A Shout Out to some of my new followers

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From time to time I like to recognize my new followers. They are amazing, and here are a few:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Farshana at https://rainnbooks.com  She reviews books and is a huge reader of fiction.

Sonam Tsering at https://sonsnow.home.blog/ Mr. Tsering was born in Tibet, raised in India and studied under the 14th Dalai Lama. He now serves as the General Secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest Tibetan NGO, and blogs about the push for democracy in Tibet.

Libby Sommer at https://libbysommer.wordpress.com/ She is Australian, worked for ABC for a while, started her own public relations company, and then took time to travel, beginning to write when she returned. She is a prodigious, published, short story writer

  1. Wallace Peach at https://mythsofthemirror.com Many of my followers already know Diana, the author of wonderful, magical books with unusual characters. Her powers of description are legend.

Frank Joseph at https://notesandsilence.com He is the author of blog posts on zen, meditation and poetry. For all of my followers who are poets, his poetry is very evocative. He is French, but posts in English. Luckily I can follow everything else!

Maj and Sher at https://roadtirement.com. They are from Indiana, where Sher managed a photography studio and raised five children and Maj was a cattle rancher, professional public speaker, and owned an engineering consulting company. Now they are on the road in their RV much of the time. They blog about their lives and what they see on their travels!

Darnell Cureton at https://darnellcureton.com Darnell is from New Jersey and is the proud father of an independent son! He works security and on multi-function- print devices. He is a prolific short story writer who is now the sole caretaker of his 90-year-old father. He could use some good wishes and new followers.

Michajlo Carlos Garbett at https://caradesance.wordpress.com/ He is the writer of short stories about the world of Caradesance, “which circles the orange star, life is ‘almost’ that which you would find on the blue and green jewel which orbits Sol… the humans of this world know nothing of cars or planes. They know nothing of what resides past their own system and they are also not the only race that calls Caradesance home.. “ Fascinating!

Shira Destinie Jones Booth Hall Porter Faxio Mayo Manzilla WestDest @https://shiradest.wordpress.com  She is the author of the Community and 4 Freedoms blog, is a published author and an aspiring Historical Fantasy novelist. She has also been a community organizer and educator, working to build a strong Public Domain social Infrastructure.

Jesper and Susan at https://biveros.se/jesper-and-susann/ They live in Sweden and are inveterate travelers, now with their young daughter along as well. Jesper is the photographer and Susan writes. If you want to take a spectacular tour of Sweden, visit this blog!

Roswitha Geilser at https://roswithageisler.wordpress.com Rosie is an artist who lives in Germany. She writes, “There are sketches, everyday stuff, drafts, portraits, notes, doodles, big question marks and ideas. Impressions, associations, reflections, poems, scenes and feelings. It is possible that some of it will eventually become a picture or possibly a story.” Her sketches are amazing!

Book Review: The Boy and the Lake by Adam Pelzman  #RBRT #coming of age #1960s

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A member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, I purchased this book for review.

Coming of age, teenage love, adolescence in a Jewish community, the social upheavals of the 1960s, murder mystery – all of these themes are woven together in The Boy and the Lake and set against a luminously described backdrop of life on a lake.

Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Baum is fishing from a dock on his beloved New Jersey lake, feet dangling in the water and the sounds of people having fun echoing across the water, when the bloated body of his next door neighbor Helen floats to the surface. Her loss shakes his world and he stubbornly refuses to believe she died by accident, searching for clues to her death in the insular Jewish middle class community that lives around the lake.

His mother, Lillian, is a narcissistic and emotionally unpredictable woman with a punishing attitude toward both Ben and his long-patient father, Abe. Ben is detached from his mother but clearly understands what makes her tick. He loves his father, who is hardworking and caring physician, practicing in Newark, and an enabler of Lillian’s behavior. These three have all been affected differently by the early death of Ben’s younger sister. They normally come to the lake only in the summer, but with the increasing tension and fear from the Newark riots in 1967, the family decides move to there. Ben continues to infuriate both family and friends, especially one exceptional friend and budding love named Missy, with his unwelcome search to discover how Helen died.

As time passes, fractures and truths appear in the people populating Ben’s world, and he comes to realize that the prosperity and contentment he associates with the lake community is not what is seems to be. The complexity and depth of these relationships, drawn by the author in a compelling way, keeps the reader turning the pages, following as Ben grows in maturity and understanding while maneuvering through a variety of social situations that challenge the gawky teenager.

The author is a wonderful story teller. Ben comes across as a typical teenager for that time (one which I remember), with his mother alternating between a practical housekeeper and unlikeable shrew. I felt deep sorrow for the long-suffering Abe but also the love Ben’s grandparents have for him and which he reciprocates.  Even the lake develops a personality. He has created in exquisite detail the ambiance of a lake in summer that brought back some memories of my own, the push and pull and occasional pain of Ben’s family, and the darker undercurrents that Ben discovers in the surrounding community. The historical detail is spot on. The reader becomes emotionally invested in Ben, his plans for the future, and his awkward interactions with, and his growing admiration and affection for, Missy.

The twists and turns kept me reading quickly. I will warn potential readers, though, this book is more character-drive than a murder mystery – there are large sections where Helen’s death is not in play – even though a death opens the book and a tragedy ends it.

I recommend this book for what it is and will definitely read more by this author.

About the author (Amazon):

Adam Pelzman was born in Seattle, raised in northern New Jersey, and has spent most of his life in New York City. He studied Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania and received a law degree from UCLA. His first novel, Troika, was published by Penguin (Amy Einhorn Books). He is also the author of The Papaya King, which Kirkus Reviews described as “entrancing” and “deeply memorable.” The Boy and the Lake, set in New Jersey during the late 1960s, is his third novel.

You can find Adam Pelzman at

His home page: https://www.adampelzman.com/

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apelzman/

The Boy and The Lake can be purchased on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Boy-Lake-Adam-Pelzman-ebook/dp/B08FRNB8X2/ref=sr_1_1?crid=U4FZQJ0MZGEP&dchild=1&keywords=the+boy+and+the+lake+by+adam+pelzman&qid=1611681212&sprefix=The+boy+and+the+lake%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-1

Book Review: Birds Don’t Cry by Sandy Day (@SandyDayWriter) #RBRT # literary fiction #women’s fiction

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This review is done as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I purchased the book.

Birds Don’t Cry is a story of relationships between siblings, something to which most of us can relate. Middle-aged Kaffy Sullivan, ornery and set in her ways, lives in Sullivan House, an old inn set next to a magnificent forest and open for tourists to stay. She hopes to live out her life there, maintaining her grandparents’ legacy to their three grandchildren. Kaffy, with the volunteer help of her sister-in-law, Sylvia, is determined to keep the inn going. She has come to rely on Sylvia for setting up, chicken dinners on Saturday nights, and lively conversations with the guests (something which Kaffy can’t manage). Now she is faced with a reviewer from The Lonely Tripper books coming to stay at the inn, something that could make or break its reputation. Trying to bring the lovely innup to date, she has hired her creepy brother, Red, Sylvia’s husband, to expand the front porch before the visit.

One morning before that visit, Sylvia doesn’t show up at the inn and seems to have disappeared. Kaffy is puzzled and also apprehensive that she can get Sullivan House ready in time without Sylvia’s help. It takes some time before Kaffy realizes that Sylvia is really missing – distracted as she is by keeping a horse and its foal she finds in the woods, knowing full well the horses belong to a neighbor who comes looking for them.

She finally realizes her brother doesn’t seem to care that his wife is missing and after several days starts asking questions, eventually calling the police. Adding to her stress is the impending reading of her grandmother’s will and wondering if she will be allowed to keep Sullivan House. In the meantime, her brother and her conniving and greedy older sister Maxine are conspiring to remove her and sell the house. The stress brings out memories buried for years, making the world a much darker place for Kaffy.

Where is Sylvia? Can Kaffy get her life under control? Will her odious brother and nasty sister throw her out of her beloved home?

This is definitely a psychological story of sibling rivalry and buried memories, but I had some problems with it. Perhaps the author intended for Kaffy to seem as somewhat distractible and clueless as she first seems, although her character improves as you read further into the book. Her taking the horses she found in the woods while looking for Sylvia was an odd and an unlikely diversion. Red seems equally oblivious to the disappearance of his wife. Is his aimlessness and waffling a family trait?  He is also not averse to some skullduggery with his older sister, Maxine, that would have a profound effect on Kaffy, and there is much more to his relationship with Kaffy than initially apparent. Maxine plays much less of a role in the book but is sharply drawn and eminently unlikable. Nevertheless, the author created enough interest in the characters to keep me reading.

The author touches on a lot of subjects involving these siblings – mental health, sexual assault, theft – and manages to move between them fairly deftly, but there is a certain awkwardness to the book that I can’t quite put my finger on. I will say the ending was somewhat unsatisfying – I wanted more, which tells me I had become invested in the characters.

 

About the author (from Amazon)

Sandy Day is the author of Fred’s Funeral, Chatterbox Poems, An Empty Nest, Head on Backwards Chest Full of Sand, and Birds Don’t Cry. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She lives in Georgina, Ontario, Canada.

You can find Sandy Day

On Twitter: @SandyDaywriter

On her book site:  https://sandyday.ca/books/

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandyDayWriter

You can find Birds Don’t Cry on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Birds-Dont-Cry-Sandy-Day/dp/1999073568/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Birds+Don%27t+Cry&qid=1610480316&sr=8-1

Valentine’s Day – What I didn’t know about it

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Valentine’s Day is now a huge source of income for flower sellers and candy makers and Hallmark (both cards and soupy made for TV movies). Americans are expected to spend an average of $196.31 on Valentine’s Day stuff, a 21 percent increase over 2019. And total Valentine’s Day spending in the United States is expected to top $27.4 billion. Is any part of Valentine’s Day’s history authentically romantic rather than commercial?

So were did this special day come from?

Valentine’s Day originated as a minor Christian feast day to honor a few Christian martyrs named Valentine, who rose to sainthood. The earliest Valentinus is said to have died in Africa, along with 24 soldiers. Later stories include an account of the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for ministering to Christians persecuted under Roman rule in the third century, and also performed weddings for Christian soldiers who were forbidden to marry . He apparently restored the sight of a blind girl who was the daughter of his jailer. According to an 18th century embellishment to the legend, he wrote the jailer’s daughter a letter signed “Your Valentine” before being led away to be beheaded.

Two centuries later, the Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasiuis I on February 14, the date of the death of Saint Valentine of Rome. It is believed he did this to “Christianize” a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, which was celebrated during the ides of February, or February 15.

For Lupercalia, Roman priests, known as the Luperci, would sacrifice a goat, to encourage fertility, and a dog, for purification purposes. The priests – or half-naked young men, if you would believe it – would then take to the streets holding strips of goat flesh dipped in sacrificial blood and gently slap both women and fields with the goat hide to encourage fertility. Not my cup of tea to be slapped in the face with a piece of raw goat dripping with blood!

The first mention of Valentine’s Day as a day celebrating romantic love is thought to have come from Geoffrey Chaucer in 1375 with a line from the poem “Parliament of Foules,” where he wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s Day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

The day did not become fully associated with romantic love until the 14th and 15th centuries, when the idea of courtly love flourished, linked with the ‘lovebirds’ of early spring. The oldest existing valentine is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London after being captured at the Battle of Agincourt.

The current celebration originated in the UK and before the 18th century, it was about exchanging gifts — gloves and spoons were traditional — and being someone’s valentine for a whole year. In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained scores of sentimental verses for those poor young lovers unable to compose their own. Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories and were made with real lace and ribbons. By 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in the UK.

                                          Victorian Valentine’s cards

                                          Valentine Card circa 1910

The custom of sending cards, chocolates, and sweets also originated in the UK in the 1900s. In the United States, Hallmark first offered valentine cards in 1913 and began producing them in 1916. Today, Valentine’s Day is still mostly celebrated mainly in the United States and Britain, but also Canada, Mexico, France, and Australia and the United States.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone. May your chocolates be sweet, your flowers fresh, and your cards beautiful!

 

Book Review: Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders: An Ashmole Foxe Georgian Mystery by William Savage (@penandpension) #Georgian Mystery

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I have read and reviewed all the books in this series, and it was so enjoyable to sit down and meet up with all the characters I’ve come to love and see the developments in their lives. That being said, anyone can pick up this book and enjoy the tale without having read the previous books. I will say for me this is the best in the series. The author seems to up his game with each new mystery.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era. He is well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. All of this he finds mundane, and over the years he has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, which has become his raison d’etre.

This time he is called to visit the Bishop of St. Stephen’s Church, where the body of a young clergyman was discovered outside his home. The victim, the Honourable Henry Pryce-Perkins, was the warden of St. Stephen’s Hospital, a sort of retirement home for male servants and other people who worked for members of the cathedral clergy. He was also both the youngest son of a peer of the realm and a brilliant scholar at Oxford. How did he end up with a dead end (pardon the pun) position as warden of the hospital, when he should have been moving on to a large and prestigious parish?

Street children are favorites of Foxe, and he treats them with respect and gives them money to survive. So it is not surprising that soon after the Bishop’s call, street children lead him to the richly dressed body of a young woman in a house that its neighbors swear is haunted.  The house also sits strangely empty at the entrance to one of the notorious ‘yards’ of Norwich, wretched tenements housing the poorest of the poor in the city. The children also play a central role in helping Foxe solve this murder.

For the first time, and complicating Foxe’s investigative work, the women in his life are creating problems. He has enjoyed the occasional company of various women, usually actresses or denizens of high-priced brothels, but he has now tied himself to a socially acceptable lady. How can he manage her increasing demands, especially when two former ‘close friends’ are returning to Norwich?

In the process of Foxe’s investigation, we are introduced to more of the colorful characters that abound in this series: the occupants of St. Stephen’s hospital, the Bishop himself, and Oliver Lakenhurst, secretary to the Bishop and quite enamored with his perceived importance. In addition, we learn a great deal about the church, specifically its considerable library and the odd beliefs of the murdered warden.  The means and the opportunity for the murder were clear but Ashmole has difficulty figuring out the why.

As usual, the author creates the world of Georgian Norwich with wonderful detail and an eye to the political and social lives of its inhabitants. I was particularly charmed by the street children, whose lives are a bleak reflection of the time. The atmosphere of this mystery is inspired, the city itself a character.

The twists and turns in Foxe’s investigation of the two murders kept me guessing, and since I tend to figure things out before the denouement of a mystery, Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders was frustratingly good.

The author is a superb writer, and I mean it as a compliment that his mysteries develop at a leisurely pace, as life was in those times. If the reader is wanting something speedy, they wouldn’t have enjoyed living then.

I highly recommend Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders and all the other mysteries by this writer.

About the author (from Amazon):

William Savage grew up in Hereford, on the border with Wales and took his degree at Cambridge. After a working life largely spent teaching and coaching managers and leaders in Britain, Europe and the USA, he retired to Norfolk, where he volunteers at a National Trust property and started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels and another of his loves was history, so it seemed natural to put the two together and try his hand at producing an historical mystery. To date, he has focused on two series of murder-mystery books, both set in Norfolk between 1760 and around 1800; a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with France and Napoleon.

Norfolk is not only an inherently interesting county, it happens to be where the author lives, which makes the necessary research far easier. The Georgian period seemed natural choice for him as well, since he lives in a small Georgian town, close by several other towns that still bear the imprint of the eighteenth century on many of their streets and grander buildings. It also had the attraction of being a period he had never studied intensively, and so far he has not regretted his choice. The period has far exceeded his expectations in richness of incidents, rapidity of change and plentiful opportunities for anyone with a macabre interest in writing about crimes of every kind. He cannot see himself running out of plot material any time soon!

William Savage’s blog is Pen and Pension:  http://penandpension.com I highly recommend his blog for his fascinating posts on all aspects of life in Georgian England.

You can also find him

On Twitter: @penandpension

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009908836774

Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders can be found on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08HLZ2CBV/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i5

 

 

The House Crow #WRITEPHOTO

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This story is in response to the #write photo prompt from Sue Vincent this past week:

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I sit in the tree and bob my head, regarding the yard below me. Don’t think the owners have brought out any food yet. I’ve been stopping by daily for a year, because, as you know, every house has to have a house crow.

The back door opens and someone comes out and puts some bread on the deck railing. I’ve got them trained well, haven’t I? And they say we’re not as smart as ravens!

Book Review: His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage (@abelfrageauthor) #rbrt #historical romance

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This review is written as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and the book was purchased.

Romance is not to my taste, but historical fiction is. So I decided to dip my toes in the waters of a romance novel set in Wales in the late 13th century. I was also encouraged but the fact that Anna Belfrage is recognized as a prolific writer of historical romance and time travel novels (a favorite genre of mine) and has a large, enthusiastic following. His Castilian Hawk is the first book in her latest series, The Castilian Saga.

The story: Robert FitzStephen has served King Edward I of England, known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, since he was a boy of twelve. Robert is bastard-born but follows his king loyally and is now riding with him once again to bring the rebellious Wales under control. In protecting Edward at the end of a battle, Robert unknowingly kills an ally of the king, Sir Ralph Outremer, along with his son. Edward decides to make Robert return the bodies to the one remaining member of Outremer’s family, his daughter, and also gifts Orton Manor, home of the Outremer family, to Robert as a reward for his years of loyalty – with one condition. He is to wed the daughter to keep the manor and lands under Edward’s control.

Thus the author sets the basis for an improbable love story. Opposing this arrangement most forcefully is Edith, sister to one of Robert’s traveling companions for many years. She saved Robert’s life fifteen years previously and has been serving as his wife in all ways except formally for all that time. Eleanor d’Outremer, called Noor, is in her early teens when she learns of her father and brother’s death (but not who killed them) and is now entirely alone. She has no choice but to comply with the King’s order to marry the unknown Robert FitzStephan. Her life is further complicated by her blood ties to the Welsh princes, Llewelyn and Dafydd ap Gruffydd, with whom Edward is attempting to negotiate a peace.

Noor is very young and innocent but is also feisty, proud and brave. As she grows from a ‘small brown hen’ to a beautiful woman, she gradually falls in love with Robert and is determined to be a good wife, but she has to face down Edith and deal with the havoc Edward is wreaking on Wales. Robert also falls in love with Noor and comes to call her his Castilian hawk, recognizing her Spanish heritage, spirit and grit. However, when faced with the chance to save one member of the Gruffydd family, Noor sides with Wales. Will Robert stand with his king or follow his heart and protect his wife from both the King and the wiles of Edith? What will Noor do when she learns Robert is the man who killed her father and brother? Who will tell her?

This book is delightfully complex and engrossing with its many conflicts, both personal and royal, and is populated by very real, three-dimensional characters – not handsome, not beautiful, but flawed with inner demons and doubts. I like that these characters evolve over time in the face of increasing pressure from without, and I found myself alternating between disliking and then sympathizing with the various personae, as one might do with people in real life. The dialogue is real and natural, and the author weaves in enough descriptions of the country, the manors and palaces, and the battles to set the historical scene, of which I knew little. It led me to do a little exploration of the history on my own. Thus I can see why this author has built such a following.

However, I have to warn any potential readers: there is a lot of sex in this novel and it is graphic and detailed. Since I don’t read romance novels, but see this in many other genres, I suspect the sex is expected. I did find myself rather bored when it was inserted at various times when I felt it wasn’t really necessary and detracted from the flow of the story.

Overall, I was impressed with the author’s story-telling and ability to plop the reader right into the middle of it. I might even read the next book in the series.

About the author (Amazon):

Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, she combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours. Plus she always finds the time to try out new recipes, chase down obscure rose bushes and initiate a home renovation scheme or two.

Her first series, The Graham Saga, is set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland. It tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. Her second is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.

You can find the author

On twitter: @abelfrageauthor

On her book site: https://www.annabelfrage.com/

On her blog: https://www.annabelfrage.com/my-blog/

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anna.belfrage.3

His Castilian Hawk can be found on Amazon, along with the author’s other books:

A Shanty: The Eddystone Light (Thanks to Willow)

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I was treated to the singing of a shanty, The Wellerman, on Willowdot21’s blog yesterday  morning: https://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2021/02/03/whats-on-my-music-radar-today/.  It’s a great song and it got me to thinking – just what is a shanty? So I looked it up: a shanty is a song with alternating solo and chorus, of a kind originally sung by sailors while performing physical labor together.

Being a child of the 60s (the peak time for popular folk music) , the shanty I know the best is called Eddystone Light, which has been sung by the Seekers, the Weavers, Burl Ives and the Brothers Four. It is a whimsical tale of the Eddystone Lighthouse.

The Eddystone Lighthouse is located on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks, nine miles (14 km) south of Rame Head, Cornwall, in England. The rocks are submerged below the surface of the ocean, and thus have been major hazard to ships for centuries.

                                  Eddystone Lighthouse, engraved by W.B. Cooke 1836

The first lighthouse, completed in 1699, was the world’s first open ocean lighthouse. The first and second were destroyed by storm and fire, respectively. The third, also known as Smeaton’s Tower, is the known for its influence on lighthouse design and the use of concrete in the building of it. The current structure is the fourth, and you can see the stub of the third in front of it in this picture

So here is my favorite version of The Eddystone Light by the Brothers Four (made in 1961)

And if you want to sing along, here are the lyrics.

My father was the keeper of the Eddystone light
He married a mermaid one fine night
From this union there came three
A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

Late one night, I was trimming the glim
While singing a verse from the evening hymn
A voice from starboard shouted, “Ahoy!”
And there was my mother, sitting on a buoy

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

“Tell me, what has become of my children three?”
My mother she did ask of me
One was exhibited as a talking fish
The other was served on a chafing dish

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

Then the phosphorous flashed in her seaweed hair
I looked again and me mother wasn’t there
A voice came echoing out of the night
“To Hell with the keeper of the Eddystone Light”

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea

Yo ho
Yo ho
Yo ho
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I sing this to my grandson (but without the To Hell!). Willow and I do love our shanties!

Book Review: The Rings of Mars by Rachel Foucar (@Rachel Foucar) #RBRT #science fiction

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I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the author.

The Rings of Mars was a pleasant surprise. I do love science fiction (having been groomed to it at my father’s knee) but I all too frequently find modern science fiction lacking the elements of a good read. The Rings of Mars is a good read, even if I disagree with some of the science – or the lack thereof.

The story opens with Jane Parker standing in line, one of five hundred people selected from millions who applied, to board a shuttle to take them to a ship, the Sleipnir, that will carry them to Mars. It seems she doesn’t know why she was selected, and this was a one-way trip for everyone. Although not clearly stated at first, the colonization of Mars is necessary because, according to the group funding it, Earth has become too polluted to sustain life much longer.

During the shuttle trip and her arrival on the Sleipnir, the reader is introduced in separate chapters to the people who will become her friends: Danni, a native American; Pat and Kaitlin, two bona fide astronauts; and Mark. And then Jack, whose alias is Alex, clearly being sent to sabotage the trip.

The ship is huge with a cylindrical center portion around which three rings rotate, creating gravity for the passengers who will live and work there. The description of the ship was interesting, along with the segregation of the passengers into various departments for their work assignments (agriculture, cleaning, cooking, etc).  Food and its supply, entertainment and diversions for the passengers, and the living quarters were nicely described, along with the weightless environment that some would work in.

Tension begins with the explosion and destruction of the space station from which the Sleipnir has just departed and the decision whether to continue on or abort the mission.

The middle of the book slows a bit as Alex inserts himself into the life of the crew with a bent for destruction, but speeds up as Jane reveals herself to be an agent sent on the trip to stop him and whatever he’s planned. Why must the Sleipnir be sabotaged? Will Jane be able to stop Alex or will the ship and its passengers be destroyed?

Some of the characters are drawn well and can be visualized, others are a little fuzzy. Jane is clearly a badass, and that role she fills to perfection. I love that there is a strong female protagonist, especially since many of the other women characters are weak and/or not very perceptive. A few characters die unexpectedly and shockingly and there are plenty of plot twists and turns created to amp the tension. In addition, the descriptions of the ship and the limitations it exerts on the lives of the passengers, along with the drudgery of the day to day work, are compelling.

I wish there had been more discussion amongst the characters as to why they decided to leave Earth forever. There would have been a richness added to them through those conversations. There is really no mystery to Jane’s pursuit of Alex, since it is clear why he is there, only her growing irritation of not being able to catch him in his various acts of sabotage. And I must admit total frustration with the captain of Sleipnir, who seems unaccountably unwilling to accept that a saboteur is on board.

There were a few other minor things that itched due to my interest in space travel. For example, the ship had windows, and I wondered how those, along with the ship’s construction would protect the travelers from cosmic rays and solar activity during the trip.

The Rings of Mars was an enjoyable read and should attract the attention of science fiction fans, especially those who like a strong female in the lead and good tension.

All in all, the author has done a very creditable job for her first novel.  She has a real future as a writer and I hope to read more from her.

 About the author:

Rachel Foucar lives in Perth in Western Australia. She is currently studying performance studies at Curtin University. She loves acting, music and considers herself quite geeky. The Rings of Mars is her first book

 The author can be found

On twitter:  @RachelFoucar

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachel.foucar

The Rings of Mars will be available on Amazon in February.

Wagons West #writephoto

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This story is in response to the #write photo prompt from Sue Vincent this past week

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Sarah Connor pulled her kerchief tighter around her nose and mouth to keep out the dust raised by the wagon in front of her. She had been walking along the Oregon Trail, beside her mother’s and father’s Conestoga wagon, for nearly two months now, while her stomach grew round with new life.

The night she told her parents of her pregnancy was etched in acid.  The family, including her younger brother Ethan, were sitting around a fire, the empty plates of their dinner on the ground beside them.

“I have to tell you something…Mother, Father.” Both parents focused on Sarah.  “I am expecting a baby,” she said in almost a whisper.

“What? You can’t be! Here we are about to set off on a difficult, hazardous journey of months and you are pregnant?” Her mother shook her head and stood up. “You are utterly without morals, Sarah, and thoughtless of your family, too. I want nothing to do with you from now on. Make your own way.”

Her father stood up, too. “Is this the truth, child?”

“Yes, Father. I’m so sorry, we never meant it to happen.” In fact, the long days of waiting for the wagon trains to form and leave from Missouri had given Sarah a freedom she had never known at home, her former home.

Her father seemed to grow twice in size as he took a deep breath and said in a loud voice, “And just who is the father?”

“Gabriel Harrison. You met him several times.”

“Yes, yes, I know, the scout for the wagons that left last week.”

“He’s a good man, Father. He will marry me when he finds out about the baby.”

“If he doesn’t, I will kill him,” her father said in an icy cold voice. Sarah knew he meant it. “Now we will get down on our knees and pray to the Lord God Almighty for his forgiveness of Sarah’s immorality…and for his blessings on our journey.”

Both parents ignored Sarah when they formed a line of wagons the next day and the passing weeks, as she walked along with the wagon.  However, they didn’t let her starve, and she silently worked to set up their campsite in the evening and to load the wagon in the morning.

She slept on the ground under the wagon. Ethan was her only comfort, giving her a blanket at night and checking to make sure she was well. “They’ll come around, Sarah, just give them time. You know Mother would love to hold a baby in her arms again.”

Sarah was certain that Gabriel would not forsake her. Before he left, he told her he would be thinking of her every day, and he would leave a sign on the trail to let her know. She told Ethan so there would be two pairs of eyes searching.

She’d been looking every day, to one side and another of the trail. Her heart dropped more each day when neither she nor Ethan found anything.

Two months into their journey, her parents had relented sufficiently to allow her to sleep in the wagon, her father stating he would not be responsible for his daughter’s death from cold or predators. One morning, Ethan came riding back from the front of the wagon train. “I found something from Gabriel for you.” He pulled her up behind him on his horse, and they rode forward along the long line of wagons, until Ethan reined in. “There. See that rock in the middle of the trail? Get down and wait until the next wagon passes, then see what’s scratched on it.”

Sarah slid down and waited patiently for the next wagon to pass. In the brief moments between wagons, she ran to the middle of the trail and looked down at the large, flat rock. Scratched into its surface were two sets of initials, set in a heart: SC and GH. Her heart soared, and she felt the baby kick for the first time.