Smorgasbord Book Review by Sally Cronin- #Fantasy – The Hat by C.S. Boyack


One of the books that I enjoyed over the holidays was the novella The Hat from C.S. Boyack… and here is my review.

About the book

Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.

She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.

Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.

Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.

Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.

My review for The Hat.

What a fun escape from the gloom and doom of the world’s woes. I remember trying on a variety of wigs at a costume shop once and as I looked in the mirror I was met with so many different versions of myself… In Lizzie’s case, it is a hat that opens up possibilities and talents that she had no idea existed.

With the very serious baby kidnapping case to solve, initially the hat assumes control encouraging its sceptical partner into action. But, soon Lizzie begins to showcase her own ingenuity and the two of them are unstoppable.

When your life is not particularly fulfilling and you have suffered tough times, it is hard to put your trust in anyone, let alone an antique, inanimate object who tells tall stories about your long dead family members. But, as the story evolves, it is clear that there is a new crime fighting duo in town and they are entertaining as well as effective.

I recommend The Hat as an escape from reality with a well written plot, wit, great characters, including the versatile hat, and the promise of more to come. I am looking forward to Viral Blues the second book in the series.

Read the reviews and buy The Hat: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

A small selection of other books by C.S. Boyack

 Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

AndAmazon UK

Read more reviews and follow C.S. Boyack:  Goodreads

About C.S. Boyack.

I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Connect with Craig.

Blog: Cold Hand Boyack
Twitter: @Virgilante
Facebook: Lisa Burton

Thanks for dropping by today and I hope you have enjoyed my review enough to head over and buy and read the book yourself.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – #BookReview 2014 The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs by The New Yorker by Donna W. Hill


Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

A welcome return to the archive series to Donna W. Hill who has let me loose in her archives..In this post I go back 2014 to a book review by Donna for a wonderful sounding book perfect for all dog lovers. Donna gave the book Five Stars.

BookReview The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs by The New Yorker by Donna Hill

Ever since humans started throwing scraps to the adventurous wolves beyond the firelight, dogs have been inspiring us and drawing forth from us the full spectrum of our emotional capacity. From enjoyment, love and gratitude to exasperation, fear and cruelty, our reactions to our furry companions have been a mirror of our greatest virtues and our deepest shortcomings. If you’re thinking of reading The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs in the hopes of finding one warm and fuzzy, tug-at-the-old-heartstrings story after another, you may be disappointed, though probably not for long. This is The New Yorker, after all, and this collection, compiled and contributed to by The New Yorker Magazine’s Malcolm Gladwell, lives up to the reputation for breadth and sophistication we’ve come to expect.

It is a book to be savored, something to be read in its smallest components and pondered. It is divided into four sections — Good Dogs, Bad Dogs, Top Dogs and Under Dogs. Each section is introduced by a piece from writer, cartoonist and New Yorker editor James Thurber (1894 – 1961), who was obsessed with dogs both in his writing and his drawings.

Fiction, poetry, journalism and creative nonfiction blend to form a panorama of all aspects of life with “man’s best friend.” Better yet, the writers are a cross-section of the best of the 20th century — E.B. White, Ogden Nash, Arthur Miller, Wislawa Szymborska, Ann Sexton, John Updike and T.C. Boyle to name a few.

You’ll learn about working dogs, and how the training of police dogs and guide dogs diverged. You’ll encounter the lingo of dog fanciers. I grew up with a beagle, and my artistic side would have been enriched by the knowledge that she wasn’t wagging her tail; she was “feathering her stern.” She wasn’t barking; she was “giving voice” or “opening.”

Then, there’s the perplexity that has surrounded the study of the canine’s olfactory talents. Dogs, you will learn, can find cell phones in buckets of water.

“A good dog is a natural super-soldier: strong yet acrobatic, fierce yet obedient. It can leap higher than most men, and run twice as fast. Its eyes are equipped for night vision, its ears for supersonic hearing, its mouth for subduing the most fractious prey. But its true glory is its nose. In the 1970s, researchers found that dogs could detect even a few particles per million of a substance; in the nineties, more subtle instruments lowered the threshold to particles per billion; the most recent tests have brought it down to particles per trillion.

“It’s a little disheartening, really,”  Paul Waggoner, a behavioral scientist at the Canine Detection Research Institute, at Auburn University, in Alabama, told me. “I spent a good six years of my life chasing this idea, only to find that it was all about the limitations of my equipment.” (“Beware of the Dogs” Burkhard Bilger 34)”

One of my favorite articles tackles the question of how dogs came to be domesticated in the first place. Did humans capture and breed wolf cubs, as some believe? Or, was it the proto-dog’s idea to hang out with humans? The question springs from a father’s story of coming to terms with his daughter’s irrepressible desire for a Havanese puppy.

“It wasn’t cub-snatching on the part of humans, but breaking and entering on the part of wolves that gave us dogs. “Hey, you be ferocious and eat them when you can catch them,” the proto-dogs said, in evolutionary effect, to their wolf siblings. “We’ll just do what they like and have them feed us. Dignity? It’s a small price to pay for free food. Check with you in ten thousand years and we’ll see who’s had more kids.” (Estimated planetary dog population: one billion. Estimated planetary wild wolf population: three hundred thousand.) (“Dog Story” by Adam Gopnik 11)”

And, then there are the cartoons. A dog walking on a leash says to a dog holding his own leash, “So, how long have you been self-employed?” A dog looking at a menu in a restaurant says to the waiter, “Is the homework fresh?”

In “A Note on Thurber’s Dogs”, Adam Gopnik relates a Buddhist-like train of one question morphing into another.

Those of us who care about dogs–and The New Yorker— ask a similar straightforward-seeming question that also provokes several trick turns. For us, the question “Why did James Thurber always draw dogs?” really means something like “Why do dogs matter for writers?” or even “What draws writers to any of their strange obsessive subjects?” (Which is another way of asking, “What is the way?”) (381).

Black Lab service dog, Hunter, looking out from his bed under the table: photo by Rich Hill

©Donna Hill 2014

About Donna W. Hill

Donna W. Hill is a writer, speaker, animal lover and avid knitter from Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains. Her first novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, is an adventure-mystery with excursions into fantasy for general audiences. Professionals in the fields of education and the arts have endorsed it as a diversity and anti-bullying resource for junior high through college.

A songwriter with three albums, Hill provided educational and motivational programs in the Greater Philadelphia area for fifteen years before moving to the mountains. Her essay, “Satori Green” appears in Richard Singer’s Now, Embracing the Present Moment (2010, O-Books), and her cancer-survivor story is in Dawn Colclasure’s On the Wings of Pink Angels (2012).

From 2009 through 2013, Hill was an online journalist for numerous publications, covering topics ranging from nature, health care and accessibility to music, knitting and chocolate. She is an experienced talk show guest and guest blogger and presents workshops about writing and her novel for school, university, community and business groups.

About The Heart of Applebutter Hill

Imagine you’re 14 and in a strange country with your camera, your best friend, her guitar and her dog. You uncover a secret and are instantly in danger. Join Baggy, Abigail and Curly Connor as they explore Elfin Pond, sneak around Bar Gundoom Castle and row across an underground lake. The powerful Heartstone of Arden-Goth is hidden nearby, and corporate giants unleash a spy to seize it. Compelled to unmask the spy and find the Heartstone, they can’t trust anyone.

As summer heats up, their troubled friend Christopher is viciously bullied and an armed stranger terrorizes Abigail and Baggy. The friends disagree about the spy’s identity, but are convinced it’s a teacher. When a desperate Christopher shows up one night with a terrified cat, the truth is revealed. Soon, police are involved.

One of the over 50 reviews for the book

This is a book about a blind girl without being a book about a blind girl….which is exactly the point. The main character, Abby, doesn’t trumpet her disability around the world as if it were her defining characteristic. She doesn’t have a sense of entitlement. The reader is never tempted to pity her, even for a moment. She is a driven, bright, gregarious yet measured girl who just happens to be blind.

Through her experiences we are exposed to a world that depends on the other senses, we find new ways to connect to the world around us. Mrs. Hill paints Abby’s thrill ride with her companion dog (Curly Connor) and best friend (Baggy Brichaz) in such a manner that the reader leaves the book better equipped to understand visual impairments without hitting them over the head with it. It took me a while to realize this because at first I was just writing this review on the merits of good vs. bad Young Adult fiction (and it is good, trust me). The feather in the cap of this book is that it stands as a great story that actually teaches you something, leaves you pondering your own disabilities vs. those of others.

I am a middle school reading teacher and I review and teach a lot of YA fiction. What separates the wheat from the chaff for me is well-developed characters that show humanness and overcome in spite of failures. You get the feeling that each of the characters in this book could very well survive on their own but the adventure is exponentially heightened because of the relationships they garner with each other. Mrs. Hill does a brilliant job of showing weaknesses, strengths and diversity as just a starting point to the basics of character interaction. By the end of this book, I felt like Abby, Baggy and Curly were my next-door neighbors and I still find myself looking out my window, waiting for the Cloud Scooper to swing by….

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Applebutter-Hill-Donna-W-ebook/dp/B00CNG6DDM

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Applebutter-Hill-Donna-W-ebook/dp/B00CNG6DDM

Read more reviews and follow Donna on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7126655.Donna_W_Hill

Connect to Donna.

Website:  https://donnawhill.com/about-the-author/
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Donna-W.-Hill/e/B00CNTTUK2
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dewhill
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dwh99
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/donna.w.hill
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7126655.Donna_W_Hill

My thanks to Donna for permitting me access to her archives to share and I hope you will head over to explore more yourself. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – #Book Review – The Contract by John W. Howell and Gwen Plano


smorgasbord book reviews

I have recently read The Contract: Between Heaven and Earth by John W. Howell and Gwen Plano and here is my review.

About The Contract

The earth is threatened with a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an intervention that involves two souls returning to earth. The chosen two sign a contract that they will work to avert the disaster.

Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien, a teacher, become heaven’s representatives on earth. The story follows them as they individually and then together face overwhelming obstacles and eventually end up on a strategic Air Force base in California. It is there that they discover a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States. The terrorists have a plan for global dominance and they are determined to complete their mission. Although military leadership appears to have the President’s best interests at heart, it is not clear who can be trusted and who should be feared. The action is rough and tumble as Brad and Sarah try to figure out the culprits for the plot that will turn into a worldwide conflagration unless stopped.

If you enjoy thrillers, this is one with enough twists and adventure to keep you riveted and guessing. If you like your thriller along with a good romance, Brad and Sarah’s initial attraction and eventual love will sustain you as they live out their heavenly and earthly desires. A Great summer read.

My review for the book

The Contract is a fusion of fantasy, thriller and romance and is the debut novel of the new collaboration between John. W. Howell and Gwen Plano.

I have read all of John Howell’s books and enjoyed, so I was eager to find out how these two popular writers would rise to the challenge of collaborating.

The concept is intriguing, and the opening chapter sets out this well, with the introduction to two souls, who had little time on earth to enjoy their love of each other. They are tasked by the divine council with preventing a major catastrophe on earth that could threaten mankind, but it will mean that they will be separated and have no memory of their task. Their hosts are two people with the knowledge and skill set to overcome the threat, but they are thousands of miles apart and both in mortal danger.

The writers do a good job of bringing these two characters together; now infused with the souls who have been contracted to neutralise the upcoming disaster. Watched and abetted  by guardian angels, their relationship begins with subterfuge, but quickly becomes attraction, and then love strong enough to take them through to the end of their endeavour.

This love story runs parallel to the fast escalation of violence and intrigue that reveals hidden agendas and treason in high places. The story has a good pace and there is plenty of action to keep the thriller lovers engaged with a number of surprising twists and turns in the plot along the way.

The final confrontation is a fitting climax to the story, bringing together all the players and their roles in the conspiracy, in an action packed battle of good against evil.

I am sure that this writing duo will go from strength to strength following this creative and exciting debut.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Contract-between-heaven-earth/dp/0996911588/

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Contract-between-heaven-earth-ebook/dp/B07CZQ8WKH/

About the authors – John W. Howell

John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon.

The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the adventure, while the final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016. John’s fourth book Circumstances of Childhood, launched in October of 2017 tells a thriller story of riches to rags, football, Wall Street, brotherly love, redemption, and inspiration with a touch of paranormal to keep you riveted. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Port Aransas, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

You can find out more about John on his website: https://johnwhowell.com/

Books by John Howell


 Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/John-W.-Howell/e/B00HMRWO6C

and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-W.-Howell/e/B00HMRWO6C

Read more reviews and follow John on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

About Gwen Plano

Gwen M. Plano, aka Gwendolyn M. Plano, grew up in Southern California and spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in Japan, New York, Connecticut, and California. Gwen’s academic background is in theology and counseling. Recently retired, she now lives in the Midwest with her husband and enjoys writing and travel.

Gwen’s first book is an acclaimed memoir, Letting Go into Perfect Love. Her second book, The Contract between heaven and earth, is a thriller fiction novel, co-authored by John W. Howell. It is available now for pre-order. Author Jan Sikes read the manuscript and wrote that “The Contract is the perfect blending between the physical and unseen world with unbreakable bonds between human and spirit.”

You can find out more about Gwen on her website: http://www.gwenplano.com/

Also by Gwen Plano

Read some of the reviews for the book: https://www.amazon.com/Letting-into-Perfect-Love-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B00K7WYTW6/

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Letting-into-Perfect-Love-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B00K7WYTW6/

Read more reviews and follow Gwen on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7341478.Gwendolyn_M_Plano

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope that you will read The Contract and enjoy.. Thanks Sally

Book Review – Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight by Jo Robinson


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I don’t give people stars for their reviews for the books that I read. However, for me a book has to deliver three key elements to engage my interest in the first place and keep me reading to the end.  These three elements are Physical, Mental and Emotional connection to the story, characters and narrative.

jo-robinson-photo-1-21

Even if I was not familiar with Jo Robinson’s writing in other books, her blog and her social media posts, and was reading her work for the first time I would certainly be emotionally drawn in.

Donna is the main character of Echoes of Narcissus and from the first time you meet her you know and feel both her fear and her pain. This empathy is not drawn from a text book description of how the victim of a narcissistic personality feels, but from some experience and deep understanding of this form of corrosive relationship. Mentally I enjoy a story that is well researched and then crafted to ensure I understand it well.

After 30 years of living with the daily anticipation of dismissive disdain and rigid control, Donna now aged 55 reached a crossroads in her life. Having been isolated deliberately from outside influence for those years, it is almost as frightening being tantalised by freedom, as it is being incarcerated.

But life intrudes, as do people without an agenda, who reach out a hand expecting nothing in return.  People who share her passion for nature and who have themselves esperienced the harsh realities of life.

Marco, Donna’s husband is portrayed with chilling and menacing accuracy and his presence makes you physically want to intrude into the story to protect his fragile victim.

But, out of the darkness and with a courage that is nurtured by her new friends, Donna finally understands that she has to fight to survive and move on.

She is helped unexpectedly by unforseen events that for many people would seem to be the final straw, but for Donna offer an open door to pass through if she is only brave enough to take it.

If you have experienced the behaviour of narcisstic people in your life then you will immediately identify with the characters and the story.  If you have not had that pleasure then I suggest you read because it is an absorbing plot with real people and experiences woven into a tale of despair, rejuvenation, hope and the discovery of love in new places.

I would recommend that you read Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight as it certainly gave me great pleasure.

You can buy the book from these links and please do follow Jo’s blog if you do not already do so.

https://africolonialstories.wordpress.com/

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