Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dying For It - A Preview Of Eat, Pray, Die by Chelsea Field.

Eat, Pray, Die (An Eat, Pray, Die Humorous Mystery, #1)Eat, Pray, Die by Chelsea Field

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being an undercover poison taster for the rich and famous might sound glamorous, but for Isobel Avery it means stomaching bad clients and even worse coffee.

The one side of the job that lives up to expectations is the money. Which is just as
well for Izzy, since she needs an awful lot of it. Who knew when she made a lifelong commitment to a man that it would be one year living with him and the rest of her life paying for it.

But even her scoundrel ex-husband doesn’t look so bad compared to her new client. He’s competent, condescending, and annoyingly attractive, and Izzy doesn’t know whether to sleep with him or poison him herself. Throw in a loan-shark, a nosy neighbor, and a murder attempt, and Izzy will have her work cut out for her

Eat, Pray, Die is a sexy and stylish mystery/thriller with no shortage of smart dialogue and taut action scenes combined with an engaging and involving mystery from the get go.

Chelsea Field's protagonist, Isobel Avery, is a classic fish out of water heroine - an attractive and plucky young Australian who navigates her way through the highly polished chintz of LA's celebrity obsessed culture in the role of a poison taster to the rich and famous. Working for a shadowy agency, Isobel is hired as a "Shade" by wealthy clients who are targeted by enemies by way of poisoning and it is her job to neutralise any threats by tasting their food.

When one of her colleagues falls victim to a particularly dangerous poison, Isobel is paired with the enigmatic - and decidedly "rugged" - operative Connor and together they embark on a desperate race against the clock to uncover an enemy who is determined to foil them. Isobel Avery is appealing wide eyed and, perhaps overwhelmed by the responsibilities she has taken on, but she is also resourceful, with a keen eye and an analytical mind and it doesn't take long for her to embrace her role of investigator with gusto.

Paired with her foil in Connor, I couldn't help but imagine Mad Men's John Ham in the role. There's a satisfying tension between the two and I found their story trajectory really engaging.
Field's writing style is highly polished and she posits some really clever ideas - particularly around the whole celebrity poisons industry. The need to have an agency dedicated to the protection of high profile figures from competitors is fascinating and it offers a unique insight into a world that I found utterly convincing and more than just a little scary. Her grasp of the mystery elements kept me guessing and problem solving which is the mark of a really great piece of genre fiction.

Field visualises the high gloss world of L.A. brilliantly, making the scenes immediately accessible and she finesses her narrative with sensory detail that drew me into the world and kept me there. Her supporting cast are all well drawn and I never knew, from one page to the next just which of them might be the prime antagonist.

Above all, Eat, Pray, Die moves fast. It's an entertaining ride from beginning to end and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

(image credit: Chelsea Field).

Adelaide based author Chelsea Field has lived an exciting life for an introvert.

She’s fallen off a galloping racehorse, faced down dozens of Australia’s most dangerous animals (including vicious roosters, for those of you who’ve read
EAT, PRAY, DIE), and while she’s never sold buns or coffee for a living like her protagonist, she’s consumed plenty of both.

Yes, all of those points are about animals or food. I told you she’s an introvert.

After writing a romantic comedy (no, you can’t read it) where the hero was a photographer from Burnside and then meeting and marrying a photographer from Burnside a few years later, she’s a little worried her writing has weird prophetic fate-like powers. So she makes sure nothing too bad ever happens to her characters, just in case life decides to imitate fiction again.

Purchase Eat, Pray, Die here.

Connect with Chelsea Field here.

Chelsea Field on Amazon here.

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Isolation, Silence & Dysfunctional Fandom.

It's been a week since my surgery.

A long, slow, grinding week, characterized by constant pain, an inability to eat anything more substantial than liquids or pure├Ęs, an inability to form anything more than a few words that register above a whisper. I've spent long hours looking at the walls, wrestling with the most basic of decisions - (should I pick up that empty toilet roll tube off the floor so that the dog doesn't chew it - or no?)

I took a photo of the visible part of my throat last night. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to see it and I when I did see it I was sure that I didn't - and I wish I hadn't.

It is raw. It is mutilated. It is green! There is so much putrid slough in there that mere sight of it makes me want to gag. If only I could gag.

In short - I am thoroughly sick of myself.

I'll understand if you choose to vague out now because I know my misery can be interpreted as self indulgent. But I will say that blogging about this experience has gone some way in helping me cope with the situation.

And I will say that on Thursday, I had a slight bump in energy and motivation - enough that I took my dog Sam for a walk to the park and let him off to run around for a bit. Adelaide's parklands near my house are a wonderful open space, safe from traffic and just perfect for burning off some canine energy. Sam was, of course, as pleased as punch. The walk ruined me but I was glad I did it.

I also did some writing on Thursday. Not much - around two thousand words; but they are new words I've committed to a project I've tentatively called Walhalla - one that I've been trying to get going for a little while now. Again, my concentration collapsed after a few hours but, for a time their, it was really nice to just write something - to have some creativity flowing through me. I have only the vaguest idea of where this material will fit into an eventual story. That doesn't matter to me though. These things can be worked out later.

As I predicted, the pointy end of necessary human interaction is beginning to make itself felt and it is not encouraging. Of the few trips I've made to my local grocer this week, I've found them to be understanding without having to divulge the circumstances of my situation. Other places have regarded me with confusion, a latent suspicion and unabashed antipathy. One lady at the chemist the other day when I was trying to mouth the word tramadol, came right out and said, rather incredulously, "You can talk you know!"

A predictable ignorance.

The minute you hope for understanding, human nature comes in and shits all over it.

So I'm avoiding going out unless it's absolutely necessary. Soon, sadly, it is going to be necessary. I'm dreading that.

I think I'm done with pop culture. Looking through my social network feed this week, I've seen a number of spot fires raging around controversies within the Marvel and Star Wars universes and they are just so hack. Something about Captain America being a Nazi now and, shock horror, the forthcoming Rogue One film has to undergo some reshoots - like that never happens.

The pretentiousness of these hyper fans is really difficult to cope with and I feel as though there is an expectation on the part of some of them to engage in a war to justify some sort of defense of an ideology. It's fucking fiction! It's not key to human survival. Their consistent argument is that "my fandom is bigger than your fandom so your opinion has no validity!" I've encountered this personally in just the past week. It is confronting.

It's indicative to me that fandom is essentially broken and that maybe it is time to abandon certain franchises - *cough* Marvel *cough* that have already been twisted up in so many knots, the ability to ret conn them is virtually useless.

Further, I find that fans in my own beloved franchise have hitched themselves to it in sych a way that they have begun identifying themselves as "Star Wars" celebrities. That, because they flaunt their fandom as though it's some kind of penis symbol, they have assumed the right to be intertwined with the universe - almost as if they were in the fucking films themselves. It is annoying. Infuriating even.

I am trying to pay attention to the Federal Election campaign here currently because I like to think of myself as a responsible civic citizen and I want to take my vote seriously. But, I can't make sense of any of the arguments being put forward by the participating political parties. It's becoming lost in confusion and slogans. The only things the nation seems to have been talking about is the economy, superannuation, tax and jobs. Nothing about the arts. Nothing about social justice issues. Nothing about climate. We are a nation obsessed with money and the problems we face as a nation going forward require more than just money to address them.

But then I'm lost again.

Anyway, I have gone off on a major tangent. But it is illustrative of where my mind is at right now. I am unable to focus on anything for more than a short period of time before I am quickly distracted - then disinterested.

And I sit and look out the window.

There's a toilet roll tube on the top of the fence paling.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Souls Fly With The Crow - A Look At Soul Of A Crow by Abbie Williams.

Soul of a Crow (Dove, #2)Soul of a Crow by Abbie Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is 1868. The country is still reeling from the brutal effects of the Civil War, just a few short years earlier. Lorie Blake, a beautiful young woman orphaned by the War, and who escaped the miserable prison of her life as a prostitute in a Missouri whorehouse, now takes wing, embarking on a breathtaking overland journey northwest. With Lorie is her newfound family – brothers Boyd and Malcolm Carter, experienced horseman Sawyer Davis, and his beloved paint mare, Whistler. For the first time in years, there seems reason to hope. Thrown together by the circumstances of fate, and now deeply bound by love, each of them are determined to begin new lives as homesteaders in Minnesota.

But alas, the past refuses to die quietly. Former Confederate soldiers Sawyer and Boyd are haunted by the scavenger-like specters of a War that refuses to stay buried, a conflict never truly put to rest. New friends emerge and old enemies arise, as ancient hatreds boil over in the hearts of the men who survived. In the face of incredible odds, Lorie must rely upon all of the emotional strength in her soul as she battles for the life of her true love, and towards the enduring promise of a new beginning in the north.

Creating a sweeping epic - one couched in the rich history of the early United States - would be a challenge for anyone wanting to lend authenticity to their story telling. The dedication to research, the teasing out of individual experiences within a given time frame, an adherence to the integrity of historical context are all essential ingredients, even within a fictional narrative.

Abbie Williams achieved these things with the first entry into her trilogy of books under the "Dove" heading titled "Heart Of A Dove". She has returned now, to add a deepening layer to the situations and circumstances of her cast of characters, struggling to make their way in the aftermath of the American Civil War. I have argued previously that Williams' dedication to the historical aspects of that conflict was perhaps the most informative I've ever read. I learned things about it that I would otherwise not have known. And they are intimate accounts too, that Williams' curated during her search for material, private stories, gems of discovery that were previously unknown except to a small few.

(image credit - Central Avenue Publishing).

What struck me - both with Heart of a Dove and now Soul of a Crow - is just how immediate Williams' has made the aftermath of war and how it effects each of her characters in their respective story arcs. In Heart of a Dove, they come to the table as broken people, reeling from the shock of war with little time to digest what it has all meant. In Soul of a Crow, they reflect more on their experience and decisions they made to survive. Their subsequent reactions to it are compelling and thought provoking. It is through the strength of their underlying characters as well as an innate 'something' that Williams' has mixed into her brew that draws them together and sustains them - hopefully towards a brighter day.

With the graceful romantic flourishes that are key to Williams' writing style and a visual tableaux that is evocative of classic cinema, Soul of a Crow is a remarkable addition to Abbie Williams' now signature series.

(Abbie Williams - image credit: Abbie Williams).

Abbie Williams has been addicted to love stories ever since first sneaking her mother's copy of The Flame and the Flower; since then, she's been jotting down stories of her own in notebook after spiral-bound notebook.

Abbie spends her days with her own true love, their three daughters, and a very busy schedule. She is most happy when she can sneak in a few hours to write and thereby indulge in visiting the characters in her stories. 

When Abbie's not writing, teaching or spending time with family, she is listening to her favorite musical groups of all time: Alison Krauss and Union Station, the Wailin' Jennys, and The Be Good Tanyas. If there's time in the evening, she might watch a few episodes of Hell on Wheels and eat a jar of crunchy peanut butter. 

Soul of A Crow is out now.

Visit Abbie Williams here

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I Pledge To Swear & Shake.

Swear & Shake are, arguably, the most beautiful band I have ever heard. Originally hailing from New York and born from the rich and warm, New York folk pedigree with a more recent infusion of Nashville roots, the band brings an intimate and sumptuous musical experience.

Swear and Shake first spun into my orbit about 6 years ago when I discovered their enchanting 5 track EP, appropriately titled "Extended Play" via Frostwire. So taken was I with the recording, I donated some money to them in the hope I would see more from them. 

And they did not disappoint. In 2012, after their first successful Kickstarter campaign (and my own first experience of pledging to such a campaign), Swear & Shake minted their first long play album, The Maple Ridge - as eclectic and yet as sugnature a recording as you will ever find as a band looking to define their sound. Each song was lovingly hewn and brought to life through each band member's unique skills and it is a beautiful acheivement for them. 

In the midst of a move to Nashville, an almost unbroken tour schedule and some minor tweaks to the line-up, they returned to the studio in 2014 to produce their 3rd recording (their 2nd EP) "Ain't That Loving". 

Helmed by the three principals, Adam McHeffey Kari Spieler and Shaun Savage, Swear & Shake are now working on a brand new, long play project called "The Sound Of Letting Go". This promises to be a hand crafted collection of music of the highest integrity and I would encourage you to become lost in their wonder. 

In a collaboration with Pledge Music, a purpose built crowdfunding space, Swear & Shake have put together an impressive list of investment incentives which start at as little as $5 and go right upto $3500 (USD) which will get you a house performance from the band themselves. There's plenty in addition here as the band draws in art and fashion to create merchandise that complements their music which, of course, features at all pledge levels.

Take a look at their project page at Pledge Music and consider supporting them. With around 18 days of their campaign left to go, they are roughly 75% funded. It is no small thing for me to say that they really are a one of a kind musical experience and I guarantee you will not be disappointed by the core mission of this project - an album called "The Sound Of Letting Go."

Do this.