Prism Tours: Dark Minds

Literature | Posted by Shannon
Jul 26 2016

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Welcome to the Release Celebration for

Dark Minds

By Michelle Diener

 

Dark Minds is book three in the Class 5 Series. Michelle is sharing about the Class 5 world today. If you missed Michelle’s release-day message, go read it HERE, if you missed about the rise of the genre, go check that out HERE, and don’t forget to check out the entire series and enter the giveaway below…

Dark Deeds
(Class 5 #3)
by Michelle Diener
Adult Sci-Fi
ebook, 331 Pages
July 22nd 2016

 

The mind is the most powerful weapon of all . . .

 

Imogen Peters knows she’s a pawn. She’s been abducted from Earth, held prisoner, and abducted again. So when she gets a chance at freedom, she takes it with both hands, not realizing that doing so will turn her from pawn to kingmaker.

 

Captain Camlar Kalor expected to meet an Earth woman on his current mission, he just thought he’d be meeting her on Larga Ways, under the protection of his Battle Center colleague. Instead, he and Imogen are thrown together as prisoners in the hold of a Class 5 battleship. When he works out she’s not the woman who sparked his mission, but another abductee, Cam realizes his investigation just got a lot more complicated, and the nations of the United Council just took a step closer to war.

 

Imogen’s out of her depth in this crazy mind game playing out all around her, and she begins to understand her actions will have a massive impact on all the players. But she’s good at mind games. She’s been playing them since she was abducted. Guess they should have left her minding her own business back on Earth…

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Creating the World of the Class 5 Series

 

A few days ago, DARK MINDS, the third and final book in my Class 5 series was released. I have had a lot of readers express disappointment that this is the final book. They love the world and they want to keep exploring it.

 

Nothing is sweeter to me than hearing that the world I’ve created in my head is a place people want to linger. I am working on a new series, though, and hope everyone loves the new one just as much.

 

When I started the Class 5 series, it wasn’t really with a series in mind. The main character in DARK HORSE, the first book in the series, Rose, came to me so strongly, with such a compelling story, I set aside the historical I was working on and jumped right in to write it. It was only near the end of DARK HORSE that I realized there was still a lot of the story left to tell, and the Class 5 series was born.

 

I know the fact that Rose and the world she found herself in was so clear in my head and so vivid in my imagination helped me create such a strong world for the series as a whole. I had invented way more in my head than ended up on the page in DARK HORSE, and that gave me scope to include the greater world of the Class 5 series or explore things I only touched on in DARK HORSE in the other two novels.

 

The part of the universe where my heroines Rose, Fiona and Imogen find themselves is run by a coalition of five races. I only go into detail about the culture of the Grih, the race my human heroines have the most affinity for, but I do lightly touch on aspects of the other four’s cultures. It was fun creating the worlds and customs, the look and feel of the places my heroines are forced to go, and I like to think that while they’re there unwillingly at first, I’ve made the places interesting enough, sometimes even magical, so that they can see good in their new part of the universe, as well as bad.

 

If you are already a fan of the world of the Class 5 series, I hope you love DARK MINDS, and if you haven’t tried the series yet, I hope you’ll consider giving it a go. If action, adventure, and romance appeal, you won’t be sorry you did.

 

— Michelle Diener

 

Other Books in the Series

Dark Deeds (Class 5, #2)Dark Deeds
(Class 5 #2)
by Michelle Diener
Adult Sci-Fi
ebook, 340 Pages
January 4th 2016

 

Far from home . . .

 

Fiona Russell has been snatched from Earth, imprisoned and used as slave labor, but nothing about her abduction makes sense. When she’s rescued by the Grih, she realizes there’s a much bigger game in play than she could ever have imagined, and she’s right in the middle of it.

 

Far from safe . . .

 

Battleship captain Hal Vakeri is chasing down pirates when he stumbles across a woman abducted from Earth. She’s the second one the Grih have found in two months, and her presence is potentially explosive in the Grih’s ongoing negotiations with their enemies, the Tecran. The Tecran and the Grih are on the cusp of war, and Fiona might just tip the balance.

 

Far from done . . .

 

Fiona has had to bide her time while she’s been a prisoner, pretending to be less than she is, but when the chance comes for her to forge her own destiny in this new world she grabs it with both hands. After all, actions speak louder than words.

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Dark HorseDark Horse
(Class 5 #1)
by Michelle Diener
Adult Sci-Fi
ebook, 381 Pages
June 15th 2015

 

Some secrets carry the weight of the world.

Rose McKenzie may be far from Earth with no way back, but she’s made a powerful ally–a fellow prisoner with whom she’s formed a strong bond. Sazo’s an artificial intelligence. He’s saved her from captivity and torture, but he’s also put her in the middle of a conflict, leaving Rose with her loyalties divided.

Captain Dav Jallan doesn’t know why he and his crew have stumbled across an almost legendary Class 5 battleship, but he’s not going to complain. The only problem is, all its crew are dead, all except for one strange, new alien being.

She calls herself Rose. She seems small and harmless, but less and less about her story is adding up, and Dav has a bad feeling his crew, and maybe even the four planets, are in jeopardy. The Class 5’s owners, the Tecran, look set to start a war to get it back and Dav suspects Rose isn’t the only alien being who survived what happened on the Class 5. And whatever else is out there is playing its own games.

In this race for the truth, he’s going to have to go against his leaders and trust the dark horse.

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction. Having worked in publishing and IT, she’s now very happy crafting new worlds and interesting characters and wondering which part of the world she can travel to next.

 

Michelle was born in London, grew up in South Africa and currently lives in Australia with her husband and two children.

When she’s not writing, or driving her kids from activity to activity, you can find her blogging at Magical Musings. or online at Twitter, at Google+ and Facebook.

Release Celebration Giveaway

$25 Amazon eGift Card
Four ebook sets of Dark Horse, Dark Deeds, and Dark Minds
Open internationally
Ends July 31st

If I Were a Starfleet Captain

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jul 18 2016

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would employ a strict policy of avoiding all unusual and/or unexplained phenomena. Temporal rifts, subspace distortions, collapsing stars, expanding black holes, folds in space, a stitch in time – whenever one of these appears, I will order my crew to point the ship 180 degrees away from it and depart at a brisk speed of Warp 5. Due to forward-thinking actions such as this, I anticipate a longer, happier life for myself and all my crew.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would listen very carefully to any advice my first officer has to give. If I am ever wrong, he will be the one to tell me so.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would turn the lights in Ten Forward all the way up. I would also replace unnaturally-colored drinks that appear to be foreign substances with ice cream sundaes. This would help to lift the gloomy atmosphere that too often pervades Ten Forward.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would permanently shut down the holodeck. As I would explain to the crew, the holodeck encourages unhealthy inclinations, anti-social tendencies, denial, and extended unnecessary, pretentious scenes. Additionally, the holodeck will invariably go wrong, not to mention weird, and further encourage disconnection from reality. For the crew’s mental and physical well-being, the holodeck will be replaced by a gym, library, coffee shop, and chapel.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would disassemble the self-destruct mechanism. There is no point.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would not assure obviously hostile persons that I mean them no harm. For one thing, the fact that they are firing on my ship, menacing my officers with a weapon, or commandeering the ship’s computer indicates that they do not care. For another thing, if they do not very shortly cease to fire, menace, or commandeer, I will mean them harm.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would install seat belts at every station on the bridge. I would also install seats for those officers who, for reasons undisclosed, always have to stand up. Their jobs are perfectly sedentary in nature and will, from a sitting position, be performed with equal efficiency, greater happiness, and (due to the new seat belts) increased safety.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would launch an inquiry into what, exactly, replicator food is and where it comes from. Nothing just appears out of nowhere.

If I were a Starfleet captain, and my ship unexpectedly crossed paths with eccentric scientists, superficially harmless wanderers, or mysterious aliens traveling alone, I would immediately order them clapped into the brig and their crafts impounded. They get you every time.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would memorize the Prime Directive so that I can quote it just before disregarding it.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would memorize the following words and phrases: “Red alert;” “Divert power to the shields;” “Compensate;” “Evasive maneuvers pattern [random letter of the Greek alphabet];” “Damage report;” “Launch the torpedoes;” “Fire;” and “Retreat.” This would prepare me to meet any battle situation.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would ban the color red from all uniforms save those worn by the most senior officers. In a related initiative, I would make it a policy to send only prominent deck officers into dangerous or mysterious off-ship situations. They always come back.

If I were a Starfleet captain, and any member of my crew began to exhibit classic and incontrovertible signs of insanity, I would immediately consider that he is suffering some disease unknown to medical science, that he is being tampered with by an alien, that he is an alien, that he recently arrived from another time-space continuum. I will continue to consider all these things even in the face of a total lack of physical, statistical, and anecdotal evidence. Finally, I will even consider that he is actually insane, just in case they try to trick us.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would lead the safest, happiest, most well-adjusted crew in Starfleet.

Movie Review: Treasure Planet

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jul 11 2016

If there is one thing we can all dream about, it’s finding buried treasure. We could all use the money, of course, and this way it comes with mystery and romance and adventure. What more could we ask for?

Pirates. That would add danger, ratchet the adventure up to a new level, and give us desert islands and the high seas. It would also add a touch of nobility, exalt us beyond mere fortune-seekers to the brave fighters of vicious cutthroats. We are the heroes of our story.

This is the enduring charm of Treasure Island. We all want to have the treasure, and the adventure, and come triumphantly home at the end. Treasure Island has been remembered and retold, made and remade in film after film. When Disney set out to create an animated version of Treasure Island, some fifty years after its live-action version, it needed a twist. It settled on: outer space.

And so Disney gave the world Treasure Planet. The movie may be labeled science fiction, but it can even more accurately be labeled science fantasy. The creators merge Stevenson’s nineteenth-century milieu with sci-fi, and this is most clearly seen in the ship that carries our heroes to the treasure planet. Although it is, in a highly technical sense, a spaceship, it looks like a nineteenth-century wooden ship. It even flies like the old ships sailed, to some degree: Its sails are not decorative but entirely functional.

A curiosity about this movie: In outer space, there is no gravity but there is, apparently, atmosphere. After watching the movie, I read a bit about it online, and evidently the characters’ ability to breathe in space is explained by “etherium.” I believe etherium was mentioned in the film, but I did not know what it meant. The sort of viewers who must have breathable-space justified to them may find this film jarring or inconsistent in its science-fantasy elements. But if you’re game for the ride, it will go smoothly enough.

The makers don’t merely choose a sci-fi setting; they go for broke. Jim Hawkins, his parents, and Long John Silver are the only humans in the film – and Long John Silver is a cyborg, nearly half machinery. The aliens that fill the background, and sometimes stand prominently in the foreground, are inventive but, with scant exceptions, unattractive. Disney transposes its mandatory Animal Sidekick to sci-fi with tremendous success: Long John’s parrot is, in this telling, Morph – a small, playful glob of a pet whose shapeshifting and good-hearted mischief make it second only to Tangled‘s Maximus in Disney’s pantheon of sidekicks. 

Treasure Planet tinkers with the original novel to produce a solid, workmanlike plot. The movie shines far more in characterization. Jim begins the movie as what they call a troubled (read: delinquent) youth. This is not, of course, original, but what matters is that it is convincingly played and gradually becomes important to the story and, finally, meaningful. For this is the heart of his relationship with Long John Silver. Jim began that relationship distrustful, and Silver began it, at best, utilitarian; how quietly it became real, and how much it came to affect them, is a lasting credit to the film. Despite all his original intentions, Long John Silver becomes the father-figure Jim needs, giving him both discipline and encouragement.

Treasure Planet is not in Disney’s Top Ten; if you’ve never heard of it, or never seen it, there is a reason why. But it is a creative sci-fi romp, with heart and with humor, and some lovely animation. Recommended.

Extraordinary Men (An Independence Day Reflection)

History | Posted by Shannon
Jul 04 2016

One of the most striking aspects of America’s founding is how many men of such great quality joined in the enterprise. They were men of different talents, different temperaments, different classes, different places. And thus they fitted together almost perfectly, certainly better than some of them knew.

In Boston – then, believe it or not, the hotbed of radical, revolutionary zeal – they made the first stand against Great Britain. For more than a decade they forded the turmoil of a rebellious colony and a grasping empire, stood in one challenge after another against King and Parliament. Samuel Adams was one of their leaders, preaching natural rights while rallying his fellow politicians to oppose Britain. Paul Revere was there, too; his Midnight Ride was the apotheosis of his work as a courier for the seditious patriots of Boston.

Although now mostly forgotten, James Otis – a lawyer, author, and legislator – played a powerful role in those early years. John Adams (a man by no means easy to impress) called him “a flame of fire”, and testified: “I have been young and now I am old, and I solemnly say I have never known a man whose love of country was more ardent or sincere, never one who suffered so much, never one whose service for any 10 years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.”

John Adams himself, so inspired by James Otis’ oration against Britain’s writs of assistance, would pour years of determination, and energy, and vigorous intellect into the making of America – a writer of pamphlets, a delegate to both Continental Congresses, an ambassador to France, Holland, and Britain, the author of Massachusetts’ constitution, vice-president, president.

Virginia supplied its own share of heroes. Patrick Henry – “a son of Thunder”, as one admirer called him – made common cause with the common people, challenged the powers-that-were in Virginia, and in word and deed stirred the fire that would blaze to independence.

Thomas Jefferson gave the gift of an immortal Declaration of Independence; James Madison helped to write the seminal Federalist Papers and in the Philadelphia Convention – creating the Virginia Plan, tirelessly and masterfully advocating for the new government – he earned the title of the Father of the Constitution.

Among Madison’s strokes for the Constitution was persuading George Washington to attend the Philadelphia Convention. Washington’s preeminence among the Founders is deserved, but also curious; he lacked the scholarly background so many of them possessed, and put to such remarkable use. His intellect did not burn with the brilliance of Hamilton’s or Madison’s, but they needed him. He was steady and wise, and the sheer respect he commanded could keep people united – and the cause in motion.

Alexander Hamilton came out of the West Indies, born out of wedlock and later orphaned. The primary author of the Federalist Papers, the first Secretary of the Treasury, chief military aide to George Washington during four years of the Revolutionary War, and close advisor while he was president – Hamilton was a man of great capability, and great accomplishment.

In history, as in the human heart, good and evil entwine, and nothing is quite pure. These men had enemies among each other as well as among the British, and they committed an ample share of mistakes and sins. Some kept mistresses; some kept slaves. They were all flawed men. But they were extraordinary men. They were extraordinary in their abilities, they were extraordinary in what they dared and what they achieved.

They were extraordinary in how they arose, at the right time and in the right places, and joined together to create a nation. I would call it serendipitous, except that I don’t believe in fate.

Neither, for that matter, did many of them. Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was published, before anyone knew whether it would end in freedom or disaster, John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?”

Happy Independence Day.

Movie Review: Tarzan

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jun 28 2016

The foundling raised by animals in the wilderness is an immemorial idea. A couple weeks ago I reviewed a movie about one of the most famous of these foundlings: Mowgli, raised by wolves in the jungle. Today I will review another movie, this one about another foundling of almost equal fame: Tarzan.

Disney released its animated version of Tarzan in 1999, on the dying wave of the Disney Renaissance. After the wave crashed, Disney languished in cheap, lusterless sequels for a decade; as it crested, it released celebrated films such as Aladdin and The Lion King. In between, Disney released more experimental, and now largely forgotten, films – Atlantis, Treasure Planet, and, of course, Tarzan.

Tarzan is the least experimental of the three. It’s a departure from classic fairy tales, but still fantasy, unlike the sci-fi incursions Atlantis and Treasure Planet. The Disney formula of orphaned hero, boy-meets-girl, and animal sidekicks is intact. Variations are evident, however. Tarzan is an unlikely hero, his character made up of two divergent halves – one the epitome of physical strength and skill, the other naive and imitative in the most childlike way. The lively Jane, with her scientific interest and artistic bent, is an unusual heroine, neither too timid to slap Tarzan nor too proud to demand his help.

The music follows a similar pattern. Tarzan features the classic Disney spate of songs, hurrying the story along and encapsulating character motivations. Phil Collins, writing the songs, provides a departure of style. The lyrics are written from the viewpoint of various characters but sung by one outside singer – a technique curiously reminiscent of the songs in Toy Story. The music may well be the highest-quality element in the movie, although the stellar animation of Tarzan’s physical agility and ape-like mannerisms comes close.

Tarzan is strongest in its lighthearted moments; when the movie wants to be entertaining, it is. It stumbles when it tries to be dramatic. Tarzan’s adoption by the gorillas, and Clayton’s trickery, are competent and more. But outside of these and a few other moments, the drama fails to be convincing.

A great deal of this failure springs from Clayton, who manages to be, as the story’s villain, both over-the-top and underachieving. He is so obviously bad you wonder how Jane and her father ever got mixed up with him in the first place. On the other hand, his ambitions aren’t scary, or even particularly impressive. He wants to capture some gorillas alive! Only two of whom we have, as the audience, any reason to care about anyway! Remember when Disney villains plotted spectacular revenge and to take over kingdoms and control powerful magic and fun things like that?

The film is also unconvincing in answering the question it sets itself regarding Tarzan’s nature and place in the world. It comes too quickly, with too little reflection and reckoning. This disappoints me because the question was so interesting. It is, however, the movie’s lesser failure.

Despite the film’s stumbles, Tarzan is a fun romp with two or three musical numbers that are good almost to the point of being addictive. Unlike Tangled and Beauty and the Beast, it may not stand up to a thousand viewings, but it is certainly worth at least one.

 

Postscript: About that music … It’s been in my head.

Now it can be in yours.

 

Prism Tours: The Bridal Bouquet

Misc. | Posted by Shannon
Jun 20 2016

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Bridal Bouquet
By Tara Randel

We hope you enjoyed getting to know more about flower shop owner Kady and undercover DEA agent Dylan as they face someone who threatens Kady’s life and the possibility of finding love. If you missed any of the stops, go back and check them out now…

Launch – Author Interview

What do you hope readers take with them after they’ve read it?

I love to read and any book that makes me sigh at the end is a keeper. As an author, I want to sweep readers away to a world they can lost in. With The Bridal Bouquet, I wanted to write a story that makes readers laugh, sigh and worry about the welfare of my characters. This book delivers all.

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Author Interview & Review

4. You are the author of ten novels, correct? Which novel did you find the most enjoyable to write? In what ways?

 

Twelve, actually. It sounds so weird to say that. I’ve enjoyed writing the Heartwarming books, mostly because I love romance and weddings, so it’s a good mix. Honestly, The Bridal Bouquet was probably my favorite. I loved the premise from the beginning, which gave me lots of ways to go in the story. I also loved the suspense element. This added layer gave me areas to explore that I had so much fun with. I also write mysteries, so the more I work on these types of books, the more fun I have.

 

Also, I had a blast creating the hero’s brothers. The family dynamics took off out of the blue and I gladly went for the ride. I never expected the boys to take over. Maybe they’ll have their own stories in the future…

 

“This was a delightfully, refreshingly, “clean” story about a woman obsessed about winning a floral convention entry. It wasn’t just vanity, she had a lot depending on it. It would affect the rest of her life! . . . I totally loved it!”

underneath the covers – The Language of Flowers

Because of her love for flowers, Kady is convinced that discovering the personalities of her bride and groom is the important first step. Some brides know right away what their floral theme will be, but for others, Kady quizzes the couple to help with the final decision. What is their outlook on love, romance and marriage? Do certain colors have an emotional response for the couple? Upon gathering all the information, Kady then picks the perfect flowers to personalize the special day.

Mel’s Shelves – Creating the Perfect Wedding…from the Florists Point of View

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady’s dream is to take the family floral shop into the world of weddings. Love and romance may not be on the table for Kady at the beginning of the story, but her love for flowers remains steady throughout, a plus when coming up with fresh ideas for her clients.

Becky on Books – Author Interview & Review

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

 

This is the fourth book in The Business of Weddings series. My editor and I discussed coming up with three wedding professionals for this book contract and the first one was a florist. I knew I wanted to have suspense elements in this story, so I plotted with this in mind. I love hunky, Alpha males and the DEA hero in this book fits the bill! Also, researching flowers was lovely. The history behind bouquets is quite interesting.

 

“A sweet romance with a touch of romantic suspense–a fun read!”

JoJo’s Corner – Review

“I absolutely LOVE wedding stories and Tara Randel’s The Business of Weddings series is one of my favorites! . . . This novel is full of humor, memorable characters and romance combined with elements of suspense. I give The Bridal Bouquet 5 long stemmed roses out of 5!”

Bookworm Lisa – Review

“As a reader, you know most of the things going on behind the scenes, just waiting for the characters to discover them. For me, it helped to cheer them on and hope that everyone is happy when it all comes out in the open. I really can’t say a lot more, because I like this book and am giving it a high recommendation.”

EskieMama Reads – The History of Flowers and Weddings

Today, weddings are as different and special as a bride’s vision. There are so many reasons a bride picks certain flowers; personal taste, sentiment, elegance, romance, to name a few. From full-blown, colorful bouquets to brides carrying a single stemmed rose to make a statement, the choice of flower for all wedding related events are vast. But where did the tradition of wedding flowers originate?

deal sharing aunt – Excerpt

Blowing out a relieved breath, she looked over her shoulder, glimpsing the most unusual pair of blue eyes she’d ever seen. Actually, blue wasn’t entirely correct. A hint of silver turned them an unusual shade of metallic gray. The man’s somber expression matched the concern she read there and his very handsome face garnered all her attention.

“Steady there.” His husky voice spoke close to her ear, sending a waterfall of shivers over her skin.

“I loved The Bridal Bouquet! Kady and Dylan are so much fun. I love the banter between them. There is also another romance that develops in the book, but I won’t spoil it for you. The plot is both romantic and suspenseful. If you are a fan of clean romance novels, you will surely love The Bridal Bouquet.”

Harlie’s Books – Review

“Oh my, a sweet contemporary that I read twice. Yes, twice. I loved, just loved this book. I’m a sucker for flowers so this book was right up my alley. . . . In the end, I loved the sweet romance of Kady and Dylan. It wasn’t rushed and had a few twists in it that I LOVED. Plus, the suspense element is on point for these characters.”

Hardcover Feedback – Review

“I loved reading The Bridal Bouquet! The characters were well written and I liked almost all of them, with the exception of the ones you aren’t supposed to like. . . . The romance between Kady and Dylan was so sweet! I loved watching them getting to know each other and see their feelings for each other grow.”

23 Review Street – Review

“The Bridal Bouquet is a sweet, romantic story that has handsome DEA agents, amazingly strong women and an wonderfully written story that will make you wish it wouldn’t end. I would recommend anyone who loves a unique love story and of course a wedding!”

“I loved Kady. There was something so human about her and her need to find acceptance and support from the people she loves. . . . This book was a clean romance with a touch of suspense and danger. It kept me interested from beginning to end.”

With Love for Books – Tips for Choosing a Florist for Your Wedding & Review

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady Lawrence, co-owner of the Lavish Lily, works with brides to make the dreams of their big day come true. As any wedding professional, she advises her clients to research, then choose a florist who will carry out the vision. Flowers are an important statement at a wedding, and the bride and groom need to communicate their wishes in order for a florist to carry out the theme.

“The Bridal Bouquet is a quick and easy read and it’s very enjoyable. I think it’s an amazing read with a heartwarming theme.”

“I love a good romance, but when there are other elements involved, it really draws me in. With a mystery and some suspense involved, this story really turns into more than the light, fluffy read, like I was expecting–there’s more meat to the book. . . . This is a great read for those who enjoy a clean, contemporary romance with some suspenseful threads woven in.”

“The book is a clean romance novel and can be read as a stand-alone book as well. The book depicts the usual boy meets a girl and falls in love, the story though is a simple read for anyone who loves romance novels.”

Colorimetry – Top Wedding Flowers

Many types of flowers are popular for weddings. Some brides know the exact flowers they want for their special day, others need a little help deciding. A professional florist, like Kady Lawrence from The Bridal Bouquet, work with brides to make their dreams come true.

“There’s romance, there’s deceit, there’s family drama, there’s criminal activity … what more could we want?”

The Bridal BouquetThe Bridal Bouquet
(The Business of Weddings #3)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
June 1st 2016 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Who will catch a lifetime of love?

Winning the annual wedding bouquet design competition may be the closest Kady Lawrence gets to the altar. She has to come in first or risk losing the shop that’s been in her family for generations. Her main competition is Jasmine Matthews. But it’s Jasmine’s son who’s caught Kady’s attention.

 

Kady has no inkling Dylan’s a DEA agent on a case in Cypress Pointe, and Dylan wants to keep it that way…until Kady’s targeted. Determined to keep her safe, Dylan risks a lot more than blowing his cover…he risks losing Kady forever.

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Other Books in the Series

Magnolia BrideMagnolia Bride
(The Business of Weddings #1)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 209 pages
July 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

 

Married for a day, in love for life

 

Nealy Grainger knew that returning to Cypress Pointe meant an inevitable encounter with her teenage crush, and momentary husband, Dane Peterson. She could handle it. She wasn’t the wounded girl who’d left Cypress Pointe years ago, heartbroken and furious when Dane had annulled their marriage the day after they’d eloped.

 

Now one of L.A.’s most in-demand celebrity event planners, Nealy’s only come back for a vacation and to help with her sister’s wedding—not for a reunion with her long-lost love. But the more their paths cross, the more the sparks fly! Maybe their connection isn’t over just yet….,

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Honeysuckle Bride

Honeysuckle Bride
(The Business of Weddings #2)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 201 pages
December 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

One part happiness. Two parts love.

Relocating to the coast of Florida after becoming guardian of her best friend’s twin daughters could be the best move LA celebrity chef Jenna Monroe ever made. This is her chance to create a stable, loving home—something she never had. But can she be the mother the girls need?

Wyatt Hamilton thinks she can. The rugged charter boat captain, who came home to Cypress Pointe still grieving the death of his son, has faith in her. But the feelings he awakens in Jenna both exhilarate and frighten her. Because Wyatt no longer believes in forever… Unless she can convince him otherwise.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of eleven novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Her next Heartwarming, part of The Business of Weddings series, will be released in June 2016. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books.

Tour Giveaway

ONE WINNER will receive a tote bag including the first three books in The Business of Weddings series (US only)

ONE WINNER will recieve a $25 Amazon eGift card (open internationally)

Ends June 24th

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Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jun 13 2016

Somewhere, at some point, someone at Disney said, “Do you know what we should do, instead of making endless sequels to classic Disney films, as if no one in the company has had an original thoughts since 1997? Remakes. Remakes of classic Disney films. In live-action.”

This was a bad idea. It should not have worked. But it has twice – first with Cinderella, released last year, and now with The Jungle Book, in theaters now. A famous story holds that Walt Disney, when rallying his jungle bookteam to make the animated version, held up a copy of The Jungle Book and said, “The first thing I want you to do is not read it.”

The makers of the live-action version have read the book, and more of Kipling besides. They include Kipling’s jungle creation-myth and even quote his poetry: “This is the Law of the Jungle, as old and as true as the sky …” 

This is, in fact, the great advantage to remaking movies like Cinderella and The Jungle Book, as opposed to remaking (for example) Star Trek. If you want to remake Star Trek, your raw material is limited to, well, Star Trek. But if you want to remake Disney’s Cinderella, your raw material reaches back to Perrault’s Cinderella, and the Grimm Brothers’ Cinderella, and the whole web of Cinderella-like stories that vein the world’s folklore. In the same way, if you want to remake Disney’s Jungle Book, you can look for material also in Kipling’s Jungle Book, and in all of Kipling’s jungle myths and poetry.

Many different silver-screen interpretations of The Jungle Book were always possible. Disney has now created two of them. The live-action Jungle Book follows the general plot of its predecessor – which, considering how little plot that had, is not very constrictive. It even includes, in desultory fashion, inferior renditions of “Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You”, as if Disney just felt obligated.

But in tone and in spirit, the new Jungle Book is a revolution. It gives up the fun that ruled the animated version for danger, beauty, and – most surprisingly – grandeur. Much of the grandeur, like much of the beauty, comes simply from the jungle setting, gorgeously realized in a way that the original film could not have even aspired to. There is grandeur, too, in the elephants and the reverence paid to them by all other animals.

One of the greatest accomplishments of this film is the sense it creates of the jungle as an ancient and ordered society, with its own laws, traditions, and even prejudices. There is, in the animals, a confidence in who they are, who others are, and what everyone’s place is. Shere Kahn is so fearsome because of his lawlessness, because he can’t be counted on to stay in his preordained place.

Most unexpectedly, The Jungle Book makes a major theme of how different Mowgli is from the animals that surround him. His human inventiveness, and inventions, befuddle and anger the animals by turn. Bagheera, solemnly commanding Mowgli to bow to elephants passing by them, tells him, “The elephants created this jungle. They made all that belongs: the mountains, the trees, the birds in the trees. But they did not make you.” In the climax, of course, Mowgli defeats the tiger with “Man’s Red Flower”, which the animals cannot control and deeply fear.

The film never suggests the Bible’s vision of Man as the image of God, created preeminent over all the beasts. It does, however, get so far as G. K. Chesterton’s dictum: “Man is an exception, whatever else he is.” In our society, where people are outraged when a gorilla is killed to protect a child, even that is a refreshing breath of sanity.

Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book digs deeper than its animated predecessor both into Rudyard Kipling’s works and into the grand possibilities of film. The result is a rousing, beautiful film with a surprising measure of grandeur and of meaning.

Review: Imbeciles

Book Reviews, History | Posted by Shannon
Jun 06 2016

See if you can follow this chain of logic. Human defects – mental, physical, and moral – are carried through heredity. In order to eliminate these defects from the human race, the genes that cause them must be eliminated from the gene pool. In order to eliminate such bad genes, the carriers of those genes – that is, people – must be eliminated from the gene pool. To put it simply, the defective must not reproduce.

There are three ways to ensure that the defective do not pass on their genes and so continue to drag down humanity with the unfit. The first is to segregate them in institutions where they will not have the opportunity to reproduce. The second is to sterilize them. The third is wholesale slaughter. Which door do you choose to enter a brave, new world?

Eugenicists chose door number two, mass, forced sterilization of people deemed unfit by the powers that be.

All this sounds like science fiction, but in sad truth, it’s history – American history. In Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, Adam Cohen tells the nearly-forgotten story of eugenics in America. He focuses his account on the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, which challenged Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law. 

Cohen tells the story of eugenics through Buck v. Bell, and he tells the story of Buck v. Bell through its major figures. Each chapter of the book is named after one of them: Carrie Buck, the victim; Dr. Albert Priddy, superintendent of Virginia’s Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded; Harry Laughlin, head of the Eugenics Record Office and leading advocate of eugenic sterilization; Aubrey Strode, the lawyer who wrote Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law and defended it up to the Supreme Court; and Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famed Supreme Court justice who coined the epigram from which the book’s title is taken: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

This book is structured almost like a series of biographical essays, as the author reaches back into the life-stories of the players in Buck v. Bell and tries to define their motivations. The great strength of this structure is that it makes the book accessible, easy to read, and focused on the individual, human side of the drama. As a way of relating the history of American eugenics, it works surprisingly well, at least in the earlier chapters. The careers of prominent eugenicists like Albert Priddy and Harry Laughlin dovetail nicely with the story of eugenics in America.

The chapter devoted to the lawyer Aubrey Strode is, in this respect, more uneven. Much of it is relevant to the book’s topic, but the author wanders on side trails that are not. It is even worse with Oliver Wendell Holmes. The author is clearly fascinated with Holmes’ background as a Boston Brahmin and whether or not he can be rightly regarded as a liberal judge. No doubt some readers will be as well. But these things, which take up page after page of Imbeciles, have nothing to do with eugenics.

Indeed, it is difficult to justify Holmes’ inclusion in the book purely on the book’s proclaimed subjects. Holmes’ life crossed the eugenics movement in no significant way until Buck v. Bell, and even in Buck v. Bell, his importance is minimal. True, he wrote the majority opinion and made it clever, sharply expressed, and cruel. But although he expressed the Court’s decision, there is no reason to believe he had any special role in making it. The author speculates on how he may have influenced his fellow judges, but there is no evidence that he actually did. The Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell was 8-1. Oliver Wendell Holmes was just another vote in an overwhelming majority.

Although Imbeciles lost focus in evaluating the life and career of Oliver Wendell Holmes, it remains a highly informative book on a fascinating, neglected piece of American history. It is also skillfully written, being lucid and articulate without being showy. The information is, moreover, well-chosen and well-presented, and the sources are varied and reliable. I highly recommend Imbeciles to all lovers of history.

We Are (Not) the Hollow Men

Culture, History | Posted by Shannon
May 30 2016

In the last year of the Civil War, Confederate leaders in Charleston, South Carolina turned the city’s horse-racing track (the Race Course, they called it) into a prisoner-of-war camp. They herded Union soldiers into the track’s interior, forcing them to live there without any shelter. In these miserable conditions, 257 Union soldiers died. The Confederates buried them in unmarked graves at the Race Course.

On February 18, 1865, the mayor of Charleston surrendered to Union forces. A mass exodus of white citizens surrounded the fall of Charleston, but thousands of blacks remained in the city, most of them newly freed slaves. And they remembered the suffering of the soldiers at the Race Course.

In April of 1865, twenty-eight black men from one of Charleston’s churches re-buried the dead, turning the hasty graves into neat rows. They erected a fence around the gravesite, ten feet high, and whitewashed it; over the gate they built an arch and inscribed on it: “Martyrs of the Race Course”.

On May 1, a procession of 10,000 people marched to the graveyard and dedicated it with prayers, Bible readings, and songs. They laid spring blossoms on the graves until “the holy mounds – the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them – were one mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen; and as the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them, outside and beyond … there were few eyes among those who knew the meaning of the ceremony that were not dim with tears of joy.” (a newspaperman who witnessed the event, quoted by David W. Blight)

There were other ceremonies, other commemorations of the Civil War dead, and in 1868 Major General John Logan established Decoration Day. In his order to his posts to decorate the graves of the fallen, he wrote, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Like the freed slaves of Charleston, he not only gave recognition to the soldiers’ suffering; he gave it meaning.

An effective, if grim, teacher of how vitally that matters is the special bitterness of those wars regarded as pointless – the Vietnam War, for example, or the First World War. Rightly or wrongly, but undeniably painfully, the dead in such wars are felt to be not only lost but “wasted” (as one Vietnam veteran put it).

Paul Johnson captured the bitterness of apparently meaningless suffering in his essay on T.S. Eliot:

It [WWI] was a war without hope or heroic adventure – just a dull misery of loss and pain – which induced in the participants, serving in the trenches or suffering vicariously at home, an overwhelming sense of heartache. The times seemed to have no redeeming feature; mankind appeared to be undergoing the agony of the war with no compensating gain in virtue but merely the additional degradation that the infliction of death and cruelty brings. It was unmitigated waste. So, equally, was Eliot’s marriage, both parties to it enduring suffering without a mitigating sense of redemption, just two wasted lives joined in sorrow. [Paul Johnson, Creators]

Which I bring up not to make a historical statement on the meaning or consequences of any war, let alone to make valuations of suffering; I only want to show how the human heart recoils from suffering without meaning.

Conflict is vital to stories. So, in a way, is suffering, however slight it may sometimes be. The very nature of the story pulls to give it meaning – by giving the root and final end of the suffering, by weaving it into a much greater whole.

This is one of the great satisfactions of fiction. All too often, in the real world, suffering has no point anyone can see and struggles are barren, yielding no fruit. But we hope – sometimes we can even believe – that if the whole story of the universe were told, if the tapestry of the million threads could be unrolled, then maybe we could find some redemption for the things that have none.

Decoration DayOf course, that story isn’t told; it isn’t even over yet. But in the finished stories of fiction, we see the ultimate ends and, with them, the ultimate meaning.

Not, of course, that all stories do end with redemption of suffering, or hope; some storytellers prefer the poetry of World War I, the mood caught by T.S. Eliot. (“We are the hollow men …”) But the greatest beauty is found in, well, the freed slaves’ memorial to the Union soldiers – where suffering has meaning and tears are iridescent.

Excerpt: The Gladiator and the Guard

Literature | Posted by Shannon
May 23 2016
An Excerpt From

 

The Gladiator and the Guard

 

written by Annie Douglass Lima

 

cover art by Jack Lin

 

Bensin had been nervous all day. Not just because he was scheduled to fight the Yellows that afternoon. Not just because Ninety-Nine was scheduled to fight too, possibly at the same time. Not just because Gile had decided to do something different this weekend and give the audience a little extra excitement.

The “something different” was definitely worth being nervous about, though. Six separate martial arts were being featured today. A total of twenty-four glads from the two arenas would be fighting, each using his personal favorite weapon or style of unarmed combat. Members of the audience would be chosen to draw numbers, which would determine the order in which each glad would join the melee. Every five minutes, a new glad would be picked from each side, and they would fight as long as they could. When one was disarmed or too badly wounded to continue, he would retreat, but the victor would stay and keep fighting whatever other opponents were still out there. Depending on who was picked when, and how the battle was going when they were brought in, it was a good guess that things would be pretty uneven for a lot of people a lot of the time.

All of that made Bensin anxious, but he had another worry as well. This would be his first battle out on the sand since his new resolution. He still hadn’t figured out if or how he could possibly be the kind of person he had chosen to be when he was fighting. Would he be able to disarm an opponent, or possibly multiple opponents, without injuring them? Would it mean he had to let someone else beat him? Might it mean that he would end up injured, himself — or perhaps even killed?

That’s going to happen eventually, he reminded himself as he jogged on the treadmill. Won’t it be best to die in a way that involves standing up for who I am and what I believe is right, and not letting the arena force me into violence?

But Bensin still wasn’t quite sure about that. I can just wait and see how it goes. I don’t have to make the decision now.

But he knew that wouldn’t work. There wouldn’t be time to stop and think about it in the middle of a battle. He had to make up his mind beforehand and then stick to it. What’s the point in deciding I’m going to be a certain way if I don’t keep it up when things get hard? But how exactly could a person not be violent when he was fighting for his life?

 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

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Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

 

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