Oct

27

Book Review: The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery

It has been a while since I was so into a book that I stayed up way passed when I should have gone to bed to finish it; well that is exactly what I did with the Teahouse fire. This story is compelling and beautiful I never would have thought it was a debut novel if I had not been told. Ellis Avery weaves a beautiful tapestry of a story that follows the life of one girl from girlhood through to adulthood.

Young Aurelia starts her young life in New York City a modest and happy life with her Mother and her Uncle Charles. But when she is Nine years old her Mother takes sick and her Uncle Charles takes her to Japan things go from bad to worse once in Japan until the night of a fire which sends Aurelia fleeing for her life and away from her Uncle Charles who is not as chaste as he claims to be.

The night she flees, she is found by Yukako and begins to her live as a Japanese servant in her household. The story has so many levels of love and dedication it is impossible to put into words just how beautiful all of them are. You can also learn about the beautiful art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, and follow the fight of a great family in tea to keep their art as just that an art. An important and beautiful social part of Japanese culture.

The Teahouse fire takes many twists and turns some of them you see coming, and some of them you truly do not. You will grow to love the characters and find yourself attached to them. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a little bit interested in Japanese history.…

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Oct

25

House of Many Ways: A Book Review

They say all good things come in threes. Well, House of Many Ways, the third book in the Castle series is a good thing. Following on the success of Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones gives us an exciting new adventure set in the mountainous kingdom of High Norland.

Charmain Baker, a rather self-obsessed, sheltered and indulged bookworm, has been volunteered by her great aunt Sempronia to take care of great uncle William’s tiny cottage whilst he is being healed by the elves. Taking the opportunity of being free from home and her parents’ restrictive ideas of respectability, Charmain volunteers (on the side) to help the kindly King Adolphus X and his stern daughter, Princess Hilda, in their efforts to sort and list the contents of the Royal Library.

The thing Charmain doesn’t quite realize – until it’s much too late – is the fact that as High Norland’s Royal Wizard, great uncle William’s house isn’t as simple or easy to navigate as it looks from the outside! Taking into account the fact that she has no inkling how to do any sort of house keeping and has had no training in magic, each disastrous experience never fails to bring at least a chuckle.

Joining the fray is Sophie Pendragon (and family), who has been invited by Princess Hilda (whom she met in Castle in the Air) to help the royal family solve two problems: where their gold is disappearing to and what is the Elfgift?

From the view point of magic as lofty and dangerous (in Howl’s Moving Castle) to the realm of superstition (in Castle in the Air), Diana Wynne Jones now takes us to a different perspective – magic as part of everyday life. In many ways, House of Many Ways feels like a growing-up book. It deals with the issues of life that a young girl will sooner or later have to deal with; like washing dishes, doing laundry and dealing with difficult boys who think they know it all. It deals with growing up enough to stop hiding behind ignorance and taking up the responsibility to learn and change. And for Charmain, it deals with learning that the way to face a problem is really not to go and read a book until the problem disappears.

With a dangerous lubbock lurking in the background, upset blue kobolds making mischief, and an irritating apprentice wizard (who manages to mess up every spell he attempts) getting lost among the house’s many passageways, this book is a real page turner.…

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Oct

17

Book Review: "The Summerhouse" by Jude Deveraux

The book "The Summerhouse" by Jude Deveraux was totally responsible for jumpstarting my imagination this summer. It got me thinking about what I would do if I were given the opportunity the three characters in the book received.

Ms. Deveraux wrote an interesting and entertaining tale of life changes and what we would or wouldn't do if given a second chance to get a do-over for a three week period of our life. I waited so long to write the review because of two reasons: one I had a strong urge to study my life and pinpoint the pivotal moments in my timeline and two the book is just so good I need to reread it two more times. I'm thinking once I finish this review I'll read the book again.

I bought the book in the first place because of previous experience I know that Jude Deveraux is an excellent writer and can tell such fascinating tales. The real kicker was blurb on the back cover. It said the book was about three friends, Leslie Headrick, Madison Appleby and Ellie Abbott who all have the same birthday and were fixing to turn 40 and all three were taking a look back at their lives and the choices they had made.

Normally, this wouldn't do much for me because I do enough second guessing my life choices without reading about someone else's could-have-beens. It fact it didn't do much for more me this time either, but I read further on and it claims that a Madame Zoya has the power to send them back in time to relive three weeks from their past. Any three weeks – ladies choice. I love paranormal themes so this is what finally convinced me to buy the book instead of going to the library and borrowing it.

Most of book is setting up the three women's stories so you will know why they choose their particular three weeks. Ms. Deveraux was so clever with how she wrote about their lives that I forgot about the paranormal theme I was expecting. It wasn't until page 214 when the first hint of something extra special will be happening here that I remembered that I was expecting it.

Anyway, I spent a lot of free time this past summer and fall thinking about which three weeks would I choose to relive. Once your three weeks is up Madame Zoya gives you the choice of keeping your new or old timeline. Madame Zoya also gives her clients the option of remembering the old timeline along with the new timeline. I would ask to remember. Since I actually haven't traveled back in time to make the changes I have in mine I don't know if I would take the new life or stick with this one. I'm hoping that given a new chance that I wouldn't screw up as badly and I would want to change timelines.

The book is still affecting my imagination and making me think up "what ifs." All I know for sure is if I am ever given the opportunity to be one of Madame Zoya (or someone like her) clients I know which three weeks I would relive.

I know one other thing this is a totally awesome book. I highly recommend it.

"The Summerhouse" by Jude Deveraux. Pockets Books, New York, 2001. Paperback version: 391 pages, $7.99.…

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Oct

11

Book Review: Haunted House of the Vampire by Bruce Markusen

The First Book in the Coopersville Creepers Series

It all starts the night of September in 1978 in Coopersville, New York. Kenny Odom, a young boy, is home alone and watching a horror movie on "Chiller Theater". During a commercial break, he checks on the laundry in the basement. While there, the door down there catches his attention. His parents had told him never to open it but curiosity got the best of him and he opened it. Inside is a locked wooden crate. Kenny opens it and inside is a preserved man. Victor McAuliffe, a vampire. He tells Kenny about how he became a vampire and enlists his help to bring the town's mayor, now retired, to justice for his past crimes before Victor became a vampire. But, being a vampire, can Victor be trusted? A mysterious man, Edward Malone, warns Kenny that Victor is dangerous. Can this information be trusted? Read to find out the truth!

The story is great and very intriguing. My eyes were glued to the page. It's a light and entertaining story but still manages to be mysterious. The story is straightforward with no distracting side stories. I thought it reminded me a little of the 70s Salem's Lot with the boy who enjoys the classic horror films and legends and the vampire in the basement.

There's a few very minor inconsistencies but so minor, they're easily overlooked.

I just love the atmosphere. As I stated previously, it felt like Salem's Lot and the classic 50s horror scene. It felt very laid back. It was fairly colorful but could've use a touch more depth.

The main characters were few so they were easy to keep track of. Kenny is young, loves horror and fantasy yet is mature in other ways. At times, he's unsure of who to believe. He's likeable. Victor is a fairly new vampire who thinks he's very knowledgeable. He has an ominous air about him but has had no real experience. Still he's a likeable character. The mysterious man, Edward Malone. seems like a modern-day Van Helsing but his affiliation is up in the air. The rest of characters are most there as background and not drawn out much.

All of the characters could've been drawn out with more details but they're fine otherwise.

Great pace, very smooth, and doesn't fluctuate.

The author's style is straightforward with no distractions. Colorful without pointless details or plot devices. Very nice.

While the book has a few minor issues, it's still a fairly good book from this newcomer to the horror novel genre. It's great for a light and easy read for all ages, with little gore and no sex. The author incorporated several different cultures' vampire legends into the story, some of which were new and very intriguing to me – a good vacation from the monotony of the standard vampire legends and rules. The ending has a twist which kept me wanting more. I can't wait until the second book! At just over 100 pages, it seems a bit short for a novel though. Still, very nice and I expect Bruce to grow into a great author in the future. 3/5

Available at:

Amazon and Amber Quill Press

 

 …

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Oct

06

Ideas for Safe and Fun Recreational Boating

Safety

Recreational boating is one of the most popular activities during the summer months.

Before heading out however, one should know that all states have certain regulations concerning boating, and most require licenses before one can operate a boat. More information can be found by going to your states website. Once you have your license then you are almost ready to head out. Always bring one life-preserver per person, and a throwable PDF, (personal flotation device) in many states this is even a law. Also, bring a cell phone, radio, and some food or drink. In an emergency, these devices can help you call for help, radio your position, and the food will hopefully sustain you until help arrives. Remember, never drink and boat. Boating, the pounding of the surf, and strong sun, make you more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, and put you and your passengers at risk.

Fishing
Boating can be one of the most enjoyable activities during the summer months because of the variety of things you can do. Fishing is one of the most popular, and a boat can be a great tool to get you where the fish are and allow you to traverse a lot of space in a short period of time. A short trip to the tackle store can get you all set up with the appropriate gear for you area.

Clamming
Another popular activity is clamming. Getting your own calms is as simple a anchoring your boat off of a beach at high tide, and a few inches in the sand to reach the clams. Everyone will love the fresh sea food you bring back, and it will taste better than any store bought sea-food you have ever tasted before. Always check the local regulations to make sure harvesting shellfish is legal where you are doing it, and safe to eat. Also, obtain a shellfishing permit from your local town-hall.

Tubing and Waterskiing

Tubing and waterskiing can be fun for the whole family, and for most kids there is noting better than being in the water all day flying over the waves. For the more adventurous waterskiing can offer quite the challenge, and the feeling is very unique to any other water sport activity. Tubes and ski's can run as low as a hundred dollars. As before, always check local laws governing this activity.

Sightseeing
Some would argue that just bobbing around on the water all day is the best way to spend your time. Certainly the landscapes and atmosphere is more relaxing than almost anything. If you are looking for a Christmas card photo, romantic evening, or picnic destination, anchor your boat in the sun and you will never forget the experience.…

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Oct

01

Book Review: Hothouse Flower, by Margot Berwin

On a whim I picked up Margot Berwin's novel, "Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire," (Pantheon, 2009). It was on clearance at a book store and I thought it might make a nice summer read, with no greater expectation of romance-novel fluff.
It does have elements of that, most definitely, but it's a deeper, darker read, laced with a bit of the mystic, touches of desire, and if you love plants or gardening, it could very well make you take root and read through at a feverish pace.
I plucked it up one night, expecting little from the bold, brash cover, but was swiftly swept away. The protagonist, Lila Nova, is in advertising and recently divorced. She one day happens by a plant seller and picks up a tropical plant, a bird of paradise, and discovers a green thumb she never knew she had. Soon she's picking up other plants, and semi-flirting with Exley, the man who sold her that first plant.
One day, by chance, she stumbles upon a Laundromat filled with plants. She steps in, surprised at the moss-covered floor and the flora throughout and strikes up conversation with Armand, the mysterious owner. He ends up giving her a rare fern cutting and tells her to keep it in a dark room, and to come back when — or rather, if — it sprouts roots. She does as he instructs, and in the meantime begins to learn about the mysterious and fabled nine plants of desire. Each plant is sought after for its qualities that mankind wants — love, fortune and so on. Armand tells her he may show her his collection of nine plants, if she is worthy.
The fern obviously takes root, and with that complications ensue. Lila lets Exley know about Armand and the nine plants, which Exley has heard of, and Lila feels excitement at her attraction to Exley and this shared mystery. But soon she betrays Armand, unintentionally, and is betrayed, intentionally, by Exley.
Her desire to set things right takes her to Mexico, in the Yucatan, to reclaim the nine plants. Lila tracks through miles of jungle, runs into snakes, scorpions and (of course) plants, plus has to battle her own weaknesses and Exley's deception. She also meets Diego, a hot man of nature and the son of a mystic healer, who guides and tantalizes her throughout her journey.
It's a sultry read, though I wouldn't call it super sexed-up or anything, but it's a fun little adventure in the streets of New York City and in the jungles of the Yucatan, peppered with interesting plant lore. It's definitely a fun little escape.

 …

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Sep

26

The Secret to Catfishing

One of the best kept secrets to catfishing is what bait to use and how to keep the bait on the hook. These two issues have plagued fishermen for ages. Catfish are notorious for picking your hook clean and never actually “taking” the bait.

There are thousands of different baits that people use to catch cats all over the US. I’ve seen numerous types of commercial dough bait, dip bait, punch bait, blood bait, cut shad, nightcrawlers, homemade stuff, wheaties, cut perch, bream, etc. But, I’ve just never seen anything that works as well as LIVER!!!!! Chicken Liver works best, but beef liver and hog liver work as well.

Now, most people don’t like using liver for a very specific reason, they go through tons of bait and that starts to get expensive. The issue with liver is that its a soft bait, and easily picked off the hook. Another issue is that when you cast chicken liver you have to be extremely careful not to throw it off.

Here is the solution, and it’s a very simple one. After baiting your hook with the liver, wrap the bait with inexpensive thread. There is no need to tie the thread it will cut into the liver and itself to form a secure hold, just be sure to pull it tight. You will be able to easliy cast it, and the bait will stay on the hook better than anything you’ve tried in th past.

Another tip is to let the cat take the bait for a bit, don’t set the hook too early! Wait for a deep pull, don’t yank it back if it is just a tap. The taps indicate that the fish is picking at the bait and “testing” it.

Also, catfish are sensitive to hard spots in the bait caused by a metal hook. Using treble hooks only increases this sensitivity. My recommendation is to use “circle” hooks or “kahle” hooks. These hooks are easier for the the fish to take and their geometry makes for a much better hookset ratio.

Well, there you have it! Get out there and fish! Tight lines!…

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Sep

21

10 Best Sports Songs

1. "We Will Rock You" (Queen): Perhaps the ultimate stadium anthem. Nothing makes you want to watch your team kick some butt like Queen's foot stomper. When the song begins, you know two powerhouses are about to face off…

  1. "Eye of the Tiger" (Survivor): Intensity. Passion. Fiery. The fight is about to begin…. Or the ending credits, depending on which Rocky movie you're watching. Either way, this is the quintessential "training montage" song, sometimes used as parody such as on The Simpsons and Family Guy.
  2. "We Are the Champions" (Queen): …And, when your team finally wins the big one, this uplifting song is what you'll want to hear.
  3. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (Jack Norworth): What baseball game would be complete without a rousing chorus of this song during the seventh inning? It's simple, catchy, and an American treasure.
  4. "Bugler's Dream" (theme for the Olympics) (Leo Arnaud): While this lacks the booming chorus or over-the-top passion of some of the other songs, it evokes the spirit of the Olympic games, and the strength that Olympiads represent.
  5. Rocky Theme (Bill Conti): Like "Eye of the Tiger," this instrumental in an intense motivator, one that will power you through a few rounds in the boxing ring (or a brisk run through your home city). It's an anthem for the underdogs.
  6. "Chariots of Fire" (Vangelis): There are few who haven't at some point in their life gone jogging or running or even hit the treadmill with this song running through their head as they envision winning the 100 meter dash for the gold.
  7. "Rock and Roll Part 2" (Gary Glitter): Despite Glitter's troubled personal life, this tune will always be an energetic crowd pleaser that makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs with it's chorus of simply, "HEY!"
  8. "Centerfield" (John Fogerty): Regardless of age, generation or team loyalties, this song evokes summers at the ballpark and playing in little league. The lyrics, "I'm ready to play" just make you want to throw on a uniform.
  9. "You're the Best" (Joe "Bean" Esposito): Another training montage song (best known from the family classic The Karate Kid), this one is more inspirational then intense. Listen to this when you need to feel like you're at the top of your game.
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Sep

15

Book Review: The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee

I first heard about The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee during a podcast by Kelly Petkun of KnitPicks. I've been a big fan of KnitPicks for a while now, and I really felt like she must know what she's talking about, so I took Kelly's recommendation and bought the book.

I'm so glad that I did buy it! It's such an interesting book, and, most importantly, I have learned so much! The concept of the book seems like that of The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Bud. Without belittling that book, let me say, it is so much more than that. While Ann Bud's book provides instructions for lots of sizes and lots of weights of yarn, that's pretty much where that book stops and The Sweater Workshop takes up.

Jacqueline Fee's book explains all the reasoning and all the math behind every shaping decision and all the design choices. Reading this book prepares a knitter to become a designer as well, and shows that it probably isn't as difficult as we may have thought. Understanding how the numbers are figured for each part of a sweater, from the armhole to the neckline depth really lets a person understand how they could go about changing these design features and coming up with designs of their own.

The sampler that she has you make at the beginning of the book will obviously provide valuable experience for a knitter who has never knit a sweater before. A beginner who has learned only to knit and to pearl could easily use this book. In fact, a sweater from this book would be a much better first sweater than most, because the technique saves a new knitter from the frustration of messy seams and ill-fitting drop shoulders.

Though the book will be great to get new knitters started on the right track, it is also a very good book for experienced knitters. They will be introduced to concepts in design and techniques in sweater making that they may have never seen, and they will be able to branch out and practice many new skills while they make the sampler. Even in the unlikely event that a knitter has already used every skill taught in the sampler, everyone needs practice now and then, and the idea of having all the different ribbings, decreases, finishes, etc on one piece, always available for reference, is a great one.

Though I haven't gotten the chance yet to make my sampler or cast on my first sweater in this method, I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in knitting design, or for anyone at all who would like to improve their understanding of sweater construction.…

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Sep

08

Aspen Recreation Center – Fun for Everybody

The Aspen Recreation Center (ARC) is the perfect place to end the day. It closes at 9pm, so if you come here after the slopes have closed, you will have a lot of time for your favorite activities. ARC offers a multitude of way to spend time, but the most appreciated is the climbing walls. The center has over 3100 feet of climbing walls where tourists can show their skills. A 3-D climbing tower is also available. It has 4 auto belays and 25 routes.

Another point of maximum attraction is the so called James E. Moore Pool area. Two pools are to be found in this area. The first one is dedicated to passionate swimmers, it measures 25 yards in length and it has six lanes. The second one was designed for recreation and offers a two story side, spray features and a lazy river. If you don't like to stay too much in the pool, you can choose the sauna, the hot tub or the steam room that are also available in the pool area.

Because the inhabitants of Aspen love winter sports, they built the Lewis Ice Arena. Located in the same ARC, the arena can boast with an NHL regulation size skating ice surface, 450 seats, a skate shop for those who want to buy some equipment and locker and shower rooms for the ones that sweat on the ice. At Lewis Ice Arena take place all kind of events, such as hockey matches for adults and children, figure skating and public skating. If you wish to learn skating, lessons are available. Also, if you want a unique birthday party, Lewis Ice Arena can be rented.

If you are sports addicted or want to lose some weight, you may find the cardio and weight rooms on your taste. Fitness classes are offered here. Aspen Recreation Center also hosts a number of other activities that can keep your body in shape. You can play golf, soccer, softball, baseball, tennis or hockey; you can climb the mountains, do aquatics and skateboarding, attend ceramic classes or other such camps.

The center offers babysitting services, so that both you and your baby could have a nice time and enjoy your staying. In order to have enough time to enjoy ARC services you should go there right after your ski session has closed.

For only $15 for adults and $13 for youths, you can get access to the pool area, to the climbing tower and climbing walls, to the ice skating ring, to the weight room, cardio rooms, tennis courts and playhouse. You can also attend adult fitness classes and water aerobics. Aspen Recreation Center means entertainment for the entire family. You can call in anticipation to be informed about the program and special events that will coincide with your vacation.…

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