FLASHES OF LIFE: A BOOK REVIEW

‘Flashes of Life’ a gem of a book! It is a wonderful original twist on short stories as within Pamela’s latest book all the stories are beautifully portrayed vignettes based on her own life and experiences!

Her writing sparkles as she reflects upon her childhood, her family, friends, work and her beloved partner. Her zest for life permeates through the pages and her sense of humour, her warmth, kindness and generosity shine through.

Every single story is captivating; I laughed out loud whilst reading some, others had me reaching for tissues. The author’s tenderness and innate wisdom touched my heart and within many of the stories, I recognised myself during various phases of my life. As she hopes in the introduction her smiles have indeed become mine.

Thank you, Pamela, for helping me to see my own life with a philosophical eye, letting my thoughts dwell upon my own guideposts, and finally, for introducing me to ‘fluffing my aura’ — how have I managed so far without this in my life!

Finally, it was a privelege to be asked to write an author endorsement for ‘Flashes of Life’ which is one of four on the back of the book! Another first in my life as a writer!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Available: Amazon US Amazon UK

Publisher: Borgo Design

About Pamela S. Wight

Pamela Wight is a successful author of romantic suspense novels, THE RIGHT WRONG MAN and TWIN DESIRES; two illustrated children’s book, BIRDS OF PARADISE and MOLLY FINDS HER PURR; and a “flash” memoir, FLASHES OF LIFE.

Pamela earned her Master’s in English from Drew University, continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing, and teaches creative writing classes in Boston and San Francisco.

She lives in the Boston area with her “right man” and hikes the New England trails while concocting her stories. Wight travels frequently to the San Francisco Bay area for additional inspiration. She speaks to book clubs, schools, and libraries in both locations.

Read more about Pamela Wight, her books and writings on her wonderful blog Roughwighting. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest

SEVEN POSTCARDS

Dearest Bob,

The heron is in full flight alongside the canalboat, just like the one we saw on our first trip. Then it was so sunny and warm, now just drizzle and chilly. God, I wish you here.

Love you, Sheila xx

Dear Bob,

More downs today. Beth and Gary bickered non-stop through all three locks; remember those just before the Moorhen pub. You and I laughed our way through them, our playful giggles no doubt both a balm and irritation to fellow travellers. Much better than the rotten language and atmosphere permeating the deck and tow-path today.

Your one and only, Sheila xx

Hi Bob!

At last the sun and as promised I took out the painting set you bought for me. Thank you again! I think I’ve captured your likeness and spirit very well, although the colours smudged a smidgen. No, neither wine nor river water alas, rather tears. My eyes and my life still blurred, awash and adrift.

With all my love, Sheila xx

Bob,

You won’t believe it! I sold a sketch! I can just imagine your guffaw followed by your proud bear hug. The picture? A fair representation of the humpback bridge near Beasley lock. Oh, the tunnels we go through and this time no songs to echo inside them; our dear kind friends would be mortified if I broke out into ‘Three Little Maids’! That’s just between you and I!

Loving you always, Sheila xx

Dearest Bob, history buff,

You would have loved to wander around the ‘castle’ again as pictured on the front. Or as I see them, a heap of ruins, just stones. Last time I felt an ethereal presence. Do you remember? Now it all seems drab … dead. Oh dear, I fear I’m becoming a morose travelling companion. Three is such an awkward number.

Missing you, Sheila xx

Bob,

Laughter and smiles today! Ten locks successfully negotiated, without a sour word. Then pub lunch at the Keeper’s Inn! We all raised a glass for your birthday. Bother, I didn’t mean to cry then. Hate that you’re not here.

Lovingly yours, Sheila xx

My dear soulmate, husband, best friend, my Bob!

Home tomorrow! A bittersweet return. As the lone oak tree on the postcard, so am I — truly alone. Two months of crushing grief, loneliness, of missing you, our life together. Your spirit has been with me every day of the trip, it always will be. Though I’ll always treasure our time together, our memories, I must forge ahead with my own life.

RIP dearest Bob, our love will last into eternity. Sheila xx

©Annika Perry, 2021

The above piece was inspired by Writing Magazine’s exercise in which to write a story in seven postcards. All seven postcards to be from to the same person to the same recipient.

NB. All photos from Pixaby.

LIFE’S RICH TAPESTRY Woven in Words: A Book Review

Thank goodness for the blogging challenges that inspired Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words. An enriching and engaging collection of verse, micro fiction and short stories, her work is mesmerising, always uplifting and often humorous. Throughout humanity and the spirits of humans (and some animals) is a beacon of hope for us all.

Sally’s poetry is enticing, thoughtful and soothing; they are written tightly within the framework of syllables for various formats such as haikus and tankas yet explore a vast range of topics encompassing the wonder of the seasons, recognising human frailties and celebrating the warmth of togetherness. She manages to take us on a journey from cave drawings to digital code across the universe, from the mystical of the ugly troll with his bewitching music in The Moonlight Concerto to the enchantment of Fairies!

As a writer, one poem – an ode to writing – particularly struck a chord with me:

The Freedom to write

The freedom
and time to create
written words
to be read
by those open to our thoughts
intoxicating.


by Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin is a master storyteller and I was immediately drawn into the lives of the characters in all her short stories. Her writing flows with ease and self-assurance within this diverse selection of short stories. I was moved by the reunion of siblings, impressed how a story told through the point of view of a polar bear both touched me and touched on environmental issues. The reason for a black sheep was raised in one story and had me smiling as did My Mouse, a clever play on words and a predicament experienced by most of us!

The superb stories in The Underdogs section had me in awe of the strength of the individual personalities of the dogs. Later, in For the Love of Lily, I was cheering on as eighty-year-old Millicent found her courage to stand up to her overbearing son with the help of her cat Lily and her kindly neighbour Eric. This was an excellent depiction of what I hope isn’t a scenario that takes place often.

The final longer pieces in the book are under the title of Speculative Fiction and these are all exceptional and shows Sally Cronin’s incredible imagination and ability in writing across all genres.

A moment of alignment is superlative and left me with goosebumps (of the happy variety!) as a child, following her death, manages to cross from the other world for the briefest of times on certain occasions to talk to her mother. Great Aunt Georgina left me tear-eyed and is a wonderful and powerful story partly told through the use of old letters; a deft use of an evocative writing technique. The Enhancement Project combines the tantalising hint of romance between a surgeon and her patient cyborg, all against the backdrop of the end of civilisation. It is a terrific blend of human and futuristic, of dark and light, love and destruction.

I can’t recommend Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven with Words highly enough and look forward to reading more of Sally Cronon’s books.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Available: Amazon US : $4.53 (Kindle) Amazon UK: £3.50(Kindle)

ABOUT SALLY CRONIN

Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin is the author of fifteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fourteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

Her latest release, Life is Like a Mosaic: Random fragments in harmony is a collection of 50 + images and poems on life, nature, love and a touch of humour.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.

Her podcast shares book reviews and short stories Soundcloud Sally Cronin

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Sally’s magazine blog for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general is Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.

Connect directly with Sally on Twitter Facebook LinkedIn.

Smorgasbord Children’s Reading Room – #Reviews – #Adventure Annika Perry, #Bears Sue Wickstead

An honour to see the latest review of ‘Oskar’s Quest’ shared by Sally as part of her Children’s Reading Room! As always my thanks to Sally for her wonderful support to authors within this amazing community! Also a huge thank you to Vashti at The Writer Next Door / Vashti Q for the thoughtful review; they are so precious to writers and fantastic help for all readers!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the reading room and some recent reviews for authors on the shelves with books for up to the age of 12.

The first book today with a recent review is  Oskar’s Quest by Annika Perry.

About the book

Oskar is afraid of adventures. Yet one day he finds himself on a mysterious island which needs his help.Join Oskar on this unexpected and magnificent quest, where he finds not only courage but so much more…“It’s light, extremely enjoyable and very gripping.” Esther Chilton – author & editor.Perfect for ages 3 to 6.

A recent review for Oskar’s Quest

Vashti Quiroz-Vega5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous illustrations and captivating story!  Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2021

What a lovely picture book! This marvelous children’s book is filled with beautiful and colorful illustrations and is a riveting story.

Oskar is an adorable little bird that was…

View original post 578 more words

THE SPIRIT OF THE FEN

THE SPIRIT OF THE FEN

The grace of an invisible hand flits across her cheek,
an ethereal sensation.
She leans forward, longing for more.

The bombardment of silence thunders in her ears
whilst the meandering of bumblebees
is amplified to
Concert crescendo.

Eyes closed,
she senses the trials of thousands of years
Swirling around her soul.

The ghostly guide tugs impatiently
At her hand.

‘Not yet’, she replies.
‘Soon, very soon.’

First she needs the grounding
Of the boardwalk.

As far as the eye can see
Reeds and sedge dance in the breeze
A bewildering display unleashed.
The unified being pulsating with life;
Its energy palpable.

The cerulean sky reaches
To infinity.
Unhindered by obstacles it sweeps down to
The sunbeam of golden land.

Ahead indistinct voices drift towards her
The unknown language beguiling.
The air punctuated by thumps of axes
Trees hewn by brute force.

A canopy of oak leaves looms above her
She shivers, sways and swoons
Into the arms of the mystical being.

©Annika Perry, May 2021

‘The Spirit of the Fen’ was inspired by my recent visit to Wicken Fen, the oldest Nature Reserve in Britain. Immediately I sensed an enchantment within the ancient fenland of East Anglia.

An inventive and enjoyable set of boardwalks has been created around the fen to allow visitors to the site whilst protecting the landscape and wildlife. It was thrilling to step out just above the water, gazing out upon the bewitching scenery.

The fens are made up of the fens, marshes, reed beds, farmland and woodland. There is a deep peat soil that is kept wet by rainfall and clean, chalky river water.

Within the low lying water reed and sedge are grown for harvesting. The latter is used for thatch roofing which is still used for many older buildings within the country. The earliest recorded sedge harvest was in 1414.

Furthermore, the fens are rich with a variety of floral and fauna with over 9000 species of animals, birds and insects thriving in the area. I only saw a handful of these alas! Charles Darwin in the 1820s favoured the spot for finding beetles.

A reed warbler

The reserve was founded in 1899 by the National Trust to preserve its iconic habitat and the first parcel of land was donated to the Trust by Charles Rothschild in 1901.

Although some parts of the southern fens were made into navigable waterways by the Romans called the ‘Lodes’, the majority of the fens were barely accessible before they started to be drained for farmland in the seventeenth century using windmills. Wicken Fen remained undrained and continued as a business for peat and sedge until the end of the nineteenth century.

Although Wicken Fen is currently quite a small area a new 100-year project was launched in 1999 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first acquisition. The Wicken Fen Vision is seeking to expand the fen to a size of 22 square miles to preserve and increase its exceptional biodiversity.

Finally, it was fascinating to learn about Bog Oaks upon leaving the Nature Reserve. These are remains of trees preserved in the waterlogged peat and just such a tree was unearthed in 2016 whilst a ditch was cleared, pictured below. Some bog oaks are from the Bronze Age and it is staggering to think that before me lay a tree trunk from possibly 4200 years ago!

Bog Oak, possibly 4000 years old

The magical aura of Wicken Fen stayed with me long after my visit, the peaceful, harmonious presence lingering within. It will not be long before I return to this unusual place of natural beauty to explore more!

AMANDA IN MALTA THE SLEEPING LADY: A BOOK REVIEW

With a unique blend of adventure, friendship, history and travel Darlene Foster has hit upon a winning and inspirational combination for her children’s books Amanda Travels.

The series is aimed at middle grade (aged 9-12) children, although from reading her latest book I feel it would also be suited for adept readers of a younger age as well as reluctant readers.

Darlene Foster’s latest in the series, Book 8, takes the reader to Malta after Amanda receives a letter from her best friend Leah. To receive a letter alone sends concern to Amanda in the modern digital age of emails. Leah hints that something is wrong, but gives no detail and wants Amanda to join her.

Amanda would love to leave the cold wintry weather of Canada behind her for the warmth and sun of the Mediterranean island but would it even be possible?

As with all children’s books, a resolution is quickly found and Amanda joins her class mate and his parents on their holiday on the beautiful island.

Immediately the author captures the heavenly warmth of the landscape, limestone buildings and the history perfectly. In snippets, the reader is enveloped in the amazing historical elements of the island, some of which become central to the story whilst others act as a stunning backdrop to the action.

Any reservation I had that the historical might slow down the pace of the story proved unfounded as the plot is quickly propelled along. Although there are dramatic events such a brief kidnapping, ominous warnings, chases and unexplained killings of protected birds these are all pitched gently and safely for the younger reader.

Initially, Amanda cannot even find Leah and when she finds her it turns out that Leah’s aunt has become mixed up with crooks. Two criminals want Leah’s aunt, who is an archaeologist, to steal the 4000-year-old Sleeping Lady statue from the museum otherwise there will be consequences. Could Leah even be involved?

Luckily Amanda and Leah are not alone on their mission. Max is a helpful and able go-between and Caleb, the son of the family friend, provides many comic moments throughout the book, particularly with his strange phobia of fish and love of all things Popeye.

When finally they visit the famous Popeye Village he is ecstatic and his courage shines through as he has to rescue Leah!

I like how all the main characters are slightly flawed with their fears and how through working together they find courage, helping each other. The warmth and kindness is a beacon of hope!

Amanda in Malta is a hugely enjoyable book, the writing flows with ease and the plot had me eagerly turning the pages. The book took me back to my addictive reading of the Nancy Drew mysteries as young and I can see how readers will long to read and collect the whole series of Amanda Travels.

Although I have unfortunately not read any previous books within the series this is no way hampered my enjoyment or understanding of The Sleeping Lady. The author slips in enough backstory to ensure this book is an exciting and stand-alone book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

PUBLICATION DATE: 11th May 2021

PUBLISHER: Central Avenue Publishing

GENRE: Children’s Fiction / Middle Grade / Travel

AVAILABLE:

AMAZON US: PAPERBACK KINDLE

AMAZON UK: PAPAERBACK KINDLE

ABOUT DARLENE:

A bit about me. I am a writer of children’s stories, a retired employment counsellor, and ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. I love travelling, reading, shoes, cooking, sewing, music, chocolate, walking on the beach and making new friends. My grandson once called me “super-mega-woman-supreme”. I was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where I dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. I currently divide my time between Orihuela Costa in Spain and the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. My husband, Paul, and I enjoy spending time with our adorable dog, Dot.

CONTACT:

Do visit Darlene on her Blog or on Twitter.

Finally, I can highly recommend you listen to a wonderful interview with Darlene Foster on Rebecca Budd’s excellent Tea Toast & Trivia podcast. Their sense of fun is fantastic and their laughter infectious. It is touching how Amanda joins Darlene and her husband on their travels!

FANFARE WITHIN

We left without fanfare, a couple pulling out of the drive without a fuss. The ado was all within me, here an orchestra was in mid-flow, a crescendo of excitement, a flurry of violins, the brass instruments joining in! As we turned down the road did I spot a bagpiper wishing us farewell?!

Our first trip away for nearly two years already felt surreal and mirrored my many dreams of this moment. Days earlier it was with disbelief that the suitcases found their way down from the loft, the cool box washed and aired! My packing list was referred to repeatedly (yet how did I forget my Kindle which later resulted in a magical time surrounded by books in the local W H Smith’s!)

The origins of Ely Cathedral reach back to 672 when Etheldreda, daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, founded an abbey on the site. It flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes. In 970 it started again as a Benedictine community.

From afar the cathedral of Ely dominated the skyline, a glorious breathtaking sight, an architectural wonder! A constant as we approached the city and how it must have seemed a miraculous creation to the citizens nearly a thousand year ago.

Along with the cathedral the River Great Ouse is the heart of Ely and it was here we headed upon our arrival. We took a gentle stroll along the promenade of canal boats and pubs, through the park to the fields beyond. To one side the river, beauty of the natural world, to the right the regular rumble of trains, in between we walked a parallel path. The honks of swans and the hoots of trains became the backdrop to our stay. Our stay on a canal boat.

Yet time tick tocked by and now my husband picked up the pace, a short cut through the woods became a long lost way past shops and houses. Ahh … there was the Jubilee Park and its famous Eel statue. There was the goal … The Riverside Restaurant!

Masks donned we confirmed our booking and registered our arrival before being shown to our table. With only outside dining permitted we happily took a seat overlooking the river and path, safely distanced from other souls.

I picked up a menu yet found myself unable to read! A skill learned from young abandoned to this momentous occasion, the first meal from home for over a year. As my drink arrived I teared up when the food came, I cried! With joy and sadness. A joy that this was possible again with confidence, trust (& jabs!). Sadness for what we have all endured, are enduring and for some countries still overwhelmed by horrors. More than aware of the fragile nature of all our lives.

At last, it was time to check out our canal boat and even gaining entrance was an adventure, through a boatyard, along a metal walkway and across another boat. Already the front of the canal boat beckoned me to unfold the seats and table, to just absorb the peace of the water.

Inside the spaciousness was a welcome surprise, as were the chocolates and wine!

We were set!

Finally, under current restrictions, the cathedral was not open but I have visited this glorious building previously including the stunning Stained Glass Museum. You can read my post about it, An Illuminating Art, here.

For the trainspotter fans, a couple of videos of the railway traffic through Ely are available on my YouTube channel here and here.

The Inaudible Audible

Flowering Pink Camellia

Imagine an early nineteenth-century glass house filled with camellias. Camellias placed there in the mid-1800s in the belief that the glass house replicated the best conditions for these Asiatic plants. Inside the plants flounder, sicken. Black aphids fester upon the leaves, buds of flowers die and drop off before they can flourish and bloom to their full beauty. The few that flower normally do so without the usual heavenly scent.

What are the camellias’ stories? What are the emotions felt by visitors to the glass house?

Wollaton Hall in Nottingham was built in the 1580s and it is home to the glorious glass house. Today the hall houses a natural history display and the grounds include a 500-acre deer park and stunning lake. The Camellia House is one of the earliest cast-iron glass houses in the UK and was built in 1827.

Wollaton Hall Camelia House
The Camellia House at Wollaton Hall Glass House

In a unique experiment in 2019/2020 musician, beatboxer, and composer Jason Singh was commissioned to create a musical composition using ‘biodata’ of the plants. With sensors placed on leaves he captured the electrical signals from the camellias. These were then converted to midi signals and thereafter generated into music and sounds.

Jason was surprised by the depth of his emotions during the project, at times feeling physically unwell, as well as suffering from anxiety and agitation upon listening to the plants.

He gives an evocative voice to the plants, a sound enhanced as musicians on xylophone and harp responded to the plant sounds and added their interpretation.

Where once visitors walked quickly and disinterested through the Camellia House, during the installation they sat, listened and contemplated.

Hopefully many will have added their thoughts to the sight and music before them. Through the melancholic, entrancing tones Jason Singh wanted to stimulate feelings within visitors about the plants, environment, our place in the world as well as conservation and people’s wellbeing. Furthermore, he hoped to raise questions and exploration of our inner selves and our global position within the natural world. In the process, he unexpectedly tapped into his soul and undoubtedly others experienced the same whilst listening to this most original musical installation.

A final word. I had meant to visit this installation last spring but for obvious reasons this was not possible. However, it’s a joy to finally be able to share about it here on my blog!

A GHOST AND HIS GOLD: A BOOK REVIEW

A Ghost and His Gold combines the paranormal with intense violent battle scenes from 1899-1902; it features three ghosts not only haunting a house and its occupants in present-day South Africa but who are themselves haunted by events in their past lives; it’s a story about seeking forgiveness and ultimately finding redemption.

Furthermore the book explores not only the horror of war, concentration camps, scorched earth policy but also date rape, rape, violence against women. Can any ever be forgiven? Can anyone carrying out these acts ever find peace within themselves and acceptance by loved ones again?

Initially, A Ghost and his Gold appears to be a normal paranormal ghost story as Michelle and Tom, both working in the finance sector although she is also a part-time writer, move into their new home. The new townhouse is situated on the site of an old Boer homestead. Michelle immediately senses and sees a presence in the house, one that makes itself known to them and their friends during a party using an Ouija board. Tom, a hard-nosed realist, is sceptical that the man named Pieter was there or even existed.

From the close-third person narrative in 2019, the novel switches to 1900 and Pieter is in his house with the family as he is woken by banging on the door with a warning that the ‘khakis’ (British soldiers) are on the way.

It is in the midst of the Second Anglo Boer War and the events focus on Pieter, his strong-willed wife, their daughter Estelle and other children. Estelle is treated with contempt by her mother, a woman who later rejects her.

As another ghost called Robert makes itself known to Michelle, she discovers his journal written whilst he was a British soldier during the war. The first-person perspective of the journal is especially powerful, personal and direct. During the siege of Mafeking, Robert befriends a young man called Richard and he takes him under his wing.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s research of the period is impressive. Yet she does not fall into the trap of using all her knowledge with a flood of information, rather skilfully incorporates detail where necessary; be it of the furniture or buildings of the era, the form of travel, clothes and she is particularly adept at writing battles scenes, the weapons used, their tragic consequences. I felt as if I was in the midst of the carnage, feeling the horrors experienced by Robert, Pieter and the others.

Whilst Pieter and some of his family and friends have some reservations about the war, their women have no such qualms and see no other option for their ‘Volk’. Tragically they suffer dreadfully during the war and these scenes in the book are not easy to read, horrors repeated many times throughout history and alas in present times.

The third ghost is a poltergeist who first appears on Michelle’s computer screen — this part of the book had me jumping back in fright as I read it! Estelle is consumed with ferocious anger against Tom and as she starts to haunt him he suffers nightmares and becomes increasingly sick, all the time unaware of the cause of his illness. Michelle knows the cause, Estelle, but why does Estelle hate Tom with such frightening malice and enmity? Slowly I learned her history through her own third-person narrative.

Throughout the author manages the nigh-impossible; equally portraying the ruthlessness and violence of both sides as well as their humanity and warmth. It is heart-wrenching to see how the mutual loathing and hatred intensified as the battles were protracted and that both Robert and Pieter, who had briefly met in battle, lose their kindheartedness and compassion. It is only in death that they realise the true cost of war and that so many wrongs need to be righted for them to find peace, for Estelle to be freed from her path of vengeance. However, they need help and at last through Michelle, they have found it!

The finale of the book had me totally engrossed as I read late into the night, with the story building to a crescendo of action and emotional pinnacle I could see no resolution. Luckily the author had and with expertise she brings the book to a terrific conclusion and some light in the darkness.

A brief note regarding the start of the book which begins with a list of names of famous characters from the era along with a timeline of major events. I couldn’t wait to read the novel and skipped these informative pages. They are a valuable resource but feel they might be better placed at the back of the book. The shorter explanatory notes scattered throughout the novel are extremely helpful.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, or those seeking a simple ghost story or cosy read. One recommended for readers looking for a thought-provoking, action-packed novel with a rich variety of characters set in historical times with a paranormal twist!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: TSL Publications

Available to purchase:

TSL Publications (ebook and paperback)

Lulu

Amazon