Thursday, October 31, 2019

Chasing My Cure - Book Review

Read the Five-Star Reviews
When I first began to read Chasing My Cure by David Fajgenbaum, the proverb that came to mind as an alternate title was Physician, Heal Thyself.  Though it may have been apt with regard to his early love life, and perhaps some of the medical establishment he encountered, I certainly have nothing but respect for the author, and compassion for what he and his family have lived through.

Fajgenbaum was still reeling from the death of his mother to an aggressive brain cancer when he began to experience mysterious flu-like symptoms.  At first, he ascribed the overwhelming fatigue to the stresses of medical school and tried to power through it to complete his rotations and exams.  When his condition rapidly deteriorated, landing him in a hospital's emergency department, the early indications and tests pointed to Lymphoma cancer.

While that diagnosis would have been a severe blow, the real blow was yet to come.  There would be no quick identification of Fajgenbaum's mystery illness.  With all of his major organs shutting down, death seemed imminent.

As a doctor in training, the author wasn't ready to give up hope.  He kept noticing details of his extreme illness that others did not recognize as significant.  One of Fajgenbaum's strengths was a laser-like focus born of what others deemed a disability (the hyperfocus variant of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder).  When he got hold of something that captured his attention, Fajgenbaum did not let go.  In this case, that would be his eventual salvation.

After several weeks of multiple near-death experiences and debilitating pain, and after insisting on a lymph node biopsy, Fajgenbaum finally received his diagnosis: Castleman Disease.  In nearly every respect, this medical sentence was much worse than the initial fears raised by a potential cancer diagnosis.  Knowing what he was fighting did not make this an easy or fair fight.

To read Chasing My Cure, is to obtain an intimate glimpse into the world of living tenuously day to day.  It will take you into the often perplexing universe of attempting to find a cure for a relentless, ruthless, incredibly complex disease.  You will meet people of heart and courage who invoke a brand of hope that is invincible—and just as relentless as the enemy.

Fajgenbaum has not only had to fight the ultimate foe within his body.  Equally daunting has been his mission to revolutionize the medical research field and to convince others that it takes a whole different approach when chasing down a cure for Castleman Disease.  Attempting to change the deeply seated ways in which institutions, corporations, physicians, and researchers operate has been essential to this enterprise.  To create this kind of change will be as critical as solving the mystery of the disease, for systems are often as much in need of cures as are the people they serve.

I encourage you to read this inspirational memoir of how hope, faith, and love accompany Fajgenbaum on his ultimate journey of discovery.  This recently published book is consistently receiving five-star ratings.  I believe that is so because this is much more than a story.  It is a call to each of us to act on the kind of invincible hope that makes a true difference for others.









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Why Do People Think Personalized Labels are a Good Idea?

Labels are all around us and they tell us all kinds of information!  Useful information that we need to know! (A Product Review)

Labels will let us know what we are eating, where a product is made, if the product is on sale (I have to buy this now) and a host of other information.

Labels can also be used to show people that it is hand made, organic, or new and improved.  Labels are all around us we just have to open our eyes to see the vast array of labels that are waiting for us to "notice".  

But, here it comes, the big BUT!  Many labels are not there for you to notice, rather they are there to identify what belongs to you Mabel's Labels makes this an easy chore!

There are innumerable reasons why you should want to label things that belong to you!  All age categories from young children to the elderly have reason to label their belongings.

Day Care and Schools

Let's start with the younger set!  If you have children that attend a Daycare or Nursery School, applying labels to their belongings will make it easier for the caregivers to identify items belonging to a specific child.  You don't want your child's favorite toy or blanket to inadvertently be given to another child.  Changes of clothing should be labelled as well, so that if an accident happens you know that your child will be sporting their own clothes.  

School age children are always tossing their belongings into the closet and when it comes time to go out for recess or time to go home, they just grab whatever looks like their hat, mitts, boots and more.  If it is labelled there will be no mix ups!  Mabel's Labels has specially designed Back to School Packs of labels just for them.

Of greater importance with school aged children is the possibility of food allergies.  Label their lunches and snacks with specially designed labels!  No more worrying about them getting into someone else's treats, with the resulting visit to a doctor or hospital.  




Organized Sports, Dance and Music Classes

When they start getting into organized sports, the purchase of equipment is a major investment.  Keep their gear easy to recognize and keep it coming home!  No parent wants to keep replacing what they have already bought once before.  For children who take dance classes you can label their shoes and clothing items that may be required.  The same can be said for band classes.  Every instrument and case should be labelled with the name of the musician. No more mix ups with the instruments.

Personalized Labels for Seniors

Now let's move on to those of us who are looking after aging parents or relatives. 
Many seniors are no longer able to live on their own. The family may decide to move their parents into a care facility.  When this happens, labeling belongings becomes an important issue.  Glasses, dentures, hearing aids and so many more small items are not only expensive, but easy to lose.  Sometimes our seniors have dementia or Alzheimer's, and they forget where they put something.  If it is labelled there will be no doubt to whom the items belong.  The labels are very nice to look at and easy to apply.  Shoes, clothes and coats and a myriad of other labels are available.  The seniors themselves learn to look for that label that they recognize.  It helps the staff at the facility and ultimately it will help you too!



Seniors Label Pack


Labels for Everyone Else!

There are labels for you too if you are feeling left out.  Mabel's Labels has a really nice Book Stamp that can be used for those books that you want to keep in your collection.  Place a nice stamp on the inside cover and chances are it will be returned to you after having been borrowed.  How many times do I forget who that Great Book belonged to before I got my hands on it?  If it was labelled, I know I would return it to it's rightful owner.  Mabel's also has a nice Return Address Stamp as well.  So you no longer have to write out your address!  One quick tap and it's all there in black and white.  So easy, neat and clean.

There is one place that you will spend much less time in and that is the LOST AND FOUND!  When things are labelled the chances of them being lost for very long is greatly diminished and so is your frustration and angst.  Make your life easier by using Labels in everyone's belongings.

**Olivia is an affiliate of Mabel's Labels through Shareasale and a small commission will be generated when you use these links.






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Case Histories Book Reviewed

Cold Case Mystery

Today, I want to review an older mystery book for you Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. It was first published in 2004 but is still considered in the top 20 of best mysteries in 2019. One of the reasons I decided to read it was because Stephen King was quoted that he thought it was the best mystery of the decade. Okay, I don't care who you are...for Mr. King to give it that kind of accolade, it has to be pretty danged good. Am I right?

case histories
Looking for clues in cold cases
image courtesy of pixabay.com
The recommendation by King was actually secondary as to why I decided to begin reading this book. I'm beginning a new Cozy Mystery Series that will introduce Babbs Bennett, a senior amateur sleuth who in the first book will be trying to solve a cold case from her past. The Mystery Book Club that Babbs just joined needs to meet in this first story. So, I began a search to find a book that the club could discuss that would also be about a cold case. (Hint, the book gives them the idea to look into the unsolved case of their youth). That is probably more information than you wanted but it is why I even looked at the book in the first place. Anyway, what started as a resource for my own book has turned out to be a real enjoyable reading experience! Mr. King isn't wrong in his estimation.


Case Histories Isn't A Cozy Mystery


Jackson Brodie is the Private Detective who is looking into three cold cases that span about thirty years. The cases he has been hired to look into seem totally unrelated until Brodie begins to discover connections in the crimes. Jackson Brodie works with determined resolve on the cases that he honestly would have rather not taken. His findings lead him to reassess his own painful history as an ex-cop, ex-husband, and a father on weekends only.  

First of all, kudos to Kate Atkinson for her writing style! Oh my goodness, she describes the dysfunction in families so accurately. The families are different but similar if that makes sense. I found myself relating to the children but also to the mothers in the families. I think we all have felt at least a little of their pain. 

Case Histories doesn't fall in the Cozy sub-genre of mystery books. I say that because it is slightly more graphic in the crimes but not so graphic that you will find it disturbing. At least, I didn't. It is more accurately placed in Private Investigators or Detective stories. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I will probably have to read the other Jackson Brodie mysteries in the near future. Oh, another sign that the novel is worth reading is that it along with the other books in the series was made into a television series by the BBC. A pretty big vote of confidence, I'd say. 

This is a great book for anyone who loves to read detective type mysteries. I think both men and women will enjoy the plot and the way Atkinson tells it. For me it started out as something I could refer to in my own book and ended up grabbing my attention in an unexpected way.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Monday, October 28, 2019

My Favorite Local Ace Hardware Store Reviewed

Do you have a local Ace Hardware Store -  where everyone knows your name? Cue the theme song to Cheers!

My local Ace Hardware is indeed the Hardware Cheers of our neighborhood and the neighborhood is very fortunate to have access to a store with the exemplary knowledge and customer service exhibited by their employees and the on site owner.


Ace Hardware Celebrates 95 Years Of Service


A few weeks ago fellow Review This Reviews Contributor Wednesday Elf wrote a review of Ace Hardware Stores and my comment was, "I love Ace Hardware! I was thinking of writing a review." While cleaning out the garage this summer and doing lawn work I realized how many of the tools were from Ace which sparked a conversation about Ace with the neighbor and turned into a review of the Ace tool inventory.

Wednesday Elf's article celebrated the history of Ace Hardware, her experience as an Ace employee and the 95th, yes 95th Birthday of Ace Hardware. She suggested I write a review and after surveying the inventory of Ace brand tools in the lawn and home toolbox, I agree!

Ace Brand Tools

There is no shortage of Ace brand tool in the garage! I have found the Ace brand to be equal or better than its' competitors in quality and price. From garden tools to water pumps to wheelbarrows, the garage is chock full of Ace!

Ace offers a rewards program which is free to join and members earn 1 point for every $10.00 spent on qualifying purchases.  I love that rewards can be earned in the bricks and mortar store or online. The rewards can be easily redeemed in store or online and are redeemable when earning reach $5.00.

The Service

Knowledgeable, friendly and extremely helpful! Whether fixing a gutter, reseeding the lawn or painting the employees answer all questions and guide you to the right product. The paint mixing is superior to the big box store down the street and the store to car delivery service is a huge convenience and help when needing extra muscle. 

Buying mulch, topsoil or heavy equipment has never been so easy as the store will deliver the purchase right to the car. Lawn equipment and snow equipment can be ordered online or through the store and delivered to your home. 

 Shop Local


The residents in this area make it a priority to shop the local Ace store and there is a big box competitor 1/2 mile down the road. It is always a pleasure when a store delivers as promised and this store makes it easy to support the local business. 

Ace stocks the major brand names of tools as well as a fun selection of unique items to bring a smile to the shopper. One year I found rubber clogs for the garden in a cheery selection of bold colors and this year I found this charming self watering bird for potted plants.


It is always a fun shopping experience at Ace whether it be for the practical lawn bags or a little birdie to liven up a potted plant!





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, October 27, 2019

5 Helpful Tools from a Newbie Self-Publisher

5 Helpful Tools Discovered by a Newbie Self-Publisher

In the past two weeks, I've talked about lessons learned as a newbie self-publisher. My first attempt was an eBook and the second a Paperback. Like I said in those articles, I'm not a guru! I'm learning the ropes and sharing the climb.

Was it easy, no way! I can honestly say I'm lacking sleep, and this so-called brain of mine has been reduced to mush. But I love the feeling: You know when you've overcome something and earned a sense of moving forward.

In this article, I'd like to share some of the convenient tools I've found online to help you with your own self-publishing journey. I spent a lot of time researching various aspects of the writing and publishing process and have saved my favorite tips and tools for future projects.

Here are five handy tools/tips I discovered along the way:

1. Choosing a Title for Your Books

I'll start by saying that my titles aren't genius. Lol, but as most of you know, a title is vital. My second book is all about fun, it's a party riddle gamebook. Yah, I know, who writes riddles, right? It's a crazy freaking knack that I have, go figure?

I wanted to create interest with my title and have the title say precisely what the book was about, and what the book could be used for.

I researched some of the most potent action words for marketing and tripped on several helpful articles. The article I ended up saving for future reference was "277 Action Words to Supercharge Your Writing."

2. Kindleprenuer - Be Sure to Check it Out

Kindleprenuer is filled with handy writing tidbits. It's written in a straightforward format, and the tips are easy to implement. They also suggest useful tools to help you along your learning process.

Don't miss their article on 'How to Title a Book,' it's worth your time!

3. Title Generators - These are Handy

A title generator auto-generates suggested title ideas based on your entry. I'll admit, the title for my latest book didn't come from a title generator; however, the title generator did inspire my final decision for the title.

This title generator is a ton of fun and a little addictive! Go ahead and put in the details and see the choices it spits out. It's also a recommended tool by Kindleprenuer.

Here's another helpful title generator. As I mentioned above, it did inspire the title creation process.

4. Setting Up Your Amazon Author Central Page

Since I only have two books published, I haven't set my page up yet. However, you guessed it, I've researched the topic already.

When you're ready, check out this article on how to set your Author Page up, it's helpful.

5. Choosing Your Subtitles - Bold, Clear, and Specific

No, I didn't come up with that criteria. It's part of the excellent advice you'll get from Kindleprenuer. I mentioned them above. They also offer a helpful article on 'how to select a subtitle that sells'.

______________________

Here were my challenges:
  •  It's a riddle book
  •  The book is designed and suggested as a fun game for parties
  •  The riddles are geared towards teens and adults (all clean of course)
  •  I needed a branded name to use on future riddle books
As I researched naming my book, I had quite the challenge trying to get these points established on the cover: A party game book, a riddle book, for teens and adults as well as finding space for an action word.

Here's what I decided:
  •  "A Party Game" stated at the top since that's the point of the book
  •  #Stumped is my branded name that will be on future riddle books
  •  'Instant Party Riddles for Teens and Adults" is the sub-title
  •  The word "Instant" is my action word
  •  The back of the book features an actual riddle 
I'm not saying my choices are the right ones, or that they can't be improved. In fact, I may change the cover down the road. What I learned is that the process for choosing a title, sub-title, and design is time-consuming and crucial to the overall final product.

That's enough for today on my journey into self-publishing, here's my second book. There's an eBook version as well, but it's in the approval stage. It should be showing in a day or so. 

Oh, and yes, I've started the third book: It's not poetry, it's not a riddle book, it's not a novel, oh what could it be?

Here's book number two. Available on Amazon.
Note: I'm an Amazon Associate, but the above link
does not have my Associate ID in it.




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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Restaurant Review of Go Fish Marina Bar and Grill


On the banks of the Mississippi River in Princeton, Iowa sits a delightful and delicious restaurant called Go Fish Marina Restaurant and Bar. Or simply “Go Fish” as the locals call it. 



Go Fish is built up on stilts like a lot of coastal property due to flooding. It has a good size indoor seating area, a bar, and a lovely outdoor deck.  The deck has tables with umbrellas and a covered Cabana. The restaurant bar also opens to the outside deck. 



On warm days, the outside deck is an especially delightful place to eat ~ the food is very good and the scenery is charming.  Last week my son & I had a birthday lunch there. The sun was shining, the sky cloudless, the temperature a warm Fall day, and the river mesmerizing to watch. A very pleasant and peaceful place to eat. 


Go Fish Menu


The menu has a wide variety of options with many items made from scratch with fresh and local ingredients. The dishes range from chicken to steak to seafood, and from pork chops to burgers.  

The Go Fish Cowboy Burger is a filling treat. It's a half-pound of flame-grilled Black Angus Iowa Beef topped with pepperjack cheese, crispy bacon, sauteed mushrooms and onions. 

The pork chops are wonderful. They are the Iowa Pork Chops our area is known for. I've never had better pork anywhere – not just that served in restaurants, but any you buy at the grocery stores. Iowa pork is terrific!  

On this particular day, I had the batter fried fish & chips and they were delicious. Their 'chips' (french fries) are listed as Crispy Battered Fries and they were outstanding! The fish consisted of two good sized Haddock filets and the batter was fantastic. Served with cole slaw, the fish & chips was a very tasty dish for sure. 

Oh, did I mention the desserts? Homemade ice cream and Key Lime Pie.

Check out the Go Fish Menu here for more culinary delights. 


Go Fish Location


The Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill is located at 411 River Drive in Princeton, Iowa. They also state that they are located in Pool 14 of the Mississippi River at Mile Marker 502. That terminology is new to me (being a new Iowa resident), but I looked it up. The term Pool (or Navigation Pool) is used to describe the area between navigation dams on the Mississippi River. For instance, Pool 1 begins in the Upper Mississippi River at St. Paul, Minnesota. 



Most probably the reason Go Fish specifies the river location on their website is because you can approach by river, dock your boat and walk up to the restaurant. 

Their operating hours are seven days a week year round. 


  • Mon-Thu : 11am-10pm
  • Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm
  • Sun: 11am-9pm 



Summary



So if you find yourself traveling through Iowa or taking a boat ride up or down the Mississippi River, consider stopping at Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill for lunch or dinner. The restaurant is only a few miles north of the Quad Cities almost straight over from Chicago. Dining on the banks of the Mississippi is a charming experience. 

If  you do not live near rivers, lakes or oceans where you can enjoy delightful 'dockside dining', create your own at home with the delicious recipes in these cookbooks.




For more food and restaurant reviews, check out 


Quick Links:

Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill website
Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill Menu

More Places to see in Iowa: Field of Dreams

(c) Wednesday Elf 10/26/2019

*Photos & Photo Collages Created by Wednesday Elf 






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Friday, October 25, 2019

Love Surreal - Hallmark Movie Review

Love Surreal - Hallmark Channel Movie Review
Have you ever overlooked a great movie simply because the feature image does not appeal? That is exactly what happened to me with the Hallmark movie, "Love Surreal". I admit, the title didn't draw me in either! 

During a stressful day recently, I went in search of a nice movie to help calm my concerns for the day. After all, there was nothing I could do to change the outcome of the source of my stress. I simply had to wait. 

When I find myself having to "wait", I tend to imagine the worst. Therefore, it is best for me to refocus and stop the horrible images having a field day in my mind. I turned to the Hallmark channel to find my balance.  I needed a calm and peaceful movie, preferably with a happy ending.

Unfortunately, I had seen most to the movies currently available on the Hallmark channel.  I scanned the images several times and finally gave in to one that I intentionally dismissed previously.  I would watch "Love Surreal" and hope for the best.  

As it turns out, it was a pretty good movie.  A romantic story with a dose of comic relief.  I found myself laughing out loud several times during the movie and being equally delighted by the story line.  Love Surreal was exactly what I needed!


Love Surreal Movie Synopsis


Love Surreal Movie DVD
This is the featured image for the movie.
It didn't draw me in, which is a shame.  What do you think?
Being an only child, Abigale Morrison always felt alone when she was growing up.  Since her parents focused their attention on each other and traveling, instead of on Abby, she believed she was only an accessory in her parents marriage.  Not really a part of their lives.  Young Abby found company in her imaginary friend, Simon (Sy for short).  

Sy was understanding, compassionate and always available. When Abby loved drawing and when she drew pictures of herself, she included her friend, Sy as her companion.  She found contentment with her new ally. So much so, she maintained her friendship with her imaginary friend throughout her high school years and into her college life. Simon becomes a barrier between Abby and relationship pain.  It all works wonderfully well until Abby meets her roommates cousin, Quinn.

Quinn happens to be a fellow student in Abby's art appreciation class. He doesn't really appreciate art or the class, but he needs a good grade.  Which means, he needs help!

With a bit of coaxing by her roommate, Jessica, Abby becomes Quinn's tutor and subsequently his friend.  However, Abby makes it clear that she has a long time boyfriend, Simon.  But, that only works for so long.  


Conclusion


Yes, the basis of the story is rather unbelievable.  However if we suspend reality for a few hours, we can really enjoy this romantic comedy.  All of the actors are adorable and fun to watch as they fumble their way through life and make some difficult choices.

This truly is a delightful movie to watch! 

By the way, Love Surreal is also included in Amazon Prime Video.  I just happened to find it on my Hallmark Channel subscription.

   


More Great Movies Reviewed


Check Out More Movie Reviews at
ReviewThisMovies.com



Love Surreal Hallmark Movie Reviewed by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Review of New Wheel at St. Louis Union Station

The Wheel at St. Louis Union Station was opened on September 30th, 2019 to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of Union Station.


Facts about the Wheel

  • 200 foot high observation wheel
  • 42 fully enclosed and climate controlled gondolas that each seat 6 adults
  • 3-4 rotations high above the St. Louis skyline during the 15 minute ride
  • The wheel is  now open from 10 am to 10 pm till October 31st when the hours will be changed to noon to 10 pm for the rest of 2019


My Experience on the Wheel

When my granddaughters visited in mid October, I decided to take them to Union Station to ride on the new "Wheel" that had just opened in late September.  In the photo above you see my friend DeAnn, my sister Julie and my granddaughters Ella and Rachel waiting for their turn on the wheel.

I had seen on the news that there could be rather long waits to ride the wheel, but the day we went we were able to walk right up, buy our tickets and ride the wheel when it stopped for the next rotation.  It was a rather chilly day but the gondolas on the wheel are all climate controlled so it was nice and warm.  There were five of us in our gondola and we had plenty of room to be comfortable and even move around a bit so I could get photos from all angles.

I am sometimes a little leery of heights but this  did not bother me at all.  I felt very secure in the enclosed gondola and thoroughly enjoyed the views of the city.  It was a cloudy day so I'm sure you would see more on a clearer day but I still thought it was fantastic.  I would like to go back at nighttime and take photos of the city lights from up on the "Wheel".


Views from the Wheel

This is the view looking east.  Directly in front you see the Enterprise Center where the Blues play.  Farther in the background you get a glimpse of the Gateway Arch. Also if you look close on the far right side of the photo you see the red brick of Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play.

This view is to the north/east.  Here you see the tops of the old train depot  and the red roof of the top of Union Station.
This view is looking to the south.

Information about St. Louis Union Station


St. Louis Union Station was first open to the public on September 1, 1894.  At one time it was the biggest and busiest train terminal in the country.  It is on the registry as a National Historic Landmark.  Today it is being renovated as a family entertainment complex.

Inside of Union Station you will find the St. Louis Union Station Hotel.  A beautiful hotel that serves guests from out of town along with many meetings, weddings and other celebrations of St. Louis residents.

The Grand Hall is a wonderful meeting place for people.  It is beautiful and the architecture is truly amazing. After our ride aboard the "Wheel"  we visited the Grand Hall and as we stopped to rest at one of their many comfortable seating areas the lights dimmed, we heard a sound of a train coming, and then a fantastic 15 minute 3D light show began.  We weren't expecting it so we were pleasantly surprised.  Beautiful music played and the ceiling was transformed with an different light scenes.  The photos below show two of the scenes.



More to do at St. Louis Union Station

There are several places to eat in the complex and we chose to stop at the new Soda Fountain Restaurant which also opened on September 30th.  It features "Freak Shakes, Boozy Shakes and Remedies".  We were however a bit cold to try the shakes so we enjoyed their delicious cheeseburgers and fries.  They also have a gift shop and a candy counter with lots of barrels and bins of old fashioned candies.

The outdoor area at Union Station also includes a carousel, a mini golf course and in the evenings a fire and light show with dancing lights, water and fire.

A big coming attraction for Union Station will be the 120,000 square foot St. Louis Acquarium.  It was under  construction while we were there but should be open by the end of 2019.  




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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason: Mother Gorilla with Baby
 Image by Curtis Yancey from Pixabay 

The Open House


It was obvious to Grace McKenna that Neema, the mother gorilla, was worried and getting closer to a melt-down. She and her baby Kanoni weren't used to so many humans around.They weren't used to hearing blaring music, seeing and smelling popcorn carts, and having reporters and cameramen constantly in their faces. They really hated the smell of the portable toilets that had been brought into the area surrounding their compound for the day.

Gumu, the huge father gorilla, was the most upset of all. He had retreated to his "nest" --  a bunch of tangled blankets at the top of his two-story enclosure. Although Gumu was twice Neema's size, he was much more afraid of strangers than she was. When he was a baby back in Africa, he had watched helplessly while poachers shot the rest of his family and cut up them into pieces.

Neema, Gumu and Kanoni trusted very few humans. Grace McKenna and her staff and volunteers were about the only humans the gorillas would let get near them. Grace was studying the ability of the gorillas to learn language. Neema knew about 500 words of sign language. She could use her sign language vocabulary intelligently with humans and with her gorilla family.

The local college was funding Grace's studies, and the board had insisted on this Open House as a prerequisite for continuing their funding. Grace had a splitting headache, there were rude children teasing the gorillas, and Grace just wanted the whole event to be over.

She was glad when her boyfriend Detective Matt Finn and his helper finally ushered all the visitors out. They had volunteered to handle security for the event. Matt invited Grace to relax at his place for the night. The staff had a party on their trailer on the compound.

Back in the Gorilla Enclosures

Image by m k from Pixabay 


After the humans were gone, Neema ate some strawberries and wanted to play. She went in search of Gumu, but he wasn't in his nest. So she took Kanoni back to her own nest in the barn to see if Gumu was there. But he wasn't anywhere. Instead all she found was a big wet spot on the floor.

"Creeping closer to the big dark wet, holding Kanoni tight, she looked at the spot out of the corner of her eye. Red wet. She leaned close. Meat smell. She touched her fingers to the red and tasted the wet. Meat wet. Red meat smell. Bad, hurt, she signed."
Where was Gumu? She wondered if Gumu was meat and was never coming back. She turned to the back of the barn and saw the wall was open a crack. It had never been open before. She pushed the wall away, grabbed Kanoni, and went outside to search for Gumu.

The Next Morning


When Grace went to feed the gorillas the next morning, all was quiet in the barn. She called them to breakfast, but no gorillas came. They were gone. Someone had removed the padlock from the outside of the door. Matt began to look for evidence, since the animals could not have escaped by themselves. Then Jon Zyrnek, the staff member who got along best with Gumu, discovered the huge puddle of blood and called them all over.

Matt immediately wanted to put out an all points bulletin, but Grace nixed it. Many of their neighbors in their town of Evansburg opposed having the gorillas in their neighborhood in the first place. They had gotten out once before and they were almost closed down then. Word of the escape getting out would endanger their funding, as well.

Grace finally talked Matt into investigating the the disappearance by himself and the staff promised to keep quiet. They canceled all the volunteer shifts, saying that Jon had the flu and they'd all been exposed. They couldn't chance passing it to the gorillas.  They also made up a story about a valuable missing dog that had been at the open house. They needed to report some case involving an animal to get the blood they had found tested at the lab. Jon and Grace continued to search outside, calling and naming the gorillas' favorite foods, but no gorillas responded.

The Undercurrents


Matt doesn't like Jon because he and the volunteer staff are all part of the Animal Rights Union that has been freeing lab and other animals they believe are mistreated. They've all been arrested and Jon had served time. They had begun their volunteer work with the gorillas as a community service sentence. But they enjoyed the work so much they kept at it.

Matt is sure Jon and the others are involved somehow. The gorillas are very valuable, especially since they can sign and paint. The sale of their paintings has helped fund the work. Jon's father recently got out of prison. Matt also considers him a suspect. 

Grace is worried about whether her gorillas can survive on their own in the woods, if that's where they are. She's convinced at least one of them has been killed. When you read the book, you will also be concerned for them and wonder what happened. I couldn't stop reading.

My Review  


I recommend this book to those who are interested in the intelligence of gorillas and their ability to talk to humans. They would find the book fascinating even if there were no mystery. I read this, the second book in the Neema series, because I had enjoyed the first book so much. Now I see a third book is also available and I plan to read that one, too. I like learning more about the capabilities of gorillas. But I also like trying to solve the mystery.

I would recommend this to any animal lover who likes mysteries  It's full of not only gorillas, but also dogs and Neema's two pet cats. The human characters are believable, though Matt seems to have a stereotyped view of Jon. The animal characters are also well-developed.

I found myself looking for clues right along with the detectives. The author shows us not only what the humans are doing, but also what Neema is doing. We know just enough to hope that the story will end happily, but we still have to wonder until the very end.

You might also be interested in my review of the first book in the series: The Only Witness.






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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Shadows in the Sun Movie Review

Finding Love And More In Italy

A friend of mine, Joan, recently suggested that I watch the movie Shadows in the Sun. I took her suggestion and would like to review it for you today. 

shadows in the sun
A street in Italy
image courtesy of pixabay.com
First of all, I'll share that I loved this movie! I have always wanted to go to Italy so the setting where the story takes place appealed to me a great deal. The countryside and the small village are charming and very much somewhere I would like to visit in real life someday.

There is a reason, Joan recommended that I watch this movie. The general theme in the plot involves a relationship that develops between two writers. One is famous while the other is aspiring to write his first book. Since I write novels, myself, of course it grabbed my attention.

Synopsis of the movie Shadows in the Sun

Jeremy Taylor is a successful agent in a London publishing firm. He is sent to Tuscany by his boss to do what others have failed to do; sign a reclusive author to a contract for a new book. Weldon Parish, the author, hasn't written a book in a few decades. His past work was a huge success but he gave up writing after his wife died. 

It is a struggle for Jeremy to even find Weldon in the beginning but he perseveres; eventually meeting the eccentric and crabby older man. Their first meeting doesn't go well as Weldon makes it known that he hates publishers, editors and agents. 

As the plot unfolds, Weldon and Jeremy become friends. Jeremy is a huge fan of the books that the former author wrote years ago and he is struggling with his own writing. Weldon wants no part of writing another book but he does start to teach Jeremy ways that he might improve his own style. 

Jeremy learns to let go of his rigid restraint as Weldon drags him into a few wild adventures in the small village and surrounding area. He is also falling head over heels in love with Weldon's daughter. The growing feelings between Jeremy and Isabella are sweet and touching while the antics by Weldon are humorous.

I'm really glad that Joan suggested this movie to me. It isn't a new movie, it was first released in theaters in 2005 and in DVD in 2006. Jeremy is played by the actor Joshua Jackson from Cursed and Dawson's Creek. The character of Weldon Parish is played by Harvey Keitel who has been in many movies and television shows. 

If you like a romantic comedy, I think you will enjoy this movie. It can be viewed for free if you are a Prime member. You can rent it to stream or you can buy the DVD. 


Shadows in the Sun
 (paid link)



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Monday, October 21, 2019

Reviewing Alaska Photoventures: Season 1

In Alaska Photoventures, Dan Redfield explores Alaska through photography. This is an unscripted photography series in which each episode takes place on a different location in breathtakingly beautiful Alaska via a different mode of transportation (i.e. kayaking, hiking, biking, etc). This series hits both my curiosity about Alaska and my enjoyment of beautiful photography.


Reviewing Alaska Photoventures

I initially clicked on Alaska Photoventures with the thought that it would be a tutorial on photography in Alaska. While there are some general tips, it truly was focused on Dan's adventuring in Alaska and displaying those interesting places via his drone videos and photography. 

The episodes of season one include:
  1. Knik Glacier ATV Adventure
  2. Jet Ski to Blackstone Glacier
  3. Downhill Mountain Biking in Hatcher Pass
  4. Exploring a WW2 Fort in Seward
  5. Fly Fishing on the Kenai River
  6. Super Cub to a Floating Ice Cave
  7. Nighttime Kayaking
  8. Snow Machine Jumping w/Arctic Cat Athletes

I enjoyed all of the episodes, especially the kayaking episodes but I think Downhill Mountain Biking in Hatcher Pass is my favorite. Perhaps because it also includes some photos of nearby Independence Mine. Perhaps because Hatcher Pass is amazingly beautiful. Perhaps because guest Matt Sanders has such a great attitude and big personality.  Probably a combination of all of the above.

When shooting the riders on the biking trail, Dan noted that the sky was very bright but the light was not getting to the trail in the pass. He described it as "super hot blown out sky and then a really dark foreground".  Dan notes that he had to adjust for this so that he could get both some details of the riders and in the sky. He shows a photo of the examples of the different settings. However, he does not give an actual ISO setting or any other numbers (sorry, I'm only a very amateur photographer so my vocabulary here is lacking). Some people who are looking at this series as a tutorial may be disappointed by the lack of the actual settings. 

There is a chance that I like this series more than other people might because Dan Redfield and friends put me in mind of my sons. Also, visiting Alaska is on my bucket list. But honestly, I think that a variety of people will enjoy this series; viewers who have been to Alaska and want to reminisce, viewers who have always wanted to visit this beautiful state but have not yet been able to, and photographers at many levels of ability. 

Related Links:

Amazon Prime. I watch this series on Amazon Prime. I LOVE Amazon Prime for many reasons. But one of those reasons is because I refuse to pay a cable bill. I want to invest my finances elsewhere. With my Roku television and with Amazon Prime, Youtube, and Sling, I have more things than I can watch on any given day. 




Dan Redfield's Official Page. Learn more about Dan Redfield here

The photographers of Review This! I am realizing how much the Review This Reviews writers are photo-adventurers. Mary Beth in particular takes us on her lighthouse photo-adventures and shares photography tips. 


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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Confessions of a Newbie Self Publisher

Confessions of a Newbie Self Publisher


To help you dreamers out, I'm writing this review about my experience of self-publishing my first paperback book through Amazon.

First off, I'm absolutely a newbie at this; the piles of pulled-out hair beside my desk rests as evidence. 

I'm going to go point-by-point with some of the major issues I faced during the learning process.

Again, this article isn't meant to come across as all-knowing, because I'm not all-knowing on this subject!

However, I did spend hours, and I do mean hours researching and learning and doing and swearing just to get that first paperback book up on Amazon. So from that perspective, I know a little bit more than I did a month ago.

What was most daunting was learning the technical aspects of getting that book up on Amazon.

You writers out there would probably agree that writing the book is the easy part! A few weeks back, I posted an article on getting a Kindle eBook up and running. You can read about that swearing event here. Again, I'm not a guru!! Just sharing my newbie nightmares.

So here we go, point by point on some of the things I learned about self-publishing a paperback book through Amazon:

1. You Need the Paperback Book Templates from Amazon

First, if you haven't already, sign up for KDP Self-Publishing.

Before you get started, go to the Amazon self-publishing help area to get those templates.

Download them, unzip them, then decide on the size you want your book to be. Choose the Template that reflects the size you want. You need the Template because it has all the borders and guidelines you have to follow when writing. While you're in that help area, watch their videos and read all their tips. Good stuff there.

Note: Standard size seems to be 6X9 - For my poetry book, I went with 7X10. There are a lot of sizes to choose from.

2. What Word Processing Program Should You Use to Write Your Book?

There's a loaded question. I must have landed on fifty different answers during those google searches from hell.

I don't have the full version of Microsoft Word on my computer, and I wasn't about to frigging buy it.

So I researched alternatives to Word. I found the common ones people use; one is a free download called OpenOffice.org, and the other freebie word processing download I found is LibreOffice.

I've used OpenOffice in business before but based on some of the comments I read from the LibreOffice users, I thought, what the heck, let's try that one.

So to answer the question, you can use Word, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice - maybe there's more? I dunno.

3. What About Writing and Preparing Your Book in Google Documents

That's the first thing I did before even starting the 'technical aspects of what to do after it's typed." I typed the book in Google Docs. At least I had it there for safekeeping until I knew what the heck to do next!

From what I've learned so far, you can type your book directly into your word processing program using the Template from Amazon KDP, of course! Can you skip the google docs part? Well, I still plan to write my books in google docs and then copy and paste them into the word processing program with the book Template.

4. LibreOffice - Using the Amazon Paperback Templates

I have no idea whether you can upload the Amazon paperback templates into Microsoft Word or OpenOffice. However, I'm going out on a limb and saying, yah, of course, you can.

With LibreOffice, the first thing I did was upload the Paperback Template I needed for the size of the book I wanted to do. At that point, it was a matter of learning the LibreOffice program. If you're familiar with word processing programs, you'll probably be able to muddle through. When in doubt, google those questions, that's what I did in spades.

Since my book was already written in Google Docs, I simply copy and pasted it section by section into the template.

LibreOffice: What I Like About it

When you open the program, your books are there, individually listed as nice sizeable Icons. It was fairly easy to learn, but I'm not a pro at it by any stretch of the imagination (yet).

LibreOffice: What I Don't Like About it

Holy Hannah, who designed the Footer Page Count area - YUK! Very difficult to use. Yes, my mouth needed to be washed out with soap a few times. Some of the comments I made (whilst hubby was laughing) "who designed this part of the program! Are they so self-absorbed with their intelligence that they had to make it complicated?."

Other word processing programs have easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy Footer Page Counts, but not LibreOffice! Yes, the table of contents auto-generates and the pages count properly, but it's the number system in the Footer and where the counts start that cause you to drink lots of wine!

Will I use LibreOffice again for my next book? Yep, I learned so much; I don't want to switch now. But I don't have that page count thing in the Footer sorted out yet! And yes, I watched a lot of YouTube videos on it - still not clear.

5. Prettying Up that Book as You're Putting it in the Template

I decided on font styles, headings, and font sizes. From what I read, consistency was important. However, my book is a Poetry Book, so it's different than a novel. A novel, I would imagine, is more straight forward.

I did quite a bit of research on what the best fonts are to use in books, particularly poetry books. After my research, I ended up choosing the Garamond font. I used that font throughout the whole book. I didn't choose it because it was the best for poetry. I preferred the look of it for easy reading on the page.

My paperback poetry book has chapters and sub-chapters, and also a few graphics throughout. So yah, more convoluted to lay it out.

6. How Should the Sections of Your Book Flow and in What Order?

I googled this over and over. You guessed it, different answers from different people. Being that I wrote a Poetry Book, I didn't follow the traditional page designations that a novel would. Here's how I laid out my poetry book:
  •  First Page inside the Book - Title Only

  •  Second Page inside the Book - Title, Sub Title, Author

  •  Third Page inside the Book - Copyright Page (I googled some content and modified it to suit my book). On the copyright page, you'll include your ISBN number - more about that below.

  •  Fourth Page - The Dedication

  •  Fifth Page - A Summary of the Books Contents (that's optional)

  •  Sixth Page - Acknowledgments

  •  Seventh to Eleventh Page - Auto-Generated Table of Contents (my table of contents ended up being 4 pages)

  •  Twelfth Page - A Chapter Page that summarizes the poetry content for Chapter One

  •  Thirteenth Page to page 136 - The content of the book with all chapters in there (I have six chapters)

  •  At the End: About the Author, with sections on 'Why I Decided to Write a Book of Poems' and 'What's Different About This Book of Poems'

  • My Personal Favorite poems are also listed at the end

  • "Thanks for Reading" was next. The gurus say to ask for a review - um, no I didn't do that

  • Closing Message to My Kids

7. Book is Done, Sitting in Your Word Processing Program - What the Heck is Next?

Logging into KDP Publishing is next. Start your engines. 

Select the type of book you're uploading (Kindle eBook or Paperback). 

Go through each of the areas to fill in the information they ask for (this is before any uploads). Honestly, I just watched a lot of tutorials and tips on how to fill everything in. 

Uploading Your Book:

If you're confident that your book is the way you want it, you can upload it. 

However, to upload your book it has to be in a format that's conducive to Amazon's format. LibreOffice extensions are not. After searching out how to do this, I discovered that you can upload the book to amazon in PDF format. (There are other acceptable formats as well). 

In LibreOffice, to get a pdf extension on your file, you simply go to - FILE - EXPORT AS - and CHOOSE PDF. Save it to your computer. Bingo, you're ready for uploading.

Don't worry if you upload the book and you need to change it for some reason - you can overwrite that upload easily if you're not live. Just don't approve it until you're sure. I ended up re-uploading mine a few times as I discovered some errors. I'm sure there are more I missed, being my first time and all.

Note: The Gurus strongly stress hiring a professional editor to check your book for errors. Yah, I didn't do that either. Are they right about that? YES. It's the smart thing to do. Hire a professional. But again, this is Newbie territory I'm in so of course, I'm not listening. Lol. Down the road, yes, that's something I will consider.

8. WAIT! You Need a Book Cover! OMG

Ok. The gurus say, 'get your cover professionally done.' They're right, did I do that, no. Why? Because it was my first book of poems and, well, I had to be the opposite. Plus, I wasn't ready to spend money on that until I felt more confident about what I was doing.

If you're a graphics guru, by using Amazon's KDP Cover Page Templates (you can download those - google search), you can make your own personally designed professional cover. 

There's no way on God's green earth I could possibly do this in a timely fashion. Yes, I tried. More booze. However, I am thinking of hiring a graphics professional down the road for other books I plan to write. 

Oh, I did create my own cover for the eBook version using the online program, Adobe Spark. But that's not useful for actual paperback books that need high-quality digital print.

Inside KDP, there's a Cover Creator Section.

The gurus say, don't use this! So I did the opposite, and for this book, I used it. It's better to hire someone, but I'm not there yet. Play with Cover Creator; you're not obligated to any design until you finally hit save. Even then, you can still change it if you want. You need a high-quality photo of yourself if you're putting it on the back of your book (at least 300 DPI - that was challenging!).

9. ISBN Numbers

Both eBooks and Paperbacks need them. They're different for each book, and every book. Yes, you can ask Amazon to generate one for you. 

The downside to having Amazon generate one for you is that you can only use that particular book with that particular ISBN number for Amazon. In other words, if you're going to offer your book elsewhere, you would have to get your own ISBN number for those.

So you're wondering, how do I get ISBN Numbers? Right?

Canadian ISBN Numbers:

If you're in Canada, you can go here, a Government of Canada page, and register to have the ability to generate ISBN numbers. It could take a few weeks before you're approved. I thought, what the heck, so I registered. 

I used my own self-generated Canadian ISBN number for my eBook Version. Easy. 

However, what I discovered with the Paperback Version is that along with the ISBN Number, the book needs a Digital Code thingy on the back, and I had no idea how to get one of those through my Canadian ISBN account. I'll learn later. 

So for the Paperback Version, I used Amazon's auto-generating ISBN number. Easy. Just be sure that when you get that number from your KDP Account, you put it inside your book on the Copyright page. Best to do that before you actually upload the book.

United States ISBN Numbers:

Since I'm Canadian, I didn't research this very much. However, from what I read, it seems Americans have to pay for those? Don't quote me on that though; I'm not sure. But, again, you can have Amazon auto-generate the numbers for you.

There's more, but that's enough for today.

In closing, my guiding principle while doing this was that famous quote, "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." My goal was to get one done.

I'm already onto my next book (It's not poetry, it's not a novel, oh what could it be?) Just a tad addicting.

I hope this helps other newbies, because wow. :)

Here's what my newbie-book looks like - front and back covers.

Available on Amazon (Note: I'm an Amazon Associate, however
the link under this particular photo does not contain my AssociateID)




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