Hippogriff's Aerie

Apparitions of Imagination

NCIS: “Prime Suspect” (Season 10 Episode 17)

ncisBroadcast date:  Tuesday, Mar. 5th, 2013

I wasn’t really feeling this episode. Gibbs tried to help his barber determine whether or not the guy’s son was a serial killer, while Tony took probie Dorneget to the Bahamas to catch a thief. I guess I really didn’t like the interaction between Dorneget and Tony, and I thought the serial killer story felt a little contrived. Meh. Maybe next episode…

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March 29, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Face Off: “It’s Better in the Dark” (Season 4 Episode 8)

face-offBroadcast date:  Tuesday, Mar. 5th, 2013

The contestants travel to the coast for inspiration, as they are to create a new, undiscovered humanoid species. There is one caveat: the paint job must look good under both regaular light, and must be bioluminescent under ultraviolet light. Oh, by the way: it’s a double elimination week! The contestants were taken to the ocean for inspiration because the depths of the ocean does house many bioluminescent species, but early on its clear that Meagan is having trouble conceptualizing and has chosen to be different by going with a cave dweller. During the first day she leaves with what turns out to be food poisoning. Unfortunately this lost time affects her work and puts her in the bottom, although she never really conceptualized her creature. She is the first to be eliminated. Anthony bounces back from some rough times with the top look, and Wayne’s is also awesome, although he leaves himself short on time for paint and under UV it’s not as impressive. The second to go is Eric Z., whose creature didn’t look that bad. I thought Eric F.’s creature looked worse under regular lights, but looked cool under UV. Either one could have gone in my opinion, but I pretty much agree with the judges here, and thankfully with Meagan gone so to goes the majority of the awful drama that has plagued the show this year. There are now only 5 contestants remaining…

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Anthony’s winning makeup

Anthony's creature under UV

Anthony’s creature under UV

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Wayne’s creature

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Eric Z.’s creature wasn’t too bad…

...until it got under UV

…until it got under UV

Meagan's awful cave creature...

Meagan’s awful cave creature…

...looked even worse under UV.

…looked even worse under UV.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Lost Girl: “There’s Bo Place Like Home” (Season 3 Episode 7)

Lost-Girl-Cast-lost-girl-28058794-720-493Broadcast date:  Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

To be ready to take on the challenge for The Dawning, Bo must be in the right frame of mind, which she’s clearly not. More insight reveals that she needs to return home to confront her foster mother, who treated her badly. This also involves traveling to the town where she was once accused of murder and had to flee (she was later cleared). Upon returning to the town to visit her foster mother, accompanied by Kenzi, they land themselves in the middle of an annual festival and also a class reunion. Exhibiting signs of dementia, Bo’s mother remembers none of the bad memories that occurred years ago. At the same time, old classmates start dying off one by one, and Bo must figure out why.

This wasn’t a bad episode…it was good to see Kenzi back in form, and there were some nice moments between Bo and her mother. The classmates are dying due to someone summoning the ghost of a girl who fell down a well…not the most original storyline, but Bo is able to handle it and return to her tests with a much clearer head, and advance the story to where it needs to go. Where that is, exactly, I’m not sure yet…

March 29, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Supernatural: “Remember the Titans” (Season 8 Episode 16)

spBroadcast date:  Wednesday, Feb. 27th, 2013

Supernatural continues to lose momentum thanks to the awful episode from the previous week and this week’s lame episode. It was boring, made no sense (they introduced Greek mythology and then threw it out the window) and I could really have cared less about the characters. I would have actually liked the episode if it had stuck to the traditional mythology, or if the dead guy had actually been a zombie, which is where Dean was leaning. This show could really do a walking dead plot really well, something they’ve never really done – well, not zombie/infectious disease/end of the world as we traditionally know it. I found myself wishing for the original story line to continue, and that’s not a good thing. I’m hoping the next episode gets them back on track…

March 25, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Arrow: Dead to Rights (Season 1 Episode 16)

arrow-tvBroadcast date:  Wednesday, Feb. 27th, 2013

I have to give credit where credit is due: the writers for Arrow should take a bow. Somehow they have been able to balance intricate plot details, believable and flawed characters and their development, flashbacks, multiple story lines, and tons of action, while keeping the show from bogging down and clearly separating it from fluff like Beauty and the Beast. In many ways it resembles one of my other favorite shows, Revenge. It’s no wonder that Arrow is the only new show this year that I’m still following. In this episode, once again there’s so many intricate plot details, so much character inner conflict, that the writers show a deft hand.

Of all the interactions between Oliver and other characters after his return from the island, only his relationship with Tommy survived unscathed, as the two slipped back into best buddy mode, even though Tommy is dating Laurel. If anything, Oliver (and Malcolm Merlin) transformed Tommy from a irresponsible playboy to a serious, responsible adult. But now that relationship is battered as well when Oliver is forced to reveal his hooded identity to save Malcolm Merlin. Not only could this form a wedge between Oliver and Tommy and drive Tommy closer to being an adversary – it also speaks to the complexity of the characters. Malcolm Merlin is on The List, an adversary that Oliver has battled, yet Oliver now tries to save Malcolm’s life, unknowingly protecting his enemy from Oliver’s own mother! And when Malcolm learns that the hood saves him, you can see the disbelief on his face. Does this change Malcolm’s view of Arrow? And now that Moira has failed, she’s in more danger than ever from the man Oliver saved. These intricate, interweaving threads are what makes the show outstanding.

There are other moments of the show that are not quite as interesting but are leading up to something. The flashback on the island reveals that Fyers has a rocket launcher, but what’s he going to use it for. And Laurel’s mother shows up insisting that Sarah, Laurel’s sister, is still alive. How the heck can that be true? Overall, another outstanding episode. Writers, pat yourselves on the back…

March 25, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

NCIS: “Detour” (Season 10 Episode 16)

ncisBroadcast date:  Tues, Feb. 26th, 2013

When Ducky and Jimmy go missing while transporting a body back to the lab, the team sets out to find what happened to them. The pair are kidnapped by a trio of villains who want them to perform an autopsy in order to find something the dead man possessed. Realizing they are as good as dead when the autopsy is done Ducky hatches a plan to keep them alive while the team searches for them. The episode was not only enjoyable but informative, as Ducky gives the viewers some science lessons, allowing he and Jimmy to escape. There’s bound to be some fallout in the next few episodes over what Jimmy was forced to do. One of the best episodes of the season…

March 25, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Book Review: Slither by Joseph Delaney

slitherFormat:  Hard Cover, First Edition, 2013

Pages:  371

Reading Time:  a quick 4-5 hours

Slither is the eleventh book in the Last Apprentice series. Like book 9, Grimalkin, the story takes a detour away from Tom Ward, the Spook’s Apprentice, and on to a whole new character: Slither. A few other new characters are introduced, a horde of gruesome beasts parade through the pages, and a familiar character makes an appearance. I was fully prepared for a negative view of this book based on some early reviews I caught on Amazon. Is that my consensus? Read on to find out…

The setting for this story is a land far to the north of the County. It is a cold, harsh land, divided into farming communities as well as the lands of the Kobalos, a hairy, savage, blood-drinking humanoid race with tails. The Kobalos have a large city called Valkarky, where most of them live, but some of them are Haizda mages – outsiders who study magic and rule over their haizdas, a territory often containing humans. Slither is one such Haizda mage; he commands magic, is able to change his size, his breath has magical properties, and his tail warns him of danger. He makes his home inside a tree (through magical means) and his haizda consists of several farms, most of which are terrified of him. There is one farmer that trades with him, however. One day when the farmer has an accident and lays dying, he strikes a deal with Slither – if the creature will deliver his daughters to their aunt and uncle some distance away, Slither may keep the oldest daughter, Nessa, for his own. As Slither agrees and sets off with the girls, the viewpoint switches between Slither and Nessa.

Nessa has some great qualities, consisting of bravery, sacrifice, and empathy. Her story is a sad one, however, since she is destined to be a slave. Kobalos must sell a human at auction every so many years, or he will be hunted down and killed, and Nessa will fulfill this obligation for Slither. The younger sisters are more of an annoyance, however, as they constantly whine and cry about their situation, and aren’t really well developed. In fact, there isn’t really any character development here at all, other than Slither’s and Nessa’s.

The seemingly innocent journey quickly take a turn for the worse when a snowstorm hits and Slither is forced to keep his charges alive by seeking refuge in the manor of another Kobalos mage. When the mage turns out to be treacherous, Slither is forced to kill several opponents, including a mage-assassin who has the ability to send his dying memories instantly to the assassin’s order back in Valkarky. The assassin’s order vows revenge for the loss of one of their own. What follows is a steady stream of opposition that Slither is forced to overcome to keep his side of the bargain with the farmer.

The story has some pretty imaginative elements, from mage assassins and a two thousand year old knight that can’t be defeated, to a grotesque pit creature called the Haggenbrood and centaur-like creature called a hyb. Slither gets deeper and deeper into to trouble, and the main reason for this is surprising: Slither is an honorable creature who keeps to his word. He feels a great obligation to stick to the deal he made with the farmer, often to his own discomfort or risk of life. It’s a good story, and though it is not really frightening, the fantastic elements and change of characters and scenery are enjoyable, unlike the trip to Greece in Clash of the Demons (the sixth book in the series). Delaney goes all out to unleash his imagination with strange creatures and the even stranger culture of the Kobalos. One problem I did have with the story was that it did not seem that Slither was consistent with his people’s culture…where he is lenient and honorable, most of his people, including their rulers, are cruel and treacherous. Now maybe Slither’s years away from his people have changed him, but even when he is consistently betrayed by them, he stubbornly sticks to complying with their cultural norms and customs, putting himself at a disadvantage. This is only a minor annoyance, however. The appearance of Grimalkin, still carrying the fiend’s head and looking for something specific, was a pleasant surprise, and her character is fleshed out even more with qualities I would not have expected of her.

So despite the negative reviews I had observed, I actually enjoyed reading Slither. I know some people won’t appreciate the deviation from the main story line, but to me it’s not a stalling tactic or a money grab – it’s a good enough story, and looks like it’s important to explain what’s happening with Grimalkin. It will be interesting to see whether some of the characters specific to this book  will make an appearance again sometime in the future. The book is a quick read, with a large font and smaller page size (consistent with the rest of the series), and copious amounts of action. The book also contains a lengthy poem at the end and a Kobalos glossary. Recommended for fans of the series that don’t mind a change of scenery (and characters) once in a while.

March 19, 2013 Posted by | Book Review | , , | Leave a comment

Weekend Images

While I’m working on TV show updates and book reviews, I thought I’d take a few moments to post some photos. Digital photography has always been a hobby for me, although I don’t have an expensive camera. I’ve made do with an older 4MP Casio that takes gorgeous pictures thanks to a Canon lens, but lately I just take shots using my iPhone. I’m well-versed in Photoshop but I don’t usually do any post-processing unless I’m going for a certain vibe. One thing I haven’t figured out yet, however, is how to format WordPress pages so that the thumbnails line up where I want them to. Moving a thumbnail loses the link to the larger picture for some reason. Blogger is so much easier in this respect…

IMG_0918This weekend my parents were in town after a vacation in Palm Springs, and they took me to one of their favorite spots in Portland for lunch – The St Honoré Boulangerie.IMG_0915 Located in the Pearl District on NW 23rd, not far from Powell’s Books, St Honoré uses a brick fireoven, with bricks imported from the kaolin earth of the town of Larnage, located in the foothills of the Rhone Valley and surrounded by the famous vineyards of Tain-l’Hermitage. The quarries in the area have been in use since the Roman times. The refractory properties of the clay have a natural moisture retention which transfers the heat evenly, creating bread with great taste, flavor and texture. Since my grandfather’s family hails from France, it is fun to explore that part of my heritage. I took French in high school (but haven’t spoken it in some time), while my sister studied in France and is fluent in French.

IMG_0914I had a Vol au Vent (a chicken pastry), followed by a glazed Kouign Amann, which was to die for. Dad and Mom have returned to Seattle, but I’m going to go back so that I can tryIMG_0916 the Saint Honoré (a pastry filled with custard and topped with whipped cream and caremlized sugar), the Normandy Apple Toast (Viennoiserie pastries baked in a rum and vanilla flavored custard, topped with apples), and the Croissant aux Amandes (twice baked croissant with an almond cream filling, topped with sliced almonds. The place was packed, with nary a seat available, so we were forced to eat outside. It was a little cold but it wasn’t unpleasant. Here’s a link to the St Honore website.

 

 

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I also have a couple of photos of my new cat, Raven. He is part Maine Coon, and has gorgeous markings – he has a burnt orange coloring that runs from his chin down his chest and across his belly. He also has a broad nose like that of a mountain lion. IMG_0849The vet says he’s going to be a big boy. He had his berries clipped a week ago and was forced to wear the Cone of Shame for the week. Now that it’s off, he’s back to his usual self…racing through the house and leaping 4 feet in the air to catch a dangling toy mouse. I also call him the Goaltender or the Gatekeeper…there is a fence at the top of the stairs that prevents the dogs (and cat) from going downstairs. His favorite thing to do is to camp out in front of the gate and block anyone from opening it. You literally have to push him out of the way with the gate to get through…

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

Face Off: “Howl at the Moon” (Season 4 Episode 7)

face-offBroadcast date:  Tuesday, Feb. 26th, 2013

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For this week’s foundation challenge, the contestants were asked to create a zombie horde capable of stepping onto the set of The Walking Dead. After a hectic attempt by each team to create 20 zombies in two and a half hours, Meagan and Anthony come out on top, with Meagan taking top honors and earning immunity.
On to the spotlight challenge, where the contestants are tasked to create a werewolf inspired by a planet. That sounds like a stupid idea, and it turns out I’m right, because this week’s efforts are a little lacking. Wayne and Kris come up with the best design, while Anthony and Eirc F. are in the bottom. The worst look of the night, however, belongs to Autumn and Eric Z., with Autumn being eliminated for her arrogance and for carving yet another face that looks like a pig. Finally the last annoying contestant is cut, and we’ve got ourselves a real contest now…

Kris and Wayne sculpt a winning werewolf from Neptune

Kris and Wayne sculpt a winning werewolf from Neptune

Anthony and Eric F. make a werewolf from Mars. Yuck.

Anthony and Eric F. make a werewolf from Jupiter. Yuck.

Eric Z. and Autumn sculpt a terrible werewolf from Mars. Bye, Autumn!

Eric Z. and Autumn sculpt a terrible werewolf from Mars. Bye, Autumn!

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Castle: “Hunt” (Season 5 Episode 16)

castleBroadcast date:  Monday, Feb. 25th, 2013

As good as I thought the previous episode was, Hunt takes the two-episode arc to the next level. When Alexis’s friend is released, we know for sure that Alexis was the target. With the police unable to help due to the fact that Alexis is in France, Castle gets on a plane and looks up some contacts. When he teams up with a mercenary, some leads turn promising until a double-cross ensues. In to the fray steps Castle’s father.

Turns out Alexis was captured to draw out Grandpa Castle (great performance by James Brolin), since Castle’s dad is a spy with an ex-KGB agent after him.Castle and his dad set out to free Alexis, and there’s a clever twist to resolve the situation. The episode is well-written, the action is plentiful, and the kidnapping arc is complete. They’ve also opened the possibility that Castle has a half-brother, if they can convince Josh Brolin to appear! One of the better multi-episode storylines in Castle that I’ve seen in a long time…

March 15, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Status Update

It’s been a rough couple weeks at work, with my boss out for a few days, my lead technician out for two weeks, and another technician out sick a couple of days…end result is 12-13 hour days for me and very little time for TV watching & reviewing. I have managed to complete 67% of Slither, and should have a review up maybe this weekend, but Against All Things Ending has been difficult so far due to pacing issues. Things should be back to normal next week…

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Person of Interest: “Relevance” (Season 2 Episode 16)

Person-of-Interest-person-of-interest-30429662-1280-1024Broadcast date:  Thursday, Feb. 21st, 2013

Wow. The best Person of Interest of the season, without a doubt.

Why is that, you ask? Under the surface, this is the heart of PoI. The episode was written by Jonathon Nolan, and it is his vision of the show that simply is amazing. Here we get to see the flip side of the story – instead of the “backdoor” portion that Reese and Finch operate from, we see the application of the system Finch built – to stop terrorist threats. Who knows how many teams are out there…but this week we see one team in action – Cole and Shaw. It was such a different start, that I had to wonder if I was actually watching PoI or some other show, as Cole and Shaw take out terrorists from the numbers that the machine feeds to them. But soon Reese appears, and we know it’s one of the agents that’s in trouble.

It seems Cole gets a little too inquisitive about where the numbers come from, and the machine’s handlers decide that Cole and Shaw have learned too much, which leads to Finch and Cole getting their numbers. In essence, it’s the machine protecting one of its own. Shaw turns out to be quite the warrior, and she’s not bad to look at, either. Even Root makes an appearance, still trying to find the machine’s physical location, and her capture of Shaw demonstrates that Root, who hardly seems threatening as a villain, has the intellect and planning capable of overcoming Shaw’s brute force and instinct. You have to question Nolan using 8 men tactical teams to take out Cole and Shaw – why not use a sniper or a single assassin? The show loses a little credibility for this, but it so awesome in so many other ways, that I’m willing to overlook it…

March 12, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Supernatural: “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits” (Season 8 Episode 15)

spBroadcast date:  Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2013

It seems that no subject is taboo for Supernatural’s writers. This episode isn’t even worth reviewing. It literally made me cringe. Why the writers thought it was a good idea to introduce beastiality, in the guise of a “familiar” of a witch, I have no idea. The premise of the story wasn’t that bad: one witch coveting another’s familiar. It was the sexual relationship between the familiar and the witch that was uncalled for. I’m going to go scrub this episode out of my head with a liberal dose of Person of Interest and Castle…

March 11, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

Arrow: “Dodger” (Season 1 Episode 15)

arrow-tvBroadcast date:  Feb. 20th, 2013

Another solid episode of Arrow, with a new villain (Dodger), Felicity joining the team and letting her hair down (wow!) and the introduction of Roy Harper, who was green Arrow’s sidekick in the comics. Wonder if he’ll be added as a regular at some point? Felicity and Diggle convince Oliver that he should help other people, not just those on the list, so they target the Dodger, a thief that uses hostages to commit his robberies by strapping bombs to them. When Felicity enters the picture and helps set a trap, she becomes his latest recipient. Meanwhile Thea falls for Roy Harper after he steals her purse, and Moira enlists the help of China White and the Triad to take out Malcolm Merlyn. There’s also a disastrous set of dates between Diggle and Carly, not to mention Oliver and McKenna, and there’s still time to squeeze in an island flashback where Oliver must go back to the cave for medicine and finds a “captive”. Not knowing if the man is lying or telling the truth, you can see how he was starting to be shaped into Arrow by this experience. It’s a busy episode that doesn’t disappoint…

March 11, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | Leave a comment

NCIS: “Hereafter” (Season 10 Episode 15)

ncisBroadcast date:  Tuesday, Feb. 19th, 2013

I wasn’t a big fan of this episode. I’ve never been enamored with Vance’s character, and he’s sent on a wild goose chase trying to figure out why his wife was hiding money. Meanwhile, marines are dying with similar wounds – stab wounds to their arms and sides. The thought that Vance could return as an investigator seems like a stretch. Also, when the marines are stabbed by someone who wants to make sure they are strong enough to survive combat…really? Let’s see, if this person dies when I stab them, better that then dying in combat? I felt this episode had some serious plot holes and inconsistencies…

March 6, 2013 Posted by | tv shows | | 1 Comment

Book Review: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

libromancerFormat:  Hard Cover, First Edition, 2012

Pages:  305

Reading Time:  about 5 hours

I read a few reviews of Libriomancer when it was first released. Some people loved it. Others thought it was okay but flawed. I didn’t really know what to believe, but Little Red Reviewer’s take was probably the one that convinced me I should take a chance. Still, it took over 6 months for this book to find its way into my queue and then into my hands. Usually the sign of a good book for me is the inability to put it down. Every once in a while, though, I come across a book that strikes a chord in my inner psyche. There’s only a few authors who have had this effect on me (Roger Zelazny, Glen Cook, Robin Hobb, and Patrick Rothfuss come to mind).

For me, Libriomancer is one of those books.

Other reviewers don’t seem to have had the same experience. I’m not even sure I can completely explain my fascination with the story…but I’ll give it a shot. It starts with style and pacing. Hines lays out fast-paced, first person narrative that very much reminds me of Zelazny’s The Last Defender of Camelot or his Amber series. Add some sleuthing like The Dresden Files, a magic system that at times resembles Inkheart, and maybe a little craziness, sexism, and magic from Xanth, and you’ve got one heck of a story. It is in some ways a coming of age trope, as the main character, Isaac Vainio,  is a young man who has been restricted from practicing magic in the field. Although he understands the magic and its rules, what he must learn is how to bend those rules, without getting killed or going insane in the process. What I found most compelling about Isaac, however, was his innate understanding of how magic works; at the same time, he lacks the inhibition, or common sense, to know when to stop pushing himself, right up to the edge of death or madness. In other words, he’s a big-time risk-taker.

Isaac has been exiled to a small public library, where his job is to catalog book titles for the Porters’ database. The Porters are a secret organization of wizards who try to squash harmful magic from being unleashed on the unsuspecting populace, like the agents of Warehouse 13 or Harry Dresden, or even Supernatural. They keep vampires, werewolves and other creatures in line, cover up magical happenings, and nab people who show a talent for magic. Isaac’s talent is libriomancy; through the collective belief of a book’s readers, objects and people in the books become real, and a libriomancer can reach in and pull objects out of books, making them real in our world. There are a couple of problems with this, though. One is that you could pull out some incredibly power objects that allow you to dominate the world, such as The One Ring from Lord of the Rings or the Elder Wand from Harry Potter. To prevent this, all copies of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter,  and other problematic books have been magically “locked”, meaning a libriomancer can’t access their pages. A second problem is that reaching into a book carries risks…for instance, while reaching into a book about vampires, your arm could get bitten by a vampire, which would then turn you into one. Finally, by reaching into a book, you immerse yourself in the story, and the more you draw on the magic in the books, the less able you are to separate the books from reality (remember, the people and objects within the books have their own reality). In a nutshell, the rules that govern libriomancy are there for a reason, and because Isaac once broke those rules while in the field, he can’t be a field agent again.

The trouble starts when some vampires come looking for Isaac. They want some answers, and when Isaac is not forthcoming, they decide to use force. Fortunately for Isaac, he’s got a couple of friends: Smudge, the fire spider who senses danger, and Lena, a dryad who shows up in the nick of time to help. This sets Isaac on a quest for answers of his own, and he follows clues that eventually lead him to face down more vampires, robots, and a mysterious adversary who may or may not be the missing Johannes Guttenberg, the father of the printing press who is over 600 years old, and the head of the Porter organization.

The story is smart, funny, and full of plenty of action. I enjoyed the characters, and watching the plot as it unfolded.  What I didn’t expect to find were ethical questions posed by the story. I had an idea about Isaac’s dilemma regarding Lena (see Little Red’s review). However, the lengths at which the Porters (and Guttenberg) go to protect society and themselves seems at times a bit heavy-handed. Also, Guttenberg uses magic (like the Holy Grail) to keep himself young, but forbids others from using that magic, in what appears to be a totalitarian system. What the story suggests, however, is how would you handle it differently? It’s one thing to be critical; it’s quite another to be able to offer solutions, especially once you know the motivation and reason behind those decisions.

In conclusion, the story was over all too soon. It was the most enjoyable read I’ve had in some time, and I’m looking forward to the next book with high expectations. The ending wrapped up a little strangely, and at times the book conveys some nagging inconsistencies, but they didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all. Highly recommended to anyone who loves books, or what lies within them…

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Book Review | , , | 2 Comments