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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Propinquity by John MacGregor

Propinquity_(novel)_book_coverToday across the world people look at what they believe in and will question their Faith. In some there is no reason for religion as they believe there is no higher power, where others are willing to die for what they believe. Books are written that will drive the intellectual to question what they understand about the world around them.

The John MacGregor book Propinquity will take the reader into such a world of discovery as we follow young men grow into who they become.  Their lives will take different roads of discovery but at some point live will bring them back together.

One of these young men is Clive Lean who goes to school living somewhat in the shadow of his rich father. He’s a young man that is after a future in medicine and has the intelligence to make this happen. The reader will get the sense out of this by the way MacGregor writes the character and his friends. These are men that are not afraid to use words that may require the use of a dictionary.

Clive’s friend Julian Lake is just as intelligent as Clive, but seems to question life as he goes through school Instead of following his dreams the young man goes for a walk in the outback of Australia. He goes out in search of what life means to him and along those travels he finds himself meeting some unique people He gets a sense of his life and not long after Lake is on his way to another adventure.

This is what the reader will get out of many of the first chapters of the book. An introspective look at the main character as the travel their paths of life. The story moves smoothly as we read along to the narrators tone and use of humor. Some may find the humor fleeting, or dry, but there is enough there to help those first chapters seem to move along at a good speed.

It’s not till Clive meets what could be the love of his life or at most his intellectual equal. Samantha Goode, Sam, has special access to Westminster Abbey where there just happens to be some secrets buried. As Sam hints to Clive about what could be hidden curiosity will eventually get the better of them and exploring they will go. It is under the Abbey that they find Henry VII’s widow, Berengaria of Navarre.

Berengaria is not a character many know from their history books but her story will engage the readers. As Clive and Sam begin to read the secret papers buried with the woman they begin to question if she is in fact alive. This will take them on a journey that will reconnect them with friends of old and discoveries that will leave the reader enthralled. The reader will be brought to questions that are perfect for the world we live in.

Propinquity was written in the early 1980’s but the soul of the book is set in such a way it works today. In truth as you read the book and see the questions the characters ask themselves you would think this was a new book. In a way this makes the book timeless as it fits so perfectly with not only today’s world but the period it was written.

The book has been compared to other great historical mysteries that have been written.  The problem is that Propinquity is stand alone. Its message, its story, came well before the books it is compared to. The difference is that the publisher of this book did it an injustice by printing so few copies. Readers are fortunate that the book is again available as an EBook.  I have avoided referencing the books it has been compared to but to help show who may enjoy this book I must. The book has been compared to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. As a reader you may see some of those elements but this was written well before Brown’s book. It’s a book that is for the mind and the soul as you will question your believes and learn as you read.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Ten +1 Questions with Author Ruby Barnes

RubyBelow are Ruby Barne’s answers to those now well-known questions I ask as many authors’ I can that are featured on the blog. I’m sure those of you who have not looked up this author are going to be a bit “shocked” to see Ruby is a man as many see the name and go with woman. You can find more about Ruby at his Blog and the publisher of both books, Marble City Publishing.

I digress and now off to those questions.

 

 

Question 1:

What inspired you to write Peril and the follow up Getting out of Dodge?

Answer: I had written a couple of novels before Peril but was learning to find my ‘voice’. I also deliberately reined in my writing horizon from international conspiracy to something more claustrophobic, based upon a number of real and imaginary quirky crime events in Ireland. One night, after a few pints, a neighbour discussed the idea of raiding the nation’s entire Class A drugs hoard and the idea for Peril was born. Dodge had to follow Peril because the MC’s story clearly wasn’t over and done with.

Question 2:

Is there any significance to the name/names of your main characters?

Answer: Yes, my protagonist Ger Mayes carries a combination of my grandparents’ names and hails from Port Glasgow, Scotland, as they did. With the other characters my main task was to try and avoid conflict with real life names of individuals who may (or may not) have been role models.

Question 3:

During the writing process did you find yourself thinking about any of your own memories?

Answer: I did and several were incorporated. By the time I had finished the two books, the memories and fiction had blurred. Now I’m not sure what really happened.

Question 4:

What were some of your favorite books growing up?

Answer: I read widely as a child but my first remembered obsession was with Greek legends. I desperately wanted a bronze helmet and did wooden-sword battle with my brother in the garden against his Saracen’s scimitar (we didn’t quite grasp the concept of anachronism.) Following on from Greek gods and mortals, I progressed to murder mysteries. My explanation has to do with trying to impress a fair-haired girl who sat next to me in school and was very fond of Agatha Christie.

Question 5:

Do you hear from fans of the book, and if you do what do they say?

Answer: I do and they all consider my MC (main character) to be despicable and lovable at the same time. Women want to change him and men want to be him.

Question 6:

What was the feeling like when you saw the very first printed version of your book?

Answer: Validated and inspired. I want to see a shelf full of titles with my name on them.

Question 7:

Do you continue to write?

Answer: Every day. I’m keeping busy with helping a colleague breathe new life into his out-of-print backlist but I like to run a couple of writing projects concurrently and try to write at least five hundred words a day, more when possible. Projects include the first DI Andy McAuliffe murder mystery (Andy has a walk-on part in Peril, Dodge and The Baptist), a sequel to The Baptist and a co-written international thriller.

Question 8:

What is the message you want people to take away from the book?

Answer: Don’t go with the flow. Make your own decisions and don’t just let fate pull you along. Take a look at Ger Mayes in Peril and Dodge, learn from his mistakes.

Question 9:

If you could envision a future for your main character, what would it be?

Answer: He makes a return and gets the girl. He said, “My wife ran off with another man.” She said, “My man ran off with another wife.” They deserve some happiness together.
Question 10:
Who are those in the dedication of the book, and their importance to you?

Answer: Peril doesn’t contain a dedication. It would have been to my wife, but she was breathing down my neck and it felt too obvious. The print version of Dodge contains a dedication to my family in Ireland: wife Adrienne, daughter Alannah and son Eoin, ‘without whose support Ger Mayes would never have made his comeback’. They tolerated my writing until the wee small hours, my building a summer house for privacy (“It’s not a shed, it’s a mid-life crisis”) and the considerable amount of time I’ve spent on internet marketing.

The + 1 Question:

If you had any one place in the world you could travel to for a book tour, where would that place be, and why?

Answer: A difficult question. How could I choose one place and not offend the inhabitants of another by omission? I’ll have to go for the mystery location Ger finds himself in at the end of Dodge. Safe, sunny, wine, women (at least to look at) and I’ll sing my own song.

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Interview

 

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Peril & Getting Out of Dodge both by Ruby Barnes

PerilWe learn in school of the Newton’s law of motion that tells us that every action has an equal opposite reaction. This law can be applied in physics but also in real life. It is our decisions and what we do with them that could come back and impact out life. This is just something you’d think is common sense, but there are those who do not believe it.

One such character is a man who loves his drink, his wife, other women, and just life in general. He’s the type of man that will take opportunities to watch women walk by and decide if he’d “do” them. The problem with his mindset is that he needs pharmaceutical help when that moment comes, but that doesn’t stop him.  He’s also the type who wouldn’t give a beggar a dime if the man was dying. This man’s name is Gerard (Ger) Mayes and he’s in for a rude awakening on how actions have opposite reactions.

Ger is the main character in the book Peril and it’s follow up Getting out of Dodge by author Ruby Barnes. The books combined tell a great story and is the reason why they are being combined in the review for the books.

Peril is the opening “salvo” in this series. The book takes you into Ger’s life and the opening helps set the seen on what is to come within the pages. The opening begins with a drunken fight Ger has with a beggar on the street demanding money. Ger is broke after drinking the money away that night and has no time for this foolishness. The Romanian beggar is persistent and a fight breaks out where it becomes obvious this is to the death.

The book then steps back in time and introduces the reader to the bulk of the main characters at a dinner gathering. There is Ger’s wife Jo, his best friend Tom, Jo’s friend Renee, and Aunt Mary. During the dinner the conversation turns to the recent increase in beggars in the area and the merits on helping them. The conversation is rather interesting and well written and gives a glimpse of what you will find throughout the book not just in writing style but the characters.

In Peril, Ger is forced to live by the decisions he makes and must face the consequences of each of them. The strange thing is the whole disaster starts the day he gives one of those beggars he sees some money going against what he had preached at dinner. This will lead Ger into the underworld of blackmail and drug smuggling and will help him find out more about his friends than he ever knew.

Peril is a great read as Ruby Barnes ties together this “scoundrel” of a man who has no problem sleeping with his wife’s best friend.  A man who drags his best friend into the whole torrid affair to only find out there could be more to Tom than he ever knew.  Of course with what will occur within these pages, the police will come calling. The elements of dark humor will involve these men just as well as some of the one-liners Ger delivers. One such instance is what I called “The Case of the Missing China.”

Peril ends leaving the reader to wonder what truly became of Ger, and the book Getting out of Dodge is more than happy to fill in those gaps. The biggest question answered as you start the book is where Ger spent the last nine years.

The re-entry into society shows that Ger has not learned much while being out of the “loop”. He finds himself falling hard back into old routines and his libido continues to rule much of his actions. It doesn’t take long for him to get involved with a few women and eventually those same people that took him down in Peril.

Here again we the reader is introduced to a new set of characters that fit like square pegs into Ger’s life. He seems to not have learned much from his first adventures with some of these same types of individuals as he welcomes them in with not much in the way of a fight. In fact he welcomes some of them in with open arms it will appear to the reader.

Peril2As in Peril, Getting out of Dodge, will take Ger back into the underworld and lead him into a lot of trouble. A few old foes and a “friend” reappear in this book and the main difference with Ger is he’s 9 years old but not the wiser. A person can get that feeling when he is found on a bench, beaten and holding a bag with a head inside. This of course does not paint a pretty portrait but somehow the reader will feel for Ger and will continue to hope he somehow comes out on top.

Ruby Barnes does a great job of using Ireland as a great setting for both books. Those who have not gone to the country will find themselves imagining the locations that Barnes puts into words. The other great thing is although the books appear dark; there are spots of brilliant dark humor. There are jokes that may cause an audible laugh when you come across them while reading. This is one of the reasons a reader will find themselves in Ger’s corner no matter how STUPID the man appears to be.

Those fans of suspense, murder, mystery and crime novels will enjoy these two well written books. They also have a small sense of the classic Noir stories that set many a dime store crime novels flying off the shelves back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The stories are set in a modern world but the mixture of elements works in a Noir setting.  These are two books that are well developed although could stand alone the best way to enjoy them is read them in order.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Reviews

 

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

graveyard-bookHow many stories are out there about a child escaping their parent’s house and the police are called to find them? There are also stories of a child being found wandering the streets by people and you always are scared for the child. You also will wonder about the parents and how they could let their child out of the house that way.

The problem is that just maybe that the child is escaping a dangerous activity happening in their home. It’s highly possible that some mad man, let’s call him Jack, and is in the home silently going around killing everyone in the house. The only person this “Jack” misses is the young boy that nobody sees crawling up the street and into the cemetery. The cemetery becoming his salvation as this mad Jack is stopped at the gate from entering, and killing the child.

This is the starting point of the Neil Gaiman book, “The Graveyard Book”.

The book takes the reader into the life of a young child who has quite the unique childhood. He is raised by a very caring family of “ghosts”. Yes, I wrote the word ghosts and as a community the ghosts give the boy a name, Nobody Owens.  Owens being the name of his new “ghost parents”.

The young boy is raised in the cemetery and as the book evolves you learn more about those who care for him. Bod only really has one real “human” interaction for much of the first years of his life coming from the man Silas who originally turn the man Jack away that fateful night.  Silas making the bargain that he will help care for the child and if he must leave will find a proper replacement while Silas is away.

The great thing about the book is how Gaiman framed the book and its different chapters. Each chapter could be pulled out of the book and treated as a short story as they work greatly as their own individual stories. The fact that they help keep you involved with the ever growing and advancement of years that Nobody goes through in his life.

The book is one that will find fans in many genres. Those into suspense, murder, the supernatural, and even children’s books should enjoy this book. The aspect of getting to read along as the character grows from a child of youth to a young man with his own sense of being will help teach lessons as well.

The Graveyard Book is a novel that may throw readers at first but as you read you find a well written story. The story will engage readers who find the multitude of topics found within the book to be interesting. The writing that Neil Gaiman shows within the pages helps to show how Gaiman became such a loved author.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Reviews

 

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An American Ghost Story (movie staring Stephen Twardokus)

AnAmericanGhostStoryI want to start this movie review by putting out a small disclaimer. It’s not about the movie but the fact there is a family connection between myself and the star of the film.  We both grew up in the same small town in Upper Michigan and he is a second cousin of mine.  To be honest I was not aware he was in the movie business and came across the movie while looking in the local video store and did a double take when I saw the name.  Now onto the review…………

You cannot turn on the TV today without coming across a television show that has a supernatural element involved. These type of shows are found not just in the reality realm but also TV series.

So it is not to shocking to find people all over trying to cash in on the new craze, and this is what writer Paul Anderson tries to do in the movie, “An American Ghost Story.”  Paul (Stephen Twardokus) is the fictional writer in the movie who, with his girlfriend Stella (Liesel Kopp), move into a new home.

The problem is that the Paul has not told his girlfriend that he rented the house with specific plans to trying to draw out the spirits that are rumored to haunt the home. As you watch the movie you will find out what kind of events happened in the home.  You will also discover it may not have been the best idea to try and return the home to its former look.

As the movie starts things seem to be going normal for the couple and they have a good relationship. Paul  and Stella have not been dating to long but they seem to have great chemistry. They are both excited to move into the new place, although Stella is in the dark on the reasons why.

It’s not very long before things start to turn “weird” in the home as Stella is the first to really get the home’s true “experience”.  It happens one evening while Paul is out in the garage and Stella is in the kitchen. The events that happen to Stella would surely leave any person as visibly shaken as she becomes.

The movie is low budget but director Derek Cole makes up for this in the way some scenes are shot.  You are brought into the movie through subtle actions and the suspense that is slowly built throughout the film.  Paul never really seems to be in the right place when events happen in the home, but as a viewer you get to see them.

As Paul investigates the homes past more and more he finds nothing but roadblocks as no one really wants to talk about the place. He will eventually find one woman to talk to him but will he get the answers he wants.

An American Ghost Story is a well written movie, and devoid of it’s obvious budget the movie is worth a view. Those who are deep into the fandom of the supernatural will really get a surprise from this movie.  Those who have a connection to Upper Michigan and it’s small towns will be pleased to see one of their own go so far.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Reviews

 

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The Greatest Nation on Earth (Fiction by Shawn Micallef)

Note:

I apologize if this FICTIONAL story offends anyone’s personal feelings but again this is a story of FICTION.  I in the past have written stories that corresponded with a Holiday and wrote this for Labor Day. It is not meant to offend but just offer a speculative fiction look at a future world. Please read with an open mind and if you have comments email them to me over ranting in comments. As always positive comments and likes are welcome. Thanks Shawn,

 

???????????????????????????????????????Those who keep track of each passing day are telling all of us we do not have to work today. They said it’s something called Labor Day and we are going to be given a break from the recycling yard, and I was thrilled. The overseers were actually going to feed us real food today and let us shower with real water.  There is no mush or broth for us today, but instead we are getting some kind of meat.  Well those of us able to chew the stuff since many have few teeth left.

It hasn’t been easy for us remnants of what was at one time, “The Greatest Nation on Earth”, well that’s what the overseers tell us at least. They like to remind us of that every time one of us comes across something that says, “Made in The USA”, stamped into the metal. The truth be told I had no idea what country this was as I saw plenty of things made in China, Taiwan, India and other places. I stopped asking the overseers if they were right  after getting my fifth beating.  It’s not smart to question those in control if we do not want to suffer for questioning them. The same old line beat into us with each hit of the whip.

The delousing spray they normal use on us workers never really seems to help as lice are everywhere. Granted most of us workers are in long steel buildings on wooden cots, while “they” sleep in big metal buildings on wheels. You can always tell the status of an overseer by the amount of rust on their home.   Granted our sleeping places change as it depends where we are working as sometimes we have slept in giant fields of dirt on just our bed rolls.

Only the timekeepers really know how long it’s been since the decline changed the world, but the old-timers among us love to tell their stories. Heck, Mack, I think that was his name, or was it Mike, or Mark, heck who cares. He would tell us how their was electricity that powered society and that almost everyone had a house. The house wasn’t on wheels but had something called a foundation and was stuck in the ground. He did say that even than people with money had bigger homes but most people enjoyed their lives.

The decline happened when some decided the government of the world’s was not doing enough for the small people. They started to riot in this place called Europe and riots grew and grew. Mack would tell how it got so bad over there the some fool of a country attacked its own people and started a war.

Mack would say how after the attack the people rioted even more and somehow a military base was taken and some even bigger fools fired off what he calls a nuke. Someone blew the thing up in orbit but the radiation fried much of the electric stuff on earth. The poorer countries did better as they were used to not having everything but countries like the USA were sent to the caveman days.

So many people had become dependent on the government and others for things that no one really knew how to take care of themselves. So people started to fight each other and small wars broke out all over the world, well that’s what Mack told us. He had no real proof since there was no connections with the rest of the world. All I know is that those who were able to speak good and organize others finally started to take control. There are people, like us, who move from an area to another going through scrap heaps of metals taking out the useful stuff. We will do this to the area is clear and move on to the next place that is looking for help. It is hard work as one never knows what is in the piles and many of us have been hurt or killed digging through the metal piles. When we move we have to help pull the overseers homes by rope since there is no other way to move them.  If we get lucky some of us get to stay in the area we just helped clear as those who called for help may hire some to stay on. I think that’s what happened to Mack, he got asked to stay on near some farming place because he knew how to grow food.

The rest of us keep moving along from one job to another. The one thing Mack did tell us that really sticks with me is how things haven’t really changed much. People are still expecting others to do the work for them instead of doing themselves. I think he’s right cause we have been buy some places they called communes where everyone helps and no one tells others what to do. They all do what they know best and teach others so the job is always done. They share in the rewards in those places and often we can see some light at nights meaning they have a lot of candles. It’s not hard to be jealous  of those people, but what can I do. The overseers say that without them we’d never get food, never get new clothes, beds or anything else without them giving it to us. I have tried to run away in the past but my back cannot take anymore beatings.  It is scared bad enough and they almost left me after the last job since I was still in bad shape.

So, whatever that labor day thing was I’m glad it comes since we finally get a day of rest. I think the last one we got was a long time ago for something called Christmas, but some folks got mad we didn’t do it for all religions. Something to do with some god or something and so we lost that day off. So people have to ruin it for everyone. It’s funny if those people could have been responsible for their own lives and not rely on others maybe we would still have this thing called electricity and this could be The Greatest Nation on Earth.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Short Stories

 

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