We only really had a view of the roof, but that just gave us more privacy.

The breakfast was well stocked and tasty. There was plenty of seating inside and out. We did not use the pool but it looked clean.

We used the complimentary shuttle to take us to the metro so that we could ride the train into Washington DC. The drivers were very helpful and were on time to pick up and drop off.

I recommend this hotel. I wish we could have stayed more than two nights. You just can't see all of DC in a day and a half. If we are able to go again, we will definitely stay at Homewood Suites.

Rating 5/5

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review Children's Museum of Winston-Salem

390 South Liberty StreetWinston SalemNC
We enjoyed our trip to the Children's Museum. The cost is about $7 per person. There are two floors. The children can climb up a beanstalk to the second floor. Parents can take the stairs or elevator. There is plenty of seating for parents who supervise while their children play.

There is a storybook area where children can milk a cow or see Goldilocks and the Three Bears' house. There is a row boat and a giant rocking chair that even made my 6 foot tall husband look like a kid. There is an alphabet area where each letter has an interesting activity or exhibit. There is a Food Lion store where children can be cashiers or customers. Children can also make doughnuts on the Krispy Kreme assembly line.

It was a very nice trip with plenty to stimulate the imagination and educate with science and art.
Visited July 2014Rating 5/5

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review Willows Bistro

Willows Bistro, Winston-Salem, NC
300 South Liberty StreetSuite 125Winston SalemNC
We stopped here to eat before going to the Children's Museum of Winston-Salem because it was in the same parking lot. It is a unique little restaurant. With tasty and interesting entrees. The staff was nice. The place was clean and decorated with what looked like a local artist's paintings. The paintings were for sale. We enjoyed our meal.
Visited July 2014Rating 4/5

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: BEST WESTERN PLUS Hanes Mall Hotel

3330 Silas Creek PkwyWinston SalemNC 27103-

This was the first stop on our week vacation road trip to Washington DC and New York City.

The hotel was easy to find. It is newly renovated and looks very nice. They were still putting the finishing touches on the outside like adding flowers to the entrance. The surrounding area was not as nice looking as there was a big vacant, gravel lot on one side. The other side is covered with trees and just beyond that is the mall.

Check in was simple and the staff was very nice. The decor is accented in green throughout the lobby and rooms. Our room was clean and nicely decorated. Everything was in good working condition.

We did use the outdoor pool. The bottom had noticeable wear, but was for the most part clean. The only thing I did not like about the pool is that it could be accessed from outside the hotel. While I was there with my children, a man just walked up the outside stairs and into the gated pool area. We didn't talk to him and he didn't swim, just sat in one of the chairs talking on his phone. I didn't know if he was a guest and it made me uncomfortable. The pool can be accessed through the hotel from the 2nd floor and you need your room key to get back into the building from the pool area or you have to go around to the front entrance to get back in.

I met a staff member later that evening as she was on her way back from checking the pool area for trespassers. I did let her know my concerns about the security of the pool.

The breakfast area was clean and everything was easily accessible. However, this Best Western did not have a "hot" breakfast. They did have microwavable breakfast sandwiches.

Check out went smoothly and were were happy with our stay other than the security of the pool.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, August 2, 2014

First Light

Title: First Light

Author: Michelle Frost

About the Author: (Goodreads)
MICHELLE FROST has written everything from reviews on mustard and shampoo to horoscopes and an astrology advice column for a small South African newspaper. She won second prize in the Klein Karoo Arts festival, 2001, for a short story later published in the book e-rupsie/e-ruption.Michelle has had other short stories and poems published in various publications and countries. This is her first book.

Book Summary: (Back of Book)
On the harsh militant world of Sindorus, where even colours are considered sinful, three people living very separate lives are about to have those lives change forever. As deceptions are torn away, and ancient secrets brought to light, they each must struggle to find the missing pieces to the puzzle...answers that will unlock their true destiny.
Idrith, bitter and trapped in a life he never chose, is the first to discover his own fear-filled mystery. Obsessed with finding the truth behind the lies he turns to the one person he has always tried to avoid -- the mysterious pilgrim, Harmion.
Aztar's military promotion comes with an unexpected burden. A serious problem threatens the security of the entire Northerner regime and it seems that their only hope may lie in the hands of someone he was raised to think of as his enemy and inferior. Each day they struggle together to find a solution, but at night Aztar struggles alone as the secret he's kept hidden since childhood returns to torment him.
In a world where most women have no control over their lives Daen was allowed to grow up unrestricted and far better educated than normal. Now her father's health is failing and the running of their family estate lies in her hands...and with it the security of everyone she loves. Knowing that desperate situations call for courageous action, Daen is about to take a step that will change all their lives forever.

Four main stories. Seven different lives. While it is easy to see how they are connected, it is not clear why each story is important until the end. I thought I had it all figured out - then bam! I honestly did not see that ending coming. Therefore, although I did take several months to complete this book as it was not one that I felt the need to keep reading, I would still recommend it. It is not common these days to find a book whose ending cannot be easily guessed. That in itself is a gem, and the interesting read is simply a plus.
A monk is the cousin of a high-ranking official who is engaged to a poor girl who must sell her paintings to her slave's friend, whose brother works with the official and whose other friend frequently visits all characters in the story. That friend is "the string that links the beads" in this colorful rainbow in a place where colors have been banned. But now that everything known to the residents of Sindorus is quickly diminishing, it is up to these select few to do what they can to bring order back to their world.
Like I said, I did not feel the need to keep reading until I was finished and therefore it took several months for me to finally get around to reading this book. Now that I have finished it, I haven't really been thinking about it like some books make me do. However, the aspects of how these characters see colors does make one think about everyday colors in a whole new light and I feel like everyone should read this to gain that appreciation of color because it is something most take for granted. But imagine a world without color..this book creates an eye-opener for colors. That plus the previously mentioned unexpected ending make this a must read, just not a must-read-in-one-sitting.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Judge Dee at Work Book Review

I first became aware of the Detective Dee or Judge Dee (Judge Di) stories when I saw the movie Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon. It was a movie in subtitles but I enjoyed the mystery and fantasy so I watched the next movie Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. It reminded me a lot of the Sherlock Holmes stories in that Detective Dee used clues and deduction to solve the mystery, mixed with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon type stunts. However, Dee doesn't use science as his basis for discovery as Holmes did.

I found this book at the library on audio cassette. The books were actually based on old works found by Robert van Gulik in the 1940s at a Chinese second-hand bookstore. The stories involved cases of a semi-fictional character based on the historical figure Di Renjie, magistrate and statesman of the Tang court which dated back to 7th century China. Van Gulik translated the works and then began writing his own stories. This book contains stories van Gulik wrote.

It was a quick read (listen). It was kind of fun to try to guess the murderer. All the cases involved murder and Detective Dee always got the culprit. The only thing I was offended by, rather concerned about, was the frequent use of courtesans and prostitutes as characters. I'm not a scholar on ancient China, but I began to wonder if every woman was a courtesan or prostitute. Also, much of the time the crimes involved a scheming woman. So that wasn't pleasant to read. But the mysteries were simple and enjoyable despite this. It was not vulgar but did mention some nudity. It was just something I couldn't share with my 8-year-old who loves mysteries because she wanted to know what a courtesan was. I just told her it was a woman who learned many arts and poetry who was hired to entertain rich guys. That's basically right.

I recommend this for mystery readers.

Rating 4/5

Friday, June 20, 2014

Beginning's End (Shattered Skies #1) Book Review

Beginning's End Book One of the Shattered Skies series by Heather Linn begins with an alien invasion. But it's not the kind we think of: little men with big heads. No, it's something far worse, and humans ignored the warnings.

The aliens of Catalina's world are vampires who have come to enslave, feed upon and breed with the human race. The product of vampires and humans are Dominus, who are virtually invincible because of the vampires' careful planning. But will their over-planning be their downfall?

The first chapter caught my attention right away. Who is Catalina? What is her weapon against these creatures that are twice as fast, twice as strong and can survive in the daylight? And how did she just kill one?

The author's world of the Shattered Skies series has pretty cool concept of vampires and what would happen if they invaded Earth. The main character Catalina is brash and tough. She is not satisfied with her lot in life and is out to fight for her freedom. But one night everything goes horribly wrong when she finds herself face-to-face with the king Dominus.

As far-fetched as the events in the book are, I kept reading. Catalina was an OK character. She was consistent. She was tough. She also was bit annoying, but not enough for me to stop reading. The other characters were one-dimensional. Some of them were stupid. I should say naïve. OK. Some were naïve and some were down right stupid. But they did their job in supporting whatever Catalina took it upon herself to do.

The plot is sketchy. I kept waiting for something to be revealed and it never was. Nothing was really resolved and Catalina makes a mess of things. However, the background and the history were good. I think that’s why I kept reading, just waiting for that big reveal that never came. I was not satisfied with the ending.

The setting is basic. It plays a role in the “plot” but is not overly important.

This book has a lot of sexual content in it, so I’ll have to rate this for adults only even though the characters are barely out of their teens. It bordered on erotica in places so be aware.

Although it began with intrigue, the breadcrumbs left by Beginning’s End were not enough for me to follow into the next book of the series.

Rating 3/5