Coffee, or something stronger?

This is a very entertaining blog post from my best friend, Eloise De Sousa. It really is worth a read and you might even be interested in a copy of her new book for some youngsters near you. Guaranteed to make children and adults chuckle out loud.

Thoughts by Mello-Elo

Good day, dear citizens of the new world. My cup is full and there’s a socially distanced seat near the bookshelf here in our favourite coffee shop. Grab your beverage and head my way so we can catch up.

First of all, tell me all about your world. What has been happening to you over the past few weeks? I am sorry I haven’t met up for a coffee or even visited your blogs and websites. There is no valid excuse other than I didn’t feel like conversing with humans, in person or online. Do you ever feel like switching off? Maybe hibernating in a cave? Well, disconnecting is my coping mechanism. Those that know me well don’t mind and those that do…well, maybe we aren’t as close as we imagine.

My news is: the sprogs have returned to school. Apparently, the sickness and flu bugs received the same memo…

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Welcome To Vietnam – A True Story And Guest Blog Post by Chuck Jackson @chuck_cljjlk

This is a very powerful extract from Chuck Jackson’s personal story, brought to us in a guest post on my friend’s blog. Thank you Hugh Roberts for sharing it with us.

The book, ‘One Month, 20 Days, and a Wake UP: One man’s story of what it meant to be a PJ’, has been added to Lance’s TBR mountain.

Hugh's Views & News  

I’m delighted to welcome Chuck Jackson to my blog today. Chuck is an author, writer and blogger, and lives in Florida.

A Guest Blog Post by Chuck Jackson

Chuck shares his incredible story of life as a Special Forces member of an Air Force Pararescue Team in 1968. Reading his story told me how all these men and women deserve to be remembered for the champions that they were and still are.

* * *

HH-43B (Pedro) in the foreground with a Douglas A-1 (Sandy) in the background

In December 1968, after completing 14 months of Special Forces training to be a member of the Air Force Pararescue team (PJ), I left my wife in tears and joined a hundred plus men from all branches of the military for the dreaded flight to Vietnam. Dressed in our fatigues, we boarded the aircraft at Travis AFB with stops in Alaska, Japan…

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Aiding the Future Silent Killers

What a brilliant account of a major family step out of lock down: the return of the two youngest children to school. It is quite a trauma for all concerned!

Thoughts by Mello-Elo

It’s Thursday morning and the house is bubbling with activity at seven o’clock. After six months of watching the early bird rise, eat his worm and fly home before anyone stirred in our house, this feels unnatural. It’s the first day of the autumn school term and we are all a bundle of nerves.

My son has packed and repacked his school bag over the weekend, checking his school list for any bits of stationery or equipment he might have missed. The school has been adamant in its correspondence: no equipment or stationery will be given or shared with students. They must ensure they carry what they need to avoid cross contamination. I put my coffee cup down to help him. He complains again that his tummy hurts. I know it’s the worry that he might forget something and get a detention, so I go over the prepared speech he…

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Book Review: The Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Snow GypsyThe Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Jayne Ashford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’ve read some excellent books recently, but this one tops them all. I have no hesitation in awarding it five massive, shiny, golden stars. It is, in my view, almost perfect writing and it is an exact fit to the genre that has always been my preference. It is a work of fiction that is beautifully woven around a true story.

The writing is brilliant. It plays upon all five senses and more. Occasionally, it teetered upon overload of the sights and scents and tastes: the flowers and fruits. Usually, one scent or taste prevails in any scenario but I have experienced brilliant cuisine that bursts a dozen different tastes onto my tongue, so I was able to cope. When I say, “and more…” I mean that the writing also struck at my personal emotions and attachments to the people of the region.

This book is so compelling. It is very real and atmospheric and brings to life the lingering mistrust and prejudices that existed long after the civil war and WWII had finished. It is a quest that is fraught with danger. Who can be trusted?

The characters and their interactions are so very well developed that the reader cannot help but become involved, concerned and caring about the outcomes. I laughed and I cried.
I often anticipated the next steps, sometimes correctly, sometimes wrongly. I can still smell the scent of galán de noche, night-flowering jasmine.

Anyway, you really MUST read this book. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Book Review: I’ll Find You by Liz Lawler

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I'll Find YouI’ll Find You by Liz Lawler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this psychological thriller in which an experienced nurse, Emily, seeks her much-loved, missing sister, Zoe. She feels alone in her quest. Even those whom she trusted most gradually start to believe that her obsession with finding Zoe is turning her mind. Even Emily wonders if she is hallucinating.

Zoe is not the only missing person. Emily is sure that a patient is also missing from the hospital in which she had minor surgery but everyone in that hospital denies that the patient ever existed. This is hardly an original storyline, but it works very well in this book and ties in with the doubts that already exist in our protagonist’s mind.

The pace is generally quite fast, although it does droop a little in places. The last few chapters bring the Detective Inspector Geraldine Sutton, who has been involved in the case of Zoe’s disappearance form the very beginning, into the action. Even she has doubts, but she is a strong character.

It’s a great read. I highly recommend it.

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Book Review – Hemlock: Old Women in Bloom by Hélène Cixous translated by Beverley Bie Brahic

Rating: 1 out of 5.
Hemlock: Old Women in BloomHemlock: Old Women in Bloom by Hélène Cixous
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I feel that I am missing something. This book has received high praise, yet I struggled to read it. In fact, after several attempts to get on with it, I abandoned it as unreadable.

Is the greatness of the prose lost in translation? Apparently not. Many reviewers tell us that the translation is wonderful.

Perhaps it is just me.

However, I challenge anyone to turn to any page in the book and read a random paragraph without some difficulty. There are sentences which run to almost a page in length and seem to ramble aimlessly towards no definitive conclusion.

Here’s an example [copied exactly as it is from the book] . . .

“There’s no future” my mother thinks, she says this behind my back, she thinks I don’t see her thinking this colorless, shapeless thing, that shakes out its rag full of terror in slow motion in a scene that has vanished without leaving an address, she thinks I don’t see her scring herself behind my back, furthermore the words of the sentence get ahead of her thoughts, they turn up, all of a sudden they pour in, they clog, this is what frightens her, this horrid, peremptory sentence, most unlike her, that turns up in the corner of her room at ten o’clock in the morning as she tries to wake, to get up, applying herself to the task of putting herself back together as once ninety years ago she would have trudged to school after a nightmare, she skirts the gluey verge of the road where once she missed the bus that has been here for hours already, still moving uncertainly, faceless and toothless, toward the little old lady whom she is going to shower and comb and put on for the day, she’s preparing to climb aboard this day dated June 15, 2007 she can do it, June 15, she girds her loins with the waffle weave towel, everything needs to be done as usual, first empty the chamber pot, therefore sit down and think, “there’s no future” says the sentence, what kind of stupid thing is that?” says my mother, she hasn’t put her teeth in yet so the sentences hiss and mumble, but in her head this can be heard loud and clear, for the third time, the phrase rings out with the help of a stubborn little force, my mother ssslips into her ssslippers and brushes off frttffrt the nasty spluttering sentence, she doesn’t see it, from the glass cabinet where mama’s little people pell-mell, the riddle-altar she alone has keys to, indecipherable save by her immutable perennial self, and over which Omi’s photo reigns.

Did you make it to the end of the sentence? Isn’t it awful?

Or perhaps you think that it is literary genius and that I really am missing the point.

So, Hemlock becomes only my second DNF (did not finish) book. The other was yet another proclaimed literary masterpiece: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

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Book Review: A Walk in the Woods: and other Short Stories by Esther Chilton

Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Walk In The Woods: and other short storiesA Walk In The Woods: and other short stories by Esther Chilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed every story of this little collection.
Each story is compact in its writing and, I felt, exactly the right length to convey its own message.

There is always a twist in the tale or a clever punchline. The endings are mostly surprises. That’s good!

Some of the stories are dark. Some are humourous.

I particularly liked the slight, but understandable kinkiness of ‘Book Lovers.’ The ending made me chuckle.

‘Operation Flora’ is a Christmas tale with a difference. There is a tiny niggle of regret but the battered fairy comes out on top.

The signature story, ‘A Walk in the Woods,’ is good, but I preferred ‘A Walk in the Park,’ which was blatantly heading for a predictable reunion, but then there was a beautiful twist at the end.

The most hilarious story, again with a nice twist, is ‘The Secret Diary of Marvin Martin aged 14½’.

Its doesn’t take long to read this book and I guarantee that you will be delighted.

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Book Review: Scarlet Odyssey by CT Rwizi

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Scarlet Odyssey (Scarlet Odyssey, #1)Scarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fantastic story of the unlikely pilgrimage of a reluctant hero through dangerous lands.

From the start, I was very impressed by the creativity of the author in his world-building, the development of his characters and the strange creatures that populate the pages of this book.

There is plenty of magic, red and black, and a lot of violence and tragedy. You can expect to be continually surprised by the turns of events.

I saw that another reviewer wrote that it was refreshing to read a fantasy novel that is set in Africa. It is not! This is an alien world which has two suns and a red moon. Then author has just ascribed African names to some of the places and characters, reflecting his African background. My scientific brain would struggle to accept two suns if I allowed it to, but I went with the flow, which I enjoyed immensely.

There are multiple threads, set in different locations, and they all tie together very well by the end of the book.

Although Rwizi is probably regarded highly by his friends and family and much-loved, right now, I would like to curse him with one of his own invented magic spells. He has enchanted me to an extent that I am compelled to read the sequel, Requiem Moon. Curses!

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Book Review: Hunter’s Blood by Val Penny

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Hunter's Blood (The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries #4)Hunter’s Blood by Val Penny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second of Val Penny’s Hunter series that I have read. Although they can all be read as stand-alone stories, they are tied together by the continuity thread of the characters who reveal more of themselves as you read on. Once again, I struggled to keep up with the relationships between the characters as there are so many of them, but it does all tie together and make sense in the end.

Hunter’s Blood is about the circumstances surrounding the suspicious deaths of three old ladies, one of whom is Hunter’s aunt, the disappearance of a young girl from a travellers’ camp and a fatal car crash that remains undiscovered for far too long.

I was drawn into the story to the extent that it was impossible to escape. I needed to know the outcomes. There are some nasty characters, the worst of whom escapes to Ireland. I hope that he gets his come-uppance in a subsequent volume.

This is a great series and I would say that Hunter has already established himselves as one of Edinburgh’s greatest fictional detectives.

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Book Review: Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Here Is the BeehiveHere Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this book because the style of writing is so unusual. Read an extract and you will see what I mean. The narrative is written as the thought stream of a married probate solicitor, Ana, as she talks to her lover. It opens with a telephone conversation with her lover’s wife in which it is revealed that Connor, her lover, has been tragically killed in a road traffic accident.

There are many twists and turns as Ana gets to know Rebecca, Connor’s wife and each of them peel away the layers of deceit that have surrounded the affair. It is well written and is very thought-provoking.

The ending is fairly good but could have been much more dramatic and impactful.

I would love to see a side story: the thoughts of the ghost of Connor. That would make interesting reading.

This is a short read and is worth the effort.

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