More Indie Book Reviews

It’s time to share a few more reviews. Another eclectic bunch: short stories, a middle-grade gem, and of course, speculative fiction. I have a stack of reading for the holidays. I hope I can add a book or two to yours.

Flights of Fancy

by Sally Cronin

I’ve read several of Cronin’s books of short stories, and this collection of eleven tales is as enjoyable as the others. I inhaled 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.

***

Talon

by Gigi Sedlmayer

I had no idea how much I would enjoy this book. It seems appropriate for middle-grade readers with short chapters and a charming story, but will appeal to younger kids as a chapter book, as well as adults.

Matica is the ten-year-old daughter of missionaries in Peru. She has a disability that leaves her tiny for her age and socially isolated from the indigenous community. She befriends a pair of condors and her adventures begin, changing her life in marvelous ways. Matica is delightful, caring, and undaunted by these giant birds.

The setting adds to the book’s interest as well as the details on the condors. Matica interprets the bird’s “language” which adds a bit of magic to the tale. The pace is just right and the plot wraps up nicely with more to come. A wonderful first book in the series. Highly recommended.

***

The Gate

by D. L. Cross

An alien invasion is imminent, and Landon Thorne goes from being a recently fired college professor to a much sought-after expert. His unconventional theories on ancient alien astronauts have caught the attention of top-secret government operatives and a group of mysterious bad guys.

This is classic first-contact sci-fi, and Cross appears to have done her research. Combine fact with a dose of imagination and a bunch of ruthless characters, and this is a story that moves at a fast clip.

And those “ruthless characters” include just about everyone. The main characters are well-rounded, ambitious, competitive, and argumentative. And Cross has no problem letting characters cross the line and/or killing them off.

The Gate, the first book in the Astral Conspiracy series, leaves off with a cliff-hanger, so be prepared to read the next books to reach the conclusion of the tale. Highly recommended for readers of sci-fi thrillers.

***

More to come. Have a lovely holiday season and Happy Reading!

 

Way way back in early August, Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord Blog Magazine tagged me for a “little fun and distraction.” Before I could respond, I got distracted! Finally, I’m taking the opportunity to play.

As usual, there are a few rules:

Use the Blue Sky banner  (that Rachael Ritchey designed).

It is sort of polite to mention the person who tagged you.

You need to answer the 11 questions set by your tagger.

You will need to make up 11 original and interesting or funny questions for those you tag.

You need to tag 11 people.

Here are Sally’s 11 questions:

1. What was the name of your first pet and what did you love most about them?
My first pet (that I remember) was a beagle named Gypsy. She was lovable and lived with me during my entire childhood. It wasn’t until I went off to college that she passed away. I have a special place in my heart for dogs that can’t resist porcupines and roll in anything that stinks.

2. If you could meet anyone from history, who would you meet and why?
Hmm. Probably Jesus. I’d like him to clear up all the misinterpretations that are tearing people apart. I’d videotape and share on TV.

3. What is the most common misconception people have about you?
Maybe that I’m outgoing… I’m an extreme introvert.

4. If you could buy any car in the world what would it be and why?
A 1950’s era Chevy Univeral pickup truck. It’s what I rode around in during high school and brings back fun memories.

e-zchassisswaps.com

5. Do you have a hobby your friends don’t know about?
Some friends may not know that I enjoy painting to relax. Here are a few pictures:

6. What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?
Avatar. 2009! There just aren’t any theaters near me.

7. Describe your perfect day?
Totally alone, lying on a hammock, reading.

 

8. Summer or winter?
I like spring and autumn. Darn, not the options! Summers are over-the-top hectic around here (not good for introverts), and I’m usually desperate to hibernate by the onset of autumn. Winters in the rainforest are long and dreary, rainy and vitamin-D starved. The only good thing about them is I’m stuck inside WRITING!

9. Looks or Personality?
Personality, definitely! I couldn’t care less about looks.

10. City or countryside?
I’m a country girl at heart and live out in the woods without neighbors. Cities have great restaurants and I love good food, so I’m not completely writing them off.

11. Action or comedy?
When it comes to life, I’ll go with comedy. When it comes to writing, I’ll choose action. Though my preference for movies can go either way, my husband and I watch lots of action movies because he’s ten.

Now for my 11 questions:

  1. What country have you never visited but would love to, and why?
  2. What person in your life (not including family members) has most shaped who you are today?
  3. List three things that make you happy?
  4. What’s your favorite genre to read?
  5. What time period in history most intrigues you, and why?
  6. If you could add a new talent to your repertoire, what would it be, and why?
  7. Where is your favorite place in the world, and why?
  8. What animal best describes your personality, and why?
  9. What’s your favorite recipe (and please share it)?
  10. Hiking boots, sneakers, heels, or flip-flops?
  11. Would you rather have tons of love and little wealth, or tons of wealth and little love?

And I tag… everyone who wants to play. Enjoy!

And be sure to stop by Sally’s and check out her amazing blog. If you write, read, travel, eat, or enjoy learning something new, her blog is a great place to visit. 🙂

#Blue Sky Tag – Time for a little fun and distraction…#TGIF

Short Story Collections – Settle in and Read

Right about now, I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than sitting outside in the spring sunshine, nibbling on strawberries, and reading. (For those in the southern hemisphere, just turn it around, and contemplate those cool, comfortable autumn days of hot cocoa and swirling leaves).

Short stories somehow complete the picture, and I wanted to share my 5-STAR reviews for 3 short story collections that I enjoyed over the winter. All beautifully written, all with a broad variety of stories, all wonderfully entertaining. I hope one or two or all three appeal to you.

Global links to Amazon are below the books, and if you want to connect with any of these three wonderful bloggers, click on their names. ❤

Ripples on the Pond

by Sebnem Sanders

Ripples on the Pond is a mesmerizing collection of short stories. I was swept into Sanders’ imagination from the very first selection, Through the Wings of Time, and it ended up being a favorite. But that was only the beginning of this generous collection of 71 stories, all different, all exceptional reads and beautifully edited. The stories wade through numerous genres and topics including the whimsey of magic, the pain of loss, the marvel of friendship, and the cost of crime, to name a scant few. Sander’s range is remarkable and no two stories are alike, a feat considering the size of this collection.

Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey, who now lives on the Southern Aegean, thus many of the stories have an international flavor that I enjoyed (and also made we want to travel). I love literature that transports me to different settings and cultures where the wide range of human experience and emotion feels so familiar – just another reason among many to dive into this read. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a wide variety of wonderfully crafted short stories.

***

The Storyteller Speaks

by Annika Perry

Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in The Storyteller Speaks are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.

The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.

I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.

***

What’s in a Name, Vol. 2

by Sally Cronin

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.

(You can read my review of What’s in a Name, Vol. 1 here.)

Happy Reading!

Sally’s odd jobs and characters – The Cosmetic Department

Today, I’m welcoming author and blogger Sally Cronin to the Mirror to share one of her wonderful characters and tell you about her new book, What’s in a Name?: Vol. 2. Needless to say, I think she’s a superb writer, and this is one of my favorite chapters in her book, Just an Odd Job Girl. Take it away, Sally…

Thank you so much Diana for inviting me to share my odd jobs and the characters I met that now star in my stories.

The Cosmetic Department.

I had been working in one of our large local department stores as I waited to begin my training in the Royal Alexandra Nursing Service.

Following on from my six weeks over Christmas and New Year in the shoe department of the store, I moved downstairs to the cosmetic department.

I was nineteen, and into make-up, as most of my generation was at the time. This offered me the opportunity to sample anything that I wanted, within reason, as I was appointed ‘roving consultant’. This meant that I would be trained by the different cosmetic houses in their individual products, and on their regular consultant’s day off, I would take her place.

For example, one of the cosmetic firms offered a powder blending service to its customers. This involved checking the skin tones of the client and then mixing a specific blend of powders for their complexion. There was a base powder and about twelve different shades that could be added. We used a giant spatula to whisk the powder over the tissue paper with little pinches of the different shades added until the perfect blend had been achieved.

The combination was noted on the client card, and would then be made up to that formula each time the customer needed it. The variety in my new position made my life much more interesting and I loved working with cosmetics and perfume.

I had been in the position about four weeks, and was practising my powder blending technique, when a rather large, reddened hand stretched across the counter towards me.

‘Have you something that might tone this down a little please?’ said a rather deep voice.

I looked up, a little startled by the depth of this female voice, to be confronted with rather an arresting sight. She was very tall with broad shoulders that were draped with long blonde hair. She also sported a five o’clock shadow. I was rather taken aback, as this anomaly was something I had not previously encountered. My training and upbringing took over and I stopped staring directly at her face and concentrated on the hand still being proffered to me.

‘I think that we might have a foundation that would tone down the redness,’ I offered.

‘I can then blend you a powder to ensure that it lasts all day if that would help?’

She smiled at me and perched on the little round stool the other side of the counter. The following half-hour was both informative and enjoyable. My new customer was funny and totally unconcerned by her strange appearance. She introduced herself as Dolly and regaled me with her recent escapades on her path to becoming the woman she wished to be. One of these being the removal of hair on the backs of her hands and lower arms. Hence the reddened skin on show.

As I came to the end of her particular powder blend, she leant across the counter and motioned for me to come closer.

Slightly reluctantly, I leant forward until I was staring into large blue eyes, below rather bushy eyebrows that were considerably darker than the cascade of blonde hair.

‘My real name is Arthur’ she whispered quietly. ‘I have to dress and live like this for a year before  I undergo more treatment.’

This encounter was to lead to a rise in takings for the cosmetic department, as we became the best place to go for advice and products to enhance feminine beauty, for anyone who needed it.

Dolly became our unofficial PR agent, and I was invited to a party in a pub one night, where I was delighted to see all our advice and products being used to their full advantage.

What a lovely bunch of ladies and they taught a young woman much with their bravery and support for one another.

Dolly went on to star in my book Just an Odd Job Girl with some creative embellishments.

***

All the previous posts in the series can be found in this directory with links to my host’s blogs: Sally’s Odd Jobs and Characters

About Sally Cronin

sally wedding day 1980

My name is Sally Cronin and after working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition.

I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.

My latest book – What’s in a Name? – Volume 2

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.

My Other Books

Sally’s Contact Links: 

Books: Amazon Author Page

Blog: Smorgasbord Invitation 

Twitter

Facebook

Two More Summer Reads: Blogger book reviews

I usually read in bed at night and pass out after one or two chapters. One book can easily take a whole month to read. Not so while on vacation. Here are two more reviews of blogger books that I read during my trip to Colorado. Enjoy.

Eclipse Lake

by Mae Clair

A blend of mystery and romance with strong characters.

Eclipse Lake is one part cozy mystery and one part romance. The story focuses on Dane Carlisle, a teenage lost-cause who grew up and turned his life around to become a multi-millionaire. He returns to his hometown with his adopted son, hoping to make amends with his older brother. But memories of the teenage Dane persist, and the discovery of an old skull raises more suspicions about his past. Set against Dane’s dark history and the current turmoil is his fairytale romance with a spunky photo-journalist who’s in town shooting pictures of the scenic lake.

The conflict between the three male characters – Dane, his teenage son, and his older brother – was what hooked me on the book. All well-rounded characters, they were emotionally genuine and likable, but also flawed. The relationships were convincingly volatile, and the emotional arcs felt authentic. Clair did a nice job with the cast of secondary characters and the quaint setting – a small mountain town where everyone knows everyone’s business. The story moves speedily along during the action and conflict scenes, and slows to a leisurely pace during romantic interludes.

Eclipse Lake is a well-constructed story with clean writing and some unexpected twists. Readers who enjoy mysteries, family secrets, and a strong romantic thread will love this book.

What’s in a Name

My Sally G. Cronin

Twenty stories by a master storyteller

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.

Happy Reading!

Review: Just an Odd Job Girl

Vacation time is my favorite time for reading – no distractions, no housework, no responsibilities that count. I had a glorious week on a Hawaiian beach, pretending it was summer. If not for the sun’s glare on my iPad, my adventure in reading would have been perfect.

Note to summer readers: stock up on paperbacks!

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.

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.

Buy Just an Odd Job Girl book HERE

About the Author

Sally CroninBy her own admission, Sally Cronin has led an eclectic life, and I suspect there’s a bit of Imogene in her history. She’s written short stories and poetry since a young age and started publishing her work in 1996 when she combined her experience as a Nutritional Therapist with her love of writing. Over the last ten years, Sally’s talent has delivered nine titles and a wonderfully active blog. 

Sally Cronin Books

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