Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scarlett's Review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

Somewhere deep in a forest ravaged by the effects of mining and milling…an unlikely band of creatures readies to make a stand!

Book Description 
(per Amazon)

Set in a rainforest of an unspecified continent, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is a tale littered with colourful and enjoyable characters, conspiracies and unlikely friendships between the species. Told through the eyes of animals the narrative explores the predatory world of deception and greed. The book carries an important missive: ‘Beware of predators in the guise of friends’. It has been described as witty and fascinating and as a story for children and adults alike. Mungai, the central character, is a jungle creature of indeterminate origin, who creates a cunning master plan allowing him to find ways of passing through life without too much cost to himself and as little effort as possible, and at the expense of others not as strong minded or as clever as he is. He goes all out to achieve his objectives, regardless of the consequences, as he sets out to destroy the rainforest for personal gain.

On his travels Mungai encounters an equally ruthless and selfish creature, a boa constrictor called Goa, and together they go in search of innocents to use to implement their designs. They subsequently meet, befriend and manage to convince all manner of creatures to join them in their venture with promises of great rewards in return for small labours. The creatures believe their efforts to be beneficial to the environment and look forward to the promised bounty. Before too long some notice their hard work continues but the rewards are not forthcoming and they begin to realize, with some input from the good outsiders they have teamed up with, the two legs, that what they are involved in is not good for anyone. Dissatisfaction begins to burgeon and rebellion is fast approaching. Mungai finds out, all too late, that those he shamelessly inveigled into his plans are not as naive as he first thought and the tables are turned. The perpetrators become the victims as Operation Equinox is devised and executed.

Product Details
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1469935163
ISBN-13: 978-1469935164
Kindle Edition File Size: 264 KB
Print Length: 191 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1469935163
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English

About the Author
Having grown up in the Mediterranean and having later lived and worked in various countries, Amelia Curzon eventually settled permanently in the United Kingdom. She is the mother of two grown children who provide her with much of her inspiration in life. Amelia's interests include horses and all other animals, the environment, reading, and of course writing. Amelia has been writing short stories and poems since childhood and had created and narrated many stories to her own children in their younger years. Insomuch as her stories have always been about animals it seems only natural her first novel be written for the genres children and teen and contain lots of four legged creatures.

Amelia wrote the first draft of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor a few years ago, proudly sent the finished product to a handful of traditional publishers and after only 3 rejections felt totally defeated. Silly! But that was then. The story was put safely away. After setting up and building up her own company, she forgot all about the manuscript. Until that is, her son found it, read it and passed on to his sister to read. Between them they persuaded Amelia to try again. Spurred on by her children's faith in her, she decided to approach the task of re-editing and updating and the mammoth and mind boggling mission of self-promotion. Armed with bucket loads of good, and some bad, advice Amelia plunged headfirst into the daunting world of self-publishing. Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is now published as an eBook on Amazon and soon to be in paperback on Createspace.

My Review
Amelia Curzon has created a beautiful fable in “Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” that warns of the effects of destruction of the forest in a fashion that is innocent, entertaining and compelling.  Curzon delivers a message of conservation and preservation that comes through from the perspective of woodland creatures that have been taken in by the false promises of corporate land developers.  But not all that glitters is gold, and the grass will not remain greener on the other side if the sun scorches the Earth because the shade of trees is gone.  Well, blah…blah…blah! Mungai, Curzon’s antagonistic protagonist, couldn’t care less if the forest and the stupid woodland creatures survive, or not, he has a lucrative retirement plan to implement!

Mungai (a creature of unknown origin who changes his scent for nefarious purposes to suit his greed) and his slimy, slithering sidekick, Goa —a boa with delusions of grandeur— have other ideas for the wealth hidden in the woods.   Goa’s speech impediment presents a problem when they set about convincing the trusting creatures of the forest that it is in their best interest to get on board the fast track toward financial stability. But, Mungai is the real mouthpiece of the not-so-dynamic duo.  Mungai’s manipulations of the innocent creatures of the wood puts me in mind of  politicians during Election Year: his platform (and scent) changes to please his audience as he tells them what they want to hear, all the while manipulating them with flattery and empty promises, for his own purposes.  Goa lisps out just the right spin on Mungai’s political campaign, “Diverthity ith always refwething,” likely thinking less of social reform than of eating the subservient creatures.  While Mungai keeps a mindful eye on Goa, lest she eat away at their work-force, he spins his yarn about making his woodland friends wealthy gold miners and makers of fine furniture.

A few of the creatures begin questioning Mungai’s motives, it all sounds too good to be true. There must be some reason that Mungai “hates pigs”.  But, Mungai and Goa are so convincing that even Bodger, an old Badger whom the creatures trust, is taken in. Caw-Caw, the crow starts to think Bodger’s become a little dodgy, and so takes matters into his own claws.  The crow devises a plan to save the woodland creatures from Mungai’s devious exploitation, and his two-legged friend, Duggit, digs it!  Caw-Caw and Duggit lay the groundwork for Operation Equinox!  The woodland operatives set to work, heads, beaks, claws and paws together.  They consult a red-bottomed Oracle, enlist the aid of the Oracle’s brother Captain Gerald Rupert Horatio-um- Peanuts-Brice-Copperbottom, “three eager beavers called Bucky, Brewster and Bracken, another large brown bear known as Bilboa, and a grouchy, but really quite friendly old wolf, aptly named Gruffy” and many other woodland creatures to set their plan in motion.

Does it work?  Is Bodger really dodgy?  Does Swallow (an unfortunately named bird) finally tempt Goa beyond restraint? Does the Oracle’s hind-end get redder when he advises Caw-Caw on tactical maneuvers? Do Caw-Caw and his cohorts capture Mungai and his lisping sidekick, Goa?  You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out.  “Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” earned 5/5 hearts from this reviewer, hands, paws, and claws, down!

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Disclosure:  I purchased this book.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scarlett's Review of Murder in Half Moon Bay

Something’s fishy at the Ritz…and it doesn’t sit well on a cracker!  

Book Description (per Amaon)

Publication Date: April 10, 2012

When a shocking murder disrupts the West Coast Garden Club Society's second annual conference, gardening columnist Jillian Bradley joins with Chief Frank Viscuglia to help in the investigation. Could it be the mean spirited conference director? Perhaps it's the wealthy widow on the make for her next husband; or maybe the killer is the haughty business woman who shows no regard for her brow beaten husband.

Set in beautiful Half Moon Bay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Jillian moves through the exclusive hotel property, local nurseries, colorful restaurants, and private mansions searching for the truth, pausing with her friends for cups of afternoon tea along the way. She uncovers a series of mysterious events that lead to solving several murders, both past and present. With the help of her garden club friends and her Yorkshire terrier 'Teddy', Jillian discovers not only a killer, but a far greater menace that could threaten us all.

Product Details
·         Paperback: 178 pages
·         Publisher: CreateSpace (April 10, 2012)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 1452882088
·         ISBN-13: 978-1452882086

My Review

Murder in Half Moon Bay, (Jillian Bradley Mysteries, No. 1) is an entertaining, fast-paced, read. Nancy Jill Thames’s clever protagonist, Jillian Bradley, doesn’t miss a beat.  She, and her garden club friends, arrives at the West Coast Garden Club Society’s Annual Conference in Half Moon Bay expecting to relax, spend the weekend gleaning gardening tips, whiling away pleasant hours surveying plant specimens, and sampling great food.  Jillian quickly realizes there is something fishy going on at the Ritz…and she’s not talking about fertilizer! The soil at the Ritz-Carton doesn’t need enrichment.  Bodies are popping up over there faster than bean sprouts on steroids!  Good thing Jillian is not only a gardening expert, but a VERY good listener, a keen observer of detail…and a list-maker.  Put all that together, stir in the ‘contributions’ of Teddy (Jillian’s little Yorkie –who may just be telepathic!) and you’ve got yourself a great potting mix for a budding detective. 
As Nancy Jill Thames’s delightful story unfolds, a botanist might prove more useful than the FBI or the local police department.  All sorts of cross-pollination seems to be going on, what with social butterflies flitting around, landing in who knows whose room, and things taking root where they never should have been planted!   I’m not one for spoilers, but there are weeds that need pulling at the Ritz-Carlton and Jillian’s just the gal for the job. She and her friends waste no time. They get to work, digging in the dirt, to solve the mystery.
I enjoyed Thames’s family-friendly mystery very much.  This charming book earned 4/5 hearts. I would have given it 5/5, but one of the plot points troubled me.  As brilliant as Jillian clearly is, I couldn’t see a police chief allowing her to question suspects, until later in the series —after she establishes her stellar reputation as a sleuth. That trifle aside, Murder in Half Moon Bay is the sort of book to enjoy on a rainy day, snuggled in a recliner with a nice cup of Jillian’s favorite, Lady Earl Grey, tea.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a clever mystery that’s not soaked in blood and gore.  I look forward to reading all of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries.

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Disclosure:  I requested this book of the author and received it as a gift.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Scarlett's Review of "I Was in Love With a Short Man Once"

I Was in Love With a Short Man Once

Book Description (per Amazon)
Have you ever wondered if the life of the woman standing next to you in the check-out line is as weird as yours? Could it be possible that you are trapped in a bizarre reality show, where the object of the game is to get the crazy lady to flip-out; just one more time? If so, then this book confirms that you are in good company. I Was in Love With a Short Man Once is a story collection written from the perspective of a crazy, southern, Irish, gal. Follow her as she reflects on: growing up as a child of limited means in South Florida; managing a self-financed college education; balancing work as a federal official with the joys of single motherhood; and navigating the amusing challenges of being a second-time-around wife.
Coming Up Stories reflect the distinctive surroundings of South Florida through stories such as "Flagpole".
Jimmy Stories illustrate the bond between mother and son. Stories here include "Koolaid Mom" and "Zamboni" and reveal the life lessons that our children teach us.
The Rest of the Stories round out the author's quirky observations, including "Naked in a Hot Tub in Vegas" and "Crazy Virgo Tendencies".

Product Details (per Amazon)
  • File Size: 297 KB
  • Print Length: 216 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1770678875
  • Publisher: FriesenPress; 1 edition (November 24, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006E937AG

My Review
Let me begin by saying that any book resembling a memoir usually sends me running, screaming, from the room.  Yes, there are great memoirs out there.  I’m just not a big fan of the genre. The default setting of memoirs typically is sappy, self-absorbed romanticizing about personal minutia that, truly, you had to have been there to appreciate.  I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised by “I Was in love With a Short Man Once”.  Kimberly Dalferes’ delightful collection of stories from her experiences pulled me in, bringing memories to mind I hadn’t recalled in years.  This southern Irish gal has the gift for storytelling, even the Introduction made me smile.  The concept of yearning to be a ‘broad’ had me laughing out loud.  I totally get it. Truth be told, I ‘get’ Kimberly Dalferes.   We are of ‘an age’.  Meaning, we both lived through the weirdness of the 70’s.

Dalferes takes the reader along when she looks back at the 70’s, and other periods of her life. Her stories about struggling for acceptance in Junior High reminded me of the painful shyness that made that time in my life so stressful, and later, how I became the only pantomiming cheerleader at our school: too shy to yell but needing so much to be part of the group that I faked it.  Her mention of Wrangler jeans back then being a banner signifying one’s economic status really hit home.  I had a pair (or three) of Wrangler jeans I wore when I tried to cross the tracks to fit in.  It didn’t work. I might as well have had ‘dork’ branded on my head. The ‘mean girl’ who plagued Kimberly throughout Junior High brought to mind many from that time period in my life.  The vulnerability she expressed in her recollections moved me.  As did her poignant recounting of the loss of her beloved Grumps.  

In sharing her experiences, Dalferes balances somber reflection with just the right dose of humor.  Her stories about high school made me remember those awful bell-bottom pants that tangled under the heels of my platform shoes.  The tales she told of later years were the sort that many of us have experienced.  I’m not going to give anything away but, I will say, my favorites involved Eric’s reaction, static cling, the drunken girls stumbling on the train, and the story of the birth of her son.  (Having undergone three —yes, three!—inductions before the delivery of my last child, I can relate to being the insular pregnant lady, 9 months into her ordeal, who would just as soon poke your eye out as look at you if you asked that horrid question, “When are you due?”)   And, I must mention the bat story! I cringed, shivered…almost yakked, then cracked up at the thought of giving a bat (a frigging BAT) mouth-to-mouth.  And, that’s just a sampling of some of her stories, folks! There is so much to be enjoyed and appreciated in this book.  I highly recommend it.  This little gem earned a well deserved 5 hearts!

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Disclosure:  I requested this book of the author and received it as a gift.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.