Tag: fire

Spice up your summer with SPICE BRINGER

I read fantasy. Fantasy makes me happy. And there are a few authors who I will always pick up their books. H.L. Burke, author of SPICE BRINGER, is one of those.

I’m in Ms. Burke’s “fan” group on Facebook. I’ve been hearing about this book since it was an idea that was keeping her from focusing on another project. So…for awhile now.

I voted on character names. Each of the tidbits she shared as she wrote it piqued my curiosity. My opinion was cast when she asked for input about the blurb.

But it was at that point I told myself, “This is going to be a sad book. I don’t think I’ll read it.”

And that’s why I signed up for an advance copy.

Wait! What? It doesn’t make sense to you that I’d volunteer to read and review a book I’d decided I wasn’t going to read?

It was a book by H. L. Burke. I wanted to read it (even thought I didn’t want to read it). So I convinced myself that the best thing to do was get a free copy, and that way if it was too sad for words, I wouldn’t have spend money on it.

Makes perfect sense, right? *holds up hand*


What’s the Story?

This is a tale of three people on individual quests. Their goals bring them together.

Niya has known she’s living on borrowed time for her entire life. She dreams of seeing the sea and riding an elephant, but she’s happy to spend her days in the grove caring for the spice that keeps her alive.

Unfortunately, the princess of the realm believes she needs the fire salamander that helps the vitrisar seeds to germinate and grow in order to ascend her adoptive father’s throne. When her eagerness to snatch the beast sets the grove on fire, Niya must take the remaining plant and Alk, the fire salamander, to a safe place.

Early in this journey, Niya runs into people who want to steal the spice she’s carrying. It’s rare and valuable. Jayesh, a monk on his own quest, saves her from robbers and joins her. He’s searching for redemption. His lack of faith in his god cost people their lives, and now he’s trying to atone for that. Helping Niya fits into his plans.

They travel. They meet people. Their beliefs are tested. Eventually, they face the princess. Can they convince her that their quest will benefit the empire than hers?

My Thoughts

Once I started this book, I didn’t want to put it down.

But I did. Because I also didn’t want it to end.

I hate books like that. I mean because I LOVE them, so why can’t they go on forever?

These three characters are realistic and relatable. You want to despise the princess because of the heartache she causes for Niya, but since Burke gives you scenes from the princess’s point of view, you know what’s motivating her. And it’s a reasonable and justifiable motivation.

Even if she’s being manipulated.

Niya’s death sentence makes her live every moment to the full. But it also makes her leery of emotional attachments. After all, she’s going to die, and whoever loves her will be brokenhearted.

Jayesh has his own baggage. His tendency to over-think every decision and wait to act puts him in conflict with Niya’s immediacy. Since he rescues her at their first meeting, we cheer him on to the end. He’s a good guy and he deserves to find the redemption he seeks.

There is a not-so-obvious allegory in this story. The three gods that act together could represent the Trinity. Each of the gods have an attribute that is also one of God’s characteristics: Kind, Just and All-Knowing. The battle between good and evil is clear.

The magical elements are neatly interwoven into the setting and characters. It was easy to believe each one. Burke does a great job of explaining what could be unbelievable in a way that doesn’t rob it of it’s mysticism (The Force was way more interesting before it was explained).

I laughed at the character dialog and interaction. I cried at the heartaches and losses. And I predicted who would make the first and greatest sacrifice.

My Recommendation

If you read young adult fantasy, this book is for you. If you like quest stories, this is a story you don’t want to miss.

You like snarky heroines? Me too! You’ll get that and an even MORE sarcastic fire salamander. The bi-play between the two will make you laugh.

Maybe you think stories should have a deeper message, not be solely for entertainment. Well then, why are you still reading this? Go get this book. Download it today and see if you aren’t moved by the themes underlying the adventure.

Yes, there’s romance in this story. It’s not sappy. And it’s not typical.

In fact, the only people who might not enjoy this story are people who despise fantasy, especially if it has a hint of allegory. Otherwise, this is a five star read guaranteed to take you from hilarity to suspense to tears and back again.

SPICE BRINGER is the perfect spice for the final weekend of summer (and any other time of year).

Poetry from the Corner

I write poems from time to time. I’m not a poet. I don’t have the soul of a poet or the intuition to feel and relay “universal suffering” in my words.

Sometimes, though, I can make rhyme and rhythm into something relatively relateable.

You might guess from recent posts, that I’m struggling with some hard things. Maybe this poem will give you a glimpse through the tinted windows of my soul.

Once upon a Teardrop

Once upon a teardrop
A heart began to weep
Aching wounds so deep
Blood did spill and seep

Once upon a heartbreak
Blackness swarmed like bees
Hope whacked at the knees
Heaven ignored the pleas

Once upon a deathbed
Angels refused to sing
Acidic breath did sting
Hells bells pealed sharp a ring

Once upon an autumn
Leaves refused to turn
Fiery beauty spurn
Smoking furies burn

Once upon a teardrop
A broken heart bled
Joy and truth both fled
Faith in God was dead

I felt my heart stop
Once upon a teardrop

What do you think? Does this short verse bring any images to mind for you? Feel free to add your own stanza in the comments.

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Meet Some Everyday Heroes

My fascination with heroes has only been strengthened by the current comics-into-movies craze. What’s even more inspiring? There are heroes around us dressed in the guise of an ordinary person.

This month on my blog, the midweek posts (I will be changing from Thursday to Wednesday halfway through) are dedicated to these individuals.

Today, I’m dumping some links to videos and articles that will give you a glimpse at the sort of people who we don’t see in the news.

Why do they tell us all the bad news? Shouldn’t they always follow it up with some good news?

While mainstream news shows protests and property damage, another kind of television station focuses on the goodness birthed from tragedy. Here is a video that shows how the fury of nature brings out the best in some people.

I’ve seen people hanging from a bridge in protest. I’ve seen others standing on an overpass threatening to jump and end their lives.

Would you have the courage to stop someone from jumping? In this next video, you’ll also see heroes reaching out to rescue those who are falling.

I had mixed feelings about the last story. When I saw the headline, I immediately thought, “Here’s an everyday hero.”

Hero mom dies rescuing son from Oklahoma fire

And then I read the story.

Every mother would hope to have the same courage to enter their burning home when they realized their young child is still inside. That’s what this woman did, after escaping with her two infant sons, too young to walk out on their own.

But then I read on. Rescue crews were on site. Trained professionals were there to do the job. She didn’t listen to them.

In the end, both she and the four-year-old she tried to rescue perished from injuries sustained in the fire. Now her other children our motherless.

Would the fire personnel have been able to pull her son out in time if they weren’t trying to rescue her too?

We’ll never know. While I admire her self-sacrifice, part of me feels the loss was unnecessary.

What’s your idea of an everyday hero? Do you have some stories for me?


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The Best Laid Plans

John swaggered across the room, lit a Marlboro, took a long draw then exhaled.  He peered across the room at the unconscious woman, slumped across the futon, wondering when she would revive.  Just then, the sound of an engine purred to a halt in the driveway.  “The rest of the guys,” John said to himself, clenching his jaws as nervous excitement brewed within him.  It was too late now to reconsider their plan; they could only speed forward.  He dropped his cigarette on the brown carpet and ground it out with the heel of his cowboy boot.  What did it matter?  The whole house would be up in flames by morning.

Scuffling on the front porch followed by a loud thump caused John to scowl.  It wasn’t as if they were in the middle of nowhere.  Didn’t his bozo accomplices realize the seriousness of this situation?

A string of muttered curse words accompanied the scrape and squeal of the front door being shoved open.  It slammed into the wall, ridden like a surfboard by the scrawny, young man who was, unfortunately, John’s cousin.

“Shut up!” he growled at them.

Shoulders nearly as wide as the doorway, Bubba sauntered into the room, wiping his hands on his Wrangler’s and grinning like a headline comedian.  Behind him, Corey was extracting himself from the front door, his panicked features stark in the dim shaft of illumination cast by the porch light.

“Shut the door,” John said, voice still low and steely but not as harsh.

Scurrying like a church mouse, Corey scrambled to comply.  Behind the door, a handle-sized hole marred the sheetrock.  “Look what you did, Bubba!” Their pyromaniac sounded like a whiny six-year old.

Bubba’s meaty hand slapped Corey between the shoulder blades, sending him nearly sprawling onto the carpet at John’s feet.

“No worries, little guy.  This place is toast anyway.”  With a faint air of indecision, Bubba looked to where John stood, both hands planted on his hips, smoke rising from beside his right boot.  “Right?”

“Right,” John agreed, nodding curtly and dropping his hands to his sides.  Gesturing with his hands toward a doorway down the hall, “The stuff’s in there.”

Both of the newcomers started to move in the appointed direction.  When Bubba neared the futon shoved against the far wall, his cat-call whistle sounded shrilly.

“What do we have here?” His leering tone dripped lust like the sweat on a teenage boy’s brow.  “John boy, you’ve been holding out on me.  I thought this was an old lady’s house.”

The suggestive way he said “old” made John’s skin crawl and his stomach sour in distaste.  At some point, Bubba’s lewdness was going to cost them and the thought of going to prison because this guy couldn’t keep it in his pants made ire rise from the base of John’s spine.

“She’s like 45.  That’s old enough to be your momma, so I’d say what you’re thinking is downright incestuous, Bubba.”  John’s tone could’ve frozen hot coffee.

Bubba turned his head and glared at John with ill-concealed animosity.  “Did you just say something bad about my momma?” His fists were clenching in preparation.

Noticing the sledgehammer-like fists, John shook his head and said, “Get busy hauling the stuff outta here.”

Bubba’s dark eyes narrowed.  “I know my job.  I just don’t see that it will take me so long to carry a few boxes out that I can’t have me a little fun, too.”

“Work first,” John said, his hand reaching to the back waistband of his jeans where a 9mm waited, ready to jump to his defense on command.

Bubba’s eyes flicked to John’s hand, now resting on the handle of the pistol.  “You sound like my old man,” he sneered and stomped down the hallway, floorboards creaking beneath his booted feet.

The crew knew their assignments.  Bubba hauled the boxes of jewelry, electronics, silverware and other easily fenced items outside and loaded them under cover of the canopy on his Ford F350.  Gasoline fumes began to permeate the air as Corey fulfilled his responsibility of fueling a fire that would start fast, burn quick and set off an explosion when it reached the natural gas fumes they would start on the way out of the kitchen.  No physical evidence would be left to identify them.

John had a bandana tied over the bottom of his face, keeping out the worst of the fumes.  He nodded to Corey who had just given him the okay sign from the back porch.

“What’s the hurry?” Bubba snarled from beside him.  “I gotta –“

Without even looking at him, John snapped, “Get the truck out of the driveway, Bubba.”

“We got three hours ‘til daybreak.”

“I just gave Corey the okay, so we’ve got about four minutes until the whole country gets woke up by the boom.”

John walked purposefully to the BMW coupe the woman owned.  He’d switched the license plates as soon as he’d knocked her out.  Enjoying this sweet ride was going to make the guilt of cold-blooded murder fade like a bad dream.

At that moment, Corey came sprinting around the side of the house, throwing open the passenger door on the truck and hopping inside with uncustomary athleticism.  Bubba revved the truck’s engine, signaling his displeasure, but he followed John’s midnight blue coupe.  Neither car used headlights as they sped down the driveway and turned left onto the county road, sending gravel spewing in all directions.

As the back door slammed, the woman inside crawled off the futon. On hands and knees, she scooted to the nearby table, pulling a linen table scarf from under pictures and a lamp.  Glass shattered as they crashed to the floor.  Carefully, she reached toward the hole burned in the carpeting near her left kneecap.

Standing, her legs shook, bowing as if made of rubber.  Choking and gagging, she pinched her nose with her left thumb and forefinger.  Stumbling, she reached the side door; the odor of rotten eggs chased her from the house.   Running in an erratic pattern, her feet grazed the edge of her vegetable garden when the house exploded behind her.

Lying facedown in the dew-soaked grass where the concussion of the explosion launched her, she uncurled her fingers.  It was still there.  Smiling, she rested her weary head against the ground.

Not as smart as you thought, huh, cowboy? she thought.

Wrapped securely in the fine linen heirloom her grandmother painstakingly sewed by hand for her college graduation, the discarded cigarette butt seemed to pulse.  His fingerprints would identify the good-looking conman for the police.

In the distance, sirens blared.