Book Review: The Maori Detective by D.A. Crossman (@crossmanDA) #RBRT #New Zealand mystery

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I selected this mystery to purchase for review because I was attracted by both the setting and also the protagonist, who is half Maori.

Here’s the story:

Carlos Wallace spent thirteen years in Australia, eight of them as a police officer in New South Wales. When he kills a man in the line of duty and his wife is subsequently murdered, he comes under suspicion and he’s dismissed from the force. He’s devastated and decides to return home to Christchurch and become a private detective. He arrives shortly after the earthquake of 2011, which leveled the city’s business district, and the reality of the devastation is a grim backdrop to his depressed mood. An absent and mysterious Mr. Prince sets Carlos up with a PI business office and funds to continue cases that Prince left behind. A blood relative deeds him a house, asking only that in return, he look after his cousin Miriama (a beautiful matakite or seer to whom he is attracted) and his whānau or family.

The main case Carlos sets out to solve is the disappearance of a young French girl, missing since the earthquake and presumed dead. His search is tortuous and has international tentacles, but he acquires a feisty and capable partner, Ginny Andrews, who has a mysterious background of her own. Interspersed in this case are searches for lost dogs and unfaithful wives, which at first seem rather superfluous but which eventually tie in. One of the best character in the book is Uncle Tau, a local cop whose links to the community are a big help to Carlos. But his uncle also reminds him of his duty to family and a supposed curse he needs to explore.

My thoughts:

To be honest, I found this book a tough read with some definite roadblocks. There are initially many Maori terms, which are defined at the end of the book, but going back and forth with an e-reader is tedious. The plot lines are complicated, and when I put the book down, I had to go back when I picked it up again and skim through what I had read.

Nevertheless, the setting and the Maori family culture are fascinating and that kept me going, when I felt a little frustrated. Initially slow with the introduction of characters and their past, the pace picks up as the various plot lines come to the fore. There are many interesting and  complicated turns, but the characters are vivid and compelling. To me, they were one of the best aspects of the story. I particularly like the taciturn Uncle Tau and Carlos’ beautiful but troubled cousin. The descriptive details are spare, but Christchurch itself, as it struggles to revive and rebuild, is a wonderful background.

The Maori Detective was not a totally satisfying mystery for me because of the density and the foreignness. I felt like I was standing to the side, observing the story and trying to understand it, rather than being pulled into it. I do think the book will be a huge draw to readers in that part of the world. All in all, the insight into Maori life and the backdrop made it a read worth the effort.

About the author (courtesy of Amazon)

David (D.A.) Crossman is a novelist and short story writer with a passion for flawed detectives, sinister spies, and femme fatales. English on his father’s side and Norwegian on his mother’s, he was born in South Africa and raised in South East London. He spent a number of years as an itinerant worker and he has resided in France, Israel, India, and Australia before settling down in rural New Zealand where he now lives with his family and their clowder of cats.

You can find him

on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.cl/da_crossman/

on Twitter: @crossmanDA

and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DA-Crossman-1040957715953267/?ref=py_c

The Maori Detective is his fourth book. You can find all his books on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/D.-A.-Crossman/e/B06XDMNX27

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ROYALTY

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This is my 300 word entry for the Blogger’s Bash, scheduled for Saturday May 19, at the George IV in Chiswick, London. I can’t attend this year but wish I could!
P.S. Please excuse the profanity, but it was necessary.

Royalty

Peggy smoothed down her men’s trench coat and wrapped a grungy scarf around her neck. It’s really cold today. Where do I stay tonight? The shelter over on Peabody?  Someone there had stolen things from her shopping cart. Mulling over her options, she shoved her cart down sidewalk. In the distance, bells tolled for a wedding.

People gave Peggy a wide berth as they passed and cast her pitying looks. Either that or they deliberately bumped into the cardboard hanging out of her cart. At the next corner, there was a driveway where she parked her cart. Her friend Sid was already there, sitting on a camp stool, hat on the ground, looking sad in the hopes of getting coins to fill it.

“Peg, my girl! What’s happening?”

“Nothing, just cold.”

Sid pulled his ragged parka closer around him and looked up at her with a smudged face. “Damn right.”

“Sid, when was the last time you washed? You look like a chimney sweep.”

“Hell, no one even knows what a sweep is, any more. I’ll get a shower and clean socks at the shelter tonight. Clean sheets, too. You goin’ there?”

“Nope. They steal from you.”

Sid picked at something between his front teeth. “Suit yourself, but you could freeze.”

“I’ve got my cardboard house…”

“Hell, that won’t give you any warmth. Here.” He bent over to the box next to his stool and pulled out a moth-eaten, dirty red wool blanket. “Take this, but I want it back tomorrow.”

Peggy knotted the short end of the blanket around her neck, giving Sid a toothless smile. Head high in the air, she walked to her cart, giving the Queen’s wave to imaginary people and dragging the blanket behind her.

“Who do you think you are, Peg? Fookin’ royalty?”

Here’s the final cover for Death in a Mudflat

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I promised to divulge my choice, and it was made with input from all of you. It was a thoroughly informed choice with some tweaks.

The artist is Kristin Bryant of Kristin Designs. She is really talented and did the cover for Death by Pumpkin. I plan to ask her to do the cover for my fifth book, Death at the Asylum. If you buy Death in a Mudflat, you’ll get to read the prologue to that one. (I can’t help it, I am a shameless marketer.)

Here it is:

 

I’ve posted how I made the covers for my first three books, and I plan to let you see how the arm got done for this one soon!

Death in a Mudflat should be out in April. Stay tuned.

Book Review: The Hat by C.S. Boyack (@virgilante) #RBRT #Fantasy

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The Hat is a delightfully fun, whimsical fantasy with overtones of chick lit and Disney magic. As a novella, it is a fast, fast read, and I was disappointed when I came to the end.

Lizzie St. Laurent is a 21-year-old college dropout who is having a difficult time following the loss of her grandmother, whom she loved and with whom she lived. She moved to an apartment, but her roommate abandoned her, and now she is working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Her uncle is in control of her grandmothers’ estate, and when she visits her grandmother’s house in the hopes of having something by which to remember her, she finds everything boxed up and on a moving truck. In frustration, she snatches a box from the truck and brings it home.

From the book’s title, the reader can guess what Lizzie finds in that box – a hat – but not just any hat. This Hat can talk and can alter its look to any fashion appropriate to Lizzie’s wardrobe. More importantly, the Hat can transport Lizzie to other places, once it’s on her head. Lizzie is taken by the Hat to a cabin owned by her grandmother, a place which no one knows about, and discovers she can play a mean jazz bass, when the Hat plays through her fingers. The banter between Lizzie and the Hat is pure comedy and made me laugh.

In a serious subplot, the magical and paranormal abilities of the Hat take Lizzie on a roller coaster ride to uncover a ring of baby snatchers and find her best friend’s kidnapped child. How does it do that? You have to read the book.

The ending left me thinking there will be more adventures of these two odd companions, and I’m looking forward to them! C.S. Boyack has created a magical mystery tour de force.

About the author:

Craig Boyack was born in Elko, Nevada, which the author claims has always been a little behind the times and gives him a unique perspective. He moved to Idaho in the early 2000s and jumped into his writing career where he found other writers and critique groups. He likes to write about things that are unusual, and his books are science fiction, fantasy and paranormal designed to entertain his readers. The Hat is his twelfth book.

You can find C.S. Boyack

On Twitter: @ virgilante

At: https://storyempire.com/craig-boyack/

and on his blog: https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/

The Hat and his other books can be found on Amazon:

              https://www.amazon.com/C.-S.-Boyack/e/B00ILXBXUY

She Has the Flu, But I Don’t

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My two legged is sick and isn’t spending a lot of time in front of the black and white thing at the end of the hall. Woo hoo! I have a chance to write something about me. I am funny and beautiful, you know.

I’ve just spent the morning doing my exercises – running up and down the stairs, running from one end of the house to the other, and following the birds at their feeders. It’s downright exhausting, it is. My two legged gave me a good brushing (for those incipient mats, she says) and now that she’s sitting down resting, or so she says, I can put my front paws on her knees and get picked up for a good cuddle.

There’s more to do today. My favorite mouse is up here under her desk. I love to play with it and rip it apart, and I can carry it in my mouth anywhere.

Another one appeared last week and I’m not sure how they are related but they look exactly alike, except for where she sewed up the first one with string. She sort of yelled one morning when she opened her eyes, rolled over and found my mouse in her face.

I like to play with it in the shower, too.

Oops, I can hear her calling me. Time to go entertain her. I can take the mouse.

Ten Things That Happen When You Have the Flu

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Apologies for this take off on several post by my blogging friend, Hugh Roberts.

Chained to a bed vector art illustration

10. You have a chest cold with some serious coughing. You take zinc pills in the hopes of containing it and wait to get better. You watch a series on Netflix. The title is enticing, your friends recommended it, so lying on the couch, you begin episode one of the first of four seasons. After 30 minutes, you doze off, and wake up just as the episode ends. Your husband tells you what happened, and you start episode two. Same thing. After the third episode, you give up, completely confused about what’s happening.

9. You decide the reason why you’re feeling so exhausted is that you’re not getting enough exercise (cough, cough). So you get the pillow on the seat of your recumbent bike and pump away madly while watching the news…for five minutes. You return to bed.

8. You ignore your daughter’s insistence that you see your MD. It’s only a chest cold, and in two days you’ll be back at it.

7. Despite spraying Lysol wherever you go, your husband now starts coughing. The house smells like a rest stop bathroom.

6. You decide, after several days in a bathrobe, you should take a shower. Your husband is also sick and even he is avoiding you. You take a shower, are too tired to dry your hair, and go back to bed.

5. At your daughter’s continued insistence, you and your husband see your MD. You’re blood pressure is 80/60, which explains why doing anything involving moving is exhausting, and you both have the flu. You get a prescription for Tamiflu, but your MD says it will be four days until you start to feel better.

4. You watch TV with the cat in your lap. You have a coughing fit. The cat startles and leaves claw tracks on your legs as he runs away.

3.You crave some really good comfort food, but all you have in the freezer is a few diet dinners, all made with quinoa and kale. Your husband hates both. There’s always the store, but that means you would have to get out of your pajamas and into real clothes. You give up and eat dry cereal.

2. Your husband, stronger than you, finds some noodles and makes spaghetti the next night. You eat two bowls of it and go to bed with an upset stomach.

  1. You manage not to fall asleep during an evening of the Olympics. An American one tenth your age and the size of a peanut wins a gold medal. You finally have a solid night’s sleep.

Several thousand neurons gave their lives in the creation of this post. I am certain of it because of the number of typos and other idiocies I discovered on re-reading it. I am having difficulty braining today.

Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.png

This movie won the Golden Globe for Best Picture and stars Frances McDormand, the Oscar winner for Fargo a number of years ago. I had to see it, if only to enjoy another great performance from her. She didn’t disappoint, and there were incredibly strong performances from Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. There’s also a funny cameo from Peter Dinklage – you might know him from Game of Thrones.

The movie is dark, very dark, but it also has moments of humor, deriving from the foibles of the characters.

Seven months have passed since Mildred Hayes’ teenage daughter was raped and burned to death. There has been no movement in the case, so Mildred decides to light a fire under the Chief of Police and buys advertising on three billboards on a road outside of town. Her message asked why Chief Willoughby hasn’t made any progress on the case. The citizens of Ebbing don’t take kindly to her message – Willoughby is beloved in the town and he is also dying of pancreatic cancer. Harrelson makes Willoughby a teddy bear, the voice of moderation and encouragement to his deputies and a loving, if foul-mouthed husband and father. He inhabits this role like an old slipper, and he patiently and sympathetically explains to Mildred why the case has stymied his department.

When his second-in-command, Officer Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell, takes up Willoughby’s cause, the battle between Mildred and the town is only exacerbated. Dixon is racist with a penchant for violence and is an immature mother’s boy, His mother, played by Sandy Martin, is a loving but bitter, evil-minded spider.

Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand in the film "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" (Fox Searchlight/Merrick Morton)

McDormand plays Mildred with single-minded, mirthless, laser focused determination to find her daughter’s killer. Her life would crush any other woman; her husband has left her for a brainless but beautiful 19-year-old and she works long hours in a tiny gift shop, where she makes just enough money to support her teenage son and herself. He husband was a violent abuser, she was happy to see him go, but he’s not out of her life and returns to berate her about the billboards. Mildred never smiles, never reacts to ill will except with a sharp tongue. Her grief has set her in stone, made her ugly, and the viewer wonders if she qualifies as a human being.

The writer-director, Martin McDonagh, plays comedy against violence and wrings laughter out of unthinkable situations.  He paints the characters in uncompromising colors, but gives you a sense, in the end, of what they might become.

The only jarring note for me was the actor playing Willoughby’s wife – Abby Cornish. She’s two decades younger, glaringly glam and has an Australian accent. Her casting is thought to be a reason why McDonagh was snubbed for an Oscar nomination.

There are some intense moments of violence, such that I would not recommend this movie to anyone under the age of 18.  For everyone else, I think this is a must-see.

Book Review: The Likeness by Bill Kirton (@carver22) #RBRT #historical romance #historical mystery

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 The Likeness is a sequel to the enormously popular book by this author: The Figurehead. In that book, the readers were introduced the port city of Aberdeen in the mid-19th century and to three of its citizens: the woodcarver John Grant; William Anderson, a rich merchant; and his headstrong daughter Elizabeth.

The story begins with the discovery of the battered body of a young woman in the muck near the wharves where the Aberdeen fishermen bring in their catches. The body is painfully thin and is clothed in the rich garb of someone not normally found in that area.

Grant is doubtful that the town’s constable – who is short-sighted, lacks intelligence, and has a nasty personality — will ever discover what happened to her, and decides to take on the task of finding her killer. At the same time, he accepts a commission to create a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group, a commission paid for by a demanding patron.

The love that developed between John Grant and Helen Anderson in the previous book grows stronger and more evident in this one. Helen wishes to become an integral part of her father’s shipping business, an unheard-of thing in those times, and eventually her father acquiesces. This puts her in direct conflict with a merchant wishing to do business with her father — the patron who paid Grant’s commission and an insulting character.

The story weaves in and out of Helen’s challenges in a male-dominated society, Grant’s investigations, and their love story. It proceeds at a leisurely pace, as befits the times, and is filled with historic details of the theater and actors, the city, and most especially Aberdeen’s busy port. The descriptions of waterfront and the wharves, the ships, and the workers there were compelling, and I read some of them twice for enjoyment. The author has captured the sights, the smells, the city and the societal norms in vivid detail.

Helen as a character is quite unique to her age. I wonder if such women – running businesses and rejecting the restrictions of conventional courtship and marriage, especially the idea that a woman is the property of her husband –actually existed at that time. Certainly, her role is one that will appeal to feminists of all ages. I was particularly drawn to the description of her three-day journey on one of her father’s ships, designed to carry passengers to Canada. It gave further insight into Helen’s intelligence and the plight and strength of those immigrating to North America.

John Grant is kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and certainly amenable to all of Elizabeth’s modern ideas. As a man of his time, I would have liked him to be more resistant. The only tension between them is just a misunderstanding.

The mystery of the woman’s death is far more complex than at first view, and the twists and turns of Grant’s investigation left me puzzled to the very end.

All in all, a successful meshing of historical romance and mystery, with rich detail of a bygone era, by an author who knows how to weave a good story.

About the author:

Bill Kirton was born in England but has lived in Aberdeen, Scotland, for most of his life. He was a university lecturer in French before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer. He’s won two 2011 Forward National Literature Awards. The Figurehead, the book that led up to The Likeness, was long-listed for the 2012 Rubery Book Awards.

He’s produced material in many different media. His radio plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His stage plays have been performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the USA and he’s been the visiting artist to the Theatre Department of the University of Rhode Island on four separate occasions. Material from his Edinburgh Festival revues was broadcast on the BBC, ITV and French television.

 You can find Bill Kirton

On twitter: @carver22

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bill.kirton/

and at: http://www.billkirton.com/

You can find his books on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY

New Followers for January

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There are some super blogs in this new group – take a look!

Charlie de Luca https://charliedelucablog.wordpress.com works in higher education but was brought up on stud farm and racing yard. He loves horses and racing but sadly grew too tall to be a jockey! He has written three racing mysteries, Rank Outsiders, The Gift Horse and Twelve in the Sixth and is working on a fourth. I know there are a lot of horse lovers and riders out there in the blogosphere, so check his blog and books out!

Shreyasukrity at https://readnewweb.wordpress.com  is a person who is positive about every aspect of her life. She likes to read, I like to write, to think, to dream. A well-trained dancer. A talkative one, and a good listener. In her blog posts she writes about the real world through creative writing, motivational stories, certain photograph, and short stories. I loved a recent post called My Success was Just Postponed.

Mackenzie Flohr at https://mackenzieflohrblog.wordpress.com She is an award-winning author who posts author Interviews, book spotlights, writing advice, and book reviews and just landed a five book publishing agreement! Her own books are fantasy. Check her out!

https://theflowersofart.wordpress.com is a blog rich with words – poetry, descriptions – and visuals. Magnificent free verse – this blog is for everyone, not just poets.

Christianna Mony at https://christiannamony.com/ is by a lovely young lady who likes to travel, posts inspiration memes for every day life, and blogs about her own life and thoughts. She likes to fly!

Julie Davide at https://juliedavide.wordpress.com/ is a married mother of a little boy and lives in a cabin in the woods of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I’m familiar with the area and its beautiful. She likes to read and together with input from her husband, reviews books. She loves reading and music –psychological thrillers and mysteries are her genre of choice. She also loves chocolate, wine, coffee and cheese – a woman after my own heart. Check her out!

Top Ten Blogger at http://www.top-10-food.com/  is a foodie with recipes for food and drink, recommendations for restaurants and gadgets. I’m still salivating over the Yorkshire pudding, gumbo and pheasant recipes – all unique and wonderful. Check this one out! I think I have dinner for tonight…

Chef Kevin Ashton at https://wannabetvchefblog.wordpress.com THIS is a blog for cooks. The first post I saw was how to find a ripe melon – what useful information! He posts recipes, advice, reviews, travelogues and news – he even has cheap and easy recipes for students, which is perfect for the busy woman with a limited income! Do check him out – you’ll have recipes for weeks!

Emily Raper at https://authorscanvas.blog/, Author’s Canvas. Emily is an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree Paralegal Studies and Technical and Professional Applied Writing. She created her blog as a project to practice various types of writing, publishing, and marketing. She posts short stories and advice such as 5 Ways To Organize Your Blogging Life, A Tribute To Arthur Conan Doyle, Outside Writing: “Dos and Don’ts Resumes and Job Applications-What I know now that I’m 30+. She writes really well!  

Delphi Resort at https://www.delphiadventureresort.com It is located in the scenically breath-taking Delphi Valley, near Leenane, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland. It does look fabulous and has all sorts of activities for travelers and tourists and families plus a 4 star restaurant. While we are saving our shekels for a trip to Ireland next year, I will put this on our list of possible places to stay.

Jeannette and Dylan at https://ourbucketlisttravels.wordpress.com have a wonderful travel blog. Two of their recent posts are Floating Lanterns in Fiesole, Italy and Climb the Duomo in Florence. They also give advice on the best back packs and what to bring and how to pack. Perfect.

Rum and Cakes at https://rashmilittleworld.wordpress.com is an upbeat blogger with a sunny view of life, who posts on random thoughts about life, general issues and love. Who doesn’t need some beautiful readings?

Vinayak Gupta at https://soulspeaksbettersite.wordpress.com/ All the posts in his blog are real life events, real life situations, and real life lessons experienced by the author, who tries to explain his feelings of these special moments in his own words.

https://historyofkingpanwars.wordpress.com is a very colorful blog about all things Indian: royal palaces, rajputana jewelry, weddings, all accompanied by videos and music. This blog takes you on a journey and out of your everyday life!

Sandeep and Maya at https://artzinus.wordpress.com  have a blog showcasing inner creativities, their passion for innovative and creative things because they believe that art is not all about beautiful oil paintings. Their blog is full of gorgeous sketches, stone painting and photography and is definitely worth a look!

For the following, all I have are email addresses:

avishprdavidexh@outlook.com

acerojymoraleslkt@outlook.com

urrutiazkdavidgu@outlook.com

mascaraqueoyastridirr@outlook.com

My Cover Design

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To everyone who responded to my post: Help Me Choose My Cover Design – it’s done!

I’ve been working with Kristin Designs, located on the west coast, and have a final of my cover, both front and back. Kristin submitted some options through 99 Designs, which I’ve now used for two covers. It’s a lot of fun and not outrageously expensive, and what I particularly like is that you get submissions from lots of different graphic designers and artists. Kristin did the cover for Death by Pumpkin. She gets my vision pretty darn well.

I’m going to keep you in the dark just a wee while more, but will show you the new cover  in a post next week.

Stay tuned….