Sunday Salon

I have been catching up with my book reviews; two novels, a poetry anthology and two novellas / short stories. Authors from England, the USA and Australia. Yeshiva Girl was the novel that stood out for me and I was delighted that Amazon posted my review after my recent experiences. I post all my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, you can see Amazon’s response to Finding David, but I have not yet heard back from Amazon on the other three. So the mystery continues; I and other reviewers have concluded it could be the rule that you must have spent £50, or fifty of something in your own currency, in one year to be able to leave a review. As Amazon allows authors to sell their e-books for as little as 99 pence this does not make sense. Nor does it make sense they accept a review for one book and not another. In the meantime, enjoy a look at five very different books and writers.

 

Yeshiva Girl by Rachel Mankowitz

 5.0 out of 5 stars A novel that will stay with me.

12 August 2019

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I came across this novel after reading a review by another English blogger. I thought if an English agnostic chap could be so moved by a story of a New York Jewish girl it must be special. I went over to read the author’s blog and was even more keen to read. Being a teenager involves lots of angst wherever you live, with the pressures of school, friends and awakening sexuality. If you also lived in a tight community and had dark secrets how would you cope? I am fascinated with closed communities of any sort and I really felt I had an insight into the hows and whys of the orthodox way of life. Teenagers are attracted to the security of belonging to a group and some of the teenagers in this story wanted to follow a strict orthodox life, not just because their parents had put them in that position. In the meantime, our heroine is trying to make sense of her parents’ and grandparents’ lives and she is trying to tell people what happened to her. Gradually she reveals to the reader.

 

Life and Other Dreams by Richard Dee

What does happen when we dream; as far as I know, no one is sure, but most of us don’t keep returning to the same dream. I was soon wrapped up in Rick’s story and Dan’s life on a planet in the future which was totally realistic. Each story was so involving the reader might forget about the other side, but both lives get more complicated and the two worlds are brought together dramatically. This is the first novel I have read by this author, but I would look forward to reading more.

 

 Small Town Kid  by Frank Prem

This is the first time I have downloaded poetry onto my Kindle. I had read some of the author’s verses on line which led me to buy this and his following collection.  The verse, without punctuation, words kept to a minimum, is liberating. I was gently lulled into the first poem, setting the scene for a quiet country town. Delicious cooking, a wedding, church on Sunday, but suddenly a letter changes Sundays. Then there is a picnic, a picnic bigger than most of us have known. All life is here including the outhouse.  The boy grows, school, seasons, school report, growing up, the town changes with modern life, friends lost and in the last verse closing the circle.

 

Finding David by Stevie Turner

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Finding David: A Paranormal Short Story ★★★★★   from Janet Gogerty on 15 August 2019
 
Not your usual missing person story.
 
People go missing all the time; when a child goes missing it’s every parent’s nightmare and never knowing can perhaps be worse. The author turns the usual missing person story on its head. Would you talk to a psychic, would you trust them? Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, would you take the chance of ignoring a loved one trying to contact you from the other side? We are soon swept along in this novella and the reader is not sure who to trust, nor is David’s mother Karen as her marriage is threatened.
 
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Samantha

I was interested to see what other reviewers wrote. This is a short story that races along, but it needs better formatting to do it justice. When a different character speaks the dialogue should start on a new line to make easier reading.

A dark tale that does have a positive ending, but is not a fairy tale, realistically it does not just end happily ever after. I would have loved to have seen the latter part of the story developed as the main characters have more to offer and we would like to see more of how Samantha put the past behind her.

 

sunshine-blogger

Friday Flash Fiction – 800 – Dream Machine

Seth tried to hang on to the memories before he opened his eyes; a whole film in technicolour. He had dreamed a whole movie, a brilliant idea for a novel if he could recall it; write a best seller with film makers flocking to his door… that would be a dream. If only he could connect his brain to his computer, time would not be wasted sleeping, unless it was the fact that he was sleeping that produced the ideas. He jumped as his phone vibrated under his pillow and played that irritating tune. Every morning he vowed to change the tune and every evening he forgot. Whatever the melody, it didn’t alter the fact that he had to get up for work.

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The school Seth taught at bore no resemblance to the one in his dream, where young minds were nurtured and different talents exposed to produce a team of world changing teenagers with Seth sharing a little of the glory, or quite a lot as he was made Prime Minister. Who would play him in the film? He snapped out of his reverie and looked at the surly faces staring at him… and that was just the staff room. Seth put his empty coffee cup down and stood ready to face the afternoon.

‘Hey Seth, you’ve got a new kid in your English class, he’s in my form, Dad’s a scientist and polymath, seen him on television, goodness knows why he sent his son to this school, something about discovering real life.’

‘He was thrown out of his private school,’ said the head of science ‘too clever for his own good.’

Seth felt his hackles rise; they should be encouraging the clever kids, not putting them down. He strode down the corridor with an idea for the warm up pen and paper creative exercise.

The class was unusually quiet, gathered round the new boy who was talking enthusiastically, his long fingers gesticulating elegantly to illustrate his subject.

‘Without any discussion class, write for fifteen minutes imagining you could plug your brain into a computer while you slept.’

Unusually they settled down quickly. Seth sauntered casually between the desks, the new boy was scribbling furiously, words and hieroglyphics.

‘Isaac isn’t it?’

‘Yes Sir.’

At least the private school had taught him manners.

‘Named after Newton or Asimov?’

‘Both Sir.’

‘Do you enjoy writing?’

‘When it’s my favourite topic, good choice Sir, my father and I have just invented such a device. It didn’t go down too well at my last school, getting the pupils to volunteer; perhaps you would like to have a go?’

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So on Friday evening Seth found himself relaxing on a comfortable bed in a very pleasant room with electrodes attached to his head; he didn’t expect it to work, but he did have an idea for a new short story about a writer who finds himself  in the hands of mad father and son scientists. It was rather creepy being in the company of the two most intelligent people he had ever met.

‘Our initial aim is to discover if brain waves will translate into images or words or perhaps both’ said Isaac’s father.

Seth drifted off quickly. He was on board the International Space Station with  Isaac and his father and the attractive married science teacher he fancied; also bizarrely his mother and the middle aged lady who worked on the till at the Co Op. They had a fantastic plan for saving the Earth from climate change, if only he could remember what the plan was… he woke up with a start.

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‘Great, we’ve got some images already.’

Seth looked at the screen as he sipped a welcome cup of tea. A beautiful view of the earth, a view inside the space station, well anybody could get those images off the internet… but not pictures of his mother and everyone in his dream, the lady still in her Co Op uniform, the science teacher in a very short skirt and low cut blouse, floating around showing her figure to full effect. Isaac chuckled.

‘Hey Sir, you fancy Mrs Greening.’

Seth ignored the remark. ‘But we’re not talking, I’m not sure if we spoke in the dream, but we had a plan…’ he rubbed his temples ‘to save the earth.’

‘Let’s try the word document then’ said Isaac’s father.

Seth thrilled when he saw words come up on the screen, he’d written a book in his sleep, he peered closer, something was wrong…

I Captain odf the mosat brillainteam o severs sent up my mother fopr got to,mask me to get milkat the shops mrs greening saya her husband is dead so its okayforhet come up herthees the moonnt asbigasithoughtihave togobalc toearth itstime forscgool wonder if the shuttle is working todayknoitdoesb’tworkanymore ohohmyspacesuitdoesn;t fit ishallppbably implode otrisitsexplode ionspace………….

sunshine-blogger

For more stories, have a look in the book.

 

Into Infinity

Writing about infinity presents endless possibilities. Most of my scientific understanding comes from listening to BBC Radio Four while doing the housework or cooking. The Infinite Monkey Cage is a programme combining comedy and science which I can understand, then there was the serialisation of Professor Stephen Hawking’s last book Brief Answers to Big Questions; if I didn’t take that all in I blame it on domestic interruptions or a noisy washing machine.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00snr0w

Here is my handy guide to the universe. I think Stephen Hawking said the universe is growing, therefore at one time it must have been smaller and long ago so small it was nothing; one minute it was nothing and the next minute there was a big bang. I prefer my theory that if the universe is infinite it will go on forever, so it must have always been here forever.

But how big is infinity? The edge of the observable universe is 46.5 billion light years away, but we can’t see if there is an edge to it or work out how much more of it there is. Apparently even clever scientists, who can cope with the thought of billions of light years, still find infinity a bit creepy. They are no different to young children ( or was that just me? ) who ask ‘Who made the universe?’

‘God’ the parent replies and then they ask

‘But who made God’ or ‘What’s outside the universe?’

Another theory is that the universe could curve round on itself, making it both finite and infinite. Could that mean time goes in a circle and if we crossed the circle with a diameter or a chord we would be in a different time, thus making time travel possible? But is time merely an illusion? If so, time travel is still on the cards…

Talking of space, there is a lot of space between atoms and inside atoms; if you took all the empty space in the atoms that make up a human being, a person would be a lot smaller than a grain of salt. If you removed all the empty space from the atoms that make up all the humans on the planet, we could all fit inside an apple. If we removed the spaces between and inside all the atoms in the solar system it could fit it inside a thimble, so perhaps the universe is not so big after all.

Whatever the truth, authors who enjoy writing about time travel are never going to concede that time travel is impossible. Science fiction writers in general vary from those who are scientists to those who make it all up and who can prove them wrong if they set it in the future; unless a book reviewer travels to the future to check…

If you want to stretch your mind and go somewhere different why not dip into Someone Somewhere.

 

Friday Flash Fiction – 1K

Two Minutes Later

 It was one of those perfect moments that are rare; my body still tingling from the sea and soaking in the warmth of the sun, I wrapped my white finger tips round a mug of fresh coffee. In the blue skies above, vintage aeroplanes soared and swooped. While others stood on the crowded cliff tops in the baking sun, I enjoyed the privacy and comfort of my little shady window box on the world. The four figure beach hut rates for a six by six wooden box, one tier above the promenade, were worth it for this moment alone.

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I looked at my watch as I polished off my sandwich, 1.30 pm; another hour and I would plunge back into the sea. In the meantime it was inevitable that I would drift off to sleep… the sunlight was red through my eyelids, the planes and waves together made soothing background music.

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Two minutes later a chill on my skin prompted me to open my eyes. I looked at my watch, 1.32pm and closed them again. But a voice penetrated my oblivion.

‘You’ve let your tea go cold.’

‘Geoff, I thought you were on the cliff top taking photos, no peace for the wicked.’

‘What… I thought you’d be in a panic to get ready for work.’

‘Work?’

‘You’re late shift…’

Reluctantly I opened my eyes, wondering if my husband had gone mad. He was sitting next to me and peering over the top of his newspaper.

‘Good thing we didn’t move to Bournemouth, look at all those crowds on the beach for the Air Festival.’

‘But we did… and we’ve got a beach hut…’

He carried on talking as if everything was normal ‘…and as for getting your dream beach hut, long waiting list and much too expensive apparently.’

Something was wrong, very wrong and I could not avoid the evidence of my eyes. We were sitting in the garden of 29, Mildred Crescent, Harmonton. I recognised it even though the trees and shrubs had grown a lot in the seven years since we moved away; this was turning out to be a very vivid dream, a nightmare. I looked at my watch again, 1.34pm. If I closed my eyes I could finish the dream and wake up at the beach hut.

17

We had both taken early pensions from work, I loved working at Heathrow, but I did not intend to spend the rest of my life living in Harmonton, Middlesex; the sea beckoned. Geoff was equally determined not to end up like his boring parents living in the same road all their married lives, round the corner. We had never regretted the decision.

The sun must have gone behind a cloud, I felt chilly. I should have changed out of my wet swimming costume, my beach towel must have fallen off. I looked down at my lap and saw my old skirt, I turned my head to see my old pink blouse.

‘Are you okay,’ said Geoff ‘shall I phone in and say you’re sick.’

‘Er… I’m fine, I had this strange dream we were still in Harmonton.’

‘Ha, ha, very funny… was that the door bell, is Marion giving you a lift to work?’

I shook my head in disbelief; Marion who I felt sorry for, guilty even, when I handed in my resignation and she realised it was true, I really was going. We’d worked together for years, lived close; I had been an aunty to her children. She was never going to leave Harmonton and I was never going to stay. We popped up to visit at first, but their seaside holidays with us never materialised, we made new friends, she wasn’t on Facebook…

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I looked up and there she was, hair different, a few more lines.

‘Don’t blame you for dozing in the garden, that’s what I hate about late shift, I’ll admire Geoff’s vegetable beds while you get changed, don’t be long, we can’t both be late and don’t forget your ID pass this time.’

If I stood up I would wake up and stop my past playing out in my dreams. I walked towards the back door, the scent of Alyssum tumbling over the edge of the patio was so real I bent down to pick a sprig, I crushed the tender stalks in my fingers. I reached out for the back door handle, it was solid and very real. I walked through into the old kitchen I’d been a little sad to leave behind. Then it had been stylish, now it looked very tired compared with the fitted kitchen in our Bournemouth flat.

Now there was a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. This house was no dream; I dashed frantically up the familiar stairs into the bedroom; yellow and blue, what had happened to the dated eighties pink flowered wallpaper? My work uniform was hanging up on a strange wardrobe…

I stumbled down the stairs, I didn’t want to face the truth, there was still a chance to wake myself up. Out in the street we got into a strange car, not strange to Marion though.

‘Marion, remind me why we’re doing this, still working at the airport?’

She laughed. ‘We’re not getting our state pensions yet and you said you would go mad with boredom staying at home now Geoff’s retired.’

‘I had this vivid dream when I was dozing in the garden, I was sitting in my own beach hut, we lived in Bournemouth.’

‘That was a dream for sure, you’d never get Geoff to move, remember when you suggested it years ago?’

I certainly did and now I knew the unthinkable had happened, I had slipped into my alternative future, a future where nothing had happened except our bedroom being redecorated. Geoff had become his boring father, not the new man who hiked in the New Forest and followed tide timetables for his photography. Boring Geoff was happy with his vegetable beds and fish pond and would never move away while his parents were still alive, or when they were dead. Now I remembered the alternative past seven years, the mortgage paid off and money kept sensibly in the bank. Geoff would not even contemplate a caravan. I let out a silent scream.

 

For more short stories, open the book and have a look.

 

Friday Flash Fiction – SixSixty

In Good Spirits

I had hoped to get on the computer this evening to follow up my research at the local library, but my husband’s idiot friend Paul was coming round for dinner with some new update, App or whatever they call them. For all I know he could be a computer genius; as I am a technophobe who only knows how to Google I have no way of judging. Both men dispatched the meal quickly, eager to play with the grown up toy. I was only half listening to what Paul was saying with his mouth full.

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‘I’ve really done it this time, what Houdini and Arthur Connan Doyle failed to do; you two are going to be the first to try it out. You both must know some dead people.’

‘What are you talking about Paul?’ I finally asked.

‘Ouija-App, Soulbook, Ethernet; not sure what I’m going to call it yet, that doesn’t matter, the point is it works, it’s true.’

‘What is?’ asked my husband.

‘Haven’t you been listening? I started from the premise that there is nothing out there, only electricity and the radio waves living people have broadcast. Then I formulated the search on the theory that if we did survive after death we would most likely be in a form of electrical energy, after all, don’t our brains work with electrical impulses?’

‘You are no scientist, nor a doctor’ laughed my husband.

‘That’s an advantage, my ideas are fresh and unfettered.’

‘So who did you contact?’

‘Somebody I had never heard of… all the better, I could not know anything about him.’

‘No proof that he ever existed.’

‘Yes, he told me where to find his gravestone.’

‘Another computer geek is just having you on, he was their great granddad or they looked him up on the internet.’

‘No reference to him on Wikipedia, a nobody who lived and died and left nothing behind except the epitaph.’

‘Not a very interesting person to chat to on the other side’ I said.

‘On the contrary, he had fantastic ideas when he was alive, but nobody listened to him. He has been waiting for someone like me to get in touch.’

‘Pudding, coffee?’

‘Bring coffee upstairs to the computer, let’s get started.’

I felt the first misgivings. ‘Are you actually serious?’

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‘There he is, my Facebook friend Nathanial.’

Indeed, there was a black and white picture of a Dickensian character.

‘People put old photos on Facebook all the time’ said my husband.

‘But the photos don’t usually write their own comment… look.’

Hello Paul, couldn’t find a better photo than this, I see you have your two cynical friends with you.

Paul tapped at the keyboard, words appeared in the comment box.

‘Give them a chance, this is all new to them.’

A reply came back straight away.

Perhaps they would like to meet the original inhabitants of this house?

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A shiver went down my spine, we lived in an old house, I had been researching its history, but perhaps I could play Paul at his own game.

‘Let me type a comment.’

I tapped in ‘Yes I would, if they tell me their names and when they lived here.’

Words appeared instantly in the comments box.

Benjamin and Martha Helston, married 20th June 1876, took the lease on this house 5th July 1876, were blessed with a son Samuel James 8th September1877 and two daughters…

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‘Stop, this is creepy, have you been looking at my research notes Paul?’

The writing on the screen continued, while I found the paper notes I had taken at the local library just that afternoon.

…and you can see where he marked his height on his tenth birthday –  on the scullery wall where you stripped off that ghastly wallpaper recently.

My husband gasped. ‘Of course SJH, those markings prompted your interest in the history, didn’t they Love, but we haven’t shown Paul yet what we’re doing in that room…’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction Fantasy

                                      Andromeda Advertiser                           

       The Hotel Inspector

 How long would you spend in suspended animation to reach a one planet solar system? How many holidaymakers would be prepared to trek across the universe to visit the only habitable planet in a third rate solar system? Planet Gaia has only one moon and an outdated space station; what it does have is water and this is the main selling point in their first venture into intergalactic tourism.

The second unusual feature is its tilted axis, which gives it a great variety of climates to choose from. The downside? The brochures omit to mention the unpredictable nature of the locals, or even to explain which is the prime species.

Our tour started when we woke up on the moon, quaintly called Lunar Base. From here we enjoyed wonderful views of the shining blue planet; this alone made the trip worthwhile. We had yet to meet our hosts.

Next stop was the antiquated space station which must be pre booked due to lack of space, but essential if you wish to orbit Gaia.

By the time we landed on the planet we were ready for a meal. We had chosen a tiny island with a mild climate which boasted large colonies of homosapiens. The hotel itself was on the edge and not for the faint hearted unused to water.

This was when the tour began to lose some of its starlight. How do the locals expect to attract tourists without making any effort to learn their language? Even the sign language was limited by their possession of only two arms. It can only be presumed that the more intelligent species live in the oceans, but we did not have time for the underwater trips, nor was our travel agent accredited for this risky expedition.

Our meal was surprisingly tasty and we were soon ready for our guided tour. Having come this far I was determined to put my foot in the water which is called by many names; here it was flat, thin, perfectly safe and called sea. The sensation was not unpleasant and we also enjoyed watching the homosapiens splashing around making their mating calls.

Our party of three and a half was booked in for five days, but the brochure skimmed over the fact that the days are very short, making the stay poor value for money. The ablution facilities consisted of more water, with no sign of any hot dust. Our first night was cramped and uncomfortable; we should have been advised to book more than one room.

The most fascinating aspect was the rapid change of atmospheric conditions. We had not been guaranteed rain, so we were delighted on the second day when the hotel was pounded by strong air currents full of water. From our viewing platform we could see the water had now turned to waves and we were glad to be in the shelter of the hotel.

How did I rate the experience? Mixed; frankly we were glad that the days were so short. I gave our accommodation five suns.

 

 

Silly Season

2018 looks set to be as doom filled and gloom laden as 2017 and the actions of our leaders as silly and unbelievable as ever. Individuals feel powerless, but the beginning of a new year is the time for individuals to get their own lives in order, a more achievable goal perhaps. But what is taken seriously by one person might seem plain silly to their family or Facebook friends, the latter being the ones who will have to read ad nauseam about their lofty aims. If you became healthier and wealthier after Sober October, perhaps you will be inspired by Veganuary. While millions waste money on annual gym membership for one assessment, a few laps of the pool, a sit in the sauna and a go on the cross trainer that resulted in a pulled muscle, others might decide this is the year  they train for a marathon, or seven marathons in one week across Africa…

Why don’t we just have a silly season instead, to brighten up northern winters or celebrate southern summers. What would your sillutions be? To acquire more Facebook friends in North Korea or Antarctica, to take up guerrilla knitting and dress all the lampposts in your street or why not turn your house inside out; bring the garden indoors with artificial lawn, trees in pots, house rabbits and free range parakeets?

Or you could spend January in the world of fiction and enjoy strange surroundings and events without annoying those you live with. I hope to be busy writing, finishing my latest novel, which has some very strange events and penning a few short stories. In the meantime ‘Someone Somewhere’ will take you into spring and summer with two strange novellas and other weird tales.

Do you kNow who you Are?

If someone wanted to make a clone of you they could; people are already getting their dead dogs cloned, claims have been made that humans have been cloned. Most people have had a blood test of some sort, many of us have parted with gallons of blood to the NHS at blood donor sessions. If a blood sample was secreted away to the establishment of a mad or bad scientist they could be making clones of you at this very moment, supplying childless couples perhaps, it’s unlikely you would recognise your baby self in a pram. Or perhaps your hapless clone is being reared in a laboratory at this very moment for experimentation purposes, would your clone inherit your memory, is our DNA who we really are?

Recently I thought it would be fun to have a go at one of those on line tests, AncestryDNA. It involved spending money and quite a wait and how would we know the results were genuine? This particular test did not involve tracing your mitochondrial DNA back to Neanderthal man; it merely shows you what percentage of people in areas of the world share your DNA and is totally biased towards the Americas and Europe, because the system works on the basis of the data they have already collected. Did I believe the results? Yes; my husband’s results were neatly divided in half as we expected, although his born and bred Scottish half was classified as Ireland, a look at the map clarified that Ireland also covers Scotland and Wales.

I was hoping for something exotic, but was disappointed, I blame my parents; it seems I was neither mysteriously adopted nor are there any skeletons in our family cupboard. However I am only 14% Great Britain, so my gut instinct to voted Remain in the Eurpean Union Referendum was correct, I am 77% Europe West. The other 9% grey area of ‘low confidence region’ with some European Jewish, Irish, north west Russian and a dash of Iberian does add a bit of seasoning to the mix.

We have not so far delved into tracing family trees, finding out who shares similar DNA, but I did agree to accept a message from a name I’d never heard of and was astonished when one set of grandparents’ names came up. The granddaughter of my grandmother’s brother had traced me! I had never met this great uncle because he and his wife emigrated to Canada before they had their children. Perhaps my grandmother vaguely mentioned her older brother, but I now know for certain I have lots of Canadian relatives.

But does our DNA really matter? Only an adopted person who has never been able to trace a single blood relative can answer that question. We are all individuals who have to make what we can of our lot in life; the adopted person might be moved to have a large family of their own, or perhaps they will be forever genetically unique.

Depending on your religious beliefs  you might subscribe to the wardrobe theory; the true individual a soul waiting to be popped in to any available baby body until the return to heaven or reincarnation, or perhaps you think our whole personality and memories are passed on through our genes.

DNA remains a delightful mystery for lay people and a source of inspiration for writers. My novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ explores what happens when the DNA of ordinary people is tampered with.