Saturday, December 1, 2012

Playing With Graphics

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I used to be a graphic designer many years ago, and I still love to do it once in a while.

I made this video for the project Authors Giving Back. In the end, only a static banner I made was used, so I decided to load the video here, since it took me many hours to make it, and it's a nice Christmas decoration.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Fair Concubine

Jeannie Lin’s best book so far

When Chang Fei Long tracks down his sister, Pearl, who is assigned to be a treaty bride that should marry a lord from a neighboring kingdom. He finds out she ran away with her lover, and realizing that she wasn't kidnapped, but found refuge in someone who helped her to escape, Fei Long doesn't kill her partner. Instead, he let them both run away.

Afterward, Fei Long is devastated, knowing that the salvation of his entire household, and the honor of his family depend of this arranged marriage. He sits down on a tea house to ponder the situation and concludes that what he needs is a woman to take the place of his sister.

Meanwhile, Yan Ling, an orphaned servant, serves Fei Long tea in the very moment he mutters his need for a woman, even someone as humble as her. Yan Ling misinterprets his intentions, and throws a pot of tea at him. Because of this, Yan Ling finds herself on the streets homeless, and while trying to convince Fei Long of talking to her masters to accept her back in the tea house, he instead proposes the deal of coming home with him, and training to act as a princess in order to take the place of his sister, marrying the lord from a neighboring kingdom, in behalf of the imperial court.

During the arduous process of transmuting from servant girl to princess, Yan Ling would make new friends, visit places she'd never dreamed of before, and of course, fall in love with Fei Long, who is conflicted between his family's honor and Yan Ling.

I've read all of Jeannie Lin's historical romance books; I loved the first one in this trilogy, and enjoyed the deep emotions of the second one. Compared to the previous books, My Fair Concubine is perfect, from the development of the characters to the breathtaking ending. Never before had Jeannie Lin captured the spirit of the Tang Dynasty better. I read on the author's website that the setting is based on an alternative history she created inspired by the Tang Dynasty's true history. However, while reading My Fair Concubine, the world the characters inhabit feels authentic as well as the culture and the social system of the times.

All the secondary characters are well developed, and my two favorites are Bai Shen, Fei Long`s theatrical friend and later Yan Ling's teacher. And Dao, who serves in Fei Long's household and becomes Yan Ling's best friend.

There aren't sex scenes until the very end, and the romance is rather sweet, but the sensual tension is intense. One interesting detail I noticed, specially during the last part of the book, is that there is a lot of romance in it, built with little tender moments, that ironically are so unusual in romance books nowadays.

I loved the way Fei Long admits his feeling for Yan Ling without saying I love you. And absolutely love the ending, which I guessed halfway the book, but still loved it. I also enjoyed the beautiful way the author described the used of the Chinese calligraphy in the story. While reading My Fair Concubine I laughed until I cried, and there were moments I got really misty-eyed too.

My Fair Concubine might have been inspired by My Fair Lady, which was based on an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. However, in my opinion, it has little similarities with those stories. My Fair Concubine is a complete satisfying story, while the original play and the movie are kind of ambiguous about the happy ending part. Besides, there is no true romance in My Fair Lady or Pygmalion.

I think that Jeannie Lin created an original work, where the characters are all unique. I highly recommend this book if you love historical romances with diverse characters and settings.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Psychic and the Sleuth

Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee produced magic again

I've been reading these authors' individual work for years, enjoying great stories along the way. However, when they join forces and co-write a book, it's perfection. They create a sensuous dance with a magical rhythm for the protagonists.

In the Psychic and the Sleuth, the dance is like a tango between two men, who are so different from one another, as the many doubts entangling their irresistible attraction.
While investigating a fake psychic case, Robert Court is forced to experience again the last minutes in the life of his cousin Lily, for whose murder he has never found closure. Always thinking that the wrong person was executed for it. The medium under his scrutiny reveals details never released to the press. Robert's distrust increases, but soon his interest in the psychic is more than professional.

Oliver Marsh makes a successful living as an intermediary between the living and the dead, shamelessly taking advantage of the rich by comforting them about their deceased relatives' afterlife. Suddenly, while in a trance, he is catapulted into the dreadful last minutes of a girl's life, viciously cut short by a ruthless murderer. And now, Oliver can't take her off his mind, in the same disturbing, but more pleasant ways, he can't either take her cousin Robert off his life.

Robert and Oliver collaborate to solve Lily's murder and to prevent her murderer from killing again.

If I keep giving details I'll spoil the rest of the story for you, but I want to tell you that, I particularly enjoyed how well the authors portray Robert and Oliver, being a real pleasure to witness their journey toward one another. I also liked a lot the scenes when Oliver recalls the murder by channeling Lily's spirit. Those are truly touching and spine-chilling.

Gosh! I almost forgot to mention that there are many explicit sex scenes between these sexy men, and their romance has a nice happy ending. I'm taking the time to specify this, because lately, I've read some books that are only sex, or not enough sex, with a tiny plot and less character development. So, it's fair to say this book is well balanced and that reading The Psychic and the Sleuth is refreshing and satisfying. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Affordable Emergency Solar Charger

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Since I moved into the woods, and after hurricane Irene, I started researching to get something solar, but affordable in place. The idea is being able to have some electric energy during a power outage and/or if the roads are blocked due to a blizzard. A solar panel gets charge even when is cloudy. Smartphones and other gadgets will lose charge fast needing to be recharged often. So we must plan ahead before another emergency hit.

First, I must say is that this advice should be taken as given, without any guarantees. I’m sharing what I did to have a solar charger backup in case of another electric outage due to bad weather, but I don’t intent to replace the advice of a licensed electrician..

Solar energy usually is expensive, but for the purpose of this article, I chose the least expensive and best quality components I could find.

The basic parts of a solar kit are:

Solar panel to convert solar energy into electricity.

Solar panel charge controller to avoid overcharging the battery. Said charge controller usually includes a blocking diode to keep current from flowing back to the solar panel at night and a fuse to protect the solar panel, the battery and regulate any overload.

A battery to storage the solar panel’s energy. I prefer Sealed Lead-acid or absorbed glass matte (AGM) batteries, which are better because under regular conditions they don’t leak acid or fumes. The AGM are more expensive and have a shorter life span too.

A power inverter to convert the DC (direct current) from the battery into AC (electric current).

Most inverters can be connected to a car’s battery too. Now, my idea is to have silent, and fumes free energy. So I chose a Sealed Lead-acid, 12 Volt / 8 Ah battery rechargeable by a solar panel. My first kit is small, because I wanted to see how it works, before increasing watts on everything.

The higher the voltage the more complicated the installation becomes. For example, if one wish to get a 1100 Watt inverter, one needs to have a fuse between the positive wire going to the inverter and the battery, in case of an accidental short circuit to avoid a wire meltdown or fire. And the inverter must be grounded too. The 400 watts inverter and 8 amps battery I picked doesn’t need any of this, but it won’t power a higher demanding appliance either.

The goal of my solar set up is to keep the charge of cell phones, laptops and provide safe and free long hours of light, good enough for reading.

So this is my basic affordable solar charger kit. At the end of this article I link to every component individually from where I bought it. I made a video because I thought it was easier to see than pictures. I tested these components for more than a month.

The kit should be tested before an emergency comes. I’m using mine to recharge my cell phone daily, and occasionally use the led light to read at night. I bought two led lights, two inverters and two batteries, so one battery gets charge while the other is in use. The ideal place for the solar panel is outside in the sun, but from the sunny window it produces enough energy to keep the charge in the batteries if they are not used.

The cables between the inverter and the battery should be short in order to avoid power loss and cables getting too hot. It’s better to use an electric extension from the inverter AC outlets to the appliances. Or a USB extension with the inverter that comes with a USB outlet like mine. Always be certain that the power cable terminal connections run Negative (-) to Negative (-) and Positive (+) to Positive (+). Usually red is positive and black is negative.

Connecting inverter terminals to the battery positive connectors may cause a spark because of the electric current flowing to the capacitors within the inverter. This is a normal event which occurs usually the first time one connects a full charge battery.

All these components are only for reference.  One can get the equivalent or similar in different brands or/and higher voltages. After checking prices online, I found that Amazon has the best prices for the components I picked, including free shipping after $25. So I bought all my parts over there, this is what I got.

Instapark® 5W Mono-crystalline Solar Panel with 12V Solar Charge Controller  

Cobra CPI 480 400-Watt 12-Volt DC to 120-Volt AC Power Inverter with 5-Volt USB Output  

USB 13 LED Flexible Light Lamp for Laptop Pc Notebook  

UPG D5779 UB1280-F2 Universal Lead Acid Battery  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Daddy for Jacoby by Christyne Butler




A bad boy encounters unexpected love


I read most of the Welcome to Destiny series, and so far, A Daddy for Jacoby is my favorite. Maybe I truly have a thing for bad boys. There is something deep in the story of Jacoby, and how he ends up being the responsibility of a father he barely knows. Jacoby's obsession with the pillowcase that holds his few possessions, made me teary-eyed.

After serving his time, Justin Dillon is back in town, trying of getting the stability he never had. The only disturbing element in this new life is Gina Steele, who happens to be the sister of Destiny's Sheriff, Gage Steele. Whose story we enjoyed in The Sheriff's Secret Wife. Where he had his own passionate romance with Justin's sister, Racy Dillon. During this book, we witness Racy and Gage's happy-ever-after.

Gina is a good girl, whose charm and generosity make Justin's world a little bit harder. Because she is the one woman he can’t have. After spending a night together, during which they only shared a room, in spite of the whole town thinking they shared more. Gina is resolved to get Justin for real, but he doesn't want to mess with his little hard-earned peace, besides, Jacoby's presence is not the best time to start a romance with Gina. There is a lot of sexual tension between them, and the sensual scenes are intense.

It's touching seeing their process into love, specially Justin's acceptance of deserving a happy ending too. Since most of his reactions to Gina are because he thinks that his past mistakes make him worthless. The author writes in an amazing realistic way, all characters well developed and details that made us care about their fates. So get ready to laugh, get mad, wipe a teary eye, and smile at the romantic ending.

The Sarantos Secret Baby By Olivia Gates




Parenthood and passion between rivals

Aris Sarantos's toughest business rival is a man Aris secretly admires and by who, he wishes to be recognized. Sadly, the man dies without acknowledging Aris at all. Worse, somehow Aris feels affected by his unexpected departure, specially after being the last person who argued with him. Aris attends his funeral in spite of being unwelcome. He has to be there, he needs the closure too. What he finds is a way to channel his unexpected sorrow with the daughter of his bitter rival.

She always has had this crush for Aris Sarantos, and when he dares to show up at her father's funeral, Selene Louvardis confronts him. Somehow, they end up spending a passionate weekend together. One that would bring a child into their irreconcilable worlds. Selene imagines Aris doesn't want their baby, and keeps the secret, but once Aris find out of his existence, nobody can keep his child away from him. The baby forces Aris to face the demons from his own childhood, which shaped his character.

The interaction between Selene and Aris is sizzling and explosive, the kind of romance one keeps reading frenetically, because one needs to know how these two are going to work their differences. Thanks God, romance guarantees a happy ending, because there are some dramatic moments in this one. What I liked the most in the book is the author's portrait of Aris Sarantos, a memorable alpha hero. I also love that cover since the first time I saw it.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kate Walker’s The Return of the Stranger book giveaway




I’m giving away a copy of Kate Walker’s The Return of the Stranger


Kate Walker generously sent me two copies of her book, so I'm giving one away. For more information about the book please click here The Return of the Stranger


This giveaway is simple, in about a week, I’ll ask my daughter to randomly pick a name from a basket. Please leave your name as a comment if you want to be considered. The winner will be posted here on September 8, 2011. International participants will receive an e-book version via Amazon Kindle which can be read in many devices. Best of luck everyone.