Other Side of Nowhere

Book Review

THE OTHER SIDE OF NOWHERE
by Max Allen

In this book wildlife biologist and photographer Max Allen takes readers on a naturalist’s journey into the prairie, sagebrush, and sandstone cliffs around the Yampa River, a 250-mile long tributary that squiggles its way westward across northwestern Colorado to join the Green River in Utah.

According to the writer, the Yampa “is one of the very few rivers in the area remaining un-dammed and free flowing. The river offers many recreation opportunities from rafting to fishing, and of course wildlife watching and photography.”

Mr. Allen includes with his photographs descriptions about some of the settings where he took them, plus camera details. As he writes in his notes, most of the animals he’s photographed are not unique to that area, but he’s gotten some great shots of them living their “everyday lives.” For my part he could have included more about his own involvement in that region, too.

I found the book very well edited and would recommend it as a coffee-table book, gift for a nature-lover, and a nice addition to a reference library.

In the fall of 2015 I received a free copy from The Story Cartel in exchange for my honest review, then purchased my own copy. This Review is reblogged from Christine’s Reflections post, Dec 3, 2015.

Max Allen has since put out another photographic journey, also for sale on Amazon:
The Itinerant Photographer: Photographs from Five Years of Wandering with Wildlife and the Stories behind Them

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Latest in the Inspector Graham Series

Yesterday I received an e-newsletter from author Alison Golden, announcing the release of the latest in her Inspector Graham series:
The Case of the Missing Letter.

In her e-newsletter Alison shares her challenge of balancing writing and cancer treatment:

We first started work on this book nearly two years ago. I had planned to publish it in September of last year. But then, as you may know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There were times when I wondered if I would ever publish it.

When the worst of my chemo was over, I…began working on it very slowly, just a chapter a day. There are 34 chapters so just refreshing my memory took over a month. Gradually, as my strength returned, my speed picked up, and when my treatment was over, I made finishing it a priority.

This is because The Case of the Missing Letter is my love letter to you. Many of you have not only been patiently waiting for my next book, but your support was intrinsic to my recovery. I have dedicated this book to you.

Background to this series:
After the death of his young daughter, which lead to the breakup of his marriage, Inspector Graham gave up his London post in favour of a more peaceful setting, the Isle of Jersey. But soon after he arrives a murder takes place at the hotel where he’s lodging. He gets his new force on board in a search for the perpetrator. In the last book, The Case of the Broken Doll, Inspector Graham undertakes to solve a very cold case where a teen girl disappeared on her way to school ten years before.

One thing I really like about these books is the teamwork and camaraderie of the police department as they hunt for clues. There are no stereotype arrogant or obnoxious cops. DI Graham himself does some “in-your-face” demanding answers, but then he is the investigating officer and has the right to question suspects. I haven’t found much contrived melodrama in these stories, which is always a plus on my score-sheet.

Here’s the series to date:

#1 The Case of the Screaming Beauty (Prequel)
#2 The Case of the Hidden Flame
#3 The Case of the Fallen Hero
#4 The Case of the Broken Doll
#5 The Case of the Missing Letter

The Case of the Missing Letter is being offered at a special Launch price until midnight Feb 12th. I’m looking forward to getting a copy and reading it.

Alison Golden has written a milder cozy series involving the Reverend Annabelle Dixon, an Anglican priest in a small English village, also the more suspenseful Diana Hunter series.
Amazon Author Page
Alison’s website

The Heart Mender

First posted Dec 7, 2014:

I just read a terrific book and would like to tell you about it, in case you’re searching for a great read. It’s called The Heart Mender, written by Andy Andrews, a NY Times Best-Selling Author.

What happens when an old cape myrtle tree dies on the Alabama coast? Well, the owner of the property, writer Andy Andrews, chops it down because the tree is next to his house and its wood contains highly flammable oils. Then when he chops it down, his wife urges him to dig it up. And when his shovel hits something metallic — a gallon-size can — nestled among the tree roots…

Who could have buried it there? And how long ago? He opens it up and finds a couple of pictures, some ID.

One of the greatest joys a writer can have is to uncover something amazing, something perturbing, something that points to a story. Something he just can’t leave alone; he has to find out the facts. In the case of this particular writer, he digs and digs until he uncovers the whole amazing account.

What happens when a bitter young widow whose husband was killed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid in England stumbles onto a wounded German submarine officer on the beach in Alabama? She punches him in the face. Doesn’t matter if he’s been shot and is now half-dead. She punches him again and again, until she’s exhausted.

And thus begins a fascinating tale of healing, forgiveness and second chances.  (Triple-ply tissue alert.)

Book Review: Finding Sky

Book #1 in the Nicki Valentine Mystery Series
by Susan O’Brien
Published by Henery Press

I just finished reading this book and I’ll say it has a satisfying conclusion. This is the first book in a new series so the writer will gain confidence and in turn give her protagonist a little more confidence, in the next books.

I expect mysteries to be fairly fast-paced and suspenseful. This book isn’t. It’s more like chick-lit with a mystery element. Nicki Valentine tells us her story, explains her situation — a widow with two children — talks about her children’s personalities and behaviour, her fears and issues with safety, food, dirt, and germs. If you enjoy following friends’ day-to-day lives on Facebook, you’ll probably enjoy these open-hearted accounts of where they went, what they did, what they ate, games they played.

Nicki tells about her best friend and neighbor, Kenna, whose desire to have a baby adds the mystery angle to this tale. Andy and Kenna plan to adopt, but the eighteen-year-old mom-to-be has disappeared. Pregnant and alone, where did she go? Is she safe? Kidnapped by a teen gang? Kenna asks Nicki to help find this girl and we read of her efforts at interviews, stake-outs, and searches. Her search gets her involved with troubled teens and a gang member, understandably bringing yet more anxieties.

You see, Nicki is taking classes to become a private investigator. This is a huge stretch for her type. At the best of times she struggles with almost neurotic anxieties for herself and her children, has little self-confidence, and is rather a klutz. Her conscience prods her if she tells a lie in the course of investigating. Can she become a successful PI? She’s attracted to her hunky instructor but resists the attraction. Low self esteem kicks in. Why get her hopes up when he’d never be interested in her?

There’s a good story in here if you’re patient. I’m more a fan of classic mysteries where the sleuth is occupied with the whodunit puzzle rather than angst about herself and her abilities. But all this self-analysis is common in modern cozies. I found it easy to scroll through all the angst and day-to-day stuff and read the parts that actually deal with finding the missing girl. (Spoiler alert: Nicki does get her answers in the end.)

In my opinion the book could be cut by at least 30% — and I’d encourage the writer to get to know Miss Marple, who’s kind and clever, not always sure, but never floundering in self-reproach.

Nicki reminds me a lot of Salem Grimes, another new sleuth with a lot of down-to-earth issues and angst. She stars as The Trailer Park Princess, a series written by Kim Hunt Harris

Amee’s Story: Non-Fiction

Last year I encouraged friend and fellow writer, Carol Harrison, to do her paperback book as an e-book. I promised if she’d publish Amee’s Story in e-book format I’d do a review of the book on my blog. She’s done that; it came out in October. So you can buy it in paperback from her or e-book from Kobo. Here’s the link. And here’s my review.

AMEE’S STORY
by Carol Harrison

“What’s happening? Why isn’t she crying?” my husband whispered.

Minutes ticked by as the couple watched the medical team working on their newborn baby girl. Almost seven minutes passed before they heard a tiny sound from the baby. The nurse immediately scooped her up and rushed her out the door.

“What’s wrong? Why won’t they let me hold my baby?” I asked my doctor.

He explained that the baby had inhaled some of the fluid from her sac of wastes (meconium) as she was being born that caused her some breathing difficulties. She needed to be in an incubator. However, days passed and something was still wrong. Baby Amee was barely breathing, had no strength to nurse.

She was transferred by ambulance to a major Saskatoon hospital; there she lie in an incubator in pediatrics intensive care fighting for her life. Tests and more tests were ordered.

In addition to breathing in the meconium, the doctors found that Amee had a stroke as she was being born. Later tests confirmed that the left part of her brain was badly damaged and a small spot in the left frontal lobe was dead. She was constantly having seizures. Finally the doctor told them, “I believe there’s a five percent chance she’ll ever walk…or talk…or leave this hospital.”

Thus began a journey of faith and prayer, a fight for life and strength, hope and understanding. It has culminated in the book Amee’s Story, ©2010 Carol Harrison, printed by Guardian Books, Belleville, ON.

Amee has asked her mother to tell her story for God’s glory. We see in this book His care for His children, His ability to answer prayer far beyond all human prediction. Carol’s book is a must read for all parents and teachers, especially those who are dealing with handicapped children.

Sites For Free E-Books

There’s an old joke from back in the days when service stations all had an outside air pump so you could fill your own tires whenever they got low. Maybe most of them still do? I don’t look after tires anymore. 🙂

The joke goes something like, “The first Scotsman who discovered FREE AIR, trying to get as much for free as he could, blew out all four tires.”

Yeah, I know it’s not politically correct to make ethnic jokes anymore, but I thought of it when an e-mail popped into my In-box this afternoon. It said, “65 FREE e-books, various genres.” With all the free novels being offered by various services, being of Scottish ancestry myself I just might blow out the memory in my e-reader. Thankfully that can’t happen.

Anyway, I went to Book Cave Direct and looked over the list. A few might interest me; a lot of the stories aren’t the genres I’d read or recommend. I did see one book that instructs writers on how to format their Word documents for publishing on Kindle. For someone wanting to publish their own e-book, that could be handy. Here’s the link if you want to check out the list yourself.

The second last book on their list, Blue Hydrangeas, is one I have read, really enjoyed and would recommend. This is the story of a senior husband whose wife has Alzheimer’s. He dreads the thought of putting her in a nursing home, so is caring for her at home but he’s finding it an every-minute-all-day job. A poignant and realistic novel. Read my review here.

Two days ago I also got a notice from one of my favorite writers, Dan Walsh, informing his fans that his book, Remembering Dresden, is free on Amazon until tomorrow. I already have this one; it’s on my “To Read Soon” list.

I’ve gotten some really good books from BookBub, too; they send out a new list of free and specially priced books daily or weekly, as you prefer. If you’re interested, you can find them at bookbub.com. There’s also storycartel.com (where you agree to do a review in exchange for a free book), instafreebie.com and half a dozen others.

Do you have a favorite site that offers free e-books? If you’re a writer, have you found these sites really helpful in promoting your book? I understand authors have to pay a small fee to get their books on the lists sent out.

My goal for this winter is to read the books I’ve already downloaded and write reviews for these. The whole idea behind authors giving away their books through these sites is to generate more reviews. Being a writer myself, I want to lend support where I can, so be prepared for a bunch of book review posts in the next couple of months.

Walk Like a Warrior

Personal note:
My 100-word story, The Wrong Suitcase, was posted on The Drabble e-zine yesterday. You can read it here.

And now for the BOOK REVIEW

WALK LIKE A WARRIOR
Inspirational True Stories of God’s Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled

Every now and then you read a book and afterward you want to tell all your friends, “You should read this! It’s inspiring, enlightening, and generally terrific.” Reading this book has challenged and strengthened my own faith.

Bruce & Shara Repka have traveled all over the western USA singing and ministering. They endeavor to follow the Lord’s leading and are keenly aware of his appointments. They enjoy the blessing of seeing his hand at work in people’s lives, learning lessons of faith, trust, patience. They’ve worked as trail hands rounding up cattle, ridden their horses over the canyons and badlands. They’ve spent time seeing and learning to love the rough-and-tumble crowds as God sees and loves them.

In Walk Like A Warrior they share a number of experiences, insights, and lessons learned. I really appreciated all the appropriate scripture verses accompanying each section.

I’ll admit I can’t totally identify with every experience these folks have had — but I don’t feel I need to judge anything here. If God chooses to bless them with miracles I haven’t observed personally, that’s up to him. As Shara brings out so well, the Lord leads his children in individual paths where we can fill our role as a light for Him. The couple share a number of answers to prayer that demonstrate God’s ability to meet our needs.

Here are some quotes I found particularly inspiring:

(While waiting patiently for a much-needed answer to prayer)
“Praising the Lord freed me from the begging, defeatist attitude.”

(Praise for an answer to prayer)
“God knows all about us — our innermost thoughts and desires. And He never forgets. He is concerned about the little things in our lives, even the ones we forget about.”

Bruce Repka’s advice re: waiting for God’s timing:
“Don’t let the devil talk you into making foolish decisions and then expect God to cover you and everything will be fine. God can, and will, turn every negative and bad thing around for good, but why go through the heartache and pain during the process of doing things He never told you to do? Wait on God and do what he tells you to do, making the decisions He tells you to make. The rewards are immeasurable.”

From the back page:
Bruce and Shara Repka (a.k.a. Pony Express Ministry) are a Christian country music ministry that travels the highways and backroads of the western United States with their two horses, Rocky and Nocona.

Traversing the countryside in their fourteen-foot, short-wall, three-stall, living quarters horse trailer, they travel and minister wherever God sends them. Their, and others’, inspirational true stories are a testament to how God reveals Himself and encourages us in our everyday lives. They have seen firsthand a real, loving, and powerful God who is always true to His word and who longs to have a personal relationship with us all.

In life’s challenging moments, do you search for testimonies of encouragement that exemplify God’s love, grace, protection, and provision? Find inspiration as you enjoy the many photographs and travel this trail with them, living the adventure! You can find them online at www.ponyexpressministry.com

I was given a free copy so I could write an honest online review.