I’ve been to a lot of concerts over the years, but never one in a professional football team’s stadium. Thus I approached going to Charlotte with my husband and my kids for the Elton John concert last week with trepidation. This is Elton’s last concert tour (called Follow the Yellow Brick Road tour), and that man must have the constitution of an ox! Hew’s 75 years old! And he is on tour, except for brief breaks over the holidays, until next July!
I apologize for my own photos – so hard to get anything in that arena!
The Bank of America stadium holds about 75,000 people and I think, given they had to block off the seats to the back and the far sides of the stage, there were at least 65,000 fans there. Our seats were on the field and far enough away that the people on the stage looked small, but there were two enormous screens at the front that projected Elton and his band, along with some fabulous graphics.
The noise from the crowd singing and dancing along was loud, but the sound system was great so we could hear everything. Sequins and boas and red and blue flashing glasses worn by the attendees were the most interesting part of the night. Elton, as has become his current tradition, wore a very fancy (but conservative for him) tux-like jacket with lots of beading. He changed into another one midway through the concert.
We were treated to almost all of his most loved songs along with some newer ones and some incredibly riffing on the part of his guitarists and percussionist as well as the man himself on the piano. Think: Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, I guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, I’m Still Standing, The Bitch Is Back, Crocodile Rock, Candle In The Wind, Bennie And The Jets, Tiny Dancer, and my very favorite, Rocket Man. Elton played for TWO solid hours, which I know from attending another of his concerts in the 1980s at a much smaller venue, is his want. At the end, he sang a Rocket Man mash-up with Dua Lipa who appeared on video.
A long encore followed, when he reappeared in a bathrobe and sat at his piano again.
The concert ended with him being raised up on a platform to disappear into the gloom, only to reappear on the screen in graphic form, walking down a yellow brick road.
Elton John will definitely be missed from the live music arena, but it’s more than time for him to take a final in-person bow and receive the admiration of his fans, owing to his age. He’s been singing for more than fifty years! however, he will still be composing and making albums for us.
Might I have liked a smaller venue? Probably. But the music and the crowd and the graphics made the concert a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you want to see this concert for yourself but don’t want to pay the ticket price, Disney+ will broadcast an exclusive livestream of Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium on Nov. 20. But it won’t be the same…
What kind of book do you get when two writers, both known for their award-winng literary excursions into evil and paranormal mysteries, combine their talent in a seamless fashion? A humdinger of a book!
Ward Chatham founded the village of Chatham Hollow in the 1700s. Despite his wealth, he died a bitter and evil man, leaving the rumor that he had buried his wealth somewhere within his home, Chatham Manor.
In 1888, the wife of the mayor of Chatham Hollow decides to hold a séance to see if the spirit of Ward Chatham can be summoned. Not one but two spiritualists are invited to the séance – Benedict Fletcher, a fake, and Victor Rowe, a true spiritualist. Rowe, against his wishes, is talked into trying to communicate with the father of one of those attending the séance using automatic writing. As he finishes, he is confronted by a dark malevolent spirit, and a mysterious, nonsensical line appears at the end of his writing.
A century later, the mayor of Chatham Hollow village decides to reenact the séance as part of the activities surrounding the town’s Founder’s Day celebration, inviting descendants of the people who attended the original gathering. One of them comes with a dark purpose.
Reporter Aiden Hale resents being assigned to write the story about the séance. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, despite his grandmother’s insistence that he has paranormal talents, and is particularly reluctant to be present when a paranormal research team arrives to film the event for a TV show. His research leads him to feel that something or someone is threatening the Hollow, and he is drawn into complex rivalries that have persisted for more than a century.
The two authors have created a can-not-put-down book that showcases their talents. Mae Clair has done a perfect job in creating the Chatham Hollow of the past with her brilliant descriptions that put the reader there, while Traci Troilo amps up the mystery and goosebumps in her creation of the present-day village with a malevolent spirit and frustrates the reader with the many roadblocks Aiden faces in his research, some of his own creation. Their twists and turns in the story keep you riveted and the chapters of past and present meld together into one great story.
Five stars. You’re going to love this book!
About the authors:
A member of the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, Mae Clair is also a founding member and contributor to the award-winning writing blog, Story Empire. She has achieved bestseller status on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with several of her novels chosen as book club selections.
Staci Troilo grew up in Western Pennsylvania writing stories and poetry in her free time, so it was no surprise that she studied writing in college. After receiving creative and professional writing degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, she went on to get her Master’s Degree in Professional Writing, and she worked in corporate communications until she had her children. When they had grown, she went on to become a writing professor, and now she is a freelance writer and editor.
You can find The Haunting of Chatham Hollow on Amazon:
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Queen Elizabeth. She became queen when I was eight years old and I remember watching the coronation on TV. I can’t imagine England without her.
A strong, independent, apolitical figure, she saw her united countries through good times and bad, with a sense of humor, quick wit, understanding, and perception. She never complained in public about her lot in life, which was a tough one from an early age. These last few years must have been particularly hard for her, but she soldiered on, as she did in WWII.
May she rest in peace. And thank you for your long life of service.
Available on Kindle for $3.99 and soon as a paperback on Amazon.
In Rock, Roll, and Ruin, twenty-seven mystery writers serve up musically-themed crime stories around situations as unique as your inky fingerprints. There’s the bad-boy rock star, dumber than dirt, evading all attempts to keep him out of jail. Casino robbers undone by tribal flutes. A 1950’s jukebox that summons the dead and disappears the living. Jealousy drives girl band shenanigans, while a victim of botched plastic surgery seeks vengeance. Untimely deaths abound: at the prom, on a soap opera set, on a mountain-side hike. Several domestic “disagreements” are far from cliche: one wife is impatient and greedy; another wants her Stevie Nicks albums back; a third is desperate to get her husband to turn down the volume. Elvis fans will be tickled by the many mentions of the King himself, including an over-the-top fan club and a side-kick named after his dog. Whether trudging through snow in an Alaska forest, humming country music at a boatyard in Florida, playing sleuth at an assisted living facility, or stumbling backstage at the opera, irate, despairing, and deceived characters step into crime with barely a second thought.
Rock, Roll, and Ruin is a music-themed anthology of the Triangle, North Carolina chapter of Sisters in Crime. Some stories are cackling-out-loud funny, others are wickedly dark, but all are entertaining, original, un-putdownable. As Hank Phillippi Ryan writes in the Introduction, “Dip into this concert of mystery, open to any story, and you’ll sing a chorus of approval.”
My contribution: The M & M Mystery. Two octogenarians living in a retirement home become amateur sleuths to discover who murdered a resident former maestro by stabbing him with a violin bow.
Wonderful reviews from other crime and mystery novelists – do check it out!
Here in North Carolina, we are amidst a brutal heat wave. From the weather maps, everyone in the US (except maybe Alaska) and Europe is, too. So stay cool and hydrated.
I’d like to recognize those people who have chosen to follow my blog in recent months. I have over 1500 brave followers and I am grateful for each and every one of you. I hope you will stop by when I drop a post.
Here is the beginning of a list of the new followers, just to give you a shout-out. There will be another list coming soon.
Dr. Richard Selden at https://drrichardselden.wordpress.com/ – an integral figure in the development of Rapid DNA technology and the validation testing of the ANDE (Accelerated Nuclear DNA Equipment) Rapid DNA Analysis System for law enforcement applications.
I am pleased to announce the release of a high adventure-romance-historical novel by R.M. Byrd. I’ve known the author for more than twelve years and was privileged to read his new book, Watersong as an ARC. The author is a great storyteller, with a wonderful ability to encapsulate a character in an evolving description and to create colorful and authentic backgrounds.
The story: Captain Jason Achilles is the owner and operator of the Emmanuelle, a small trading ketch in the Caribbean islands. He is 32, tall, strong and independent to a fault. The jungle had long accepted Jason as it accepted everyone else, on its own terms, both fair and brutal. The year is 1939, and he has settled into a hard but steady life carrying small cargos to shallow water places where the large coasting schooners cannot or will not go. He had had a few scrapes, but when folks learned of his honesty, a rarity in the trade, he had more business than he could handle. Lucienne Beaumont, the daughter of a plantation owner, turns his world upside down. Strikingly beautiful, with angular features, strong curves, and an even stronger and more beautiful mind, she blindsides his world and captivates his heart. But there are dark forces at work with WW II on the horizon, and he finds he must fight to keep the love of his life.
This book keeps the heart pounding, not only from the romance but also from wild chases at sea and dangerous river journeys over rocks and waterfalls – not to mention the evil that seems to find Jason Achilles in the form of pirates, a Nazi spy, and a villainous plantation owner determined to eliminate him as a rival for Lucienne’s affection.
The author is a dedicated sailor, so the sailing sequences are authentic. The Caribbean setting and a delightful parrot named Hazel add a colorful backdrop to the story.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes the combination of historical adventure and romance with a Caribbean flare. You will not be disappointed.
About the author:
R.M. Byrd lives in North Carolina with his wife and two cats, as well as wild deer, hummingbirds and, appropriately, the odd nuthatch. He worked for more years than he’d like to remember in a shipyard building character (so they say) and spent 6 years in Europe unable to believe he actually lived there. He has been writing since before he can reliably recall. Though he has great trouble writing short, his short fiction has appeared in the literary journals The Iconoclast, Litsnack, Full of Crow, the literary collection of Main Street Rag and Offshoots, and the literary collection of the Geneva Writer’s Group of Geneva Switzerland.
The curly-haired boy peeked in the door of the old St. Edmund’s Priory, whose stone walls glowed a rich yellow in the setting sun. Often when he passed by, he had heard chanting coming from within, but today he dared to see where it came from. The sound was so mellow and soothing, so different from the harsh tones of his father. There was nothing the boy could do to please him. Every chore he was given, even feeding the chickens, he couldn’t seem to do the way his father wished, and each time, he received a cuff to the head and occasionally a beating.
Gianni had dreamed of an escape from his father’s farm many times. He often did escape, to the memories of his mother’s hand stroking his curls and to the softness of her words, which calmed him in the face of his father’s anger. She’d been dead from the plague nearly a year now, and his survival only seemed to irritate his father, as if he were to blame.
The boy cautiously slipped inside the door of the priory and followed the chanting across the dusty courtyard to a chapel on the far side. The sounds grew louder and seemed to penetrate his very being, drawing him into the chapel, where he sat down on a bench at the back. The light from the dying sun came through the windows on one side, illuminated motes of dust dancing in the air. The chanting continued. He closed his eyes.
“Who is that?” asked Friar Benedict. “Is he from the village?”
“I know him. He’s the son of Stefan, the farmer,” replied Prior Joseph.
“Well, he’s clearly tired. And he’s also starving. There’s no skin on his bones. And look at those bruises! He’s been thrashed.” Friar Andrew, the priory’s victualler, spoke in an angry tone
Gianni opened his eyes and startled at the sight of the three priory members looming over him. “I…I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be here. But the chanting, it was so lovely. I’ll go. Please don’t tell my father.”
“Of course, we won’t,” said Joseph, “but first we want to offer you some food.”
“But I’ll be late. I was supposed to purchase some bread in the village, and now it’s too late.” The boy hung his head, clearly despairing.
“I tell you what,” said Andrew. “If you will eat with us, we will give you a loaf of our bread to take to your father.”
“Really?” The boy face lit up at the kindness.
“Yes, really,” chuckled Benedict.
“What is your name, boy?” asked Joseph.
The boy ate his fill for the first time in months and happily headed home with the loaf of bread. He wanted nothing more than to live in that priory, chant with the occupants, and have something to eat every day. Not surprisingly, he got another beating for being late.
The next evening, Prior Joseph appeared at the door of the hut Gianni called home. “Farmer Stefan!”
“What do you want?” Stefan emerged from the darkness of the hut, snarling at his visitor. “Haven’t you interfered with my family enough?”
“I, we, the members of the priory, have a proposition for you. We have a need for a dogsbody to work at the priory. We would like to hire your son, and we will pay you for his work.”
Stefan’s eyes glittered with greed at the prospect of money. “But who will help me here with my farm?”
“We can see that he’s not a good worker and that you are displeased with what he does.”
Stefan’s brain barely registered the implied criticism or how they knew the boy was useless.
“We will pay him enough to allow you to hire someone more competent and still have some of his wages left over.”
Gianni, who was pressed against the wall inside the hut, listened to every word with increasing excitement. Could this really be happening to him?
Stefan asked how much his son would be paid, then made the pretense of thinking about it, during which time he snorted and spat a blob of phlegm at the Father’s feet. “I’ll let you have him for a week. That way you can find out if he’s as much a lazy do-nothing as he is here, while I look for a more suitable farm hand. But I want payment in advance.”
“We thought so.” Joseph reached into the pocket of his habit and brought out some coins. Stefan grabbed them and yelled for his son. The boy slipped around his father and stood in front of the priest.
Well, then,” said Joseph. “Come along.”
After a final whack on the head from his father, along with a stern warning to work hard, Gianni floated along behind Prior Joseph, suspended by his relief and excitement. He didn’t look back.
Two decades passed. Then, at the death of Joseph, the most beloved member of the community, a tall, curly-haired friar named Edmond, became Prior.
I’ve been posting a lot of reviews lately, in an attempt to catch up with my reading. I think this is the last for a while. Whew!
Sunflowers Beneath the Snow recounts the lives of three generations of women in Ukraine: grandmother, mother, daughter. This is the author’s first book, and she has created a deeply emotional portrayal of each of these women. ‘Sunflowers beneath the Snow’ is a phrase spoken by the grandmother, but to me, these three women are the sunflowers.
Ivanna, the grandmother, has spent the majority of her life under Communist rule, where everything from food to housing is strictly regulated. She doesn’t know her husband, Luyaksandro, is spying for an anti-Communist group, and when the group informs him he’s been identified, they give him the choice to be sent out of the country or be outed, which would lead to the arrest and possible death of his family by the state police. He chooses to leave without a word to his family.
When her husband disappears, Ivanna is told he is dead at the hand of his lover’s husband, and she feels bitterly betrayed. She now must to try to support herself and her daughter with nothing but a menial job, scarce food, and cold, mean living quarters. She uses ingenuity and determination to ensure their survival, but somehow she never stops believing in the necessity and fairness of the Communist government. As her daughter, Yevtsye, grows up, she develops political, religious, and societal opinions different from those of her mother, from whom she becomes estranged. She meets and marries Danya, a teacher of physics at the university, and after years of trying, they have a daughter, Ionna.
Ionna is born into a world different from those of her grandmother and her mother, since by that time, Ukraine has been independent from Russian for some years – although the country is still dependent of Russia for virtually everything and is run by corrupt politicians. She proves a contradiction to both her mother and grandmother and dreams of seeing and experiencing the world outside of Ukraine. Her eventual travels lead to a surprising outcome.
The author writes with great realism of living in Ukraine during that period of time. She reaches deep to portray the tenacity, determination, and deeply felt emotions of these women, in the face of the different and continual challenges in their lives. This book should be of particular interest to readers, given the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. The history described by the author explains a great deal of what is happening now. This reader lived in Czechoslovakia when it was part of the Soviet Union, and the author has hit the nail on the head of what it is like to live in a country under Russia’s control.
The only problem I had with this book was some prolonged descriptions of the women’s emotional states or considerations of Ukrainian politics. This slowed the forward progress of the story and tempted me to read ahead.
This is the author’s first book and, overall, I think she’s written a winner. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction in a historical setting, especially in the recent history of Eastern Europe.
About the author (from Amazon)
Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown developed an imagination full of stories to tell. She now calls the North Carolina coast home, and the peaceful nature of the sea has been a great source of inspiration for her creativity.
She and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. She learned she is stronger than she realized and capable of anything she sets her mind to.
Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others.
Wasteland is the second book in the Operation Galton series. The author has written in a variety of genres, but she has a special talent for creating dystopian worlds that are so close to everyday reality that the readers is left thinking What if? While this book is part of a series, it is possible to read the books out of order.
The title Wasteland refers to the area in the UK outside of the megacities where the population of the country now lives, having been cleared from towns and sorted. Those unable to find work to support themselves have been sent to so-called Hope Villages, sort of modern-day poor houses from which they will never leave, despite promises to the contrary. The last bit of the people not scoured from the landscape lives in the wasteland, supporting themselves off the grid, raising their own food, and generating their own electricity. Some things which they cannot make, they barter for with groups within the megacities or get from donations.
In 2061 in the megacities, speech is no longer free—one wrong word and you are given a social demerit and a hefty fine. One too many demerits? Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages. Everything is owned by Nutricorp, which is ruled by Ezra Bettencourt, and he has great plans to change the world.
Rae Farrer is the perfect megacity girl – tech-loving, hard-working, law-abiding, and content with her job at Balance, a therapeutic wellness center. She grew up in the Non-parental Upbringing system, her parents supposedly dead, where she was indoctrinated into the megacity way of thinking. She lives with Nash, a weak, demerit-prone analyst for NuSens, the biometric sensor that everyone has had implanted. It not only locates those with the implant, but alerts the employer to the use of alcohol, drugs, and what nutrients they are lacking each day – even too many sweets
Rae has a secret – she wants to locate her parents and siblings, whose names she was given by her Counsellor Support Giver at Balance at great risk. To locate them she must leave the city and travel to the Wasteland. Genevra has connections, but one can’t normally leave the city for any reason.
This is a fast-paced book, once the story setting is created, with thrilling action as Rae escapes and realizes that life in the Wasteland is not what she’d imagined. As she scours the countryside for her family, she becomes disillusioned but finds what she seeks, sort of. Pursued by the megacity military, she zigs and zags to escape detection, discovering many Wastelanders along the way. There is also a slowly developing love story, with powerful relationships. The ending is particularly tense, with an unexpected twist.
The Wasteland is wonderfully real, and the world created is a strong reminder that it is not outside the realm of possibility. As usual, the author has created three-dimensional characters that draw the reader into their world, and for me, it was a page-turner. The only drawback was that there was a lot of telling, rather than showing at the beginning, which is unusual for this author. But the pace soon ramps up and by, the end, is shocking and breathless.
Terry Tyler is the productive author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being Megacity. Also published recently is ‘The Visitor’, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller that centers around an internet dating con but has not yet finished with devastated societies, catastrophe, and destruction, generally. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team. She is also a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly the 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the northeast of England with her husband.
I participated in the book tour for Shelley Wilson’s The Last Princess, and I thought I’d follow up with a review.
If there could be any such thing as a swashbuckling novel with a young woman as the heroine, then this is it. It is based on historical elements from the seventh century, during which the Danish Vikings began to invade what would become England and captured quite a few territories, eventually settling in the eastern half of the country.
Edith, an Anglo-Saxon Princess, the oldest daughter of King and Queen of Northumbria who rule from Bamburgh, is sent on a husband-seeking expedition around Northumbria with her two younger sisters. Her life changes suddenly as she, her sisters, and her entourage are attacked and everyone but she is killed. She survives in no small part because she had been taught to fight and use the sword by an Elderman who is a close friend of her father. She finds her way back to Bamburgh only to find her parents murdered and the town laid waste. Edith vows revenge, but her immediate problem is staying alive since clearly she was meant to be killed as well. Her father’s brother has seized the King’s crown, even though Edith was designated as the heir-apparent. He immediately marries her off to an old and ugly Elderman, but on the night of their wedding day, the Elderman’s estate is attacked by men thought to be pirates. Edith assumes the identity of a slave and is taken by the pirates, later to be sold at market to a Viking jarl or lord.
Through all of her travails, Edith is determined to survive and clings to her dream of returning home to claim her throne and kill the person or persons responsible for the death of her family. Gradually she is integrated into a new, Viking family and her independence, fierceness and bravery help her develop into a Viking shield maiden or woman warrior.
What will happen when she returns to Northumbria to take back what is hers from her uncle? Is he the one behind her family’s murder and her abduction?
This book introduces the Vikings as they really were – a cultured, family-oriented civilization of farmers, craftsmen, sailors, and warriors – and contrasts their Norse religion and gods to the Christianity of the Saxons. It also starkly contrasts Vikings and Saxons in their treatment of women. I have to give the nod to the Vikings, since the author puts the new King of Northumbria and the Saxon culture in a bad light, while portraying the Viking culture as war-like but also understandably human. This is in line with what recent research has revealed about the Vikings.
Edith is a strong female character, but one with doubts and fears despite her warrior status. The secondary characters – Baldred, a Saxon soldier; Solveig, a Viking shield maiden; Jarl Aaric, Edith’s Viking rescuer; and Leif, one of Jarl Arric’s sons – are all fleshed out realistically. There is a little romance between Edith and Leif, but the story really focuses on Edith’s growth as a princess, a warrior, and a natural leader. The reader is privy to her doubts, her fears, and her changing view of her world.
I am a huge fan of historical fiction and I love the richness of the world this book creates and its non-stop action. Highly recommended.
About the author:
Shelley Wilson is an English author of motivational self-help titles and young adult fantasy fiction. Her sensible side writes non-fiction books to inspire you to be the best you can be, and her playful side writes young adult fiction to remind you that magic exists.
Shelley is a single mum of three, has a crazy black cat called Luna, and is obsessed with vampires, Tudor and Viking history, and exploring castles.