Monthly Archives: September 2014

Agent Pendergast: Cold Vengence

The second in the trilogy about Agent Pendergast’s wife Helen, Cold Vengeance takes the reader on a whirlwind journey from the moors of Scotland to the humid bayous of Louisiana and the dregs of the interwebs. Fever Dream introduced us to the idea that Helen’s death was anything but an accident. Cold Vengeance starts to unravel the conspiracy in detail. With hints of genetic manipulation, secret societies, and a plan to take dominion of the human race the reader will be hanging on each word wanting for more.

Preston and Child take advantage of characters introduced in earlier books to thicken the plot. Corrie Swanson continues her independent investigations, even with Pendergast firmly telling her not to get involved. His own ward, Constance Greene, becomes a central figure in this chapter of the drama. Of course Lt. Vincent D’Agosta and Cpt. Laura Hayward continue their roles as Pendergast’s willing, and unwilling, partners in his quest for the truth.

I’ve always enjoyed reading mystery and suspense. Preston and Child seem to have a unique flair for both. I’ve read solo works from both authors and haven’t been disappointed yet. Between the two of them they add an element of almost the paranormal (sometimes without the “almost”) with the complications of the modern world. With characters from across the social and political divides, these two authors can capture the imagination and make you think about the implications of what some of those very same characters are willing to do to get to where they are or where they want to be in life. Some who have not read them may be familiar with the movie version of Relic, you have to read their books to truly appreciate what Relic brought to the screen.

From the official website of Preston & Child:

Nothing is what it seems…

Devastated by the discovery that his wife, Helen, was murdered, Special Agent Pendergast must have retribution. But revenge is not simple.

As he stalks his wife’s betrayers-a chase that takes him from the wild moors of Scotland to the bustling streets of New York City and the darkest bayous of Louisiana-he is also forced to dig further into Helen’s past. And he is stunned to learn that Helen may have been a collaborator in her own murder.

Peeling back the layers of deception, Pendergast realizes that the conspiracy is deeper, goes back generations, and is more monstrous than he could have ever imagined-and everything he’s believed, everything he’s trusted, everything he’s understood . . . may be a horrific lie.

Check back soon for my review of the third and final installment of the Helen trilogy – Two Graves.

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Get Tribal – God of Drum

51L8ophylxL._SL500_AA280_Every once in a while we get a truly epic CD for use on Murphy’s Magic Mess and the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel. God of Drum by Get Tribal is one of those!

God of Drum takes you different look at the chakras, showing the listener how to balance them through music inspired by thunder deities from around the world. Starting with the Root Chakra and the Native American thunder god Wakinyan and traveling through the spirals of these energy center to Indra, the India thunder god at the Spirit Chakra. Ten tracks of amazing drumming will certainly get the blood flowing and the Chakras spinning in an energetic and balanced fashion.

Track 1: Wakinyan, a Native American thunder deity. Channeling the energy of the root chakra to get your journey started. A Lakota deity, depicted as a feathered serpent. A representation of the snake of the kundalini.

Track 2: Loucetious, a Gaelic thunder deity. Igniting the fiery passions of the Sacral Chakra.

Track 3: Lei Shan, a Chinese thunder deity. Releasing the blockages of the Dantien  Chakra, located just below the naval, the source of the vital energy of life.

Track 4: Donnar, a Norse thundering god. This piece awakens the Solar Plexus, where intention meets passion and will.

Track 5: Taranis, a  Celtic thunder deity, sometimes equated with Jupiter. The Heart Chakra is where this one resides, healing the strings of the heart with both drum and flute.

Track 6: Xango, an African thunder god, also known as Chango. It is through the Throat Chakra that we reveal ourselves to the world, through words and vibration. Through chant and drum, this piece polishes the mirror through which we reflect the world.

Track 7: Adad, a Babylonian thunder deity. Adad opens the Brow Chakra or the Third Eye. Opening us to the awareness of that which is seen and unseen.

Track 8: Teshub, a thunder god from Anatolia. Teshub dwells in the Crown Chakra where kundalini rises to Shakti and marries Shiva – realizing our boundaries and over coming them. East meets West in this piece.

Track 9: Chaac, this Mayan deity of thunder represents the Soul Star Chakra. This energy spiral helps us to see the truth of our life’s traumas – past and present, from the perspective of the soul.

Track 10: Indra, the Indian god of thunder brings us to the Spirit Chakra. It is through the spirit that we see all that is, was, and ever shall be. Indra’s energy brings us that awareness through the chant of “Om”, the universal sound of shanti.

Whether your use the Chakras as a means to bring balance and inspiration to your life or you just enjoy some good drumming music, God of Drum will definitely find a home in your music collection. At the Mess we have been playing tracks since its arrival in our collection late 2013.

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Agent Pendergast: Fever Dream

Click to find links to purchase the book online, multiple internet retailers available.

Preston & Child’s 10th Special Agent Pendergast novel, Fever Dream, is the first of a trilogy about the agent’s long-lost wife, Helen, who was slain by a lion while they were on safari in Africa.

Special Agent Aloysius X. L. Pendergast became a hit with movie goers after the novel Relic was made into a major motion picture. That was my first exposure to the character and to the authors. Since then I’ve been reading their books as I get the time. The 10th installment in Pendergast’s saga is no disappointment.

From the authors’ website: “At the old family manse in Louisiana, Special Agent Pendergast is putting to rest long-ignored possessions reminiscent of his wife Helen’s tragic death, only to make a stunning-and dreadful-discovery.

“Helen had been mauled by an unusually large and vicious lion while they were big game hunting in Africa. But now, Pendergast learns that her rifle-her only protection from the beast-had been deliberately loaded with blanks. Who could have wanted Helen dead…and why?

“With Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta’s assistance, Pendergast embarks on a quest to uncover the mystery of his wife’s murder. It is a journey that sends him deep into her past, where he learns much that Helen herself had wished to keep hidden.

“Helen Pendergast had nursed a secret obsession with the famed naturalist-painter John James Audubon, in particular a long-lost painting of his known as the Black Frame.

As Pendergast probes more deeply into the riddle-the answer to which is revealed in a night of shocking violence, deep in the Louisiana bayou-he finds himself faced with an even greater question: who was the woman he married?”

Whether the reader has seen Relic or read any of the other Pendergast novels, this stand alone trilogy will grip fans off suspense, thriller, and mystery alike. Pendergast seems to be an anachronism in the FBI, let alone in modern society. Fond of dark suits, paired with his pale skin, he looks to be either an undertaker or an eccentric Southern gentleman. This impression is furthered by his preference for driving his classic Rolls Royce. His unique psyche and understanding of the criminal  mind leaves the impression that he himself might be a sociopath. His obsession for detail and penchant for eliminating his perps rather than bringing them to justice just might make him a psychopath with an FBI badge and gun.

Fever Dream, taken as it is, reads well enough. Preston and Child give enough background on their characters to make it easy for a new reader to follow along without wondering where this little tidbit or that hint of something from another case came from. The book also brings in that element of love that is often missing from hard crime novels. Pendergast loved his wife, and still does, but he’s learning as the story unfolds that the woman he loved and the woman Helen was might not be the same person. With hints of psychodrama (and mental illness) threaded through the story, fans of psychological thrillers just might find the trilogy worth picking up. Audubon being at the center of the investigation and the mystery of who Helen was will be of interest to the Naturist and the art lover. Elements of medical mystery combines with other twists and turns definitely kept this reader flipping pages to get to the end.

And of course I am already reading book two in the Helen trilogy of the Pendergast series with book three sitting on my to-be-read shelf.

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Cernunnos Rising – Urban Druid

NEW 2013 Album - Urban DruidThe second offering from Cernunnos Rising, Urban Druid, is an inspired collection of original songs from the mind of artist, musician, and activist George Nicholas. With a cast of guest musicians playing on the CD, Urban Druid brings us a more rock feel to the musical styling of the collaborative work known as Cernunnos Rising. The first CD, Wild Soul, was more folksy with a traditional Pagan feel. This second release brings that Pagan feel to a more “pop” sound, without losing the voice that brings us to the Druid context of each song.

Combing the philosophies of Druidic beliefs with the political activism that many modern day Pagans are involved in, Urban Druid takes us from the city to the country side and back with tracks like “The Witches Tree” and “Beyond Us is the Cost”, and of course the title track. “Wise Old Yew” reminds us that the lore of the trees is important even in today’s modern and hectic times. “King of the Forest” tells us how Herne, or Cernunnos, is among us even while many of us dwell in cities.

As Druids often honor the trees in their practices, we learn a bit of lore as we listen to this collection of songs. Like with Wild Soul, we hear some of the lore of the “Hawthorn” and the Yew. And as hinted, with “Beyond Us is the Cost” we are reminded once again, as with “Green Man (Last Tree Falling)”, just how important the environment is to George and to many Druids and Pagans. This seems to be a recurring theme with the music from Cernunnos Rising, one that I am please to hear and to share.

On the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel we’ve had the pleasure to speak with George Nicholas about both these albums. You can hear our conversation about Wild Soul here and our more recent talk about Urban Druid here.

The summer of 2014 saw the release of two singles, and videos, from Cernunnos Rising. Both of which are environmental activist pieces.  “Crying for the Honey Bee” talks about the plight of the disappearing honey bee and how the loss of such a wonderful insect could (and will) have dire consequences for mankind. “The Folly of Fracking” is about the oil companies desire to drill and force water into oil shale, often below the level of ground water, and how it has an adverse effect on drinking water, wildlife, and even the lives of humans. See below for those videos.

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Vampire Academy #4: Blood Promise

Thanks to one of my customers at the bills-paying-job, I’ve been reading Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Earlier this summer I did a triple mini review of the first three novels and gave my impressions of the film adaptation of the first book.

In this fourth installment of the saga we find Rose in Russia trying to find the family of her Dhampir lover turned Strigoi. Wanting to bring closure to them before hunting him down to fulfill the promise she made to him before he was turned in an attack of St. Vladimir’s Academy in the end of book three.

Rose has abandoned her life as a guardian and her life-long friend Lissa, last of the Dragomir royal line. Obsessed with ending the dark fate of her mentor/lover Dimitri, she finds herself hunting Strigoi to track him down. She’s become viciously proficient in slaying the monsters of the vampire world, but she’s uneducated in how to go about disposing of the remains. She stumbles upon a human who knows all about the Moroi, the Strigoi, and the Dhampir. A young woman with a strange alchemical mark and access to magical powers Rose can only dream of.

This human guides her to the home of Dimitri’s family, reluctantly, and apparently abandons her to her fate in the small  Russian town. With Dimitri’s family she finds a sense of home and gets distracted from her quest. Thinking that perhaps she can live there and love Dimitri through loving his mother and sisters, Rose grows quietly comfortable. That is until she encounters a strange Moroi called the Snake. Assuming that he’s been employed by her old classmates and friends in America to bring her home she resists his overtures. After discovering that one of Dimitri’s sisters has become a blood whore and attempting to set her straight, she flees to the city and returns to her killing of Strigoi with the help of other rogue Dhampir.

Then she does find Dimitri and the story takes a darkly romantic twist – fulfilling the requirements of paranormal romance.

I’ll leave it there, don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t read the book.

Mead’s style is somewhat formulaic, but the emotions of the characters can be felt through her writing. This book will only make sense if you’ve read the first three.

An aside, I’m still confused as to why so many of the vampire-centered paranormal romance novels seem to have underage heroines and mature heroes. We see this with The Vampire Diaries and many other such series.

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Bones of the Lost, Kathy Reichs

I’m playing a little catch up with my Temperance Brennan reading. Kathy Reichs’ forensic anthropologist turned crime solver grabbed my attention because off the TV series based on the books. Though the two Tempes are different in many ways, they both captured my imagination.

In Bones of the Lost, Dr. Brennan gets caught up in the sad homicide of an undocumented teenage immigrant, the examination of mummified dog remains from South America, and the criminal investigation of a military shooting incident in Afghanistan. Three seemingly unrelated cases. The first a case with the Charlotte, NC medical examiners office, the second a courtesy to US Customs, and the third a “drafting” by Military Intelligence. As she proceeds with her unconnected investigations it grows increasingly clear that at least two of these cases may be connected.

From the slums and seedy underbelly of Charlotte to the war torn villages of Afghanistan, our heroine tries to solve these mysteries while battling fatigue, emotional issues over her ex-husband getting remarried, the distance – both geographically and emotionally – of her only daughter, and the resistance of both local police and US Customs to make the investigation of the teenager’s death a priority. In typical Reichs fashion, the reader is sucked into the parallel investigations and sees through Brennan’s eyes how heartbreaking and terrifying it can be to jump deep into the criminal mind and try to understand the PTSD effects of an on-duty shooting death in the Army.

Fans of the books will not be disappointed, first time readers (familiar with the TV series) might find the written stories of their favorite forensic anthropologist much different from the one on the small screen. Either way, the book is captivating and current to today’s world. Reichs often takes story ideas from her own professional experience as a forensics anthropologist and from the news. In this novel she addresses child trafficking, PTSD, and the illegal import of archaeological artifacts from around the world. Viewers of the TV series will note that even on the TV screen, Tempe attempts to tackle such intense issues.

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Along the Wheel of Time by Judith Laxer

It is not very often that a publisher or an author reaches out to me personally to read a book for review. Sure, there are publishers who send me books all the time, but rarely do I get personal emails prior to receiving the book. The marketing manager for BookTrope‘s Along the Wheel of Time project did contact me in advance of the book going to press on 5 June 2014. It took me a little while to get around to reading the book, though. I have to admit that I neglected reading it until shortly before my opportunity to interview the author, Rev. Judith Laxer.

You can listen to that interview to learn about the author.

Review: Along the Wheel of Time: Sacred Stories for Nature Lovers is a collection of eight short stories that journeys around the wheel of the year starting with Samhain and continuing through Mabon. Laxer hopes that many readers will “read the story for the each Sabbat year after year.” The book can be read straight through or by starting with the story that relates to the Sabbat closest to you on the calendar. There are no dates listed for the Sabbats, just a feel for each time of year. That said, there is a brief description of each of the Sabbats at the beginning of the story’s section for those who may not be of a Paggan or Earth-spiritual path. Written in such a way, it doesn’t matter which side of the Equator you live on, the stories can be read as appropriate to your situation.

We start out with Samhain, where a young woman follows her lover and finds her calling. Yule gives us two stories in one: A young couple having their first child and a local coven celebrating the Winter Solstice. Six more stories, all unique to Laxer’s style and experience follow. Each one will bring the reader a bit closer to Nature and to Spirit. Suitable for Pagans, New Age believers, and even Christians and atheists, this collection of original short stories just might help shed some light on at least one woman’s view of the Wheel of Time.

The writing process of these stories is unique and Laxer explains it in some detail in her interview. Many of these stories take inspiration for Laxer’s own life and from the stories she has been told over the years by friends and family.

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