Month: January 2013
Review: “Spirits of Lakewood: Hidden Secrets” by Samantha Rindfuss
When Sophie’s father dies, she goes to live with her grandmother, Emma. Before she even gets to the house, bad dreams start, dreams she later learns are being brought on by the ghost of Carol, a girl who died in the house long before. The ghost continues to haunt her from the first day, and then, Sophie learns from her new schoolmates, Lillian and Thomas, that her grandmother’s house is not just a normal house; it was once a funeral home owned by Carol’s father, a distraught man who went insane after his daughter’s death and eventually hung himself.
Carol gives Sophie an ultimatum; find a way for her to reunite with her father’s spirit, or die herself. Only Lillian and Thomas believe Sophie’s story, and they set out to help her comply with the ghostly command.
An interesting ghost of possession and danger, that tends, unfortunately, to drag a bit in places, but that is nonetheless an interesting read, and is probably written appropriately for younger readers.
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fire
Check out this week’s fun foto challenge at this link. Fire is one of the five Chinese elements, and, without it life couldn’t exist. Here are my interpretations of fire; and, notice that sometimes it’s implied rather than specified.
Read This Blog in Other Languages
For the benefit of my readers for whom English is not a first language; you can now read it in a number of languages. Simply click on the Google ™ translate button on the right hand side of the page, and when it takes you to the next screen, follow the instructions.
Scroll down until you see a section that asks you what language you’re translating from, the language you’re translating to, and the Website being translated. Below, I show how the site can be translated from English to German:
Translate your website – free and automatic
Original Language Target Language
To the right of the website box, there’s a yellow button. Press that and you get the translation.
Here’s an example of what it will come out looking like from my review of When the Siren Calls:
In Tom Barry ‘s Roman, wenn die Sirene Calls, sind wir Jay Brooke, ein Geschäftemacher eingeführt Immobilien Manipulator mit einer glatten Linie zum Einhängen naive Investoren und eine fatale Anziehungskraft auf Frauen. Working an iffy time-share deal in Tuscany , Jay meets Isobel Roberts, a frustrated woman married to a workaholic, and seeking meaning in her life. Arbeiten eine iffy Time-Sharing- Angebot in der Toskana , trifft Jay Isobel Roberts, eine frustrierte Frau, verheiratet mit einem Workaholic, und die Suche nach Sinn in ihrem Leben. As these two planets orbit closer and closer to each other, circumstances conspire to cause perturbations in both lives. Da diese beiden Planeten umkreisen näher und näher an einander, verschwören Umständen Störungen in beiden Leben führen.
The original passage in English:
In Tom Barry ‘s novel When the Siren Calls , we’re introduced to Jay Brooke, a wheeler-dealer real estate manipulator with a smooth line for hooking naïve investors and a fatal attraction to women. Arbeiten eine iffy Time-Sharing- Angebot in der Toskana , trifft Jay Isobel Roberts, eine frustrierte Frau, verheiratet mit einem Workaholic, und die Suche nach Sinn in ihrem Leben. Working an iffy time-share deal in Tuscany , Jay meets Isobel Roberts, a frustrated woman married to a workaholic, and seeking meaning in her life. Da diese beiden Planeten umkreisen näher und näher an einander, verschwören Umständen Störungen in beiden Leben führen. As these two planets orbit closer and closer to each other, circumstances conspire to cause perturbations in both lives.
This utility allows you to see a translation of the entire post, or any highlighted portion, or when you’ve translated to the target language, the ability to see selected parts in English.
Just another effort to make this blog user-friendly. Comments welcome.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Love
Over at Cee’s Photography, the Weekly Photo Challenge is Love. Check it out here. In the meantime, check out my interpretation of this
Review: “When the Siren Calls” by Tom Barry
In Tom Barry’s novel When the Siren Calls, we’re introduced to Jay Brooke, a wheeler-dealer real estate manipulator with a smooth line for hooking naïve investors and a fatal attraction to women. Working an iffy time-share deal in Tuscany, Jay meets Isobel Roberts, a frustrated woman married to a workaholic, and seeking meaning in her life. As these two planets orbit closer and closer to each other, circumstances conspire to cause perturbations in both lives.
Lucy has her sights on Jay, and has hooks in him. The time-share deal, which he has drawn his friend Andy into, is in danger of coming apart at the seams, and Jay finds himself painted not so neatly into a corner; with no apparent escape.
Suspenseful, touching, erotic; all are adjectives that aptly describe Barry’s handling of this novel that defies neat categorization. The author’s familiarity with the setting is apparent in every scene, and he uses setting extremely well to establish mood. The characters in When the Siren Calls are a troupe of complex, flawed creatures, driven by greed, loneliness, the desire for revenge, but most importantly, by the need to be noticed.
Though not a mystery, this is a page-turner that is guaranteed to keep you up late. It has humor, suspense, and will keep you reading until the last page; and then, salivating for more.
Video Trailer: “Buffalo Soldier: Peacekeepers”
Video trailer for my latest “Buffalo Soldier” novel. Check it out, and then get the book!
Review: “The Cartel” by A. K. Alexander
A. K. Alexander’s gripping suspense novel of the drug trade, illegal immigration and brotherly betray will keep you reading from the first page to the last. Fully formed characters, authentic dialogue, and credible settings make this a must read.
While a lot of reviews go on and on, I don’t feel there’s a need to do that about The Cartel; besides, to do so might away some of the intricate plot twists in this skillfully written book, and every reader should experience it for him or herself.
Yes, it’s that good.
The Need for a US Diplomatic Code of Ethical Conduct
Nowadays, especially since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, professions and organizations around the world are paying more attention to the need for ethical professionalism standards to guide their activities. Research has shown that cheating has become more commonplace, especially among young people, and while there is not enough data to indicate whether or not this is a clear global trend, it is nonetheless worth being concerned about.
What is inarguable is that any profession needs a grounded ethical code to guide the activities of its members if it is to be successful in our increasingly globalized world.
It’s worth thinking about just why this is so. First; a clearly understood code of ethical behavior helps guide the individual member of the profession in carrying out his or her responsibilities, and protects the individual from outside pressure to ‘bend the rules.’ A sound code is invaluable in explaining the profession to outsiders, and aids in professional interactions with those within and outside the profession. More importantly, for professions that serve the general public, a code establishes the expectations that those being served have regarding that profession.
For 30 years, until I retired in September 2012, I served in the US Foreign Service (and for 20 years before that in the US Army), working at a number of American diplomatic posts both in the United States and abroad. During my service as an American diplomat, I was often dismayed at the lack of understanding most people outside the profession have of what diplomats do. The most common phrase I heard throughout that time was, “a diplomat is someone sent abroad to lie for his country.” From the inside, I knew this to be false. Most of my colleagues were decent, dedicated individuals who operated according to a strict ethical code, serving often in dangerous situations, and performing heroic, but unheralded jobs in the service to their nation and its people.
Why, then, did people fail to understand the profession? There are probably a lot of reasons, but one that impressed me most was the fact that, while there are reams of regulations concerning proper ethical conduct, nowhere was there a clearly defined code of ethical conduct easily accessible to diplomats or the outside world. Other than anecdotal information, or the often distorted and inaccurate portrayals of bureaucratic and snobbish diplomats in popular media, there was no easy to access and understand code of ethical professional behavior that told anyone what the profession of diplomacy is all about.
It became clear to me, therefore, that diplomacy, as any other profession, would be best served if it was made accessible to the general public. Diplomats would be more effective in carrying out their important tasks if they knew, not just what they should avoid doing, but what they are expected to do. Our current ethical regulations, though scattered about dozens of volumes and almost requiring a law degree to fully understand, effectively distinguish between right and wrong behavior, but they are useless in helping professionals make the often hard choice between two courses of action, both of which are ‘right,’ but one of which might be more appropriate and effective. The individual is left to his or her own personal code of behavior in making such decisions, and, while the right (or appropriate) decision is made in most cases, it would be more effective if the individual had aspirational guidelines to help in the decision making process. Furthermore, such a code would help outsiders better understand the reasoning behind the decisions made.
Like the US Military Code of Conduct, promulgated after the Korean War and the unfortunate collaboration with the enemy by many soldiers who had not been prepared for the propaganda employed against them, a diplomatic code of conduct, introduced during the beginning of a career and constantly reinforced throughout that career, would better prepare our diplomats for the world in which they must operate today, where they must contend not only with officials of the governments to whom they’re accredited, but with the many nongovernmental groups and individuals who impact foreign affairs in ways not thought of in the early days of international diplomacy.
No longer should American diplomacy be burdened with the image of ‘someone sent abroad to lie for his or her country.’ As the new US administration prepares to face the challenges of the next four years, establishing a well-understood, respected, professional corps of diplomats should be one of its top priorities.
US Diplomatic Museum on the Horizon
Over a decade ago, recognizing that there were more than 500 museums in the US that showcase the contributions of the military, but not a single one that covers the work that American diplomats have done valiantly since before the founding of the republic, a group of senior officials, including former secretaries of state and members of Congress, began to promote the idea of establishing a museum and center that would educate Americans on the important role diplomacy played and continues to play in our security and prosperity.
The project languished for a long time until Hillary Rodham Clinton became Secretary of State, and threw her support and amazing fund-raising ability behind it. On January 25, along with former Secretary James Baker, Clinton will launch the US Diplomacy Center and Museum which will be housed in the Department of State‘s main building in Foggy Bottom, between C and D Streets Northwest, and just west of the National Mall.
This unique project will showcase the history and importance of diplomacy and the contributions of members of the Foreign Service through interactive exhibits and outreach programs to American high schools.
Anyone wanting to know more about the center can visit the Website of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association of the Foreign Service, at: www.afsa.org/usdc.
Review: “Living Half Free” by Haley Whitehall
If you’re offended by harsh racial epithets and violence, you might not want to read Living Half Free, a first novel by Haley Whitehall. Set in the South before, during, and after the Civil War, it tells the story of Zachariah, a very light skinned black who is held in slavery, and who is sold away from his family, and taken from Virginia into the deep South, where he faces harshness and bigotry worse than he’s ever encountered.
Over time, he earns his freedom and meets a young Indian woman, Lillian, and the two fall in love. Able to pass himself off as white, he’s able to live with Lillian on the reservation, until the arrival of the sadistic son of his second master uncovers his identity. Zachariah then learns that prejudice runs just as deep among the Indians as the whites and is forced to accept being put back into slavery to save Lillian from the tribe’s harsh punishment. Lillian uses her wiles to free him once again, and the two of them flee to California where the prejudice is less.
As you follow Zachariah through his life, beginning in Strasburg, Virginia in 1838, to San Francisco in 1867, you will be alternately moved and repulsed; moved at how his strong faith helps him survive the severest of conditions, and repulsed at the depths of depravity to which some people can sink in their treatment of others.
This is a great story, only a bit in parts by what is difficult for even the most experienced writers – dialect that sometimes doesn’t ring quite true. Dialect, when written, depends on the reader’s pronunciation to be rendered, and having grown up in the South in the 50s and 60s, when some people still spoke much like they did during the 19th century, as well as being a writer and teacher of English, I found some of the words and sentences a bit difficult to comprehend, and not like I recall old people of my childhood talking. The author can be forgiven, though; this is one of the most difficult skills to master, and some of us never truly get it. Once you get past these few glitches, though, you’ll find this a good read, for a first timer who I predict will get better with time.
Anatomy of a Mystery: A Brief Guide to Writing Mysteries
Anatomy of a Mystery: A Brief Guide to Writing Mysteries.