My 5-star reviews of books by Sally Cronin, blogger and writer extraordinaire

Sally Cronin and her blog Smorgasbord Invitation is a household name around WordPress. She’s one of the most generous bloggers this side of Sunday, and how she manages to keep up her wide range of posts continues to amaze me. I think she has a workshop of elves in the attic.

If you’re not already a fan, check out her blog for book and author promotions, reviews, music, humor, food and health tips, short stories, and poetry. All that, and….

she’s an exquisite writer.

I couldn’t think of a better way to thank Sally for her kindness than to share my reviews of some of her books. You can’t go wrong with any of these.

5-Star reads by author Sally Cronin

(In no particular order)

(click on cover for global link to Amazon)

Life is like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet

I’m a fan of Cronin’s short stories and snagged this anthology the day it came out. The author describes it as a collection of short tales that reflect “the complexities of life, love, and loss.” That’s a fit description. There are stories of kindness, family, grief, courage, and second chances. The characters are ordinary and relatable, but they’re also extraordinary in those moments that define who they are as people.

The first story in the anthology, The Weekly Shopping, is hilarious if not a little ominous, but the rest of the selections are touching. Many are heartwarming, and I wanted to hug the characters. I enjoyed the whole collection but my favorites were: The Scratch Card, The Charity Shop, The Date, and The Gardening Assistant. Between the stories are selections of syllabic poetry. A crown cinquain entitled The Birds was just beautiful. I highly recommend this anthology to anyone who loves well-written short stories about life.

***

Just an Odd Job Girl

Click on cover to order

One of the books that flew west with me was Sally Cronin’s Just an Odd Job Girl. In more ways than one, it’s a great summer story.

I picked up this book while on vacation and thoroughly enjoyed it. A quick read at 156 pages, the book begins with an older Imogen. At 50, she’s on her own, traded-in by her husband for a younger “fast-tracker.” After 25 years of raising children and keeping house, she feels frumpy and bored, and decides to find a job.

The temp agency asks for a resume of her work experience, and all she has is a long list of pre-marriage odd jobs, starting with a summer stint as a teenager at a seaside gift kiosk and rambling through temporary positions with a dental office, department store, bar, funeral parlor, boys school, and country inn.

As the reader joins Imogene on a reflective journey through her odd jobs, it’s impossible not to laugh at her antics, the colorful characters she meets along the way, and the predicaments she gets herself into and out of. What I enjoyed most, was young Imogene’s humanity. She’s a wonderful combination of funny, compassionate, resourceful, and fearless. I couldn’t wait to see the fix she got into next.

In addition to laughs, Just an Odd Job Girl has a lovely message for young adults as well as those of us getting on in age: that life is full of opportunities, that wonderful people are everywhere, and that you are never to old to grow. Get your copy for the beach or backyard hammock. You won’t be disappointed.

***

Life’s Rich Tapestries: Woven in Words

Cronin is a master storyteller and this collection of poems, flash fiction, and short stories makes for a delightful afternoon. The first part of the book is comprised of syllabic poetry with themes based on nature, the human experience, a love of animals, and a bit of magic. Following her poetry, Cronin offers a number of 99-word flash fiction stories, and then dives into her short stories for the bulk of the read.

The short stories were my favorite part of the book as the author writes with a great deal of heart, which comes through beautifully in her plots and characters. Most of her work is positive in nature with a focus on the goodness found in life. Like her poetry, Cronin’s short stories are arranged around themes: dogs, cats, and speculative fiction (which includes a broad range of tales). My favorites were Great Aunt Georgina, and The ‘1812 Overture’ but there are many others that I thoroughly enjoyed. A highly recommended book for all ages.

***

What’s in a Name? (Volume 1)

What’s in a Name is a delightful collection of 20 short stories organized alphabetically by the names of the main characters. A few stories are dark, some are magical or humorous, and many close with a sense of poignancy. Cronin is a marvelous storyteller, and for a reader, spending an afternoon immersed in the lives of the people behind the names is time well-spent. For me, the last story in the collection “Jack” was the icing on the cake, but all the stories are unique and well worth the read. Highly recommended for any reader who enjoys short stories about the human journey.

***

What’s in a Name? (Volume 2)

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

***

Sam, A Shaggy Dog’s Story

This read is a little more than an hour, but it’s an hour of cuteness and laughs. I’ve lived with dogs for most of my life, and the attitudes and antics of Sam, a Collie, were delightfully familiar. This tribute to a dog’s life is narrated by Sam himself, starting when he was a newborn and stretching into his old age. I rarely laugh out loud while reading, and this book was an exception.

Sam has a very funny (as well as adorable) perspective on life with accounts of his cat friend Henry, his love of chicken and sausages, his dislike of veterinarians, his job as a paper shredder, and his occasional encounters with “that Bloody Danny,” a little canine with poor manners. He relays his experiences with “cat speak” as well as his acquisition of several human words which are strategically employed to earn pieces of cheese.

The book is organized into short chapters by topic. This is a lighthearted and endearing read for anyone who loves dogs.

***

Flights of Fancy

I’ve read several of Cronin’s books of short stories, and this collection of eleven tales is as enjoyable as the others. I read it in a single afternoon, completely immersed. As usual, the author includes a wonderful variety of tales from touching stories of eternal love in The Other Side of Heaven and Curtains, to adorable cuteness in Henry’s Story, and humor in Psychic Parrot. Highly recommended for anyone who loves short stories and well-told tales.

***

About Sally

Sally Cronin is the author of fourteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another thirteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry. Her latest collection, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet, reflects on the absurdities and sometimes tragedies that drop into our lives.

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

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

Thank you, Sally, for all your wonderful support of this blogging/writing/reading community.

Happy Summer Reading!

Unknowable: #TankaTuesday

Image Credit: Kerfe Roig

This poem is my attempt at a crapsey cinquain for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday. It’s inspired by Kerfe’s visual art above.

~

Unknowable

starlight

stitched in patterns

weaves a vast universe

deciphering the mystical

with faith

~

I’m on the road, hiking around here:

File:Shasta At Night (258050167).jpeg
Mount Shasta. Credit: Dheera Venkatraman, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So, I may be a bit delayed with comments and visits. But I’ll catch up. Thanks for stopping by!

#BookReview-The Ferryman and the Sea Witch @DWallacePeach #Fantasy #Reading

The first blog review of The Ferryman and the Sea Witch showed up yesterday, and I couldn’t have been more delighted. I don’t think an author really knows how a book will be received until that magic moment. I’m over at Jacquie Biggars’ today. But I’ll be swinging by Jacqui Murray’s as well since her review went live this morning. If you have a minute, stop by to say hello and take a browse through their sites. ❤

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

Description via Amazon.com

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home. The Ferryman alone can undertake the exchange.

Yet, animosities are far from assuaged. While Brid Clarion’s islands bask in prosperity, Haf Killick…

View original post 609 more words

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #Fantasy – The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D.Wallace Peach

Sally Cronin kindly gave The Ferryman and the Sea Witch a bit of a boost today on her blog. And she shared a review of the Unraveling the Veil series by Geoff LePard, who can’t help but make me laugh. If you have a minute, head over and browse Sally’s wonderful blog. ❤

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to share the news of the latest release by D.Wallace Peach..a stand alone fantasy The Ferryman and the Sea Witch

About the book

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home…

View original post 520 more words

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch: Release Day!

It’s a big day, the completion of months of writing and all the tasks that go along with bringing a story to life. The muses are satisfied, the sun is shining with the promise of spring, and the mermaids are singing their enchantments.

To all my blogging and reading friends, thank you from the tips of my toes to the ends of my fingers. Your enthusiasm and spirit of friendship make all the months of toil worthwhile. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.

(On sale for the month of June)

Blurb

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home. The Ferryman alone can undertake the exchange.

Yet, animosities are far from assuaged. While Brid Clarion’s islands bask in prosperity, Haf Killick, a floating city of derelict ships, rots and rusts and sinks into the reefs. Its ruler has other designs.

And the sea witch crafts dark bargains with all sides.

Callum is caught in the breach, with a long-held bargain of his own which, once discovered, will shatter this life.

Trailer

Prolog

The hemp net hung from the boom above the waves. Within its lattice of pinched knots, the slender merrow baked in the heated air. She had ceased her struggle while the sun tilted up and shadows pooled on the deck. Her graceful tail with its angelfish fins dangled from the end of her confinement. Beyond the reach of her fingers, swells rose and fell. Taunting, seductive. Rhythmic as they sloshed against the hull.

Gulls shrilled in circles above the ship.

Like a storm-torn sail, the tip of the merrow’s tangled hair dipped into the sea with each crest, shed droplets with each trough. The creature wept for her kind, for the sea breathing beneath her, a thin and desolate sound. The mournful plea filled Callum’s young head, overwhelmed the clamor of merriment arising from the Brid Clarion officers who’d captured her in their mesh.

“We should free her.” Callum drew his fish-knife. “She’s dying. They’re killing her.”

 “I spoke my mind, boy.” The brig’s captain laid a firm hold on Callum’s scrawny shoulder. “Put away the blade. It’s not our place to chart the course of another man’s conscience.”

Callum bit off a retort certain to earn him a scolding. The captain had treated him kindly, hired him on as a cabin boy, and freed him from the oily bilges of Haf Killick. By the graybeard’s good grace, Callum earned a wage. At fourteen years, he scoffed down oranges dripping with sticky juice and learned a skill that would save him from ever returning to the bowels of the relic city.

He held tight to a hundred reasons not to endanger the ship or her crew, not to interfere with the amusement of those who served in the king’s war. Well-heeled officers bantered and drank gin at the bow. How could they plug their ears to the keening cries? Pretend her torment didn’t matter?

The merrow’s sorrow twisted Callum’s stomach. The unbearable lament dredged up memories of his mother’s death in a bleak hold and his helplessness to ease her suffering.

He ducked out of the grizzled man’s grip and hauled a bucket of water from the sea. Below him, the merrow’s copper scales baked and bristled into gray flakes. They fluttered to the surface like shed petals. He splashed the water along the length of her body and tossed the bucket into the waves for more. It wouldn’t be enough. Only the sea held the power to save her.

 He drew the bucket up by its line. Movement between the swells snapped him upright, and he shielded his eyes from the sun. “Captain, the merrow are coming.”

The old man fumbled for his spyglass and pressed it to his eye. “The sea witch.” He slapped the device into Callum’s hand. “Watch her.”

“Cut away the net,” Callum pleaded. “It’s not too late.”

“You may get your wish,” the captain said over his shoulder. He strode across the deck to the admiral’s celebration.

Callum focused the spyglass on the witch. Blood drained from his face, and his mouth turned dry as sand. She swam through the wind-scoured waves, the spines of her fins slicing the water. Her tail undulated like a serpent. White-lipped rage hollowed her cheeks and sharpened the angles of her face. Nictating membranes hooded her unnatural black eyes against the sunlight’s shimmer. Three merrow trailed in her wake, their voices weaving into a ghostly dirge.

And with them came the wind. A strange amassing and curving of clouds rose out of nowhere. The sky bloomed with a greenish glow, drenching the brig in the eerie twilight foretelling a storm.

Callum clung to the rigging as the Brid Clarion officers pulled pistols from their belts. With frantic intensity, they shared a powder horn, loaded their lead, and rammed it tight. The captain pleaded his case with wringing hands, but they brushed him aside. The men marched to the gunwale, sighted along their barrels, and fired.

Lightning flashed in reply. The approaching merrow plunged beneath the waves. Callum yelled his warning, “Captain, they’re diving.”

The captain swore. He climbed to the helm and bellowed orders as Callum searched the waves, the spyglass forgotten. The sea witch’s silver tail slashed through the swelling brine like the stroke of a knife. Fins rippled along her body in a feverish dance. She disappeared beneath the hull.

Callum froze with the crew and officers, silent, waiting, the seconds unspooling like a weaver’s thread. A harsh scraping sound cut into the bow. It raked across the keel to the stern, sparing neither the flowery anemones nor sea-greens that clung to the ship’s belly.

Chaos erupted. Jacks shouted in panic as water sprayed into the hold. The captain’s orders to plug the leaks competed with the admiral’s demand for more gunpowder.

The sea witch breached the waves. She grasped the net and sliced it with a coral blade. A hail of shot littered the sea. Iron rounds speared the water. They thudded into the merrow dying in the net.

A fierce scream of grief and fury shrilled from the witch. Callum caught his breath as she slashed at the net. The sky’s whirling cauldron mirrored the turbulence in his belly. Behind her, the waves bloated. A wall of water mounded in the distance and raced toward the ship like a winter gale. Lightning flashed with a sharp crack. The echoing rumble shook the deck.

“I’m cutting her free,” Callum yelled at the storm. Fish-knife in his grip, he climbed the bulwark. Wind battered his body. He hung onto the rigging and leaned over the water. His knife swiped at the net. Once, twice. The monstrous wave curled and crashed. Another slice. Lines frayed and snapped. The net splashed into the sea.

A mountain of white froth roared into him. He crashed to the deck, tumbled, and pounded into a mast. Pain burst in his ankle. His reserve of breath blew from his lungs. The watery world tipped and rolled. Sparks flared in his eyes as something smashed his face. From every direction, the groan and crack of the wreck assaulted his ears. He kicked against the hull, chasing his bubbles. A sail trapped him beneath the surface like an iron lid. Lungs on fire, he grasped a tangle of rigging and, hand over hand, hauled himself to the sail’s frayed hem.

Mouth open, he burst to the surface of the littered sea for a desperate breath. Something gripped his ankle. A male merrow with jet hair streaming behind him drew Callum down like an anchor. Callum pried at the pale fingers grinding his bones.

Shattered wood rained around him with gear and cargo. Air bubbles ascended in pearly strands. Above him, sails wallowed as desperate men grappled for flotsam, and bodies sank like ghosts torn from their white shrouds.

Callum gave up the fight, the merrow’s grip unforgiving. The sea grew muted and green. From the gloom, the sea witch bared her teeth, tail sweeping the water like a silk fan. Behind her, three merrow bore the sun-bleached body of their kin down to rest among the coral for the crabs to pick clean.

Vengeance burned in the witch’s inky eyes. Blood red hair, woven with seaweed, billowed around her head like a dusky cloud. “Drown them all,” she said, her unspoken command bursting in his head.

Merrow swam from the Deep, both male and female, beautiful and deadly. Jacks flailed and kicked, breathed water, and bucked. Coral blades flashed, clouding the water. Sharks ghosted in to feed. As Callum’s vision faded, a hazy shape materialized in the gloom, his ship descending into the fathomless Deep as if riding on a slanted sea.

Drowsiness coiled around him. Consciousness slipped away.

And he inhaled.

Air rushed into his lungs. Someone embraced him, a mouth on his. His eyes snapped open. He jerked away. The merrow clutched his head in her palms and yanked him back into the horrific kiss. He held her by the upper arms, at once pushing her away and craving her breath.

“Breathe,” she said inside his head, her melodious voice a softly curling tide. Without a sound passing between them, he heard her command as clear as a ship’s bell.

He gulped air, pulling it from her body as if his lungs would never draw enough. His thundering heart slowed.

“Why?” he asked, the word unspoken.

She responded with a sense of confusion.

“Why help me?”

She backed away, hair swirling with the blue luminescence of a jellyfish. High cheekbones cast shadows on her pale cheeks. She studied him with eyes like black shells, and her full lips thinned into a stern line as if to hide their softness.

Her ambivalence pulsed into his mind. Gossamer tentacles swirled from the end of her tail like a frilly gown, and her opalescent scales shifted colors in the thin light. Three pink gills on either side of her ribs rippled with the water’s movement. “You aided my sister.”

Her loss swept over him, along with his need for a breath. As though she sensed his desperation, her lips met his in a gentle, open-mouthed kiss. His first true kiss and bound to mark the strangest of his life, if not his last. Her tail pulsed against his legs as they rose. He surrendered to her control, no longer fighting the strange undulation of her body.

When they broke the surface, she pushed him away, flipped her tail, and dove. He threw his head back and inhaled the wind into his lungs. The storm had passed. Clouds peeled back to reveal an empty sea but for the brig’s debris bobbing in the tranquil waves. He swam to a raft of floating dunnage and hung on. “Ahoy!”

No reply.

He hadn’t drowned, but breath didn’t guarantee survival. The ship had anchored at the edge of the Deep, leagues and leagues from either Brid Clarion or Haf Killick, far enough that he’d perish long before he paddled the distance.

The sea stirred as a menacing shape slithered through the scattered flotsam. Callum drew up his legs, the presence of sharks fresh in his memory. The sea witch surfaced. Urchin’s spines fanned from her temples and forehead in a prickly crown. Muscle threaded her arms, her body slim but bold-boned, skin drawn tight across her cheeks and throat. Her hair glimmered with pearls and beads of abalone, bewitching if not for the malevolence in her hooded eyes.

“Naris tells me you are worth saving,” she said, her voice low and full of sea whispers. She swam in a languid circle around him. “What do they call you?”

“Callum, my lady.”

The sea witch twitched a smile, revealing a row of sharp teeth. “You may call me Panmar.” She rolled onto her back with the slipperiness of an eel. Her fins and tail carved the waves, sparkling in the sun’s glare. “You cut my daughter free, but you delayed. You lacked courage. She died for your cowardice.”

The witch’s daughter? Callum’s fingers dug into the makeshift raft. He nodded but held his tongue. No words of remorse could justify or erase the truth, and his face burned with shame.

The sea witch sank beneath the waves and surfaced beside him, so close he tasted life and death on her breath. “I offer you a bargain, mortal. Accept or drown.”

***

Phew! That was a long post. Thanks so much for reading and the kindness of your visit!