Monthly Archives: November 2015

~Review: Coffee Czar by J Lorraine~

BookCoverImage-6

Experience the world of retail coffee, as seen through the eyes of a disgruntled barista. Too many hours worked, barely any sleep, annoying coworkers, and crazy customers make for one very stressful day. Nobody knows what the caffeine crusader will say or do once pushed to the edge!

My Rating: 4 stars!

Coffee Czar centers around one day in the life of a sleep deprived, extremely irritated barista. In order to get through her day, she relies heavily on sarcasm, caffeine and cigarettes.

This story is quite humorous…in a very biting way! I found myself laughing out loud numerous times as I read this manuscript. However, if you aren’t fond of sarcasm, you might be put off by this book.  It does have adult content as well.

Anyone who has been extremely sleep deprived can surely understand the gruff position this barista takes as she works serving a slew of irritating people who come through the door ….possibly on her worst day in months!

Enjoy extreme sarcasm? This one’s for you!

Where you can find Coffee Czar:

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Coffee-Czar-Culture-1/dp/1512022128/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448871289&sr=8-1&keywords=coffee+czar

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/coffee-czar-j-lorraine/1122302384?ean=9781512022124

Where you can find J Lorraine:

Website:  http://jlorraineworks.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Jlorraineworks/

Interview with J Lorraine:

1.  What prompted you to write your story?

I worked as a barista for two years in college. After graduation, I returned to the retail coffee industry to oversee the operations of forty locations. Not a week went by I didn’t witness or was told about some crazy customer or event. I thought it would be amusing to put together some of those stories but have them told by a sardonic barista.

2.  Is there anything autobiographical about your story?  

Yes. The stories are based upon things that really happened to me or to my employees.

3.  What is your favorite genre to write?  To read?

Favorites to write would be fantasy or humor. Favorites to read are fantasy or classic literature.

4.  Favorites:  food, color, place, activity?

Food: Believe it or not, it’s not coffee! I’m a chocoholic.

Color: Indigo.

Place: I don’t know if I have a favorite place. Wherever it is, it has to be relaxing.

Activity: Reading or gardening.

5.  What would you like your readers to know about you?

I am not the protagonist in Coffee Czar. While I did collect the stories, I have a more positive attitude than the main character.

6.  If you could give one piece of advice about life, what would it be?

Live and let live.

7.  A fantasy vacation…where and with who?

Let’s see…a trip to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with J.K. Rowling.

My New Painting Entitled ‘Celebration!’

Celebration Sale Image by Diamante

I painted this piece to commemorate a child’s birthday. Since I do create a good amount of art, I’ve decided to include each new piece in my blog. That way my followers can get a more well rounded perspective of me as a “creator”…of the written word as well as of my artistic expression!

I used acrylic paints for this piece and kept them bright to capture the essence of a child’s birthday. I do enjoy bright colors when I’m painting! I also used childlike shapes and forms to further expand upon the consciousness of a child.

Due to the fact that this piece is for sale, my name has been superimposed upon the painting. This piece is approximately 17 in. x 25 in.  Prints are available if anyone would like to purchase them.  Of course, the prints would not have my name on them, except to be signed in a small, unobtrusive area.  If you would happen to be interested, please message me.  Thank you and enjoy!

This piece is available for sale on Red Bubble, Fine Art America and Zazzle.  It has been made into many creations from apparel to dishes to phone/laptop covers to bedding.  Check it out at any of the following links:

Celebration tote FAACelebration pillow FAA

http://www.redbubble.com/people/diamantelavenda/works/20011530-celebration-by-diamante-lavendar?grid_pos=9&p=sticker

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/celebration-diamante-lavendar.html

http://www.zazzle.com/collections/celebration-119379947631620656

~Spotlight: Levels by Jim Vuksic~

Levels by Jim Vuksic

Imagine a world in which there is no war, crime, poverty, hunger, inequality, prejudice, bigotry, greed or envy. Everyone, without exception, has access to the exact same quantity and quality of food, clothing, housing, medical care, formal education and social advancement opportunities.
Now imagine that, in this world, the words father, mother, daughter, son, brother, sister, marriage, family and religion do not exist because the concepts themselves do not exist. The inhabitants are occasionally transported to a place they never knew existed or are required to do something without having the slightest idea of what they are doing or why it must be done.
Can you imagine such a world? Well I did. If you should choose to visit it sometime, I hope that you enjoy reading about the world of Levels as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Format: Perfect Paperback

Disclosure: I purchased the book “Levels” by Jim Vuksic. I do not know the author personally and have had only encounters with him as a friend on the Goodreads site. I had no communication with him at any time about this book. The comments that follow are my own personal opinion. I received NO compensation of any kind, or from any one, to provide this review.

I wanted to read this book and hoped I would truly enjoy the read. I did. I rarely give 5 stars but this book deserves every one of them. It is an amazing read. I read it twice and I’m quite sure I will read it again from time to time. It had a remarkable impact on me and provided a very clear and concise explanation of the philosophy that could make our society a very peaceful and intelligent one.

From the first chapter I found this book unique. The pace was smooth and continued that way throughout the book. It was never boring or exciting, but held my interest completely and I often had trouble putting it down. Unlike many futuristic stories, this book goes to the next step. It tells the story of an advanced society successful in its goals; one that has no need to engage in major battles. That success makes this book unique, fascinating, and disturbing all at the same time. There are no wars, battles, blood, suspense, or tension only experience and enlightenment. The conclusion is unexpected.

As I followed Jonathan and his various friends through their education and experiences, you get the feeling you are there with them. This book creates unusual emotional and personal connections laced with a truly deep sense of logic. It is an excellent read, and I highly recommend this book. I wish everyone would read it at least once.

Format: Kindle Edition

Levels had so many elements of a well-written novel. The main character, Jonathan, was structured as a likeable person whose struggles made me more than sympathetic to. The complex plot paints a picture of a subterranean culture surviving in a dystopian setting. It is well orchestrated and full of twists and turns. It would make for a great series or perhaps a series of films. Vuksic’s writing is clean and disciplined.
That being said, I would have liked to see the author step outside the safe zone and not be so “clean” when it came to the dialogue or the situations. A lot is left to the imagination when it came to the sub-plots. Sometimes too much to keep the flow constant.
Overall this book is highly imaginative and well worth the read.
Where you can find Levels:
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Levels-Jim-Vuksic/dp/1617777994/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448492624&sr=8-1&keywords=levels+jim+vuksic
Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/levels-jim-vuksic/1103816206?ean=9781617777998
Where you can find Jim:
http://jimvuksic.tateauthor.com/
Interview with Jim:

What prompted you to write your book?

Writing a novel was just one of several items included in a “bucket list” that my late wife insisted I create upon retiring in 2001. It took me fourteen months to produce a completed, polished manuscript and an additional two months working with and learning from the copy editor, conceptual editor and layout design artist, assigned by the publisher to help convert the manuscript into a commercially viable book. Levels was released August 9, 2011. It is distributed internationally by Ingram/Spring Arbor and is available through fourteen commercial vendors in four formats – paperback (376 pages), e-Book (Kindle/Nook/Tablet), audio book on CD (9 compact discs) and audio download – 8 hours listening time, narrated by Stephen Rozzell.

What concepts are you hoping your readers will learn from reading your book?

Levels is a tale of a society constantly striving for perfection. To do so, sometimes even cherished institutions, philosophies, and traditions, that were originally intended to bring out the best in people, must be abandoned. Wanting something to be reality does not make it real and believing something to be the truth does not make it true.

What inspires you to write?

Writing a novel was an interesting and worthwhile experience. However, there are so many other interesting and worthwhile things I wish to experience, I seriously doubt that I will ever find time to write another book. When I get too old to do those other things, I may be inspired to write again.

What are your hobbies/interests in addition to writing?

I play both the acoustic guitar and electric bass. Addicted to spontaneous road trips, I love to hop in the car and travel, sometimes for days or even weeks at a time. I am also an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction books. Spending time with my four adult children and four grandchildren is what I enjoy the most.

What do you want your readers to remember about you?

The story revealed in Levels is a reflection of the beliefs, philosophies and goals that I have strived throughout my life to uphold and accomplish. If everyone would do the same, the world might be a much better place.

If you could leave me with one piece of advice about life, what would it be?

Strive always to be the best person possible. Most importantly, be yourself, not what others want you to be.

 

~Spotlight: Rise Of An Oligarch by Carlito Sofer and Nik Krasno~

book cover

When Ukrainian oligarch Mikhail Vorotavich is close to achieving his ambition of topping the Forbes rich list, an assassination attempt leaves him in a coma and his vast business empire rapidly descends into turmoil.
Laying in a hospital bed, Mikhail’s uncensored life story from a poor Jewish boy in communist USSR to disgustingly rich businessman in independent Ukraine, full of corruption, scheming, sex, drugs and violence, flashes in his mind’s eye. He has done it all: racketeering protection, drug trafficking, arms dealing, raiding privatised factories, dodgy infrastructure projects and money laundering.
Aspiring to get legit he moves to London, but behind his new pretended façade nothing really changes. And the higher Mikhail climbs the wider is the circle of enemies that want him dead.
Meanwhile, his partners, in a quest to discover who is behind the attack, stumble upon a conspiracy that, if realised, would change the world order. The mighty adversaries will stop at nothing.
Conspiracies, old scores, powerful enemies and the blurred lines between decency and corruption all surface.
Packed with remarkable characters and exotic scenes, humorous and philosophical at times, Rise of an Oligarch is a thriller set against the background of a young Ukrainian state striving to embrace capitalist democracy.
Rise of an Oligarch is the book that oligarchs do not want you to read.

Enjoyable read, couldn’t put this book down before it …
By Leon Colton on June 27, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyable read, couldn’t put this book down before it was finished. The intriguing narrative will take you inside the skin of a progressive oligarch, on the backdrop of real events unfolding upon political Ukrainian arena …a rare combination of personal ambitions, violent greedy character and humanitarian global aspirations all in one person. With some Israeli flavor of a Russian-Jewish immigrant expanding his horizons of perceptions, this book makes the plot even more colorful and cosmopolitan.
A very skillful blend of fiction and documentary – a must read for those trying to get a grip of understanding on the contemporary Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Make sure you have your seatbelt on because you will be on a great adventure. As you read this story
By Coco on May 6, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Given To Me For An Honest Review

Rise of an Oligarch: The Way It Is: Book One by Nik Krasno is the first in a series and is also a debut book. This book is a page turner. Once you open it, it will grab you, hold you down tightly and then you’ll watch those pages turn and turn and turn some more until you get to the last page. You’ll even find a few twists and turns. Make sure you have your seatbelt on because you will be on a great adventure. As you read this story, it will draw you in and you’ll begin to feel as though you are a part of the story. It has great character development. You will find it hard to put down. Mikhail Vorotavick is very successful. He earned his wealth by drug trafficking, rackettering and scheming. There are enemies that want to kill him. His partners are trying to find out who they are but while they are doing that they discover a conspiracy theory that could possibly change the world order. If you liked the Godfather, then you’ll like this book. I loved it. There wasn’t really an end to it because Book 2 is coming …. so I like others are waiting .. I highly recommend this book to everyone. You will love it and after reading it will be waiting just like me for Book 2. I look for more from Nik Krasno.

Where you can find Rise Of An Oligarch:

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Oligarch-Way-Book-One/dp/0993082718/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448434308&sr=8-1&keywords=rise+of+an+oligarch

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rise-of-an-oligarch-carlito-sofer/1120689694?ean=9780993082719

Where you can find Carlito and Nik:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009937664739

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Nik-Krasno/e/B00O416OLU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1448436655&sr=8-1

Linked In:  https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=AAIAABmN6fABbqnaV9HilC1IrjPooic8mXilpho&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profilehttps://

 

Interview with Nik:

1.  What prompted you to write your book?

For many years I’ve been virtually living on the plane between Israel and Ukraine. Seeing how regular Soviet citizens, that at the time of the “Big Bang of the USSR” had no wealth or properties, manage to accumulate multi-billion estates, I realized that I’m witnessing a unique phenomenon that the world is largely unaware of. Then, there was a series on Israel TV about ‘Russian’ oligarch coming to Israel and buying a football team, which became extremely popular. As it was so naive and clichéd, I thought I could do something better. The underlining premise was that ‘people are always curious about how someone became rich’. Many of us watched with interest movies based on bios of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, but very little is known about their Eastern peers, so I thought I would fill this gap in a fictional manner.  

2.  What is your favorite genre to read?  Who are some of your favorite authors?

As it became fashionable to say, I have a rather eclectic taste -:) I like sci-fi and fantasy like that of Zelazny or Harrison and some Russian writers, thrillers of Grisham, Clancy and those of Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie, action and adventure genre, as represented by Dan Brown, for example, and its classics like Alex Dumah, Jules Verne, Jack London or Fenimore Cooper and unorthodox and literary fiction like that of Irvine Welsh, Palahniuk or David Benioff. I also like to read about exotic places, culture, mentality and historical fiction.

3.  Dream vacation…where and with who?

Travel is my passion. I try to cover as many interesting places on the Globe as I can. As I’ve been to 5 continents out of 7, I guess my next vacation priority would be the remaining two – South America and a cruise from there to Antarctic’s. Now the best company would be my family – my wife and kids. But I’m well aware that 20 years ago I would’ve answered this question quite differently: Destination – Ibiza or Thailand and friends as a company -:) 

4.  What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

I don’t expect to achieve a worldwide recognition and to make it big time as a writer. Not that I don’t want to, but mainly because ‘oligarchs’ theme and Russian-Ukrainian showdown that I write about is more of a niche rather than mainstream and I’m not sure how large the audience interested in it is. I do hope though that some readers would enjoy the series and would end up enlightened about what happens in the former USSR. Not less importantly, I hope my work would be thought-provoking with regards to enrichment process, what’s valid for it and what’s not, the entropy of modern capitalistic society and the ways to improve it and so on.     

5.  What would you like your readers to know about you?

I’ve disclosed most of the cornerstones of my career. Generally, I used to be that guy dancing on the bar stand in the thick of the party -:) I like to bring things a bit to extremes, being shy of nothing.. And I guess I still remain a bit juvenile or infantile for my age, which many might like less.

6.  If you could give one piece of advice about life, what would it be?

Time’s ticking. Don’t “sleep” on your life and waste it on something unwanted, secondary, habitual. If you dream about anything, don’t postpone, “wait for better times” and stuff like that. At that, be balanced though. Meet your obligations towards yourself, your family, but on the parallel – always try to achieve or engage in what you crave, in the things that matter. If you value comfort the most then it’s Ok to stay in the comfort zone, but if you like achievements – step out.

~Review of A Dreadful Daughter’s Spells by Leah Broadby and Molly Billygoat~

A Dreadful Daughter's Spells by Leah Broadby and Molly Billygoat

Chloe knows she is “A Dreadful Daughter,” but the truth is more complicated than that. Chloe is magiken, meaning she can breathe life into objects…even if she can’t always control them. She will soon turn fourteen. Growing up means losing one’s powers. Even worse, she will lose all memories of those powers.

Meanwhile, a painting is born on the wall of a dance studio. Feeling lonely and literally flat, he hops down from the wall and ventures into the dizzying, confounding world. The painting is close to starvation when he meets Chloe. Using her magic, she draws a pizza from rock, saving his life. He adopts the name “Timmy” and becomes her sidekick, of sorts.

Events turn sinister when the Skizen, a creature of diabolical power, begins kidnapping young magiken. Chloe’s magic is already leaking. Before she is drained of magic, Chloe and Timmy must save the children.

Also…is it ethical to fall for a painting?

With a touch of Douglas Adams’ humour and a pinch of Pendleton Ward’s wackiness, this book is an unanticipated trip into the unknown.

My Rating: 5 Stars!

This book is a middle grade delight! Written in a humorous, whimsical voice, I would highly recommend this book for any middle grade reader (and any adult who would happen to pick it up as well!) The characters are well developed and the writing is a joy to read!

A Dreadful Daughter’s Spells contains a smattering of humorously expressed life insights which add to the overall beauty of the manuscript. It is also highly imaginative and would, therefore, captivate any preteen or “tween”.

If you still have a middle grade child on your Christmas list, you may want to take a peek at this book on Amazon. It would truly make a wonderful gift!

Where you can purchase A Dreadful Daughter’s Spells:

CreateSpace eStore (only paperback available here): https://www.createspace.com/5337544
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dreadful-Daught…
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dreadful-Daug…
Amazon Australia (ebook only): http://www.amazon.com.au/Dreadful-Dau…

Where you can find Leah Broadby:

Leah’s blog/website: www.biglittlebrains.com
Email: storyfactory@biglittlebrains.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MollyBillygoat
Instagram: https://instagram.com/mollybillygoat/
Kickstarter Campaign for book: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/…

Interview with Leah:

1. What made you decide to start writing?

I’ve loved books since before I could read. When I realised words went with the pictures, I loved them even more. When I realised you could enjoy words without pictures… it was a life-changing moment! I could make the pictures all by myself – in my mind!

I was in grade five when I first had the chance to be in a creative writer’s workshop. I wrote a short story, which my tutor entered into a regional school competition. Being nine, I tried to act nonchalant when I came third. In reality, I was floored. I’d never come third in a competition before. The next year I entered the same competition with the actual intention of getting a prize. As I remember, the story was about a homeless paraplegic girl and her Dad, who discovered “little people” living inside seashells. The little people helped the girl and her Dad build a massive seashell home… I think. It was a rather innocent and wacky premise, but I received first prize.

From then on, I’ve only ever wanted to write. The joys of writing, the reasons for writing and my love of fiction evolved through time. The extent of my desire to write, however, has not wavered once since I was nine.

2. What genres do you enjoy writing and why?

I enjoy writing fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction, preferably with a satirical twist. For shorter pieces, I enjoy humorous, somewhat self-deprecating accounts of events in my own life. A favourite topic is my unfortunate accounts with toilets throughout Asia. I won’t burden you with the gruesome details here – suffice to say, if toilets were sentient, I think we’d feel as bad as each other. Writing of such events comes from an intrinsic feeling that humour is one of the best ways to deal with adversity and even tragedy; both in writing and in life itself.

To explain my love for specific genres of fiction, a preamble is necessary. For part of my life, I searched for universal meaning. It was a protracted existential crisis. My search yielded no results, so I ended up becoming a tooth-fairy agnostic – a term coined by Richard Dawkins for those who believe that the existence of God is as likely as the existence of the tooth-fairy. It would be arrogant to suggest He is utterly impossible, but logical to suggest that He almost certainly does not exist. No offense intended – it is merely how little old me feels.

Several things can happen when you realise humans are mere atoms that make up the pimples on what could be a multi-headed universe. First, apathy (agh – there is no reason for this charade), sadness (agh – the mass suffering in this world is just terrible luck) and fear (agh – my consciousness will end forever one day pretty soon)! Then there is the bright side: Freedom from convention. If universal morality does not exist, I can let go of many things, such as rigid notions of etiquette, intelligence, language, sexuality, the family unit, mislead ambition… the list goes on. Not that I was ever conservative, but tooth-fairy agnosticism strengthened my love for beauty inside chaos and increased my ability to dwell inside the moment. As for morality, my perspective allows me to make my own decisions, instead of letting a set of someone else’s rules or ideals dictate my actions. Naturally, I want to do good in the world, and have others do unto me… you know the deal.

The reason I explain my worldview is that it’s the major reasons for my love of fantasy and science fiction. These genres allow me to fully express my feelings on the tragic, beautiful and comedic nature of the human condition.

They also allow me to expand a reality too claustrophobic for my liking. Such expansion is easy with the human imagination, which I celebrate every day. I do so love to imagine all things weird, quirky, crazy, funny, and other-worldly.

Every time I write science fiction or fantasy, I am fantasising. This would seem self-evident, but hear me out. I imagine: Perhaps this character I create is rising in another universe as it comes together in my head. Perhaps this scene I see is being siphoned from another universe into my brain and onto the page. Perhaps, what if, maybe… I love ‘maybes’ and ‘what ifs’. It is a chance to create a world I would prefer. It is a chance to add more possibilities onto existence. It is a chance to find pieces outside of the puzzle.

The human imagination is the breeding ground for entities both absurd and profound, including gods, devils, and umpa-lumpas. What is not to love about it?

3. What are some of your favorite books and why?

Terry Pratchett is arguably my favourite author. I say ‘arguably’ because I manage to argue with myself just fine. I love Pratchett for many reasons, the foremost of which is his comedic mastery over the English language. His books make me laugh out loud. I particularly love his character ‘Death’. Most important to me, though, is that Pratchett maintains witty cynicism without losing the sense of magic integral to his stories. I cried when he passed on, but he has given me many more laughs than tears. I don’t think he would object to that.

Walter Moers is another writer who has touched me with his sheer, daring feats of imagination. A German writer, all his books have English translations. I therefore must praise the translator too (especially having done many translations myself), for the books read so beautifully. There is no chance a person could guess they are translations.

Moers takes the reader into the brains of giants, into catacombs of dangerous books, into treacherous seas of mini-pirates, into other dimensions of indescribable substance, into the depths of carnivorous forests, and more. His characters are as diverse as his worlds. My mind is put among the stars when immersed in his work.

Another, more recently-discovered favourite author is Kurt Vonnegut. My reasons for loving him are rather different and not so much about escapism. He forces me to stare into the face of my own fears and imagine the previously unimaginable – simultaneously. His stories, from sentence structure to overall plot, are so beautifully crafted that I am left in awe. The Sirens of Titan will forever exist within my mushy brain-stuff. I don’t think I could ever write at his level of brilliance, which is a sensation I enjoy. I enjoy it because my own writing can only benefit from such intensely intelligent and satirical works.

His sense of tragedy regarding the human condition, the satire he weaves into this tragedy, his love of artistic beauty… All this really hits me in the heart. He makes me laugh and cry. It is partly because I feel the same as he seems to, and partly because he is so wildly good at writing.

4. More favorites: your favorite food, color, activity and place?

My favourite food? I’m sort of a hedonist so this is a hard question. I lived in Asia for a long time (particularly Korea), and I consequently go weak at the knees at the site of Korean sashimi, eel, fish roe soup, kimchi, seaweed dishes, roasted sweet potatoes and stinky fish that make most weak-bellied Westerners want to vomit…. I also love pine nuts and thin savoury crepes and risotto and you get the idea!

I have some favourite activities that are inappropriate to mention on a blog. So, I will say this: Few things are better than binge-watching comedy, quality drama and cartoons (especially Adventure Time). Of course, I derive similar pleasure from feasting on a book that captures me fully. Music-obsessed, I listen to a lot of jazz, prog rock and folksy jives. Frank Zappa is a cultural hero, in my opinion. A good run around in the forest doesn’t go astray. Skinny dipping has been a favoured activity for over nineteen years… and this is where I’ll stop.

I paint, and if you look at my website you’ll quickly discover what my favourite colours are. Mostly burnt oranges and reds alongside sky blue. I don’t like painting with green. I have no idea why. It just feels like green should stay outdoors.

It is difficult to say where my favourite place is. I was born and grew up in Tasmania, which remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. The Himalayas presented the most epic landscape to have ever hit my irises. I love Cambodia and Laos for the culture. Despite rapidly passing time, Korea still feels like my second home. If I extend on this I will be typing for a week.

5. What inspires you to write?

Writing creatively is not a choice for me. If I don’t write, I become depressed. I sometimes have nightmares in which I am forced to live without writing. When I do write, I am fulfilled. I guess these factors are more motivating than inspirational.

Early on, Dad fed my imagination by reading me books and making up stories for my brother and I. In this sense, he is my original inspiration. Now, inspiration comes from great writers of novels and scripts… and cartoons. I do watch a lot of cartoons for a thirty-four year old!

6. What would you like your readers to remember about you?

Anything! If they remember me, I’ve done something right. Right? Right.

7. If you could give me one piece of advice, what would it be?

I do not claim to be qualified to answer this question, but if I could give people one piece of advice, it would be to do what makes you happiest within the parameters you are able to move.

I am well aware that, having been born to liberal-minded parents in Australia, I am lucky. My mind may have shrivelled if it was born into some environments. The freedom to express my creativity is not a privilege I take for granted. Across the globe are people that, in the pursuit of survival, may never discover their penchant for creativity.

As long as you can do something that brings you joy and/or peace without hurting others or threatening your own survival, you must do it. Each of us exists in a tiny corner of the universe, in a tiny corner of the world, stuck inside our own bodies and brains. What is life for, if not to revel in what enjoyment is to be had?

Review of Hashtagged by Kimberly Hix Trant

hashtagged

One by one, we substitute tweets and Instagrams for human contact while something watches, guiding us deeper into isolation while it shapes a new future for humanity with each new hashtag.

To Maddy Smith, a strange box offers one last puzzle from her father. What lies within is a mystery. Try as Maddy might, the box will not open.

Seeking the help of her father’s friends, the enigmatic Dinner Club, Maddy travels across the United States, receiving new clues with each meeting. As she draws closer to solving the puzzle, she discovers that her father had a secret plan for her—training her to fight against artificial intelligence.  

Together with Jagger, her occasional lover, Maddy follows the clues to a campground just
outside of Roswell, New Mexico.  What awaits her will determine whether humans control
artificial intelligence or IT controls us.
My Rating:  4 stars!

Hashtagged is a novel about artificial intelligence and the possibilities of how it could end up affecting the future. This is a story about Maddy, the daughter of a “computer whiz” who finds herself in a mystery regarding the work her father was consumed in his entire life. When he is found dead, she is forced into finding the answers to what happened….and finds herself in a situation much more involved than she had ever bargained for!

This book is the first in a series. It starts out a bit slowly, which is necessary for background information. By the middle of the book, the story line picks up its pace and you are soon swept away by the intrigue that Maddy is involved in. Time travel, robots that are much too human and villains that strive to take over the world are just a handful of problems Maddy, her father and their lifetime friends must tackle.  What makes it interesting is that Maddy’s father and friends were the main players in creating the artificial intelligence in the first place!  By the end of the book, they are greatly regretting what they’ve done and trying to take preventative future measures!

This book does keep the reader interested. If you are into computers and technology, you’ll love this book. The characters are well developed and the plot is too. You will probably find yourself wondering if this could really happen some day. It is definitely a scary possibility…….

Hashtagged is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Where you can find Kim:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/khixtrant

Twitter:  @khtrant

LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=5292926&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Cooperation Versus Competition…Which Is Better?

Ever since I was young, I disliked the idea of competition. It seemed unnatural to me: the concept of all for one and one for all. If competition was the way of life, why then did nature live in harmony and cooperation? Trees depending on air and grass depending on soil. Animals depending on plant and tree life for shelter and man depending on earth for everything he/she needs. The only thing I could see in the form of competition was man and animals killing to eat. Otherwise, life relies on itself to survive.

Therefore, I began to think about the strength of cooperation. I came up with many reasons why cooperation is critical in survival. One reason is the fact that there is strength in numbers. No matter what you’re discussing, if there are numbers of people involved, there will be much greater strength in the process and outcome. If one man stands alone and another is surrounded by a group of dedicated followers, which man will thrive more easily? Of course the man with the group! Even nature thrives in groups with lone stragglers falling easily to disaster.

Another reason why cooperation is critical is that the whole is never greater than the sum of its parts. The more hands involved in a situation, the more the outcome is determined to succeed. That is why animals hunt in packs and why people live in cities and towns. There is strength in numbers as well as more safety for the most part.

The third reason I’ll share tonight about the strength of cooperation is the fact of diversity being involved in cooperative efforts. People bring their own talents and knowledge into a cooperative situation. Everyone has their own perspective and opinion, causing greater ingenuity to be brought to the cooperative circumstance.

When the unfortunate situation arises where people aren’t willing to cooperate, I have found the root cause to be fear. And fear does definitely prove to be a snare. So it is my humble opinion that cooperation brings much goodness and wealth of information to the table. It brings future possibility of greatness to a situation.

I look forward to cooperating with many people in my efforts….not only in my writing, but also in my personal life. Cooperation mirrors the natural world and just seems to be the most probable way of future success and happiness..for everyone involved!  In marriages, families, as well as businesses, cooperation is key!  Cooperation brings Heaven a little closer to home!

~Spotlight: The Centurion Chronicles by J.M. Garlock~

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The year is 58 BC. Centurion First Class Sextius Baculus, a 10-year, battle hardened army veteran is attending his sister’s wedding in Rome when he receives word that Julius Caesar’s army is mobilizing on the northern frontier near the France-Switzerland border to repel an anticipated invasion by expansonistic Gauls. Joined by his new orderly Marcus, the Centurion races north to join his unit, the 10th Legion, Caesar’s favorite. Fueled by political ambition and accompanied by his aide Quintus Caesar also speeds north. AT a changing station Caesar is attacked by deserters. The Centurion arrives and saves his life. In April Caesar fortifies Geneva where a prolonged, fierce battle is fought and eventually won by the Romans who thwart the numerically superior but tactically ignorant Gallic advance. Caesar continues his methodical advance into Gaul defeating one brave but unorganized tribe after the other. ALways outnumbered but never outgeneraled he engages in a series of set piece battles. In June there is combat at the Saone River and in July a decisive victory is won at Bibacte. The Centurion fights to keep himself and his orderly alive, recounting the battles vividly. We also get Caesar’s perspective of the same events as they unfold with calculating regularity. The army goes deep into Germany. The Centurion gets drunk and blurts out to Caesar that he knows why Caesar is making war. It is no longer to protect Rome but to strengthen Caesar’s own position against the other members of the ruling triumvirate in Rome. Fearing the Centurion will spread dissent and weaken morals Caesar uses him as bait in order to lure the Ariovistus-led Germans into a decisive battle at the Rhine River near Besncon in September. Captured, tortured and cricifies the Centurion is convinced he is doomed, especially when the defeated Germans drag him toward the river. If they manage to get him into Germany he will become a slave. Caesar rescues him at the last minute, repaying the debt he owes the Centurion.”

Format: Kindle Edition

If you loved HBO’s Rome and Starz’s Spartacus, you’re going to love this. This is a well-researched tale of army life under Caesar. You see it from the point of the centurion and Caesar, it’s really entertaining, it has a lot of violence (which I love). I only get pissed off when the writer stops himself from mentioning some atrocities. For example, he’ll say the barbarians committed horrible atrocities on the Roman dead, but he doesn’t mention which. However, I’ve read the entire series, and in spite of spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, it’s well-worth it.
on April 29, 2013
I decided to give the books I read a while ago the reviews they deserve and even though I have read them I keep them on my iPad as a reminder to leave a review. I read as many books about the Roman Legions as possible. Most of the authors have done their research and the books for the most part are well written, and this book is no exception. Centurian first class Sextius Baculus is called away from his leave to return to his unit because he was informed that Caesar is preparing for war. As he rushes to join his unit he stops at a way station just in time to find Caesar being attacked by deserters and he saves Caesar’s life thus forming a bond with the great general. The portrayal of Caesar seems to be right on the money. I read his commentaries and this book captures his personality and shows him as the brilliant strategist he was. If you enjoy books about the Roman Legions and/or Caesar, then you won’t go wrong reading this book especially since it’s priced right.
Interview with J.M.:
1.  What prompted you to write your series?
I had the idea years ago & had an offer from a publisher who didn’t want to give me an advance, only a percentage of the royalties. I knew that never works out. Authors rarely see any money so I passed. Years later I did some research & discovered there were only a few people writing in my particular genre unlike the hundreds if not thousands who write in more popular genres. I read portions of their books & concluded there might be room for me because there were fewer competitors & I knew I could write just as well as they could.
2.  What is your favorite genre to read and why?
I think that as we evolve & mature as people & writers our tastes evolve with us & perhaps get more refined. I have eclectic tastes & interests. Here’s a brief sampling: for mysteries you can’t go wrong with James M. Can, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald (real name Kenneth Millar, a Canadian), George V. Higgins, Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo, Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell & Stieg Larsson. Some of my favorite authors that I read & reread are Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Andre Malraux, & Par Lagerkvist. Some of my favorite books are “Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s” & “City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s” both by Otto Friedrich, “Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard” by Richard Brody (the definitive book on Godard by the way) & the rather prosaically titled “Chet Baker: His Life & Music” by Jeroen de Valk (also the definitive book on Baker who like myself is, or rather was because he’s dead, an autodidact & a Capricorn).
3.  What inspires you to write?
This question is harder than it looks. Inspiration can only take you so far. As we know writing is damn hard work. There are almost constant distractions in various forms we have to overcome, our concentration levels are high & after a while we get worn out but somehow have to find the energy to push through. I write because it gives me freedom. I can never be fired. I’m my own boss & have a healthy fear of failure. With the advent of the Internet I could be answering these questions from Costa Rica, Berlin or anywhere & that’s fantastic. After I finish a book I’m mentally exhausted but at the same time a vacuum has been created & I have a need to fill that vacuum so I start another book after about 1 – 2 weeks. Or to answer the question another way, as James Boswell said in “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” “No man but a blockhead, ever wrote except for money.”
4.  What are your favorites-food, color, activity, place?
Favorite Food: Seafood. If it swims I’ll eat it. Color: Scarlet red (on cars & front doors), Daffodil yellow because it signifies a new beginning & Ultramarine & Royal blue because they are rich & go with just about everything. Activity: I love to camp. For some odd reason I sleep well in a tent. I also love nature & discovering things (owls fly silently. It has something to do with their feathers & Screech owls really do screech). I am also afflicted with the male sports gene specifically the New York Ranger (ice hockey) mutation for which there is no known cure. I also watch international, multi-stage bike races (Tour de France, Gyro d’ Italia etc.), Premier League football (it’s not a dull as one would think) & Formula 1 racing because it is the ultimate expression in automotive technology. I’m also a cineaste. Places: The UK because it’s the most civilized country in the world & swamps because they’re primordial & I’ve written about, worked with & know a lot about alligators. I absolutely love them & am fascinated with & by them on a lot of different levels for a lot of fairly complicated reasons.
5.  What do you want your readers to remember about you?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” – 2 Timothy IV.
6.  Do you have any works in progress?  What are they?
I am currently working on the 7th book in “The Centurion Chronicles” series. Only 5 are live. I like to keep ahead. The research is brutal because for the most part I have to be historically accurate & all of the proper & place names are in Latin which I don’t speak. There are also a lot of moving parts in terms of how my main & supporting characters interact with each other & the situations I put them in.
7.  If you could give one piece of advice about life, what would it be?
Follow your heart & have courage because dreams do come true.
Where you can find J.M.:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7234330.J_M_Garlock
https://www.facebook.com/people/Jm-Garlock/100004505105870