Book Review: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! REALITY SHOCK!

Ripleys

Reality Shock! is the 2015 edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! bestselling annual series. This incredible collection is loaded with unbelievable facts, amazing stories, and incredible animals. With amazing photography, zany stories and unbelievable facts and figures, this book is sure to be a favorite with adults and children alike.

Reality Shock! Is filled with more of the amazing facts, unbelievable stories and extraordinary photography that makes Ripley’s Believe It or Not! so popular. Read all about the amazing things that people all over the world have done- from insane stunts to crazy traditions. Take a closer look at the extraordinary images nature produces, such as mutated animals and amazingly impossible vistas. Crystal clear photography paired with zany stories, amazing facts and figures that are undeniably true but incredibly hard to believe will make this book a must have for every household.

Published: September 2014

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My Review:

This book is a collection of facts ranging from fascinating to fun to weird to just plain gross. There are eleven different categories, supplying answers to questions you’d never think to ask. Some of the pieces are longer, offering more in-depth information, while others are short little blips.

The book itself is a work of art. The pages and photographs are full of color. The paper is thick and the overall quality is excellent. I would highly recommend the hardcover over the ebook, as it truly is something you want to hold in your hands and keep on your shelf.


Thanks for reading. :)

Early Review: Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe

Independents

Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Drayton runs a private investigation agency in Vancouver that specializes in missing persons–only, as Mike has discovered, some people stay missing. Still haunted by the unsolved disappearance of a young girl, Mike is hired to find the vanished son of a local junk merchant. However, he quickly discovers that the case has been damaged by a crooked private eye and dismissed by a disinterested justice system. Worse, the only viable lead involves a drug-addicted car thief with gang connections.

As the stakes rise, Mike attempts to balance his search for the junk merchant’s son with a more profitable case involving a necrophile and a funeral home, while simultaneously struggling to keep a disreputable psychic from bilking the mother of a missing girl.

US Publishing Date: September 23, 2014

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So much of modern investigating is simply knowing which database to search. I was happy to turn much of that work over to Katherine, freeing me up for the kind of jobs my antiquated skill set was better suited for. Like camping out in the basement of a funeral home, waiting for a necrophiliac.

My review:

Last of the Independents is written in first person, from the point of view of PI Michael Drayton. His character is an intriguing mix of bad boy and good-hearted hero. The cast of supporting characters is original and well-developed. 

The story feels believable. We follow Drayton as he attempts to solve two different cases, one with a darkly humorous edge and the other far more serious and complex. As we delve into the cases, we also see parts of Drayton’s personal life. This insight adds layers to the story while, at the same time, bringing us deeper inside. 

My problems with the book are relatively minor, and might not be a problem at all for other readers. First, there are several weird POV shifts late in the story. Rather than the first person we’d been in throughout, Wiebe suddenly shifts to a kind of remote first person, in which we’re told what is happening when Michael Drayton is absent. It feels like a third person POV, though there is no particular character this shift leans toward. Instead, Drayton occasionally pops in to relay that this is how the story was told to him later. This technique doesn’t quite work for me. It comes so late in the story that it feels odd and jarring, more like the author needed to convey certain information to wrap things up but he couldn’t find a way to do that in first person. 

The other problem I had is that I really, really hated the epilogue. I don’t want to give spoilers, so I can’t give too much detail as to why I hated it. For one, it’s in first person POV of a different character, which feels strange since that person had no POV throughout the story. But, more importantly, I just didn’t like how it played out.

Aside from these issues, I thoroughly enjoyed Wiebe’s writing style and look forward to spending more time with Michael Drayton.

At a distance, evolution seems linear. Birds from winged reptiles, homo sapiens from apes. We think this way about society, too, as if we move through the generations from ignorance to enlightenment, from evil to good, towards perfection. These are but convenient fictions. In truth, society grows misshapen and deformed. The family, our social heart, has stopped beating.

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review: THE DARKEST HOUR by Tony Schumacher

The Darkest Hour

A crackling, highly imaginative thriller debut in the vein of W.E.B. Griffin and Philip Kerr, set in German-occupied London at the close of World War II, in which a hardened British detective jeopardizes his own life to save an innocent soul and achieve the impossible—redemption.

London, 1946. The Nazis have conquered the British, and now occupy Great Britain, using brutality and fear to control its citizens. John Henry Rossett, a decorated British war hero and former police sergeant, has been reassigned to the Office of Jewish Affairs. He now answers to the SS, one of the most powerful and terrifying organizations in the Third Reich.

Rossett is a man accustomed to obeying commands, but he’s now assigned a job he did not ask for—and cannot refuse: rounding up Jews for deportation, including men and women he’s known his whole life. But they are not the only victims, for the war took Rossett’s wife and son, and shattered his own humanity.

Then he finds Jacob, a young Jewish child, hiding in an abandoned building, who touches something in Rossett that he thought was long dead.

Determined to save the innocent boy, Rossett takes him on the run, with the Nazis in pursuit. But they are not the only hunters following his trail. The Royalist Resistance and the Communists want him, too. Each faction has its own agenda, and Rossett will soon learn that none of them can be trusted . . . and all of them are deadly.

Published: September 23, 2014

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Rossett wondered if the old man was scared, watching his words almost as closely as he watched the whiskey, making sure not to spill too much of either.

My Review:

The Darkest Hour takes an alternate look at WWII, with Hitler’s Nazis winning in Europe and the US turning away from the madness. England, where the story takes place, is now occupied and managed by German Nazis. The setting here is so realistic that I often found myself forgetting this is not how the war actually played out, though it all too easily could have.

The Jews were squeezed onto the back of the trucks, with canvas sheets eventually rolled down to cover the cargo from prying eyes, out of sight and out of mind.

Schumacher writes with a depth of detail that transports you right into the midst of the struggle. I saw the scenes playing out, felt the despair along with that shred of hope.

His cheeks looked hollow in the shadows and his eyes like potholes to hell.

This story is dark, disturbing, thought-provoking, and a powerful reminder of how easily good people can be forced to do bad things in order to survive.

“If I put them on the train and the train takes them to their death, that means I am killing them, just the same as if I shot them myself, doesn’t it?”

 

Thanks for reading. :)

#MusicMonday: BIG KETTLE DRUM In The Spotlight

At BKD
Michael and I went to The Hideaway Cafe this past Saturday night to see one of my favorite indie bands – Big Kettle Drum. I was psyched to see them, as you can probably tell from the photo. These guys (and girl!) are brilliant performers, so definitely go see them if you get the chance. Before we get to them, though, I want to briefly mention the singer who opened the show.

Mountain Holler I had never heard of Mountain Holler (Mark Etherington) before, and had no particular expectations about his music. Even so, I was surprised. First, he steps onto the stage barefoot, guitar slung over his shoulders, a long mass of curls with some even longer dreadlocks, with this totally tranquil persona. He immediately gave off a hippie, peace vibe. Then he began to play, and I thought I’d been transformed to Woodstock. His music is perhaps too heavy on social awareness and introspection for the mainstream world. As he sang, I had this passing thought that I should be dropping a hit of acid to trip off along with him. I don’t mean that as an insult. My love of music was born in that sixties sound. Mountain Holler truly is an entrancing performer. If you’d like to experience the psychedelic folk sounds of Mountain Holler, you can listen to and/or purchase his EP Red Feather on Bandcamp. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

Now on to the main event.

Big Kettle Drum

Big Kettle Drum

If you’re unfamiliar with Big Kettle Drum, they are probably best defined as an Americana band. But I dislike sticking them with a narrow label. This band is quite versatile, able to go from soft folk to funky rock. While I love their original music, I thoroughly enjoyed their interpretations of popular music. They opened with a beautiful rendition of Say Something by A Great Big World. Later they performed a killer cover of OneRepublic’s Love Runs Out. And I have to mention their cover of Kiss by Prince. Not only did it sound really good, but they had a lot of fun with it. This, of course, is also fun for the audience. Despite how great their covers were, we’re not here to talk about that. On to their original music and all the things that drew me to this band in the first place.

Here is one of my favorites, off their Lock & Key EP. This is Down:

Down so low
Gotta look up to see the ground…

 

Off that same EP is a song called Just a Man. Great tune, great lyrics, and a very cool banjo:

An eye for an eye
Leaves everybody blind…

 

This last one I want to share is off their earlier EP, Nantucket Circle. The first time I heard this one, the lyrics struck me somewhere deep. Many of you know I struggle with chronic, late-stage Lyme disease. It’s a quietly destructive, incurable disease that messes with me in a whole lot of ways. This song is kind of like private thoughts pulled from my own head. As Brandt, Big Kettle Drum’s singer, told us the story of how and why this song was written, I immediately understood where these lyrics came from and why they touched me the way they did – still do, every time I hear the song. The band wrote this song as a thank you to all the blood donors who have helped save Brandt’s son Theo’s life. The best way I can explain, is to share their video. This is Holding Me Up:

Well I’ve been living off
Prayers and favors
I’ve been leaning on
The good vibes of strangers…

 

My struggle is nowhere near as difficult as Theo’s, who is battling myelodysplastic syndrome. So I’m going to ask a favor here. If you have a moment, maybe now or maybe later, please send a healing thought out there for Theo. Whether you’re religious and include him in a prayer, you’re spiritual and include him in a meditation, or you’re just a good person sending out a silent wish for health, the intention behind your thoughts is what matters.

The members of Big Kettle Drum are very active with the Be Brave Foundation, which provides assistance to the struggling families of sick kids. I plan to give you lots of information on that in a future post. In the meantime, you can learn more about that on the band’s website: www.bigkettledrum.com

Now let’s get back to the music. About time I introduced the band, right? Here they are:

Big Kettle Drum

Big Kettle Drum

Brant Menswar – Lead vocals / Guitar
JT Keel – Lots of instruments with strings / Backing vocals
Rick Huffman – Bass / Backing vocals
Natalie Hoang – Violin

Connect with the band on their website, Facebook, and Twitter. And I really mean connect with them, not just follow them. They are super friendly and truly great people.

The band generously allows us to stream a lot of their music free on Soundcloud and ReverbNation. Some of their stuff, excluding their new EP Lock & Key, is available to stream on Bandcamp. And you can find many of their songs on their YouTube channel. But – and many of you know what I’m about to say next – the free music is great for us but does not help them pay those pesky bills or support future music. So, if you like what you hear, please consider making a purchase, whether it be a single song or a couple of EPs. You can purchase their music on Amazon, Amazon UK, and iTunes.

I already had digital downloads of both EPs, but I have a preference for the physical copies. Plus, I had to have something for the band to sign! It’s hard to tell from this photo, since it came out dark and I’m too lazy to take another, but the motorcycle with their band name is the logo on the t-shirt I purchased. The shirt is gray, not black, and I don’t know why it came out like that. Camera settings, brain fuzz, whatever… you get the idea. :roll:

swag

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s musical excursion. Thanks for listening. :)

Cover Reveal! REFLECTIONS – Book 2 in the Mind’s Eye Series

I’m excited to announce the upcoming release of Reflections, the second book in the Mind’s Eye Series! This series is a group project, where each story is inspired by a photograph. The images are moments captured. What do you see when you look? The story told might be a reflection of something you’d never expect.

Reflections includes 4 authors, 2 poets, and 2 photographers. Each author has written 3 stories, inspired by 3 different photographs. Each poet has written 3 poems, also inspired by 3 different images.

Authors:

Jason McIntyre
J. Michael Radcliffe
Maria Savva
and me!

Poets:

Helle Gade
Ben Ditmars

Photographs:

Martin David Porter
Helle Gade

And now I get to show off the cover! The very cool design is by Jason C. McIntyre.

Reflections Cover - md

 

We don’t yet have a definitive release date. I’m working on the formatting, and hope to have everything finalized within the next couple of weeks. You can keep up with our progress on our Mind’s Eye Series Facebook page. I’ll also be putting the information on the Mind’s Eye Series page of my website.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading the stories as much as we’ve enjoyed writing them. We’re already sorting out details for the third book in this series, which will feature even more authors!

If you haven’t read Perspectives, the first book, you can find information on my website or the Facebook page. The book features six stories by me and six by Maria Savva, with all photographs by Martin David Porter.

perspectives

The Mind’s Eye Series: Images captured. Stories told.

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review: A Haunting In Lottawatah by Evelyn David

Haunting

A Haunting in Lottawatah is the fifth book in the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries ebook series. A novella length story, A Haunting in Lottawatah continues the spooky, yet funny saga of psychic Brianna Sullivan who planned to travel the country in her motor home looking for adventure, but unexpectedly ended up in a small town in Oklahoma. In A Haunting in Lottawatah, Brianna is hired to exorcise ghosts from a mansion. But these spirits defy all the rules; a murder confuses the plan; Leon the bulldog continues to run interference as long as he has his beef jerky, and Deputy Cooper Jackson has competition for Brianna’s affections. A Haunting in Lottawatah is a “must read” for mystery lovers and aspiring ghost hunters!

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

 

My name is Brianna Sullivan and I’m a psychic. I must not be a very good one because I never saw it, any of it, coming.

My Review:

A Haunting in Lottawatah is a humorous mystery about a psychic who is bumbling her way into life as a ghost hunter. Brianna is an independent, sassy, fun character to follow along. The story is written in first person, so we get a great feel for her personality.

Here’s what I can do. I see dead people and can even talk to them. Not that they’re great conversationalists, but many are better than a lot of the blind dates I’ve been on.

This is the fifth book in the series, but the first I’ve read. While I had no problem following the story, I did have a lack of connection with some aspects. For instance, her relationship with her cop boyfriend felt odd and distant to me. That is likely a result of me not having read the earlier books, though there wasn’t much effort here to develop or explain the situation.

The plot is entertaining, with some good twists. While it has some spooky parts, most of it is done in a comical way rather than creepy or scary. Overall, this is a light read ideal when you need a break and a giggle.

Perhaps I didn’t know as much about ghosts as I’d assumed. After this case my list of ghost rules was going to have to be modified.


Thanks for reading. :)

A Dark and Murderous Past… GOLD RUSH DELUGE by Suzanne Lilly

GRD Banner

Too late she realizes Kersey has a dark
and murderous past

gold rush 3d

Publication Date: August 23, 2014
Genre: Historical Romance

When Lucinda Martin York and George Arnold leave Diggers Flat during a rainstorm, the Sacramento and American rivers crest, causing a deluge of epic proportions that engulfs the town of Sacramento. While Lucinda uses her medical skills to help save the citizens, George proposes a plan to stop the floodwaters and save the town.

Lucinda holds fast to her dream of becoming a doctor and apprentices to Dr. Mitchell Kersey. She falls under his spell, and too late she realizes Kersey has a dark and murderous past that has followed him to California. The danger she finds herself enmeshed in may end her dreams before they have even begun.

Based on historical events of 1850 Sacramento, Gold Rush Deluge is riveting and romantic.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Smashwords

Excerpt:

October 1848, New York

Dr. Mitchell Kersey brushed a piece of dead grass off his wool coat sleeve as he watched the two oilcloth-wrapped bundles sink under the still surface of the millpond. He tossed the key to his house into its murky depths. A sigh of relief escaped his lips. Soon, the cold winter temperatures would ice over the millpond and bury it in deep snow, snow that would bury his cold secret. He felt a sense of satisfaction at a clean job well done, with a minimum of blood, mess, and fuss. However, his satisfaction was tinged with disappointment that he would never be able to share this particular accomplishment with anyone.

Nonetheless, he hummed an energetic tune, the “Radetzky Marsch” by Johann Strauss, as he walked to the crossroad where he would catch a hansom cab to New York City. It was marching music, a triumphant little tune, in direct correlation to his demeanor. He stepped sprightly, his head held high and his shoulders back, with the lightness that comes with the release of a heavy burden. The burden being his wife, holding him to this place where he had no future. He wanted to move to Alta California where he could make a name for himself instead of being just another doctor. But she had been afraid to leave her family. Kersey could not tolerate fear. He told her if she wouldn’t come with him, she and the baby could stay here.
And so it was.

In the morning, Kersey would embark on the newly commissioned steamship SS California bound for San Francisco. The SS California would take Kersey to Rio de Janeiro, through the Straits of Magellan, docking in Valparaiso and Panama to pick up more passengers before heading to the territory of Alta California. In October of 1848, Kersey had not yet heard of the California gold rush and the ensuing feverish migration to the Sierras. His reason for making an escape to the western edge of the continent was purely selfish. Once he put his life in Amherst behind him, he would begin a new life. A life unencumbered, a life in which he had only to look out for himself. A life in which his past did not matter, only the future he planned to create.

 

 

Suzanne Lilly is a teacher and a writer who occasionally takes time off to zipline in Alaska, teach in China, and traipse around Rome. She writes sweet stories with a splash of suspense, a flash of the unexplained, a dash of romance, and always a happy ending.

Sign up for her email newsletter to find out about upcoming books before anyone else. You’ll also get exclusive bonus materials and contests just for subscribers. One subscriber is chosen to win a $25 gift card each time the newsletter comes out.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads | Newsletter | Blog

 

 

#MusicMonday: TEN-79 Brings Us Love, Life & Lies

If you’re a fan of the alternative rock sound of bands like R.E.M., then today’s featured band should be part of your playlist. TEN-79 is a British band with a cool rock vibe. They released their debut album – Love, Life & Lies – this past June.

Love, Life & Lies 1. Happens Every Day
2. Wanna Go Home
3. Hollow Town
4. Screaming Inside My Head
5. Home Now
6. Let’s Pretend
7. The Gathering
8. Poorer Than It Seems
9. Liquid Sunshine
10. Wayside
11. Mixture Right

 

Here’s one of my favorites, Screaming Inside My Head:

Every time I look in your eyes
All I see is hatred…

 

This is Wayside:

Hear the voices screaming out
Followed by the footsteps…

 

 

The band is:

TEN-79

TEN-79

Gary Luckhurst – Vocals and Guitar
Jim Cadwallender – Bass
Wally Youngman – Drums
Brian Hartington – Lead guitar

 

Connect with the band on their websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Stream some of their music free on ReverbNation and Soundcloud.

While it’s always cool  when bands allow us to listen free, we all know that doesn’t pay the bills or support new music. If you like what you hear, please consider making a purchase. Some of their songs can be purchased from ReverbNation, where half of their proceeds go to the charity Love Hope Strength. The entire album or single songs can be purchased from Amazon, Amazon UK, and iTunes.

 

Ten-79

 

Thanks for listening. :)