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review 2017-09-23 06:31
Halloween Bingo - Raven Free Space - Mysteries, Ghosts, Monsters
The City of Falling Angels - John Berendt

 

 

Not all mysteries involve murder.  Not all ghosts were once human.  Bewitchment can be enchanting.  And monsters lurk everywhere.

 

John Berendt conjures up a gallery of intriguing characters for this magical tour of Venice in the aftermath of the 1996 fire that gutted the historic La Fenice Opera House.  At the heart, of course, is the investigation into the cause of fire -- was it arson?  was it negligence?  was it just an unfortunate accident?  But how the fire touched various lives, and how those lives were part of the mystique of the city, makes for fascinating reading.

 

Spoiler -- The cause of the fire is determined at the end and the responsible parties are convicted.  Or are they?  In a city like Venice, it's hard to say.  Is corruption rampant?  Well, maybe yes.  That's part of its charm. 

 

The whole city is haunted by its own 1500-year-old past, and menaced by the monsters of time and water and pollution.  If ghosts don't actually walk the halls of the palazzos, their spirits remain unforgotten by the living. There are the rooms where Robert Browning  read his poetry . . . and where he died.  There is the house where Ezra Pound lived with his mistress of 50 years, the house almost stolen by someone perhaps eager to cash in on Pound's fame. 

 

Venice may own much of its current survival to American millionaires who, for whatever reasons, sought to preserve its patrician glamour, perhaps in hopes some of it would magically rub off on them. 

 

Halloween, or the Celtic Samhain, is a time when the veil between our physical world and the spirit world thins to permit visions and visits back and forth.  While I was reading John Berendt's fascinating descriptions of the places and people of turn-of-the-millenium Venice, I couldn't help but think of John Ruskin's monumental The Stones of Venice and the impact it had both on his and subsequent generations of both art historians and social reformers, as well as Madeleine Brent's 20th century gothic romance, Tregaron's Daughter.  The atmosphere of the gothic winds through the three works like morning fog twisting over the lagoon and drifting down the canals.

 

An interesting note:  Ruskin obtained his own camera in 1849 to take photos of Venice for research.  The City of Falling Angels lost half a star for not containing illustrations!  Perhaps Berendt expected his readers to sit beside their computers -- or read on them? -- and look up their own photos.

 

The January 1996 fire, from www.VeniceOnline.it, which has quite a gallery of photos from the fire.

 

 

And the rebuilt La Fenice -- "The Phoenix," rising again from its own ashes -- in 2004.

 

 

 

 

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text 2017-09-20 18:26
Summer's over; back to work

Even though it's 86 degrees before 10:00 a.m., temperatures are really cooling off here in central Arizona, and that means my fall and winter art show season is heating up.  With less than three weeks to my first show, it's time to get myself to work.

 

I have most of my Halloween Bingo books read, with just six (plus the Free Space) to go, and for the most part I've chosen longer but more likely enjoyable books to fill out the squares.  These are books that can be read at leisure, with less fear of DNFing just because I get interrupted!

 

So today I'm going to dedicate my efforts  toward making more stock.

 

As some of you know, I like to play with rocks.  Little rocks, not big ones.  Some I buy at rock and gem shows, but most I actually go out in the desert and find myself.

 

 

If you know the right places, sometimes the really neat rocks are just lying there waiting for you to pick them up!  It may look big, but that piece was only about 3 inches long.  It's pink chalcedony, a form of quartz, and actually quite common.  Though not particularly rare or valuable, it does make nice jewelry when cut and polished.  That's what I do after collecting them -- I cut them on a saw made specifically for cutting rocks, then I polish them, then I wrap them in sterling silver or gold-filled wire.

 

 

That's a piece of white chalcedony that I call Angel Feather Agate.  It has a void, or vug, in the middle that's filled with little tiny crystals.

 

Today I'm playing with a piece of what is probably Brazilian agate, part of an estate collection I acquired a few years ago. 

 

 

 

The red color is natural; the white is actually the crystal center of the agate nodule, which doesn't show up too clearly on an indoor photo.  Outside in the sunshine, it sparkles!

 

If I manage to collect enough discipline today, I'll finish the wire wrapping and have this piece ready for my first show on 8 October.  Guess I'd better start looking for some scattered pieces of that discipline; I'm sure I have a bunch of scraps lying around the house somewhere . . . .

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text 2017-08-30 14:10
Cover Reveal - At Your Service

New York Time bestselling author Lexi Blake brings us the cover for AT YOUR SERVICE, the next book in the Masters and Mercenaries: Topped series releasing on November 14th!

 

   

 

 

 

At Your Service

Masters and Mercenaries~Topped, Book 4

By Lexi Blake

Coming November 14, 2017

 

 

Juliana O’Neil’s promising future was burned away in the heat of battle. She had been an officer with a bright future in the military, but now she is struggling to survive. Her husband gone and her career in shambles, she finds a job at Top as a hostess and tries to put together the pieces of her life. The last thing she needs is any kind of male attention, but she can’t help but be amused at her neighbor and coworker’s lothario antics. Not that she would have anything to do with him, at least not for more than one night.

 

Javier Leones doesn’t understand monogamy. No woman could ever be enough for his endless libido, but he has to admit Juliana has his attention. For reasons he doesn’t fully understand, he can’t seem to get the gorgeous redhead with the sad eyes out of his head. After one scorching night together, he realizes he’ll never be able to get her out of his system. But with his reputation, he fears she’ll never see him as more than a one-night stand.

 

When their passions collide, these new lovers will be forced to confront Juliana’s past and come to terms with Javier’s present. Will they find their way or will this reservation be canceled at the last minute?

 

 

Click to pre-order!

Amazon | iBooks | Google Play | Barnes & Noble

Smashwords and Kobo: Coming Soon!

 

 

       

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog in the world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.

FACEBOOK / TWITTER / WEBSITE / AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

 

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text 2017-07-17 17:15
Comic Book Post
Wonder Woman FCBD 2017 Special Edition (2017-) #1 (Wonder Woman (2016-)) - Greg Rucka,Jr., Romulo Fajardo,Nicola Scott
Batman: The Gotham Adventures - Ty Templeton,Rick Burchett,Terry Beatty
Red Sonja #0 (Dynamite Entertainment Comics) - Michael Avon Oeming,Mike Carey,Mel Rubi

Over the last month I have read several comic books/graphic novels that have been offered for free for kindle or on Comixology.  Here’s a some of the highlights.

Overwatch Series – This comic series, offered for free, is based on the video game of the same name.  It is a game I haven’t played.  The comic series, spanning ten issues, is pretty damn good.  There are quite a few woman characters, several of whom are women of color.  The series also covers several morality questions – what is good, just, right.  The series also uses characters who are older.  The artwork is pretty good as well.  While eight of the issues are basically character studies with action, the last two issues deal with Halloween and Christmas, and so are somewhat a guest star list type of story.  Familiarity is with the video game is not needed to read these, though they should be read in order.  This is because a character in one is the mother of the central character in the following issue.  While the series does offer a must know cliffhanger, it is resolved in the ten issues.

 

Various Batman Comics -  Overall the Batman comics were what you would expect from Batman, and yet, they were in some ways the most disappointing.  The Rebirth first issue was good, though perhaps straining at the very loose sense of reality that holds things together.  The sequence involving passengers on a plane was, in particular, really great.  Neil Gaiman’s Batman in Black and White was clever, if not as clever as it thinks it is.  But the taste of Batman was soured by two freebies, the 10c Adventure and Gotham Adventures. 

                Batman and the Ten Cent Adventure is not as bad as Gotham Adventures.  The basic set up is that Bruce Wayne is framed for a murder.  The story is told from the viewpoint of his bodyguard.  A young woman who reminds a bit of Black Canary.  She was Wayne’s bodyguard until she discovered his identity as Brue Wayne and then she became is crime fighting partner, just don’t call her Robin.  Her voice tells the story so we get very much of Wayne worship and of course, she is in love with him, though he doesn’t know it.  And poor Bruce had to break up with his true love which he does by inviting her to his mansion so she can walk in on him when he is with some other women.  Of course, then he stalks her when he is Batman because that is so romantic. 

                You see my problem. 

                Gotham Adventures is worse, even though it features the extended Bat family.  That comic opens with Batman, Robin, and Batgirl chasing the Joker.  Robin gets delegated to help some woman, and I am not really sure what Batgirl does because she doesn’t have anything to do with Batman catching the Joker.  The Bat group take Joker back to the Batcave because there is a bounty on Joker’s head.  Nightwing shows up and gets a few lines.  Finally, after several pages, Batgirl actually gets to speak.  Everyman had lines, mostly several, before Batwing gets even one.  She is left to guard the Joker, who of course knocks her out.  If it was Alfred getting the drop on the Joker the shit would have hit the fan.  While she is knocked out, the Bat men are all doing heroic things.   So, one woman, who can’t even guard a prisoner who is handcuffed.  It’s a shame really because it is leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and stops what would have been a pretty fun comic read from being so.

 

Various Wonder Woman Comics – So these include Wonder Woman Rebirth (FCBD editions and #1 itself) as well as DC Super Hero Girls.  The Rebirth issues are very interesting and good.  And guess what, one of the FCBD editions has two men talking about a woman and her relationship to one of them.  That is just awesome.  Really awesome.  In particular, what I enjoyed about the Rebirth idea was the concept of storytelling and retconning which WW’s Rebirth storyline seems to directly tackle.  This is wonderful because all the multiple origin stories get a tad confusing.   

                There was also an older Wonder Woman, apparently after Crisis of Infinite Worlds.  This is interesting because Diana Prince is no longer Wonder Woman, at least in name, though the villains still see her as such.  Which shows you that villains know better.  And this raises a question.  I have not read mainstream comics for several years.  But I do know that have been quite a few times when Diana Prince has lost the title of Wonder Woman (once to her mother).  I know that in the last few year, Marvel’s Thor lost his hammer to a woman, and Iron Man is, wonderfully, a young black woman but my question is this -  do any male super heroes lose their status or title as much or more as Wonder Woman has?  Why Wonder Woman?  I’m not trying to be snarky, I am legitimately curious.  How does this break down?  Anyone know?

                The Super Hero girl comics are cute, and intended it seems for a younger audience.  The two I read where actually the same story, one just longer than the other.  The story concerns summer break where Wonder Woman and Bumble Bee go to Mount Olympus.  The cast is multi-ethnic, though a bit strange – why Poison Ivy – but the series does show the girls working together and being there for each other.  Though, why Batgirl sightsees as Batgirl I don’t know.

 

There were some surprises in this comic freebie read – Red Sonja 0, written by Michael Avon Oeming and Mike Curry was actually quite good, despite the   costume that makes no sense and seems to have a magical power to stay still and not show X-rated bits.  Red Sonja Vol 4, #0 was not as good, in fact it was just annoying, with more teasing of body parts.  Damsels: Mermaids was also quite good and a wonderful take on Andersen’s Little Mermaid.  Honesty, this might just be my favorite version.

 

Of course, not much has changed in comics.  Women, in particular the heroes, are usually drawn with Triple DDD bust sizes and a middle that couldn’t house a liver or intestine.  The men are buff too, let’s be honest, but they at least have some room for internal organs.  This is particularly distracting in Grimm Comics because the story telling is good there, but the female characters so sexualized that it is nerve wracking.  The explanation seems to be Neverland, a spin off, because the Wendy character was actually dressed.  The Godstorm spin off was good too  - Zeus mediating on fatherhood was really great.

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review 2017-07-16 04:00
Suddenly Everything's Ruined
World of Warcraft Chronicle Volume 2 - BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT

Chronicle Vol. 2 starts with the origins of life on Draenor and continues through the Second War and the Alliance Expedition. Like anything to do with Draenor, the most interesting parts are about the arakkoa and the least interesting are the orcs, so of course the book is mostly about the orcs. The orcs are divided into dozens of clans with names like the Rotten Teeth and the Mad Dogs. They revere nature and violence, although not in that order. They are forced to invade Azeroth after utterly ruining their native world.

 

This last detail reflects a disturbing pattern in World of Warcraft. In chapter after chapter, every noble and beautiful thing eventually gets corrupted, everything gets ruined. We see this with individuals, races, factions, nations, even entire planets. It makes me wonder what the game designers ultimate endgame plan for WOW is. Is it just a series of small victories against a backdrop of inevitable failure?

 

I do not need a fantasy game to remind me that we live in a world where the forces of greed, ignorance, and cruelty are growing stronger every day. It is easy to be cynical and say the entropic plot of WOW is realistic. I choose to believe that society as a whole is capable of progressing as long as compassion and knowledge are valued above immediate self interest. It is a hard sell, but worth it in the long term.

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