Brazil – Part II

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Time for the next entry on the trip to Brazil. My last blog only covered four days–this story may take a couple more chapters. We did so much in so little time–and missed out on a few because of the shortness of the visit.

Monday morning, we stood outside of the hotel and waited for the kids. Looking up and down the street, I realized I was going through a change in my perceptions, as far as the language was concerned. At first, all of the signs and forms of communication in Portuguese was exciting and interesting–then a pall came over it, because there was no escape. It was getting to the point where I wanted to shut down around 5pm–just close my eyes and not see any more words I couldn’t read. But of course that wasn’t going to change–the difference had to come from me. By the time we left the country, the communication was getting easier–there were times when I could follow almost all of a conversation–just from what I was learning and getting used to.

We have a real reason to learn Portuguese; after all, our son expects to stay there until he earns his doctorate, which means another four years. Besides that, his possibly-future in-laws might be coming to visit next year–maybe even bringing the kids with them.

Once we got into the car, we drove to Blumenau, a German colony, about an hour and change from Florianopolis.

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It wasn’t a really huge tourist spot, but it was fun.

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We had lunch and bought souvies–sure is nice to have people with us to translate. Everyone spoke Portuguese, not German, in case you were interested. The only difference, really, was the last names on the businesses–predominantly German.

We visited a few museums, once we could find them…

The first was a Beer Museum:

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A lot of the info was in English, which was a welcome sight. Joe liked to translate the rest for us, with Joana right there to make sure he got it right. When he seemed to be getting tired of the headwork, Joana just picked up the thread. They make a great partnership.

There was a lot of old equipment, as well as a lengthy history and info on beer-making. I really enjoyed it.

Not far from here was a mausoleum/museum dedicated to Dr. Herrmann Bruno Blumenau, who founded the city in 1850. I didn’t realize it was a mausoleum until we’d been through it–I guess I was too distracted by the wild capybara that wandered past the front of the building:

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Then there was the Fritz Muller Museum, a man who was a correspondent of Charles Darwin, and a scientist of flora and fauna in the Santa Catarina area of Brazil. Pickled critters, stuffed critters, bones, etc. I loved the displays of rocks and shells. The taxidermy treatments of the animals were definitely amateur–they looked like someone used marbles for eyes, and then just gave up.

We found a café (Joana likes her afternoon coffee), then made the long drive back. We made a return trip to the stables, where we had ribs and Caipirinhas – Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça (sugar cane hard liquor), sugar and lime. Marcus makes them strong–on an empty stomach, it wasn’t long before the world was doing silly things.

Joana rode Sheikh, and we could tell that horse had a lot of trust issues. But she really let him know who was boss. What a beautiful horse! He’ll be wonderful once he gets comfortable with where he is.

Tuesday started out the usual way–with breakfast in the hotel. The Brazilians love 80s music–almost all of the music that came over the loudspeaker was 80s music done by secondary players. Same singer, different songs from different bands. A nice backdrop of sound for the morning.

This day (Tuesday), we started out with a trip to another fort.

 

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Fortaleza Sao Jose da Ponto Grosso

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Hell’s Phone Booth–have you ever seen a creepier one?

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The path to the fort itself was treacherous, in my opinion. Rectangular slabs of concrete, spaced inconveniently apart, and placed at a tilt. I was always afraid I was going to slide right down the hill. But we finally got into the fort without incident–phew!

The views were fantastic, as the pictures will attest.

We made it down to the beach too, where I picked up some shells and rocks. Anywhere I go, I do this. They go into a bag, and they come home, and they get stored…why do I do this??? …Coz they’re purty…

We drove to the coast–where, exactly, I don’t know–and had lunch there. The kids were hoping we’d be able to get a certain type of drink in coconut shells, but it was the wrong time of the year for it. Bummer.

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We visited a turtle sanctuary, which was a nice diversion. There was a tour group of kids there, which added to the energy in the place. When the employees fed the turtles (some smelly grass stuff), one of the four huge turtles in the pool just hung back until the others lost interest, then had the whole feast to itself. Clever critter!

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Joana had a dental appointment, so we waited for her at the hotel–one of the only times we had a slow spot in our trip. When she got done, we headed back to the house, where we had dinner, roasted pinhaos, and drank much beer. Nelson presented us with various types of meat, including pigs’ feet. I considered trying them, but there was way too much fat, even for me. There was plenty of other food to eat, so I didn’t go away empty.

On Wednesday, after another good night’s sleep and the usual breakfast, we went over to Beidar Mar Shopping for a cup of chocolate espresso at Kopenhagen’s. We then went to the Universidad’s campus to have a look at a mural that covered three sides of a building there.

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It was fantastic–very native in its creation. We took a lot of pictures of it, but of course I couldn’t put all the pictures on here.

Our next stop was visiting Joe’s workplace–a lab situated several miles from the campus. He showed us the stuff he was working on, explained the procedures, and introduced us to his professors and co-workers–pretty impressive stuff they’re all doing. Some are propagating various plants to find ways to keep the species alive, others are working on finding ways to use the plants for other purposes. I’m not clear on everything…

After a brief stop at Joe’s apartment–which was a really nice place–we went to an ecological garden nearby. It really was just a preserve/park–not a real tourist area. We walked through the area, while a group of monkeys followed us for a bit. We were able to get pictures of them, finally…they moved so fast.

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I’ll be darned if I can remember the name of this type–I think it’s “mico”.

When we got back to the house, things were in turmoil. Miro and Kito had gotten into a fight, and Luke got hurt trying to break it up. Joana got them cleaned up, but it took awhile, and it made us miss a party we were supposed to have gone to. Nelson knew of another place (both places were quite a ways away), so we jumped into his truck to get to it. We got to see a lot of countryside and hillside, and drink in the beautiful rural areas that I’m betting most tourists miss.

Unfortunately, the place Nelson had in mind was closed.

So we drove back to the stables. Visited Joana’s horse again–always a pleasure. She went for a ride, and we stayed back at the “man cave” (my name for the central social area of the stables).

I was feeling homesick all of a sudden–it came on without warning, and at that point, I would have been glad to go home. But the feeling disappeared after a few more of Marcus’ potent drinks.

Back at the house–because there were no restaurants open before 7pm!–we chatted as Joana replaced some hardware in her computer. I about fell asleep a couple of times.

Finally, we went out to meet Joana’s mom at a Brazilian barbecue restaurant. This sort of service is something to be experienced–totally different from what I am used to.

The customer can go get salads and side dishes from a buffet, but the meats are served individually. Waiters take skewers of cooked meat out of the kitchen area, and carry them table to table. They describe what the particular cut is, and if the customer wants some of it, they shear off a piece, which the customer grabs with a pair of tongs. There’s beef of all sorts, lamb, chicken hearts (I like ‘em), pork, etc. This goes on the whole time the customer is seated. Then the dessert is brought along the same way. Barbecued pineapple is wonderful!

Our last day, we toured the southern part of the island–just a short trip into a small-town coastal area. We did a little beach-combing, and found a dead penguin. The shops we wanted to visit weren’t open, so we just drove back the way we came. The houses were interesting in places. In one spot, there was an Arabic-style house…

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…across from a castle:

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Wonder if their conversations ever turn to the days of the Crusades…hmmm…

We stopped off at a little restaurant for lunch…and caught a glimpse of a toucan. A live one–yay!

Through heavy traffic, we made our way back to Beidar Mar Shopping, where we went to a coffee shop. We were right beside the movie theatre, so we bought some sweet popcorn. Really good! Like kettle corn, but even sweeter. I could only eat a little of it, then I had to stop.

Back at the house, Paul showed Joana how to make calzones. Nelson had asked him to show him how to do it, but it was an unspoken agreement that it was Joana who would be doing the work.

I found a deck of cards and played solitaire while the kids and Paul did the work–after all, the kitchen is only so big. Joana came over and got another deck, and also started playing when she wasn’t busy. Soon Joe sat down and I let him have the cards. Nelson and Paul decided to put their two cents’ worth in too, so it turned into a group participation thing. It was fun, but unexpected. (Joana’s mom was off somewhere, and came back later in the evening.)

After dinner, we said our good-byes, went back to the hotel, and packed most of our stuff.

Our last day, we shoved the luggage into Joana’s car and headed for one more tour. First, though, we went to the plaza and park in front of the church we’d gone to–there were some merchant booths set up there–and picked up a few hand-made things.

We drove to the southernmost part of the island, where we bought some more souvies, then the kids drove us to the airport. The flight(s) home were hell, and I’m glad to be shut of airports for awhile.

And now we are home, and beginning to plan for the trip we want to make next year:

Scotland and Italy!

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Brazil–Best Vacation Ever!

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My first impression on the trip was pretty much, “Someone’s gotta invent that transporter room…” Honestly, seventy-jillion hours on a plane without sleep is sheer torture.

I did get to see what those seat/beds were like in the Boeing 767, but of course we could not partake. So it was a long night, at least for me. I did get to catch up on my movies, which were accessed through a video screen in the back of the seat in front of me. Works great til that passenger wants to lean his seat back. Then it’s a little bit of a different perspective. I watched “Monuments Men”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, and several Disney nature documentaries. By the end of the trip, all I wanted to see was the insides of my eyelids.

But so worth it to see our son waiting for us, practically jumping up and down in excitement! His girlfriend was happy to see us too–she could get some relief from trying to hold him back.

We got the luggage, piled into her car, and went to the hotel (Hotel Faial), which was in the downtown area of Florianopolis.

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Our room was very nice–first one I’ve ever been in where you had to insert your card key into a slot to make the lights work.

P1050207One thing that was left out of the travel advice–by anyone–is that you can’t flush toilet paper down the loo. Anywhere in Brazil. We did anyway, preferring to play the ignorant tourist. There wasn’t a sign NOT to in our bathroom, so…

First thing I did was to plunk down on the bed and make zzzz’s for several hours.

Once we were rested, the kids picked us up and drove us to Joana’s grandparents’ house, where a lovely barbecue dinner was waiting for us. That and quite a number of relatives. Only two spoke English, but that was okay–everyone was so wonderful and welcoming. Joana’s ava (grandma) showed us around the house, telling us about all the different pictures, while Joe and Joana played the dutiful translators.

Every Brazilian house has one of these. They love their barbecue!  And they love their salt…

P1040586We had some terrific meat–Brazilian beef is so much better than even Kobe beef. We also had guarana, a juice I’d never had before, and of course can’t find here. Sigh… So much for that addiction.

The grandparents were going on vacation the next day, so we cut it short and went back to the hotel, gladly falling into bed and sleeping for some 12 hours.

The people of Brazil look like athletes, for the most part. For as much salt, sweets, and meat that they eat, I am surprised that most of them look so svelte. Truly, I wouldn’t have even known I was in a foreign country if it weren’t for the language. It really is a melting-pot of people of all ethnicities.

Joana had to work the next day, so Joe took the bus to the hotel and played tour guide for a bit. We walked to the farmer’s market, where he bought us breakfast (which a bee tried to take from me…) and treated us to sugar-cane lemonade. The guy in the booth ground the cane stalk up right there, and made the drinks from the squeezin’s. Man, that was good! My first indication that the weight-watching was not going to go well.

Joana met up with us and drove out to the stables, where she introduced us to her horse. I fell in love with him–he liked to give horsey-kisses on my face, and tried to eat my glasses more than once. The other horse wasn’t so friendly–but not unfriendly either–just skittish.

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I also considered stuffing this little doggie into my suitcase and bringing her home. She was the sweetest little girl. Once a feral dog (there are a lot of them in Brazil), she settled down and has become a favorite among the horse owners.

P1040964They call her “Branquinia” (okay, the spelling is probably wrong), and she loved attention, watching the horses, and above all, getting fed the meat and castoffs that were sent her way during the barbecues.

 

 

 

The kids showed us these odd little grape-like fruits that grew on the bark of a tree. I forget what they’re called. But they were fun to eat–just suck the innards out of the skin, discard the skin, and spit the seeds.

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That fun was cut short when Joe accidentally broke off a dead tree branch, and ants came roaring out of the break. OK–on to the next thing!

From there, we went to a very large supermarket, Angelino’s, and the kids bought stuff they wanted us to try. We took it back to Joana’s parents’ house (she lives there too), and got the grand tour. We met the dogs, Miro, Kito, and Luke–not all at the same time, though. Miro and Kito don’t get along.

Then it was off to the “shopping” – what Brazilians call a mall – to get a few things and look around. They have a chain of stores there called “Kopenhagen”–they sell the best chocolate espresso on the planet, bar none. We went there a couple of times.

We met Joana’s parents, Patricia and Nelson, for dinner, and got to watch a real lightning/thunder/rain storm from the restaurant. It was magnificent!

The next day, we explored a nearby park with the kids, and saw a really grand church. It was closed at that time, but we knew it was probably the one we’d be going to on Sunday, so we’d see it then.

The park was just a little one, with the walkways all paved in broken white tile. But there was one grand old fig tree in the middle. Reminded me of the one in Balboa Park in San Diego.

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Fig tree in Brazil

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Australian fig tree in Balboa Park

Both immense.

By the way, a word of advice–don’t drive in this area. Ever. Unless you don’t mind taking your life in your hands. Motorcycles have free rein–they can zip in and out of traffic to their heart’s desire. Rules are for tourists–not natives. The roads are almost all cobblestone, and it was all I could do to keep my molars from jangling out of my head. Walking is preferred.

Toured a couple of museums–a museum employee constantly watching us. I dunno–maybe we’re gonna walk with a chandelier out the door…but that’s how things are there.

Back to the mall–and I have to tell you what they are like. Eight floors, generally, and the top three are for parking. The center is open to the floor, and there are escalators on every corner, and elevators of course. Thing is, you can see from any level which stores are where (at least the ones closest to the central hub).

We had dinner at Red Lobster, which was a surprise, since we didn’t know they were in Brazil. Decent stuff–however, I never really did find a beer I really liked. Heaven knows I tried!!

Got to see a movie–“Guardians of the Galaxy”–in English with Portuguese subtitles. Loved the movie–I’ll probably get it when it comes out.

After the movie, we went up on the roof of the building and took many pictures. I saw the Southern Cross constellation, so now I can cross that off my bucket list. Cool!

Then we drove around the lagoon that is part of the Florianopolis area. We found a place to park, conveniently in the dirt behind a bus stop (don’t tell anyone), and walked a ways down the sand. Once we found a bench in  some decent light, we unwrapped the food we’d bought at Angelino’s and ate it.

P1040741We had some more of those weird fruits we’d had earlier, and had a contest to see who could spit the seeds furthest. Paul won–and sprayed us with jetsam as well. I think this is the best memory of the trip, right here. We were like a bunch of kids–no age difference, no parent/child relationship–just all of us having fun. It was wonderful!

 

Bananas can’t be beat in this part of the world. Small and sweet–like fully-ripe bananas that are still firm. We had quite a lot of them.

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We walked through empty streets the next day to go to church. The only other creature out and about was a feral dog–he looked like he was on a very urgent mission. These dogs know to cross at intersections and to watch for traffic. Street smarts!

The kids came for us afterward, and we went to another park/plaza, where we took a lot of pictures of the Pretty But Useless Bridge. Built of wood (???) in the 1920s, it had fallen into a state of disrepair so bad that a person could fall through by just stepping on the bridge road. Next to it is the Ugly But Useful Bridge, which is the only fast connection to the mainland. When the traffic was light. Which was never.

We went to a coin/stamp show–I think that may have been for Joana’s sake more than for us–but I did find some US money that I had been trying to find for years. The irony does not escape me…

We then went to a fort and military museum, where we got a good look at the underside of Bridge Doom:

P1040788Too expensive to tear down, and nothing in the budget to replace or restore it–so it sits there until it falls on its own.

 

 

 

 

Back to the old homestead–Joana’s, not the hotel.  Had pinoa for the first time. These are like pinenuts, only much, much larger. These come from the aracara tree, and are heavy enough to kill someone if the cone fell just right.

P1040803They are about 1 1/2 inches long or so, and can be roasted or pan-cooked. The outer shell is taken off–the nut tastes like chestnuts. Loved them!

 

 

 

Patricia took us on a tour of Sao Jose, which is the neighboring city, and where she grew up. A lot of history there. The kids did their best to translate everything she said–she was just so excited to show people around her old stomping grounds that it was hard for them to keep up.

Much of the city’s walls, both here and in Florianopolis, are covered in street murals and graffiti. Some of it is really good:

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I’ll leave out the really bad…

That night, we drove to the highest point in the Florianopolis area, and took a lot of pictures as the sun went down.

P1040853This was the best representative of all of the pictures we took. That green slash of light to the right of the Ugly Useful Bridge is the fallover one. They like the pretty lights to go on–I think it makes it easier to find the bits when the thing finally falls into the water.

By the way, our hotel is between the two bridges, on the far side of the waterway.

 

OK–that’s enough for one night. I will continue this blog later. I’m glad I took notes because I sure didn’t get any writing done of any kind while I was there.

Part II in a couple of days!

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Review of “Whispering Willows”, by Lauren Boehm Lynch

Whispering Willows

My grandma made cookies and bread pudding.

I’m betting Alivia wished her grandma was that type of old gal. At least at first.

Nana Willow pretty much fit that mold for most of Alivia’s life. Hot tea on the porch, an engrossing book about a faraway kingdom, Whispering Willows, at night. True, there were bad feelings about her long-lost grandpa that surfaced often, but Alivia remembered him with love.

How she would have any memories of him at all is a mystery, since he disappeared before she could have possibly known him.

But, at the age of almost-18, she learns what happened to him, and the revelation changes her world completely. That world of Whispering Willows is only a portal away–and it needs her badly. Will she accept the responsibility, or just spend the rest of her life trying to forget everything she learned that summer at Nana’s?

 

What a marvelous story! Portals and magic kingdoms and battles for dominance reign in this book, along with a young girl’s coming-of-age and the taking on of a responsibility she never dreamed would be asked of her. This is a good book for YA and tweens–clean and  sweet, but chock-full of adventure. The story rolls along nicely, and the characters are very engaging. A totally enjoyable book!

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Well, pook.

unemployed

 

I must admit to a feeling of giddiness when I think of the events of the day. Strange to say that, but there is a part of me, the irresponsible part, that says “Yay!” Perhaps it just hasn’t sunk in yet.

A lot can happen in the space of a few minutes. This morning, I went to the break room, a distance of 120 steps (I know this because I compared the distance to the other break room awhile back), and when I came back, boxes were flying. One moment I’m leaving my cube city, where everyone is contentedly typing away at their terminals, and 240 steps later (round-trip), I come back to find everyone is cramming things into boxes and crying on each others’ shoulders.

And the funny thing is, no one said anything to me. I just calmly sat down and made my coffee, and prepared to go back to the doldrum-inducing activity that is data validation. But the frenetic activity and murmuring voices got to be too much–I finally wandered over to my lead’s cube to see what was going on.

There I got the news–everyone was out the door. “Down-sized”, I’m told. “Corporate decision”. All the usual noise.

Not unusual. But this time it hit people who had spent 20+ years in the company, not just the temps. I really feel for the folks in that situation–the other temp and I are employed by another agency, and know that they are looking for work for us. But these others–they are sole contributors to their household finances.

I shall keep my acerbic comments about the Powers That Be of this particular company to myself–no one should have their eyeballs blistered from reading my posts. I just wonder who else got the ax. There aren’t many people left in these buildings, and not too long ago, they teemed with employees. I have to wonder how long the campus will remain open.

So–for me, it’s back to unemployment checks and spending a lot of time applying for jobs. I would love to be free of the daily grind, but it isn’t about to happen any time soon. Too many debts to take care of, and they just keep coming. Same as any household.

So, I really don’t know where this blog post is taking me, or why. I just had to put it down for whatever reason. And now I will go watch TV the rest of the night, and indulge myself in a couple of brandy-and-Cokes. Reality will come soon enough.

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Review of “The Subtle Fiend”, by Jane Dougherty

Jane Dougherty Book 2

 

The pendulum swings….slowly, inexorably…

At the height–or depth, if you prefer–of the evil that consumed Providence, the leaders of the crystal-domed city made an alliance with Abaddon, the Destroyer, the King of Demons.

They touted him to the people as their ally against the threats from outside, and the people shouldered the burden of that favor for generations. Lost to them was anything that made life bearable–at least for those who were considered the “true citizens”.

Not so for the Danaans, the people snubbed and abhorred by the common and high citizenry. Only in their ramshackle hovels is there any happiness and love–and the others know nothing of them. And the Danaans know only of the cruelty of the others.

There’s also something else that can’t be overlooked: an alliance between self-serving individuals rarely will last for long. Each member of the alliance must constantly look over his shoulder for the possible traitorous behavior of the others. And with their own agendas most important in their own eyes, it can be understood that the trust levels and cooperation will be extremely low.

But things are changing. Caste overlaps caste in ways that were never envisioned by the leaders of Providence. And with understanding comes humanity, but not without blood shed and lives lost. New alliances are made, not with the lords of evil, but among the citizenry itself.

An excerpt from the book can give you an idea of what is in store: “Providence had never seen this before. The power of the Book was waning; long-repressed humanity was struggling to express itself in people who had never shown any emotions but anger and fear. They had been to the brink of horror, but they had pulled back.”

And that’s it then?

No. It isn’t.

The field of battle is carried elsewhere, while skirmishes continue on within the city. And the very thing that started the change is now in danger of extinction once again.

And the pendulum swings…

 

The more I read of Ms. Dougherty’s books, the more I find myself immersed in her world. To say that this tale would make a good movie would be a disservice; “The Green Woman Trilogy” should have a series or mini-series of its own. This series is so rich in story that a mere two-hour version would stunt its life and growth. The way she can put color and vibrancy into a world that is mostly brown and grey is beyond tremendous.

Every character, from the vile Protector to the girl, Hera, who fights through what she knows to become who she can be, are fiercely and meticulously painted by the author. This book is just as suspenseful and tightly-written as her first book and the short stories that have sprung tangentially from it.

Fans of dystopia would do well to pick up the entire series, and wait (impatiently in my case) for the third book, “Beyond the Realm of Night”.

 

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Chocolate/Book Blog, a tour for Kimberly Sentek

Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates”. Honestly, I don’t know why–never saw the movie in its entirety.

In this blog offering, however, books are like chocolates–or so Kimberly Sentek tells me. My challenge here is to relate how some of my favorite books are like my favorite chocolates.  Ummm…’k…

I think today’s hot weather fried my brain enough so that I could actually come up with something to write, and for this I am grateful. There is nothing like watering your yard in the quiet of a warm evening to get your thoughts in order.

But I am veering. I do this a lot. You’ll get used to it; I know I did.

Since I review a lot of indie authors, and I don’t want to choose one over the other, I am  going to stick with well-known writers. I love every author I have reviewed, and it would be impossible to keep my choices down to a handful.

So–on with the show…

I used mostly candies from the kitchens of See’s Finest, because I used to work in one of their shops, and I know the various types of chocolates that are sold there. My one exception will be my absolutely, number one, don’t-try-to-talk-me-out-of-it, favorite chocolate candy in the world.

So let’s start with that one, which is M&Ms. All those different colors, but all the same flavor of chocolate wonderfulness. I will liken them to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. So many different, colorful characters–from witches, to wizards, to Death astride his pale horse (whose name is “Binky”), to a university Librarian who is really an orangutan (but don’t tell him that), Pratchett’s stories are chock full of colorful, crazy, wonderful characters.

Oh, and by the way, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are easily sidetracked by the sight of a pub…

Speaking of nutty–I also love chocolate-covered nuts. Except for the chocolate part, Tamar Myers’ protagonist in the Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery series, Magdalena Yoder, is like that–as nutty as a walnut grove. She runs a bed-and-breakfast in the Amish style, charging extra to “let” her guests do their own chores around the place. She seems to also stumble into a lot of crimes, which gets her into hot water with her Amish relatives and the seedy local police force. Her methods of detection are outlandish, her outlook is wonderfully wacky (“Do shut up, dear, and I mean that with all Christian generosity”), and her relatives (who play a big part in most of the books) are just as nutty as she is.

But now we switch to a different nut confection–California Brittle. I would like to stress the “California” part of the name, as it makes me think of Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey series. The books take place in a small town along the coast of California, which sounds a lot like Carmel. Not the candy, CARmel–it’s pronounced “CarMEL”.

We have at least three cats here with the power to speak to their human companions–sometimes more, depending on the book. To better understand this series, it would be recommended to read Murphy’s “The Catswold Portal” first. It gives a really good history and background concerning sentient cats with this ability.

The three cats in the series speak only with their human counterparts, and the secret must be kept from the law. However, as the books progress, it is more and more likely that the local authorities will have to know soon. After all, they are smarter than they look.

“They”, meaning the police, that is.

Let’s continue with the cat-mystery-solving idea. Years ago, I fell in love with the Midnight Louie series by Carole Nelson Douglas. Another cat sleuth, Louie is sleek, black, lovable, and sure to please. Rather like chocolate fudge.

Living in Las Vegas, among the high and low, the glitter and glamour, of the biggest gambling arena in the United States, he and his housemate, Temple Barr, seem to find themselves embroiled in mysteries and murders from A to Z. And, yes, the titles of the books utilize the letters of the alphabet to go from one story to the next. And in the backdrop, there are many ongoing sub-stories–and many questions that will not be answered until the bitter Z.

Douglas is on “X”–we’ll know all soon enough!

I hope…

Let’s move on to another country and another flavor–Butterscotch Square. This puts me in mind of all of those “Square”-named areas of London, which in turn leads me to the author Jacqueline Winspear and her Maisie Dobbs series.

Maisie is a woman before her time–a strong-willed, ambitious British woman who fought her way through a man’s world of the early 20th-century to become a detective in her own right. I love that she is capable, strong, and does not put up with any guff from people who consider her “out of her place”. Again and again she proves those naysayers wrong, and it cheers my heart to see her rise above those critics.

And this concludes my choclolate book blog tour. I’d like to add a few words about Kimberly Sentek, whose book, Oh Brother! A Nico and Tugger Tale, is a very charming children’s book. The subject, sibling rivalry, is dealt with so very well, and I enjoyed that tale a lot.

***

Kimberly Sentek has spent her entire life telling stories—so much so that her parents swear she was born talking. A lifelong New Jersey resident, she is owned by two cockapoos, Nico and Tugger. Her first book, Oh Brother!: A Nico and Tugger Tale, is a story of sibling rivalry that was inspired by her dogs. According to a ForeWord Clarion review, “Many readers—children and adults—will hope there are more Nico and Tugger tales as charming as this one following soon.”

Kimberly plans to continue writing a series of books about her two furry children, where both main characters tell their sides of the same story. The second book in the Nico and Tugger Tale series is tentatively scheduled for release in January 2015.

 

Kimberly’s website is www.kimberlysentek.com. You can follower her on twitter at @kimberlysentek and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kimberly-Sentek-Author-Page/365737483515252?ref=hl. You can contact her at info@kimberlysentek.com.

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Review of “Fear the Light: Who Killed Dracula?”, by William Massa

fear the light

The unthinkable has happened–the King of the Undead, Dracula, has been exterminated.

Not by the usual means–he’d been looking out for those for centuries, and had always been able to sidestep them. No, his killer was extremely ingenious in the method used to vanquish the oldest vampire in existence.

His offspring gather at his chateau in France to make some important decisions. But as they settle in, the killer strikes again.

Or does he?

The killer definitely has an agenda–and so does each of his children of the night. Whether they were brought into the world of the undead eagerly–such as Faust, the Nazi who chose eternal dark life over being slayed by the enemy; or quite unwillingly, such as Justin, the priest whose vows were snatched from him in one swift movement of Dracula’s fangs. Any one of them could have a reason for killing the rest off, and even when they are murdered, there is some doubt that they were actually destroyed. Could any one of them have come back to kill the rest?

One by one, the vampires are picked off, and they are unable to escape. All ways are closed to them, because the killer knows them all. And it is full day, another factor that is used to its fullest against those trapped inside the chateau.

Who is responsible? And why? No one, including the reader, will know until the bitter end.

***

Fantastic story! Another great offering from William Massa, this tale is very reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. The major difference is that the methods of murder have to be such as to wipe out the denizens of the dark. And quite ingenious they are, too.

Mr. Massa throws in surprising twists and turns, and just when the reader is sure who is behind the killings, something else crops up to send that guess straight down the drain.

This was a book I was loathe to put down, because it was so tightly written that I didn’t want to lose the momentum. This is writing at its best, right down to the last written word.

Highly recommended!

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