Month: November 2014

Review of ‘Seasons of the Fool’

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51qor-T1azL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-51,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_ Seasons of the Fool by fantasy author Lynne Cantwell is a bit different from her other novels. Cantwell introduces us to Julia Morton Michaud, about to be divorced from her husband Lance Michaud, who is about to be convicted of fraud. Julia decides to move back to the cottage in Michiana on the shores of Lake Michigan where she grew up. Back home, she begins to confront memories from her past as she navigates toward an uncertain future.

Julia’s situation is complicated when she encounters a love from her past, Dave Turner, who is himself ensnared in a loveless marriage; Ron Gorski, a handyman with a shady past; and two elderly neighbors, Elsie and Thea, who have unknown to her played a key role in her life for years.

Cantwell plunges the reader deep into Julia’s life with her deft phrasing and in-depth descriptions of the characters and setting. True to her fantasy background, there’s a touch of magic in the story, only hinted at, though, which makes it all the more compelling.

You’ll be on the edge of your seat as Julia faces one challenge after another, moving inexorably toward the destiny that has been foreordained for her.

I received an advance review copy of Seasons of the Fool, and once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I can guarantee you, it’ll affect you the same way. I’ve read Cantwell’s Pipe Woman Chronicles books, and they were good – but, this one is even better. Five stars.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge (2)

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Converge.” My second shot at this theme. See the first one at https://charlieray45.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/weekly-photo-challenge-converge/.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge

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It’s been a while since I did a Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s challenge is Converge. There are a number of ways to show lines meeting. I decided to go for some conventional and unconventional.

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Review of ‘I Kill Rich People’

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When four rich Jewish residents of Nassau County, New York are gunned down at a birthday party, law enforcement agencies immediately fear terrorist activity. But, when other rich people, of all genders, religions, and ethnicities, start becoming victims of the mysterious sniper, they realize they have something far more dangerous on their hands – a motivated loner with a mission.

The killer, only identified near the end of the book, is shown to us through his first person thoughts and actions, and is the book’s main character. NYPD officer Owen Cullen, who happens to live in Nassau County where the first killings occur, is a co-main protagonist – a sort of plain Joe who is torn between his sense of duty and obligations to his family.

Action is non-stop and nail-biting as the NYPD and FBI race to stop the killer, the 00.1% worry about who’ll be next, and the media (some of it) turns the events into a circus.

I received a free copy of I Kill Rich People by Mike Bogin for review. With the exception of a few grammatical gaffes, typos, and formatting glitches, it is a well-written thriller that addresses profound issues. The author does a good job of keeping the reader guessing, and the characters – even the killer who is not identified until very late in the book – are full dimensioned people with whom many of us can readily identify. Although I didn’t think it necessary, the author includes some discussion questions at the end of the book that are, I believe, intended to make readers think more deeply about the issues raised in the story.

Issues aside, a good read that I highly recommend for thriller fans. Despite the grammar problems, I’m giving it four stars.

Photography 101: Triumph

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I can’t quit, though, without sharing a photo for the final assignment – Triumph.  This dog gone bird, after chasing all the other birds away, shows triumph and bravado in every feather.

This arrogant pose by a redheaded woodpecker, after having chased all the other birds away, is almost human in its gesture of triumph.
This arrogant pose by a redheaded woodpecker, after having chased all the other birds away, is almost human in its gesture of triumph.

Photography 101: Just Messing Around to End the Week

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I’ve not been able to do all the assignments, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I did do. Been sitting here on Black Friday catching up on book reviews and outlining my new novel, but as i go into the weekend, when I’ll be totally focused on these two tasks, I’d like to share some photos I took on Thanksgiving Day near my daughter’s home in Woodbine, Maryland in neighboring Howard County – a mainly rural county.

The Patuxent River, at the border of Howard and Montgomery Counties. A light dusting of snow fell Thanksgiving morning. It was mostly gone by the time I shot this, but enough remained for contrast against the brown earth and leaves.
The Patuxent River, at the border of Howard and Montgomery Counties. A light dusting of snow fell Thanksgiving morning. It was mostly gone by the time I shot this, but enough remained for contrast against the brown earth and leaves.
After shooting the picture above (from a bridge over the river) I turned around and shot in the opposite direction (upstream). The snow-coated trees make this look a lot colder, don't you think?
After shooting the picture above (from a bridge over the river) I turned around and shot in the opposite direction (upstream). The snow-coated trees make this look a lot colder, don’t you think?
Then, after arriving at my daughter's house, I'm always drawn to the bird feeder in her back yard.
Then, after arriving at my daughter’s house, I’m always drawn to the bird feeder in her back yard.
Despite the cold weather, the feeder and the trees near it are always full of many different species of birds.
Despite the cold weather, the feeder and the trees near it are always full of many different species of birds.

Review of ‘Prunella Smith: Worlds within Worlds’

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 518UE92GeyL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I received a free copy of Tahlia Newland’s Prunella Smith: Worlds within Worlds for review, and I have to say up front – this is a book that is long overdue.

Prunella Smith is a freelance editor and author who is up against a deadline on an editing job – a fantasy story about an adventurous woman, Kelee, who is having an affair with a young groomsman on her estate. Ella, as she is known, is also a book reviewer, and a recent review of a not-so-good novel has provoked the author, Dita, to begin a campaign of on-line stalking and bullying. Dita’s cyber bullying begins to take its toll, interfering with Ella’s ability to objectively edit Kelee’s story, and things only get worse when she discovers that she has a physical stalker as well.

Newland’s tale kept me interested from page one – and the little surprise she threw in near the end, well, I didn’t see that one coming. A thoroughly entertaining story. An easy five stars  here.

Photography 101: Double

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Again, I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. This is for Photography 101: Double.

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Photography 101: Edge

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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I’m taking a stab at the Photography 101 theme Edge here. I’ll let the photo speak for itself:

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New Release – Prunella Smith: World Within Worlds

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Have you heard about reviewers who have endured attacks by disgruntled authors upset with their review, or about authors being hounded by other authors determined to destroy their credibility? Do you wonder how you might handle such a situation yourself?

Anyone interested in these topics and the issues they raise will find much to enjoy in AIA Publishing’s latest release Prunella Smith: Worlds Within Worlds, a metaphysical thriller. The book has an unusual structure in that it weaves together several strands of experience, tangible and intangible, that together create the rich tapestry of the central character’s life.

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Description:

‘The barrier between the worlds shatters like the window. The beast is loose. My nightmare has become real. The guy has totally lost it. If he finds us here, we could die. No, I don’t doubt it; we will die.’

Author and editor Prunella Smith inhabits a multilayered reality. Physically, she lives in the Australian bush with her crazy cat Merlin. In her work world, she edits the love story of Kelee, a Magan Lord’s daughter, and in the cyber-world of social media, she’s subjected to slanderous attacks by a disgruntled author. To complicate matters further she sees things through the eyes of a Tibetan Yogi, has strange dreams and relives forgotten memories.

Separate worlds, interconnected and complementary, but can they help when Prunella becomes victim to a real life stalker and her sanity is threatened?

Worlds Within Worlds has a unique perspective on the nature of creativity. Its touch is light, its humour distinctive but it reaches deep into the nature of human experience.

Comments from readers:

 

“This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist—and what a twist it is—came around. Phew, what a ride! I can honestly say it is the best book I have read this year.” Frank Kusy, author of Rupee Millionaires.

“This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.” Amy Spahn, literary critic.

“A fascinating insight into the mind of someone using meditative techniques to deal with stress.” Kevin Berry, Awesome Indies reviews.

About the Author

Tahlia Newland, author of six books, including the award-winning Diamond Peak Series (AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction and BRAG Medallion for Outstanding Fiction), writes heart-warming and inspiring magical realism and contemporary fantasy. She is also an editor and the coordinator of Awesome Indies Books, a website that accredits and showcases quality independent fiction.

Tahlia began writing full time in 2008 after twenty years in the performing arts and a five-year stint as a creative and performing arts teacher in a High School. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney with her husband and a cheeky Burmese cat, who features in most of her novels.

Purchase outlets

Ebook

Kindle Stores

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

Apple stores

Smashwords

The paperback will be available from all outlets in early December.

Photography 101: Treasure

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What do you treasure? What is important to you? Today’s Photography 101 is on Treasure, and I had to think for a few minutes before coming up with a photo that shows the things I treasure most in the world, my granddaughters, Samantha and Catherine.

Catie (l) and Sammie, my granddaughters, are the things I treasure most in the world.
Catie (l) and Sammie, my granddaughters, are the things I treasure most in the world.

Black Friday will be Bleak Friday for Many

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Poaching's legacyCoined in the 1960s to mark the start to the Christmas shopping season, ‘Black Friday,’ or the Friday after Thanksgiving, is one of the major shopping days of the year in the United States. It is the period when most businesses move from ‘red’ to ‘black’ profit-wise.

While it’s not an official holiday, coming as it does after Thanksgiving Thursday, many workers (except those working in retail stores) get it off. While Black Friday might be a happy day for owners of stores that finally start to show a profit, it has to be Bleak Friday for many of their employees who often give up Thanksgiving with their families for the sales that sometimes start on Thursday. Retail giants like Walmart and J.C. Penny, for example, begin their Black Friday sales the afternoon or evening before, meaning that their workers have to give up a significant portion of their holiday. While I’m sure they get holiday pay (at least, I would hope they do), it hardly seems to compensate for the missed time with family.

Now, I have to begin by confessing that I have never done a Black Friday sale. When I do Christmas shopping, it’s either done in September and October, or the week before Christmas. I don’t really celebrate, but I do buy gifts for my children (when they were small) and now for my grandchildren.

Being aware of how Black Friday impacts many retail workers, I’m glad I’ve never been tempted. Added to this, there’s the fact that we have this period celebrating conspicuous consumption at a time when nearly 7 million households in the U.S. don’t have enough food to eat, and nearly 4 million are unable to provide sufficient, nutritious food for their children. We have more than 40 million people living in poverty, and some 20 million live in extreme poverty (making less than $10,000 per year for a family of four).

While many politicians seem to delight in blaming the poor themselves for their poverty, the U.S. political and economic systems are primarily to blame. In our free enterprise economy, companies are not creating enough jobs for everyone, and the top echelons of business tend to allocate the lion’s share of profit to themselves. Our political system, which one would think would focus on the needs of the people, tends to have other concerns. Military and security expenditures, for instance, make up half of U.S. federal discretionary expenditures; corporations and the rich have greater lobbying power, and as a consequence tax breaks and subsidies tend to benefit them more; and, the Democratic Party; once the party of the working man, focuses on the middle class, often to the detriment of the poor.

As a consequence of this, we have a culture of inequality, with people segregated by income and sometimes race or ethnicity. With jobs scarce and wages low, the lack of income leads many low income people to dysfunctional behavior, creating a vicious cycle – in other words, poverty often leads to more poverty.

With all this on my mind, I can hardly see Black Friday as a time to celebrate. If you want me to notice the day, maybe it should be changed to Bleak Friday – a much more appropriate appellation.013

Photography 101: Architecture

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Okay, this is my last one – promise. London’s architecture is unique, a combination of old and new that is somehow still uniquely English.

London's architecture is unique.
London’s architecture is unique.

Photography 101: Moment

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Grabbing that quick shot that tells a story is often difficult. Light is poor, and subjects are moving, and you get strange reflections. Then again, that in itself can make an interesting composition.

A hotel doorman, complete with top hat, at a hotel in Central London, chats with a cabbie.
A hotel doorman, complete with top hat, at a hotel in Central London, chats with a cabbie.

Photography 101: Buckingham Palace

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During the past week in London, one of the areas that caught a lot of my attention was Buckingham Palace. Partly because I was staying at the Royal Air Force Club, just across Green Park from the palace, making it easy to get to, but also because of the history of the place. The guards are not as colorfully dressed during the dreary fall and winter, but still impressive.

I started with a shot of the palace from Green Park.

017 This was shot around 4:00 pm, when the sky was already starting to darken, and lights come on inside the building. This helps to establish the size of the structure.  I was also impressed by the statue and fountain in front of the gates, which attract less attention than the palace itself, but are in many ways even more impressive. Take the water gushing from the mouths of the figures, for instance. You cannot help but be drawn to that. 013

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One’s attention is drawn to the ornate gates and the crowds gathered around them; then the building itself:

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Finally, we have the Buckingham Palace guards and these two photos I got just before it got too dark to get good exposures:

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Photography 101: Swarm

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Continuing my photo blogs based on photos I took during this past week in London – only in reverse order of when they appeared on the Photography 101 site, here’s my take on Swarm.

This flock of pigeons in Green Park, London, are swarming around a juicy collection of worms brought out by a recent rain.
This flock of pigeons in Green Park, London, are swarming around a juicy collection of worms brought out by a recent rain.

Photography 101: Landscape

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I was in London for the past week, and while I took a lot of photos, I wasn’t in a place where I could do a photo blog and post it, so I’m playing catch-up this weekend, starting with the subject Landscape.

While not your traditional landscape, this shot of a lone walker in Green Park, in Central London near Buckingham Palace is, you have to admit, a peaceful shot.
While not your traditional landscape, this shot of a lone walker in Green Park, in Central London near Buckingham Palace is, you have to admit, a peaceful shot.

Photography 101: Mystery

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It’s not necessary to manipulate light or take photos of an unrecognizable object to convey a sense of mystery. What, for instance, is on the other side of this passageway? A photo that implies something hidden or unseen is just as mysterious as an unidentifiable object or unusual color and lighting – don’t you agree?

What's behind the walls? Wouldn't you love to know?
What’s behind the walls? Wouldn’t you love to know?

Review of short story anthology – Awesome Allshorts

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Annie On Writing

Awesome Allshorts have just published its latest short story anthology subtitled Last Days, Lost Ways. This collection of 26 stories  were handpicked from both emerging and established writers from Europe, the USA,  Australia and New Zealand.

Amy Spahn, Bill Kirton, Bruce Louis Dodson, Charles Ray, Colleen Grimes, C. Jay, Dixiane Hallaj, G.J. Berger, Joan Kerr, Jonathan Gould, Kate Policani, Kathleen Jones, M T. McGuire, Marsha Cornelius, Mary Maddox, Richard Bunning, Shauna Bickley, Simon J. Townley, Tahlia Newland, and Thaddeus Howze present a peek into the spectacular moments everyday life holds, but with a twist.

The collection opens with a bang with a story by Tahlia Newland. Intriguing to the last paragraph, I was surprised to find it was an excerpt from her newest project. It sits perfectly as a short story and a wonderful teaser into what looks to be an exciting premise.

Each story has an incredible depth and…

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