Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mystic Isle - novella by Patricia Rice

by Patricia Rice
reviewed from e-reader

What do you do when your known world is destroyed?
An earthquake and tsunami, how much can a temple take? Tasia, the new priestess of Aelynn must quickly bring her acolytes together and begin the long trek down shaking stairs, carrying all that is necessary including the chalice which must be held and protected as they descend to the waterfront. With three dozen virgins and equal number or more of children, they are about to embark on one of their two supply ships with no immediate knowledge of adventure or of the male sex. In the meantime, those men have no immediate knowledge of the virgins they have always served from a distance, providing supplies to the temple. As they escape in the two boats the tsunami hits, will they make it to calm waters and find land they can live upon?

Tasia is not your usual priestess. She is a Seer, she has visions, lives by them and protects her acolytes by them. She also has a strong personality and direction. She alone is in tune with Aelynn and follows her direction completely. After a strenuous and terrifying ocean voyage, with the ships becoming separated, they finally take refuge on a fog enshrouded piece of land surrounded by rocks, hidden and visible. Tasia follows her visions and sees their way through to the land beyond the rocks. Is this story fantasy, magical, or drama? Perhaps all three. Immediately disembarking their next concern is the second ship which not only has the rest of their group, but many of the supplies and materials for making the new land livable.

Since the land appears to be habitual, and there is no sign of any people or animals, the group begins to set up shelters and find water. After the second ship is found and brought in, things start to get into some form of order. Tasia sees her visions of what is to come and "speaks" with Aelynn. Horatio tends to the men to keep them busy enough not to get involved with any of the virgins. When Aelynn sends Tasia a special message, difficult to analyze at first, Tasia is not sure if what she was told was correct. This was an interesting story, showing vulnerability, strength, magic, will, and clear thinking, and in the end a surprise.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Memory House: Memory House Collection (Memory House Series Book 1)

by Bette Lee Crosby
reviewed from e-reader

Bette Lee Crosby has a beautiful way of writing. A wonderful story-teller, so imaginative and heart-warming. This story of personal loss and finding a future of life, memories, and happiness is amazing.

After her common-law partner leaves, Annie decides to take a few days off work for a restful holiday without a destination in mind. She finds herself in a small town at a most unusual bed and breakfast. There are only two guestrooms and rarely are both rooms let at once. Ophelia, the owner of the home is warmth and giving personified. It feels as though Annie may have been expected, but how could that be? Ophelia seems to know what Annie needs in life and that she is dealing with sorrow. The friendship between these two blossoms beautifully. Ophelia could  be referred to as a Memory Keeper. Once Annie has seen the way Ophelia can receive memories from inanimate objects, though suspicious about the "how" of it, she very quickly learns that it is her gift, too.

Annie has some difficult decisions to make between her work and her former boyfriend Michael's suspicious advances to get back into her good book. Will she return to her former love? Has he really changed? It almost seems so, but time will tell. There are too many changes happening to know. A change of job, a change of location, a change of lifestyle, though some things never change and others lead to fulfillment. What can Annie do, without a job, expensive apartment rent that she used to split with Michael...until he left. Yet, if she listens to her heart she will easily find the answer; she has a soul mate in Ophelia. Her sheltering, peaceful memories may be just what Annie is waiting for!

Ophelia reminds me so much of my grandmother. When I hold or touch anything that was hers it brings me back through our wonderful times together. Now, maybe I understand, as Annie has begun to. I am consumed with this book. Annie is determined to recall the sound of a child's laughter she heard when holding onto the handlebars of a boy's bicycle that is in Ophelia's shed. As Ophelia explains, the memories choose when to come forward and how much to tell. Sounds strange, doesn't it? But I'm sure many people can retrieve good memories of their own past over time, whether they come in the blink of an eye and forgotten again, or over time a part of their lives. These are personal memories though. The memories Ophelia and Annie are finding are not just their own memories, but memories within items found and therefore glimpses of memories from the people who owned or were attached to the items in the past. Short bits of memory can make themselves known whenever Ophelia or Annie hold these items. But these are past memories of persons they have never known. These memories also choose what and when to be retrieved. Will all memories be good? That remains to be seen.

There are some surprises in store in the latter part of the story. While Annie has moved in and works with Ophelia in the apothecary shop, she is constantly drawn to the bicycle she found. She has now learned from the memories stored in the bicycle two of the boy's names and is seeking to locate this person. In a roundabout classic surprise occurrence. she doesn't meet him but she does become acquainted with his son. A magical tale and a shared blessing at having met, Ophelia herself is feeling very happy; when Christmas arrives it seems love is in the air as well as celebrations and who should happen to turn up for the holiday! On meeting Oliver's family Annie knows already that this is where she belongs. Oh, no, she will not abandon Ophelia, they are more likely to share her in my opinion. The elderly lady still has the will to live until her husband finally comes to bring her home into the light. He tells her the time is yet to come.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mariah's Song (A Bud Blair Novel Book 4)

by Rod Collins
reviewed from e-reader

Mariah leads a sad and broken life. At thirteen she tries to care for her Mom, a woman seriously addicted to meth. At the same time she is trying to avoid any contact with her mother's live-in boyfriend Manfred or Manny as he was usually referred to, the facilitator of her addiction and a violent man. It's midnight, and she can hear disturbing noises of violence, maybe a beating, maybe a murder near the garage. She sees a man almost lifeless being beaten with a two-by-four on the head by Manny when he hears and sees her and threatens her. From this moment, knowing Manny will come after her as witness and with certainty that he will kill her, she starts running for her life. In the meantime, he tries to drag the man's body and load him into the trunk of his car.

Mariah is a wonderful character, she keeps you glued to the book wondering what she is going to be able to do to escape next. She is very resourceful and manages at one point to conceal herself in the loft space in the back of a trailer-pickup combo when the driver is getting gas and though she has no idea where this rig will be going, she feels somewhat safe. She also manages to hand a note to the cashier at the gas & shop station to call 911 and have them go to her address with an ambulance and the police. As I said, resourceful. I loved this book with all its toughness. The interludes of the police who are also friends gone fishing was a great touch. These guys know how to get the best out of the worst, with the passion, the caring, the difficulties of living a normal life. The major head of the snake is more like the hydra, with drug cartels being the heads. This book takes place pretty much from Oregon to Mexico, a lot of land to cover and cover it the characters in this book do. From sheriffs to FBI to our runaway girl and finally to the cartel homes in Alamos, Mexico, the race is on, to find and save Mariah, to keep Amanda from being blown up, to save Mariah's mother, to catch Manny and much more. Also, there is a very good warning that many people don't think about on what can happen with an Amber Alert: Leave it to the police! A young girl who thinks she is helping by keeping people informed of Mariah but publicly saying she has been found could too easily have cost Mariah her life.

This story also created a background for seeing some everyday small town police at their best. A lot of good planning is involved, but at the same time all of them know it could go belly-up in the twitch of a hair or blink of an eye. The same applies to the FBI, NCIS, whatever other government agencies are there to back up or implement, whichever is needed. Mariah's story is terrifying, a thirteen-year old running for her life and yet she has a beautiful soul. With drug cartels involved in other areas but with a crossover due to Manny as a supplier, the tension throughout is steady, with a few of those fishing breaks and friendship breaks, and even then it's not restful, especially with a bomb in the mix. A trip to Mexico puts a definite crimp in the plans to take on a major drug cartel, one of the busiest doing business in the U.S., when another cartel fouls their plans. This is a book that will grab you, shake you up, and not let go. So much can go wrong and some of it does, but that's what keeps us on our toes in life and in this book it really works. I loved it.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Keep Moving: And Other Tips About Old Age

author Dick Van Dyke
published by Weinstein Books

I have just finished reading this book and I feel great! I've got the genes and I'm going to make the most of it. I'm a mere 78 this year, born in 1940. I come away from this book written by a favorite actor, Dick Van Dyke who has reinforced in me the fact that you need to "Keep Moving" whether by memories and thought, dancing and exercising or just exercising your brain. These are brought home to me every day since Mom turned 100 Dec. 23, 2016 and my Dad turns 100 May 27, 2017, living in their own home and yes, they dance. They have a stuffed musical bear that sings; my Dad grabs the bear and Mom and away they go. Oh, his cousin also turned 100 in January, 2017. So yes, I have the genes. But now after reading "Keep Moving" I have the instruction book, so to speak.

While I was at Mom & Dad's last December, in fact right up to and after Mom's 100th birthday, she was reading this book. I was fascinated, because she doesn't read a lot of books. She kept telling me, "I'm really enjoying this book." With that in mind, when I came back home, I bought 2 of them, one for myself and one for my 96 year old neighbor, my lifeline and pal who I have shared so much history with since moving to northern BC and meeting her my first day only to learn that our lives have crossed many times in the past. We don't believe in growing older without a lot of laughter. She loved this book, and passed it on to our friend, and one of which we share our so-called "support group", and she is enjoying it, too. We all have problems of one kind or another, but when we all get together it's a wonder Tim Hortons doesn't throw us out for disturbing the peace, we are laughing that loud. So, Dick Van Dyke, one of my favorite actors and entertainers, you have done what you set out to do. Made a believer of me and my friends.

All that personal stuff aside, (I only included it because it shows just how much we enjoyed the book and follow the theme), this is a remarkable book on living without aging. The rest of the title is "And Other Tips and Truths About Living Well Longer" and certainly fills the bill. Now in his nineties, Dick Van Dyke is enjoying life as much and maybe more. He is still active, sings and dances and refuses to feel "old". I very highly recommend this book to everyone. Not just us "old folks" who are really 'way ahead of our predecessors for many reasons. Laughter, friendship, walking, exercising mind and body (crossword puzzles are great for keeping the mind active), all this and more will keep us young. So many memories in this book from the past and forming today as well. His advice to keep making new memories, don't just sit around, move or go out as much as you are physically able and ignore what you are not physically able, take up new interests you are capable of, music, jokes, laughter, friendship, all will keep you young. This isn't to say that Dick hasn't had his share of sadness having lost two life partners in his lifetime. His memories of these two women are fresh and young, and fortunately he has found his partner, his wife, who though younger is very much in tune with him. He has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren he is proud of and enjoys. This book also brought back the work he accomplished that I grew up with, the sitcoms, the movies, who could forget "Mary Poppins" nor can I forget "Bye Bye Birdie" one that you don't really hear that much about any more, but I remember it. I didn't realize that he was in the airforce during WWII, at the young age of 18. So many famous entertainers did go to war, and some lost their lives. This is a heart-warming book, nostalgic but not lessening in its message. Be young, age is just a number. I enjoyed every bit of this book as well as his conversations with other favorite performers. I still love the Dick Van Dyke show, as well as the other later ones. A very likeable man who I hope will be with us a long time yet.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall by Shani Struthers

by Shani Struthers
reviewed from e-reader

A story all too often heard, particularly in the times of the event. It's Christmas Eve, 1958; it is also Cynthia Hart's 31st birthday. It was a time of big movies in colour, and wannabees drawn to the studios like flies to honey. Cynthia is already a huge star, but tonight she will die. How? Why? We'll follow along the search for these answers with the Psychic Surveys group.

The Psychic Surveys group are devoted to helping the dead into the light, but this will be no easy feat. Where most calls come from people who have purchased houses that were built on land where "Britain's most notorious mental asylum" once was, and could very easily have activity terrorizing them, the group attends them all and has very informed, dedicated and sensitive members, usually explaining and helping these spirits into the light, then performing a house-wide cleansing.

The group consists of Ruby, Theo, Ness and Corinna, all with different abilities. They will have a difficult task ahead. They have been called in by a very rattled homeowner, reporting what appeared to be a very angry spirit. Theo, first on the scene, has felt the strong presence herself, strongest in the master bedroom and ballroom. It seems that Cynthia has never passed on although she died many years ago. Somewhere in her last decades she has been led to believe her soul has been taken, hence the probable feeling of loss end of life, and whoever told this information will nullify it and punish the sender.  I will take care of the other errors.  Her estate had been willed to her maid Sally, and subsequently Sally's nephew Alan Kierney moved in, he is the one who called the group.

Of ghost stories, this one is a bit unusual to say the least. She is not willing to leave. Her death was recorded as a heart attack. What from that night could have caused such a thing at the top of her career? She appears to be terrified and no one could convince her otherwise. What is holding her back? The secret will have to come out soon so she can escape.  In the meantime, a ghost dog has been found at the last house barking and disturbing the neighbours, add it to the pile of queries. While checking the neighbourhood, she meets a young man who strangely is reading the same book "Drive Like Hell" seems a fitting book for the circumstances.

Questioning what Ruby did, she is always thrown off, fortunately she doesn't fall back on her usual wording, but explains she is a psychic surveyor. Of course Cash is confused, but she manages to explain her part of the rescues. This, of course, brings questions re a ghost hunter, no, she is not a ghost hunter but a psychic surveyor, there's quite a difference. She is intrigued by him, but wary. Dressed casually, she wondered what he did. "I'm a website designer, freelance." Wow! This is something helpful or so she hopes. She is needing a website for her business but knew very little about such things. Of course this requires a lot of time between them to a) learn about website control and b) teach what would be needed in her particular work. Her training coming mostly from her Gran, they must be sure everything is precise. Cynthia is terrified to leave and spends most of her time hiding, believing in a small compartment in her room. Oh, Cash has a lot to learn, and fast! The next day is going to be a wild one. He is willing to learn though, especially learning from Ruby.

Cynthia appears to be severely traumatized. She is in complete terror about what is ahead for her. Nothing seems to calm her. The group tries very hard to reason with her but for some reason she is sure that someone from her past sold her soul to the Devil. What? Much as they try to soothe her and reassure her, it will take at least one more visit from them. This was a great read, I loved it and could not have imagined the ending, with suspense building up to a crescendo, I really didn't see it coming. Great story-telling! I would happily read more of this series.