Our Mother who are in labor
Hallowed by they womb
Thy Marriage Done
Thy Queendom come
And then the life everafter
~ Prayer to The Queen Bee
Last month, my book club read a book entitled The Bees by Laline Paul. I’ve heard of The Bees given that there’s been plenty of of buzz about this book as of late (Get it? Buzz! Buzz!) but it wasn’t on my TBR list. Now one of the reasons I belong to my book club (other than getting out of the house) is that so I read books that I normally wouldn’t pick up – to make me step outside of my comfort zone. The Bees definitely did that.
What I Didn’t Expect
First off, The Bees is a fiction book – it is not a study about the life of bees, though the reader does learn plenty about the life of bees and the hive hierarchy.
The book opens with people talking about a beehive in the back yard. Then, the book completely switches gears. The rest of the story is told from the point of view of an overly large – and exceptionally talented – sanitation worker bee named Flora 717. I waited, expecting that the point of view would switch back to the humans. It did not until the final closing scene of the book. As I began reading, a realization struck me: This book is not going to be about humans. There aren’t going to be any humans in this storyline at all. It’s going to be about bees, told from the point of view of a bee.
How Interesting Is The Life of a Bee?
I will say that initially, I was skeptical. I mean, how interesting could the life a worker bee be? Buzz Buzz. You’d be surprised! And I was – surprised and pleased that instead of a boring read about bee, I found an original, rich, engrossing book – and even an enjoyable book – in The Bees.
So What’s It Really About?
The novel investigates the life of a beehive and in so doing, unravels the following themes: politics, religion, freedom, independence, fanaticism, conformity, power, environmental influences, big government, defying authority, police brutality and more. There’s even an attempted coup at the end. Sounds riveting, no? It was!
Accept, Obey, Serve
Above all else, there were three rules to live by in the hive mind: Accept, Obey, Serve and we hear this mantra repeated over and over until it becomes deeply ingrained in each bee’s psyche. This kind of made me think of a dystopian society ruled by one ruler for they often use such matras to control their followers (subjects). The Capital in the Hunger Games comes to mind.
There was also another rule, one that must never be broken under the penalty of immediate death: Only the Queen may lay. Guess which rule gets broken?
If you don’t particularly care for books that anthropomorphize critters, then this book may not be for you. However, if you enjoy dystopian books or think you might enjoy a read about the inner workings and drama of a beehive told from the point of view of a special, headstrong, independent bee, then it’s definitely worth a read. From what I know about bees, it’s obvious that the author definitely did her homework in portraying the intricacies of hive life.
I enjoyed this fascinating, well-written characterization of honey bees and am glad I read it. I found it innovative, intriguing, suspenseful, original and at times, humorous and page-turning. Who knew that a novel about the life cycle of bees could be so interesting? And who knew that I would enjoy reading such a book? I know that I’ll never look at a bee in quite the same way. I would have loved to have seen a map of the hive as an attachment to the book. I must say that now, I’m a bit intrigued.
I give it five buzzing stars out of five!
Want to find out what all the buzz is about? Check it out
This month, my Goodread’s book club featured book of the month was a delightful story entitled One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva and I found it to be not only a refreshing tale of young romance, but so much more.
The blurb is as follows:
Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything “these Americans” could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.
Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again. Michael Barakiva’s One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself–like you never have before.
Thinking on how I would classify this beautiful story, I’d probably say it was along the lines of a young adult gay romanic comedy, for there are more than one scenes that made me laugh out loud. Each page of this novel made me want more and beckoned me to keep reading. I was in fact surprised at how quickly I tore through this book, anxiously awaiting to see how the tender new relationship between Alec and Ethan would develop.
Speaking of develop, the author gives us extremely well-developed main characters and by the end of the novel, I felt as though I were saying goodbye to old friends. These vivid, well-drawn characters come to life on the pages of this book and stay with you well after the book is finished. The supporting cast of colorful characters are also memorable and entertaining: Becky – Alek’s rollerblading, old-movie obsessed, say-it-the-way-it-is BFF is a welcome addition to the story, as was Alek’s fussy, nitpicking mother and his older brother Nik, the “dutiful son” who embarks on voyage of self-discovery himself.
I love a slow romance (rather than a “love and first sight, marry me now kind of romance) and One Man Guy didn’t disappoint. It was a delight to watch Alec’s journey of self-discovery, especially the witty manner in which he managed to overcome the roadblocks to his and Ethan’s relationship and I was relieved to see that the author kept the heavy angst to a bare minimum. I tend not to be a fan of angsty novels. It was also fun to see the orderly, by-the-book world of Alec turned upside down by this enigmatic new boy who came into his life.
Now that is not to say that this novel is simply a sweet little romance. While it is that, it is also more. It’s a study of two cultures coming together and the clashes that can sometimes result of that coming together. It’s about the hurdles of family drama, of embracing your heritage and accepting who you are while maintaining your connection to your roots. Moreover, it’s about the need to understand that sometimes, it’s okay to break the rules – just as long as you know when it’s NOT okay to break them.
While the book is geared toward young adults (high school age) I feel it’s a book that all ages can enjoy and I find this romantic and humorous coming of age tale to be a remarkable addition to the YA/LGBT genre. It’s a charming, captivating and entertaining tale with likable and memorable characters, with just the right amount of romance peppered throughout. What more could you ask of book?
You can check out One Man Guy HERE
Just a quick post to let you all know what’s going on with the Ghost Oracle series (you can read the first book in the series HERE). The next novel in the series, “Anaconda” is now with my beta readers for a final run-through. I hope to have it available by the end of this month. The book cover should be finished fairly soon so I’ll post it when it’s ready.
In Anaconda, our friendly ghost-seeing, tarot card reading high school student Nick Michelson encounters the ghost of a long-dead soldier, who comes to Nick for help. Meanwhile, Nick is having premonitions of someone shooting up his high school. Does this ghost have anything to do with Nick’s premonitions? In a race against time, Nick attempts to stop an unknown serial killer from carrying out his deadly plan.
I’m currently revising the third novel in the series which features magicians, an extremely angry ghost and real-life villains. Nick runs into some major trouble in this story. Not sure if I’ll have it by the end of the year but that’s my goal at the moment.
I’m a sucker for time-travel novels (I even wrote one) so my interest was peaked when I stumbled across an interview with author Rysa Walker during which she discussed her book Timebound, the first book in the Chronos Files series. I was so intrigued that I bought it….and after having finished it, I think I have found myself a new favorite series.
The story begins when 16 year old Kate Keller’s sickly grandmother (also named Kate) tells her granddaughter that she has genetically inherited a supernatural ability to travel through time. She gives Kate a blue glowing medallion and explains that it is the medallion that enables those of their bloodline to time travel; however only those with the right gene can use the device. Her grandmother promises to begin training Kate on how to use the device.
But shortly thereafter, everything instantly changes in Kate’s world. A murder in the past combined with a sinister plot has changed Kate’s timeline and her reality. The present and past that she knew now never took place. With a blink of an eye, Kate suddenly finds her herself in a classroom with a strange teacher and fellow students she doesn’t recognize. People she loved are gone and friends no longer know her – and she learns that if she so much as removes the medallion from her neck even for a moment, she will instantly blink out of existence.
To fix the timeline and restore things back to the way they were, Kate must tear herself away from those she loves and travel back in time to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair where she is to face more than one known murderer. Once Kate returns to the past, she engages in a struggle for survival in a race against time as she tries to prevent a terrible chain of events from taking place and altering the past – or should I say, one of the “pasts”. While in 1893 she uncovers a sinister plot which will devestate the entire world, which makes her success even more crucial.
It’s difficult to talk about this book without giving out spoilers. Suffice it to say that this is an exquisite addition to the YA genre and this exciting novel left me satisfied yet wanting more. The fast-paced story combines mystery, young romance, multiple timelines, power, murder, action, politics, real-life villains and religious zealots – all with an intriguing plot line that kept me turning the page.
I’ve read my share of time travel books whose timelines were so confusing and convoluted that it was difficult to keep track of what was going on and why. This was not the case with Timebound. I felt that the timelines and the intricate web that the author weaved were clearly presented – although it does require the reader to pay attention while reading. There are times when even the main characters are momentarily confused by the various timelines.
The characterizations are excellent. The author brings Kate, her grandmother and all the other supporting characters (including her two love interests from two different timelines) vividly to life in this mind-boggling, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants romp. Think Doctor Who meets Marty McFly but with a tinge of sweet romance thrown in. The author expertly handled the different settings which at times were so vibrant and vivid that they played out like a movie. While Timebound is technically classified as a Young Adult novel, I feel that the intricate and well-crafted plot as well as the riveting storyline will appeal to a much wider audience regardless of age.
From what I could gather, this is the Walker’s first full-length novel and I felt that she shows notable talent in her believable plot development, careful attention to detail and well thought-out characters. Walker intelligently gives us an exciting YA adventure with twists and turns, where answers are elusive and love is mind-bogglingly complicated and impossible – but no matter how complicated, Kate finds that the only impossible thing is to walk away.
This is the beginning of an new exciting series and I can’t wait to read the recently released second book, Time’s Edge. Recommended!!
You can check out Timebound HERE.
Those of us who have chosen to live unpredictable the life of the solo entrepreneur – authors, musicians, artists, podcasters and other creatives – can’t help but wonder why in the hell we chose such a life where the future is so uncertain. In the chapter entitled “My Years in the Wilderness,” Pressfield put it thusly:
“Because there are no conventional rewards, I was forced to ask myself, Why am I doing this? Am I crazy? All my friends are making money and settling down and living normal lives. What the hell am I doing? Am I nuts? What’s wrong with me?”
“In the end I answered the question by realizing that I had no choice. I couldn’t do anything else. When I tried, I got so depressed I couldn’t stand it. So when I wrote yet another novel or screenplay that I couldn’t sell, I had no choice but to write another one after that….the work became, in its own demented way a practice. It sustained me, and it sustains me still.”
This passage certainly answered that long-burning question for me — perhaps for you as well?
By the way, Turning Pro is an excellent little book aimed at creatives about moving from amateur to professional. Lots of excellent tidbits and advice.
I’m a sucker for a vampire movie, especially one having to do with our not-so-friendly Count Dracula. When I was a kid, I saw all of the Dracula movies with Bela Lugosi, Jack Palance, Christopher Lee and others. I subscribed to the monthly comic book “The Tomb of Dracula” and later on, the short-lived Dracula Magazine entitled “Dracula Lives”.
But there was always something missing – and that was the origin story of our Count. Nobody ever delved into his past, what he was like before he became a vampire. Not until now, that is. Needless to say, I was excited when I heard that the new film directed by Gary Shore, Dracula Untold was just that – the story of how and why Vlad Tepes became a vampire.
Truth be told, I was a tad hesitant because some of the reviews I’d read were on the lukewarm side. I personally loved the film and felt that the writers came up with a very good Dracula origin story.
In the 15th century, Vlad Tepes, played by Luke Evans, and Vlad’s young family live in Transylvania, where he rules as a Prince. We learn that as a child, he was given to the Turkish Sultan and was tortured, trained and then forced to kill in the sultan’s army, during which he became known as Vlad the Impaler. Given his freedom, he has been allowed many years of peace between the two kingdoms.
Then one day, things turn to hell. Messengers from the new Sultan, played by Dominic Cooper, turn up and demand a thousand boys – including Vlad’s own son – for the Turkish army. Vlad refuses, knowing that this decision will ultimately lead to war between the two kingdoms – with the enormous Turkish army and Vlad’s non-existent army.
Out of desperation, the kind-hearted prince Vlad makes a decision with a dark and ancient supernatural force in order to protect his kingdom…and we all know how that turns out.
I couldn’t think anyone more suited for this role than Luke Evans. Dracula Untold is not a happy film and Evans’s dark and brooding yet sophisticated portrayal of Dracula was more than impressive. The prince’s struggle to protect his kingdom and his family – and his willingness to tamper with a terrible, dark power in order to do so was brilliantly portrayed, as was his transformation from hero to anti-hero.
During the movie I sympathized with the prince’s plight – and cringed as the situation worsened for him. Evans’s performance was not only believable, it was smooth and brilliant, and I felt that he was the perfect embodiment of the character of Vlad Tepes. He also did an excellent job at balancing his human and monster characteristics.
The chemistry between Vlad and his wife, played by Sarah Gadon, was outstanding as well and added a touch of sweet romance to this otherwise dark, angsty tale.
What We Didn’t Get
Many people who were disappointed in this film expected a classic vampire story, complete with the maniacal count drinking blood and attacking young maidens.
This was not the purpose of the film. This is not a vampire film. This is not even a horror film. Rather, it portrays the agonizing decision that Vlad had to make in order to protect his kingdom – and the price he had to pay for such a decision. It was about one man’s transformation from being good…. to being…not quite so good.
While the battle scenes were brutal, they were not gory. There was very little bloodletting and needless gruesome violence. That’s not what this film was about. Rather, it’s an origin story of the infamous Count Dracula, how he lost everything to save his kingdom and the ultimate sacrifice he had to make to save his family.
The story was dark as were the visuals (alas, no sparkly vampires here!). The effects were quite good however (loved the bats!), with the battle scenes appearing realistic without unnecessary gore. Rather, the director took an artistic approach to this film leading to some quite stunning visuals.
I felt this reboot of the Dracula story was beautifully executed with the visuals successfully drawing in the audience into the story. The film’s pace was perfect, with a nice mix of action scenes and slower, contemplative scenes.
Loved it! This stylish, well-plotted, innovative film was a delight to watch and provided a fresh perspective on Vlad the Impaler aka Count Dracula. This original story reinvents the evil Count Dracula as a tragic hero who loved and lost, a tale of hope versus despair. All in all, I felt it was an excellent story and left me wanting more.
The ending of the movie left an opening for a sequel so perhaps we will get more. If so, I’ll be first in line.
I decided that I wanted to read something different so I thought I’d dip my toe into the Steampunk genre. I’ve never been particularly drawn to Steampunk but when someone recommended to me a novel entitled The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, suggesting that I might enjoy a combinaton of fantasy, magic and steampunk elements, I was intrigued.
Below is the publisher’s blub:
Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.
Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.
After I completed the novel, I can say that The Clockwork Dagger was an excellent recommendation. This Steampunk airship adventure was well-written with eloquent prose and a gripping plot. I especially enjoyed the combination of both Steampunk and magical elements – kind of a magic meets technology theme with a tinge of romance.
Most of the novel’s action takes place on an Airship called the Argus on which we meet many zany – and dangerous – characters. Being true to the genre, the setting for the novel occurs during the prudish Victorian era. Thus, we have the puritan prim & proper attitudes and language combined with mystery, mayhem, danger, gremlins, corrupt governments, assassins, war, swashbucking spies and murder – all of which were expertly weaved into the story.
We are introducted to many strange contraptions, ideas and beliefs which aid in drawing us further into this Steampunk world. It’s a world that’s both magical and mechanical – modern yet ancient. I felt that the author did an excellent job at creating a believable and fascinating society.
The plot is full of surprises, twists and turns and at one point, we – along with our clever heroine – aren’t quite sure whom to trust. Though the setting takes place in an era of Victorian morals and behavior, I loved the fact that Octavia was no pushover and when threatened or in a crisis, she deftly held her own. While certainly a woman of the period, she also demonstrated wit, quick thinking and bravery. Our fiesty heroine was not afraid to break social behavior expectations when necessary.
The Clockwork Dagger was non-stop action and intrigue and I enjoyed the story immensely. In fact, I stayed up way past my bedtime because I couldn’t stop reading. It was a thrilling and engaging read with excellent dialog, well-developed characters, fast-paced action and a storyline that kept me turning the pages.
I look forward to the next book in the series (The Clockwork Crown) and to future books from this author. Because of her, I will be adding additional Steampunk-themed books to my every-growing reading list. Recommended!
You can check out The Clockwork Dagger HERE
Last weekend, I went to see The Maze Runner film, which is based upon a best selling novel of the same name by James Dashner. To be truthful, I had not read the book before seeing the film and up until the release of the movie, I hadn’t even heard of it. What attracted me to the film was when I learned that Dylan O’Brien, one of my favorite actors in the Teen Wolf series (yes, I’m a “wolfie”). was playing the lead. Teen Wolf is one of the few television shows that I watch so hearing that Dylan was in The Maze Runner immediately put the film on my radar. I’m also a fan of Dystopian films so I was excited to see what The Maze Runner was all about.
A young man named Thomas wakes up in what appears to be a rusty freight elevator with a group of boys looking down at him. He has no memories of where he is or what happened to him. Initially, he couldn’t even recall his own name.
Alby (played by Aml Ameen), the group’s leader, tells Thomas that he is now in a place that they call “The Glade” – a colony consisting of several dozen boys. Alby explains to him that the exact same thing happened to every one of them: they woke up one day in the elevator, remembering nothing except their own name. Every month, a new boy arrives in the “The Box”, with the first arriving three years before.
Thomas also learns that his new home is completely surrounded by a intricate and dangerous maze in which lives enormous and deadly mechanical spider-like creatures called “Grievers”. Nobody has ever survived the sting of a Griever.
Among the group of boys are a few chosen “Runners”. Once a day, these Runners race through the maze, learning it, memorizing it and looking for a way out. The Runners only have the day to explore the maze because each night the entrance to the maze closes and the layout of the maze changes.
It is of upmost importance that the runners make it out of the maze before the entrance closes because, as we learn, nobody has ever survived a night in the maze.
Things Begin to Change
Once Thomas arrives, things begin to change in The Glade. For the first time, the Grievers have stung one of the Runners in broad daylight, something that’s never before occurred. Until that point, the Grievers only entered the maze at night (hence the reason why nobody has ever survived a night in the maze). Thomas begins to question the self-imposed rules that this brotherhood of boys lives by.
He then makes the decision to enter the maze (breaking the “only runners can enter the maze” rule) just as the entrance is closing to rescue Alby, who has been stung by a Griever. Thomas and Minho (plalyed by Ki Hong Lee), the chief runner, hide Alby as they prepare themselves to face the night in the maze. As predicted, the Grievers arrive but using his quick wits, Thomas manages to kill one of the them. Thomas and the Runner spend the rest of the night hiding.
The maze entrance opens the next morning and to the shock of the rest of the boys, Minho and Thomas, along with an injured Alby, appear at the doorway alive.
The Spark of Rebellion
Up until now, the boys had accepted their lot – that they are stuck on the Glade. But Thomas has given them hope – hope that there might be a way out. He becomes one of the chosen Runners and along with Minho, discovers that there just might be a way out.
The news of a possible escape from The Glade is not welcome by everyone in the colony however. Some of the boys are so afraid of the Grievers, that they believe that their current self-imposed rules must not be violated – and that above all else, the ultimate goal is to protect each other. The boundary between them and the Grievers must be respected in order to remain safe.
However, for the first time, some of the other boys have latched onto hope. This is where the brotherhood splits into two different camps, very reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, with half the boys following Thomas and the other half following Gally (the movie’s antagonist, played by Will Poulter), who believes that Thomas’s actions are jeopardizing everyone’s safety.
Questions, Questions & More Questions
All through the movie, there are several questions that the viewer asks him or herself:
Just where is the Glade, exactly?
Who runs the Glade and the Maze?
Why are the boys there?
Why can’t they leave?
What happened to them?
Where do the Grievers come from?
These questions all get answered in time – but I won’t spoil anything for you.
It’s a tense, dramatic thrill-ride of movie which I felt was well-plotted and well-executed. The movie is in no way predictable and concludes with a surprising and unexpected ending, opening the way for a sequel. This film definitely succeeded in keeping me interested and on the edge of seat wondering when (or if) my questions would be answered and whether the boys would escape – or end up getting killed by the nightmarish Grievers.
The acting in the film was strong and I felt that the lead and secondary characters were believable, strong and well-developed.
The Maze Runner is definitely worth a view and I am already looking forward to the Maze Runner 2. I give it strong B+.
Awhile back, I saw a preview for the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey and I was intrigued yet hesitant. Intrigued because I used to be a French teacher and the film takes place in France – and hesitant because I had neither heard nor read anything about this film beforehand. But I decided to take a chance the other night and give it a try. I was more that pleasantly surprised by this well-constructed, heartwarming story.
The film follows an Indian family who flee India after a tragedy and wind up in a small, French town when their vehicle breaks down. Papa Kadam (the father) played by Om Puri, notices a vacant building and decides it would be a perfect place to open an Indian restaurant. There is one problem however – and that would be Madame Mallory, played Helen Mirren, who is the owner of high-brow one-star Michelin restaurant (who is trying to get her second star) situated across the street – literally one hundred feet away, hence the title of the movie.
Needless to say, Madame Mallory is none too happy that an Indian joint is opening across from her haute-cuisine restaurant so she attempts to foil their plans, resulting in a culinary battle between the two establishments. The result is some delightfully comical scenes. Helen Mirren and Om Puri are adversaries most entertaining and it’s a treat to watch as the chemistry develops between them.
There is a second theme to this movie which centers on the son and the main chef of the Indian restaurant, Hassan Haji, played by Manish Dayal. We learn that he is much more that a mere cook but rather possesses an extreme talent and passion for cooking, a talent and passion not seen in most chefs. We witness his journey as he learns the fine art of French cooking (much to the chagrin of Papa) and eventually becomes a critically acclaimed chef. But Hassan’s journey is not always an easy one and some difficult decisions must be made.
On a basic level, the film depicts a familiar story of the clash between two cultures, French and Indian, but in this case, centered on cooking. But it is more. This beautifully-filmed movie is also filled with all the joys and sorrows, ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments that accompany life but with wonderful humor interweaved into the story.
The Hundred-Foot Journey has everything that I might want in a film: comedy, drama, a touch of romance, succulent delicious-looking food, excellent acting and a happy ending. It’s a feel good movie without being sappy that will delight the senses. I found the acting, directing and plot to be first-rate in this gem of a movie.
If you get a chance, go see it, especially if you enjoy movies about food. I guarantee you’ll be hungry afterwards.
Sixteen year-old Nick Michelson has been seeing strange things lately, things he can’t explain. So when his uncle tells him that some of the men in his family can see ghosts, Nick freaks out and decides he’s going to ignore the spirits. But as he will soon learn, that’s easier said than done — especially once he encounters James Pearce, an angry spirt hell-bent on finding out who killed him. Reluctantly, Nick agrees to help. So with the help of his Tarot cards and his new mentor Katrina, Nick embarks on a journey to help the solve the mystery surrounding James’s death. But once word gets around about Nick’s ability, there’s more than one ghost vying for his attention.
This is the first book in the Ghost Oracle Series, with at least three more books to follow. Future books in the series will continue to follow the adventures of reluctant psychic medium and Tarot card reader Nick Michaelson.
If you purchase the book directly from this Website, you will get three different versions: mobi/kindle, epub and PDF.