Hello, and welcome to imagic reflections!

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Here, we talk about books, history (actual and alternative), the latest discoveries in archaeology, music, movies, and just life in general.  Whatever catches my interest at the time.  Occasionally, I’ll post a scrap kit for you to download.  This doesn’t happen as often as I’d like anymore, but that’s life.

Before downloading any of my scrapbook freebies, please take the time to read my Terms.   Downloading any of my creations implies an agreement to these terms, whether or not you have actually read them.  My terms may be changed at any time without notice, so be sure to check back.  Thank you and have fun!

My book reviews express my own opinions and feelings about books I’ve read, but if you want to repost them elsewhere, then feel free to do so.  With appropriate credit, of course.

Tea Sampler: Cinnamon Toast HiCAF Black Tea

One of the nice things about the Republic of Tea are the free samples.  Not only do they send out a sample pack in their monthly catalog, but there are usually two samples included with each order.  tea-samplerWith my last order, they sent something I hadn’t tried before, Cinnamon Toast HiCAF Black Tea.  HiCAF is line of extra-caffeinated teas.

Cinnamon Toast is a misnomer for this tea.  Apple Pie would be more appropriate, because the “natural apple flavor” comes through in a big way.  The caramel, not so much.

The smell is amazing.  I usually steep mine in the microwave and, when I opened the door, the scent of apples and cinnamon immediately burst into my kitchen.

It tastes really good, though, again, apples with just a little bit of cinnamon.  It just needs a little vanilla and a good splash of milk to be perfect.  Or half-in-half if you want something really decadent.  Apple Pie à la Mode.

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader

None of the main characters of this book are particularly likeable.  Not to me, at least.  I liked Father Peter, Anna, and Ellie.  That’s about it.  Oh, and the village women.  But Sarah and Father Ranaulf, no.

Anchoress_CadwalladerThe blurb asks:

What could drive a girl on the cusp of womanhood to lock herself away from the world forever?

The answer, in Sarah’s case, is cowardice.  Life in the Middle Ages was dangerous.  Death was always close by, waiting for the slightest pretext to collect a soul.  For women, the act of bringing forth new life, her only purpose according to medieval thought, was the most among the most lethal.  For both her and the baby.  After watching what happens to her mother and her sister, Sarah is afraid to live among men.  To risk marriage and children and death in childbed.  Her decision had nothing to do with Sir Thomas.  That happened after she’d spoken to Father Simon and the bishop.

Speaking of Sir Thomas.  He was a calculating, petty, vindictive man, wasn’t he? A spoiled man who despised being told “no”, and would go to any lengths to get revenge on those who did.  You have to feel sorry for Lady Cecilia.  And poor Anna.  You know the fact that she resembled Emma was not a coincidence.  Definitely calculating.

Father Ranaulf was rather standoffish and wholly unconnected with real life, his mind and heart submerged within the copied words of Augustine of Hippo, Tertulian, John Chrysostom, and other religious thinkers.  His outlook was very literal and by the book.  He thaws out, some, over the course of the book, but never really comes alive.

Illuminations_SharratOne thing that niggled at me throughout the book was the name of our anchoress:  Sarah.  The use of an Old Testament for a Christian in 13th century Europe is highly unusual.  The Inquisition, as such, didn’t really exist, as yet, but any hint of Jewishness would, still, have been dangerous.  Heretics and apostates were still burned.  In my mind, it just didn’t fit.

The Anchoress is an interesting read with much food for thought, but the main characters are rather difficult to relate to.  Maybe it’s a difference in philosophy.  The whole “pay for his sin” stuff.  Another novel about a more sympathetic anchoress is Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

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The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

MasterChef is one of my favorite shows, though it’s not quite as much fun without Joe masterfully deflating overlarge egos.  I have my favorites, and I have the ones whose exists make me cheer.  And so it was in the New Mrs. Eaden Baking Competition.  I liked Jennifer immediately, and just as quickly took a dislike to Karen.  And the sainted Kathleen earned my ire with this remark, written with an implied superior smirk:Baking-Blind_Vaughan

Our American friends may eat cookies, soft plates of dough studded with chocolate, and our young children may find these appealing. But the best biscuits are more delicate.  With an exquisitely curled brandy snap, a piped coffee kiss, a raspberry macaroon or a melting moment, the ordinary housewife can conjure up indulgence, refinement and elegance.

Don’t diss the chocolate chip cookie.  Soft, warm, gooey rounds of chocolate decadence.  While I’ll concede that there is nothing refined or elegant about the humble chocolate chip cookie, it has a wholesomeness not shared by its more exquisite cousins.  How can anyone not appreciate the simplicity and comfort of a plate of chocolate chip goodness fresh from the oven, accompanied by a glass of ice cold milk, or a steaming mug of hot cocoa, is beyond me.  But then, I’m one of those “American friends”.

I wanted to smack James Caruthers when he said:

But you’re lucky.  If things don’t work out quite as you’d like … well, there’s a Plan B, isn’t there?  You’ll always have your baking and your writing to fall back on.

Talk about insensitive.

It took over 25% of the book for us to finally get anything from Mike’s point-of-view, then we only get one whole scene, a couple of scattered paragraphs, and a smattering of sentences.  He was more of a plot device than an actual character, it seemed to me.  A foil for the selfishness of Karen’s hunger (which is ironic), and the healthier alternative, if you will, to the immature, devil-may-care Jay.  I would have liked to see more.

Also, this book needed recipes.  There are excerpts given from Kathleen Eaden’s cookbook, The Art of Baking, wherein she goes into raptures, even waxes poetic at times, about baking, but no where is there included a single recipe.  At the very least, there should have been one for gingerbread.

I enjoyed this book very much, and may have let out an emphatic “Suck that, Nigel!” near the end.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

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The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

When I learned that Annie Barrows, co-authoress of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (I feel a re-read coming on), one of my favorite books, was finally penning another grown-up novel, my reader’s brain did a little happy dance. The Truth According to Us does not disappoint. The epistolary parts are especially entertaining.Truth_Barrows

Felix engendered particularly strong emotions in me. For such an unlikeable character, he was oddly, well, likeable. You can’t help but pull for Jottie (how do you get Jottie from Josephine, by the way?) and Vause.  And reading that last sentence, I see how odd that sounds seeing that Vause is dead and this is not a paranormal romance. Nevertheless, it’s true. Throughout the entire novel, I kept thinking, “Come on, Jottie, open your damn eyes!” It was so obvious.  Unless, of course, you’re twelve like poor ferociously devoted Willa.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but, if I were you, I wouldn’t attempt to read it while other people are around. Unless they are fellow readers, they’ll likely think you’re ready for a padded cell. I remember snorting out a laugh at one point and muttering “Chemicals my ass”, at one point early in the novel, crying out “I’m glad someone in that family has some sense” at another, and yelling out a smug “HAH! I knew it!” at the climax when everything is Willa’s life, and Felix’s, goes to hell. And that’s just a sample of various laughs, scoffs, sneers, invectives, and interjections that went on during my reading of this book. Even though the ending is predictable from early on, it’s still an enjoyable, entertaining ride to get there.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Marco Polo

I’ve recently started watching Marco Polo on Netflix.  I like it, but does anyone else think it would be better without Marco Polo?  He really annoys me.  I sink into the intricate snake-pit of the Mongol hordes and the Song court, then a scene with Marco comes along and I lose interest.

On the other hand, the casting of Kublai Khan was inspired.  He, Hundred Eyes, and the “Cricket” Chancellor are my favorite characters.  I just love the way the chancellor’s crooked mind works.  He’s cruel and twisted, with a crafty, creative mind.

So, I ignore Signor Polo and the unrealistic portrayal of Chinese noblewomen (something else that annoys me), while I immerse myself in the battle of wits between the Khan and the Chancellor.

Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh

Warning:  There are spoilers galore in this post.  I’ve changed the font color to white for those parts.  Just select those sentences to read them.  But do so at your own risk if haven’t, yet, read/finished the book.

Shards_SinghFinally, we get Aden’s story, and, boy is it a doozy.  There is a shadowy group consisting of Psy, changelings, and humans who are stealthily trying to destabilize the Post-Silence world in a bid for complete political and economic control of that world.  Showing that they have half-a-brain, they’ve realized that taking out Aden is the best way, other than the impossible assassination of Kaleb Krychek, to accomplish their goal.  I have my suspicions about the anonymous “architect” of this alliance.  Let’s just say we now know what Shoshanna Scott’s been up to in her silence (no pun intended!).  The thing with Nikita and contract was a blind, I think.

And, oh my God, Aden’s hidden ability is awesome.  I’d have loved to be able to see through any and all shields in order to have seen into the minds of his parents, and of Ming LeBon, in that moment.  Under their icy Silence, I bet they were as slack jawed as me.  Kaleb’s reaction made me laugh.  And the Beacon’s response brought a smirk to my face.

About Zaira, when I read about her “rage”, I immediately wondered if she was a latent changeling of some kind.  Initially, I thought a cat, maybe tiger, but her interaction with Miane makes me wonder. The way it reacts to Aden says “mate” to me, and its antipathy to isolation and confinement of any kind made me think it was touch hungry, even touch starved.  Visions of Dorian and his frustrated aggression due to the latent nature of his cat danced in my head.  Her father did say she had changeling blood, enough to enhance her sense of smell, but I think there’s more. Speaking of smell, you’d think someone in RainFire would have scented the changeling, so it would have be even more latent than Dorian. Or, maybe, it instinctively uses Zaira’s Psy abilities to mask itself? That’s a definite hole in my theory. Another is the empaths. They’d sense the animal, wouldn’t they?

We get to see a little more into the elusive BlackSea changelings in this book, and I’m even more intrigued than before.  I think I see where Miane’s story will go, and if I’m right, it’ll be a lot of fun.  Possibly bloody, but fun.  The RainFire leopards also play a big part in the story, and we get just a peek into the BlackEdge wolf pack of Moscow.  Personally, I want to see into their neighbors, the StoneWater bears.

Oh, and Anthony and Nikita get even more interesting.

Shards of Hope is a wild read that has left me wanting more.  Can’t wait for the next book, or the promised anthology, whichever comes first.

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

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Far from the Madding Crowd

Speaking of books I didn’t like in high school…

My seventeen-year-old self considered Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd one of the most boring books she’d ever read.  The fact that she had to waste, or so it seemed, precious hours of summer vacation laboring over it probably influenced her opinion.  :)

Truthfully, my adult self really hasn’t felt any desire to revisit it, but the movie does make it sound interesting.  That I’ll probably watch.

Can’t Wait for Books of 2015 – Part 2

It is the blessing and bane of the existence of all readers.  The shear number of books there are to be read  My TBR pile is freaking huge.  An all you can read buffet.  Filled with everything from meaty, weighty tomes like The Luminaries and The Goldfinch, to mind bending mysteries such as Pattison’s Mandarin Gate and Soul of the Fire, to brain candy romances like Binding Ties and The Duke and the Lady in Red.  And there are more coming out every week.  Some, like tomorrow’s Shards of Hope, you can’t help but be more eager for than others.  Here are mine for the second part of the year (Part 1 is here):

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Release Date: July 14, 2015

Is there a child in the whole of the United States who has graduated high school without reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at some point?  For me it was in the 9th grade.  I won’t lie.  It didn’t wow me.  Frankly, I’m not at all sure why they make teenagers read this novel.  I’m not sure a fifteen year old has the maturity to fully understand the heart-breaking complexity of this story.  I know I didn’t.  If you haven’t read it since, then you should.  You’ll be amazed at how your perception has changed.  To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those novels that grows with you.  As you grow older, experience more, the book changes, revealing new depths.  This is why I’m so looking forward to this rediscovered sequel, Go Set a Watchman.

The Blurb:

Watchman_Lee

An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

goodreads-badge-add-plus-7d89c09d2df9777b38fbd808bb3ffb1aArchangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh
Release Date: September 1, 2015

It’s Naasir, need I say more?  And didn’t I tell y’all that Archangel Alexander would show up at some point?  He’s been mentioned too much for him not to.

Archangel's EnigmaThe Blurb:

Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required—those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets, is fascinated by his nature—at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it’s too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows…and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But first they must survive an enemy vicious enough to shatter the greatest taboo of the angelic race and plunge the world into a screaming nightmare…

goodreads-badge-add-plus-7d89c09d2df9777b38fbd808bb3ffb1aThe Gilded Hour by Sara Donati
Release Date: September 1, 2015

I adored Donati’s Wilderness novels, so I was completely psyched to learn she’d written something else under that pseudonym.  While a little bummed that it’s not another Wilderness book, I still can’t wait to read it.

The Blurb:

24611868The international bestselling author of Into the Wilderness makes her highly anticipated return with a magnificent epic about the transcendent power of courage in 19th-century New York…

The year is 1883, and although young surgeon Anna Savard and her cousin, Sophie, have become successful physicians, they never recovered from the losses they suffered as children. So when Anna encounters a child who’s lost nearly everything, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the past and let love into her life. Meanwhile, Sophie’s memories of being left alone in the world propel the young obstetrician to help a desperate mother—and catapult her into the orbit of a very dangerous man.

Vividly drawing on historical events, Sara Donati has written a captivating, emotionally gripping novel that proves she is an author at the height of her powers.

goodreads-badge-add-plus-7d89c09d2df9777b38fbd808bb3ffb1aAbove the Waterfall by Ron Rash
Release Date: September 15, 2015

Ron Rash has become one of my favorite authors.  I just love his smooth, slow southern style.  Each passage just drips with it.  Those honeyed vowels.  Like a cool sip of sweet tea, at times laced with a splash of bourbon.

The Blurb:

Waterfall_RashThe New York Times bestselling author of Serena—the basis of the movie starring Academy Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper—illuminates lives shaped by violence, passion, and a powerful connection to the land in this haunting tale set in contemporary Appalachia.

Les, a long-time sheriff nearing retirement, contends with the ravages of poverty and crystal meth on his small Appalachian town. Nestled in a beautiful hollow of the Appalachians, his is a tight-knit community rife with secrets and suspicious of outsiders.

Becky, a park ranger, arrives in this remote patch of North Carolina hoping to ease the anguish of a harrowing past. Searching for tranquility amid the verdant stillness, she finds solace in poetry and the splendor of the land.

A vicious crime will plunge both sheriff and ranger into deep and murky waters, forging an unexpected bond between them. Caught in a vortex of duplicity, lies, and betrayal, they must navigate the dangerous currents of a tragedy that turns neighbor against neighbor—and threatens to sweep them all over the edge.

Echoing the lapsarian beauty of William Faulkner and the spiritual isolation of Carson McCullers, Above the Waterfall demonstrates the prodigious talent of an author hailed as “a gorgeous, brutal writer” (Richard Price); “one of the best American novelists of his day” (Janet Maslin, New York Times). Lyrical and evocative, tragic and indelible, it is a breathtaking achievement from a literary virtuoso.

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Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
Release Date: September 22, 2015

Can’t wait to see what Jacob does with his awesome powers.  What thrilling adventures will he and his fellow Peculiars have next?

Library-of-Souls_RiggsThe Blurb:

Time is running out for the Peculiar Children. With a dangerous madman on the loose and their beloved Miss Peregrine still in danger, Jacob Portman and Emma Bloom are forced to stage the most daring of rescue missions. They’ll travel through a war-torn landscape, meet new allies, and face greater dangers than ever. . . . Will Jacob come into his own as the hero his fellow Peculiars know him to be? This action-packed adventure features more than 50 all-new Peculiar photographs.

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After You by Jojo Moyes
Release Date: September 29, 2015

I loved Me Before You.  It made me cry, so I’ll definitely have a box of tissues ready.

The Blurb:

after-youA NOTE FROM JOJO MOYES ABOUT HER EXCITING NEW NOVEL, AFTER YOU:

Dear Reader,

I wasn’t going to write a sequel to Me Before You. But for years, readers kept asking and I kept wondering what Lou did with her life. In the end the idea came, as they sometimes do, at 5:30 in the morning, leaving me sitting bolt upright in my bed and scrambling for my pen.

It has been such a pleasure revisiting Lou and her family, and the Traynors, and confronting them with a whole new set of issues. As ever, they have made me laugh, and cry. I hope readers feel the same way at meeting them—especially Lou—again. And I’m hoping that those who love Will will find plenty to enjoy.

—Jojo Moyes

goodreads-badge-add-plus-7d89c09d2df9777b38fbd808bb3ffb1aBlood Kiss by J. R. Ward
Release Date: December 1, 2015

Back to basics and, hopefully, the Brotherhood we all fell in love with the first time we read Dark Lover.  Frankly, the original series was getting boring.  I don’t really care about the Band of Bastards, and I care even less for Assail, so I’m looking forward to this new series.  Here’s hoping.

The Blurb:

The legacy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continues in a spin-off series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author…

blood-kissParadise, blooded daughter of the king’s First Advisor, is ready to break free from the restrictive life of an aristocratic female. Her strategy? Join the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training center program and learn to fight for herself, think for herself…be herself. It’s a good plan, until everything goes wrong. The schooling is unfathomably difficult, the other recruits feel more like enemies than allies, and it’s very clear that the Brother in charge, Butch O’Neal, a.k.a. the Dhestroyer, is having serious problems in his own life.

And that’s before she falls in love with a fellow classmate. Craeg, a common civilian, is nothing her father would ever want for her, but everything she could ask for in a male. As an act of violence threatens to tear apart the entire program, and the erotic pull between them grows irresistible, Paradise is tested in ways she never anticipated—and left wondering whether she’s strong enough to claim her own power…on the field, and off.

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Scrap Link Updates

My long abandoned 4shared account expired a few months ago.  I’ve spent some time today and this morning going through my posts, deleting all 4shared download links.  I’ve also edited my Scrapdex to reflect these changes.

Unfortunately, this means that many of my early kits are no longer available. If I can find the time, I may attempt to recreate and/or redo some of them.

I’m aware that some of the deleted kits have been used by tutorial writers.  I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause them and those that wish to learn from their work by using mine.  Because of this, I’m going to relax my Terms for these kits:  Let’s Go to the Movies and Artist at Work.  The tutorial writer, Angel’s Tuts, is here given permission to upload these kits and offer them for download from their blog if they so choose.  No one else.

They so got it wrong!

When I went to bed last night, all local stations, and the National Weather Service, were forecasting something between 0.5 and 1 inch of snow.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up and it was already snowing in some areas and they started throwing 2 and 3 inches around.

This is what my backyard looks like right now, and it’s still falling.

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