Monday, November 30, 2015

A Charming Thyme | Susan Wittig Albert

“Susan Wittig Albert's novels featuring ex-lawyer and herb-shop proprietor China Bayles have won acclaim for their rich characterization and witty, suspenseful stories of crime and passion in small-town Texas. Now, when China's friend Jo dies of an apparent suicide, China looks behind the quaint facade of Pecan Springs. Though she finds a lot of friendly faces, China is sure that one of them hides the heart of a killer.”
~ Thyme of Death | Goodreads
Thyme of Death took a little adjusting to the character of China Bayles.  As well as her small-town Texas environment's structure.  Eventually I got it.  And by the book’s end–I loved it.  As the first book in Albert's series, I found myself dedicated soon after the last page.  

Nevertheless, the book features China’s first-person voice and perspective.  And having her strum through her range as ex-lawyer to herb shop owner was unique and effective for her situation.  So I loved her blend of pragmatic sense (lawyer voice) with her knowledge of herbs and their effects.  Those two elements worked well for my investment in her character–and of course the plot.  Equally, I appreciated her character and backstory on her extreme change in occupations.  There was something there and present to her character.  Something I found authentic and magnetic.  And there was just enough personality and open-end developmental avenues available to her.  Especially concerning her rocky love life.  On top of that, she was witty and straightforward.  Just the way I love my female sleuths.
As for the actual mystery I’m going to say this: cozy, charming, and ridiculous.
The tone of the book fit smoothly into the cozy mystery genre.  It read like a dribbling, syrupy small-town mystery.  There were lots of “sit down” talks with drinks.  Lazy strolls through neighborhoods.  Conversations with eccentric locals with eccentric hobbies.  And even the dusty detective viewing murder with his cigarette ashes sweeping over the scene.  (You could consider such a character in a cozy mystery a cliche.)  So much of each was present for the book's tone, a tone in which I would analogize to sipping tea in low country.  However, despite the book’s languid resonance, I have to admit the determination and assiduous China and friends stole my attention.  So I was never bothered or bored with the actual mystery's unfolding.  In fact, I found myself absorbed and guessing the solution comfortably along the way.
All went out the window at the end of the book, though.  It seemed like Albert spent time serving languid small-town murder that she felt the end needed to switch into overdrive.  I won’t give away the details; but I’ll let it be clear how I felt the ending seemed rushed, ridiculous and out of place.  Oh, and unbelievably coincidental.
Yet.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.  
On top of my love of China Bayles’ voice, and the book's wiggling abrupt shift in tone; I really enjoyed several of the themes Albert toyed with.  Secret lovers and new age concerns are only a few.  And the last piece of highlight: China–herself–pays reference to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone.
A win.
"I rolled my sherry glass between my hands.  With any luck, tonight would get me the proof Meredith was asking for.  But if I told her what I was up to, she'd want in on it.  As wired as she was, she'd blow the whole thing.  She'd get herself or Ruby hurt.  She'd get me hurt."
"I didn't doubt that show business was no business in which to find true love and happiness.  It was probably a lot like the legal business–full of arrogant, greedy people glad to take their bite ad then some.  And it wasn't any fun to keep looking over your shoulder, wondering who was going to slip it to you next.  If that was why Roz had turned down the contract, I could certainly sympathize.  I might even applaud.  But I didn't particularly want to listen to her chorus of complaints.  So I just gave a non-committal 'hmmm.'  Luckily, we were almost at Meredith's, and there wasn't time for any more confidences."
"I dropped my arms with a sigh.  I knew the signals.  I could forget about sex for the moment."
"The door opened and I followed the cat into the semi-darkened living room, which smelled of furniture polish, dusty drapes, and stale cooking odors.  Violett stood clutching a navy cardigan around her.  I could see why Constance had sent her home.  She had the look of someone teetering on the edge.  Her hair was in strings, her eyes deeply shadowed; lines etched her mouth.  There was a tic at the corner of her right eye." 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Down the Robb Holes

Now, yes yes.  Down the Rabbit Hole is an anthology featuring authors other than J. D. Robb.  There’s R. C. Ryan, Mary Kay McComas, Elaine Fox, and Mary Blayney.  True.  Being the hyper sonic-speaking Robb fan I am–I’m pushing this post toward the featured In Death short, Wonderment in Death.
Like many In Death shorts in previous anthologies, it works with a theme (just as the other featured shorts).  The theme of Wonderment in Death plays with–if you haven’t guessed–Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland.
This time around Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her tribe are solving the murder/suicide of a psychiatric patient.  The patient left her doctor’s office with a swing towards her brother’s penthouse.  Having killed him, she turned around and leaped out of the building.  It appears the case is open/closed, with a sprinkle of M.O. details revolving around the relationship the patient and her brother had with their parents.  However, it’s the hallucinogenic drugs found in her system that sends a red flag to Eve and her team.  And they’ll follow that clue as it leads them to a “mad hatter’s” gas chamber.
Thrilling, face-pace, and entertainingly silly (but always charming) at times.  But as always Eve and her tribe are present in this fun, short case.  One that I walked away from cracking up.  Robb always has a little extra fun in her shorts.  This one is no different.

Currently-Reading Hustle (Video)

B O O K S M E N T I O N (All links are Amazon affiliate)

1. Buffy, The Vampire Slayer Tempted Champions by Yvonne Navarro ~
2. Young Miss Holmes by Kaoru Shintani ~
3. A Free Life by Ha Jin ~
4. A Mind to Murder by P. D. James ~
5. Perfect Peace by Daniel Black ~
6. God is Always Hiring by Regina Brett ~
7. Day Shift by Charlaine Harris ~



Monday, November 23, 2015

Goodreads Challenge, Challenge | Final Thoughts on Anna Pigeon 1&2

This may be a rambling post, but I just feel like talking on the blog today.  Well, I’ll try to fit something about books into it.
So I feel behind.  In an attempt to resuscitate my slacking Goodreads challenge this past summer, I’ve started reading books faster than pumping out my final thoughts on them.  Or maybe it’s the other way around?  You know I tend to confuse myself when there’s static–a stalling in the air.  Nonetheless, I caught up with my challenge, but didn’t exactly write my thoughts on each book fast enough.  That could very well be because I’ve shifted my focus toward making more videos
Now I know many people look at such “frustration” as something that isn’t serious.  Something which doesn’t really require pressure.  And that’s true.  And I’m aware of that within myself.  However, the thing is I love what I do here!  I love reading.  So when I feel a lack in my reading I want to correct it.  I love writing about what I’ve read.  So when I haven’t written anything I’m slightly troubled by the lack of productivity.  Then again, I may be straight-up racking myself with ADD about the situation.  Only God knows.  And let's be real, I’m too tired to ask him for anymore direction in my life.
But no.  After a period of time, I think I don’t have much to say about a particular book I’ve read.  Forcing myself to siphon up my thoughts months later kind of gets in the way of me managing to post anything.  And that’s what happened with my two October readings of Nevada Barr’s A Superior Death and Ill Wind.  With hands up high like Sophie Petrillo, I’ve got nothing.  Except some cool pictures of the books that you can check out here.

A SUPERIOR DEATH (Anna Pigeon #2)
If you frequent this blog, you know that I read the first book in Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series this summer.  Get all your information in the LABELS [See Nevada Barr] below.  It took a minute or two, but I decided to move forward with the series with its second book, A Superior Death.  This time, park ranger Anna Pigeon stations out of Lake Superior.  She’s in Isle Royale National Park.  And finds herself solving the murder of a colleague found floating in a sunken freighter called the Kamloops.  The freighter sunk into Lake Superior back in December of 1927.  So imagine the sight of this fresh corpse drifting in the engine room of this rotted, sunken monstrosity.  Oh, a rotted sunken monstrosity containing the bodies of decades decayed crew members.  So the underline question is how did Anna’s colleague get down there and for what reason was he murdered?
I gave the book three stars.  One, it was a slower read than the previous book.  Normally I don’t complain, but it seemed to take a touch too long to warm up with the murder and overall sleuthing.  I felt the beginning was slow and thick with Barr introducing the secondary characters.  It also grew thick with exposition tours of Anna’s role and procedures.  Much got muddled to me, having to keep up with quirky characters and their individual idiosyncrasies.  Along with the general stack of which indiscernible station, boat, port, cabin, or tent belonged to whom.  Eventually, I got the hang of who was who, and had no choice as Anna bounced from island to station cycling conversations with them all.  Oh, and constantly consuming alcohol out on a deck where evidently anyone can sneak up on her in the dark. (Another area I grew tired of.)
The remaining good news is I still find Anna to be strong, resourceful, and smart.  And Barr put her through some thrilling circumstances.  Such as diving into the Kamloops wreckage–twice.  So if anything, that venture delivered in accordance with the book’s premise.  And I did find myself wide-eyed at the process.
ILL WIND (Anna Pigeon #3)
Ill Wind has Anna trading Lake Superior for Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.  This time the mystery surrounds a series of deaths attributed to a disease of some sort.  A disease local to the park for whatever reason.  Anyway, it's killing tourist.  And when one of Anna’s colleges (forever the case) ends up found murdered, it’s up to her to find out the connection.
Unfortunately, I found the closure behind this to be somewhat of a stretch on the believability factor.  Anna still played her usual over-drinking, pessimistic, and noisy role.  So she’s still anything but stale or a sour protagonist.  Frankly, her attitude and the construction of the actual murders always draw me in.  It's the idea behind the murders that had me rolling my eyes.  
And that, unfortunately, is all I have for now.  Sad, but true.  Had I got to catching up on my writing about these immediately after I'd finished, I most definitely would've had more to share.  But let me pass on this one.  Please!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Buffy & Roberts. Do They Clash? (Weekend Haul)

After another needling week at the 9-5, I enjoyed a little quiet time at Barnes & Nobles Saturday.  First, I had to make myself move and get off my ass to get there.  Driving on the freeway to avoid construction gives me the chance to talk myself out of the trip.  Each time.  Second, I usually avoid quiet times at the bookstore on weekends.  My Barnes & Nobles connects to a town center, which is always flooded with shoppers on the weekend.  That couldn't be more evident when I stood in line for damn near fifteen minutes to buy a Redbull out of the conjoining Starbucks.  Eventually, I settled down with the laptop and updated my Zazzle shop (new notebooks and phone cases) while trying to keep it cute.  For a good two hours I sat at peace before meeting up with friends to finish up the night.
So with two 20% off Barnes & Nobles coupons burning in my pocket, I finally cut the $18.99 price of Buffy Season 10 Volume 3 down to $14.50.  Very, very necessary.

In this volume Buffy and friends are still going on about rewriting the rules of magic.  However, a new enemy has arrived.  He's named the Sculptor.  He uses human flesh to sculpt and create monsters.  As always, Buffy's personal life comes into the situation as well.  She continues to juggle around her relationships with others, particularly Spike.  We'll see how this goes.  So far, Season 10 hasn't disappointed!

To further my Nora Roberts kick; later I grabbed a copy of her latest trilogy-opener, Stars of Fortune.  That inner compelling voice kept begging me to buy this book.  And I followed it.  Hope it leads to something great.  I'm in the middle of the second book in her Key Trilogy and will have to force myself not to use Stars to interrupt.  In the meantime, check out Amazon's synopsis...

Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the legendary fire star, part of an ancient prophecy. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets.
Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.
When a dark threat looms, the six must use their combined powers—including trust, unity, and love—to find the fire star and keep the world on course.

Here's to continued reading success.  Or something like that.  Anyway, I'm sure Buffy will close out this week as my work schedule continues to throw salt all over my weekday reading.  Ugh.  Nonetheless, if you've read any of the two, share your comments and thoughts below.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sleepytime! | 5 Audiobooks For Sleep PART ONE (In a Positive Way)

My nightly set up.  You can find the speaker HERE.
Sleepy time!
Now, I can’t be the only one who uses his/her Kindle for anything other than reading.  Though sadly I wish I could get into electronic reading.  The problem is I never seem to follow through with anything over 200 pages.  But that’s beside the point.  Except for watching the occasional Hulu or Netflix program (usually while cooking), my Kindle’s primary use is for putting me to sleep with audio books.  Yet, they’re not the kind of books you may be thinking about.  There’s no John Grisham giving me lawyer intrigue during my dream state.  Danielle Steele isn’t lulling me with romance stories.  Though I may need to try her out to get some kind of romantic action.  And while I would love Harper Lee’s latest; Go Set a Watchman's narrator isn't storytelling me to sleep either.
Whether it's seen as accessing the subconscious to switch better thinking thoughts into my waking/conscious state; I listen to self-help, motivational and inspirational books while winding into sleep. 
It started years ago when I would lull myself to sleep listening to psychic Sylvia Browne’s lectures on cassettes.  I used to probe her material at a time when I desperately sought answers through self-realization.  The other truth was her harsh, smoke-stretched voice relaxed me.  ASMR buzzes tingled all throughout my brain at the sound of her crackly voice.  

I’ve never been able to sleep in utter silence.  Actually, I don’t know anyone who can.  So learning to listening to audio books helped me sleep.  They cut the soundlessness.  The darkness.  Complete silence does a number of things, but the primary one is over-activating the imagination.  So groaning pipes become ghosts.  Popping wood becomes approaching footsteps.  But a storyteller with just the right narrative voice relaxes like no other.
With so much said, I would now like to share five of my favorite audiobooks for falling asleep.  In a positive way...

Embracing Change - Louise Hay

Louise Hay changed my life back in 2011.  You can click on the LABEL at the bottom of the post to see whatever other post to understand why and how.  Nonetheless, without a doubt her material/audio books dominate my Audible library.  Fifteen audio books and lectures stay at my fingertips.  Night after night.  And even day after day.  However, as it regards nights, I mostly find myself clicking on her lecture, Embracing Change to lull me to sleep.
Embracing Change features Louise in her classic profession of sharing her profound–though always ecstatically simple–ideas on bettering one’s life from the inside out.  Her examples emerge through her own life experiences.  Such as her overcoming cancer.  The abuse she faced as a child.  Her divorce.  And so forth.  It’s soft.  It’s gentle.  It’s caring.  It’s calmingly smooth against restless emotions.  And her ideas really encourage us to release so many of the negative thoughts and afflictions that hold us back.  Of course with the necessary tools and affirmations to make it happen.  One can never go wrong with her.  Seriously, Louise Hay has been in the self-improvement game for decades and is worth every bit of our attention.  Including in our dream state.

Being in Balance: 9 Principles for Creating Habits to Match You Desires – Wayne Dyer
If anyone should follow or slip above Louise Hay, it’ll be Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Sadly, of course, Dr. Dyer has recently passed.  But his books and lessons will always remain.  And one I’ve enjoyed over the years is Being in Balance: 9 Principles for Creating Habits to Match Your Desires.
While the same can apply toward others in his field, I love Dyer for his ability to shift your thoughts and emotions into acknowledging the bigger picture.  Whether it’s learning how to find asylum from the past mistakes that torture our life.  Or learning how to trust ourselves and others.  Dyer's teachings brings comfort in much needed spaces.  No matter how many times he impresses his thoughts and share his ideas, he always provides a new or refreshed direction at approaching many of life’s struggles.  Of course with the insightful tools necessary to manage the inner work involved.  And Being in Balance takes the essence of the Law of Attraction on with a balanced touch between the Universe and recipient.  Of course immensely refined through Dyer’s wisdom.  And gentle narrative for those interested in falling asleep peacefully to his wisdom.

Mom & Me & Mom – Maya Angelou
Now this author (among other things) takes little explanation or introduction.  So, we’ll just get right into what her book, Mom & Me & Mom is about.
If you’ve read Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, then you should be familiar with her history.  Particularly the history between her and her mother.  Her mother, Vivian Baxter, was certainly a character.  Commanding and demanding as she was, her actions weren’t always in acknowledgment of Maya and her brother.  As Vivian’s marriage grew rocky, she sent Maya and her brother away to the South to live with their grandmother.  An action boiled with resentment inside of Maya.  It’s in Mom & Me & Mom where Maya takes us on the road for reconciliation within her relationship with her mother.  The book pinpoints the different areas of that journey, as well as what the two women walked away from that eventually brought them closer.  This is easily one of my favorite audio books to fall asleep to.  It’s also one that I find myself staying up in the dark listening to.
Thanks for tuning in.  I’ll be back with PART 2 of this list.  There I’ll get into my time with Marianne Williamson, Doreen Virtue, and Lisa Nichols.
Share your experiences and comments below!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Resident Evil Revelations 2 ~ Episode 4 Gameplay

Strolling through my section of video game uploads, I seemed to have forgotten the upload of my gameplay for Resident Evil Revelations 2 Episode 4: Metamorphosis.  This should subdue the completionist in me.  

Here we'll share the first 2 videos featuring that episode.  For the link to my small (extremely small until I can gather better equipment) gaming channel, click HERE

Saturday, November 7, 2015

So Far: Falling for Herring, Mustard, Bradley

Flavia de Luce strikes again.  This time she’s running against the police investigating the bludgeoned near-death of a Gypsy woman.  And if that’s not enough, a town thief finds himself hanging from a statue with a lobster fork gouged up a nostril.  Gruesome business indeed.  And especially for a pre-teen English girl with a bottomless affinity for the study of death and a little known gag reflex when approaching a corpse.  Nonetheless, it’s all Flavia’s business.  And she peddles her bicycle across her village uncovering stones, roots, and community secrets to fulfill her curiosity.  Oh, and solving murder.
As the third book to Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mystery series, I have to express how I believe I’m finally settled into dedicating myself to this series.  Well, it was no question how I planned to read the books.  The question was the pace I would take in doing so.  Stuff them down in one go?  Or spread them out months at a time underneath the phrase "a little bit at a time goes a long way."  Fortunately, the "spreading" idea wasn't the case.  Immediately after I read A Red Herring Without Mustard, I went in search of the following book (with no luck thus far).  
See, there was no wishy-washy feelings after I read Mustard.  No “eh, eh.”  None of that.  Only the burning need to hit up my local bookstore with a debit card anxious to acquire the following four or five books in this currently-running series.  You see, the previous two books more or less won Bradley’s style of mystery plotting into my groove.  Book one [The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie] read like a test run.  But of course an engrossing run.  And book two [The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag] seemed off balanced from a murder generated 100 pages in, and a file of branching story threads that eventually wove together.  Unbelievable woven, I should say.  So despite finding myself in like with Bradley’s youthful and precocious protagonist, Flavia; I had until now to find myself hungry for more of her in whatever circumstances Bradley features.  
As I said before, Flavia reminds me a lot of myself at her age; filled with questions and willing to find answers when not given.  Particularly by adults.  A Red Herring Without Mustard had that better balance of Flavia, overlaying mystery, suspense, and charm that locked and keyed me to this series.  Sadly, my local bookstore didn’t have the fourth book.  So I’m still waiting to collect her next adventure.

Friday, November 6, 2015

FRIDAY READS: Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

I had the intentions of buying Tess Gerritsen's latest, Playing with Fire, the week of its release.  (No, it's not part of her Rizzoli & Isle series.)  For whatever reason, the two places I went to (one including Barnes & Nobles) didn't have a copy of the book.  Or at least I couldn't find one.  I came home that day thinking that I was a week ahead of its release.  However, according to Amazon's publication date, I had it right the first time.  Maybe it was the Universe's way of giving me something fresh to read this weekend.  I kept myself in the house all last weekend with Patricia Cornwell's Depraved Heart.  And with a storm currently in our city's trajectory, Playing with Fire seems right on time.
So what is this non-Rizzoli & Isle book about?  Let's be lazy and let Amazon do the explaining...
"In a shadowy antiques shop in Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell happens upon a curious piece of music—the Incendio waltz—and is immediately entranced by its unusual composition. Full of passion, torment, and chilling beauty, and seemingly unknown to the world, the waltz, its mournful minor key, its feverish arpeggios, appear to dance with a strange life of their own. Julia is determined to master the complex work and make its melody heard.

Back home in Boston, from the moment Julia’s bow moves across the strings, drawing the waltz’s fiery notes into the air, something strange is stirred—and Julia’s world comes under threat. The music has a terrifying and inexplicable effect on her young daughter, who seems violently transformed. Convinced that the hypnotic strains of Incendio are weaving a malevolent spell, Julia sets out to discover the man and the meaning behind the score.

Her quest beckons Julia to the ancient city of Venice, where she uncovers a dark, decades-old secret involving a dangerously powerful family that will stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light."
Happy Reading!

Final Thoughts: Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray (Video)

Whisper Reading: Assist & Attitude (ASMR Exp. Video)

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