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Monday, October 9, 2017

Seven, Five-Star Book Suggestions That Will Keep You Reading Past Your Bedtime


Three of these books made me laugh. Some of them made me laugh so hard I cried, and the rest of them were profoundly intriguing, providing valuable and memorable entertainment. Do you like fantasy? Mystery? Had a hard day and want to chuckle like you’ve never chuckled before? Take a look at my reviews and then hop on over to Amazon to order any of these in print or in eBook format. 



Wrath of Rhonda: 
One Cruise and So Much Trouble
Arch Font


         Somehow, Jerry Slider manages to sweet talk everyone in this book, even Rhonda the title character, who seems to despise everyone, forgives no one, is pathologically self-absorbed and cranky to a fault. Helen, Jerry’s wife tells him she doesn’t want to go on a cruise and suggests he should go with her friend Rhonda. The problems stemming from this outrageous suggestion commence in the beginning, setting the tone for this entertaining book. Imagine going on a romantic thirty-day luxury cruise from San Diego to the South Sea Islands with this unfortunate, insecure woman. Jerry however, is a desperate, determined man with some vague ideas on how to keep the peace. Some of those far-fetched notions will have you crying tears as if you were slicing onions. Whether Jerry is searching high and low for Rhonda’s future boyfriend or enjoying the panoramic vistas of Bora Bora, the author makes sure to lure you in with excellent descriptions and hilarious gags. In fact, there’s a bit about the thermostat that had me in stitches.
Anyone who has read my book, Penniless Hearts, will also enjoy this comedic adventure, which tours much more than the Hawaiian Islands but continues on to the Society Islands. The vivid details recounting lush volcanic reefs and lagoons are sensational, as are those of the sea spray onto the deck at night, even the scent of freshly baked French bread. I enjoyed the chauvinistic male viewpoint, which by the way, doesn’t go as far as misogyny because it is funny and in many cases probably true. The author hilariously criticizes women’s fashion, bathroom clutter and even makeup better than a standup comedian. When Jerry goes snorkeling, he finds out that the biggest shark encounter he’ll have is with the woman sharing his cabin. Will Jerry be able to use his negotiating skills to keep Rhonda from erupting like a volcano? Will diplomacy work? Read Wrath of Rhonda and find out!


Whatever Became of Sin?
Barbara Roman





The character of Harvard educated attorney Michael Warren, returns to a town that fills him with horrid memories, where he faces the most lecherous, evil men willing to do anything for profit. This is the unexpected bottom-feeding political underbelly of the otherwise happy town of New Orleans, Louisiana. A place that at one time, had an upscale housing development where he once lived with his wife Elaine and young daughter, Dominique. This time, Michael meets the beautiful temptress, Dr. Celia Stone who is smart, seductive and not as honest as she appears.
Near the very end of the book, the riverboat captain asks Michael what it will serve for him to re-open Pandora’s Box, but by this time, it’s too late. The box filled with treachery has spilled openly out into the Mississippi in “a plot so heinous that the devil would most certainly warm up a special place in Hell for him,” referring to Hardin Westwick, a ruthless developer who pays off the right men to get his way. Roman’s book however contains so much more than just a juicy scandal. Filled with sex, betrayal and the shameful racist behavior that makes mature men talk passionately about their pure bloodlines and how to maintain them, even resorting to calculated, perverse plans that include murder. The author uses names and phrases familiar to life in the South, to pull you into a Bayou shack, even cleverly displaying the colors, sights and sounds, even the smell of cooking to make you feel you are closing in on danger. There are so many intriguing moments that will have you turning pages faster to find out what happens, not to mention, there are shocking and unexpected surprises. If you like captivating and exciting stories, you’ll love Whatever Became of Sin?


  
Show of Hands: A Novel
Andrew McCarten


If Show of Hands were on America’s Got Talent, I can imagine Mel B’s enthusiastic, “Oh My God, I loaved it,” response and a smug Simon smiling from ear to ear. McCarten nails the stereotypical, slimy dealer with this story about a promotion at a car dealership. It’s the type of whacky public relations brouhaha I used to dream up for new car dealers while I worked in advertising; may heaven help my repentant soul. McCarten delves deep into our subconscious to lay out a story with incredibly interesting characters and enough twists to keep us guessing and laughing at the same time. The hilarious and clever moments won’t disappoint, may actually inspire and may even keep you awake. You’ll read until you feel akin to the stubborn contestants in this modern day battle, all of whom are riding into a dark figurative valley for a chance at winning a new car. You’ll keep one hand on the cover while you’re turning pages, because you’ll want to find out what happens to Walter, Betsy, Tom and Jess. Keep your hands on the book at all times and be rewarded with mind-blowing scenes involving Matt, Tayshawn and the two characters with the most to lose—Nat and Terry Hatch. Trust me on this one. You’ll love it!


The Misery Manifesto: 
A Self-Help Parody for the Self-Absorbed
Barb Best

When I reached the end of this book I tried to rework Barb Best’s Misery Manifesto using my own name, and came up with: “Brace before you fall--Always stand tall--Let no one see you weak--show them your gall.” Miserable, huh? Trust me--her version is much better. Anyway, I looked at my Medic Alert bracelet and it didn’t say anything about being a flake or a liar so here I am reviewing a fabulously hilarious book. “Let’s face it,” she writes, “Life is one long dusty Via Dolorosa.” From that point, I knew I was in for a true ode to misery. The talented author weaves stories and creates lists about things that make us miserable. Things many of us can relate to such as: attempts at being vegan, spandex, computers, smartphones, travel, pets, reality television, self-checkouts, moms who hover and more. Her shocking and satire-laced advice should be reason enough for mature readers to pick up this e-book and the smiles will make everyone pick it up again again, just in case they missed something. Did she really suggest private meetings with college professors with a lucrative goal in mind? What was that about goats? Does the word budget really come from Pig Latin and does it really mean “stop spending money on fun stuff?” If you’re looking to tickle your funny bone, then look no further. Maybe thaw out a piece of fruitcake, get comfortable and “outsource your worrying.”


Blood Sister
Kenna McKinnon


I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry after finishing this enjoyable crime-mystery, because it deals with the serious difficulties of mental illness. Kenna McKinnon uses her special perspective to portray the boundaries of sanity in a light-hearted manner. The author uses her main character Annie, as a way to shed light on the voices, medications and visions accompanying schizophrenia, thus educating readers while being entertaining at the same time. My favorite parts were the clever metaphors, similes and allegorical comparisons throughout the novel, pulling the reader down into a rabbit hole, into a work of true creativity.
After her father took up with a woman from Curacao and her mother passed away, Annie ended up alone and on the streets of Serendipity Island. After getting in and out of trouble, she finally receives medication and a job working undercover for the Justice Department. This time the case is a double murder and everyone’s a suspect, especially her Sudanese boyfriend Samir and his cousin Pepsi. But those awful, distracting voices make her doubt everything, until they hire a special investigator called Mark. That’s when she calls Tess the Avon representative with Attention Deficit Disorder for some coral colored lipstick. Annie’s working hard on the case but she has a newfound interest in her clothing and looks, which help develop confidence while dealing with condescending people who have known her for a long time. With Viking blood coursing through her veins, she knows she’s strong and faces all her fears. Will she crack the case? Read Blood Sister and find out.
Lines such as “You’re crazy as a rabbit with its ears caught in a sewing machine,” or “The sergeant was grinning like a dog eating cat turds,” had me laughing aloud.
This talented author not only pulled me into her story, but also into the scariest place of all: her mind. In other words, it’s a great book and I recommend it.



The Seasiders
A.J. Griffths-Jones


Thank you A.J. Griffith-Jones for taking me back, albeit virtually, to a lovely memory of a short visit to The Queen’s Hotel in Portsmouth, England. Though my stay was in the midst of a frosty winter, I still managed to walk along the shore savoring the views of the Isle of Wight. The Seasiders transports readers to a fictional beach hotel called The Sandybank Guest House where families and single travelers go to unwind while enjoying the hospitality of Grace and Dick Thomas. The rapport between the husband and wife landlords is stellar. He’s off for a pint and she needs help because it’s Thursday and the beautician Maureen is waiting to style Grace’s hair at the salon. There’s a plot device used here I rarely see, where the reader is pulled along a somewhat mundane daily routine only to end up in a whirlpool. The characters are charming and the language artistic and brilliant. The author uses words like twaddle and phrases such as “Jolly smart cravat too,” or chiller and cold store instead of refrigerator. Delightfully British in a Fawlty Towers meets Rosemary and Thyme sort of way. There are fantastic characters with side issues such as Elliot Moss, Hilda Price and Oscar Renfrew that I still haven’t figured out. But I don’t want to spoil anything by giving away too much, because there are subtle clues all the way through that I never picked up while enjoying the creative narrative, which eventually led gullible me over an unexpected cliff. When I had finished reading this novel, it reminded me of the short cartoon called Bambi meets Godzilla where Bambi is out walking on a lovely spring day, enjoying the flowers and the butterflies. A classic piece of music by Grieg is playing in the background to draw us further into a false sense of security. That’s when Godzilla shows up to flatten Bambi and the audience is completely flabbergasted. If you like surprises, you’ll love reading The Seasiders.

Vines: A Gripping Tale
Suzanne Y. Saunders


We’ve seen the Potter movies and of course fell in love with every Disney princess, but move over J.K. Rowling because Suzanne Y. Saunders is coming to town and if any DreamWorks producer is looking for something new, I would highly recommend “Vines: A Gripping Tale”. I can almost envision the gnarly, oozing vines on a billboard in Hollywood on Sunset and Vine! What a great marketing idea. But this story is no superficial little fairy tale. In fact, I see blockbuster written all over it. It’s a well-constructed piece of art complete with fairies, a sorcerer and supernatural intruders. There are damsels in distress, a handsome young blacksmith’s apprentice called Lance and a fascinating, original plot.
Saunders uses delightful and well-researched words to make the dialogue seem old without bogging readers down with ancient syntax. Painting the colors, the sounds and the smells of the Forbidden Forest, the author pulls us into deep dark woodland filled with dangerous vines. Hidden among the twisted and overgrown branches is a mysterious cavern with many life-threatening traps. With clever twists, you’ll come across the lying Vera who uses potions to stay beautiful and the evil Manix. You’ll meet the nobleman Terrence who owns a special protective sword and other wonderful, enchanting characters such as Milly, old man Bailey and Rennick.
“Rats and bats,” once you start reading you won’t be able to stop because Saunders casts a spell that will take you through the woods, leaving you breathless and wanting more!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tasty Recycling




This week, my blog is highlighting two seafood dishes
created from recipes found in this old cookbook,
 I picked up at a used book sale, for a pittance. 


To my delight, everything I’ve made from this book is super easy and tastes great. One of the things I like about this cookbook is that the ingredients used in most of the recipes are items I would normally have in my pantry or in my freezer. All I have to do is supplement what I have with a trip for some fresh produce and Voila--dinner is served.  If you're looking for healthy dishes that don't require tons of work and strange ingredients, then you'll like these recipes.  

First, I made the Tuna Bean Salad and I have to say with a modicum of hubris, that I think my version turned out better than the one they pictured in the book.

Bean Salad With Tuna--Professional Picture
Bean Salad With Tuna--photo by me.
Don't you think this one looks better?


A week later, I tried the Shrimp Creole and again, I think my version was tastier than the one pictured in the cookbook. Rather than retype the recipes, I took some photos and hope you’ll try them and enjoy them as much as we did. 




Proof, that gourmet cooking might be possible by taking a gamble on old books at a library or even a thrift store.

(In my humble opinion: between fast food, Big Pharma and those celebrity chefs, there's a conspiracy to make us eat unhealthy foods or we have to pay through the nose for the good stuff at fancy restaurants. Trust me, I love trying new things at restaurants, but cooking our own delicious meals some of the time, might help keep all of us off expensive and dangerous medications.) 


Bon Appetit. 



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Eve's Humble Apple

Summer is over? Whaaatttt? I can’t believe it. My favorite season is gone--just like that-- vaporizing into a humid weather report about hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, etc. Humidity is nothing in the big scope of things. Right?



I am so grateful that my cup 'runneth' over. Big time. Take a look at this apple of ours. The first and only apple on our fledgling apple tree from this garden, where we’ve lived since 2014, and while it's about the size of a golf ball, that little green apple reminds me, someone with the perilous name Eve, to be humble. To be thankful for the small things, such as apples. 
 It’s a magical touch of heavenly sweetness that grew in our corner of paradise. All by itself. All alone without other apples around to keep it company. Not enough for pie and not even big enough where I might tempt my husband to take a bite out of the minuscule morsel in order to find out if it is tart. Or filled with secret mysterious knowledge? Or worms?
 I can observe it and simply contemplate the reasons it came into my life. 




Remember this song? 
Maybe I'm supposed to remember this song because my mother liked it so much.

Hope you and your family are safe this season and always.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meet Me at the Hemet Book Fair!





Original art contributed by Vicki Allen-Hitt


The Book Fair will be held on Saturday, September 23, from 9 am to 1 pm. It will be held at the Diamond Valley Arts Council, 123 North Harvard Street, Hemet CA 92543. There’s parking on the back (west) side of the building as well as on Harvard Street (in front of the building and across the street in a public parking lot just east of the DVAC.) 

I"ll be signing copies of Penniless Hearts, The Fifth Commandment and Theories of Her-An Anthology that contains three of my poems. My newest story Texting at the Gate is now available in a new fairy-tale collection titled, Once Upon a Broken Dream. I hope to be able to acquire a few copies from our publisher so I can display them at the book fair too.
That's me on the right. I'm saying Aloha to everyone
  at the Feldheym library, Meet the Author Event  in August.
Sharing my table is the super-talented,
 delightfully charming author, Suzanne Saunders.

I'm very excited about this event because it's my first Book Fair with the Diamond Valley Writer's Guild and it's much closer to home than the signing in August. Oh and before I forget, you can read one of my stories--The Dream in the summer issue of our Guild's magazine by clicking here: www.straitjackets.org

Hope to see you on the 23rd of September!
Free Admission!

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Creativia Publishing Family-Great Entertainment!



Growing up, among my family members, we had the sportsman, the dancing/sculptress, the comedian, the glamorous one and the singing poet. We all had our strengths and entertaining each other seemed to be one of our highest priorities. Long before reality television, we had backyard carnivals and weekend comedy shows. Sometimes we’d invite the neighborhood and other times we enjoyed creating smiles within the confines of our family. Usually I would sing. On the Fourth of July, I sang the Star Spangled Banner. At Christmas, my sister would dance like a Sugar-Plum Fairy and my brother told jokes or did John Wayne impersonations. Dad enjoyed a New Year Waltz, spinning Mom around and around until she was dizzy from too much Strauss. When we we were all tired from performing, we sat down to play Monopoly until at least one of us fell asleep on our fake pile of pink money.

So much has changed in the world today that families don’t have time to look up from their smartphones. After all, money isn’t pink and it isn’t easy to earn. Everyone wants to get behind the wheel of his or her own car instead of sharing a ride. Life is about self-fulfillment instead of togetherness. It’s about me instead of us--with them being the enemy. It’s really sad. I remember popping the popcorn for our neighborhood festival. We had games and offered Kool-Aid for a nickel.


Today, I’m more of a storyteller than a singing poet. Nostalgia graces my memories and I’m working on my second large novel, Penniless Souls which is a sequel to Penniless Hearts. I also wrote a short, faith-based fantasy titled, The Fifth Commandment about a young girl who wished for different parents, thus breaking the fifth commandment about honoring your parents. Right now, I’m glad to be part of the Creativia Publishing family. Recently, Creativia published an anthology titled, Once Upon a Broken Dream. Judging from the varied stories, I imagine there’s a comedian, a sportsman, a dancer or two among our talented members. Every author with a story in this anthology also has their own books and I'm sure you'll agree they are wonderful writers.

 I submitted a short faith-based story called Texting at the Gate. Please let me know if you like it. You can check it out here: 



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Peaceful Perspectives


Do you prefer original ideas from a famous author?
"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


The practical sound of science? 
"Peace cannot be kept by force. 
It can only be achieved by understanding." - Albert Einstein


Or...
 Do you find hope and strength in faith? 

"If we have no peace, 
it is because we have forgotten
 that we belong to each other." - Mother Teresa



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Beat the Heat at the Library on the 12th!

Saturday, August 12th!
Hobnob with local authors next weekend--
or
if you're the shy type and socializing isn't your thing, at least come 
say hello to me---Eve Gaal--I'm the author behind this blog--Intangible Hearts and the previous one: The Desert Rocks. I'll be showcasing and signing my novel
Penniless Hearts and a short novella: The Fifth Commandment.

I will also have on hand copies of an
 anthology about women, titled
 Theories of Her which features three of my poems. 

 Libraries are treasure troves 
of information and discovery.
 Create a family experience by 
meeting other immensely
 talented authors of 
children's books, young adult books, non-fiction, poetry,
 local history, non-fiction, even fantasy books. 
Readers of all ages are welcome!


The event is at the Feldheym Central Library 
at 555 W. 6th St. 
San Bernardino

1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Night Swimming

Fiona the wild rescued Chihuahua sent away the ducks but they kept coming back. They were sneaking in at night for moonlight swimming in our lap pool.
It sounds romantic but they were also not using Charmin bath tissues or even those newfangled flush-able wipes. The pool guy would clean around the gluey mess at the bottom and insist on higher fees for managing the indelicate mess. The bacteria level made it a risky swim akin to jumping in a toddler pool after lunch. And the area around the pool became dangerously slippery and downright disgusting.


 Finally, after many silly ideas such as a scarecrow which didn’t work and looked ugly, and a small toy crocodile in the shallow end that also didn’t work, because California ducks have never seen crocodiles, thus have no reason to fear them, we came up with a creative solution. We found a metal sculpture of a menacing peacock. Once painted—it looks realistic and bam—no more ducks. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dog Days!



 Dog Days of Summer!
This is Pinky and Fiona sitting in the pleasant morning rays.

Did I mention it’s the dog days of summer around here? I am super appreciative for a daytime high of only 112 here, as opposed to the scorching heat at my previous residence located in the Coachella Valley, where I recall heat-waves over 120 degrees. We lived in the desert town of La Quinta for over eight years and what made it difficult was that it often doesn’t cool down at night. The surrounding clay mountains suck up the heat and radiate it back out during the entire evening. It sounds lovely in theory but I remember 95 at midnight. The adjacent city is understandably called Thermal. The temperatures out there are so high that the meteorologists don’t even mention it on the Los Angeles news channels, because then no one would want to play golf, and few would want to visit the gorgeous resorts.

Of course those same forecasters talk it up in winter, attracting snowbirds from the coldest part of the planet.  Unbelievable as it may sound, La Quinta’s weather occasionally competes with the highs in Death Valley. I think where we now reside is probably located half way between both of those places.

Lucky for me, I prefer warm, dry heat and thus Desert Rocks— is the name of my creative writing company. We all have limits and there's also something called a heat index that describes how humidity creates an ugly heat that feels hotter than mere degrees. Here’s my dry weather meter:

1.       75-Perfect weather for almost every outdoor activity. (Especially dining Al fresco).
2.       85-Nice but don’t ask me to do any gardening. (Honestly, I don’t pull weeds or do windows in any weather.)
3.       95-Let’s go swimming!
4.       105-Maybe I’ll read a book or take a nap. 
5.       110+Plus--Put on the air-conditioning and no one gets hurt.




REMEMBER;
 NEVER LEAVE A CHILD
 OR PET IN A HOT CAR!!!
 
Pinky is becoming overheated in this picture.
Her tongue and body language indicates
 that she needs to go inside where it's cooler.


How about you? What’s your limit? 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Abundant Love and Crosses

Luke 15:7-Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.


One at a Time
Eve Gaal

Imagine my bewilderment at coming across this
collection of crosses probably made in China.
The cynic in me laughed--
maybe my dark side.
While the best in me hailed it as an achievement
here in our egocentric
capitalistic society.
A display of blatant commercialism
necessitated by
those who thirst for life.

But does it matter?
If even one human being
perhaps while making these crosses,
painting them, packing them, stacking them
begins to believe?
If one sailor on a
giant freighter crossing
through the Panama Canal
lifts one of these boxes and peeks inside.

They’ll decorate walls,
lonely  halls or
the side of roads where hate may have raged.
One mind that reconsiders,
forgives—
a family kept together--
a marriage saved.
A tribute to the fallen--
a comforting memory,
a marker of love.

If only one,
eye rests on the symbol and prays?
If one teenager who loses a friend to drugs
takes a tearful gaze
at the commemorative cross
reflecting on ‘why’.
If one life is saved,
from the clutches of doom—
the fire and fumes--
and one heart has turned toward God--
He will rejoice and be glad.



Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Social Media Hearts--(A Poem)


Look at the world,
where varied types of hearts commingle.
Some seem fully oxygenated,
gassed up
ready to whirl over others like a lawnmower.
Delete key overload,
parental controls,
a pack of unfriended hearts--
who had once made us smile.
Adult supervision lingers as
spiritual guidance,
legal representation,
group administrators,
and an authoritative boss.
Assisted living pulls hearts into
managed care and hospice.
One end is another beginning.

Wary hearts meekly gasp for air,
a word,
perhaps a meal.
Some are fearful and alone--
they kick--
act embarrassed—
ashamed of the past.
Sad hearts often find themselves mortified to be human.
They feel the species is regressing--
it does sound rather depressing.
And science invented a pill,
increasing serotonin--
flowing with emotional  dopamine
numbing like legalized cannabis.
Look away, look away, look away Dixieland.
Watch the news—hear the fire and the missiles--
see handsome soldiers break their mother’s hearts.

There are evil hearts that stab with knives made of sarcasm.
Sometimes they crawl into the recesses of their ventricles
pushing their own bloody convictions
behind an alias,
a nameless heart.
Cowardly hearts that prey
without a spine.
Waiting for a payoff?
Or simply inebriated?
Unattached and disloyal knights
who don’t care about anybody’s heart.   

Courageous hearts peacefully march for rights.
They proudly protest unfairness.
Stomping out bad hearts with vocalizations,
banners and communal prayer.

Like a roller-coaster—hearts can skyrocket at the medical center.
Hearts come and go.
On foot or carried on a stretcher.
Some have stitches and stents--
some turn to God and repent.
Wild ones twirl like overjoyed ballerinas.
Some people paint dreams around their heart like a picket fence.
They weave through clouds on multi-hued fantasy creatures,
and sing or write poetry about grateful hearts.   
Some are volunteering,
rescuing, knitting or putting out fires.
Millions of magnificent hearts connect into a loving tapestry.
But can honest hearts keep the good from unraveling?
Can we manage the truth behind our limitations,

while guarding innocent hearts?
In Time of Harmony by Paul Signac 1893


#
by Eve Gaal

Monday, June 5, 2017

Can I Be of Service?




Whether blogging or posting anywhere on social media, today is a good time for me, and all of us in fact, 
to ask these all-important questions:

You know I'm experienced
 if I still have this on a shelf!










Who will listen? Who cares?
How do I reply? 
Am I too harsh? 
Repetitive?  Too boring?   
How can I make others care? 
Do I sound immature or unprofessional?
Is spelling important?
Can I be misconstrued?
What are my intentions?
Is there a better way to reach my goals?

Top Seven Questions.
1.       Am I making a difference?
2.       Am I being original?
3.       Am I being honest?
4.       If no one reads my post, will I be upset?
5.       Have I helped anyone including myself?
6.       Is my message or comment important?
7.       If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it fall or not?
 Of course it did. So if no one is listening or buying, does it mean you're invisible?
I don't know, are you? 

Find out more at: http://evegaal.com
Need help communicating? Want heartfelt ideas and descriptive posts that create action? Maybe what you need is more humor and wittier tweets with fewer typos?

I have written ad copy for major newspapers selling every type of product from automobiles to multi-million dollar homes. I have award-winning sales experience coupled with a background in creative writing, a degree in English literature and also a graduate degree in Human Behavior.
 My words may help your business sing and achieve revenue growth!
 (Reasonable flat fee—retainer style pricing available)


Contact Eve Gaal, M.A. at Desert Rocks Creative Media to clarify and simplify your messages, your advertising and everything you need for social media today! (evegaal@gmail.com)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ten of The Best in Five Months of Reading

 Catching up on my reading....




Serenity by Craig A. Hart


Serenity is the first book, in a series of crime dramas, taking place in a lovely forested setting in Michigan. The main character is Shelby Alexander who reminded me of James Garner in The Rockford Files especially when speaking to his daughter Leslie. Shelby is tough but he’s not the law. He plays hard, drinks harder and basically takes no prisoners. But he has a softer side like the time his daughter sent him a coffee maker and he wanted to read the instructions about descaling. His friend Mack is a retired Detroit cop. He doesn’t mess around either-- at least when it comes to drinking. The story takes place in ice-cold weather and the author pulls you in next to a crackling fire or into a warm bar before sending us out ice-fishing or tapping maple. In other words the descriptions, the trees, the barn, the snow, the bullets are skillfully mapped out to take us into the deepest, darkest part of Serenity’s wooded areas. “All the shooting and corruption aside it’s rather peaceful,” says Mack. It’s a place of contrasts; of heavenly beauty and unimaginable pain. Your senses will feel the cool morning air because Hart has us peeping, as if we’re outside balancing on the wooden deck of a cabin, ogling this wild, Eastwood-type character almost voyeuristically. We get into Shelby’s mind, into his heart and into his personal life through many twists and turns while reaching a satisfying ending. I enjoyed reading the book but Hart cleverly made sure there’s that small dangling detail about Sheriff Wilkes. Did he, or didn’t he, have something to do with all the drug smuggling in Serenity? Good thing he wrote those sequels.

The Last Train by Richard Alan


The Last Train took me by surprise because I don’t like books about possessed people, demons and zombies but I do like books about angels. Near the end, Alan ventures into possessed people at a mental facility, but by that time, he had me hooked. “You have been all too human,” my favorite line spoken by Soujouriah, who seemed to understand why Jake had to go after his wife when the train they were riding on for their 25th anniversary, ran off the track. To me, it seems The Last Train is a man’s romance. Is that a genre? The writer makes the point of view clear from the beginning, letting us listen to Jake’s thoughts, while taking the reader on a fascinating journey. There are battles and road trips unlike any I’ve ever read, while all throughout, there’s also an underlying warmth, heart and true desire for the lovely Bernadette.
Strangely, we just happened to cancel our own 25th Anniversary rail trip; in fact, we were supposed to leave yesterday, the day I finished reading this eBook and now I’m wondering whether my beloved husband would have gone through all the trouble Jake went through. If you like books about Heaven, filled with various types of angels, embark on The Last Train, because you’ll like it.

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.


The author, a neurosurgeon from Massachusetts describes his life in the first few pages, building credibility and convincing the reader that this experience he had during a six-day coma, on the other side, really happened. As the book progresses I’m waiting for more specific descriptions but he gives us a general overview of what he calls an Earthworm’s Eye View, the Gateway and the Core, where time stretches in various directions and lights, shadows and butterflies have spectacular, clear definitions. Most of his tale he spends defending himself--worrying about how it would look for a doctor to say things about God--or against science. It's like he's tangled in a web of knowledge that has a stronghold on everything in his world--except for that one week he lived to write about.
My favorite part of the story is learning about his family life, his wife Holley, his sons and his sisters and how they handled the stress during those trying times. Proof of Heaven has a bold title and I’m sure that Dr. Alexander isn’t kidding when he says that “describing what it felt like is challenging in the extreme,” due to our” linear language” and our “general flattening of experiences” while we’re in our bodies. Which sounds like it means that the dimensional aspect is so awe-inspiring that there are no words to describe it. Sadly, towards the end, he decides to use his medical knowledge to ramp up the believable factor by bringing in past experiments in quantum mechanics, higher consciousness and sleep-learning. By page 159, I had lost consciousness myself. Fortunately, the next chapter and a wonderful quote from Einstein brought me back so I could hurriedly finished reading his story--a story with a deep, heartfelt message but not enough information for my inquisitive mind.

With A Twist by J. A. Konrath


The problem with reading before bedtime is twofold. If the book is exciting, you might have nightmares and if you nod off before falling asleep, you may miss a plot twist in a great caper. In the past, I’ve had that problem with good thrillers which is one of the reasons I haven’t written a review for bestselling author Konrath before. I had some of his eBooks but this is the first one easy enough to finish in a single sitting. Had I any inclination to nod off, it disappeared as soon as I began turning pages. I loved the Swedish Fish addition and the cute tie-it together plot. There is just enough tantalizing information about the characters to make me want to purchase more in this series, which is clearly the author’s intent. The detective’s name is Jack. Some call her Jackie and her mother calls her Jacqueline—a simple touch but brilliant. Then there’s Herb the mustard-shirted guy—what a crack up. Still, I felt a bit rushed. I wanted to be hungry for Asian food by the end of it or at least sleepy---but instead—it was over—case closed and solved. Guess I’m used to reading longer books and my personal opinion is that the author could have elaborated on so much here to create a full-length novel. If you like super-short mysteries then here’s one you won’t want to miss.

Party to a Murder by Lorelei Bell


I enjoy reading mysteries but usually avoid anything involving blood or murder, because having a vivid imagination, they tend to keep me up at night or give me nightmares. The same goes for television shows and movies, even though I’m well aware they use ketchup or fake blood. Strangely, I have what might seem like an unhealthy aversion to vampire stories and I’m glad Bell, who usually writes about erotic bats and such, decided to change courses for this book. In fact, I really liked Party to a Murder. This mystery novel has two murders. One is a drowning and the other a stabbing. The plot weaves artistically through the Mississippi valley small town, where an amateur sleuth called Lainey decides to help Sheriff Weeks solve the horrific crimes. The characterization is excellent and there were plenty of plot twists, even a tornado, to keep me interested until the end. I could clearly imagine Lainey’s aunt and uncle and her friends, Brett, Wendy, Nadine, Lawson and A.J. Like a great mystery, every one is a possible suspect and as the story unfolds small clues help define the psychological implications inherit in who, what, where and why. And, in case you’re anything like me, it isn’t too gory. The only reason it kept me awake at night was simply because I kept reading and reading and reading to find out what happens next. If you like Agatha Christie and appreciated Nancy Drew, then you want to read Party to a Murder.

The Edge of Winter by LuAnne Rice


There’s not much to say, other than I loved everything about this book. There was however, that annoying problem of going through a lot of tissues, as tears rolled down my cheeks. Rice mingles a fascinating war story with romance, culture and ornithology. There’s a subplot involving relationships between brothers, fathers and sons and a father and his daughter, Mickey. Mickey and her friend Shaun want to change the world by saving the historical and biological significance of Refuge Beach but they are up against incredible odds, red tape and tons of emotional, family baggage. Cole Landry is a Trump sort of developer who wants to raise the U-boat that sank off the coast of Rhode Island. His Teflon-coated son Josh goes to school with Mickey. There’s trouble everywhere—especially when Josh is around. Tim, the Park Ranger has a personal interest in what goes on at Refuge Beach because of his father Joe. And Joe, well he found a way to deal with all his pain by taking care of raptors and sick birds. This metaphorically reminded me that some of us are like raptors, some of us are swans, while others are ptarmigans or prey. Some of us are free and some of us are caged—in actual cells--or jailed by struggles we create. But freedom has a price and there can be victims who become casualties, swept down below, during a raging storm at The Edge of Winter.

The Witch of Portabello by Paul Coelho



As someone who returned to my church and faith after years of soul-searching, I felt strong enough in my personal beliefs to wade through this story about a controversial subject. I love books that take you on a journey, out from the armchair and out of your comfort zone. The Witch of Portobello does exactly that with a unique format of various characters narrating each chapter, creating a sort of soulful alchemy focused on the main character. Unlike the literal excursion in The Alchemist, this is the spiritual path of Athena, and perhaps the author’s own message about non-conformity. As in, there are basically those who obey and those who don’t; a somewhat black and white message illustrated from each of the character’s different perspectives. If you know anything about the 60’s you’ll know it was a time to question authority, a notion gaining in popularity again. Back then, it was revolution or peace and lots of physical love. This book takes place in the 90’s and Coelho explores different types of love, such as that of a mother’s hug, a man’s kiss, Athena holding the hand of her child and the expression of love through silence and dance.
Perhaps this fascinating novel is best summarized with this line spoken by Athena: “When hatred makes a person grow, it’s transformed into one of the many ways of loving.” And that-- in a nutshell-- is precisely what this book is about—taking a forgotten gypsy orphan and showing her through teachers and experience about real love, and how it is always part of our lives. But how, you ask? What is the recipe and how does Athena turn hatred into love? You’ll have to read The Witch of Portobello to find out.

Frozen Time by Peter and Pattimari Cacciolfi


What a great story! 
I kept turning the pages faster and faster because I had to know what happens to Timmy, the son of a renowned archaeologist. One day, Timmy is moving some of the excavated items and finds an amulet that magically stops movement and time. The story begins in Africa and soon crosses the Atlantic to New York City where Timmy quickly learns that freezing time is a lucrative way to make money. He has a plethora of strange ideas to help him cash in on what at first feels like luck but later feels like hell. He travels to Vegas and enters a poker tournament, robs banks, convenience stores and hooks up with the darkest, shadiest drug dealers in the state. His friend Sara visits and wants to know what happened to the nice guy she used to know back in Africa.

Back home, his dad is in an induced coma and the stress in Timmy’s life is mounting.
I’ve given away too much already. It’s an amazing roller-coaster ride that will leave you breathless. Will Timmy move back to Africa? Will the mysterious amulet have other powers? Are Sara and Timmy finished forever or will love prevail? You’ll have to read Frozen Time and find out.

Twisted Tales From the Desert by Mari Collier


Bestselling author, Mari Collier writes amazing science fiction sagas taking place in the old west. These are contemporary stories with unique characters and desert landscapes. Her detailed, descriptive writing is well researched, showing an authentic command of language and a deep grasp about subjects most of us have only heard about, such as ham radio frequencies, shifting harmonics and cruise control. Unusual topics, only the most talented writer can make interesting. In fact, all her Twisted Tales from the Desert are mesmerizing and most will leave you breathless if not shocked. To spin a thrilling tale on a few pages complete with a suspenseful plot in each story is brilliant and in this case, truly twisted.

Whether it’s a story called Forgotten Gods about Native American folklore that had me searching on the floor for the bottom of my jaw, or simply a story about a wife wishing her husband Phil would someday return, in The Kiss, there’s a lot to love in this fascinating collection. In Ghost Town Remodel, Kim wants to refurbish a haunted bordello, in Conversations with the Unknown, Kevin is spending entirely too much time working on a broken radio while his wife Darla keeps nagging that he should stop so they can start a family. The hairs on the back of your neck will rise as Collier pulls you into A Victim of Murder which, along with many of these stories could be made into television movies or full-length novels. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d choose Rest in Peace which is a happier ghost story with a satisfying ending. The combination of ghosts, science fiction and “sweet spring desert air,” makes for some seriously great reading and since these are short stories, you can read one and put the book down until you have time to read another.


Ms. Maxwell & Son by Norma Beishir



Are you looking for a something pleasurable to read that won’t bog you down with literary details but still has a great plot? While it’s nice to read about snow glistening like a broken mirror or the leafy green fingers of English ivy wrapping around a fence post, those cumbersome particulars take our attention away from the subject, like a sneaky magician perfecting his sleight of hand, often making us fall asleep. (For example, do we really care about Mr. Darcy’s shirt being wet or even white? Austen distracted us but we kept reading because we wanted to see love!) Admit it--we want to find out what’s going to happen--especially in a romance! Most books by Norma Beishir are thrillers that weave around the world, pulling
readers into serious adventures but Ms. Maxwell and Son stays comfortably in Connecticut with an entertaining and intriguing plot. Of course, you’ll immediately fall in love with redheaded Katie and her neighbor Jack Spangler who lives with his cockatoo Sam. Katie’s in a pickle and the phone lines aren’t working. In desperation, she turns to Jack who happens to be a composer. He writes music all night long and says he’s about as ‘domestic as French wine’. Not only does this author capture the reader’s attention but she also makes us laugh aloud while pulling on our heartstrings. There’s nothing boring here to sideline or distract us... which makes for enjoyable reading and a great story that will never let you yawn!


What about you? Have you read any great books lately?