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Showing posts from October, 2015

"Small Magics" by Ilona Andrews

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Small Magics by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For anyone who has read and loved the Kate Daniels universe, this book is a must read. "Small Magics" by Ilona Andrews contains five wonderful short stories; three of them are set in the Kate Daniels universe and two are in new magical worlds. This author duo strikes again with stories that draw you in until the last word.

"Questionable Client" marks the beginning of Kate and Saiman's relationship. Saiman needs a bodyguard and Kate needs money. She keep him for getting killed (obvious, since he's in following books) and Saiman becomes fascinated with the woman who politely turns him down.

"Retribution Clause" brings all new characters, starting with Saiman's cousin Adam. If you haven't read "Magic Strikes" (Kate Daniels series book 3), this story contains one significant spoiler. I'll say no more.

"Magic Tests" brings Kate and her adopted daughter, Julie, to a ne…

Book Review: "Grave Illusions" by Lina Gardiner

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Grave Illusions by Lina Gardiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Grave Illusions" by Lina Gardiner introduces us to an alternate universe with vampires hiding in the shadows, a somewhat vanilla vampire world with no overt magic, no werewolves, and no zombies. Jess Vandermire is a cop who turned into a vampire, learned to cope with her condition, and became a cop again. She now leads a special ops unit that tracks and kills rogue vampires.

When I first read about this book, I was extremely excited. I love vampire books, the various flavors of vampirism, and unusual situations that different authors create to test out vampires. I also like a good romance, and "Grave Illusions" held the potential for an excellent romantic vampire murder mystery.

Alas, but the book doesn't quite measure up. John Britton stands up as a three-dimensional character, with Jess running a close second. But the rest of the people are not well defined; more than two-dimensional but not quite full…

Happy Halloween!!!

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Book Review: "Skin Game" by Jim Butcher

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Skin Game by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Skin Game" by Jim Butcher sees Harry Dresden working another assignment as The Winter Knight, only this time Mab wants him to work with Nicodemus Archleone - the head of the Blackened Denarians and one of Harry's personal nemesis.

This novel redefines Dresden's relationships with the people he almost left behind. From Karrin to Butters to Michael, Dresden learns to rely on his friends and trust that he can contain the Winter Mantle. He even begins a real relationship with his daughter, Maggie.

But the real joy in this book is the action. Mr. Butcher packs comedic action, dramatic action, treacherous action, Parkour in Hades, and enough back-stabbing that you almost need a tally sheet to figure out who is sided with whom. And the action is held together with genuine character interactions. I felt Butter's hesitation as he wondered if Dresden succumbed to the Winter Mantle; I laughed when Dresden learns that Bob d…

Book Review: "Henchgirl" by Rita Stradling

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Henchgirl by Rita Stradling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Henchgirl" by Rita Stradling brings to life an alternate world where dragons live and breed with humans to create dracons. Backed by their dragon parents, dracons control over 80% of the world. The protagonist, Dakota Kekoa, is a 16-year-old dracon who works for her grandfather as a type of enforcer. Dakota's mother is a selfish alcoholic who drinks or spends every penny she gets her hands on, so Dakota works to support her mother, her sisters, and herself.

Ms. Stradling immerses her readers in this new world from the beginning. I can feel the heat of the islands where Dakota lives, hear the hate speech from the full-humans, and understand the dread of being accidentally turned into a vampire or werewolf. I want to bitch slap those who are rude to Dakota, and yell at her mother for letting her daughter shoulder the responsibility of taking care of the entire household. If you let it, this story will suck you in and ho…

Wordless Wednesday: Headline News

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Just Because You're The FBI Director...

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...doesn't mean you can turn your wishes into fact through random announcements.  In fact, you need to show more integrity and more honesty because of your position, and respect the power of your position, not abuse it.

What am I talking about?  Last week James Comey, the Director of the FBI, made a few radical statement based on his opinion of a situation.  To paraphrase the man, he said that YouTube and the viral videos of police have caused a rise in crime nationwide, because local police feel afraid of being recorded.  This makes no sense, if you think about it.  How would "meek" police cause more crime?

What really bothers me is that Mr. Comey acts as if this is true, even though he has no evidence to support his statements.  And because he's the FBI director, I know that some people will believe him.  The position carries with it authority on the subject of crime, and Mr. Comey seems to be using that authority to slam people who record police interactions.  T…

Book Review: "Nirvana" by J.R. Stewart

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Nirvana by J.R. Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"Nirvana" by J.R. Stewart presents a dystopian society with corporate overlords, a secret rebellion, and a planet severely scarred by human activities. Larissa Kenders, call her Kenders, is the protagonist here, struggling at first to define her place in the world, and then to find her supposedly dead lover, Andrew.

This is a good book with aspirations of greatness. The set-up for how the human race managed to screw up the world is plausible enough to be scary. Kenders comes across as a real person as she moves through the story. But the other characters lack that certain depth to make them completely believable. One of the main antagonist sounds as if he's twirling his mustache through some of the scenes. Also, some of the details are either mismatched or just plain missing. For example, Kenders finds some secret…

Happy Thursday - 25 Jokes

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Book Review: "The Shadow Revolution" by Clay and Susan Griffith

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The Shadow Revolution by Clay Griffith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Shadow Revolution" by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith tells a tale of magic and mystery in a steam-era civilization. It's London, during a time of steam-powered contrivances and magic called aether. Most people don't believe in magic, but it's not secret; it's just not talked about as a current event.

Four characters function as the protagonist. Simon Archer and Nick Barker share rooms and go around, quieting helping out in situations where a bit of magical intervention is needed. Simon is a scribe - he writes down words or runes and then activates them to control his magic. Nick does a bit of everything when it comes to magic, though throwing fireballs seems to be his favorite go-to attack. Lady Kate Anstruther is an accomplished alchemist and head of Hartley Hall, a few hours outside of London. She divides her time between her dog, her sister, and her experiments. Malcolm MacFarlane is a r…

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Rush Hour

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Book Review: "Dragonflies" by Andy Straka

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"Dragonflies" by Andy Straka presents a world in the near future where drone technology has evolved without the necessary social rules to guide its usage. The book begins with a military operation going horribly wrong because of faulty intelligence.  The two main characters, helicopter pilot Raina Sanchez and  soldier Tye Palmer, meet here as Tye rescues Raina from a crashed helicopter.

Fast forward, and the two characters are working together to stop a crooked politician.  Interestingly, while Tye does the ground work, it's Raina who is the more important person here as her flying experience lets her work with the minuscule drones.

While this book is classified as science fiction, I wonder if it should just be considered a thriller because the technology here might already be available.  I know it's more than a little disconcerting to think that our government might have to ability to send insect-sized drones around to spy on whatever they want, but considering how…

Rules for Being Human

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You will receive a body.  You may like it or hate it, but it is yours.You will learn lessons.  You are enrolled in a full-time, informal school called life.  Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons.  You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.There are no mistakes, only lessons.  Growth is a process of trial and error experimentation.  The "failed" experiments are as much as part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works".A lesson is repeated until it is learned.  A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it.  When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.Learning lessons does not end.  There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons.  If you are alive, there are lessons to learn."There" is no better than  "here".  When your "there" has become a "here", you will simply obtain another "there" th…

Book Review: "Two Ravens and One Crow" by Kevin Hearne

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Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Two Ravens and One Crow" by Kevin Hearne can be read as a standalone story or as part of the Iron Druid series. If you want to read it in the series, this book comes six years after "Tricked", which means about halfway through Granuaile's training as a druid. The Morrigan shows up and demands Atticus accompany her on a journey that will return him in about two weeks, if he returns at all.

Kevin Hearne outdoes himself in this short story. On top of an intricate plot that augments the overall Iron Druid story arc, Hearne expands the characters of Atticus, Morrigan, and a few surprise guests as well as developing new dimensions in the relationships between Atticus and Granuaile, Morrigan, and one particular surprise guest. Also, we learn that the Morrigan is more self-aware than we know, that she's a strange sports fan, and that she values the friendship she has with Atticus.

If you're alrea…

Book Review: "Rock Redemption" by Nalini Singh

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Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Rock Redemption" by Nalini Singh guides the reader through the broken relationship between Noah St. John, guitarist for Schoolboy Choir, and Kit Devigny, friend to the band and a promising actress. If you've read either of the other books in the Rock Kiss series, you know that demons from his past chase Noah through life, and he goes through women like a hot knife through butter.

This is a romance novel, so from the get-go you know that the protagonists, Noah and Kit, will overcome any obstacles and be a couple by the end. What makes "Rock Redemption" a good read is that Ms. Singh crafted a wonderful story that draws you in and lets you care about the characters. You root for Noah to find the courage to talk to Kit about his past and the strength to let go of said past to embrace the future. You worry about Kit and her stalker, wondering who would attempt to terrify her so much.

An side note here - I lov…

Freaky Friday News: October 16, 2015

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And the Winner is...  Santa Claus!!! Santa Claus, the man formerly known as Thomas Patrick O'Connor, won a seat on the city council of North Pole, Alaska, this week.   Mr. Claus ran as a write-in candidate, and received 58 votes to capture his victory.
Mr. Claus is a cancer patient, and he wants to set up a marijuana medical dispensary in town.  He also advocates for children's rights.
Congratulations, Santa!

How Not To Put Out a Fire Earlier this week, an unnamed man in Clay County, Missouri tried to burn trash in a field.  Only, he didn't clear out enough space so the brush caught fire.  To put out the unintended fire, he decided to do something unusual - he drove over the flames.
In his minivan.
Filled with ammunition.

It didn't work out well.  The van's tires caught fire, then the flames reached the ammunition, and began to randomly set off the bullets.  After the police and fire arrived, both groups waited a safe distance away from the minivan until the ammunit…

Fact or Opinion: It Doesn't Matter As Much As You Think

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What are the facts? Again and again and again - what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” -- what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

- The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, Robert A. Heinlein



With the plethora of knowledge accessible with a simple google, many people assume that the masses will avail of said knowledge when making important decisions, such as which candidate to support in the voting booth, which car to purchase, whether or not to use vaccinations,...

Sadly, this is not true.

According to several studies published this year, the majority of people unconsciously filter out information that doesn't support their view on a topic in which they already have an established stance.  One of the studies, which involved vaccinations…

Wordless Wednesday: New Punctuation Marks

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Mass Shootings - Not A Gun-Control Issue

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Over the past few years, there have been a plethora of mass shootings in movie theaters, schools, and wherever else a person felt like they needed to make a statement.  For the most part, I don't comment on these occasions, partially because of the already outrageous amount of media attention on the event and partially because I never really had anything to add to the public discussion.

But after hearing about the mass shooting last week and all the discussions about gun control, I think we need to rethink the problem.  I don't see gun control as the answer to mass shootings.  Most of the people obtained their firearms legally, and I don't see the need to punish 99.9% of the people to maybe stop one shooter.

The problem is the media attention.  If a person is feeling blue and wants attention, all he or she has to do is grab a gun and start shooting everyone for instant fame.  Suddenly, his name will be mentioned at least once an hour, every hour, for days on end.  Everyon…

Zoo Warning Sign

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My Food Rule

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Freaky Friday News: October 9, 2015

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Just in Time... Last Monday, the police in Newport, Kentucky (a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio) rescued a man who was being crushed by a nonvenomous snake.  Thank goodness we now have a medical code to describe what happened; otherwise who knows what chaos would be unleashed on our hapless medical billing systems.


Elvis is Back!
That is, the king cobra called Elvis.  Living in Orange County, Florida, Elvis escaped his owners about a month ago.  This resulted in a local elementary school temporarily suspending outdoor recess and a lot of people jumping at noises.  
Yesterday, a woman noticed a hissing sound coming from underneath her clothes dryer.  Animal control technicians came out and found the 10-foot long snake hiding back there.  It took two special tongs, a cat carrier, and a soft-sided carrier to get the snake back home.  Hopefully, he won't be leaving the building anytime soon.
Man Burns House Down Playing Minecraft
Vote Santa Claus 2015


Next Tuesday, the town of North Pole,…

Friday Funny

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Are Great Apes "People", too?

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Growing up, I remember thinking about animals and wondering if they talked to each other, what they thought about, and if they all lived together somewhere in a hidden place with no humans around to kill them.  And I LOVED watching "Dr. Doolittle" (the older movie, not the Eddie Murphy one).

As I grew up, my interests changed, but I still like learning about wild animals.  I wrote a paper on African elephants; I watched "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom"; I listened as scientists made discovery after discovery about the amazing abilities of dogs and dolphins.

In the past several years, we've learned that humans are not the only self-aware creatures on this planet.  Dogs, dolphins, whales, octopuses, and great apes all recognized themselves in mirrors and act in ways that astound me.  Certain types of dogs can remember over 1,000 different toys and then pick out a new toy in the group.  An octopus can watch another octopus solve a problem, learning the solut…

Would You Get Crushed by a Snake Twice?

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I hope not, but if you do, the latest batch of medical codes has you covered.

Medical codes - those crazy numbers that appear on the paperwork from your doctor, letting the insurance people know that you have a 320.8 and a 719.0 for today's visit.

In the United States, we have several systems of medical codes, including the International Classification of Disease, a "standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes" according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  The WHO and the CDC work together to create revisions to these codes, which began in the late 1890s.  The latest release, ICD-10, has been used on death certificates in the United States since 1999, but it was only last Thursday that doctors' offices and hospital were mandated to use the newest codes in their diagnostic work.

What does this mean to you?  Nothing in the short term (unless you're in medical billing).  But long term, these new codes will help the CDC a…

Wordless Wednesday: Cool Treehouse Credit

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Friday Funny

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Freaky Friday News: October 2, 2015

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Welcome to Freaky Friday News, the Rock Edition!  
Why do I call it that?  Because this week, everyone rocks!
John Oliver Rocks!U.S. Judge George H. King Rocks!Belgian Scientists Rock!Mealworms Rock!
John Oliver Rocks!
"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver tackles current events with truth, sarcasm, and a willingness to not only think outside the box, but to actually go outside the box.  This week, Oliver discussed the refugee crisis happening in Europe.  During this segment, we meet Noujain Mustaffa, a sixteen-year-old girl from northern Syria who needs a wheelchair because she has cerebral palsy.  Ms. Mustaffa acts as a translator for people because she speaks nearly perfect English, learning the language by watching "Days of Our Lives".
Hearing this, John Oliver contacted the show, told them about Ms. Mustaffa, and asked them for help with not only focusing attention on the plight of the refugees, but also to create something specifically for this special girl.  &…

Book Review: "Hell Bound" by Andrew P. Weston

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Hell Bound by Andrew P. Weston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Update: The book is available for pre-order right now on Amazon Kindle, and will be release on October 31, 2015.

"Hell Bound" by Andrew P. Weston delivers snarky, humorous, deep-delving fun through a narration reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Weston created a new version of Hell here, one in which the various rings reflect real world places, in which Dom Peringnon rules the crime underworld of Perish (Paris) with his 2nd in command, Al Catraz, in which Red Riding Hood aka Red Cap aka Strawberry Fields works as a special investigator, and in which the edges of Hell are illuminated by the light of Paradise.

The protagonist, Daemon Grim, acts as Lucifer's Grim Reaper in this universe. Grim hunts down bad guys both in Hell and on Earth, delivering these rotten souls to Hell for their punishment…

Death of a Murderess

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Wednesday morning, just before 12:30am, the state of Georgia executed their first woman this century, Kelly Renee Gissendaner.  Eighteen years ago, Mrs. Gissendaner convinced her lover, Gregory Owen, to murder her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.  Mr. Owen then turned state's witness and signed a plea bargain.  He received life without parole in exchange for testifying against Mrs. Gissendaner.

Now, we know that Kelly Gissendaner is guilty as charged.  She has since admitted her actions and apologized for her behavior.  There is no question about that.

But I still wonder, is execution the right answer?  What do we as a society gain from her execution?

Supposedly, punishments such as imprisonment and execution act as deterrents, convincing people that it's better not to commit a crime.  Yet time and time again, studies show that these punishments do not act as deterrents at all.  Why?  Because most people don't think that they will get caught.  If they thought that they would…