#MondayBlogs: I Confess! Out Of Tune Memories

onelovelyblogaward

I’ve been given an award! Okay, so it’s not a Pulitzer Prize, but who wants that kind of pressure anyway? I’ve been passed the One Lovely Blog Award by the talented Emma Gray. You can read her award-winning post on her fabulous blog. She’s the author of Party Games and the soon-to-be-published sequel Power Play. I have not yet read her books, but they are on my list. Take a moment to explore Emma’s fictional world.

 

Now on to the purpose of this post, which isn’t actually to brag about my stunning award. This is a kind of blog hop, and there are rules. Always rules. Many of you know that I don’t follow rules well, but I will make my best attempt here. The rules are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
  2. Share seven possibly unknown things about yourself.
  3. Nominate fifteen or so bloggers you admire.

15 people? Seriously? So much for following rules. I don’t know 15 people who regularly blog and have not yet been tagged – or who wouldn’t toss me under a bus for nominating them. Anyway, we’ll start at the beginning. You see, I didn’t even manage to follow the first rule correctly. Did I properly thank Emma? Apparently not. Geesh. Thank you, Emma! :)

Now on to #2. Seven things you probably don’t know about me. Well, okay, but be forewarned that I’m in a bit of an odd mood today. My seven things:


Me - studio portrait at 6 months old

#1: I had bright blue eyes and red hair until shortly after I turned six months old. My mother probably sobbed for hours when she woke up one morning and found her child had morphed into a brown-eyed, brown-haired commoner.

 

#2: In my younger days, I dated a hippie, a rock musician, and a biker. (Not all at the same time.) My parents probably should have confined me to a closet until I turned 25. My mother very well might have if my father hadn’t intervened.



Toes #3: My two baby toes lay on top of the toes beside them. It’s some sort of genetic malfunction, passed down to me by my great-grandfather. I can’t move those baby toes off the other toes. Well, I can with my fingers, but they won’t stay. My mother used to tape them straight in hopes that they’d correct themselves. They didn’t. Obviously. Aside from the occasional problem with shoes, they don’t bother me. And they’re useful in changing rooms when shopping with friends. They can see my feet under the door and always know which room I’m in.

#4: I hate peanut butter. Despise it. Ever since childhood, the stuff has made me gag. At a Christmas party a few years ago, I made the mistake of picking up and biting into a cookie I thought was chocolate chip. It turned out to be peanut butter chocolate chip. Holy taste bud explosion! I bit down once, then immediately spit the piece out onto my plate. As I spluttered, I reached for my drink and drained my glass dry to wash away the taste. The unfortunate part was that I happened to be standing beside the woman who’d made the cookies. I don’t think she was amused.

#5: I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years. The smell of cooking meat makes me queasy and I’m not happy about sharing my kitchen with my husband the carnivore.

Stevie Nicks #6: When I was a teenager, I used to pretend I could sing like Pat Benatar, Nancy Wilson (from Heart), or Stevie Nicks. I’d crank the volume, close my eyes, and imagine myself up on stage singing their words. I had entire scenarios, in which I was the lead rock star of my imaginary world. The biggest problem here is that I can’t even whisper in tune.

#7: I’ve always been a “writer”, in the loosest terms of the definition. I wrote silly little picture book stories when I was very young. Then my teen years came, and I went through this intensely embarrassing period of poetry writing. All that teen angst – and I had a lot of it – poured out in poetic form, all over the innocent pages. Top that off with a heavy dose of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath. Mind-melting music, dark moods, and oh the misery I wrote! I do not share that poetry because it is truly and utterly horrific. But I’ve invited you to giggle at my toes, so why not my poetry? Here is one from my mid teens:

How far is it to the end of sanity?
How close can I step before I fall?
The road stretches out ahead of me.
The blackness around me builds a wall.

I feel it all. I feel nothing. I am sinking.
With each moment, a piece of me dies.
I search for answers, for a truth I can cling to.
I keep digging but all I find are the lies.

 

All right, stop the giggling, gasping, and eye rolling. For those of you who haven’t read my novels, I swear they are not nearly this bad.

Now on to tagging a million people to take this challenge. I hereby pass The Lovely Blog Award on to: Maria Savva, Geoffrey West, Jennifer Lane, Michael Radcliffe, Ben Ditmars, and Helle Gade. Not quite a million, I know. That’s what I get for being an introvert with dogs for best friends.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review: GOODBYE EMILY by Michael Murphy

Goodbye Emily

Three baby boomers relive their 1969 trip to Woodstock. One final roadtrip. One last chance to say Goodbye Emily.

They met at Woodstock, and the love lasted a lifetime. Then she was gone, and so was his college teaching job. Heartbroken but determined, he calls on his two best friends to help him return to the place it all began.The professor and his Woodstock buddy need the third tripper from back in the day, now in a nursing home with early stage Alzheimer’s. When the home refuses to allow their friend to come along, the professor and the vet bust him out, attracting the attention of the cops and the media, fascinating the public.

The roadtrip turns into a flight from “the man” and not even the professor’s defense attorney daughter can help. In a psychedelic van, the trio dodges cops and prosecutors. Against all odds, they close in on their destination, where thousands of supporters and cops await them.

Goodbye Emily is the irreverantly funny story about a journey of self-discovery for a man who thought he’d left all important journeys in life behind.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

 

My Review:

This book is so much more than I expected. We have the Woodstock and music references, and the aging hippies reliving a piece of history. But, beyond that, we have a love story, a story of aging and acceptance, friends finding their way past the pain, sorrow, humor, and a touch of suspense.

I swallowed hard as I read the message below, Emily’s Favorite Gandhi quote: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

The writing here is an easy narrative. The author doesn’t do word gymnastics to impress us. He gets out of the way and allows the story to unravel around us, pulling us in until we are a part of it all.

The disease robbed Josh’s memories of the oldies and music couldn’t change that. He didn’t have a clue who I was. Why was I even here?

As Sparky struggles to let go of the wife he misses so badly, his dream world takes him back to Woodstock, where they met and fell in love. I’m not usually a fan of books that go back and forth in time. Nor am I a fan of stories told through dreams. But those things didn’t even occur to me until I began writing this review. The transitions flows effortlessly, never feeling disjointed or contrived.

“Dad, letting go doesn’t mean you don’t love her anymore.” Cloe placed a hand on my shoulder. “I think she’d want her ashes scattered someplace that meant something to the two of you.”

Goodbye Emily is one of those stories that leaves a lasting impact on readers.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Free Romantic Suspense! ENTANGLED DREAMS by Carmen DeSousa

Entangled Dreams

When Alexandra was eight years old, she thought she was a princess in a fairytale, but she didn’t know she was one tragedy away from reality.

Now twenty-two, disaster strikes again and she’s determined to change her life. Unfortunately, one night of indiscretion propels Alexandra into a situation that will force her to make choices that will eventually endanger her life.

It’ll all come down to two men, one decision, and a final encounter that will change their lives forever.

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: A mature PG13 (Nothing explicit or graphic)

Amazon / Amazon UK

Grab Entangled Dreams free from September 25-29!

 

Excerpt:

She jerked back from him. “I don’t expect you to take care of me,” she retorted, obviously not thrilled with his remark.

He reached for her. “I’m sorry; that was rude.”

She shoved away his hands. “You can’t keep saying whatever is on your mind and then just say you’re sorry. That was rude. If you think I’m such a tramp, why are you even interested?”

“I don’t think that. I’m just accustomed to saying what I’m thinking at the second I’m thinking it. But I really didn’t mean it. I don’t think you’re a tramp. If I thought that, would I ask you to move in with me?”

“I don’t know. I’m so confused.” She dropped her head into her hands again. “I just don’t want to make any more mistakes.”He put his hand under her chin and lifted her head. “Am I a mistake?”

“You are probably the only thing in my life that hasn’t been a mistake.”

 

A note from the author:

We live in a world where few people find their happily ever after, even though most of our childhood stories preached that to us. Wait a minute. Did they? I keep hearing…and I’ve been known to write this statement, “I’ve obviously read too many fairytales…” But when I looked back, the fairytales weren’t all sunshine and roses. In fact, many of the characters in what we tag as ‘fairytales’ were beaten, banished, orphaned, poisoned, lost, and on and on…

So where does the fairytale aspect actually play out? Is it when the dashing prince on the white stallion sweeps in and they live happily ever after? Chuh! But hey, the protagonist had to go through many trials to get there. So what’s so bad about that? Personally, I don’t think there’s a problem, except for putting all your dreams in one knight in shining armor who turns out to be a frog. But you can still work at your happily ever after, with or without the prince, right? Though, in my opinion, I think we’re all looking for someone who completes us.

The fact of the matter is a troubled past helps us appreciate a wonderful present. When we experience trials, we often seek out God and loved ones for support and are that much more thankful when the trial ends. So, I don’t have trouble with fairytales; that’s why I write them, modern-day fairytales, that is. I put my characters through trials and tribulations because I know that somewhere, someone can relate. Yes, there’s normally a knight in hidden-armor, who usually requires some polishing before he’s fit to be a prince. But again, isn’t that what great relationships do? They feed off each other to become better partners.

This is what I write about in all my stories. People who have flaws, but learn to overcome, trust when all else fails so they can love again, and forgive so they can know peace.

In Entangled Dreams, I tackle these and many other issues head on. So, for my version of a modern-day fairytale, read on for how to get your FREE copy!

Happy reading,

Carmen

 

 

Each book in Carmen’s series of Southern Romantic Suspense Novels is designed to read as a stand-alone. Here’s a look at the others:

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Fugitives, Conspiracy, and Romance! OPERATION OWL by Tara Quan

OO Banner

Title: Operation Owl
Author: Tara Quan
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Humor

Operation Owl Five years ago, Maya Jain kissed her best friend only to have him run out of her dorm room and leave the state. When he shows up in Washington, D.C., a wanted fugitive sought after by every branch of the US government, she can’t bring herself to ignore his plight. As their physical relationship picks up where it left off, she decides it’s time to make him see her as more than the bespectacled, bookish girl he once called “Owl.”

After being accused of espionage and treason, Zack Strong needs a forensic accountant to help clear his name. Not knowing who he can trust, this white-hat hacker has no choice but to ask his former best friend and math tutor for help. Together they unravel a cyber conspiracy at the Barn, an NSA facility tasked to intercept electronic communications. But as they traverse the nation’s capital to avoid capture, Maya insists on letting their simmering sexual tension take its natural course. Even though he’s never been able to shake the memory of their one kiss, he refuses to let her give up her life for a man with no future.

Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Smashwords / AllRomance / Decadent Publishing


What inspired Operation Owl?

Operation Owl was written in answer to a submissions call from Decadent Publishing’s Beyond Fairytales line. An editor assigned participating authors a Grimm’s story at random, and mine happened to be The Owl.

You’ve never heard of The Owl, have you?

Until someone drew that title for me out of a hat, I hadn’t either. So there I was, committed to delivering a romance in six months, with an inspiration tale that goes like this: An owl flew into a barn and scared a bunch of farmers, who decided to burn the structure down—The End.

Sending an electronic green-eyed glare at the lucky writers who got Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Rapunzel, I let the fairytale, such as it was, percolate in my suddenly not-so-active brain. In the following weeks, my story went from fantasy to sci-fi, back to fantasy, took a stop over at paranormal, and ended nowhere. To make things worse, the Hootsuite icon on my Internet browser served as a constant reminder time was running out.

If you’ve ever stared at this icon for a prolonged period, you’ll notice the owl is wearing spectacles. Somehow, those glasses brought forth the image of a geeky college student—a specific real-life individual, in fact.

One of my best friends, who is of Indian descent, happens to be a genius. By genius, I mean she now holds a doctorate in particle physics from MIT. For this reason, I’ve had the opportunity to sleep over at her campus. So not only did she serve as my inspiration for Maya, my friend provided the perfect place for my hero and heroine to meet.

Several subsequent daydreams brought forth the respective majors of each character, and a logical leap produced their future careers. Throw the Edward Snowden scandal into the mix, the NSA server farm resembling a large barn, and you’ve got the spark for this multicultural romantic comedy. It features a hacker hero and an accountant heroine, both of whom are as nerdy as they come. It ends as all fairytales do—with a happily ever after.

 

Author

TaraQuan Globetrotter, lover of languages, and romance author, Tara Quan has an addiction for crafting tales with a pinch of spice and a smidgen of kink. Inspired by her travels, Tara enjoys tossing her kick-ass heroines and alpha males into exotic contemporary locales, fantasy worlds, and post-apocalyptic futures. Armed with magical powers or conventional weapons, her characters are guaranteed a suspenseful and sensual ride, as well as their own happily ever after. Learn more at www.taraquan.com.

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Giveaway

$25 Amazon/B&N Giftcard or a Book Depository shopping spree of the same value.
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Book Review: Opal Fire by Barbra Annino

Opal Fire

Stacy Justice is just your average green-eyed, redheaded, twenty-something witch who would rather focus on her job as a reporter than practice the crazy magic her grandmother and great-aunts are into. She’s perfectly content to spend her free time hanging with her cop boyfriend and her gassy Great Dane and helping her cousin Cinnamon run the Black Opal bar. But when the Opal goes up in flames, Stacy may need that magic after all.

The blaze was arson–and Cinnamon is the prime suspect. Determined to clear her cousin’s name, Stacy digs deep into the crime and makes a shocking discovery amid the rubble. It’s clear someone wants her dead–and she’ll have to dodge everything from angry motorists to exploding chickens to survive. It’s time to dust off her so-called magic skills. But will they be there when she needs them?

With its strong, sexy heroine and her razor-sharp wit, and its collection of eccentric small-town characters, Opal Fire introduces a bewitching new mystery series.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

 

I wasn’t in the habit of chasing after men half my age, but the circumstances seemed to call for it.

My Review:

The cast of characters and the mystery here share much with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Stacy has the crazy family and the two boyfriends fighting to protect her. She manages to get herself into a whole lot of trouble without much effort. And she has her trusted sidekick helping her along the way. The similarities are a little much, though, in fairness, might not have been intentional. The problem I had is I just didn’t like Stacy Justice nearly as much as I like Stephanie Plum.

“Is that chili in your hair?”

“Old family recipe. Brings out the shine.”

Stacy’s character is supposed to be independent and a little sassy, but instead her constant sarcasm, demeaning comments, and bossiness make her difficult to sympathize with. She treats her boss and coworker with total disrespect. She snaps at her family for interfering, then gets upset when they don’t immediately jump to help her. While I did laugh at some of her antics, I also found her immature and annoying. I would not want to be her friend.

“Tommy, what the hell is going on? I thought I heard you say the cause of the fire was electrical?” I asked the fire chief.

I felt an overall lack of character development. Leo is supposed to be Stacy’s big love interest, but their relationship never fleshes out. Their meetings are brief and almost businesslike at times. Cinnamon is supposedly married but her husband is strangely missing throughout. A lot of characters move in and out of the story, a little like chess pieces or cardboard cutouts. I wanted more dimension.

I reached over the desk, grabbed the phone from his ear, and slammed it on the receiver.

“Hey, that was Giorgio’s! Your favorite,” he whined.

“Take me off of everything but the Opal fire.”

“Everything?”

“Everything.”

“Can’t do it.”

“You better.”

The plot is interesting enough, though also borders on silly. Stacy Justice is doing all the investigating, bumbling around the town, while the cops are doing what, exactly? As far as I could tell, they did nothing but respond to her calls.

The story does have its good moments. The witchcraft aspect is actually well done. The author captures the feel of paganism here, showing us things like the use of crystals for healing. It’s a light read and a pleasant distraction. Overall, though, it lacked the depth and plausibility I need in mystery.

My hair was in knots, my face was imprinted with bedsheet wrinkles, and my shoulders were bare because Lolly dressed me in a strapless lace cocktail dress, claiming that PJs were not proper breakfast attire.

 

Thanks for reading.

#MusicMonday: Led Zeppelin – Blues Thieves or Rock Geniuses?

Led Zeppelin is my favorite band, but they have a dirty little secret many people don’t know about. Today I want to talk about that secret. No, it’s not about their partying days. Everyone knows how wild they were. This is about their music. Ready? Quite a few of their songs were remakes – possibly even thefts – of early blues tunes. In fairness, this was not something unique to Zeppelin. Many sixties rock bands took old blues songs, put their own spin on them, and walked away with hits. Some bands gave the old blues musicians a writing credit, which meant they shared the royalties. But, sadly, many did not. It must have been horrible for those old timers, who were mostly poor black men, to watch bands get rich on the songs they wrote. While the copyright aspect is troubling, I don’t think it was necessarily intentional theft. Back then, music was often a kind of free floating entity, out there to be molded and shaped by any and all musicians

Led Zeppelin

My focus today is on Led Zeppelin because they are largely responsible for my love of Blues. Zeppelin’s interpretation of these old songs resurrected them in a way that touched me somewhere deep and visceral. Through their music, I found my way to musicians like Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon.

One of the oldest blues songs Zeppelin remade is When The Levee Breaks. This song was written and recorded by husband and wife team Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie back in 1929. They wrote the song as a sort of ode to the devastating Mississippi flood in 1927, known historically as The Great Mississippi Flood. Here is the original, recorded on a 10-inch 78 RPM in June, 1929:

 

Zeppelin’s version was recorded in late 1970 and used on their fourth album, which was released in 1971. (Memphis Minnie was given writing credits, along with the band members.) We go a long way from 1929 to 1971:

 

Zeppelin’s first album holds quite a few early blues songs. One of those is I Can’t Quit You Baby, written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Otis Rush in 1956. By this time, the electric guitar was being used by blues musicians. Otis handles his well, though his voice is what really strikes me. That first note… wow! Here’s a look and a listen. Notice how well behaved (bordering on catatonic) the audience is at the end – and how absolutely white.

 

From what I’ve read, Led Zeppelin did not originally credit Willie Dixon for writing this, though I won’t speculate as to whether that was done maliciously or not. Here is Zeppelin’s verison, recorded in 1969:

 

One song that might be blatant theft, depending on your viewpoint, appears on their album, Physical Graffiti. The song is In My Time of Dying, and the writing credits are listed solely as the Led Zeppelin band members. But the original goes way back to at least the mid 1920s. In 1926, Reverend J. C. Burnett recorded the song as Jesus Is Going to Make Up Your Dying Bed, but that recording was not released. That seems to be the first time the song appears in a recording, though I’m not clear on whether Burnett was the song’s original writer. In 1927, Blind Willie Johnson recorded his slightly altered version with the title Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed. Here it is:

In 1962, Bob Dylan recorded this song, changing the title to In My Time of Dyin’. In 1975, Zeppelin recorded their version of the song (adding the g to ‘Dying’) for their album Physical Graffiti. Because it was a traditional gospel song with no clear ownership, Zeppelin was able to claim it as their own without legal repercussions. Here is their version, at least 50 years after the original:

 

Whether you think Led Zeppelin, and other rock bands like them, stole these early blues songs maliciously or not, you have to admit they brought The Blues to the masses. Many of these songs trace back to a time when brilliant black musicians were poor, living in shacks and working in cotton fields. These songs were born in a time when black musicians could play in a “white” club when invited, but they could not step inside simply to listen. The majority of people probably have no idea that much of the early rock they love has roots digging deep into history. But for others, like me, these bands instilled a lifelong love and respect for the raw sound that is The Blues.

 

Do you have a favorite old blues song made popular by a later rock band?

Thanks for listening. :)

Book Review: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! REALITY SHOCK!

Ripleys

Reality Shock! is the 2015 edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! bestselling annual series. This incredible collection is loaded with unbelievable facts, amazing stories, and incredible animals. With amazing photography, zany stories and unbelievable facts and figures, this book is sure to be a favorite with adults and children alike.

Reality Shock! Is filled with more of the amazing facts, unbelievable stories and extraordinary photography that makes Ripley’s Believe It or Not! so popular. Read all about the amazing things that people all over the world have done- from insane stunts to crazy traditions. Take a closer look at the extraordinary images nature produces, such as mutated animals and amazingly impossible vistas. Crystal clear photography paired with zany stories, amazing facts and figures that are undeniably true but incredibly hard to believe will make this book a must have for every household.

Published: September 2014

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

 

My Review:

This book is a collection of facts ranging from fascinating to fun to weird to just plain gross. There are eleven different categories, supplying answers to questions you’d never think to ask. Some of the pieces are longer, offering more in-depth information, while others are short little blips.

The book itself is a work of art. The pages and photographs are full of color. The paper is thick and the overall quality is excellent. I would highly recommend the hardcover over the ebook, as it truly is something you want to hold in your hands and keep on your shelf.


Thanks for reading. :)

Early Review: Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe

Independents

Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Drayton runs a private investigation agency in Vancouver that specializes in missing persons–only, as Mike has discovered, some people stay missing. Still haunted by the unsolved disappearance of a young girl, Mike is hired to find the vanished son of a local junk merchant. However, he quickly discovers that the case has been damaged by a crooked private eye and dismissed by a disinterested justice system. Worse, the only viable lead involves a drug-addicted car thief with gang connections.

As the stakes rise, Mike attempts to balance his search for the junk merchant’s son with a more profitable case involving a necrophile and a funeral home, while simultaneously struggling to keep a disreputable psychic from bilking the mother of a missing girl.

US Publishing Date: September 23, 2014

Amazon / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes and Noble

So much of modern investigating is simply knowing which database to search. I was happy to turn much of that work over to Katherine, freeing me up for the kind of jobs my antiquated skill set was better suited for. Like camping out in the basement of a funeral home, waiting for a necrophiliac.

My review:

Last of the Independents is written in first person, from the point of view of PI Michael Drayton. His character is an intriguing mix of bad boy and good-hearted hero. The cast of supporting characters is original and well-developed. 

The story feels believable. We follow Drayton as he attempts to solve two different cases, one with a darkly humorous edge and the other far more serious and complex. As we delve into the cases, we also see parts of Drayton’s personal life. This insight adds layers to the story while, at the same time, bringing us deeper inside. 

My problems with the book are relatively minor, and might not be a problem at all for other readers. First, there are several weird POV shifts late in the story. Rather than the first person we’d been in throughout, Wiebe suddenly shifts to a kind of remote first person, in which we’re told what is happening when Michael Drayton is absent. It feels like a third person POV, though there is no particular character this shift leans toward. Instead, Drayton occasionally pops in to relay that this is how the story was told to him later. This technique doesn’t quite work for me. It comes so late in the story that it feels odd and jarring, more like the author needed to convey certain information to wrap things up but he couldn’t find a way to do that in first person. 

The other problem I had is that I really, really hated the epilogue. I don’t want to give spoilers, so I can’t give too much detail as to why I hated it. For one, it’s in first person POV of a different character, which feels strange since that person had no POV throughout the story. But, more importantly, I just didn’t like how it played out.

Aside from these issues, I thoroughly enjoyed Wiebe’s writing style and look forward to spending more time with Michael Drayton.

At a distance, evolution seems linear. Birds from winged reptiles, homo sapiens from apes. We think this way about society, too, as if we move through the generations from ignorance to enlightenment, from evil to good, towards perfection. These are but convenient fictions. In truth, society grows misshapen and deformed. The family, our social heart, has stopped beating.

Thanks for reading. :)

Book Review: THE DARKEST HOUR by Tony Schumacher

The Darkest Hour

A crackling, highly imaginative thriller debut in the vein of W.E.B. Griffin and Philip Kerr, set in German-occupied London at the close of World War II, in which a hardened British detective jeopardizes his own life to save an innocent soul and achieve the impossible—redemption.

London, 1946. The Nazis have conquered the British, and now occupy Great Britain, using brutality and fear to control its citizens. John Henry Rossett, a decorated British war hero and former police sergeant, has been reassigned to the Office of Jewish Affairs. He now answers to the SS, one of the most powerful and terrifying organizations in the Third Reich.

Rossett is a man accustomed to obeying commands, but he’s now assigned a job he did not ask for—and cannot refuse: rounding up Jews for deportation, including men and women he’s known his whole life. But they are not the only victims, for the war took Rossett’s wife and son, and shattered his own humanity.

Then he finds Jacob, a young Jewish child, hiding in an abandoned building, who touches something in Rossett that he thought was long dead.

Determined to save the innocent boy, Rossett takes him on the run, with the Nazis in pursuit. But they are not the only hunters following his trail. The Royalist Resistance and the Communists want him, too. Each faction has its own agenda, and Rossett will soon learn that none of them can be trusted . . . and all of them are deadly.

Published: September 23, 2014

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Rossett wondered if the old man was scared, watching his words almost as closely as he watched the whiskey, making sure not to spill too much of either.

My Review:

The Darkest Hour takes an alternate look at WWII, with Hitler’s Nazis winning in Europe and the US turning away from the madness. England, where the story takes place, is now occupied and managed by German Nazis. The setting here is so realistic that I often found myself forgetting this is not how the war actually played out, though it all too easily could have.

The Jews were squeezed onto the back of the trucks, with canvas sheets eventually rolled down to cover the cargo from prying eyes, out of sight and out of mind.

Schumacher writes with a depth of detail that transports you right into the midst of the struggle. I saw the scenes playing out, felt the despair along with that shred of hope.

His cheeks looked hollow in the shadows and his eyes like potholes to hell.

This story is dark, disturbing, thought-provoking, and a powerful reminder of how easily good people can be forced to do bad things in order to survive.

“If I put them on the train and the train takes them to their death, that means I am killing them, just the same as if I shot them myself, doesn’t it?”

 

Thanks for reading. :)

#MusicMonday: BIG KETTLE DRUM In The Spotlight

At BKD
Michael and I went to The Hideaway Cafe this past Saturday night to see one of my favorite indie bands – Big Kettle Drum. I was psyched to see them, as you can probably tell from the photo. These guys (and girl!) are brilliant performers, so definitely go see them if you get the chance. Before we get to them, though, I want to briefly mention the singer who opened the show.

Mountain Holler I had never heard of Mountain Holler (Mark Etherington) before, and had no particular expectations about his music. Even so, I was surprised. First, he steps onto the stage barefoot, guitar slung over his shoulders, a long mass of curls with some even longer dreadlocks, with this totally tranquil persona. He immediately gave off a hippie, peace vibe. Then he began to play, and I thought I’d been transformed to Woodstock. His music is perhaps too heavy on social awareness and introspection for the mainstream world. As he sang, I had this passing thought that I should be dropping a hit of acid to trip off along with him. I don’t mean that as an insult. My love of music was born in that sixties sound. Mountain Holler truly is an entrancing performer. If you’d like to experience the psychedelic folk sounds of Mountain Holler, you can listen to and/or purchase his EP Red Feather on Bandcamp. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

Now on to the main event.

Big Kettle Drum

Big Kettle Drum

If you’re unfamiliar with Big Kettle Drum, they are probably best defined as an Americana band. But I dislike sticking them with a narrow label. This band is quite versatile, able to go from soft folk to funky rock. While I love their original music, I thoroughly enjoyed their interpretations of popular music. They opened with a beautiful rendition of Say Something by A Great Big World. Later they performed a killer cover of OneRepublic’s Love Runs Out. And I have to mention their cover of Kiss by Prince. Not only did it sound really good, but they had a lot of fun with it. This, of course, is also fun for the audience. Despite how great their covers were, we’re not here to talk about that. On to their original music and all the things that drew me to this band in the first place.

Here is one of my favorites, off their Lock & Key EP. This is Down:

Down so low
Gotta look up to see the ground…

 

Off that same EP is a song called Just a Man. Great tune, great lyrics, and a very cool banjo:

An eye for an eye
Leaves everybody blind…

 

This last one I want to share is off their earlier EP, Nantucket Circle. The first time I heard this one, the lyrics struck me somewhere deep. Many of you know I struggle with chronic, late-stage Lyme disease. It’s a quietly destructive, incurable disease that messes with me in a whole lot of ways. This song is kind of like private thoughts pulled from my own head. As Brandt, Big Kettle Drum’s singer, told us the story of how and why this song was written, I immediately understood where these lyrics came from and why they touched me the way they did – still do, every time I hear the song. The band wrote this song as a thank you to all the blood donors who have helped save Brandt’s son Theo’s life. The best way I can explain, is to share their video. This is Holding Me Up:

Well I’ve been living off
Prayers and favors
I’ve been leaning on
The good vibes of strangers…

 

My struggle is nowhere near as difficult as Theo’s, who is battling myelodysplastic syndrome. So I’m going to ask a favor here. If you have a moment, maybe now or maybe later, please send a healing thought out there for Theo. Whether you’re religious and include him in a prayer, you’re spiritual and include him in a meditation, or you’re just a good person sending out a silent wish for health, the intention behind your thoughts is what matters.

The members of Big Kettle Drum are very active with the Be Brave Foundation, which provides assistance to the struggling families of sick kids. I plan to give you lots of information on that in a future post. In the meantime, you can learn more about that on the band’s website: www.bigkettledrum.com

Now let’s get back to the music. About time I introduced the band, right? Here they are:

Big Kettle Drum

Big Kettle Drum

Brant Menswar – Lead vocals / Guitar
JT Keel – Lots of instruments with strings / Backing vocals
Rick Huffman – Bass / Backing vocals
Natalie Hoang – Violin

Connect with the band on their website, Facebook, and Twitter. And I really mean connect with them, not just follow them. They are super friendly and truly great people.

The band generously allows us to stream a lot of their music free on Soundcloud and ReverbNation. Some of their stuff, excluding their new EP Lock & Key, is available to stream on Bandcamp. And you can find many of their songs on their YouTube channel. But – and many of you know what I’m about to say next – the free music is great for us but does not help them pay those pesky bills or support future music. So, if you like what you hear, please consider making a purchase, whether it be a single song or a couple of EPs. You can purchase their music on Amazon, Amazon UK, and iTunes.

I already had digital downloads of both EPs, but I have a preference for the physical copies. Plus, I had to have something for the band to sign! It’s hard to tell from this photo, since it came out dark and I’m too lazy to take another, but the motorcycle with their band name is the logo on the t-shirt I purchased. The shirt is gray, not black, and I don’t know why it came out like that. Camera settings, brain fuzz, whatever… you get the idea. :roll:

swag

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s musical excursion. Thanks for listening. :)