Is LUCIFER the NEXT FABIO?! My thoughts on The Mark of Abel by Viola Ryan

Late as usual. I promised this review in March. Technically today is still March, but this is well past the intended date. It has been a busy month and my brain is spazzed. So F_ it. I am just gonna write and whatever comes out is what it is (that is sort of the concept oft his site anyhow)

I never read Vampire fiction. So why did I read this book?

My cousin wrote it! And she sent me an electronic copy for free! <— NOT the reasons I read it. I was HOOKED BY THE DESCRIPTION.

“Lucifer is fed up with humanity. He created hell to deter evil, but man’s inhumanity is only escalating. He just wants to return home to heaven, but ever since that little problem in the Garden of Eden, the Pearly Gates remain firmly shut to him…”
“…Janie’s a frustrated artist and college art teacher who wants two things—a guy she can show her paintings to and a night without nightmares. Each nightmare plagues her until she paints it. She doesn’t realize these paintings are key to unlocking her destiny, one that could redeem the original fallen angel.”
[Click here for the full description and more]

The concept of Hell as intended to save humanity.
The concept of Lucifer as compassionate.
The possibility he could get back into heaven.
And who is this artist?

Oh, Lucifer also happens to be the world’s first vampire…
I was intrigued.

What is it about??

This novel combines religion, history, art, and the paranormal with romance and a plot that kept me guessing. The concepts of Heaven and Hell, God and Satan, good and evil, real and surreal are turned upside down, inside out, and twisted in the most unique ways.

Viola Ryan is not shy about straying from traditional bible stories and mythology. Most notably, Luke (Lucifer) is a good guy! God, well I am up in the air on that one. He doesn’t seem all that fair at times and Luke let’s him know. Telling off God? Who hasn’t wanted to do that at least once?!

You don’t have to be well-versed in the bible or a student of art history to follow this novel. The necessary info is descriptively woven in to a plot made believable through strong character development.

I Love These Characters!

FABIO?! REALLY?! Ok. I should apologize to my cousin for comparing her hero to the most clichéd of the romance novel cover men. In all fairness, Fabio did sell a lot of books (those were books he was plastered all over, right?) And there is that part about Luke (Lucifer) putting the moves on Janie (the artist) in front of a fireplace in his hugely impressive house. Hmmmm…

Luke – Lucifer as a romantic hero, and a vampire to boot! Far from an evil soul-stealing demon, Luke is romantic, caring, frustrated, and misunderstood. Plus tall, dark, and handsome of course. What woman wouldn’t fall for him? I found myself rooting for him. Talk about sympathy for the devil!

Janie – The artist. Art teacher and struggling artist, all she wants to do is paint pretty pictures and sleep through the night. But she is plagued with nightmares and canvases full of disturbing images. She is plain, insecure, and not very adventurous. Enter Luke and all that changes.

Cyndi and Maggie – These are what I consider the BFFs (Janie’s and Luke’s respectively). These girls have sex, spunk, adventure, and more. You never know what they will say or do next, but you can be sure it won’t be boring.

The other characters, from Eve to an unassuming coed, are written in a way that makes you think you have known them for years. You will feel for them, even with them, as they guide you through Luke’s quest and Janie’s journey.

A Devoted Fan… I guess I like Vampire Novels after all.

The Mark of Abel took quite a bit of willingness to suspend disbelief on my part (guess that goes for any book with vampires). The amazing characters and interesting concepts made it effortless and enjoyable. I was drawn in by the description and pulled right through to the unpredictable end that left me wanting more!

Visit http://www.violaryan.com/ –  to learn more about Viola Ryan and The Mark of Abel.  Be sure to check out her awesome ARTWORK too!

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BUTTERFLIES are UGLY Bugs with PRETTY Wings

Butterfly Cupcakes - close by twokingsconfections on flickr

Butterfly Cupcakes – close
by twokingsconfections on flickr

I Love Butterflies… doesn’t everyone?

When I say “butterfly” what do you think of? Let me guess. Images of delicate, colored wings. Flowers. Beauty. Good things and pretty things. Why not? We decorate things with butterflies to make them pretty – cards, dresses, nurseries, cakes and cupcakes, etc.

Butterflies, for the most part, are pretty and delicate. They flit from flower to flower drinking nectar. What is not to love?

BUTTERFLY by Diganta Talukdar on flickr     butterfly close by .through my eyes. on flickr

BUTTERFLY by Diganta Talukdar on flickr             butterfly close by .through my eyes. on flickr

It’s just an INSECT!

I happen to think insects are cool. I love creepy crawly things. I might be scared to death of some of them, but I still think they are cool.

To all you “oh, they are so pretty” butterfly lovers:
WAKE UP CALL! They are bugs! Creepy insects in fact. Well, except for those wings.

Have you ever seen a butterfly up close? I am not talking about the wings. I am talking about the body, that proboscis, eyes, those six legs – the “bug” parts. If that is all you see, eek! Very cool, but not something I want to decorate my cake with!

Blue Morpho Butterfly by wwarby on flickr     Butterfly close up by Hugo Qintero on flickr

Blue Morpho Butterfly by wwarby on flickr  /  Butterfly close up by Hugo Qintero on flickr

But nobody looks at the bug parts. Everyone is distracted by those beautiful, delicate wings. And why not? Those wings are quite an accomplishment. And let’s not forget the flowers.

Butterfly Blue Morpho by ahisgett on flickr

Butterfly Blue Morpho by ahisgett on flickr

Butterflies are AWESOME

I love butterflies because they are awesome. Ok. And because they are pretty. But more because they are awesome. I will explain.

For one thing, I absolutely love how everyone is so enamoured by an “ugly bug” because it distracts them with pretty wings. People are either very foolish and shallow, or willing to take the bad with the good. Honestly, I don’t think most people ever give it a thought.

The Life Cycle of a butterfly is awesome!

Caterpillars are awesome!
So many different shapes and sizes and textures. Mostly going unnoticed as they crawl around feasting on their plant of choice. Some limited to a single plant species. Eating and eating and growing and growing. Looking for that perfect place to transform.

Caterpillar of European Peacock Butterfly by wallygrom on flickr

Caterpillar of European Peacock Butterfly by wallygrom on flickr

Did you know that Monarch Caterpillars feast exclusively on milkweed? Yes! That butterfly you love is dependent on that weed you hate! Hmm. Are you going to think twice about pulling that weed next time? I bet you still pull it. Gotta keep that flowerbed pretty and full of flowers. For the butterflies.

Metamorphosis is awesome!
That crawly wriggly caterpillar goes along eating and growing, and eating and growing. Preparing. Searching for that perfect place where it will be safe at its most vulnerable. What a task to find that place! That safe place where it will undergo its transformation. What a transformation!

Did you know that butterflies undergo a complete metamorphosis?
The adult is absolutely nothing like the juvenile in every way. After the caterpillar finds its safe place, it becomes a pupa. In this stage it does nothing but work to become the butterfly. No small feat. It does not simply grow legs and wings. The cells reorganize completely! This can take a few weeks, or a few years! Awesome!

Don’t we all wish we could just hide away for two years reorganizing and becoming something new? (Thanks to a super supportive family I am doing something pretty close. This blog is a part of it)

Chrysalis of the Monarch Butterfly close to hatching by Lynda W1 on flickr

Chrysalis of the Monarch Butterfly close to hatching
by Lynda W1 on flickr

The life of a butterfly is awesome!
The goals of butterflies are all the same – to reproduce. Sex (sort of) and babies that you don’t have to raise – What a life!

How they live their short lives varies among species. Some drink nectar. Did you know that butterflies can “smell” flowers from miles away?! Most butterflies never eat at all. No counting calories!

Some butterflies keep to a small range, the Karner Blue Butterfly is an example from NY. Others fly clear across the country! I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the monarch migration. Incredible! Such a delicate insect making such a journey. Maybe that “ugly bug” part is a lot tougher than the wings have you believe. I have a feeling it is.

Unknown Butterfly (Black with Green Spots) by Ber'Zophus on flickr   Butterfly by snowpeak on flickr

Unknown Butterfly (Black with Green Spots)      Butterfly by snowpeak on flickr
by Ber’Zophus on flickr

Awesome Life!
Awesome Diversity!
Awesomely Ugly-Pretty Bug!

What do you think about butterflies?

My Mom Hates Disney Movies!

Can you really hate a Disney movie?

Sure you can. Ask my mother. Well, maybe hate is too strong of a word, but she isn’t a big fan. I would like to say that I love Disney movies. They were a great part of my childhood. I still watch them, the classics and the new ones. I can, however, see my mother’s point.

My mother has two primary complaints about Disney films; the amount of orphan characters and that they are full of death and violence. For those two reasons, she finds Disney movies very upsetting, even traumatizing. Extreme? Maybe a little. Though, this is the same woman who can’t watch nature videos where the big cats are hunting. She most certainly does not want a front seat to the circle of life – real or fictional.

Death and Orphans

These seem to be common themes among Disney films, particularly the classics. Think about it. An awful lot of Disney characters are missing one or both parents. Cinderella, Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Mowgli, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Ariel, Belle, Simba, Nemo, Tiara, Lilo and Nani,… none of these characters have two parents. I am sure there are more. These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

doe by R0Ng on flickr doe by R0Ng on flickr

Don’t forget the death, traumatic and violent death! I understand that some of these movies are adaptations of fairytales and the main character as an orphan is an essential part of the story.  Cinderella, my favorite Disney movie, would not work if dear daddy was in the picture. A common reason that kids are orphans is that the parents die. But did Disney really need to include the scene where daddy dies in front of the house? In front of his daughter!

Disney writers seem sure to burn that traumatic parental death scene into your brain. Bambi for example – dad gets shot, mom dies in a forest fire. I can see both scenes clearly even though it has been many many years since I have watched Bambi. The Lion King is another violent one. And I will forever be traumatized by the scene in Finding Nemo where his mom gets eaten. I happen to think the movie could have worked just fine without killing the mom. Seriously, Disney. Were you jonesing that badly to go back to the classic gruesomely murdered parent scene. Why?!

Clownfish by aquarist.me on flickr Clownfish by aquarist.me on flickr

Finding Nemo would have worked just as well if mom was still swimming around. I would have liked to see a nagging mom sending the neurotic dad out to the open ocean to find the son that got kidnapped on his watch. Really, isn’t being disabled and kidnapped enough misery without Nemo losing his mom to a ravenous whatever it was?

I am all for Disney’s tradition of characters overcoming obstacles, but at times I think they go a little far. Maybe  they coud be sure the orphan status is essential to the story. Maybe don’t layer on the traumas. Maybe hire less sadistic writers!

Enough with the horrible death scenes! There are sensitive viewers watching. Thirty-something women and their mothers can take only so much!

What is your favorite Disney Movie?
Your favorite Disney orphan? Death scene?

I NEVER SQUISH SPIDERS. Why? Because of The Spider Queen and her minions!

Killing Bugs is Wrong! Well, at least when we are in their house.

When I was 12 or 13 years old, my class took a trip to a day camp. When we were out on a dock getting ready get into canoes, a girl was about to squish a bug. BAD IDEA!

The counselor was horrified and scolded her pretty sternly. He explained the following: We were in the bug’s home and we should respect that. That bug was not bothering anyone; we should not bother it. How would you feel if somebody came into your home and squished you?

That really stuck with me. I am a bit of a tree hugger and squashing bugs just for the fun of it is not one of my hobbies. Remembering that day, plus liking bugs, means I really do go out of my way to respect the creepy crawlies when outside. I chose to enter their world and I should respect that!

The rules are a little different in cases of  self-defense.
If a mosquito thinks she is gonna make a meal of me, or that tick thinks he is going for a ride, all bets are off. They are hurting me and the are getting the axe. So it goes when you are at war. Kill or be killed!

What about the bugs that dare to enter MY home?

If a creepy crawly dares to find its way into my home, it will promptly be escorted out. My house is for people and pets. Maybe a houseplant if it is lucky enough to survive. Bees, flies, beetles, millipedes and the like are not welcome. Out the door they go!

If a bug dares to come into my home be hostile – SQUISH! This goes for anything that will be feasting on me, my food, or my home. Mosquitos, ticks, fruit flies, and the like – SQUISH!

SPIDERS have a strict NO SQUISH Policy, always!

I NEVER SQUISH SPIDERS – outside in nature, in my house, even as they crawl across my bare foot.

I have the ultimate respect for spiders. They provide a valuable service by feasting on the “OK to squish” types of bugs. Cleaning up their cobwebs is a small price to pay for a free exterminator. There are a lot of other cool reasons spiders are good and why you shouldn’t kill them.

As cool as spiders are, there are still those arachnophobic types. A lot of them are (gasp) SPIDER SQUISHERS!

spider meme Buckle up, Bitches on FB 483717_431075036982651_1698226842_n

I respect spiders. I am also totally creeped out by spiders. Yup. An arachnophobic type. I get chills just looking at pictures of spiders. Even toy spiders and cartoon spiders give me the creeps. Why? Who knows. Maybe I should never have watched Kingdom of the Spiders at such a young age.

If I am so scared of spiders, you think I would squish one if I saw it crawling around my house. OH NO! I NEVER SQUISH A SPIDER! I am too afraid of spiders to squish them. I don’t want to get that close. The thought of feeling, or hearing, it squish is giving me so much anxiety right now I just had to remind myself to breathe!

Then there is the SPIDER QUEEN! If I squish a spider I risk the Spider Queen sending out her minions in retaliation.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Spider Queen will find out what I did and, like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, she will dispatch spiders to get me. What will they do to me? I have no idea. And I am glad my crazy mind decided to stop before deciding. I don’t even want to attempt to go there! Nothing good could come if it.

I have no idea where the Spider Queen lives or what she looks like. I am pretty sure she is enormous. A giant wolf spider or tarantula. She is not evil. She pretty much keeps to herself. Like a queen bee. But if I kill a spider, it will make her very angry.

Why hasn’t the Spider Queen done anything about all those spider killers out there? I have no idea. I don’t care about them. This is all about me and me not wanting to be hunted down by spider minions! (This coming from a girl who thinks it is nutty of her friend to be afraid of wonder bread!)

If I don’t squish spiders, what do I do with them?
If I can manage it, I will collect the little guy in a cup and put him outside where he belongs. If I can’t get to the spider, or if they have set up a web, they are welcome to hang out. I stay out of their way. I also give them a name. My crazy brain thinks they are less scary if I name them. And talk to them. Hey, whatever works !

cell oct 2012 098 Yup. That is a spider in my cup!

I have a feeling the spiders have caught on to my “No Squish Policy”.
I seem to see the darn things everywhere. Most recently on the outside of my shower curtain as I was showering. That spidey shadow looked like something right out of a horror movie. Scariest shower ever! After I emerged from the bathroom, my mother (visiting at the time) asked who I was talking to. I was negotiating with the spider to keep its distance. I told you I talk to them. He did not cooperate and ended up on the shower curtain rail, taunting me. I am sure he is bragging to all of his spider friends. Pervert. I hope the Spider Queen gives him a scolding!

What do you think about spiders? Squish or No Squish?

Who Invited MSG to The Party? Why and how much are you eating?

I Read Food Labels…Carefully.

Out of sheer necessity, I am becoming an expert label reader. Nutritional information is easy. I mastered that decades ago. Now I am tackling the ingredient lists. The effort it takes to read through a paragraph of multi-syllabic jargon in tiny type is unbelievable, exhausting even.

Why do I do it?
 At the age of 30 I managed to acquire a host of food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. These cause anything from migraines to a runny nose to gas to… I will leave it at that. Obvious things to avoid are the ones I am allergic to or that wreak havoc on my digestive system – wheat, barley, sesame, coconut, etc.

Recently, I have decided to eliminate as many additives as possible – this includes anything unnatural, most dyes, flavor enhancers, salt, nitrites. The list goes on. Why do this? I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I am sick and tired of taking pills all day – 14 prescriptions and a handful of vitamins and supplements. This is no way to live.

Snapshot_20130302_1
The FDA might require certain things be labeled, but who decides on the teeny tiny type?!

I think changing my diet will help me feel better. Why?
While many people do fine eating whatever they want in moderation, or even in excess, some do not. Evidence suggests that some people are very sensitive to the sorts of ingredients I mentioned above. Plus, I know folks that have stopped eating them and feel happier and healthier. If there is a chance it is going to make me feel better, then why not try it?

I decided to start with MSG and Red 40 simply because I am most familiar with those two. I was shocked by what I learned about each of the. MSG was the first to make my head spin.

NO MSG!

If you live in the United States and have ordered Chinese takeout, you have undoubtedly seen “No MSG” written on the menu. Why?
As far as I can tell, it is due to at least one famous account of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” where a person fell ill after eating Chinese food cooked with MSG. This led to the general public belief that MSG is bad, especially in Chinese food. I am sure Chinese restaurant owners did not want to take a risk of getting anyone sick, or losing any business, so they stopped using MSG and advertised the change.

Snapshot_20130302 Chinese Restaurants aren’t the only ones bragging about ‘No MSG”

After I started reading labels more carefully, I noticed MSG popping up in ingredients lists more than I expected.  Why is this stuff that is so supposedly bad for you in so many other foods?

I guarantee there are those of you out there dosing yourselves with MSG on a regular basis without even knowing it. I know I was. It is in my favorite chips (that I no longer eat) and a host of yummy salty snacks and packaged prepared foods.

Either MSG is not bad for you, or a certain manufacturer of yummy tortilla chips and other well known companies are trying to poison us! So, which is it?

Is MSG safe, or are we being poisoned?
From what my preliminary research tells me (gotta love Google), it is a little of both.

Monosodium glutamate, MSG, is a flavor enhancer.
In plain terms, it makes food taste better. If you want to know how, you can read up on it here. Makes sense why snack food companies would want to use it. They want you to love the taste of their food so much that you keep eating it, and eating it, and buying more of it. They want to do this as cheaply and easily as possible. Enter the MSG.

The American Food and Drug Administration does not consider MSG to be unsafe, or at least not harmful enough to be banned. I do not blame them.

Monosodium glutamate , or similar substances, have been used for over 100 years. MSG is used in many foods on supermarket shelves in America and consumed by millions of people every day. There are no studies to show that MSG directly causes any diseases. As far as I have found, there are no studies that show it causes illness in healthy adults (I will be researching this further).

Even if there is no concrete evidence that MSG is harmful to the general public, it does not mean it is 100% safe for everyone. There is evidence that some people are particularly sensitive to MSG and these people can suffer ill effects. MSG is one of those “eat at your own risk” foods. You will be just fine, unless you are one of the people it makes sick. If you are one of those people, you should avoid it. I am sure this is the reason the FDA requires it to be listed on ingredient labels. Good for the FDA.

Personally, I appreciate being alerted that there is something in my food that might be making me sick, even mildly. And even if the FDA says it is fine to eat MSG, I think I will do my best to avoid it.

I have never met someone that can definitely say MSG makes them sick, but I believe they are out there. I do know plenty of people that have felt better after they stopped eating junk food. Junk food (packaged snacks, boxed and prepared foods) seem to be the ones that most often contain MSG. These foods also contain plenty of other unhealthy things (fat, salt, artificial color and flavor). Makes sense that you would feel better eating none or less of them. I think most people would agree on this. additionally, some people with ADHD, migraines, and similar conditions have decreased symptoms after eliminating foods with additives. I do know of actual cases of this.

Snapshot_20130302_2 Can you spot the MSG?

Hidden MSG!

Now that I am giving up junk food and prepared foods does this mean I am free of MSG?
Close but not quite.

I found MSG hiding in a few places I did not expect:
Salad dressings (not a big surprise) and seasoning mixes (huge surprise). I foolishly thought that maybe the better brands, the kinds that encourage you to feed them to families and children, would be wholesome and devoid of MSG. Not so. That kid with the rosy chubby cheeks is slurping up a bowl of chicken noodle MSG.

Foods that do not contain MSG can still be sources of glutamic acid, the part of MSG that acts as a flavor enhancer. These include ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein. I see that one a lot. I never knew it was a flavor enhancer. That makes these foods troublesome for some people as well. So much so that the FDA does not allow “No MSG” or “No Added MSG” on food labels if the food contains ingredients that are sources of free glutamate (glutamic acid). Great. A new list of words to memorize!

The only way to be 100% sure to avoid MSG and other sources of glutamic acid is to restrict your diet to fresh foods, whole foods, organic foods. A great idea in theory. Anyone that knows me knows that is just not gonna happen for me now. Maybe some day. For now I will have the occasional jarred sauce or frozen dinner. But you can belive I am going to read that label before I put it in my cart.

What do you think?

Is MSG safe?
 How much MSG have you been eating? Are you surprised?
Will you consider cutting back on MSG in your diet? Your child’s?