Horse Sense ~ Debra G. Meyer

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“She’s strong,” the cowboy offered,
With a twinkle in his eye.
“I’ll wager she’s got bottom,
With no quit and lots of try.”

I glanced in the direction
That his nod bid me to go.
“Purty head, a real nice neck,
She looks fine enough to show.”

“I betcha she ain’t cold-backed,
Like some others I have knowed.
She’s fit and not too fleshy.”
Words of praise pert nearly flowed.

I gaped in pure confusion,
At a hammer-headed mare.
She’d been around the range some,
You could plainly see the wear.

Her pig eyes stared out blankly,
Her old cowhocks nearly kissed,
The faults I seen was endless,
They’s too numerous to list.

The cowboy had horse savvy.
His pronouncements took as law,
But the crazy he was talkin’
Worked my brain ‘til it was raw.

A fever might a took’im
Or his eyes was gettin’ dim.
I’s scramblin’ for the answer,
When I stopped and looked at him.

No squintin’ nor a’quakin’
So I knew I had to ask.
“Pard,” I queried cautiously,
“Ya been emptyin’ yer flask?”

His gaze was straight and level,
As he looked me in the eye.
“Nope,” was all he said to me,
But his count’nance added “why?”

I spluttered and I stammered,
Tried in vain to find my voice.
I didn’t want to tell him,
But there clearly weren’t no choice.

“Well,” I started nervously,
Tryin’ hard not to affront.
“That hoss ain’t naught but crowbait!”
Hadn’t meant to be so blunt.

“A greenhorn ought not question,
The fine wisdom I bestow.”
The cowboy was a’smilin’,
Talkin’ soft and kinda slow.

His grin kept gettin’ bigger,
Till it lit the whole corral.
“Ne’er said it were the mare, son.
I was talkin’ ’bout the gal.”

A purty senorita,
Led that nag on out the gate.
He watched as she departed,
“Looky there, she’s trackin’ straight.”

Debra G. Meyer

Review: The Dark Road ~ Ma Jian, Flora Drew (Translator)

The Dark RoadMeili, a young peasant woman born in the remote heart of China, is married to Kongzi, a village school teacher, and a distant descendant of Confucius. They have a daughter, but desperate for a son to carry on his illustrious family line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant again without waiting for official permission. When family planning officers storm the village to arrest violators of the population control policy, mother, father and daughter escape to the Yangtze River and begin a fugitive life.

For years they drift south through the poisoned waterways and ruined landscapes of China, picking up work as they go along, scavenging for necessities and flying from police detection. As Meili’s body continues to be invaded by her husband and assaulted by the state, she fights to regain control of her fate and that of her unborn child.

4 Thumbs-UpI read this book on the recommendation of a reader of my blog posts, and was glad I took the time to do so.  If you are expecting a Chinese version of Alan Burgess’s The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, you will be sorely disappointed.  There is no fairy tale happy ending, this book is grim and full of atrocities almost as soon as you start reading; it lives up to its title very well.

This is the first book I have read that was translated from Chinese and, although it made me squirm in places, it is incredibly well written and well translated.  During the opening chapters I had to take time to read carefully to make sure I wasn’t missing any nuances that the translator had wanted to include, and this worked well to the point that in no time I was reading through the pages with ease.  The Author has written and developed some truly believable characters within this books covers, characters that can be both embraced and reviled by the reader. However, be under no illusion that, unless you have walked a mile in these characters shoes, that you will be able to relate to them in any way; I haven’t, I wouldn’t want to experience what they do, and I couldn’t relate to them because of the situation they are in and the events that happen to them, I didn’t feel that this inability to connect with characters hurt my enjoyment of this novel in any way at all.

It is not light entertainment by any means, and contains graphic descriptions of the events that take place within its pages; one such being an abortion performed at eight months (just recalling this passage makes me shudder anew).  The Author brings to the surface all that is wrong with the One Child Policy practiced in China, and makes the policy all the more disturbing as they skilfully convey to the reader that there is nothing they can do about this.

This book is chilling, infuriating at times and almost unbearable to continue reading at others as it chronicles the inhumanity of the above mentioned policy, and the lengths that people will go to in order to avoid detection of their violation of this rule; most of all this is an incredible book with a wonderfully presented storyline written in a manner that will make you think about it long after you have closed the book for the last time.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to expand their reading sphere, providing they are not overly squeamish.

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Review: Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America ~ Jane Allen Petrick

Hidden in plain sightNorman Rockwell’s America was not all white. As early as 1936, Rockwell was portraying people of color with empathy and a dignity often denied them at the time. And he created these portraits from live models.

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America unfolds, for the first time, the stories of the Asian, African, and Native Americans who modeled for Norman Rockwell. These people of color, though often hidden in plain sight, are present throughout Rockwell’s more than 4000 illustrations. People like the John Lane family, Navajos poignantly depicted in the virtually unknown Norman Rockwell painting, “Glen Canyon Dam.” People like Isaac Crawford, a ten-year old African-American Boy Scout who helped Norman Rockwell finally integrate the Boy Scout calendar.

In this engrossing and often humorous narrative, Jane Allen Petrick explores what motivated Norman Rockwell to slip people of color “into the picture” in the first place. And in so doing, she persuasively documents the famous illustrator’s deep commitment to and pointed portrayals of ethnic tolerance, portrayals that up to now have been, as Norman Rockwell biographer Laura Claridge so clearly put it, “bizarrely neglected”.

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America is an eye opener for everyone who loves Norman Rockwell, everyone who hates Norman Rockwell and for all those people in between who never thought much about Norman Rockwell because they believed Norman Rockwell never thought much about them. This book will expand the way you think about Norman Rockwell. And it will deepen the way you think about Norman Rockwell’s America.

4 Thumbs-UpWhether you love the work of Norman Rockwell, hate it or just haven’t given it that much thought, after all it pervades most of American life in one way or another, this book is well worth your time to read to gain a new perspective on his work, or allow you to look at it with fresh eyes.

In this short 125 page book, the Author illustrates how the Artist used his talents to give a voice to his feelings about the happenings of the time.  Through thoroughly engaging and captivating stories the Author lets the reader into the mind of Mr. Rockwell and experience his feelings about those in society who are ‘hidden in plain sight’.  This book features a section of those people, those of colour, who he used as models for his work which in turn served to give his illustrations a depth and also a social awareness that many have failed to notice.  In compiling this book the Author provides the reader with a greater understanding of America, as seen through the brush strokes of an artist who snubbed his nose at convention and included people in his artwork that were largely overlooked by society as a whole.  My only issue about this book was that there were not more illustrations to support the stories contained within its pages; I suspect this may be more due to copyright issues than intentional omission

I highly recommend it for readers of any age that are interested in the arts or art history and lovers of Norman Rockwell’s work. Reading this certainly gave me a new appreciation for the work of Norman Rockwell.

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Review: The Rise (Trials and Triumph #1) ~ Kenneth E. Nowell

The RiseJesus Christ s cryptic question has puzzled Christians for twenty centuries: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? (John 21:22) Now, when a bizarre death shatters the serenity of a New York monastery, and a mysterious, Semitic drifter is accused of murder, the ultimate forces of innocence and iniquity are set on a collision course, careening to the Apocalyptic end of the Age. Highly researched and eerily reflective of today’s global headlines, this trilogy races around the world and through the centuries to a pulse-pounding climax.

2 Thumbs-UpThis novel is the first of a trilogy, and is definitely of the Christian Fiction genre.

From a character development point of view, as I read my way through this book I noticed that the majority of characters were, or seemed to be, a hodgepodge of current day cultural icons spanning from generic political figures through to well-known media ‘darlings’.  Using this approach to their characters, I felt that the Author had negated the necessity to give them any real depth or back story, as it was assumed that we would know everything we needed to about them from their intrusion into our everyday lives.  I think this book could have been taken up a notch by using more original characters, giving them back stories and personalities a reader could actually relate to and, in turn, come to care about the characters themselves.

Some readers may pick this up and feel like they have read it before, this is due I feel to the great similarities this book has with ‘The Left Behind’ series; it is nothing like that series.  The Author has a great writing style, and this makes the book flow along at a nice pace, they have filled it with footnotes that support the great amount of research the Author has put into writing this novel, and are there for any others who may want to dig deeper into this subject for themselves.  However, there are times when the book becomes a little derailed, and the reader can find themselves lost as to what is actually occurring.  Whether or not these loose ends will be picked up and tied off neatly in subsequent books would be interesting to see, even if they are it will be still hard for the Author to justify the inclusion of suicide in these books.

Unfortunately, and here I must apologise to the Author, this book was not for me as at times I felt I was being preached to and told that if I didn’t follow steps A-Z I was a lost soul.  I have read some great Christian Fiction but, sadly, this was not one of them and I doubt I will be reading the remaining books in this trilogy.

I would recommend this book to lovers of the Christian Fiction genre, but if you are expecting to find a budding C.S Lewis or Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins combination, you will be sorely disappointed.

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Review: Under the Black Ensign ~ L. Ron Hubbard

Under the Black ensignLong before Captain Jack Sparrow raised hell with the Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Bristol sailed to hell and back Under the Black Ensign.That’s where the real adventure begins.

Bristol’s had plenty of bad luck in his life. Press-ganged into serving aboard a British vessel, he’s felt the cruel captain’s lash on his back. Then, freed from his servitude by pirates, his good fortune immediately takes a bad turn . . . as the pirates accuse him of murder—and leave him to die on a deserted island. Now all he has left are a few drops of water, a gun, and just enough bullets to put himself out of his misery.
But Bristol’s luck is about to change. Finding himself in the unexpected company of a fiery woman and a crafty crew, he unsheathes his sword, raises a pirate flag of his own, and sets off to make love and war on the open seas.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is one of a number of books that appear in the Golden Age series.  For those of you who may be worried that the book may contain references to scientology or dianetics, for which this Author appears to be well-known, you need not worry.  At no point in my reading of this did I find any references to either of these.

If you are a reader that is looking for a no frills, straight to the action kind of book, this one will be right up your alley.  Like most books written in this era and classified as pulp fiction, there is no thought at all given to any character development, and when every page is packed with action and adventure, why waste time with all the frills and fancy that developing a back story brings with it.  As with most of this Authors Golden Age books, the characters portrayed within its pages are not the usual stereotypical fodder one would except from this kind of book; instead they are more archetypical which makes the book more palatable for the reader.

At only 121 pages, this little novella is full of pirates, adventure, mishap, exploits and did I mention pirates?  Every kind of piratical adventure imaginable is packed into these pages, and the reader can find themselves turning the last page before they realise it.  It’s a high-octane and great uncomplicated read for all ages, especially children who are caught up in the pirate craze, and adults looking for some good old-fashioned escapism.  I also feel this book would be suitable as bedtime reading to your children and grandchildren, and would definitely read it to mine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and will definitely be hunting down some more of the Golden Age books for those nasty winter afternoons that lay ahead.  I highly recommend you do the same.

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Doris Lessing 1919 ~ 2013

Doris LessingThis year has not been kind to the reading community as yet another Author passes away.

Doris Lessing, Author of “The Golden Notebook” and “The Children of Violence” series, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize passed away on Sunday aged 94.  The exact cause of her death is not known, and her Family have requested privacy.

Our condolences are with them at this time.

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Review: Real Food for Dogs: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes to Please the Canine Gastronome ~ Arden Moore, Anne Davis

DogsLots of people enjoy making or buying treats for their pets, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to cook a real meal for the four-legged member of the household? Quirky yet practical, these cookbooks provide recipes that are nutritionally balanced and veterinarian-approved. They even include sections on “tandem” recipes – recipes for humans that, with slight modifications, can also be served to pets.

 

4 Thumbs-UpI know this is not the kind of book I would normally review, but after being asked many times if I have any recipes for dog treats, and what do I feed our very old dogs, I decided to review this book of recipes.

Since it was recommended by our vet, who is very much aware of what ‘rubbish’ they put into the generic store bought dog foods; and once I received the seal of approval from her to use it with a couple of tweaks for our dogs, it is a book that it used on an almost daily basis in our house.

Having older dogs, and being aware that as they age even more their taste buds tend to deteriorate, this is an ideal book full of recipes for people who are worried about their dog not eating or enjoying their food as much as they used to.  It is chock full of tasty recipes that can be cooked ahead and frozen, plus a section on recipes that can be made for both human and canine (with some tweaks) consumption.  Some of the recipes do call for a large amount of garlic and as too much of this is not good for our furry friends, I either ramp back the amount I use, or omit it all together from the recipe.  This doesn’t seem to affect the enjoyment the dogs get out of this food, and since I have been cooking for them they have lost a lot of that ‘middle age spread’ so many breeds (especially labs) seem to suffer from.  Not giving them processed foods has also resulted in a decline in that nasty gas dogs are able to conjure up at a moment’s notice, and has put a spring in their step.

One of my complaints about this book is that the Author, both vets themselves, seem to be under the impression that the reader has bottomless pockets with which to buy the ingredients; I find that there are some very well priced substitutes for some of the items listed in the ingredients that will not break any pet owners budget.  On the plus side of this review are the recipes for dog treats; the favourite on for my dogs is the peanut butter dog treats which only involves 4 ingredients, and makes enough treats to last a couple of weeks.  Another good thing about this book is that is caters to dogs of all sizes, so there is no scaling up of amounts for large dog breeds or reduction for their smaller counterparts.

I would recommend this book to all dog owners who are looking to remove processed foods from their animal’s diets; however, please make sure to check any and all new recipes or food items with your vet before feeding them to your pet. And, for the cat lovers out there, there is also a cat recipe version of this book.

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