Wizard’s Alley

I tried. I really tried! I listened to seven chapters of Wizards Alley by James Haddock and still haven’t figured out what this story is about! The narrator – Daniel Wisniewski – is superb, but the story leaves much to be desired.

Wizard’s Alley starts out promising. Two wizards duel in an alley. A stray bolt of magic knocks a street urchin unconscious. When the boy awakes, he discovers he can do magic. After that, however, the story takes a less than promising turn as Scraps, the street urchin turned wizard, goes around town, stealing, healing, and fighting various people. While his intentions are good – to provide for those less fortunate – his actions are somewhat questionable.

The main complaint I had with the first seven chapters (because I’m not reading anymore of it) was that there was no conflict. Scraps was “blessed” with magical powers, and he doesn’t even have to learn how to use them! He can simply wish for something, and it comes true.

Concerned I was jumping the gun prematurely, I looked at reviews on Amazon to see if I simply needed to be more patient. Unfortunately, many of the reviews observed the same things I did – lack of conflict/plot being the main one. A review left by “Jo” on Amazon described the book perfectly: Wizard’s Alley “reads like a history book”. Imagine reading someone’s autobiography, and you pretty much have a feel for what reading Wizard’s Alley is like.

ACORN TV – Murder Mysteries

It has been a while since I’ve written a review because, quite frankly, I haven’t listened to or watched anything worth reviewing. I have been exploring different shows that are available through ACORN TV, which I have access to through my county library.

I’ve watched several shows, but nothing that absolutely stood out.

Agatha Raisin

Agatha Raisin is based on the book series by Marion Chesney. It tells of a well-known public relations manager who retires from her city life to live in a little town. While she desperately wants to fit in, Agatha’s city airs do not make it easy for her, and not long after moving there, she becomes the prime suspect in a murder.

The show itself started off promising. Agatha’s struggle to fit in and adjust to country life is highly entertaining, and the characters are kind of quirky. But as often happens with shows, it is not long before the characters are sleeping with each other and sexual innuendoes are frequent. It is a shame, because the show would have been perfect without it. (I would be curious to see if the books contained as much sleeping around and sexual references as the show, or if it was something simply added for TV. So I plan to check out the book series.)


My Life is Murder

Starring Lucy Lawless (Xenia Princess Warrior), this series tells of a retired cop who is constantly roped in to investigating cases for her former supervisor. This show is entertaining. It is not as comical as Agatha Raisin, but there are fewer sexual references, which makes it more enjoyable. (Just FYI: The first episode deals with a murder where the prime suspect is a prostitute, so their are quite a few sexual references in that one. But the rest of the episodes are relatively clean.)

There are a few instances of the “F” word in a couple of the episodes, but it is only said once in those two episodes.

I did enjoy this show and will watch it when future series are available. The characters are believable and the acting is good. Because of the lack of sexual references, I enjoyed this show a lot more than I enjoyed Agatha Raisin.


Mr. & Mrs. Murder

This show does not immediately draw you in like My Life is Murder or Agatha Raisin. But, I like it for an entirely different reason – the only reason I continued watching it actually.

The show is about a married couple who are crime scene cleaners; however, while cleaning up after crimes, they end up solving them.

What I like most about this show is that the married couple truly love each other; they are faithful and loyal, which is something you don’t see on TV these days. For that reason alone, I continued to watch it.

The story was entertaining enough, but the family dynamics were my favorite aspect of the show.

Trailer works (image just doesn’t display).


Queens of Mystery

This show was entertaining as well, a bit more engaging than Mr. & Mrs. Murder. I liked this show simply because it was a different style than most murder mysteries. In some aspects, it reminded me of Pushing Daisies in that it “read” like a storybook. It had a narrator voice over which gave the storybook feel. I also found it amusing how the show will “freeze” at times, and the narrator will tell you what the characters were actually thinking. While not one of my favorites, it is one I will still watch when more seasons become available.


Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries

For some reason, I couldn’t get into this TV series. I watched a couple episodes, and it seems relatively clean. If you like murder mysteries, it might be worth checking out.

Strong Evidence (Marcus Lear Mystery Book 4)

Take a trip to Arizona with Marcus Lear in J. Kevin Earp’s newest book, Strong Evidence. In this fourth installment of the Marcus Leary Mysteries, a disagreement between Marcus and Jenny (his girlfriend) causes a rift in their relationship. Needing to get a way for a little while, Jenny leaves Perrys Island without telling Marcus where she is going. As a result, when a missing person’s case in Arizona makes its way to Marcus, he is forced to accept it and work it by himself.

During his investigation, Marcus discovers a link between Jenny and the missing person. Could Jenny be involved in the victim’s disappearance? Marcus doesn’t think so, but local law enforcement do. After all, there is strong evidence indicating Jenny’s involvement. Can Marcus discover the real culprit, prove Jenny’s innocence, and find the missing person before it is too late?

Well, I’m not going to answer that question…you will just have to read it to find out.

Ascendant (Songs of Chaos, Book 1)

Finding good books can be a challenge. Good books for me usually mean – clean (no sex and limited to no profanity), an engaging storyline, and believable characters. I really think it says a lot about an author who can craft a story without feeling the need to include “adult content”. Because of my unusually high standards, I often find it hard to discover good books. So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Ascendant (Songs of Chaos Book 1) by Michael R. Miller. It meets all my qualifications and is story I can recommend to anyone (child and adult), without reservations.


Synopsis:

“Holt Cook was never meant to be a dragon rider. He has always served the Order Hall of the Crag dutifully, keeping their kitchen pots clean.

Until he discovers a dark secret: dragons do not tolerate weakness among their kin, killing the young they deem flawed. Moved by pity, Holt defies the Order, rescues a doomed egg and vows to protect the blind dragon within.

But the Scourge is rising. Undead hordes roam the land, spreading the blight and leaving destruction in their wake. The dragon riders are being slaughtered and betrayal lurks in the shadows.

Holt has one chance to survive. He must cultivate the mysterious power of his dragon’s magical core. A unique energy which may tip the balance in the battles to come, and prove to the world that a servant is worthy after all.”

©2020 Michael R. Miller (P)2020 Michael R. Miller
https://www.michaelrmiller.co.uk/books


Miller describes this series as “combining the best of Eragon/How To Train Your Dragon with eastern inspired magic systems of Xianxia and cultivation fantasy”, and I would agree. However, I would take it one step further and say that Miller’s style of writing is far more developed than Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved Eragon and read and re-read it as a teen.) However, Miller’s Ascendant delves more deeply into the characters; you see the character’s internal struggles, which makes them more relatable and even more courageous because you know their fears and insecurities.

What I liked most about this story is that it affirms the dignity of life, even that of the unborn. Holt is tasked with destroying a dragon egg because the Matriarch sensed an imperfection in it. However, Holt is unable to follow through with the task because it “just feels wrong” (Chapter 5). Later, when an opportunity presents itself, Holt rescues the dragon egg, intending to protect it until he can release it into the wild. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and the dragon egg hatches before Holt can release it. The dragon inside is blind.

As the story continues both Ash (the dragon) and Holt face many obstacles, one of which is the hostility of the other dragons who believe Ash should not be allowed to live. Holt feels increasing guilt for the struggles Ash faces, both because he is blind and because he is ostracized by the other dragons. When Holt mentions this to Ash, Ash sums it up quite nicely saying “Never worry about my eyes – I’m glad to experience the world as I do rather than not at all. As for others of my kind, they can accept me or not as they choose. I will not allow my own worth to be determined by them.” (Chapter 54)

In today’s society where we can abort the unborn simply because we do not want the responsibility of raising a child or because the child is going to be born with “imperfections” (disabilities/deformities), this book provides a reminder that all life has value. Whether or not the author intended this, I do not know. However, I will say it is refreshing and one of my favorite aspects of the book. I look forward to the second book in the series and in the meantime will enjoy his other book series – The Dragon’s Blade.

I will be adding this book to my Favorites list, and it has even made it in the top-10.

Finding ‘Ohana (Netflix)

For a lot of us, spending a summer in Hawaii sounds like a dream come true, but not for siblings Pili and Ioane.

Pili and Ioane grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and enjoy the chaotic, city life. When their grandfather, who lives in Hawaii, has a heart attack, their mother rushes them to Hawaii to be with him. This unexpected summer trip does not go over well with Pili and Ioane who had their own ideas on how to spend their summer.

Now, stuck on an island far away from friends, the two must find some way to entertain themselves. For Ioane, this consists of spending time on his phone and mocking his sister. For Pili, this means embarking on a treasure hunt with the clues she discovered in her grandfather’s journal. Ioana soon finds himself (unwillingly) involved on his sister’s “stupid” quest.

What promised to be a boring summer, soon turns into an adventure they will never forget, ultimately bring the family closer together.

Finding ‘Ohana has a distinct Journey to the Center of the Earth / Indiana Jones feel to it. The cast, particularly Kea Peahu (Pili), Alex Aiono (Ionae), Lindsay Watson (Hana), and Owen Vaccaro (Casper) do a stellar job carrying the movie. This family-friendly movie (Fun fact: there is only one make-out scene) can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.