Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Over Sixty-Shades of Gray: A Journey Through Life's Later Years

Here is one of the latest titles I've recently had the pleasure to review, I enjoyed this read and highly recommend it to anyone 50+

Over-Sixty: Shades of Gray: A Journey Through Life's Later YearsOver-Sixty: Shades of Gray: A Journey Through Life's Later Years by Barbara Paskoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here is a contemporary, uplifting look into the years of living sixty and beyond. Delivered with much-needed humor to lighten the load, the reader is successfully transported through the realities of getting older and how to best approach, and cope with, these changes when they arise.
This comprehensive overview will open your mind to matters you may not have already encountered or thought of and where health is placed at the forefront, providing a snapshot into some of life’s more serious challenges we might unluckily be faced with at some time or another. But don’t feel completely disheartened, for it’s not all doom and gloom as you might expect. Yes, health plays a major role in ageing, we all know that, but what about the positive up-side to getting older? And, yes, there seems there is an up-side. Retirement frees oneself up. So what about all that spare time on your hands; what will you do with that now? And how about the finances? Are they all in check? These are the type of questions that will get you thinking and where basic know-how is offered to provide some invaluable forethought. And then there’s the fun part of pre-planning one’s funeral that you might not have already thought about, where author Barbara Paskoff has it all worked out: “I’m making a guest list. If your name isn’t on it, it means I wouldn’t be caught dead with you.”
While each topic lends itself almost as a personal essay through the author’s own experiences, the messages conveyed remain effective, providing enough of an overview for the reader to make their own informed decisions and draw on their own conclusions, supported with both summaries and professional resources neatly tying up each chapter end.
I read through this book with the greatest of interest, particularly because I’m not yet sixty and, with saying that, I believe this book is not just precise for readers of that age group, nor is it gender specific; however, I did find that the book tends to lean a little more towards female interest than male. In fact, readers in their fifties (like myself) would find this book with true appreciation, providing a much-needed and important early insight, where time is the essence and pre-knowledge could hold the key before things sneak-up announced, which might, in fact, give a greater opportunity to overcome or avoid some obstacles otherwise left too late.
This a straight-forward, positive, go-to-guide that offers pre-planning and foresight on entering and living through our later years of life that will become a great resource for reference.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Bryce Courtenay on Writing and other stuff

Recently I picked up a copy of Bryce Courtenay's
The Silver Moon - Reflections on Life, Death and Writing.
I have to be honest, out of eight titles I own of Bryce Courtenay's, I have only managed to read two of them from start to finish.  April Fools Day, published in 1993 was one of those titles, the other was The Power Of One, published in 1989. 

The Silver Moon is a portrait of Bryce's work where he as the title suggests reflects upon his life before, during and after becoming a popular fiction writer.  You get to see Bryce not only as a writer / storyteller but as a husband, father and friend.  

I loved reading through and absorbing the abundance of advice he provides for anyone who wants to be a good writer, to improve their writing and grasp the basic necessity's in understanding what is most important in being successful in storytelling.  

I wish I had been fortunate enough to attend one of Bryce Courtenay's masterclasses. I think the personal gratification in meeting him and learning from his valuable lessons would've been second to none.  His courses stretched out over five days within several countries including Australia - with the National Library of Canberra home to these classes.  I think it would've been nice to look back, especially now Bryce Courtenay has passed away and say, I was fortunate enough to meet and learn from this guy.  

Here's a quote that stood out for me.  It's not just a play on words, a thought or process, but it resonates and has meaning, it's the truth and everyone can place themselves somewhere within this tier of life.
"You live three lives.  
One growing up; one being responsible, paying the mortgage and having kids, and one being yourself.  I'm in my third stage." he tells.

One of Bryce's teachings of writing, not just popular fiction, but any writing, is considering your reader as paramount ( treat them as a fourth protagonist) after all your telling them the story and their listening attentively, so keep their attention alive.

"Writing is about practice and practice takes time."

"Writing requires thinking at a deeper level than most things, and most writers find that they grow intellectually in the process of writing."

If you're a writer, like myself, then perhaps like me you understand the last passage.  I often have people say to me I'm a deep thinker, but I've never associated that thought with me as a writer; now I do.  And yes, as writers we must become more intellectual because we learn so much through writing.

The Silver Moon, should be every writers ambition to read at least once; for me, I believe it should be an essential addition among my books on writing, taking pride of place among the rest of them. I'm so glad I picked this book up at the library and got to read it, learn from it and gain a respect for Bryce Courtenay I wouldn't have otherwise known.   
"I'm a storyteller.
Some people are plumbers, some people are doctors, some are lawyers.
I'm a storyteller."

Thursday, 5 July 2018

NEW BOOK TITLE - Our Own Little Fictions

Hi bloggers, well as you all should know by now I have an unrelenting addiction for memoir, so I have ceased the opportunity to showcase Ron Rhody's latest piece of work titled Our Own Little Fictions (ironically).

Ron's book received a 4 star rating review from San Francisco Book Review, which is available to read below, and available for purchase at the following link Amazon, happy reading.
Our Own Little Fictions by Ron Rhody
 San Francisco Book Review – 4 Stars

Book Summary
This is a story about a slice of time, and a place, and cluster of people worth remembering. It begins in a small river town in the Bluegrass of Kentucky and concerns itself with beginnings and becomings, with home places and who you can count on, and where untaken roads lead. A few early readers comments “A beautifully written remembrance of a young man lifted and loved through the sheer ordinariness of family and coming of age. Well worth the read.” - Cynthia Kasabian, CKB Consultants, San Francisco. "An unconventional book but strangely engaging. Not a 'must read.' But definitely a 'glad I did read.'" - Annette Bowen, Inside/Outside, Atlanta. “Fascinating! This book is like a conversation on paper.” - Charlie Baglan, Kentucky Afield radio, Frankfort, Ky. “Deeply personal, often moving.” - Bob Irelan, author, Rancho Murrieta. Ca. "Thought provoking. It causes readers, especially in today's all-consuming digital world, to reflect on how memories have shaped their lives." - Joseph Piedmont, Gallatin Public Affairs (Ret.) Portland, Or. Each life is a story. Each story is unique. If we don’t tell each other our stories, how will we know what life is all about? Pretend you’re listening.

According to Ron Rhody’s wife, he is not eligible for authoring a memoir. He hasn’t won an Oscar or an MVP or a Nobel prize. And yet Rhody has a story he wants, needs, to tell. His story. And so that’s how he will tell it to us: as one of Our Own Little Fictions.

Reminiscent of Sarah Polley’s documentary Stories We Tell, Rhody meanders through his memory and down the real roads he’s traveled all over the U.S., from his beloved Frankfort, Kentucky, to California and back (via Florida and Alabama) and then back out to California. Along this circuitous route through his youth, manhood, and ancestry, we encounter all sorts of colorful characters, historical events, family triumphs, and tragedies, which in large part amount to the man whose story we’re being told.

The place closest to Rhody’s heart is clearly Frankfort, Kentucky. It is there his father, a newspaperman, fought for civil rights and to put down roots for his forward-thinking family. Though a wanderlust would uproot the Rhodys and send them all over the U.S., Kentucky kept calling them back to the heart of the heart of their country. In Our Little Fictions, Frankfort is origin and refuge, and it serves as the Ithaca of the author’s Odyssey.

These chronicles of Rhody contain all the joy and pain of an American life that spans the Cold War to the present. We meet his parents, grandparents, wife and children, friends and mentors. From animated anecdotes of a hard-nosed football coach doling out life lessons to the memorial for a dear friend and author of “sixteen erudite books,” we witness a life pass in time-lapse frames of laconic, Hemingwayesque prose.

Hemingway and his suicide haunt the narrative beginning to end. On a road trip from California to Kentucky, Rhody and his son make a scheduled detour to Hemingway’s home in Idaho (where he’d put the shotgun in his mouth).

“It seemed wrong that Hemingway had killed himself.
Nature should have gotten him.
Or chance.”
Later in the narrative and earlier in time, news of Hemingway’s suicide reaches Rhody, and he reflects on the premature tragedy, as well as his own (missed?) calling. These two time periods intermingle, and Rhody leaves Idaho with “an answer to a question I hadn’t known I’d asked.” Authorship was an alternative path he’d bypassed only to embark upon late in life.

Late in life, indeed. The long road approaches its end and the loss of loved ones is an inevitability. Each story has the same conclusion, alas, and many of the characters we encounter in this Appalachian saga pass on in heartrending deathbed scenes and austere funerals. The depiction of these tragedies is sentimental, even cliched, but anything less/more would not be true to life. It is the commonality of these cliches that arise in endless variations, like updates of Shakespeare.

No, Ron Rhody is no Prince Hamlet, nor was he meant to be, but his story of “becoming,” with its conduplicatio, terse punch-lines, and homespun wisdom, is one that will always be in need of telling and retelling.

Reviewed By: Steven Felicelli

Ron RhodyAuthor Bio:
Ron Rhody has been a reporter, a sportswriter, and a broadcast journalist before morphing into a career as a corporate public relations executive. He's done four novels. This is his first stab at a "sort-of-memoir." Find more info at     http://www.outerbankspublishing.com

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Being a good book reviewer

Being a good reviewer of books comes with great responsibility.  I recently read that Australian book reviewers are poor at their job, perhaps not being intellectual enough to read deeply into the prose and narrative at hand, or perhaps too lazy in analyzing the writing enough; I don't know?

Considering I'm an Australian reviewer of books, I have to say I'm a little concerned, and now left questioning my own abilities as to whether I'm in fact a good or bad reviewer.  So, with that said, I've done a little research on what makes a good reviewer, and luckily enough I think I'm following the basic rules in giving the books I read justice, along with providing potential readers enough guts for them to establish if these books are for them.

Here, I want to share some of the golden rules of reviewing I've learn't and continue to build on when I'm writing my reviews; after all practice makes perfect so they say.

My take on Golden Rules for Reviewing:

1. Make every review engaging, up-beat and a pleasure for others to read.
2. Include, where you can, a taste of the prose and narrative (this gives the reader an idea if they would want to buy the book). I actually truly believe in this rule.  For one, I always read part of a chapter of a book I think I might be interested in when I pick-up a copy in a bookshop, just so I know if I like the style of writing; this is the same philosophy.
3. Understand and convey what you believe the author wishes to deliver to the reader through their writing. Here, you can provide a direct quotation.
4. Don't place too much emphasis on the plot summary and never, ever give away the ending.
5. Never make a review about the writer or the reviewer, a review is for the reader. It's about sharing ideas and information gathered through your reading, providing entertainment and education for the reader.
6. And always provide an honest review. What I mean by honest is if you didn't think the book works or conveys what is intended, then it is your job to tell the reader why, and show them evidence of your conclusion. Your job is not, however, to criticise the writer.

Reading is such a great pleasure to so many of us, so reviewers need to be committed, knowledgeable and just as scrupulous as their readers to remain successful at what they do.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Author Interview with Nancy Chadwick for San Francisco Book Review

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Picnic At Hanging Rock

The return of an all time classic, Picnic At Hanging Rock, has now been 
re-mastered and made into a mini-series that has everyone talking.

 The story revisits when a private girls boarding school in Victoria in 1900 plans a picnic on St Valentine's Day at Macedon's Hanging Rock.  Following lunch amid the afternoon, four of the girls, Miranda, Edith, Irma and Marion, set off to explore and climb the Hanging Rock with their teacher Ms McCraw. In an unexplained dream-like event, everyone except Edith vanishes 'into the rock'.
The biggest mystery is when Edith returns to the group in hysterics and can't detail or explain what happened, sending the surrounding town into mayhem.
When the public and police search for the missing girls; Irma is found unconscious but unharmed at the rock. From there the story takes on major twists and plots including students and staff leaving unexpectedly; a schoolgirl committing suicide and the headmistress jumping off Hanging Rock, killing herself.
What is left for the reader to determine is if Joan Lindsay's 'Picnic At Hanging Rock,' is a work of fiction or fact? What do you think?

Saturday, 14 April 2018

How to be a book reviewer by Allena Tapia

    Hi bloggers, I am currently looking at book reviewing as my most current interest topic of writing, and came across this article by Allena Tapia which I found to give some very sound advice as far as starting out on the book reviewing platform. I wanted to share this as well as keep it close on hand for reference. If this is an area you're also interested in I hope it helps. Reviews can of course be new titles and older, I guess the focus would be on newer titles, but older titles / classics are in my opinion just as good to plug a book that resonates with you and could offer another reader some great reading. Start your platform with Goodreads and build your audience. Hope to hear from you guys on these platforms. Meredith
    01 First, Act Like a Book Reviewer: Review Books, A LOT
    Being a paid book reviewer likely sounds like a plum job for many writers, who generally love reading as much as writing. Despite this, it's certainly not a pipe dream. Seriously, I'm a real person, and I do it every day. There is indeed paid work available for book reviewers.
    The first step is to obtain books on your own (at your own expense) and publish reviews on open platforms like Goodreads or Amazon. This helps the writer in several ways. First, it keeps you on top of the recent releases in your interest areas and genres. This is important because reviewing focuses on recent releases (with a few exceptions). It also teaches you the process of writing a book review. Interacting with other writers, reviewers and readers will help to shape your prose. You'll also get the chance to observe their review styles. Last, you may begin to develop a following of fans who appreciate your reviews and writing style. It is from this following that you build your audience for later endeavors.
    02 Develop Your Own Book Review Outlet
    Once you've got the hang of reviewing books, you'll want to develop a site or niche where you can publish your work yourself, such as a fan page or a blog. It helps to establish you as an expert, and puts the focus on you as a reviewer/brand, as opposed to Amazon reviews, which people may not associate as much with the review authors. It also serves to gather your prose/writing in one area/profile, which you can then use later on as evidence of your beautiful prose style and sparkling reviewer's wit. At this point, you are still generally shouldering the cost of the books yourself. However, there are platforms and site such as BookSneeze, which gives free books to some bloggers in exchange for published reviews. Personally, I recommend starting a book review blog, as you are in full control, and may even be able to monetize the site and begin earning pay for your reviews that much earlier. Also, you can then open your blog/site up to authors who are seeking reviews or doing blog tours. It might mean that you'll then start getting your books for free from the author/publishers. It also means that you'll be privy to brand new releases- ones that may not even be available to the public yet. Again, this will serve to underline you as an expert. Another bonus is that you begin to build relationships with those authors/publishers. Often, the books that you receive from these relationships and from places like BookSneeze are Advanced Readers Copies. It is a "rough draft" of the book produced for first readers and reviewers. These ARCs costs less to produce and can be sent out early, even if the final book isn't completely done. Also, ARCs can't be sold/resold on Amazon.com. It helps keep the new releases under wraps and keeps the profits with the publisher! If you can cultivate a relationship with a publisher at this point, you may have the good fortune of being put on their marketing/publicity list. It means that they'll send you emails or catalogs asking you which of their new releases you'd like a copy of. What a book lovers dream!
    03 Gather Your Documents Together
    It is now almost time to start chasing those paid opportunities. But, you need to prepare! Gather together your best reviews- the ones in which your prose just flows, and your passion is evident. Format them attractively and save them as a PDF. Also, if this particular review is on a site, save the URL, too, as some book reviewing jobs ask for links.
    Next, prepare a resume focusing first on your book reviewing credits and skills, and second on your other writing credits and skills. Yes, it's true, some outlets who are in a position to pay book reviewers may request a traditional resume. However, they're not looking for a list of every job you've had in the past 5 to 10 years. They're looking for evidence of your writing/reviewing ability. Be sure to learn about how to write a job resume if you need help with this step.
    Your last document will be a cover letter. It will generally be the text of an email responding to open jobs/projects. Put together a basic cover letter for a generic book review position, and then slant it for each potential project.
    04 Pursue Paid Book Reviewing Jobs/Projects
    It's time to start making some dough. Even if you're hoping to focus on reviewing for specific magazines, or reviewing for a particular leader in the industry, I still recommend that you build up your credentials and give yourself some monetary encouragement by getting some paid work. Look for specific freelance writing jobs that ask for book reviewers. Yes, there are a few here and there. I run into this request at least once a month through my established freelance writing jobs lists. If you find an opportunity that you want to take up, respond specifically (tailor your cover letter) and quickly (as these guys get inundated fast). Don't be discouraged if you don't get a response. It is a volume game. When someone puts such an attractive job out there on the WWW, they likely have their pick of the litter. Keep trying.
    You may pick up some regular clients in this manner, which is always good, since, hey, you've reached your goal! You are now a paid book reviewer! (But read on anyway.)  Generally, these companies, sites, or publications have a relationship with the publisher, so you'll likely receive the review copy from your new client. It may vary, though.
    One side note here. There are often authors or companies that pay reviewers for positive reviews. It is an ethical consideration for you if you want to continue and be accepted in the book reviewing field. Generally, a reviewer is thought to be an impartial source.
    Check out this New York Times article on paid book reviewers for more information.
    05 Pitch to Magazines, Journals and Newspapers
    Now that you're an established book reviewer with a few (paid) clips in your portfolio, the next level could be getting your reviews placed in publications- both print and online. It might net you a wider audience, and certain publications net you some cred as a writer/reviewer. Also, print publications may pay a bit better, too.When I say "publications," I am including the big guys here: Booklist from the ALA, Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly. Of course, you may want to start smaller, such as with a regional rag, and build up to the power players, right?
    I've covered how to query magazines extensively on this site, and the process is similar to book reviews. However, there might be a bit of variety. For example, some editors may want to see the review in total, as opposed to pitch or query letters. Some may list you as an ongoing potential reviewer, one in a pool, and send you books that match your stated interests or expertise areas every so often. Some may come to you with potential titles, whereas some may let you pitch titles that you think their readership would like.
    Finding outlets that accept book reviews is similar to finding magazines to publish your other written work: start with the Writers Market or visit the magazine's website.
    06 Keep Current and Get Educated
    Retain your status as a paid, professional book reviewer by staying current and relevant in the field. Keep on top of new releases, specifically those in your favorite genres. In addition, most major book sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble have sections regarding upcoming releases. Following publishers on Twitter, or signing up for their marketing emails may also result in insider scoops.
    In addition, consider joining the National Book Critics Circle, a professional association for book reviewers. They offer education and networking resources for reviewers, along with updated listings of potential outlets. Wondering why this recommendation is at the end of your process? It's because the NBCC is open to professional reviewers who can show published review clips. Now, t
    Updated November 12, 2017

Over Sixty-Shades of Gray: A Journey Through Life's Later Years

Here is one of the latest titles I've recently had the pleasure to review, I enjoyed this read and highly recommend it to anyone 50+ ...