Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Burning Up with a new Dragon Kin Book

Feel the Burn (Dragon Kin, #8)Feel the Burn by G.A. Aiken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As the eighth book in the Dragon Kin series, "Feel the Burn" could easily read as a formula-generated book. But the author, G. A. Aiken, manages to make this book read as well as any standalone, actually better than some. I have only read the first book in this series so far, but I never felt like I missed a thing while reading "Feel the Burn". Of course, I do plan on reading the other books now that I've read this book.

"Feel the Burn" thoroughly introduces us to Gaius, the One-Eyed Rebel Dragon King, and Kacka, a Daughter of the Steppes and a warrior woman who makes the Amazons look like wannabes. Gaius currently travels around, locating and killing treacherous family members. But Kachka is safely ensconced at Annwyl's palace and bored - BORED I tell you - out of her mind. Queen Annwyl solves her boredom by asking Kacka to track down a cult that's running around her territory, torturing and killing people.

The story includes a love story between Gaius and Kacka, but there is so much more than that. Both protagonists learn about themselves and want they truly want, all the while saving the various kingdoms and killing cousins. In fact, I think Gaius and Kacka are apart more than they are together, but it never feels artificial.

The plot, action, and dialogue are up to Ms. Aiken's high standards. She also manages to create fully developed characters, the main characters as well as several secondary characters. And as usual, I ran into no spelling or grammatical errors.

Overall, I recommend this book to everyone who loves dragons, fantasy, and kicking butt.

I give this book four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 16, 2015

Victims of ISIS

Everyone's talking about the attacks on Paris.  About 129 people have already died, and I don't know if that number is stable or if more people are sitting in hospitals on the edge of death.  But this is not the first attack perpetrated by ISIS.  A Russian airline downed, bombs in Ankara, Turkey, and the attacks on Lebanon and Tunisia  - ISIS has made a clear statement through their actions.  They are not afraid of killing people to achieve their goals.

But ISIS is not the Muslim religion.  I fear for Muslims when I read quotes and articles that act as if what ISIS is doing reflects the majority of Muslims.  I fear for the refugees who now have to face prejudice because of actions by the group they are running away from, because some people now think all Muslims are potential terrorists.

But calling all Muslims potential terrorists because of ISIS is like saying all Christians are potential terrorists because of the KKK.  Both ISIS and the KKK are fringe organizations that have nothing to do with the majority of believers.  And for those who would argue that the KKK isn't a religious organization, what about the Army of God?  The Phineas Priesthood?  The Lord's Resistance Army? All of these are supposedly Christian organization that are violent, promote kidnapping and murder, and are in no way representative of the vast majority of Christians.

We need to stop assuming all Muslims are like those in ISIS.  We need to stop looking at all the refugees like their are guilty because of their religion.  I believe that people are good, regardless of their religion.

We cannot save the dead.  They are beyond our help.  But we can save the living, and we can help those in need.  We need to keep helping the refugees because they have nowhere left to go.  If we don't, if we let fear and uncertainty taint our responses, then the refugees become victims of ISIS again.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Desert Wolf" by Heather Long

Desert Wolf (Wolves of Willow Bend, #8)Desert Wolf by Heather Long
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"Desert Wolf" by Heather Long is a rare kind of book. The blurb on the back cover explains quite succinctly the lead up to this book, and also describes what happens in about 85% of the plot. Cassius needs an Omega to unify his pack. He asks Sovvan to come. It took her several months, but she decided to help. Now Cassius is traveling to the New Mexico-Texas border to meet Sovvan and her guardian, Faust.

I love how Ms. Long takes what might have been a page of narration and stretches it across several chapters. As a reader, I learned about the hell Cassius has endured to become alpha and hold the position. I also learn how much he wants to help his pack become better. I also learn what an Omega is, and who Sovvan is. She is gentle and strong, curious and calm, and exactly what Cassius needs.

Ms. Long includes mayhem, betrayal, playfulness, love, hate, and more into this one book than I have seen in a long time. The characters pop out, and you care about what happens to them. From the youngest child to the supposedly unflappable alpha, you want the best for everyone. The action seems real; the pacing of the story almost perfect. Every fight scene had me cringing at the punches, and torn between wanting to read more to find out what happened and wanting to put down the book because I hated when characters I cared about got hurt.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the creation story of Cassius' pack, the Sutter Butte pack. First, you hear it from an outsider's point of view and you wonder what Sovvan is getting herself into. Then you hear it from an insider's point of view, and though it is basically the same story, your heart will go out to the people of Sutter Butte.

For the record, I never read any of the other book in the Wolves of Willow Bend series, but I never felt as if I needed to for this book. That in itself is the sign of an amazing author. Though I must admit, I will be getting the rest of the series now because I want to know what happened before.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, who loves fantasy books, who loves werewolves, and who likes a good old-fashioned love story.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 13, 2015

Freaky Friday News: November 13, 2015

Funny Responses to the Starbucks "Controversy"

Dog Shoots Owner

On Monday, October 26, Allie Carter of Avilla, Indiana went hunting with her dog, Trigger.  The 25-year-old woman had an apprentice hunting license, and had not been through hunter safety training.  It's the only excuse I know for what happened next. 

Ms. Carter put her shotgun on the ground to reposition herself, only she didn't aim the barrel of the gun away from herself and she didn't engage the safety.  Trigger, a 12-year-old chocolate Labrador, stepped on the trigger and BOOM!!  Ms. Carter had a load of bird shot in her left foot.

The lesson for today - if you are hunting or target shooting or whatever, the safety should always be on until you are about to pull the trigger.  And never aim the barrel towards something you don't want shot.

Dekalb Jail Inmates Make Music Video - From Jail!

Some guys in the local, Dekalb county jail managed to make a rap music video from jail using the visitor's communication equipment.  The video isn't the best quality, and no one was hurt making the video.  But jail officials are embarrassed that this happened under their noses.

Here it is.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Witches Protection Program" by Michael Phillip Cash

Witches Protection ProgramWitches Protection Program by Michael Phillip Cash
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I admit, I got excited when I read the title "Witches Protection Program". All sorts of questions popped into my head. First and foremost, who could threaten witches enough that they need their own protection program? The obvious answer is ... other witches. Okay, it could also be witch-hating zealots or other close-minded people.

That is the premise behind "Witches Protection Program" by Michael Phillip Cash. There are two groups of witches out there, and they have been at odds for a long time. For those who hate spoilers, I'm not going into details here. The author actually covers this information fairly well in the beginning chapters. This story centers around a guy named Wes. He comes from a long line of ridiculously talented and famous people. He father currently runs a division in the police department that was founded by his grandfather. So Wes feels compelled to make a name for himself, and feels all sorts of internal and external pressures to do so.

Only Wes is more of a regularly talented guy, and he's a bit thick. At least that's my first and so far lasting impressions of him. It's also the first problem I had with this book. Despite lots of evidence to the contrary, Wes stubbornly refuses to believe in witches and magic well past the point that makes sense. While I applaud critical thinking and not accepting a situation at face value, Wes goes beyond that into "I don't want to believe this so I just won't" territory before he starts to believe in spite of himself.

The other problem I have with this book is pacing. There is choppiness in the narration and the action. At times, Mr. Cash slows down to explain the situation well, or slows down to capture a scene. Then, Bam! You're thrust somewhere with new characters gaining information you think will be relevant at some point in the future, but uncertain as to the whys or how behind it.

Overall, the characters are good, if a bit stereotypical at times. The plot is interesting enough, and where Mr. Cash might lack in originality he makes up for in good storytelling. But I still give this book only three stars because I am not a fan of his writing style.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day Quote

Wordless Wednesday: How Did They Build It?

Starbucks Holiday Cups - What's the Big Deal?

Have you heard about the big brouhaha over the newest Starbucks holiday cups?   For the past week or so, I read headlines about Christians upset over Starbucks holiday cups this year.  I finally decided to read an article to understand what the problem is.  And I was floored by it.

The issue is that Starbucks is using plain bright red cups for the holiday season this year.  Previous years saw snowmen and snowflakes on the cups.  So some people have interpreted the lack of snowflakes and snowmen as an attack on Christmas.


I kid you not.

One of these new "Christmas" crusaders even went onto Twitter to crow about how he "tricked" Starbucks into writing "Merry Christmas" on his cup by claiming that was his name.

The cups never said "Merry Christmas" before, so I am uncertain as to how this is a trick.

I know what you're thinking - how can the lack of freaking snowflakes be an attack on Christmas?  Because the cups DON"T:

  • say "Happy Saturnalia", 
  • say "Hanukkah Rules",
  • feature embossed demons or devils, 
  • promote Satanism,
  • promote consumerism,
  • insult Christmas, or
  • reference Harry Potter.

Starbucks hasn't forbade their stores to decorate for the season either.  They simply now supply plain cups so that people can either write or draw on them.

The level of public outcry over this demonstrates that we need to stop telling people that it's okay to be offended by everything that doesn't go their way.  It's not a verbal message, but it's definitely a social message being passed around.

Maybe it's time to tell people to put their grown-up pants on and deal with it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Was She Tricked?

I first learned about logic and logic puzzles when I was in elementary school.  A friend of my father's gave me a book titled, "What's the Name of this Book?" by Raymond M Smullyan.  Here, I learned about truth tables, reading for details, and using logic to solve seemingly impossible situations.

Mr. Smullyan records a story from his youth, though I swear I've read similar narratives other places.  I want to share this puzzle now, and get your opinion.

On April Fools Day, a young girl played a prank on her older brother.  Filling the sugar bowl with salt (after first getting her mother's permission), she got him a cup of coffee for breakfast.  The brother added lots of salt to his coffee, and nearly spit out the contents when he tried to drink it!!!  He goodheartedly laughed at the prank, and then told his sister to watch out, that he would prank her later that day.  The young girl spent the day watching out.  She slowly opened all doors, drawers, and envelopes.  She only ate food that either she or her mother prepared.  And she stayed away from all the areas of the house where her brother tended to hang out.

By the end of the day, the girl felt frazzled, but triumphant.  As she went to say good night to her brother, she announced, "Ha!  You didn't get to fool me once today."  

To which the brother replied,"You expected to be fooled or pranked, right?"

The girl nodded, "Yes."

"But I didn't fool or prank you, right?"

The girl nodded again.  "Yes."

"Therefore, I fooled you because I had you waiting all day for a prank that never happened."

The brother smiled and told his little sister good night.  But the girl couldn't get to sleep as she tried to puzzle out whether or not she had been fooled.    On one hand, she waited all day to be fooled and nothing happened.  But her brother claimed that by not fooling her when he told her he would, that he fooled her.  Only if he fooled her, then all her waiting was worth it because he did fool her so he didn't fool her.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Does 0.9999999 (repeating) Equal 1?

Okay, so yesterday I watched a video where this guy proposes a proof that 0.99999 (repeating to infinity) actually equals 1.  While his proof appears logical on the surface, it feels like utter nonsense.  Or to use real logic, anything based upon a falsehood is true.

Thinking about it, I decided that 0.99999 might be equal to 1.  Here's my logic:

0.9 = 0.3 x 3

0.3 x 3 = ⅓ x 3

⅓ x 3 = 1
Therefore,  0.9 = 1

What do you think?  Does this make sense?

Wordless Wednesday: Beware of Dog

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Windows 10 and the Missing DLL

I upgraded my desktop computer from Windows 7 to Windows 10 this past weekend.  To be honest, I debated a long time both internally and with my husband before deciding to upgrade, especially because Microsoft doesn't have the best reputation with the latest release of Windows.  But we bought our kids new computers for a combined Christmas/birthday present this year, and both kids are running Windows 10.  So I knew I needed to run Windows 10, if nothing else then to be able to answer questions and help trouble shoot if anything went wrong.

The upgrade was surprisingly easy.  Part of the ease is the fact that I have a solid state drive (SSD) to hold the operating system and a 64-bit CPU (this becomes relevant later).  SSD blow away regular hard drives, otherwise known as spinning rust, in terms of speed.  That means that each reboot only took a minute or so, instead of 4 to 5 minutes.  Plus, Microsoft managed to make the installation less painful, though not entirely pain-free.

After organizing my desktop, I started to install all the programs I use professionally or for play.  As I began to run some new games, an error message suddenly appeared on my screen.  'MSVCP120.dll is missing" the error screamed, though no solution magically appeared with the message.

So I turned to the Internet and googled for the filename.  Instantly, several websites turned up with the answer.  I needed to install the C++ Redistribute Package for Visual Studio 2013.  Okay, I tried that, but no luck.  I searched high and low, but everyone said the same thing.  And it seemed to work for everyone else.  Installing this one package answered took care of everyone else's problem.

Why didn't this work for me?

Then I struck gold.  Someone mentioned that regardless of the bit-size of your CPU, you need to install the 32-bit version of the package.  Huh.  I only installed the 64-bit version, because that seemed like the logical choice.  So I headed over to the website, downloaded the 32-bit version (it ends in -x86) and viola!  Everything works now.

This means Microsoft created a new version of this package but didn't include a key file in the 64-bit version.  Argh!  They were this close to actually getting something right.

I decided that the fix needs to be broadcast a bit more in the clear, so here it is.

If you are running Windows 10 and get an error message saying that MSVCP120.dll is missing, go to C++ Redistribution Package for Visual Studios 2013 and download vcredist_x86.exe. Your problems will be solved.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Zombie Houses - Still Haunting New England

Back in 2013, I wrote about the phenomena called zombie houses.  These are homes that had their owners evicted, but the bank never finished the foreclosure.  So the owner's still have the responsibilities of owning a home, such as paying property taxes and upholding neighborhood covenant rules, without the benefit of living in said home.

In the past two years, the number of zombie houses has decreased in most states, as rising property values make it worth a bank's time to finish the foreclosure and auction off the empty houses.  But a few states still have a plethora of zombies.  According to RealtyTrac, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Illinois haven't had the decrease seen in places like California, Ohio, Washington, and other states.  Partly this is because these four states have longer foreclosure procedures.

The latest statistic I found estimates that New York state has approximately 2.1 zombie homes per 1,000 homes.  New Jersey has approximately 17,000 zombie homes.  Neither state has concrete plans to deal with the problem at this time.

I think the answer to zombie homes is simple.  A bank must take over the title of a home before it can evict the residents.  That moves the responsibility from the citizen to the bank, who would then have to pay the taxes, pay the upkeep, and would be motivated to either keep people in the house by negotiating a reasonable mortgage or sell the house as soon as possible.

What do you think?  Do you agree, or have another idea about how to stop zombie homes?

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...