Review of ‘Beautifully Broken’ by Sherry Soule

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While Sherry Soule’s Beautifully Broken is narrated by a teenage girl, it is not your usual young adult coming-of-age novel. Fifteen-year-old Shiloh Trudell has the ability to see spirits. Not the bottled kind, and not the benevolent kind; the evil, dark, suck out your life essence kind. At first, she’s able to keep them off with sunlight, but when the Shadow Man, the Eater of Souls, makes an appearance, things begin to change for the worse. Shiloh finds herself at the center of the dark secrets of the town of Fallen Oaks, and in danger of losing not only her soul, but her life.

A spooky, paranormal, horror story that will keep you awake at night, and have you looking under the bed before going to sleep, and jumping at every sound. Sherry Soule has written a story that is the standard by which others in this genre will be measured. If you think your nerves can take it, this is a must read book.

I received a free review copy of this book, but would have been more than happy to pay for it.

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I Still Believe in the Dream

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Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cover of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech, delivered August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. I’d planned to do a special blog about the significance of that event, but ‘the best laid plans of mice and men,’ and all that interfered. This is, in fact, the first day in a couple of weeks that I’ve been able to sit comfortably at my keyboard long enough to write more than a paragraph or delete a few dozen emails. Since the day is here, and I’ve not had time to think about what I wanted to write, I will refer readers to my reminiscence of that day on Yahoo! Voices, ‘Living King’s Dream in a Most Unlikely Place.’ Instead of my planned blog, I will regale you with my adventures over the past two months, and maybe show how it relates.

On July 4, I fell prey to a situation that is all too common to people of my age, a fall. And, yes, I broke something – a very critical bone in my hip. Unfortunately, the fracture was small and didn’t show up on the x-rays in the ER when I went for treatment. It was only in August, when it still hurt more than the bruise we suspected it to be should hurt, that they did an MRI (on Aug. 14) and found the break. My primary doctor referred me to an orthopedist – that took a few days – who immediately scheduled me for surgery.

I checked into the hospital on Aug. 22 and the following day they put three screws in my hip to close the fracture and hold the bones in place until they heal. There followed three more days in the hospital; being awakened every three hours to take my pulse and blood pressure, or give me pain medication, changing dressings, checking the catheter, etc.  The day after surgery, physical therapy started. How to walk with crutches or a walker, how to stand, how to sit, exercises to keep the leg muscles from becoming flaccid and prevent blood clots, and all the other things I need to do over the next two to three months to be fully healed.

A trip to the hospital is, I’m sure, a traumatic experience for everyone. For me, it was compounded by the fact that I’d reached my 68th year without ever spending a night in a hospital since being born in one, so I didn’t know what to expect. I think I was just learning hospital protocol when my doctor decided it was safe to send me home and had me discharged.  I’ve never been happier getting kicked out of a place.

So, on this day, as we look back 50 years at Dr. King’s historic speech, how does my stay in the hospital relate? To start with, had this happened in 1963, the delays in getting treatment in the little East Texas town from whence I come wouldn’t have been administrative or technical – I might have actually been denied admission to some of the local medical establishments in my area. And, with all due respect to the Hippocratic Oath, the treatment I would have received from the country doctors in that era would have, in most cases, been limited to only what was legally necessary.

We still have a long way to go in this country before we’ve fully realized King’s ‘Dream,’ but we’ve also come a long way. I’ll spend this day thinking about the progress that has been made, and what I can do to help make more.

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Review of “A Majority of One” by Robert Lamb

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Mark Twain
Cover of Mark Twain

When Anne Brady, a high school English teacher in a rural South Georgia town, answers the door to a strange woman who presents her with a framed copy of the Ten Commandments, which she wants Anne to post in her classroom, her life changes forever. Soon, Anne begins to receive anonymous, threatening letters accusing her of corrupting her students and afterwards, she is pressured to stop teaching Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn in her English class.

A Majority of One by Robert Lamb is a gripping tale of prejudice and insanity on a mass scale, and a condemnation of single-minded bigotry in all of its pernicious forms. In a narrative that is both compelling and instructive, he shows how zealots who are willing to go to any extreme to force their views on others can destroy a society.

Lamb paints a picture that is not pretty, because, even though this is a work of fiction, it could very well have been ripped from today’s headlines. This is a book that religious zealots would prefer you not read, the very reason it should be recommended reading for any rational person.

This is a definite five-star work!

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Dear Senior State Department Official – It’s Time to Go

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Diplopundit

— By Domani Spero

I had to stop watching the Daily Press Briefing – Ms. Harf, the Deputy Spokesperson is way too chirpy for such a serious topic.

In any case, lots of questions about the Other Benghazi Four. We hope to have a recap for that later.  In the meantime, The Daily Beast and a couple other news outlet carried a statement from a senior State Department official (certainly authorized to speak about this but unnamed for a reason) saying this:

“As soon as he came into the department, Secretary Kerry wanted to invest the time to review the ARB’s findings and match those against his own on-the-job findings about security,” the senior State Department official said. “He’s been hands-on focused on building on the lessons learned from the Benghazi attack to strengthen security at missions world-wide and continue the ARB’s security paradigm shift.”

And this:

“[Secretary Kerry]…

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Review of “The Shoulders of Giants” by Jim Cliff

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English: Publicity photo of Mickey Spillane fr...
English: Publicity photo of Mickey Spillane from the television show Colombo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When private investigator Jake Abraham gets a phone call from disgraced ex-Chicago cop Gregory Patterson it starts a spiral of events that could prove fatal. Patterson wants Jake to find his missing daughter Susan, who didn’t show up for his birthday party. Jake starts a search for the missing girl, only to have her turn up dead with a ‘Z’ carved into her foot. This leads to a connection with several other similar murders.

The cops are looking for a serial killer, but there’s also a mob connection. Jake has more leads than he knows what to do with, and he keeps crossing the wrong people, which could cause him to be added to the growing list of victims.

The Shoulders of Giants by Jim Cliff is a mystery in the mold of Elmore Leonard and Mickey Spillane; gritty dialogue, realistic settings, and non-stop action that will keep you on the edge of your chair as Jake flits from one hair-raising encounter to another. This is definitely a five-star keeper for mystery fans.

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Review of ‘Amethyst’ by Heather Bowhay

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Amethyst, a first novel by Heather Bowhay, is a compelling paranormal romance about Lexi, an 18-year-old college student who has the ability to ‘see’ events before they occur. Often, these events involve moral peril to other people. Lexi is consumed with guilt because she’d previously seen a man about to be hit by a bus and hadn’t taken steps to save him, so when she sees a girl about to be attacked by a dog, she grabs a baseball bat and pepper spray and rushes to the rescue. The ‘rescue’ is more complicated than her premonition had indicated, and she encounters a group of strange people who seem to have super-human powers.

Lexi shares this information with her friend and roommate Ally, who has her own powers. Ally has the ‘Essence,’ and can heal people with her mind. Things take a strange turn when she informs Lexi that she too has this power, called ‘Amethyst,’ only even stronger.

Even with a few formatting errors here and there, this is a book that is well worth reading. Fast-paced action, peppy dialogue, and believable characters make up for the few flaws. Amethyst is a book that I can promise you will thoroughly enjoy reading.

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Photography: Chautauqua Institution

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The Clock Tower at Chautauqua.
The Clock Tower at Chautauqua.
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Athenaeum Hotel
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Hagen-Wensley Guest Lodge
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Palestine Park
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Bestor Plaza
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Clock Tower and Ferry House

046 047 048 049 050 051 052 054 056 063 065 067 021 023 025 026 027 028 029 031 032 035 040I had my first opportunity to visit historic Chautauqua Institution, on the shore of Chautauqua Lake in western New York state from August 4 to 8. Following are some of my photos from what turned out to be a visit to the biggest and best summer camp in the world.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speaks to the CLSC 2013 graduates.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speaks to the CLSC 2013 graduates.
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CLSC coordinator Jeff Miller presents my 2012 CLSC certificate.
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Posing with Sharon Hudson Dean, my public affairs counselor when I was ambassador to Zimbabwe, and a Chautauqua alum.

 

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I am so humbled by this orchestra

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Meeka's Mind

Sometimes you stumble on something so special, and so uplifting, that you just have to share it with the world. [Thank you Mark].

These children are playing instruments made from rubbish thrown onto landfill. And their music is beautiful.

Please watch this video clip, and then share it with your friends. Promoting wonderful things is what social media should be all about.

-hugs-
Meeks

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

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This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is Masterpiece.  Most people think of works of art or fantastic buildings when this word is brought up, but to me, nature is the source of the real masterpieces. So, I searched my nature photo files for the one that screams masterpiece to me. This desert scene, shot just east of Tucson, Arizona, shows nature at her best. Hope you agree.

9017498982_6dba6b3135_k (2)

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Photos Available for Sale

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For anyone interested in prints of nature and wildlife scenes, some of my photography is available for sale at:

http://www.viewbug.com/member/charlesray#/charlesray/prints

I’m adding photos daily, but here are some examples of what is currently available:

 

019 002325

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Wildlife Photography Without Ever Leaving Home

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I love taking photos of all kinds of wildlife. One usually thinks of wandering far afield when doing this, and in truth I have done that, with photo safaris in Africa, Europe, Asia, and many parts of the United States. On July 4, 2013, though, I fell and hurt my hip, and since then I’ve been pretty much confined to my house or hobbling around with the aid of a cane, which you might think would inhibit my ability to get good wildlife photos. Not so. My deck looks out on a wilderness park, and my neighbor has a profusion of flowering plants in his back yard. Butterflies, birds, squirrels, and many other small creatures can frequently be seen hopping, perching, or flying around in both places, as well as my small back lawn.

For the past thirteen days, I’ve spent many hours sitting under an umbrella on my deck, camera in hand. I’ve documented an interesting array of nature’s creatures who’ve come to visit, all without having to move more than ten feet – to the rail of the deck for a clearer shot in some cases. More often than not, I’m able to just sit in my chair and by using my telephoto lens, get some pretty good shots of my visitors. Here is a small offering of what I’ve been able to get. I’d be interested in how many readers have also documented the wildlife around their homes. If you do a post of your photos, please link them to this post so that I and other readers can also enjoy them. Happy shooting.

003 004 005 006 009 010 014 015 017 018 019 020 021

002 004 006 007 008 009 011

005 009 012 013 015 020 024 029 030

 

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Wicked Hunger by DelSheree Gladden

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Wicked Hunger (SomeOne Wicked This Way Comes, #1)
by DelSheree Gladden
Published: July 9, 2013
Publisher: GMTA Publishing

Synopsis:
Vanessa and Zander Roth are good at lying. They have to be when they are hiding a deadly secret. Day after day, they struggle to rein in their uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering in order to live normal lives. Things only get worse when Ivy Guerra appears with her pink-striped hair and secrets. The vicious hunger Ivy inspires is frightening, not to mention suspicious.

Vanessa’s instincts are rarely wrong, so when they tell her that Ivy’s appearance is a sign of bad things to come, she listens. She becomes determined to expose Ivy’s secrets. Vanessa tries to warn her brother, but Zander is too enamored with Ivy to pay attention to her conspiracy theories.

One of them is right about Ivy … but if they lose control of their hunger, it won’t matter who is right and who is wrong. One little slip, and they’ll all be dead.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wicked Hunger by DelSheree Gladden

Wicked Hunger

by DelSheree Gladden

Giveaway ends July 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Excerpt:
Chapter 3: No Happy Endings

“I want you to stay away from that girl,” I say.

“But she’s Laney’s cousin. I can’t avoid her without doing the same to Laney.”

“Maybe that’s just how it has to be, then.” Giving up friends, it’s something Van should get used to, now, because it isn’t going to stop any time soon.

Van shakes her head. “No, Zander. She’s my best friend. I’m not going to bail on Laney like that.”

“You think she’ll be happy you stayed friends with her when you kill her pretty little cousin?” I snap.

Her head drops down, but I can still see the corner of her mouth twitching. “I can control it. I won’t hurt her.”

“You can’t guarantee that.”

“I won’t live like you,” she says quietly. “I won’t live alone for the rest of my life because I’m scared of hurting people.”

I sigh and close my eyes. “It’s not about being scared, Van. It’s about being smart. Stay away from her.”

For a long moment, she doesn’t say anything. Deep down, I’m hoping with everything I have that she’ll listen to me. I can’t go through it again. Oscar nearly broke me. She can’t expect me to go through that with her. I won’t make it. Please just listen to me, I beg.

When she finally speaks, her voice startles me. “She knows something.”

It’s just a simple sentence, but it ignites my anger like a match to a fuse. “She doesn’t know anything! Nobody does. Get that through your head and quit looking for answers, Van!”

My sister’s head snaps up and my hands tighten into fists at the determination in her eyes. “She knows something, and I’m going to find out what it is.”

Then she throws open the door of the truck and runs away.

About the Author:
I live in New Mexico with my husband and two children. I love expressing my creativity through writing and painting and I get a lot of my inspiration from my family and from the culture and beauty of New Mexico. I write mainly Young Adult urban fantasy, but my writing interests are ever expanding. I am also currently in the Dental Hygiene Program at San Juan College, so 90% of my waking hours are devoted to thinking about teeth for the time being!

Author Links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon 

Review of “Losing My Mind: Dark Shadows of a Wounded Healer” by David Mirich

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Psychologists and therapists must delve into the dark recesses of their patients’ minds in order to help them come to term with their demons and restore some semblance of order and sanity into their lives. How much more difficult that task is when having to deal with the shadows over their own minds is hard for a mere layman to fathom. In Losing My Mind: Dark Shadows of a Wounded Healer, David G. Mirich takes us on his own personal journey through the shadows of the valley of madness.

Having endured growing up with a driven, humorless, alcoholic father, and a childhood that can only be described as dysfunctional, Mirich was able to eventually come to terms with the things that haunted his existence. In doing so, he was then able to more effectively help others.

Losing My Mind reads like a roman noir; gritty and uncompromising. The reader quickly finds himself sucked down into the vortex of confusion, anger, and alienation that characterized most of the author’s life. This is not a book that can be read in one sitting. One has to get away from it from time to time to allow what has been read to germinate into fuller understanding. In addition, it is intense; so intense, breaks are necessary to relieve the tension.

This is not light reading, but certainly worth the effort.