AN ILLUSION OF THIEVES by CATE GLASS – Marilyn Armstrong

This is a world where magic has been banned. Anyone displaying signs of ability to perform it is drowned, murdered … or worse (yes, there IS worse). Amidst the terror, a group of secret magic users discovers one another. Collectively, they have the talent to do amazing things, though the law forbids it. If they are caught, they will die and likely their entire family with them.



Unlike the author’s earlier writings, this series promises to be ongoing. Somewhat emotionally less intense, it is nonetheless breathtaking in its complexity and originality. Beautifully written. I consumed the book in two long evenings. Give me a week and I probably read it again. Carol Berg, all of whose books I have read as hard copies or on Kindle is — in my opinion — a very underrated fantasy author. She creates characters who, by happenstance, bad luck, politics or some bizarre law, have been beaten down to near nothingness, yet survive, find their power and are greater than before. You cannot steal or crush their greatness.

She hadn’t written anything in a few years and I have been hoping she would emerge with a new set of stories. She has.

Under the new name of Cate Glass, “An Illusion of Thieves” has the feeling of a (hopefully!) long series. A bit more upbeat than earlier works, the story is exciting and highly complex. For the entire book, it’s as if these folks are tiptoeing through a vast minefield where even a minor misstep would mean destruction for all. How many secret magickers live under the constant threat of terror of death and ruin? We can only guess, but I’m sure there are many and laws notwithstanding, many other secret practitioners exist on all levels of society.

If you have not read any other of Carol Berg’s books … well … given the state of our world, could there be a better time to start? She is a wonderful author and I highly recommend all of her books to anyone who enjoys these kinds of stories.

These days — since my eyes are not quite what they were — I prefer audiobooks. I listened to this the day after it was released. All of her previous books I read first in print, either on Kindle or as a hard copy … and later as audiobooks.

Carol Berg’s (Cate Glass) books are not like other fantasy novels. Her characters are not typical fantasy characters. Her stories aren’t long quests to save the world from a dark lord or prince. They are profoundly personal, deep, and sometimes, heartbreaking … yet good in the end, great events. You’ll meet dragons, lords, prisoners, sorcerers and many more. If you’ve been looking for something new — Cate Glass’s new book is a fine start, after which, you can joyfully dig into Carol Berg’s earlier series.

You will not be disappointed.

NOTE: As part two of this prompt — which is prompting me to review this book which I meant to do before now! — I’m including another review of a book by the same author. The secret word is DRAGONS.

RDP Friday: PROMPT – Part 1

SONG OF THE BEAST By CAROL BERG – Marilyn Armstsrong

“Song of the Beast” is available on Kindle and Audible.com.

Song of the Beast | [Carol Berg]After years of waiting, the book finally came available as an Audiobook. Since I have the book on Kindle, Audible.com let me buy the audiobook for just $4.49 I was delighted. A steal!

Narrated by Claire Christie and Jeremy Arthur, I was reminded again at how much more I get from an audiobook than from print. I think it’s because I read so fast. When I listen, the pace is that of human speech, perhaps slightly slower than standard talk. I absorb more of the story and I give my aging eyes a well-earned rest.

The dual narration works well. Aiden and Lara having their own voices and perspectives.

Song of the Beast is a standalone book. I wish it were a series. I have it on good authority that another story (short story — not an entire book) will be coming out based in the same world, though not featuring the same characters. I would prefer more books, but I will settle for whatever I can get. If Carol Berg writes it, I will read it. I think she’s brilliant and not nearly as well-appreciated as she deserves.

I came to love her fabulous dragons.

I found the story’s characters well-drawn and three-dimensional. Many relationships are between different species because, unlike her other books, not all characters are human. The relationships are logical extensions of the cultures from which they come. The slightly abrasive relationships between different peoples are fundamental.

The main character — Aidan McAllister has been imprisoned and tortured. His beautiful voice has been silenced, his hands brutally destroyed. His music, which offered solace and hopes to war-torn Elyria, is gone. The god in whom he never lost faith and nurtured him and his music since he was a child seems to have abandoned him.

Yet no one has yet told him what his crime was. He has no idea what earned him such punishment. He has emerged from prison a broken man, battered beyond endurance, wanting nothing more than peace and safety … and the end of pain. Having lost himself, he must find his way back to himself, remember who he was because that’s the key to what happened to him, what is happening to the world and the dragons. There is, of course, a beautiful woman.

Through it all, Aiden remains a gentle soul in a cruel world, a man to whom violence is abhorrent no matter what was done to him. He’s neither vengeful nor mean-spirited. Music is his magic.

I wish there were a sequel to this book. I wanted to know what happened next, how this society evolves. The book left me with lots of questions. It isn’t a cliff hanger — not exactly — but it didn’t seem quite finished to me. There’s plenty of room for more stories as this world realigns and reconstructs itself in the wake of a new understanding of dragons.

I liked the book so much I was sorry it ended. I never want any of Carol Berg’s books to end.

Song of the Dragon is available via Audible download, on Kindle, and as a paperback. It was originally available in hardcover and I have that, too. Next up, Rai Kirah in audio! I have the first volume and this month will get another.

Please don’t miss part one of this prompt, Cate Glass’s (Carol Berg) “Illusion of Thieves.”

RDP Friday: PROMPT – Part 2

MODERN CAPITALISM AND CORPORATE CORRUPTION IN ONE MEME – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t usually publish stuff I find on Facebook, but there’s an exception to every rule. This made me laugh and I really need a laugh. It didn’t get to me until I got to Canadian Capitalism. Then, I lost it.

WARNING: This is a meme, not reality. Don’t go there. Just don’t.

capitolism-explained

DOES IT GET MORE HUMDRUM THAN THIS? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Humdrum

All photography Garry Armstrong

Today is another doctor visit, the follow-up to the follow-up of the tests which were the follow-up to the original meeting — and all the other tests. None of which have provided any significant information. But she is the best-looking neurologist Garry has ever met and he would be terribly disappointed to miss this appointment.

Main Street, Uxbridge
The Uxbridge crossroad where Route 16 dis-angularly crosses Main Street. Note the single traffic light.

You know how the doctors on television shows have these smashingly gorgeous physicians? She is one of them. Ready for television now — without extra makeup.

It’s probably worth the $40 copay to watch Garry enjoy the view.

Our brand spanking new crossing sign! Isn’t this exciting? It’s educational. Of course, if you stop to read it, you’ll miss your crossing. Not to worry. There’s not very much traffic anyway.

But this isn’t about our humdrum doctor’s visit. No, this is about the overwrought traffic sign we have in the middle of Uxbridge.

Downtown – the center of the excitement!
Route 16 heading for Main Stree, past the dam and the cemetery.

Remember that we are a one road town. Two lanes, one in each direction. There is a crossroad, though the two ends of it are about a block apart. I’m sure someone knows why, but I am not one of them.

Recently, the decision was made that what we really need to spruce up little old Uxbridge was an especially complicated pedestrian crossing sign. It’s so long, I doubt anyone has read it except us because Garry took a picture of it. This morning, looking at the picture of it again, I wondered where the town got it and how much it cost.

So if you need one of your own, this is where you can buy it. It’s less than $20, plus shipping and you have to find somewhere to nail it up. I notice this is considered an “educational” traffic sign. Will it improve our children’s reading scores?

It took me four different traffic sign companies before I found it, but I did. I am relentless in the pursuit of trivia. If that isn’t humdrum, I just don’t know what is.

It was not even expensive, so I still don’t know what they do with our tax money, other than repaving the same section of Main Street every year for the past 19 years. Maybe it’s trying to figure out what’s wrong with the town water.

THE FIRE TRUCK WHO SERVED AND GOT SAVED – Marilyn Armstrong

Old Number 2 was one of the long-serving fire trucks in our town. Almost 20 years ago, she was replaced, but no one could bear to scrap her, so she was put out to pasture … literally.

Her rusting hulk stood for years in the empty field across from the post office — where she remained until they decided she was too rusty, old, potentially dangerous and needed to be scrapped — at which point she was adopted.



OLD NUMBER TWO FIRE ENGINE

Undergoing rehab! Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

WHEN DO I LOOK LIKE ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Considering one thing and another, I have always been sure I could not possibly be related to the people who raised me. I suspect everyone, especially as a child, is sure they are a misplaced orphan. Sadly, there was always one problem from which I could never escape.

I look just like them. Both of them. They didn’t look alike, so how could this be?

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Apparently, you change as you age. So you can look exactly like dad when you’re three, but exactly like mom when you’re sixty. Periodically, depending on how the genetic package rolls, you can resemble one or the other — or both  — at any given point in time.

I used to look like my father, but I got older. Now, look like my mother.

I wonder if I’ll ever look like me? Whatever that means.

I know nothing about what brought me into the world any more than I know what will take me out. Probably, that’s just as well. I think I lack curiosity about my fate which others apparently have a strong need to know. I never felt any serious desire to research my ancestry or get my DNA checked. When I did it, it was a fun birthday present for Garry and I.

What was, is. What will be, will occur. I’m not in charge and never was. I am okay enjoying as much of the now as I can while I’m still part of it.

Yet, every now and then, I wonder if it’s possible I was actually put here by a transiting starcraft. An intergalactic seed dropped from the sky that somehow, wound up in this world. In this peculiar place. A bit of pollen falling from a drifting craft on its way to somewhere in an infinite beyond.

It could be true.

WAR GAMES – A REBLOG BY JUDY DYKSTRA-BROWN

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

photo with permission by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

War Games

I’m not an island hopper, even in time of war.
Didn’t your mother tell you that’s what a basement’s for?
Wherever you may wander, wherever you may roam,
the best place to dodge missiles is right there in your home.

So reinforce your bunkers, store up delicious rations
so you can withstand war games of the leaders of our nations.
Naughty little spoiled boys who cannot learn to share
will not heed entreaties of those of us who care.

Even our democracy is ruled by a throne.
He gnaws away at joints of beef and throws us all a bone.
With no other agenda than playing at his game,
he does not know the difference between infamy and fame.

So build up your defenses. Reinforce your door,
for he and his rich cronies would profit from a war.
And all…

View original post 56 more words

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #25

It’s existential question time for some of us, not so existential for the rest of us. Because the question is:

So today’s provocative question is all about the before and after:

“Where do you believe you were you before you were born and what do you believe will happen to you after you die?”

For me, it’s pretty simple. Before I existed, before I was born, I wasn’t anything. After I die, I’ll be gone. Dust to dust.

What will happen? Damned if I know. Maybe something, probably nothing. Will “my soul” become a new soul in a new body? Karma? Oh please, be kind. This life has been rough enough and I have no urge to do anything like this again.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – As close to heaven as I can imagine.

So the answer is “maybe, or maybe not.” I don’t know. Because there are a million theories around. Some of them are charming, some not so charming — but none of them can be proved. If there is a God, he hasn’t dropped by to discuss the matter with any of his billions of adherents and definitely not with me.

Regardless of dogma, if he or one of the many adherents have conversed with any of us, none of them have dropped by to reopen the conversation. It’s the same mystery it always was.

If there is some kind of heaven, I’d like to assume that all good people will be there, regardless of what (or nothing) that they believed before their passing. If there’s nothing afterward? Then we will all go into that great nothingness. Finally, at long last, there will be full equality for everyone.

Heaven is what you make of it.

I personally would love to believe in a beautiful afterlife, so I leave open the option that there may be one, even if I don’t know anything about it. For the hedge-bettors amongst us, you can always be religious now and if it works out to be true, you’re a winner. If it doesn’t, you’re no worse off than you’d have been anyway. Some would consider that a win-win.

As for me, I will just live as I have lived, deal with life as it comes, hope that whatever happens after we die is at least peaceful — and finally, there won’t be any more bills to pay.

#FPQ

HOW GO YOUR YEARS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was in college, two of the women with whom I became friends were suicides. Neither of them was happy, but I would never have guessed either of them was suicidal.

One of them was just 19 when she killed herself. The other was 21.

For this reason, I have never assumed “everything is fine” for anyone. Even when you ask, you will only know what you are told and that is rarely the entire truth. People are secretive about their deepest fears and thoughts.

“How are you?”

“Everything is fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“No, really. I’m fine.”

How many times can you ask before you realize you aren’t going to discover more? When people mention that aging makes them “think about mortality” I realize I began thinking about mortality when Karin died and then again when Anna jumped. Also when a young couple, just married, crashed their car into a truck and died on the highway.

Yet again, when my first husband got kidney cancer at 34 and lived, but still died young of heart disease and medical errors. Then my brother died of pancreatic cancer at 61. One of Garry’s colleagues — in her early 40s — died while waiting for a bus in Cambridge. When my first husband’s father died of his second heart attack at 52, I was pregnant and sorry he never met his grandson. For that matter, Jeff died at 53 and never met his granddaughter.

I knew a young person who died of a heart attack before age 21. Another internet friend, Rosa, died last year of a heart attack. I only found out when her mother called to tell me. She wasn’t yet 35.

And of course, there are all the friends our age who are battling cancer, dementia, heart conditions, not to mention the ones who have “beaten” cancer, but of course, you never really beat cancer. You are remitted and that will have to do.

When people complain about not being as active as they were when they were many years younger, I think they are missing the point. Age or disease can do you in at any point in your life. You don’t have to get old. You can be 21, an athlete, and collapse on the court.

The Dark Lord will have his way. When and how it hits you is partly how you used your body and your DNA. Depending on your constitution, your ability to walk, run, ride, or whatever you do may be compromised. Even eliminated.

Then again, are you breathing on your own? Do you get out of bed in the morning, even if it is a struggle? Do you find joy in your life? Do you laugh? Are there people you love who also love you? Is life interesting? Are you still curious to know what’s going to happen?

If any of these things are true, yay for you. You are alive.

Mortality is always with us, whether we are old or young. We may not be paying attention to it, or we may be under some delusion that we are exempt from “the end” because we exercise and eat right. But there will be an end.

Maybe, as Jeff used it say, it’ll be a runaway beer truck. Or something unexpectedly medical. It may be tomorrow or in 60 years. Whatever time you have, be gracious and grateful. Many people don’t get a life full of years. Others get the years and manage to be miserable anyway.

Enjoy your years, however many you have. And while you are at it, be nice to the people you know and especially those who love you and who you love. Kindness is the least expensive and most valuable gift we have to give.

THE STUPID IS STRONG IN THIS COUNTRY – By TOM CURLEY

One of the iconic scenes in the movie Star Wars, the first one. Episode 4. “A New Hope” is where Obi-Wan Kanobi is taking Luke Skywalker and his two droids R2D2 and C3PO into town and they are stopped by two Stormtroopers looking for those very two droids. Obi-Wan simply waves his hand and says “these are not the droids you are looking for. You can move along.” And  the Storm Trooper looks at him and says “these are not the droids we are looking for, you can move along.”

Obi-Wan then explains to Luke that it was a “Jedi Mind Trick.” But it only works on the weak and feeble minded. In other words, it only works on stupid people.

That means that the Jedi Mind Trick will work on Americans really well because this country has an absolutely amazing number of mind-numbingly stupid people. I bring this up because I read a result from a poll last week that said (and I am not making this up) that 56% of Americans believe that we should not teach or use Arabic numerals.

Let that sink in for a moment. 56% of the American public doesn’t know that 123456789 are Arabic numerals!!! That’s serious Storm  Trooper stupid.

Here’s some other “facts.”

      • “Only two out of five of us can identify the three branches of government;
      • Less than half of us know which nation dropped the atomic bomb;
      • Only one-third of us know that the Congress, not the President, declares war;
      • Only 30% of us know that members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and only 25% of us know that Senators serve six-year terms;
      • Most Americans continue to believe that the 9/11 terrorists came from poverty or were neglected as children despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary;
      • A generation ago presidential speeches were pitched at the level of twelfth graders. Today they are pitched at the level of seventh graders;
      • Even after the 9/11 Commission had stated publicly that Saddam Hussein had provided no support to Al Qaeda, a poll showed that half the population still insisted that he had;
      • Only 25% of us can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment but more than 50% of us can name two members of the Simpson family.

These revelations and many others come from Rick Shenkman, an Emmy Award-winning reporter and historian, in his new book entitled Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter. The vaunted wisdom of the American people, Shenkman says, is a myth. When it comes to government and politics, we are ignoramuses: ill-informed, apathetic, and easily manipulated.”

Think about it. The Attorney General of the United States took Robert Mueller’s 400 plus page report that he didn’t even bother to read and just told the American public, “There’s nothing to see here, these aren’t the droids you are looking for. Move along.”

Almost half the country actually believes it! One Republican Congressman, ONE — actually read the report. And what did he do after he read it? He said that the President needs to be impeached! Because he broke the law!

“These are the Droids you are looking for! Arrest them!”

And then there’s Florida. America’s Dick. America’s big dumb dick. As any male knows, even if he won’t admit it, that when there is a competition between the “big brain” and the “little brain” the “little brain” always wins. For “Florida Man” (yes that’s a real thing, Google it) there is no competition.

Here’s a quick sample. All of the following are real and true:

“Florida Man attacked during selfie with a squirrel.

“Florida Man wearing tee-shirt that says ‘Who Needs Drugs? No seriously, I have drugs” is arrested for drug possession.”

“Florida Man charged with assault with a deadly weapon after throwing alligator through a Wendy’s Drive-in window.”

See? I’m not kidding. These are all real.

“Florida cop claims Burger King put dirt in his food – investigation reveals it was seasoning.”

“Thousands of gun owners in Florida planning to ‘shoot down’ Hurricane Irma.”

“Florida Man tries to rob a Game-Stop while wearing a transparent bag on his head.”

Finally, “Florida Man who tried to ‘run’ to Bermuda in inflatable bubble rescued by Coast Guard, AGAIN.”

And then there’s the number one, all-time greatest, bestest, bigly-brained Florida Man of them all.

We could really use Obi-Wan right about now.

Not the end.

JONI MITCHELL – THE CIRCLE GAME – Marilyn Armstrong

If you think time seems to be speeding rapidly and ever more rapidly, this is your song. It is definitely mine.
THE CIRCLE GAME – Joni Mitchell

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you’re older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Songwriters: Joni Mitchell

FOOTSES AND LEGSES – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Feet and/or Legs

Feet and legs. Okay. Got that. Let me see what in my archives I can find and post. It’s always a bit of a gamble, but I’ll do my best!

Gotta love the feet and legs!
I’m walking here …
Photo: Garry Armstrong – That horse has attitude!
Just rolling!
Thinking of a warm barn?
The Duke
Gibbs’ feet
Garry’s and the Duke’s feet and legs
Lots of legs