Thursday, March 9, 2017

Book Talk! My Thoughts on How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger

I gave a quick review of this book in my February Book Challenge Update, but I wanted to talk more about it as I really enjoyed the book. It contains a lot of information people should know, so they can make their own decisions about what they want to eat.

Dr. Greger recommends a pretty much completely vegan diet, but I urge you to read this book even if you never want to give up your chicken nuggets. Whether you want to follow a plant-based diet or still eat meat every day, the information he provides in this book is to arm yourself with knowledge so you can make informed choices about your diet, no matter what those choices are.

The main organization of the first part of the book is to divide it into chapters talking about how to prevent and possibly recover from the leading causes of death in the U.S.A. (such as heart disease). I like this format because if you have a particular health concern now, or have a history of the disease in your family (such as colon cancer and breast cancer, which my biological grandmothers died of), you can go straight to reading about it right away, instead of having to hunt for it through the book.

The second half talks about his personal diet recommendations, and goes into more depth about each of the points on his checklist app (which I love, and when I got it was free. Check out Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen for Android or iOS). I think the app is amazing, because it gives you an idea of what to shoot for each day in eating, but in a positive way rather than in the normal dietary negative (with recommendations such as add 1.5 cups of beans rather than don't eat potato chips, although he doesn't encourage those either). At least for me, the addition mindset works a lot better than the subtraction one, because instead of bemoaning the loss of ice cream and other yummies from my diet, I can focus on adding a lot of delicious stuff (and honestly, if you eat everything recommended on the checklist, you're probably not going to have a lot of room left for junk in your day anyway). His app also has an exercise recommendation, but personally I just use it more to make sure I moved my booty in some way rather than getting all of his suggested workout time in.

One of the biggest things I love about his book is that he goes straight to the studies to see what they say about certain foods, which diets prevent more diseases, which foods help reverse which diseases, and what the studies say about extracts and isolated vitamins versus the whole foods themselves. He even goes as far as to recommend one type of Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) as opposed to the form most recommended among natural health circles (methylcobalamin) because isn't enough evidence that the other forms really work (Greger & Stone, 2015)*.

And the amount of studies he cites is enormous. At the back of the book, his footnotes section is almost one half inch thick (and yes, I did measure, haha). Granted, some of the studies are listed more than once, but that's still a huge amount of peer-reviewed studies.

Many times when you read posts or books about health and nutrition, they're based on the author's assumptions or only a few studies (at least the ones I've read). And a lot of times, those people are also hawking their own supplements. Maybe I'm just overly paranoid, but I get suspicious when the people who are telling you a certain supplement is good for you are also the ones trying to sell it to you. Dr. Greger recommends a few supplements, but doesn't even give you suggested brands to buy. In a way, it's nice because you know he must have reasoned from the research he's conducted that they are actually beneficial, and he's not making any money off it. At the same time, it would be nice to know which brands he uses personally, but if he did tell us, then that same no-kick-back-possible factor wouldn't be there.

A word of warning, though. His book does read in a sarcastic way similar to his videos on YouTube. Personally, I adore sarcasm (probably a little too much) so that was just a bonus for me. If you're not such a fan, I still recommend reading it, but maybe read the sample on Amazon or borrow it from your local library before you buy it.

In short, I love this book, you should read it, and then make decisions on what to eat based on being fully informed of the benefits and consequences of those choices.

To learn more about Dr. Greger and his work, go to

*Greger, M., & Stone, G. (2015). How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. New York: Flatiron.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 Book Challenge: February Update!

Today I'm sharing my February update on my reading challenge. I'll list the books, and give a short review of each one.

Here's the books I read:

1. How Not to Die*, by Michael Greger and Gene Stone

Rating: *****

What causes disease? Should we blame it all on genetics? Or is there something we can actually do about it? Dr. Greger looks at numerous nutritional studies and based on the results, gives his dietary advice.

I have long been a fan of Dr. Greger's YouTube channel (I love his sarcastic sense of humor), and when I heard he had written a book, I knew I had to read it. To my utter delight, it reads exactly like he speaks in his videos. Another thing I really appreciate is that all his dietary recommendations come backed by studies. He doesn't just pull ideas out of unicorn land and say "hey, eat this way." Rather, he goes to the studies themselves and sees what dietary guidelines work best.

If you love sarcasm and nutrition based on peer-reviewed research, I highly recommend his book and channel. If you don't, then don't get this one.

2. Overdressed*, by Elizabeth L. Cline

Rating: ****

If you've ever wondered where your clothing came from, and whether $5 for a top was really a good deal, this is the book for you. Ms. Cline discusses the history of the clothing industry, and the dangers our new fast fashion world hold.

Honestly, my gut reaction was to make all my own clothes after reading this, but it's since transformed into caring better for what I have and being willing to pay more for quality (although I am intrigued with the idea of learning how to sew more than I ever was in the past). It would have been nice if she provided a resources list though. I'm an eco nerd, so I already have a good idea of where I could buy more fairly and sustainably (and trust me, organic cotton is the way to go for socks and panties. Try it, you'll thank me). Those not as well versed as I am, though (and I consider myself a beginner yet) may feel lost without suggestions of where they might be able to shop.

3. No More Dirty Looks*, by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt

Rating: ****

We've heard a lot about the dangers of what's in our food, but what about the chemicals of what we put on our face? This book gives a quick overview of some chemicals to avoid, and guides you in replacing your toxic toiletries with those that will actually be good for your skin.

I really liked their delivery style, although some if it seemed a little put on playful (is that how you describe it?). For example, some of their cutesy jokes and wordplay felt a little overdone. But their material was good, and they really provide some wonderful suggestions if you're just getting into the natural products game (including a warning to take heed before picking up just any product that claims to be natural).

4. Spark Joy*, by Marie Kondō

Rating: ****

This book takes the concepts of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and adds fun illustrations as well as some extra tips (such as how to fold your clothes properly, I really struggled with that, and the illustrations help a lot).

I thought the illustrations really added to the book. Although some of Ms. Kondo's methods are a little out there for me (such as thanking your things like they're alive, honestly that just kind of freaks me out), her tips on the order of decluttering and how to go about it really resonate with me. While I have not Konmari'd my life yet, it's a process I am definitely interested in trying out. I'm glad it's working for so many people.

5. Women In Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton

Rating: *

The authors spoke with several women about how their clothes shape them, and how they go about choosing what to wear and their relationship with clothes.

I didn't end up finishing this one. The concept was great, but the execution was poor. The book was disjointed, with the formatting confusing at best. It read like they threw stories in willy nilly without any planning or proper organization. It's sad, because I think the concept was a wonderful one. I wish the authors had taken the time to develop it properly.

6. Deluxe*, by Dana Thomas

Rating: ****

This book chronicles the journey of luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and how they transformed from companies producing quality for the wealthy into mainstream conglomerates marketing to the middle class.

After reading this book, I am longer saving up my money to buy a high end bag, because as Ms. Thomas reveals, these bags aren't that high end any more, and they might not even be made where they claim to be made. If you are a lover of luxury brands, then I don't recommend reading Deluxe, unless you're trying to curb a spending habit. If I understood the book correctly, there is still some quality in luxury brands, but it sounds like anyone who is okay without the name brand is better off searching for a quality lesser priced alternative.

7. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

Rating: ****

Their fortunes as derelict as the castle ruins they rent, Cassandra, Rose, and their family appear to have a bleak future, until an American gentleman inherits the estate.

For some reason, I had an idea this was a fantasy story, but it's not. Cassandra's whimsical view of the world and the changes that come over her thinking as she grows up are endearing and bring you to her side almost immediately. Although I wasn't expecting a romance when I picked this book up, I enjoyed it a lot. The only part I have issues with is the ending, which was disappointing when I excepted it to wrap up all those loose ends.

8. How Not to Die*, by Jan Garavaglia

Rating: ***

Medical examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia recounts the strange and horrible ways people have ended up dead in her morgue, and suggests how you can avoid a similar fate.

I actually found this book when I was searching for Dr. Greger's How Not to Die*, and the idea intrigued me. If I could stand the sight of blood, I would have considered becoming a ME myself. Some of the deaths she describes are truly heartbreaking, since they were seemingly so preventable. She gives a lot of good advice, although she follows strict medical ideals (such as getting flu shots, which if I have heard correctly, are not as effective as once thought, something to research and check with your doctor about). While I will not be following all of her advice, I am incorporating some of her suggestions into my life (just got to hope that I'm not mistaken about ignoring the rest, haha).

Total read: 7.

Unfinished: 1.

Read so far: 20.

Unfinished so far: 2.

Again, I was pleased with my reading progress in February, as most of these were longer books (some were shorter, and some were very easy reads, so that helped). I was pleased to find two books this month to replace the two I didn't finish. Only 32 left to reach 52 books read!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with my ratings? Let me know in the comments.

I also left the reviews for all of these on GoodReads.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Life According to My Cat: The Pill

It's morning, but early yet. There is no sun peeking through the curtain, though the sky is gray tone instead of black. I close my eye again, curled comfortably into my little warm ball of fur. For anyone reading this who is not a cat, I feel sorry for you. Because you have no idea of the delights of being able to curl into a ball and be surrounded by warm fur, and because you are not a cat (you can take comfort that you are not a dog, though).

A door creaks open. Her. It's always her this early. Trying to be stealthy, to sneak out here quietly to where I'm cuddled up on the couch. I would laugh if it wasn't so pitiful. Humans really have no idea what loud creatures they are.

Footsteps. You'd think an elephant taught her to walk. She must have learned how to be stealthy from a dog. I would teach her better, but that would be annoying. Plus, it is more convenient this way. No need to listen hard to figure out where she is. I curl tighter into my ball, closing my eye again. I'm almost back to sleep when I hear that hideous noise: "FEESH! Hun-nee!" What possessed her to think "feesh" was a good nickname for me? If she was going to call me something delicious, couldn't she at least pronounce it correctly, "fish" instead of "feesh"? She's no better than a kitten.

It is laughable, though, that she thinks she's whispering. The other humans must be deaf not to hear her.

"There you are, my love!" a hand musses up my fur before I have a chance to turn around, as the couch cushion next to me sinks. She's faster than I thought she would be. But then, it's only because I'm still practically asleep. I open my eye again. There she is, smiling that smile which means danger. Sure enough, as she pulls me onto her lap, I see the disgusting pill in her other hand.

My mouth is open and it's going down my throat before I can claw my way free. Bleugh! It tastes awful, like that time I licked my fur after going through some cobwebs. Bitter and sticky. I glare at her as she proceeds to run her hand over my fur. It was clean. "There, now you sleep until it's time to eat."

I'd scratch her, but that would be rude. Although as she continues to hold me, the temptation is strong. I squirm, and she finally gets the hint and deposits me back into my nice warm spot. As she gets up and heads into the kitchen, I consider chasing after her to bite her ankle. But it's not worth the trouble. I'll trip her later when she's getting my food ready.

I curl back into my spot, but now the blanket is messed up. I claw at it until it's adequate, and lay back down. She'll leave me alone for an hour now, before she comes back with my food. I run my tongue over my paw. I'll sleep again. But I'll need another bath first.

To learn more about why MeMe needs medicine, you can check out this post I wrote on my other blog.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Five Part Four, Last One!

If you missed Part OnePart Two or Part Three of Chapter Five, go ahead and follow the links. Today, I'm posting the last part of Chapter Five, a very short scene. This completes the sample chapters I'll be posting for Thorn Changer. However, please read through to the end of the post, because that announcement I promised Monday is coming up.😊

If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).

* * *

Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 

Skey swung her feet, kicking the leg of the bench, as she waited for the cook to finish her mutterings about “no-good vagabonds” and “feed bags with a dozen holes for every inch” and bring her the bowl of stew she so grudgingly ladled out. Her stomach was complaining, gnawing at itself. It didn’t like its long fast. It’d been three days now since she’d eaten anything but some wild berries she’d found growing on a bramble bush by the roadside. Raspberries, she would’ve said they were, save that it was too late in the year. Whatever they were, there’d been far too few of them. Skey wished the cook would be as fast in getting that stew over to her as she was in using her tongue.
“It appears you’re not too fond of minstrels,” she made an attempt at a joke, as with a sour look the woman set the bowl before her. “Is it the sound of their voice grating along on notes? Or their harp strings tuned ten years ago?”
“It’s the way they fill their bellies as though eating for ten or twelve.” The cook scowled. “You’re all alike. Nothing but empty sieves.”
Skey laughed, as she dipped her spoon into the bowl. What an old fool. The steamy smell of vegetables and beef rising from the stew made her even hungrier. “It certainly feels that way sometimes. Either I’ll be feeding my belly, or else it’ll be eating itself.” She grinned at her, “But maybe it looks that way to you because your cooking smells so good. If you’d cook worse, I think you might solve the problem.”
The woman blushed. Yes, those charm lessons did come in handy. “But if you’ve a troublesome lover,” she continued, “you might get rid of him just as easily. I’ve no experience, but they say the way to change a man’s heart’s to change your cooking. But if it fails, it’s nothing some hot spice can’t take care of. Or some hemlock.”
The kitchen woman laughed. She gave Skey a playful box on the ear. “Aye, you’re not only a minstrel, but a scalawag as well. If I had the bad luck of being your mother, I’d be driven well-nigh frantic by you.”
The warm stew in her mouth was cold and tasteless. She forced herself to swallow. “Aye, you would’ve been,” she said, as the cook went off to tend her pots. She sighed. “My own mother couldn’t handle it.”

* * *

That's the end of Chapter Five. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Okay, so my announcement: right now, Thorn Changer is on sale on Amazon for 99¢. If you want to snag a copy at this price, head on over to Amazon. This sale will only last around a week.

Thank you so much for reading these chapters. I hope you found them interesting!

Next week, I'll return to posting once a week on Thursdays. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Five Part Three

If you missed Part One or Part Two, go ahead and follow the links. Today, I'm posting Chapter Five Part Three of Thorn Changer

If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).

* * *

Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 

“Yes, yes, I believe so,” Sieku laughed at Lord Gredlo’s comment. “The minstrels have been keeping Foaie at a standstill, or so I hear. Hopefully His Majesty will figure out how to defeat the Iezomen for good soon.”
“My lady?” she heard a voice at her elbow.
Sieku looked at her steward. “Yes? What is it?”
“Forgive me for the interruption, but would you care to have the minstrel play now? She’s quite ready to do my lady’s bidding.”
Sieku smiled. It would never do to admit she had eavesdropped. “Ah, so you did find a minstrel? And a woman, at that?”
“No, my lady…she’s but a child. But her skill makes up for it.”
“Are you sure she’s good?” She laughed, “I can’t have a bad singer. You know the talk it’d make.”
He shook his head. She smothered a giggle. What if it rattled loose from his neck… “No, no, no, my lady. I assure you she plays well. Very well. She may even rival Farer.”
“Well, then, she must be skilled.” To hear a minstrel besides Farer, after all this time… “Yes, I believe we’re quite ready for some music,” looking around to the guests. “Would you care to hear the minstrel now, or shall we wait a while longer?”
Many nods went around the room. “Yes indeed, whenever you wish is fine,” Lady Meyka said, closing her fan. “I would like to hear a minstrel’s voice after so many weeks.”
Sieku turned back to the steward with a smile. “Very well, you’ve heard the decision. Fetch this young minstrel of yours.”
The doors of the great hall opened. All was silent as a yellow-haired girl walked into the room, and straight to her.
So this was the minstrel. The steward wasn’t exactly right when he called her a child. Though she wasn’t grown up either. Around fifteen, sixteen, she’d say. The girl gave a sweeping bow, and looked up at Sieku with confident green eyes. The kind of eyes she’d always imagined the fae had. “Greetings, my lady. Am I to have the pleasure of playing for you and this merry company tonight?”
Sieku laughed. She liked politeness in a minstrel. “Yes, indeed.”
The lass straightened up. “Very well. Tell me, what shall I play for the pleasure of my lady’s ears?”
Such good court manners. It was like she had spent years as a royal minstrel. “How about ‘The Chalice of Nairve’?” Sieku took her chair at the head table. Gredlo and Meyka sat on either side of her, as the peasants in the great hall followed suit.
The girl dropped to one knee before her table. “If that’s my lady’s pleasure.” Her fingers glided over the strings. She bowed her head. In a low clear voice, she began:
“Many tales have been told
Of Zennure, and the cup of gold,
The treasure of the glad fairies,
Not for men’s eyes to see,
The Chalice of Nairve.

Her father a shepherd,
She watched the flock, as a small bird
Sung softly, sweetly in a tree.
There appeared a lady
Shroud in fine misty gray.

She tried to run away.
The lady said, ‘Don’t be afraid.
I need your help to find something
Dearer than anything
Any tongue’s words can say.’

‘What, Lady?’ Zennure asked.
‘If I can, I’ll complete this task.’
The lady told her the whole tale
Of that cup of gold pale.
And Zennure didn’t stay.

She started out to find
The cup whose tale was in her mind.
It is too long to tell of here,
But by hill and stream clear
She made her winding way.

At the cave said to hold
That Chalice of such lovely gold.
A fierce dragon stood on guard,
With sharp fangs and scales hard,
Keeping Zennure away.

She charmed it with a song
Of spring, and summer days so long.
The dragon sighed, and fell asleep.
Zennure softly did creep,
And took that of Nairve.

She came back, but she found
The lady was nowhere around.
She couldn’t find her anywhere.
So she watched with it there,
The Chalice of Nairve.”
The words faded away, as the girl ran her fingers once again over the strings, and was silent. Sieku sat still, and didn’t say a word, though many cheers went up from every side of the room. The child told it almost as if she had been there, had lived through the legend. Never had she heard it so well told. She gazed down at the girl as she tuned her strings and brushed off an imaginary speck of dust. Maybe she was fae, after all.
It was just a song, couldn’t be real, yet she couldn’t help asking every time she heard it. “What ever happened to them? What became of Zennure, and the lady?”
The girl looked up, and smiled. “I don’t know. But I hope the lady returned one day, and took Zennure back with her to her fair kingdom.”
Was that bitterness she detected? Why? She peered closer at her. Where did this girl come from, anyway? She didn’t quite look Beolkin or Mekain…
“Now, Seili,” the steward’s voice cut into her thoughts, “sing that song you sung earlier. You know, about the tear. You’re certain to be pleased with this one, my lady,” he turned to Sieku.
She sighed to herself, and nodded to the girl. She would have to ponder this all out later. Seili ran her fingers over the strings:
“But a drop, but a tear,
But a second in a year.
But what things are revealed
In naught more than a tear…”

* * *

That's the end of Chapter Five Part Three. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Five Part Four will be available tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Five Part Two

If you missed Part One, go ahead and follow the link. Today, I'm posting Chapter Five Part Two of Thorn Changer

If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).

* * *

Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 

The steward rubbed his chin as Skey finished speaking. He ran his eyes over her torn clothes. “Well, you certainly won’t do like that. But you know the songs Lady Sieku loves.” He snapped his fingers. “We’ll soon put all to rights,” he continued as a maid entered. “New clothes can be part of the pay. The rest, say two silver coins, plus dinner and a bed afterwards?”
Skey nodded. Nobles paid more, too. But then that was to be expected. After all, hadn’t the emperor paid her well until she was thrown in prison? “Deal. But wouldn’t you like a sample of my music first?” She smiled, “Free, of course.”
The steward smiled as well. “Yes, indeed. You’re rather sensible for a minstrel.”
Skey smiled to herself. Yes, she still remembered Zeino’s charm lessons. Too bad they hadn’t been able to get her out of the Tower. She strummed her harp gently. “What do you wish?”
The steward glanced at the great clock in the hall. “How about the… No, that’d never do… Maybe the ‘Song…,’ no, too long…”
Skey smiled. She knew just the song. “Would you like me to choose for you?”
He sighed, and nodded. “Very well,” he leaned back against the wall, “play something. Preferably not common.”
“Most certainly not. I only sing tales fitting of the ones attending at such grand occasions.” Her fingers glided over the strings, changing the tune to one richer and fuller:
“But a drop, but a tear,
But a second in a year.
But what things are revealed
In naught more than a tear.
A revealer of woe,
Cold as ice, and as snow.
What the heart longs to know
Not at all: such is woe.
A revealer of rage,
Of a war which you wage
Within your soul. On the page
Of your life: such is rage.
A revealer of fear,
Of the darkness creeping near,
Or of the flame that’ll sear
What it can: such is fear.
A revealer of love,
White and pure as the dove.
A tender mother’s gentle shove
From all harm, such is love.
But a drop, but a tear,
But a second in a year.
But what things are revealed
In naught more than a tear.”
As the last notes faded, the steward was silent. She studied the strings. Didn’t he like it? There was no way he couldn’t have. Hadn’t she spent almost four years playing for Emperor Rokiye?
“Well,” he said slowly. “I’ve never heard anything like it. What skill, what grace, what beauty.” Skey looked up. He stared at her. “Lady Sieku will be pleased.” Something clattered in the hall. He shook his head. “Now, then, back to business. What would your name happen to be?”
Skey froze a moment. Should she tell her name, with Cinote looking for her? “I call myself Seili.” She stood up. “Shall I go prepare myself for the party?”
“Oh, yes.” He waved to the maid still standing there. “You’d best go right away. I believe we’ve some clothes that’d fit you.” He turned to the maid. “Take her to the tailor. Make sure she’s ready in thirty minutes.”
He looked back at Skey. “She’ll take care of you. I’ll see you afterward, to give you the money. Forgive me for my rudeness, but I really must go to greet my lady’s guests.”
Skey smiled. Those silver coins would come in handy if she ended up taking a ship to Mekai or Friiakan. And maybe there would be more… “Certainly, Lord Steward.”

* * *

That's the end of Chapter Five Part Two. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Five Part Three will be available tomorrow.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Five Part One

Last week, I posted Chapter Four Part OnePart Two, and Part Three of Thorn Changer. This week, I'll be posting Chapter Five. This is the last chapter I'll be posting. This chapter consists of shorter scenes than the other chapter, so each of the four posts will be short. I'll post them today through Thursday (when I'll have a special announcement, so please make sure you read Thursday's post). 

If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).

* * *

Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 


Sieku paused a moment and turned to the door, her brush poised to make another pass through her hair. “I was sure I heard something,” she murmured, as only silence sounded in the hall. “Surely it wasn’t—”
Thump. “There it is again,” she rose from her chair. “I’m definitely not hearing things. What could it be?”
She slipped to the door, and bent her head to the key hole. There was hurried whispering outside, “They’re supposed to be here any minute.”
“But we can’t have the party without a minstrel. You know that my lady loves to listen to their tales more than anything else. She didn’t say find one, but you know it’s always been understood that we were to.”
“What can we do?” her steward replied. “It’s almost the hour. There’s no time. We’ll just have to make do with the rest.”
Someone sighed. “I know, but Lady Sieku loves the tales so much… I hate to disappoint her.”
“I wish we could’ve found one for her, but with the Iezomen, the king sent most of them to the border. Wandering minstrels are rare in these times.”
Both voices hushed as footsteps came down the corridor. “Steward, there’s a lass downstairs wanting to see you. Says something about being a minstrel.”
“Ah, wonderful. Tell the lass I’ll be down shortly. Ask her if she knows ‘The Chalice of Nairve.’ It’s one of Her Ladyship’s favorites.”
A giggle. “I believe she does. When I left, she was humming it.”
The voices died away, as footsteps sounded down the hall. Sieku went back to her chair. She began to brush her hair again. “So there’s a minstrel not at the borders after all.” She studied her reflection in the mirror. “I didn’t expect there to be any so close to Miagulo Castle, not with Farer around. I hope she’s not a deserter.”
No, that was silly. All of the minstrels placed at the border knew the seriousness of their duty. And no deserter would dare come so close to the seat of the kingdom. Each one knew the penalty…
Her hand stopped. She placed the brush back in its place, and began to braid the locks next to her face, pulling them back and braiding them together down her back. She turned to view her handiwork in the mirror. “Perfect. It was a good thing I watched Meilee so often. Now I can do it while she’s ill, poor dear.”
She applied a tinge of pink to her lips, a slight bit of powder to her face, and dabbed on some perfume. She rose from her chair, and straightened the skirt of her pale silver gown. “There,” as she surveyed herself in her mirror. “That’ll do. It’s an informal party, after all.”
She sighed. Not all of her guests would be there. “It’s too bad they can’t come. But what they’re doing is important.” She smiled. She’d known the king since childhood, and his nephew since he was a baby. “Ah, they’re a funny pair, to be sure. Kotua is so much like his uncle was at his age. Oh well,” turning toward the door, “maybe next time.”

* * *

That's the end of Chapter Five Part One. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Five Part Two will be available tomorrow.