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April 3, 2017

Preparedness Gardening: How to Grow Real Sustenance and Naturally Build Soil Fertility in Troubled Times by Jeff Fry

Preparedness Gardening: How to Grow Real Sustenance and Naturally Build Soil Fertility in Troubled TimesPreparedness Gardening: How to Grow Real Sustenance and Naturally Build Soil Fertility in Troubled Times by Jeff Fry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a great read for someone thinking of starting a garden or who has a garden which I will get into later. It doesn't matter the size of the garden as the tips are for gardens less than 500 sq. ft. to farm size. It explains different gardens, such as lasagna garden, keyhole garden, and raised beds, to name a few. It also goes into optimizing water by use of swales and shaping the garden and what to plant on the sunnier, hotter side vs. the cooler moister side. There is also irrigation, yields, and so much more.

I found the chapters on the soil most interesting. After all, if the soil isn't right then it doesn't much matter how your garden is shaped or what you planted, it won't grow strong or produce well. Many different materials are covered that can be added to the soil to obtain the proper macronutrients level and it also covers how to keep it that way by use of cover crops.

A lot of useful information is given in the book on a wide variety of gardening right down to the plants. And although it is for someone starting a garden since it starts with breaking the ground, I just ignored the first chapter and found very useful information in it even though my garden is an existing one that works well for me. If my garden didn't work well, I would have found the different types of gardens in the first chapter just as interesting as well.

The book is short (65 pages on my kindle) and doesn't go into everything in a step by step explanation. In other words, it doesn't tell you that when you plant a potato to dig a hole, place the plant in the hole, cover around the plant with dirt, however it does tell you spacing, even dry spacing and what the plants should yield. So it does take into account you do know something instead of wasting time and space on unnecessary directions. It tell you enough that you know what to do, materials or tools needed, and the concept of how to do it. Also included are pros and cons of different techniques.

Something I haven't seen before in the other gardening books that this one covers is nutritional needs and diet which would really be useful for Preppers. Ideals on what to do with the produce once harvested and what to watch out for to avoid swing in your sugar levels. Although they are not true recipes explaining every cup or teaspoon, telling me that the author boils it and then adds butter is pretty much all that is needed for anyone with any kind of experience in the kitchen to be able to re-create. Another welcoming and unusual thing I found is the rather lengthy Bibliography at the end.

Although this book doesn't cover every type of garden possible and every aspect for gardening, it is full of useful information for anyone thinking of or having a garden and I do highly recommend it.

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The Blood Moon by Thomas Hill

The Blood MoonThe Blood Moon by Thomas Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Blood Moon by Thomas Hill is what I would classify as a science fiction and fantasy. It has supernatural, mystical, adventure, and lots of action throughout it as well. It is rather a long story and not one I would call a quick read since it is over 350 pages that kept me reading it to see what twist was revealed on the next page.

The innocence of the story at the beginning really had me fooled. It starts by describing this village called Hepta and the people in it. The village was started because the people left the big city of the Empire so they can practice their own choice of religion instead of worshiping the Kings and Emperors as gods. The people themselves were simple people, mostly farmers, who didn't bother with politics, instead they had Elders that were the authority for the village. It reminded me of history and the puritans and pilgrims coming to America for religious freedom although the people themselves reminded me much of the Amish in their simple ways but that all quickly changed as I kept reading because some of these people had a secret that they guarded with their lives. Then when the moon bled and stayed in the sky, they knew it was an omen and had to keep their secret safe for if it fell into the wrong hands, it could be the end so they left Hepta, taking their secret with them.

Speaking of that part of the story reminding me of history and the Amish, there were several parts in the book that reminded me of either history or other cultures and beliefs throughout history. The severed heads on sticks stuck in the ground which was used by many in the past and may still used by ISIS today. There was also crucifixions on crosses, which of course reminds me of the biblical times and Christian belief. The women given black veils and told to cover their faces with them and wear long dresses reminds me of Muslim woman who wear burkas. Although it doesn't fit into history or even reality, there was also the scene where they came to a castle and the way it was described with the big wooden door and the little sliding panel that opened so the guard could look out, all I could think of was The Wizard of Oz. All these instances gives the story some creditably and grounds the story to reality, except for The Wizard of Oz part, which was a nice touch since this fiction is so far from reality.

Unlike most books, this book doesn't really have a true defined main character. Instead there are many characters that are essential to the story. Some characters do stand out and can be argued to be the main characters such as Adrian, who kept the secret hidden and Kaspar, who was struck by lightning as a child along side of his father but Kaspar lived so he was accused of being possessed by the devil. Either way, they along with many others are essential for the story, some of whom are being being introduced as the story progresses. However none of them are really developed deep enough where I can connect with any of them.

I don't want to write any spoilers so all I am going to say is there is a lot of magic, witchcraft, and mythical creatures along with some that existed in only the author's imagination. They are worked into the story to make it more terrifying and dangerous for the people of Hepta and the other villagers in the land.

The book is full of action, bloodshed, and magic. Once past the first chapter, I would call it fast paced with lots of twists and turns that I did enjoy, I only wished there was a bit less characters and bloodshed with more development of the remaining characters. Then when trying to progress the story with multiple groups of people in the same chapter, all at the same time, I was bouncing back and forth between them and that set me up for moments of confusion and was a bit tricky to read. I also wish the ending was a little more drawn out as it did seem rushed however even with that being said, it is definitely worth reading.

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March 11, 2017

100 People to Meet Before You Die, Travel to Exotic Cultures by Jackie Chase

"100 People to Meet Before You Die" Travel to Exotic Cultures by Jackie Chase
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jackie Chase brings the reader along on her journey to some real exotic places. These are not the places that a normal tourist would see even if they visited the country unless they were willing to travel off the beaten path and endure hours upon hours of travel through rough terrain to get there. Sometimes it is hours in the back of a truck or on a boat, and I don't mean cruise ship, I mean more like a raft or canoe in mosquito infested swaps. There are twelve locations and many images of what she seen and the people she met during her travels, as well as, her explaining many of the hardships she faced along the way.

What I loved about the book is that it isn't really so much about the travel in the sense that she spent page after page explaining that she took a plane or train but there are some paragraphs about some really interesting points about the travels. Would you jump into the back of a truck if you weren't quite sure where it was going and you were unable to communicate with others? I know I wouldn't, but thank goodness she did. She brings to live tribes of people that I only ever seen on the Discovery Channel. Her photos, although small, are outstanding and she does explain at the end of the book how to order a bigger one if interested.

As much as I loved the photos, it is the narration of what the people did, their customs, and the area that kept me glued to the book. Every destination and the travels to it is told in such a way where no fillers are used and sometimes to me even a little too brief on how she managed to keep going. Instead she used her time to tell a bit of the journey but mostly of the people in these far off lands.

It is quick paced and basically straight to the point. I know this isn't a trip I will ever take and feel quite confident many won't so I really enjoyed seeing and hearing about these places and people along with her self discovery. Just by reading it, it makes me think about our culture and all we have here. How the ways of our ancestors had died in many cases yielding way to this modern civilization we now know. It makes me wonder if it is these lands of exotic people that were lost in time or we ourselves that were lost for the sake of time.

I totally enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who loves travel and foreign places, people, and customs.

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February 20, 2017

The Journey to Magmatic by Ya'akov Halevy

the journey to magmaticthe journey to magmatic by Ya'akov halevy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover of the book is eye catching and once I opened it and starting reading, I couldn't put it down for very long. I totally enjoyed this journey into the center of the earth myself. I will definitely be adding this to my grandchildren's "Recommended to Read" list.

The language was clear and error free, descriptive, and very imaginative. When Tulip and her little brother Noonie were accidentally taken to the center of the earth, the creatures they met along the way were quite the sight. They were described in such detail that there was no problem visualizing what the children were seeing.

Both Tulip and Noonie were the main characters and they were quite realistic as far as being smart children go. Working together they did great things but like all siblings, they disagreed and/or got short with each other too. I really thought this brought some credibility into the relationship and made them more realistic characters. I also found it very interesting how the children learned and made the decisions along the way to complete their mission and stay alive in hopes to make it home to their parents that they missed so much. It showed growth and cooperation. There were times of tears, times of laughter, and times of sorrow. All this just adding that touch of realism that helped bring these characters to life.

This adventure is a steady, fast pace story with some wild imagination and ends with a twist. There is no bad language used and although the author does use some reality to it, there is no need for the reader to be a science major to understand the story. It really isn't that important that the reader understands what thermal shields are since Tulip and Noonie talk about it in the story and say what they are used for so I think it is very appropriate for children younger than YA to read too.

I definitely recommend this book for children and YA (and even older people) to read.

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January 11, 2017

Cole's Perfect Puppy: Perfect Puppies Book One by Frances M. Crossno

Cole's Perfect Puppy: Perfect Puppies Book OneCole's Perfect Puppy: Perfect Puppies Book One by Frances M. Crossno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This children's book is as cute as the cover of the book showing that puppy dressed in a shirt! The target ages are 7-12 but everyone needs a reminder now and again and this book sure delivers it. This Christian book does refer to God, Jesus, and verses from the Bible in one part but it is not overwhelming the story by any means. It also shows traits we all need to learn and practice, including the following: caring, personal sacrifice, being responsible, and obeying your parents or other adult in charge. This is an animal story that is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking in parts that is narrated in the first person.

The main character is Cole and I don't recall his age being revealed however there are hints throughout the story about his age. He goes to school and is offered a job after school hours, he rides a bike but doesn't drive. He is to watch his younger brother when they are out and they can go to the mall alone. This leads me to believe Cole is a young teen.

The time period or year of the story isn't stated however reference is made to unrest in Egypt when Cole's and Caleb's parents had to leave and the fact that Rachel's dad was killed in Iraq which leads me to believe it could have taken place a few years ago or even yesterday. In reality, the 'time' really makes no difference to the story, just as the exact ages of characters or what town they live in makes no difference to the story.

Cole is determined to get a puppy he seen at the mall despite receiving a pot bellied pig as a pet for Christmas. He is willing to do what he has to in order to get that puppy which seems like a simple story but it is far from simple. Cole is faced with learning experiences, faith, friendship, compassion, and sacrifices. It is obvious through the story he grows in understanding that not all things are what they seem. Sometimes people are in situations that you would never expect and because of this, they may seem 'different' but once you get to know them, you realize how strong they really are.

Caleb is Cole's younger brother and also plays an important role in the story. I believe it is through Cole's actions and his explaining what is right and wrong that Caleb's character grows. At times Caleb even reminds Cole of important values and responsibilities.

Rachel is a classmate of Caleb's and she is essential to the story as well. Through Cole's and her friendship, her character teaches Cole many important lessons.

There are some minor characters which are all developed enough to fully understand what is happening and why. They move the story along in a very natural way, for example; Cole's and Caleb's parents, as well as Rachel's mother.

The story is very easy to understand and the lessons learned may not be that obvious at first since they are learned in such a natural way. Younger children may not even realize the significance of the events but to further their thinking and a discussion there are several questions at the end of the book to aid in this. Even if they don't understand these lessons and ignore the questions at the end, the book is still a very enjoyable story about a boy wanting a dog.

I highly recommend this story.

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The Alienation of Courtney HoffmanThe Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady Stefani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover of The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman: A Novel by Brady Stefani might seem a bit disturbing at first glance with a young woman standing there in what appears to be a hospital gown but this Young Adult book kept me, who enjoy super-natural and aliens, turning page after page.

The main character is Courtney Hoffman right before her fifteenth birthday. Courtney believes she may have the gene that her grandfather had that made him crazy. He had to be crazy or why else would he have tattooed her eight years ago and not only try to drown her but he himself drowned? Then of course there is always the aliens visiting and Astra, her imaginary friend, or was she?

The character of Courtney was very complicated and she was a bit of a crybaby as well as defiant. I guess many would say a typical teen with hormones producing her mood swings. Since she is in very unusual circumstances throughout the book it is hard to say if she is believable overall but I do recall the devastating situation with her mother when she learned her mother knew she wasn't crazy all along and how well she handled it in the book where I thought she should have had more of an altercation with her. She handled it so well, I had a hard time believing her as a character since I think anyone who found out that they'd been lied to their whole life and put in a hospital when nothing was wrong would have had a lot more to say even if it was to their mother. At times, I didn't even find her likable (especially at the beginning) but her character grows in many ways throughout the story and she becomes stronger as a person and much more confident.

Astra, who turns out to be a real person by the name of Agatha Kirlich seems to accept whatever is thrown at her and she deals with it. She doesn't seem to experience the mental turmoil that Courtney does when faced with some very unusual circumstances. Much of her life remains a mystery but she is a presence to be acknowledged.

There are several minor characters in the story which all aid in the development of the characters. Their development varies, if at all, but they all keep the story moving at a somewhat quick pace and are assets to the storyline.

The plot of the book might seem simple at the beginning but this book took me for some twists and turns that always kept me glued to the pages. It isn't a book just about aliens, it isn't a book just about ESP or other supernatural talents, it isn't a book about the end of the world, and it isn't a book about a crazy mixed up kid who is growing up, it is all of that and more. This is why I recommend it for young and old alike.

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The Secrets on Forest BendThe Secrets on Forest Bend by Susan C. Muller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secrets on Forest Bend is a mystery with a supernatural presence and romance all rolled into one story. I was a bit curious how the author was going to pull this off and really wasn't expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. I am not a romance reader but what romance is in it seems natural and is not overpowering. The way it was written, the ghost was an essential character in the story and had a very 'deadly' side since she had a bad habit of leaving bodies behind even though most people, including those who were her victims, never saw her or knew of her presence. At the beginning of the story, only one person knew of her existence but even she didn't know of the extent this ghost went to in the past or is willing to go to, to get what she wants. She also didn't know how was she going to convince others of this ghosts existence.

The book opens with the Prologue of an event that took place 26 years ago involving two sisters that is essential to understanding the story while the book itself takes place in the present starting in April of 2015. The story does follow a natural timeline and refers to this event but stays in the present throughout. Although I am not sure how many months the story itself takes place in, it is not an issue since the story follows a natural time flow over the months with the setting being in the Montrose section of Houston, TX.

The main character of Jillian Whitmeyer is well developed throughout the story although the believability is what I question. Some of the things she does are completely 'off' to me but then again I don't know how I would act if my dead sister was haunting me all the time either. Since she had tried prior to the story taking place to tell others about the ghost of her sister only to find herself committed to a mental health facility, I assume that this is the reason for her 'odd' actions or reactions at times in the story.

Jillian's ghostly sister Heather is essential to the story so I would say she is also a main character. She is not developed as a person much since she was a child of 13 when she died, however she is developed enough for me to know just how pampered she was and how she always got her way. As a ghost her evil side shows without a doubt; how she still wants her way no matter who or what she destroys to get it.

Another main character is Detective Adam Campbell who is not developed as well as Jillian but still enough is known to make him a reasonably well-rounded character and for understanding why he feels or thinks the way he does. Although some of his actions seem questionable, since a ghost is involved then I guess anything is possible.

There are other minor characters in the story with various development. They strike me as characters any of us probably have in our own towns and are believable. My favorite one being the character of Snake-Eye who is a leader of a small motorcycle group and in desperate need of a shower.

The story itself is realistic, except for the ghost part. Detective Adam Campbell tries to trace a gun used in several murders which leads him to Jillian since she was the last owner of the gun. However, in finding Jillian, another problem is realized when she proves she had turned that gun into the police department a year ago to be destroyed. With Jillian's help, Detective Campbell tried to discover who at the department isn't doing their job which also puts both Detective Campbell and Jillian in contact with each other for a relationship to bloom. However, this also puts Jillian in the position of trying to convince Detective Campbell that her sister is a ghost who is responsible for the deaths of several people and he is likely to become her next target.

The story was well written with what I thought was the right blend of romance, ghostly encounters, and characters that kept me turning the pages. It was an easy read, always moving, and had some unexpected twists. I enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who likes ghost stories and crime stories with a touch of romance.

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