Title: Gods in the Ruins Author: E.R. Barr Genre: Fiction; Historical Thriller Year Published: March 21, 2021
Date Started: December 8, 2021 Date finished: December 10, 2021
This was one fascinating story. It’s about archeologist Fr. Daniel Aza and his friend, Swiss Guard Luca Rohner. Daniel was asked to investigate inscriptions on a tomb and invites his friend along. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding this tomb, and so much so that assassins were after them. There is a ring involved, one that was given to Daniel as a kid by his father. This ring carries some magical powers. There is also a political side to it, but not serious. It’s on the humor side which made the story all the more enjoyable.
I liked how the author opened the story with Daniel as a young kid. We learn about who he is and why it’s important to know him. As an adult, he is pulled into a situation he might not have been considered for if it weren’t for a certain language he was trained in as an archeologist. Personally, I felt Daniel came across very ordinary, but sometimes that’s what’s needed to create this type of story. He sort of just takes us through the story. Questions are asked/events are told and we observe these with Daniel. In the end, he ends up doing the right thing.
There is a lot going on in the story, and even though this is a fast-paced read, you have to really pay attention to the details. I’d have to say, I was most intrigued by the mash/mashing of the political figures, Christianity, and the Muslim religion. It was nicely done and had me smiling. I should also mention that the scene of the creature really had me. Most thrillers I’ve read don’t really go that direction. It gave the story a fantasy feel, which is something I love. If you enjoy stories about mystery tied with historical events or people with a touch a fantasy and humor, this one is it.
Who should read this book: If you enjoy historical stories with a bit of action, this one is pretty good.
I believe it was in 2015 that I bought my first traveler’s notebook, a Midori. This one notebook cover led to many others, and suddenly, I became a collector. As a kid, I collected stickers, and in my twenties and thirties, I collected lipsticks and perfumes, and now, in my forties, it’s notebook covers…and notebooks too, as you will see later.
Here are all my standards:
Personal (two on the left), B6 Narrow, and the Lancaster, a slightly more narrow B6 Narrow:
I’ve also started to collect hardcover notebooks. I don’t have a lot, but I think I have enough to constitute a collection:
On the left is a notebook that’s a tad smaller than the A5, and on the right is a B6:
A few notebooks that I don’t think I plan to keep only because the quality isn’t as good as the ones above:
I created this Fairy Watching a Carriage Go By digital art layout in 2014 using a premade digital background painting by Lorie Davision, a carriage photo, a girl photo, and wings. You can see the original process in this blog post here, which will also include the photos I used for the composite. I had signed up for the Photoshop Beta, which is Photoshop but with A.I. and decided to make a small change to it.
This is the original from 2014:
The change I made was to add about an inch at the bottom using this new A.I. tool. Photoshop then showed me three examples to choose from. I chose the image below, but it wasn’t perfect even though it was the one I thought fit the scene best. There was an area where it looked as though the water foam just stopped, so I then used the Generative Fill to fix it. Here’s what the new layout looks like:
These were the three examples it gave me. The third example is what I chose. You can see where the water looks like it just cuts off.
What do you think?
The Photoshop Beta is available to anyone who has an Adobe account (unlike Firefly where you have to submit a request to be accepted into the beta, but even then, I’m pretty sure it’s easy to get accepted). Photoshop Beta is separate from Photoshop CC, which is a creative cloud subscription. If anything, give it a try. It’s a lot of fun.
Title: Rebels and Thieves Author: Russell Williams Genre: Fiction; Crime Thriller Year Published: December 29, 2018
Date Started: May 15, 2023
Date finished: May 17, 2023
This story follows Detective Rick Malone as he unravels the corruption behind an investment firm. Malone is a married man who’s having marital problems. His wife has expectations of him, but all he can think about is his work. When he finds out that one of his co-workers was murdered, plus a few other incidents that hit close to home, it ramped up his determination to take down the enemy. There were layers to the investment firm. The Russian mafia was determined to bank off this company and was willing to do whatever it took. Those who made the decision to work for the mafia found themselves in a tangled mess.
The buildup of this story was excellent. Rick Malone was well-developed and stayed true to his character. He was the perfect anti-hero. He took his job seriously and wanted to do his job well, but as far as being the perfect husband, it wasn’t so easy. His wife was a bit too demanding of him, plus the pressure from his boss and his dad added to his stress. There was so much coming at him, yet he was able to think straight and do what was right. He persisted and fought through it all.
This was one of my favorite detective crime thrillers. I loved how everything flowed and the characters had depth to them. The tension was there, the enemy was truly vicious. The pacing was on point. Nothing was given out, but nothing was withheld either. The story simply unfolded naturally and felt real. Loved everything about it.
Who should read this book: Anyone into crime thrillers who also enjoy a bit of family drama.
Title: Silent Thunder Author: Stephen C. Perkins Genre: Sci-fi; Thriller Year Published: February 12, 2023
Date Started: May 8, 2023 Date finished: May 10, 2023
This thriller kept me on my toes with all the wild things going on. The story follows CIA agent and assassin, Christopher Burell who uncovers an unusual creature/alien type living amongst humans. We go inside of a corporation who’s doing things they shouldn’t be doing. Christopher teams up with a few others to find the truth but there is so much chaos that it’s not as simple as it seems.
This was an exciting read full of action. I loved the political stuff thrown in. It was well done and created a truly chaotic, dystopian world. The detective work was excellent. I thought Christopher’s character development was on point. He stayed true to himself. He didn’t appear to know everything but he was good at his job. His assassin skills were great. I loved how he was portrayed. The other characters were also excellent. They didn’t have as much depth to them as I would have liked, but they all played well within the story. I also enjoyed how the story unfolded. It wasn’t pointed out right away, but I knew something big was going to happen. This kept me on my toes as I anticipated the outcome. Speaking of the outcome, it didn’t disappoint. Truly enjoyed it.
Overall, this book was action packed and moved at a pretty fast pace. It’s written well and hits all the spots of a sci-fi thriller. The author has a way of writing really exciting and fun thrillers. I’ve read his other books and have enjoyed them as well.
Who should read this book: Anyone who enjoys a fast-paces sci-fi thriller.
My top favorite fruits include a couple of tropical fruits:
If you’re wondering how I was able to get my favorite fruits all in one image, that’s because I used Adobe Firefly. It’s an A.I. generator for art. Here are the two photos I generated and then in Photoshop CC, I merged them and added arrows and text.
I’m a beta tester for the software and have been having a lot of fun playing with it. I’ve only just started so there’s a lot more I haven’t used, but I hope to get more familiar with it. What do you think?
Title: Mother of Machines: Carbon Sunset Author: Tishaun Dawson Genre: Sci-fi Year Published: November 7, 2021
Date Started: December 21, 2021 Date finished: December 23, 2021
I’ve been wanting to read a sci-fi story with a female lead and this one came through. I didn’t read the first book, but based on some of the reviews it wasn’t necessary because it backtracked. I was still able to get the full story without reading it. The story is about Sanaa, a mechanic in the military. She learned about a government secret that she needed to tell the public. It was important that the people on earth knew the truth, so she did what she had to do and revealed this secret. The military wasn’t happy about it, so they tried to take her down. Being the one who controlled the machines, Sanaa had an advantage, but the military just wasn’t going to quietly go away. They were going to do whatever it took to get rid of her.
I enjoyed this story. The premise around robots and “aliens” was fascinating and gave it its own unique twist. The world building and character development may have needed a little bit more work on. I wanted to know more about Sanaa and why she made the choices she did. Her husband was on the quiet side, so it was also hard to figure out why she was with him and what his purpose was. At times, I felt like I had to fill in those pieces with my own experiences. I also found the idea behind the single person hero and a military that isn’t very intelligent a bit unrealistic. Thus, I gave this story a 4-star. Don’t get me wrong. This didn’t take away from the story. This was well written with a truly unique premise. I liked the main character and the fact that she was married and cared about the people. Overall, it’s definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a sci-fi fan.
Who should read this book: If you’re into sci-fi with a female lead or if you’ve never read a sci-fi with a female lead, you’ll enjoy this one.
It’s been a while since I’ve made bitter melon soup. I can’t even remember the last time I made it but it was probably over a decade ago. This time I decided to follow this recipe on Youtube. I’m not a huge fan of the super bitterness of the bitter melon so to draw some of that bitterness out, after I removed the seeds, I soaked the melon in salt water for about ten minutes.
I didn’t have all the ingredients from the recipe so I used what I had on hand: lemongrass, garlic, scallions, cilantro, and mint. I had some Thai peppers on hand so I used a few of them for a touch of heat.
Everything was chopped up and mixed with ground beef before stuffing the melons which I’d cut into thirds. Whatever was leftover from the pork mix, I made into little meatballs. With the peppers, I simply cooked it with the soup.
The soup turned out pretty good. My high-schooler really liked the meatballs but didn’t care for the bitter melon. My husband and my other daughter didn’t care for the soup. I guess this is why I rarely made this dish.
There are many ways to cook bitter melon but I grew up eating it as a soup so it’s what I’m familiar with. Mom would also make it stir-fry, I believe. I’ll have to try stir-frying next time. Have you had bitter melon soup or stir-fried? What did you think?
Title: Significance Author: Tab Edwards Genre: Nonfiction; Self-help Year Published: May 13, 2022
Date Started: June 20, 2022 Date finished: June 21, 2022
This book focuses on life philosophies and how one should focus on the way they think and the things they do. The examples provided forces the reader to look at situations differently and to think about other meanings to those examples. The book contains quotes and references from scientists and philosophers who’ve studied the human behavior which provides the backbone to what the author wants the reader to understand. However, the science is not used as a theory or a study of, but rather, it’s used as a place to start philosophical conversations.
What I enjoyed about this book was that the author used Maslow’s Pyramid to begin some of his thoughts. It was very helpful to see Maslow’s law as a guiding tool for individual success. I also enjoyed how the author pointed out that it’s important to live to our fullest and to really focus on what we want in our lives to sustain happiness within ourselves. There were a few things that I really didn’t fully agree with though, and it could just be that I’ve misunderstood those points. Certain sections I felt contained negative undertones which I’m not sure if that was the purpose, but it seemed to belittle those who wanted to share their happiness. I’m of the mind that an individual has the right to enjoy their successes and achievements and are free to share it with whomever they want. It doesn’t mean they think they are better or more superior. It just means they are elated at having accomplished something. If other people are going to be sour (jealous) about someone else’s success, then it’s on them and they need to figure out what is making them so sour about seeing others succeed. I can understand the irritation with people on social media sharing every little detail of their lives (I agree, it’s too much and dangerous to the psych), but we don’t know their story. We don’t know if they are yearning for attention or if they have other underlying issues, but their cases are a little extreme and probably require help, which isn’t the same as someone simply being proud of achieving a goal.
Having said that, I am actually intrigued by this book. I found it to be excellent for debate and conversation. There were so many thought-provoking points that seriously had me thinking. The author touched on a lot of different areas of humanity which allows for an array of discussions.
Who should read this book: Anyone interested in understanding a different view on life based on philosophical thoughts.
Title: Silence in the Face of Injustice: A Vision of Mercy and Hope Author: Gary W. Hardy Genre: Nonfiction; Religious; Politics Year Published: March 8, 2022
Date Started: June 25, 2022 Date finished: June 26, 2022
This book is about the injustice done to those who were wrongfully convicted of crimes involving sex. There is a ton of research and references in this book. It includes stories from a few sex offenders and how they were convicted wrongly as well as stories from the victims. It’s not a book to make you feel sorry for the wrongly convicted, or to even make you feel as though they should get a lighter sentence. It’s more so about a system that is corrupt, grouping all sex offenders, whether innocent or not, as all sex offenders for the rest of their lives. The book also covers how the author turned to religion to help him heal, and how he believes it could help others in similar situations.
The author’s research is well done. Parts of the book is read more like an academic book with data and charts to explain his points. It does touch a lot on religion but done so in an educational way and not at all preachy.
My overall feel is that this was a very educational book. I get the sense that there is something wrong with our justice system when it comes to something as black and white and as widely gray as sex offense. It definitely needs to be looked over and corrected. Grouping the innocent with those who are guilty is simply unfathomable. There is still so much to learn, especially in the area of psychology involving victims who become offenders. I’m glad the author wrote this book because it was an eye-opener.
Who should read this book: Anyone interested in learning about the American justice system and the unfairness in it that gets overlooked. It can also be beneficial to anyone interested in how religion can help heal those convicted wrongly.