Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review- Heart of Steel

Heart of Steel
by Meljean Brook

The second book her Iron Seas series, Meljean Brook provides another adventure of a lifetime. This novel features Sky Captain Yasmeen and Treasure-hunter Archimedes Fox, both of which had been introduced in her Iron Duke novel. This book starts on the ground running, one adventure after another, one surprise after another. I was glued to this book from start to finish like I haven't been since I read The Iron Duke.

After a series of unfortunate events, tuff as nails Captain Yasmeen agrees to work with Archimedes Fox, the man she threw overboard into a horde of zombies and somehow managed to survive. Yasmeen has been betrayed by countless men in the past, men who couldn't handle her position of power and she refuses to be drawn into the game again, except something about Archimedes continues to draw her to him. Archimedes Fox, a man with his own secrets, desires to feel emotions as strongly as possible and so he's choose to fall in love with Yasmeen for the heartbreak it will cause when she destroys it, but neither of them expect what happens next.

Like her previous novels, Maljean Brook provides a deep and diverse world filled with characters and a past that keeps me waiting for more. She manages to provide enough information that the storyline is never bogged down, but at times makes me wish I had something more to base her complex world on (hopefully she'll publish a guide or perhaps a prequel to before the Horde war ended).

I highly recommend her novels to anyone seeking adventure, whether its sci-fye, fantasy, steampunk, romance or even a western-ish like story.

I give this novel a 5 out of 5 for storyline/romance and a 5 out of 5 for bedroom steaminess.

You can read more about Meljean Brook and her novels here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review- The Iron Duke

The Iron Duke
By Meljean Brook

This is the first Steam Punk novel I've ever read and I have to say that I truly enjoyed reading it. The Iron Duke features Detective Mina Wentworth who deals with death and discrimination on a daily basis and Rhys Trahaearn, the Iron Duke who runs his life like the ship he used to run in the war, with strict adherence to his own set of rules. Their lives crash together and instant heat erupts between them. Can Mina overcome her aversion to strong emotions and Rhys who has never felt anything except the desire to own what he desires.

This story kept me riveted to the pages, clinging to every sentence as I read the world she has created and the people who live in it. The sparks flying between the two main characters, the action sequences with swords and guns a blazing and the zombies running around created a novel packed so full that I hoped the book never end. The recently printed novel includes a novella of the couple after her original story ended.

The down side of creating a world so diverse was that I was left with several areas that I hoped she would go deeper into, but she was able to successfully create and provide a complex world that was never lagged down the storyline when explaining.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 for storyline/romance and a 4 out of 5 for bedroom steaminess.

You can read more information on Meljean Brook and her books here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review- Whispers In The Dark

Whispers In The Dark
by: Maya Banks

I believe that this is the first novel of hers that I've read. The premise was interesting and I've picked up this particular novel on several occasions but never purchased it until recently as I wasn't sure if I would like the book. This is a KGI Novel and is the 4th in the series.

This story involves a psychic named Shea and the man she connects with, Nathan. She is thrown into his world as he is being tortured by his captors and is his only bright light in the days/weeks that follow. She brings comfort and helps him cope with the pain, but when he's rescued she all but disappears from his mind. It isn't until she's captured herself, that she reaches out and connects with Nathan again. He drops everything to help her and reunite with the angle that he's only spoken to in his mind.

This was a very interesting story. I enjoyed the banter of Nathan's family and the scope in which their military backgrounds were represented. There also was enough information provided in the story that I wasn't totally lost in who was who, although the three separate squadrons tended to fall into the wayside as I wasn't sure who belong where or how they got together, but the family and closed friends were easily identifiable.

I really enjoyed Shea's voice and the way she provides strong men who are realistic with their emotions and their faults. I also enjoyed that this story was intricate and deep but realistic in its plot.

I felt like there was a lag in the portions of the plot where information was repeated because it was being explained to a new character. I also felt that Shea and Nathan's internal dialog could at time drag on and distracted from the storyline. Shea at times also displayed an emotional closeness to characters that I felt hadn't been established strongly enough prior to elicit certain reactions. And although the characters went through quite a bit in this story, there really wasn't a lot of overall character growth.

This story involved realistic emotional ups and downs and showcased strong family ties. I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars for storyline/romance and a 2 out of 5 stars for bedroom steaminess.

You can visit the Maya Banks website and find out more about her books here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Part 3 on the Bahamas

St Maarten- the third and last island we visited

This island is owned half by the French and half by the Dutch. This island also had a small shopping center on the port, with the information desk one of the first things you see. We had decided to go to the beach first and then head towards the shopping center. So we all piled into an van and took a long drive to the French side (the boat docks on the Dutch side) and I have to say that the beach we went to was covered in chairs, there was no shade in site (unless you rented a chair with an umbrella) and the water was rougher, deeper and defiantly more choppy. Now whether this is from the inlet or because there was a hurricane on the other side of the Caribbean, I cannot say.

I will say that you don’t have to pay for chairs, you can try as hard as you like to find a seat of your own, but I warn you that this would be very difficult as the beach is decked out into segments that are run by family groups, or sit at one of the many different outdoor restaurants that lined the beach. I paid the $8 for a chair with an umbrella that came with a free drink.

This beach was by far the most populated beach we went to, it was also the one with the most people trying to sell you things. They had items ranging from jewelry, towels to a aloe massage and someone walked by with something to sell about every 5 minutes. This is where the sunglasses came in handy. I lounged a bit with some dark shades and did not turn my head to indicate I was interested in what they were approaching with, just stared straight ahead or stayed laying in the position I was.

I lounged a bit on the chair before heading into the water for a bit. Unlike Morgan beach, you could not see straight through the water and the sand was courser. They had jet skies available as well as pulling a long cigar like tube behind a jet ski. The restaurants they had, although I didn’t order anything, ran about $8 to $12 for decent sized plate of food. From what I did try and saw, the place we ate at had good food and the rest of my party didn’t get sick eating it.

We stayed at the beach for about 3 hours, the guy who drove us was called to come get us and we headed back towards the main shopping town by the cruise ship port. This island has a huge diverse shopping center in town. They have casinos on one side of the town and the other side has shops, food and hotels. The group ended up splitting up when half the group bought jewelry and the other half continued on.

This town/city was hot, they had virtually no trees and many many expensive shops. We finally made it into a sandwich/crepe shop but had no idea where or how we were supposed to order. Deciding to wander around before returning to the ship (were we knew where the food was) we hit up a chocolate shop and an ice cream parlor. The ice cream parlor was right off the beach and it was delicious! I hadn’t had ice cream in a while so it was great treat for me.

As a coincidence, my dad who didn’t want to eat off one of the smaller stores, ate at the parlor and ended up having stomach problems (but not food poisoning). I still think that he’s horribly in denial about being lactose intolerant.

We did end up meeting back up with part of the group to eat at one of the indoor restaurants, but didn’t stay long because part of the group wanted to go to the place with even cheaper beer. I’ll talk again about being realistic. If you drink frequently on the ship where drinks range from $7 to $20 dollars, changing restaurants for beer that’s a dollar cheaper is wasting time, energy and after a while, the rest of the groups patience if they are not on the same page as you.

We decided to head back to the ship instead of searching out the cheaper restaurant. I will say this for St Maarten, they have a wide variety of food available to you on the beach and it all looked good. I saw barbeque, southern, and Thai. They had Indian food near the shops and a few Chinese places as well. This island was by far the most diverse if food offerings.

Instead of getting a taxi, we decided to walk back to the ship which took about 20 minutes. I enjoyed the heat as I live where it’s cold and rainy basically all year round. If we’re lucky we might hit 80 degrees an day in summer. They have sidewalks back to the ships, so you’re walking in an area that’s comfortable to walk on.

Once back near the port, I headed back to the ship and cooled down.

Favorite Island: St Thomas
Beach: St Thomas
Shopping: St Maarten

I will say that the ship did not hand out the border security claims form until after all three islands. When I was sailing, you didn’t have to claim any purchases as long as the total amount you purchased was under $1500. You did not have to claim any alcohol unless you had more the 1 liter per person, with a max of 4 liters total. Please check with current regulations if you have questions and for accurate information.

Part 2 on the Bahamas

St Thomas- the second island we visited

On the boat terminal we docked at, they had a small spread of shops and restaurants. So you don’t have to take a taxi anywhere, you can do your shopping and eating right outside the boat if you wanted to. We decided to go to Megan Beach, which has been listed as one of the top beaches in the world.

It was wonderful. The view was fantastic. They served alcohol on the beach (although most places due). And the water was warm and clear, the sand golden and the fish small and vast. One thing to keep in mind, this is a US territory island, which means you are required to pay to get on the park/beach. We weren’t told this until we had already arrived. So it was a bit of a surprise to have to pay the taxi for the ride there then also pay to get on the beach.

If you are not used to driving or being driven on small islands like this, keep in mind that the roads tended to be rough and constantly under construction. The cars have the steering wheels on either side, by that I mean some cars the steering wheel was on the right side and other times on the left, so it was interesting to see the drivers sitting on the wrong side but driving on the right. We did managed to make it to the beach in one piece and then later, to Blackbeard’s Castle.

We spent about 2 to 3 hours in the warm water before showering off (which was great!), changing and then catching a taxi to Blackbeard’s Castle. This is where the island has the Rum factory/tour. You pay $10 or $15 and an employee regales you with the dastardly deeds of Blackbeard, you can climb the ‘castle’ which is a watch tower, and get then a tour of the rum factory where at the end they offer you about a shot of each of their rum flavors (they have about 6). They also have a large pool and a small outside cabana.

I can say this, drink lots and lots of water. It is so easy to get dehydrated and heat fatigue especially if you continue the remaining portion of the tour (which is done by yourself) where you meander down the hill side, through several historical building and even a dinosaur exhibit! There was also an amber museum and a jewelry shop attached to the exhibit. This was included in the castle price.

I made the mistake of wearing a pair of healed flip flops and this trek just about killed my feet. It’s a steep decline the whole way, so make sure that you have a good sturdy pair of shoes or wear a pair that you are comfortable climbing in. We didn’t do any shopping on the main drag, but ended up wandering around the small tent shops before catching a taxi back to the docks shopping area.

I once again missed out on eating any of the local fair. My dad is really hyper sensitive and felt that he’d get food poisoning if he ate anything on any of the islands. So I snacked the whole time of fruit and small boxed cereal I had taken from the ship. As a side note, you can bring water bottles off the ship. So I just filled it up or purchased one on the way off the boat and was good the whole time (it was about half a gallon worth of water).

Back at the cruise docking bay, we searched for a post office as my mother wanted to send postcards, but unfortunately the one by the ships was closed. The only other post office was back in the city we had just left. So if you are planning on mailing any postcards, be sure to check where the post offices are before heading out for beaches and shopping. We went back to the ship after that to eat and cool down.

The Taxi was about $10 to get to the beach, then another $10 to get to the castle (it would have been the same price to go back to town or the boat), this price is per person. The castle was about $15 person, and the taxi from the market back to the boat was priced at $4 per person, no matter what company you chose to ride with. Since there were about 12 people in our group we did get a price break on the taxi back to the boat (the beach taxi’s are a set price) and paid $2 per person. This was after haggling.

A note on haggling for transportation. Saving a few dollars here and there on a taxi or transpiration, to me isn’t worth the time or effort. We spent 5 to 10 additional minutes trying to find a better deal which only save a person $2 at most. That being said, if you are paying for a large group, instead of individually, then you might want to try and haggle down the price because $2 a person isn’t a big deal but when it goes from $40 to $20 for a group of 10, it’s worth it.

The other thing to keep in mind is where you are spending your money. If you’re buying loads of drink, food or gambling on the ship where you are paying a great amount of additional money for those items, trying to save a few bucks on transpiration is a waste of your time, frugalness and effort.