#Thursdaydoors – Inverness and surrounds

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). 

When we visited Scotland last year, we went to Inverness and toured Loch Ness and the surrounding tourist sites.

These are some of the doors I photographed during this small part of our Scottish tour.

The door to a cottage at the Culloden Battle Ground
Submarine outside the Loch Ness Museum – it has a round door at the top.
Terence and Greg outside the door to the reception at Glenmorangie Distillery
Side door into Inverness Castle

If you would like to join in the Thursday Doors posts, you can share to Norm’s site here: https://miscellaneousmusingsofamiddleagedmind.wordpress.com/2020/08/06/thursday-doors-august-6-2020/

#Bookreview – The Italian Assistant (previously Poggibonsi) by Dan Alatorre

What Amazon says

“Funny, Sexy, Heartbreaking, Hilarious”

When a married man’s overseas business deal goes wrong, the one person who can help him has ideas of her own. A madcap comedy where true love finally prevails and everyone lives happily ever after—but only after a lot of screwups.

Family man Mike Torino lands an important business project in Italy, home of naked art, Valentino, and taxi-crashing yoga pants, so he brings along his wife, hoping to rekindle their marriage while securing a promotion. But romance gets derailed by head colds, constant bickering, and assaults from ankle-breaking cobblestone streets. Their daughter develops a gelato addiction. Mike’s Italian partner has a coronary. And as for amore . . . Mattie tells Mike to handle things himself—and storms back to America.

Mike is trapped. Leaving Italy will blow a promotion; staying might cost him his wife and family.

While reeling from Mattie’s frantic departure, a replacement liaison is assigned—a top-notch, beautiful young Italian woman who is instantly smitten with Mike and determined to reveal the passions of her homeland—whether he wants to see them or not! Normally immune, Mike is tempted—but is headstrong, voluptuous Julietta worth the risk?

My review

Poggibonsi is a light hearted and humorous read, as its title suggests. I don’t read many books in this genre as my taste runs more to supernatural and horror books, but I read the blurb for this book and it sounded like a lot of fun, so I decided to give it a try.

The story revolves around a high flying corporate financier, Mike, who works for a high profile and successful company and who has an idea to create an exclusive holiday and recreation facility in Tuscany, Italy. His “tough as nails” boss likes the idea and gives Mike the go ahead to head for Italy and convince the locals to sell their businesses and properties to his company and become participants in the project.

Right from the beginning, Mike comes across as a nice man, but a conflicted one. He desperately wants to be at the top of his game from a business perspective and to become a partner in his company, but he also wants to be a good husband and father. I identified with his internal conflict as I work in the corporate finance world and understand the cut-throat and ruthless nature of transactions and deals. It is tough on the families of the top players as they work excessively long hours, travel frequently and are continuously under a great deal of pressure.

Mike is married with a young daughter, and his marriage is suffering due to his career choice. He convinces his wife, Mattie, to come with him to Italy, together with their daughter, for a family holiday before he starts work in Tuscany. Mattie agrees and that is when all the trouble starts as everything that can go wrong does. Traveling with a young child is always a challenge and the author brings out the humorous side of everything to do with family travel, including misplaced baggage, a lost child, sickness and excessive shopping.

I didn’t particularly like the character of Mattie. Perhaps because I understand the world of deal making so well, I felt she was very unsupportive of her husband’s career and ambitions. She is angry when Mike’s Italian partner has a heart attack and ends up in hospital and didn’t want him to visit the sick man which felt very selfish and inconsiderate. Her poor attitude eventually results in her leaving Italy with their daughter in a huff and on bad terms with Mike. This, of course, leaves Mike wide open to the overtures of the beautiful Italian assistant who replaces his sick contact. His unsolicited and wild romance with Julietta is fraught with all sorts of unexpected problems, some of which are accidental and some of with are created by either Mike or Juliette. Their ill advised exploits are hilarious and, while there are some sex scenes, they are not explicit and are aimed at being amusing rather than heavily erotic.

While this book is funny and will give you a good laugh, it also touches on a lot of sensitive and difficult situations modern families face in our fast paced world where the expectation is that business people should be available 24/7 and you are only as good as your last deal.

I enjoyed Poggibonsi a great deal and would recommend it to people who enjoy a humorous look at the trials and tribulations of life and romance.

Purchase The Italian Assistant

THROUGH THE NETHERGATE BY ROBERTA EATON CHEADLE — A REVIEW

Thank you to Prof Charles French for reading and reviewing Through the Nethergate. There is nothing as encouraging as a good review.

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I am very happy to write this review of an excellent novel I have just finished reading!

Through The Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a wonderful YA novel that will be appreciated by readers of all ages! Cheadle does an excellent job of weaving true historical characters into her tale that pits a teenaged girl, along with her Grandfather, and a few other helpers, against the very forces of Hell itself.

I deeply appreciated the way Cheadle was able to tell the historical tales and intertwine them into the main plot. Cheadle makes this book about history and its connection to our times.

Carry on reading here: https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.com/2020/08/03/through-the-nethergate-by-roberta-eaton-cheadle-a-review/

#SoCS – More

I’m late this week for the SoCS post. The reason behind my lateness is that I spent the entire day yesterday assembling my Covid-19 memories twisted nursery rhymes cake. It took a lot longer than I expected which left very little time for blogging. Today, two of my sisters visited for the first time in four and a half months. Their children came and everyone had a wonderful time. All three families have been sheltering in place so the risk of virus contamination and cross-spread is limited and I felt it was worth the calculated risk. The kids were so happy to see each other and had a marvelous time.

Anyhow, back to this post. More … Of course, more songs.

First up today is my favourite song from Fiddler on the Roof. When I first listened to this record of my mother’s I didn’t know anything about antisemitism. Even now, it is not something I’ve ever encountered in my daily life although I am obviously now horribly familiar with the tragedy of the Second World War and the Russian pogroms. Matchmaker has always been my favourite song from this wonderful theatre production.

My mother never had a record of Phantom of the Opera. I knew the story before I saw the theatre production … a few times. Okay, ten times, but I really love Phantom. I adored the book, there was something so wonderfully creepy about the disfigured man in the mask haunting an opera theatre. I remember reading it first when I was about twelve years old. I re-read it every now and again when I feel like being enchanted. Of course, everyone has their favourite song and for most people it seems to be The Phantom of the Opera theme song. For me, however, it is Think of Me.

Terence is not here tonight to help me with one of his pop up music songs, so I’m going to share my current favourite song with you. I will listen to this on replay for a few weeks until I get sick of it and then I’ll never listen to it again.

It is to late for you to join in this weeks SoCS, but if you would like to read what others had to say for this prompt, you can do so here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/31/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-1-2020/

#Thursdaydoors – Dunvegan

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). You can join in here: https://miscellaneousmusingsofamiddleagedmind.wordpress.com/2020/07/30/thursday-doors-july-30-2020/

My door pictures this week were taken at Dunvegan Castle and gardens on the Isle of Skye. The castle is built on an elevated rock overlooking an inlet on the eastern shore of Loch Dunvegan. Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

Main door access to Dunvegan Castle
For context, this is a picture of Dunvegan Castle, taken from the gardens
An enclosed garden at Dunvegan. You can see people coming through the doorway in the hedge at the back on the picture
Door in the garden at Dunvegan
Doorway to Fairyland? Door into a squirrel’s hole? You tell me.

Most fortuitously, Sue Vincent wrote a recent post about Dunvegan and the Fairy flag which you can read here: https://scvincent.com/2020/07/28/dreaming-stones-dunvegan-and-the-fairy-flag/

#Bookreview – Undercover: Crime Shorts by Jane Risdon

What Amazon says

Under one cover for the first time a collection of Crime Shorts from Jane Risdon featuring previously unpublished stories which will have you on the edge of your seat. There is an extract from Jane’s forthcoming novel (series) Ms Birdsong Investigates Murder at Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka – with the title of Undercover – for those who’ve been awaiting this series about a former MI5 Intelligence Office, Lavinia Birdsong. There’s something for everyone who enjoys a good yarn and more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction. Author and former detective Roger A Price says: Undercover: Crime Shorts is the ideal companion for the crime fiction fan’s daily commute. You’ll run out of journey before you run out of book with this cleverly crafted mix of crime fiction short stories. Beware as you might miss your stop! Reader Gloria Clulow says: As with all your stories I find them intriguing and unpredictable, leaving me wanting more; I don’t want them to end. Margot Kinberg, Associate Professor and author says of Undercover: What a gripping story, so well written. You’ve packed so much ‘punch’ into it, loved it. I really felt the rising tension and suspicion! You’ve captured the suspense of it beautifully and it is such a great set-up with good characters. Reader Tina Jaray says of Undercover: Wow, I could hardly breathe while I read this. Glad it was short or I would’ve joined the corpse! Author Dave Michael Prosser says of Murder by Christmas: What a fantastic story. I was glued to the screen and stopped work which means another late night (thanks). Author Jeff Lee says of The Honey Trap: Great story. You completely blind-sided me with your twist at the end. I didn’t see that one coming. Loved it. Jane is an awesome writer and an author of exceptional talent. Author Stacy Margaret Allan says of Undercover: Wow, Jane, this is one of the best stories I have ever read. It doesn’t matter that it is so short, I was right there with her and this blew me away. You are such a good writer!

My review

I take my hat off to this author. Jane Risdon has taken the genre of murder mystery short stories to a new level with this collection of six superbly different and unique stories. Each story is complete and stands alone with a proper story line which I really liked as I have read a number of short stories that feel incomplete, as if they are intended to be part of a larger work. There is also an excellent extract from a forthcoming novel included at the end as a bonus.

My personal favourite story was The Watchers which starts off on a horribly creepy note with the main character, Candice, being stalked telephonically by an unknown someone. The tension as she stands there with the telephone in her hand following the latest call is almost unbearable. “Her heart was making her blouse shake as it thudded faster and faster. Sweat ran down between her breasts and her legs felt as if they were going to give from under her. The constant ringing vibrated through her hand and up her arm.” Wow! I was shaking with Candice. This story certainly is not your standard peeping Tom tale and the twist at the end is clever and unexpected.

It is difficult in a short story to get your reader to really connect with your characters as you have such a short time to do this in. Jane Risdon has done it seamlessly in this collection and I really felt for all her characters. Sweet Sable – also known as the Red Siren, a gorgeous woman with her own agenda and the determination and ruthlessness to achieve it; China, the writer next door, who gets pulled into a very strange situation involving her neighbours and the Russian Mafia; Candice the seemingly innocent victim of a stalker but who has a past; the photographers who both had “the look”; a wealthy deceased woman with an extraordinary sense of justice and humour and a successful British diplomat whose encounter with a prostitute doesn’t go according to plan.

If you enjoy the murder mystery genre and like stories that are fast paced, exciting and unique, you will love this book.

Purchase Undercover: Crime Shorts

Open Book Blog hop – Write what you know

The topic of this weeks Open Book Blog hop is write what you know. I have heard this said may time since I started blogging and writing in 2016 and have found that I tend to do this unintentionally.

Some examples of where I have written what I know, outside of my fictional autobiography of my mother’s life, While the Bombs Fell, which is obviously based on the real facts of her life, are as follows:OCD / PTSD

Mental disorders: OCD/PTSD

I have a bit of experience with obsessive control disorder and some of the related conditions including anxiety disorders including panic disorder and social anxiety disorder, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), excoriation (skin-picking) disorder and tourette syndrome (tic disorders). I have featured characters with OCD in a few of my short stories including The Willow Tree (Dark Visions anthology) and Missed signs (Whispers of the Past anthology). I also featured a main character with OCD in the trilogy I started writing about climate change and the fourth industrial revolution but which I put on hold to finish A Ghost and His Gold.

Alleries: Bees

I have a strange allergy to the bacteria carried by bees. Whenever I get stung by a bee, I develop blood poisoning within a few hours and have to have strong antibiotics and antihistamines for two to three weeks. Needless to say, I really try to avoid bees. I wrote a short story featuring an MC with a bee allergy called Last of the Lavender (Whispers of the Past anthology).

Countries of origin

My mother’s family originates from a small town called Bungay in Suffolk in the UK. I have visited the UK a number of times during my life and most of my visits have centred around Kent and Suffolk. Frequent visits have ensured that I am fairly familiar with life in Britain and, as my mother and I immigrated to South Africa when I was a child, my upbringing was very English. My book While the Bombs Fell was set in Bungay as that is where my mother grew up and this fictionalised biography is an account of her life as a small girl growing up in a small English town during WWII. The fictionalised element is due to the fact that my mother was only 7 when the war ended so I had to fill the gaps in her memories. Through the Nethergate also centres around a real inn in Bungay which is said to be haunted by over twenty ghosts. I discovered these fascinating ghost stories while I was doing the research for While the Bombs fell and it was these ghost stories that inspired Through the Nethergate. Some of my ghostly characters play significant rolls in the story.

I grew up in South Africa and have lived here all my adult life so it was natural that I would also gravitate to writing about South Africa. My current WIP, A Ghost and His Gold, is set in South Africa and the ghosts are all active participants in the Second Anglo Boer War. I am also writing some short stories that centre around South African history, especially The Great Trek in 1836 and the 1820 settlers from England.

Profession

Many of my readers know I am a chartered accountant by profession. I know a lot about life in the corporate world, especially in the fields of law and finance. As a result, many of my characters are in finance.

The haunted couple in A Ghost and His Gold are both chartered accountants who met while working at a Big Four auditing practice (just like my hubby and me). Tom, the husband, is a corporate finance practitioner in the firm and Michelle, his wife, has left the firm and is doing mornings only work in the accounting line and developing her writing. Just like I want to do. I am going backwards at the moment and my hours are longer than ever but I live in hope.

In my short story The Path to Atonement (Nightmareland anthology), the MC is a chartered accountant working at an auditing firm.

People

The grandfather in Through the Nethergate is a brave, kind and clever man and I did model him deliberately on my dad. The character of Tom was developed using a bad experience I had with an ex-boyfriend although my experiences are not nearly as bad as Tracey’s from my book.

What about you? Do you use real experiences and people in your writing?

Find out what other writers do in this regard here:

Rules:
1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

https://fresh.inlinkz.com/party/157d33bced9546739b325eefcac0c718

#SoCS – Check

Thank you, Linda Hill, for being so obliging as to give a topic like check. Now I can do my music post and say “Check out my music thoughts for this week.”

Check out is an Americanism so if you see my Mama, don’t tell her I used it. Does that give you a hint about what is coming?

Don’t tell Mama is my favourite song from Cabaret. My sister and I thought it was absolutely hilarious when we were girls and I still love it. These are my favourite lyrics:

Mama
Doesn’t even have an inkling
That I’m working in a nightclub
In a pair of lacy pants
So please sir
If you run into my mama
Don’t reveal my indiscretion
Give a working girl
A chance

My next choice for the week is the song I have told my sons I want played at my funeral. I was rather hoping Gregory would play it on the piano at said funeral, but it has turned out that he wants to be a computer programmer and not a concert piano so that was the end of that and I’ll have to settle for this original:

My favourite lyrics:

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

And now … drum roll … Terence’s pick of the week, a pop up rendition of Fur Elise in the airport.

If you would like to join in Linda’s Steam of Consciousness Saturday and read what other people have done with this prompt, you can join in here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-25-2020/

#Thursdaydoors – Darwin’s House, Kent

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). 

You can join in here: https://miscellaneousmusingsofamiddleagedmind.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/thursday-doors-july-23-2020/

We visited the UK during the boys August school holiday in 2018. We chose to make Kent our home base as I love the area and I can visit Canterbury Cathedral over and over again. I also really like the sweet shop in Canterbury.

One of the historical places of interest we visited during this particular visit was Charles Darwin’s house. Charles Darwin, in case you’ve forgotten, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. 

Below are some pictures of doors that I took while visiting this beautiful museum.

The ornate front door to Darwin’s house
The back door. You can see my reflection in the glass of the door as I took the picture.
This door is a bit obscured by the foliage, but I think the arches make good doors too.

#Bookreview – Carrion by Graeme Cumming

What Amazon says

CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. WORDS HAVE POWER.

A sheet of black filled his vision as hundreds of birds dived at the cottage, pointed beaks thrust forward. From this angle, he couldn’t see many of them striking it, but the few he did see held nothing back as they hammered into the shutter. The scale of the attack was beyond anything he’d seen or heard of. And bloodied casualties littered the ground: skulls shattered, wings broken, innards spilling from them. The fact that so many of them continued with the onslaught in spite of this filled him with even more dread.

Salin has always wanted an adventure and, when the opportunity presents itself, he grabs it with both hands, taking his friends along for the ride – whether they want to or not.

With strange lands come strange creatures that stand between them and their goal. And that goal is the same for someone else, a man who believes the prize is worth every sacrifice – especially when the sacrifices are made by others.

The future is about to change. But who for?

My review

Carrion is the second book I’ve read by Graeme Cumming and is quite a different read to his debut novel, Raven’s Gathering. The book is written from a couple of perspectives, including Carrion, the evil sorcerer, Salin, the son of a retired member of the Order and his group of three friends as well as four members of the Order who are on an important journey.

This book followed a more traditional fantasy story with its central theme of good versus evil and the main protagonist on a quest to save the world from an power hungry and ruthless sorcerer who has learned to use his power in the pursuit of self serving interest rather than for the benefit of mankind as they were intended. There is lots of intrigue with groups of birds who act as spies for the sorcerer as well as some well known and awe inspiring mythical creatures. The story of the journey reminded me of Frodo Baggin’s journey through Mordor in the third Lord of the Rings book. The story is face paced and enjoyable and, although it wasn’t particularly original for me, it is a good read.

The character of Carrion is well described and his back story is provided which gives the reader insight into his past and the circumstances which have resulted in his horribly flawed psychic. The reader is quick to learn to despite and hate Carrion as is intended.

Salin is a bit immature and impatient but he is assisted by more sensible and practical friends and the group is able to progress their quest. Salin’s personality flaws, together with his loyalty and bravery, make him a believable character who the reader quickly becomes attached to. I enjoyed the female character, Willow, who always managed to keep the group focused and on track.

All in this book is an excellent read which will not disappoint lovers of fantasy and thrilling adventures.

Purchase Carrion by Graeme Cumming