Mark of FIre by Richard Phillips

Book Review: Mark of Fire by Richard Phillips (Top Review on Amazon!)

Link to original posting here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2DAJD85CY4S4C/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B06ZYW8B2D

Looking for a fantasy story with an intricate magic system, a solid plotline, and of course unique names you’ll never hear anywhere else? Then this is a good choice for you. But if you want deep characterization and powerful emotions, you likely won’t find it here. Despite that, I’d still call it a worthwhile, quick read.

For those worried about content, there is some violence of course, but it never goes into extreme detail. And I think that the only swearing used is the ones made up for the story, so not too much to worry about, unless the mere mention of something being a swear word offends you.

As for the story itself, this one took a bit to get going, and definitely improved later on. But I nearly put it down in the first few chapters. There were so many proper nouns after the prologue that I didn’t bother trying to keep them straight, and there are a lot of named characters I’m still not sure about. So if you’re wondering which ones actually matter, focus on Arn and Carol, who are the protagonists. It generally sticks with them from a 3rd person perspective, with occasional visits to Mr. Not A Good Guy and a few randoms as well. And because a lot of names appear upfront, I was surprised when one of the guys who seems like he’s kind of just a terdmonkey is really THE BIG BAD. At first I figured he was more of an advisor like Jafar from Aladdin (Which I guess if he’s THE BIG BAD he really IS like Jafar…), until it became clear that nope, this is THE GUY.

Anyway, The King Joffrey of the story decides to be a buttmunch and starts a long chain of events leading a group of people leaving the region and going… I’m still not sure what their goal was. Honestly, I was a little confused on how the main plotline got started in the first place. I felt like it was rushed through far too quickly.

And for me, that was the overall theme of this story; important events were rushed through. As this will be a trilogy, normally going quickly through some of these early events isn’t a problem as there’s a lot to cover. However, setting and description was crafted with great detail, and I would have preferred less setting and more focus on the characters and their motivation. Life-altering decisions would frequently be made in half a page or so with minimal discussion, sort of like,

“Hey, I have this idea. But it will affect the lives of thousands of people.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure about that. We should consider all our options.”
“I already did. This is the best. We should do it.”
“Well I’m convinced.”

And I’d be left scratching my head wondering how such a huge decision was made so effortlessly.

This feeling of being rushed through made it so we don’t get as much insight as I’d like into the characters. This book is strong when it comes to the storyline and action sequences, and if that’s what you like you won’t be disappointed. However, It felt like this series was originally going to be a book or two longer but was cut to fit into a trilogy. Usually, I have the opposite issue for Fantasy giving too much, like side characters that don’t really matter getting 100 pages of useless side battles. But for once, I would have liked MORE, as I was frequently surprised at how quickly battles and escapes played out, and how the characters didn’t discuss them very much.

The magic system was definitely unusual and one of the strong points, but I’m still not sure how powerful spells can actually get and the effect these ultra spells will have on the caster. There’s a lot of the usual stuff: The Avatar collection of Earth, Wind, & Fire (But strangely, no Water that I can recall…), but also some MASSIVE spells like changing the weather in September (Ha! Like the song…) and nearly insurmountable ones with an enormous area of effect I’m not sure how they can stay maintained. I’m assuming this will probably be covered in the sequel, but for now it was a little bit perplexing.

Still, I didn’t have any trouble reading to the end after I got through the first section. So if you love Fantasy and reading for action sequences, you’ll probably love this story, and while it has its flaws, I will likely see the trilogy through to its end.

Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

Book Review: Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

Link to original posting here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RG5TCC0M9TSX0/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01JOEK5WK

I liked this one. Definitely more in the upbeat/humor department, so if that’s what you’re looking for, come here!

You know how there’s that idea that book clubs don’t actually discuss books? Cooperman took that idea and ran with it, while at the same time, making sure that some ACTUAL books are discussed. An interesting take on book clubs, I know.

I’m not saying the Book Club in the story itself has many conversations about books–the goal was to keep it SOMEWHAT realistic at after all–but they’re brought up elsewhere. This as done as the opener at the beginning of every chapter, where a trademark section of famous books are brought up and related to the character that the chapter will focus on. And at least several DOZEN popular books are mentioned with enough detail that at least the Cliffs Notes were browsed.

It’s a clever idea, but it’s also the reason I’m knocking off a star. Because sometimes, the major conflict or plot point was spoiled in these mini-synopses. I’m a pretty well-read guy, probably eeking my way into the low thousands of books read, and I’ve read a decent portion of the books Cooperman brings up at the first of the chapters. (Where’s Monte Cristo anyway?!) But not ALL of them.

I know most classic pieces are too old to warrant a spoiler review, but still, several times the ending of one of these stories I HAVEN’T got around to reading was brought up… Yeah. Not my favorite thing. It’s not on the level of ruining who Darth Vader REALLY is (!) but I think it would’ve been better to use this method without the spoilers; it’d be like me spoiling the “special ingredient” from the description. Still, It really is astonishing how many separate books Cooperman could tie-in to her characters and for me, it’s the new record–at least for explicit comparisons.

So if that’s not a big deal to you or if you’ve read ALL the classics because you have The Flash level of speed reading, then absolutely give this one a chance. It’s kind of an unusual premise, and an unusual take on the con(wo)man tale, but it works. I mean, granted, some of the plot is a little absurd–I’m not a big fan of the ending (Oh wow, big surprise!) for instance–but there’s nothing so wholly unfeasible, so blatantly inconceivable that The Twilight Zone looks like a documentary in comparison.

Character wise, the women are the stars. While there’s a couple blokes here and there, they’re more bit parts, supporters, that sort of thing. Starting out, it’s pretty clear who your two protagonists are. The brilliant and comedic Annie Baker (Who I know from school! Just, a non-fiction one) and the suave and beautiful Sarah Sloane. Annie’s an oddball and has some issues, but the biggest issue with Sarah might be that she’s made from the ingredients of The Powerpuff Girls minus Chemical-X; she’s equally smart as Annie and has unTrumpable moral standards, friendly, warm, helpful, so on. The Chuck Norris Standard of Quality.

Their tale is told through third-person, but uses much more than three people. In the middle, Cooperman gave chapters to so many characters I thought were minor that I started to question if there were any protagonists at all. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing, they had some humorous and empowering anecdotes after all, but they were all bunched together, which I thought was an odd choice.

There’s not much in the questionable content department for this book either. Sex and language are pretty sparse, though strangely enough it may be F-tomic bomb that’s dropped the most, maybe half a dozen times or so. There are no sex scenes or anything like that, and no glamorization of the worst of humanity (depending on your opinion of child therapy that is).

It’s an easier read, but that doesn’t mean it’s not complex. An impressive amount of knowledge and research was poured into this book but conveyed in simple English. There’s plenty of themes and symbols to go around, but if you don’t care about such things, the book is set up in such a way that missing them doesn’t detract from the story. I certainly missed a few at first glance, and figuring them out later added another layer instead–don’t think I didn’t notice the beverage of choice!

So if you’re looking for something with less gloom n’ doom with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments and a focus on positive themes like self-empowerment and motherhood, give this a try, and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Product Review: Tidy Cats 4 in 1 Litter

Originally posted on Amazon (Even though I bought the Costco MEGA size): https://www.amazon.com/Tidy-Litter-Clumping-Strength-35-Pound/dp/B010TKS2DC/ref=cm_cr-mr-title


This litter started out amazing. For awhile I thought, “Oh wow, now THIS is the shiz-nit” because the clumping power is stronger than expired milk in Phoenix.

And that’s where the good ends. Out of the “4-in-1” 1 actually worked as advertised. That’s because 3 out of the 4 talk about it’s amazing performance at zapping away odors like an alien incinerator ray.

It doesn’t.

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ORKSUN JF201 Smart Circle Wireless Mountable LED Light (Ceiling) (They should’ve put “garbage” in parenthesis too)

Orksun Motion Light

Would work better as an air hockey puck

This is a piece of junk. I bought this light because I needed a light for my shower and this was one of the few waterproof lights I could find. And I mean, there are practically ZERO, so when this came up in the recommended items I thought it was a Godsend.

It wasn’t.

The light worked fine for a whole week. Then it started to dim a little, but I didn’t mind. The real problem started a couple of days later, when the motion sensor stopped working. There was no way to turn it off except to remove the batteries. So I thought, “Well, I’ll just keep it on then”. Nope. The inside of the light became foggy, like condensation was stuck in it. It was dimmer than a free pocket flashlight, so I thought I’d open it up and clean it out, see if that fixes it.

Turns out that can’t be done either. Instead of using practical screws, say, phillips, or flat-head, this light has small screws with a TRIANGLE. Triangle-head? I’d never even heard of it. Apparently the guy at Ace Hardware hadn’t either. What are they trying to hide, keeping this locked up as tight as an Iphone 7? I ended up frisbeeing it straight to the garbage.