Review: Mask of the Highwaywoman by Niamh Murphy



Title: Mask of the Highwaywoman

Author: Niamh Murphy

Genre: LGBT, romance, historical, adventure

Rating: ★★★★★


My first book review, and I’m starting with lesbian romance. Seems about right. Mask of the Highwaywoman by Niamh Murphy is about a young woman named Evelyn, who is traveling to Cambridge to visit with an old friend. Taking a stage-coach, she is stopped by a masked highwaywoman and her gang, and this initial encounter sets the stage for a life-changing adventure and the chance for romance. This quick read turned out to be one of the best lesbian romances I’ve read in a while.

First off, I loved the characters. Evelyn is very much the type of female character that I adore, bold and questions things around her. I love that she isn’t content with the high society life she was born into, but shows genuine fear when she’s taken out of it. I find it very realistic. Then, with Bess the Highwaywoman, I loved that she seems like this fierce outlaw, but turns out to have a soft core. I liked her back story, and the small twists and turns regarding her. And of course, I loved these two as a couple. Sometimes, the one problem I run into when reading lesbian romance, is that the couples have no chemistry and I feel absolutely nothing for them. It’s a downer when it comes to reading a genre you love, but here, I felt it. Bess and Evelyn have plenty of chemistry and I loved the little ups and downs regarding their relationship. The scene in the barn was perfect.

I also loved the fact that this was historical. I love historical fiction, and I loved the setting for this one. This portrayal of rural England during the seventeen hundreds had a lot of charm and character, everything green and an apparent love of nature shined through. I wanted to walk around and see every little detail. Then another good aspect of the book is the fact that while indeed it is a romance, it also had a good adventure plot, with a good mixture of crime to it, I loved it.  I’ve read too many times in lesbian romance novels where the couple gets together quite easily, and it becomes nothing but a series of repetitious scenes of the couple canoodling. It’s cute for a while, but it becomes like gum once you’ve chewed it for a long time, lacking of flavor and dull. I like a little more substance. The adventure aspect was fun to read, and the chase scenes within the book has a lot of tension to them. The ending was perfectly paced as well.

As for any negatives, I would have liked for this book to be a bit longer. True, with the nature of the story, it would have to be fast paced, but I wanted to read more. Other than that, I would say I enjoyed myself and it’s just a fun little read. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Buy Mask of the Highwaywoman at Amazon.


How the Trump Administration May Actually Kill Me

I think it’s safe to say, that in the first one hundred days of this administration, nothing good has come of it. Tensions with other countries have risen, the Muslim/Travel ban, the immigration problem, hate crimes have surged, regulations regarding the environment have been rolled back, jobs have been lost, workplace advancements for women have been scaled back, Planned Parenthood has taken a hit, our education system is in the toilet, Neil Gorsuch is on the bench, and basic programs such as Meals on Wheels, the National Endowment for the Arts, and libraries may be on the chopping block if Trump gets his way regarding his budget plans. Not to mention, all the lying, the stuff with Russia and Trump’s weekly getaways to Mar-a-Lago, it’s been a devastating train wreck that won’t get any better from here. I believe we’re only seeing the beginnings of a catastrophic presidency that may leave a nasty, lingering mark on the national landscape.

There are so many things that are wrong, and I worry about it, just like many sane Americans in this country, dealing with this regime. So much of this saddens and upsets me, but there is one issue that angers me. What Trump and the Republicans want to do with health care. They talk often about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but what they really want to do, is to get rid of health care in general. They want to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid, and put all the power in the hands of insurance companies. By doing this, they are signing death warrants for many people across the country, and prolonging suffering for those that are ill. Trump ran his campaign on the slogan of “make America great again,” but with health care, all he’ll do is make America sick again.

As for me, it’s one of the issues that really hits home the hardest, personally.  Last year, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, or uterine cancer. I had a hysterectomy, went through radiation treatments. My prognosis is good, but I am in a really strange place right now in terms of dealing with cancer. Yes, the hysterectomy and radiation did help me a lot, I can not yet call myself a cancer survivor. With surviving cancer, it takes five years without any recurring incidents. If I make it to thirty-seven and nothing happens before then, then I am a cancer survivor. Right now, it almost been a year since I was first diagnosed. So far, so good, but what happens if I don’t make it to thirty-seven without an incident? I need to be carefully monitored by doctors to make sure that I get that status of surviving cancer, and if my Medicaid is taken from me, then my journey to being cancer free becomes even more perilous and possibly, I might not even make it. Without health care, my cancer can come back on me, and without any help, I may be dead by thirty-five, and I’m not exactly ready to pass on from this life to the next.

Even before being diagnosed with cancer, I dealt with illness. I have what is believed to be Fibromyalgia, which causes me to be in pain, day in and day out. Doing something like a grocery shopping trip can be a painful, stressful affair that takes a lot out of me, and I don’t work because of it. I suffer from mental illness as well. I have severe depression, anxiety, paranoia, PTSD, and who knows what else. And, I do have dental problems, very bad dental problems. I need surgical help with my remaining teeth. Before the Affordable Care Act, I coped as best as I could, going to my neighborhood clinic (which isn’t worth a damn) and get what medicines I could from St. Vincent de Paul (which denied me birth control pills, due to it being a Catholic institution, birth control pills that could help regulate my periods and might have prevented the cancer I now deal with). I managed pain with store-bought ibuprofen. And as for mental health… I coped as best as I could. I When I finally got Medicaid due to the Affordable Care Act, I felt like I was handed a miracle. I went to an actual doctor. I got help with some of my problems. I still have a lot to do, but I was at least given a chance to take those steps.

One other way the Affordable Care Act saved my life came about last year, in October. Though my hysterectomy was behind me, I developed acute appendicitis, and needed to have my appendix removed. If I hadn’t had Medicaid, I would have died (same goes for January 2016, when I needed a blood transfusion because of losing so much blood due to my undetected cancer). The Affordable Care Act has been such a keystone in surviving the last two years.

If this goes away, if health care goes back into the hands of insurance companies and the wealthy, then I really have no idea what I will do. I have so much wrong with me, and I hate to see the outcome of it. Will cancer take me? Will my mental health be so poor that I snap? Will my pain be worse, and have no way to take care of it? These questions haunt me any time that health care is brought up in Washington. Instead of repealing and replacing it, fix what needs to be fixed and move on. But, no, in their eyes, people like me deserve to die, just because I’m “some liberal slacker asking for a hand-out” and not in the one-percent tax bracket.

But also what makes me angry about all of this, goes beyond myself. I also think about other people and their lives being at stake because of this. I think about my mother, who is going to be turning sixty this year. She has worked hard every day of her life, and she is getting older, and she does need medical help to live out the last quarter of her life to the fullest. I think about my sister. She suffers from various medical problems as well, and I want to see her get the chance to get well and start her life out right. Besides family, my thoughts always go back to the Cancer Care Center I go to for treatment. I think about those people there, and how they’ve stayed with me. If we lose health care, what will happen to some of the patients? What will happen to the kindly Vietnam vet I used to talk to, while we were both waiting for radiation treatment? Or to the red-headed grandmother that used the same type of transportation I used to get back and forth to treatments? What will happen to this beautiful woman who I met there, she was doing radiation and chemotherapy at the same time, and I never knew her name, but she was such a vibrant, beautiful woman. She might have been bald from the chemo and frail, but she had the most serene smile on her face, humming to herself and swaying back and forth to the tune of her humming. I think about the doctors, nurses and therapists up there, and what it might mean for their jobs. I think about the transportation I used, and a lot of the drivers working for that service got those jobs due to the Affordable Care Act, and are taking care of their grandchildren and themselves on that money. It spreads beyond that as well. So many lives impacted, and possibly lost because of this.

It sickens me that we’re living in the United States of America, and it’s been shoved down our throats since we were young that America is “the greatest country in the world,” and yet, we can’t give our citizens universal healthcare. Canada, Japan, Australia, most of Europe and some countries in South America, and the Middle East have universal health care, and have had it for years. I think we can learn a lot from our global neighbors.

For now though, all we can do is wait, watch, and hopefully live another day.


Nature of the Beast

I love poetry. I love to read it, and I love to write it, although poetry is not my main thing as a writer. I can talk for hours about my love of Rumi, Pablo Neruda, Keats, Byron, and Edgar Allan Poe. I also enjoy some modern stuff as well. So, I do love poetry, but I have one problem with it.

Sometimes, when I sit down to read some poetry, one thing happens from time to time. I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. I come across some verse and when I read it, it seems like word vomit to me. I re-read it again, and again, and again, and nothing makes sense. It makes me ask the question: am I that stupid? Is my reading comprehension not as good as it once was? After thinking about it, I came to a possible answer.

I think the problem for me not getting it (or anyone else for that matter), doesn’t lie with the reader or the poet. It comes from something else entirely. One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of poetry, especially more modern poetry, they are meditations on some little detail about someone’s life. They are a Polaroid picture of words. That’s where the problem is. It’s in the fact that poetry is a very auto-biographical genre. I feel that in order to really understand some of these more enigmatic verses and what not, you would have to be either the poet or some kind of intimate of the poet. For example, there could be a really strange verse about strawberry jam. You read it, and you are confused, but there is a meaning to it. While the poet wrote about strawberry jam, in all actuality, they could have been talking about a particular trauma in their lives, and you might not never know the difference.

That’s the problem, but isn’t a problem that needs to change. It’s very much a “nature of the beast” situation. If you took out that problem, then a lot of poetry would lose that strong sense of emotion, and be a really empty piece of literature. Having those verses that I don’t understand is worth it, if it means that someone writes a really powerful piece. That’s why to get around this problem, I try my best to find my own meaning as to what was being said. I’ve had practice with this. One of my all time favorite singers is Tori Amos, and the woman is known for really abstract lyrics.

Either way it goes, problems or no, poetry is still on the literary menu.

Review: Overwatch



Title: Overwatch: Origins Edition

Genre: Shooter, Sci-Fi

Format: Playstation 4

Rating: ★★★★★

It seems I’m starting this blog with a review, a review about a game that was probably the most talked about game of 2016. Well, better late than never.

Overwatch maybe one of the very best games I’ve ever played.  I thought the hype for it was a bit hyperbolic last year, but the hype is deserved. It’s one of those games that you can play for hours, get sucked into, and not be bored by it. It’s even a game where you can get frustrated, but you still want to play more.

There are so many positive things about this game, that I do not know where to begin. The graphics are stellar, and I just love the designs of the characters and locations in the game. It looks very much like Pixar decided to make a video game. It has that kind of quality to it. My particular favorite locations happen to be Volskaya Industries, Hanamura, and Lijiang Tower. But then again, I also really loved Dorado and Hollywood, the locations are just so beautiful to look at. The characters too carry this same quality. I love that McCree is a cowboy for absolutely no reason at all, given that this takes place in a futuristic, Sci-Fi setting. Or, that Mei might be one of the cutest video game characters in all of creation. I like that the characters are from various backgrounds, have different races, different ages, and different body types. It’s a very welcomed change of pace.

Gameplay is also great, in my opinion. I am not the best at shooters. Playing something like Mass Effect can be near impossible for me. If it’s an old school shooter, I’m pretty good, but something more modern gives me trouble. Overwatch, after I got the hang of it, did not. I adapted to it, and I do a lot better now. I even scored a couple of Play of the Games and a Legendary. I am thrilled with that. I like that the characters are easy to move around, and the controls are plenty simple. The only drawback is timing. You can go in, decide to perform an “ultimate” (which is a sort of high-powered move) and it does nothing, or causes very little damage. Timing is everything. Also, I love the choice of playing offense, defense, tank or healer. Each brings something special to the table, and I think can be a useful tool in deciding which character you can handle. I know my preferred type happens to be playing tank. I am a D.Va main.

Lastly, the storytelling aspect is another highlight. I love the complex characters and their various back-stories. I love learning new things about them, and it makes me an absolute sucker for the tie-in material, such as the comics and the animated shorts. I also love that the story itself is being told piece by piece, and it’s smart on Blizzard’s part to release it like that. They have endless opportunities, and can have it go on for a very long time, which I hope they decide to do.

To be honest, any flaws that Overwatch has, they are minimized by its positives. Sometimes my biggest problems can come from other players, but it isn’t constant. Or, I may think one of the character skins is kind of ugly (but not in that Bioware kind of ugly). While I can’t say the game is perfect, it’s just hard for me to see the flaws, when I’ve enjoyed it so much.

But in the end, Overwatch is a great game and deserving of its hype.

Buy Overwatch at Amazon.