Friday, May 23, 2014

Spuckler gives SIROCCO 4 Stars

Joseph Spuckler gives Sirocco, Storm Over Land and Sea
(Legends of the Wing Scarab #2) 
4 Stars
SIROCCO, Storm Over Land and Sea (Legends of the Winged Scarab) by Inge Borg is the follow up to Khamsin (reviewed earlier this year at Author Alliance). This may be the first sequel I have read that takes place 5,000 years after the initial book. Khamsin set the stage in the ancient world and Sirocco picks up in modern Egypt, in fact, modern enough to include the 2011 revolution.
The Sirocco is a Mediterranean wind out of the south-east that can reach hurricane strengths and carries with it sand from Libya and North Africa. Sand from these storms reach Italy, Greece, and Albania and is dense enough to be seen on satellite photographs. Although slow in developing, the storms can wreak havoc on boats that are not prepared or do not take proper precautions.
Overall the story is well done and fast moving. It does fit well into the thriller category and ties in with real world and practical matters in antiquities. The novel has several subplots that converge to make an exciting story that is a bit more complex than your average thriller. There are several competing factions in the story. First is the team of archaeologists from the Cambridge Research Institute with the stand out character Naunet Klein. Their assistance is requested by the Jabari El-Masri who heads the Cairo Museum. El-Masri is feeling the pressure or the growing public unrest. He holds his position through favors and loyalty to President Mubarak. He is concerned with his future and the loyalty of his staff. Not everything he does is above board, but he rationalizes that it is for the safety and protection of the national and historical treasures. Also in the mix is the British gentleman Edward Guernsey-Crock: A man of mystery…a cocky man of mystery. Throw in some townspeople, art “collectors,” and fifty ancient golden tablets and a story quickly forms.
There is tension and suspicion between the various groups with Naunet taking on the role of the central character. Borg does an excellent job of filling the reader in on what would be for most unfamiliar subjects. She describes laser cleaning of metal artifacts used by archaeologists. There are some nautical lessons when the story line moves the open water. Borg has earlier shown in Khamsin that she knows Egyptian history. Her work is well researched. She also exposes the shadier side of the art and artifact world. As with her previous novel, it is nice to finish a novel and, although it is fiction, walk away a bit smarter.
Sirocco proves itself to be an action packed adventure story with an intriguing plot. It is the perfect book for a rainy afternoon or a story that allows you to live a vicarious adventure when your planned adventures fall through. Very well done.

See Joseph Spuckler's Review of KHAMSIN under the "Reader Reviews" tab
Read Joseph Spuckler's Other Reviews:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Christoph Fischer: On Alzheimer's Disease

With the publication of his newest novel "Time to Let Go," Christoph Fischer brings the terrible and debilitating disease of Alzheimer's Disease to the fore.

In the following guest-blog, he delves deeper into it. He also sheds light onto real and imagined characters and the back story for his book. It is a fascinating, albeit frightening, revelation especially for those of us who have been fortunate enough not (yet) to have to deal with this illness, nor its inherent care-taker pressures.

* * *

“The Real Biddy Korhonen”
by Christoph Fischer

I grew up with only a few friends and with two older siblings who were miles ahead of me in their lives. My mother was a busy woman and so I spent a lot of time at my aunt’s house. She had always wanted to have four children but lost one child at birth. Her other three children were much older and didn’t need her much anymore, so my visits to her house filled a gap for her, in the same way as her attention to me filled a need in me. A match made in heaven.
Philomena, or Minna, as we called her, remained a source of happiness and encouragement throughout my life. I was always welcome and treated like a precious gift. She smoked, but she outlived both of her sisters (taken in their 40s by cancer).
In her late 70s, Minna was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Well, I thought, at least she lives, belittling her misfortune without much awareness.
The next time I saw her, her trademark happiness however seemed far away. She was crying bitterly because she had lost her hearing aid, a very expensive one, too. Suddenly her life seemed to revolve around retrieving things. She was spared the physical pain of her sisters, but she suffered severe mental torture.
She fortunately reached a happier stage as medication and care helped reduce the misery in her life, but the attention she needed was a huge toll to the family. Despite her memory loss, she seemed to vaguely recognise me; me, the ‘child’ that lived abroad and who rarely came to visit. She had not lost her warmth and happiness, or maybe she had just regained it after the bad patch I mentioned earlier.
Very recently I saw her again, almost unrecognisable: withdrawn, very unresponsive and almost reduced to basic functioning.
Surprisingly, she could still read and when I came to see her for a second time her eyes shone as if she did recognise me. I spoke an emotional goodbye to her and her hand was shaky and excited as she listened to my speech. She even responded by talking, using words that didn’t fit exactly but which expressed an emotion similar to what one would expect from a loving aunt in such a situation.
With her loving kindness in mind I created Biddy, the mother in “Time to let Go,” a selfless, giving woman, who even in her illness manages to show her innate kindness.  I know it would be wrong to praise her for a gift that many other patients do not have, through no fault of their own. Losing one’s memory and control of one’s life is a terrible thing that you can only understand when it happens to you.
“Time to Let Go” is partly meant as a tribute to my brave aunt and to the wonderful people who help making her life dignified and as happy as is possible.
* * *
My book is inspired by personal experiences with sufferers from the disease. Nowadays, almost everyone knows someone who has relatives with Alzheimer’s and gradually stories and anecdotes about these patients have entered the social dinner party circuit and become common knowledge.
Alzheimer is a dreadful disease that cannot be easily understood in its gravity and the complex, frustrating and far reaching consequences for the victims and their families. There are different stages of the disease as it progresses and patients can move through them at different paces and in varying intensity. My book does not attempt to be a complete representation or a manual of how to deal with the disease. The illness affects every patient differently and there are many stories to tell and many aspects to cover. I hope that I can bring some of those issues to the surface and help to make the gravity of the disease more prominent. I did, however, decide to stay firmly in fiction and family drama territory, and not to write a dramatized documentary on the subject.
I have witnessed several different approaches to handling the disease by both individuals and entire families, and I have learned that the people involved in every case need to work out what is best for them.  In my book, a family works out their particular approach, which is right for them. They have different ideas about it and need to battle it out. These clashes fascinated me and I felt they were worth exploring.
Issues of caring at home, mobile care assistance or institutionalising patients are personal and, depending on where in the world you are, every family has very different options or limitations. The ending in my book must be seen in that context: as an individual ‘best’ solution that uniquely fits the Korhonen family.
* * *
As point of first reference and for a more comprehensive and scientific overview of information and help available I recommend: in the UK, and in the US.
There are support groups, help-lines and many other sources available in most countries. These will be able to advise specifically for each individual situation.
I can also recommend “Because We Care” by Fran Lewis. This fantastic book has a comprehensive appendix with more or less everything you need to know about the disease: Its stages, personal advice on caring, information, tools and help available in the US.
For consistency, I exclusively used material relating to a medium advanced stage of the disease. To protect the privacy and dignity of the patients that inspired the story I have altered all of the events and used both first and second hand experiences and anecdotes. Nothing in this book has actually happened in that way. Apart from some outer parallels between my characters and patients I witnessed, any similarities with real people, alive or dead, are coincidental and unintended.
* * *
The airline plot is not based on any real incident but is inspired by my own imagination. I used to work for an airline and so naturally, much of Hanna’s life is based on my own experience of 15 years flying. I lived with the awareness that every time a call bell goes off on a plane this could be a matter of life and death. What happens to Hanna in the book has never happened to me or anyone close to me. My flying life was not that extraordinary. Fortunately.
But every year airline crew are retrained in emergency procedures and aviation medicine, and at least during those intense yearly re-training sessions your mind cannot help considering the possibilities of such events.
The modern trend of the ‘suing- and compensation-culture’ and the extent of it in some cases worries me a little, which is why some of that concern found its way into the book.
The lifestyle of cabin crew and pilots is often falsely glorified as a glamorous string of free holidays and leisure. A recent crew strike in the UK has brought the profession into disrepute in the media, as fat cats and lazy bones.
My book aims to shed a bit of light on the realities of flying. I enjoyed the life and would not want to miss the experience but it is a tough life that demands huge personal sacrifices and flexibility, sleep deprivation on a massive scale and exposure to aggressive and abusive behaviour by a consumerist clientele. In the global trend of cost cutting, salaries are going down and what used to be a career is at risk of becoming a minimum wage job handed to people who have no experience and who have no incentive to give it their all.
My book is a tribute to my former colleagues in the airline industry, who, in my opinion, are unsung heroes and a bunch of wonderful, hard-working and very caring people.
* * *
What makes Alzheimer so terrible? What is it that makes a memory so important to one’s life that people compare its horrors to pain-inflicting diseases like cancer? You are alive and physically well, you eat and function as a human, but as an Alzheimer patient you are bound to be suffering, frustrated, depressed and unhappy.
Of course it is ridiculous to compare the two diseases, but while a cancer patient has still their awareness and choices, the Alzheimer sufferer is losing the core of their being, everything they ever were.
How can you define yourself if you cannot remember? You have had children, but you won’t recognise them. You won awards, had a successful career, made people happy, but you don’t know any of it. Who are you and what are you doing on the planet? Who are the people around you? As the disease progresses, these things become more intense and you can live in a mental prison of fear and disorientation. Your brain won’t do as you want it to. The fear of losing ‘it’ altogether, for some is impossible to bear. You are about to lose everything that was ever precious to you.
That thought is frightening to all of us. It can happen to all of us. The worst stage seems to be when patients still notice that something is wrong. We all know how annoying it is when we just put something down and don’t remember where. Imagine that happening to you all the time, every day, and you get an idea of how it might feel.  The caretakers see their loved ones slowly drift away into a stranger.
Biddy’s husband Walter, in my novel, becomes obsessed with preserving memories – his own and others. He begins to write a family chronicle as a constructive outlet for his fears. He is an important character with his musings about preserving knowledge, memories and facts and he allowed me to bring in thoughts about the disease on a different and more reflective level.
I hope that I have managed to write about more than just the clinical side of the disease. I stuck to the early stages of Alzheimer in the story because it gave me the best opportunities to work these thoughts into the story. It allows me to look back at Biddy’s past but with still a lot of hope.

* * *

Friday, May 16, 2014

Shadow Love - My very own Pentimento

I don't know if one's own regret, one's own pentimento is a reasonable solution? But painters change their mind all the time painting over their original drawings, so I thought I would too (again).

It's not that I want to rename my novella "Pentimento." That's already a delightful book by Lillian Hellman (and subsequently others have used it).

Wikipedia defines the word as such:
"A pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word is Italian for repentance, from the verb pentirsi, meaning to repent."

Apply that to my novella previously published as "Clouds of the Heart," aka "Shadow Sanctuary" - and you get a repenting (aka "hotted-out") SHADOW LOVE.

I am at a loss why this mysterious love story isn't gaining more traction; it's contemporary, keeps you guessing, and is also sympathetic to the mature woman (who is still very much a woman). It is something most fifty-ish, independent yet women who still yearn for love can relate to (except perhaps those drowning their sorrow in too much wine).

By the way, there is a brief appearance of our " old friend," the charming Edward in all his conning glory. That cad's becoming quite the celebrity throughout several of my novels; however does he manage to keep popping up?

I'd love to know what you think of the new cover and title?

Review of Fischer's "Time to Let Go"

My Review of Christoph Fischer's 

"Time to Let Go"

My Review:

A Book Written from the Heart

The bitter-sweet title of this novel says it all. But when should one; how does one let go of a loved one?

Christoph Fischer's newest, fourth, novel deals with the difficult subject of a grown woman suddenly confronted by her aged parents' frailties; they are both in their eighties. To compound her re-entry into her parents lives is the onset of Alzheimer's Disease in her mother who has turned into an uncomprehending childlike dependent. The father tries to cope with the loss of his wife's companionship by overriding medical
advice and adhering to his own 'common sense.' Inevitably, his stubborn ideas clash with those of his worldly daughter, herself emotionally struggling with a traumatic recent event.

This is a heart-wrenching and timely book, as many of today's already overtaxed professionals find themselves pushed into a bewildering one-sided relationship with a changed parent for which they are ill-prepared.

Fischer begins with his trademark factual narration, then throws the reader into the jarring world of sudden confusion and responsibility. With great insight, he guides toward an understanding how these individuals try to bridge the abyss between their worlds suddenly brought to the fore by the loss of a wife and mother who no longer remembers that she was both so capably for the most part of her life.

This is Fischer's most approachable writing. As the novel unfolds, it becomes a very personal story, ending with great gentleness and eventual insight; the clock cannot be turned back - not even with love. The final understanding of the disease's inevitable progression, and tender care, are the only things left to the caretakers - in that, they must come together. It is time to let go.

A highly recommended book for everyone with a family.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Christoph Fischer Publishes Fourth Novel

Author Christoph Fischer has once again tackled a serious and timely theme in his newest, and fourth, novel:

Time to Let Go,
a contemporary family drama set in Britain.

Following a traumatic incident at work Stewardess Hanna Korhonen decides to take time off work and leaves her home in London to spend quality time with her elderly parents in rural England. There she finds that neither can she run away from her problems, nor does her family provide the easy getaway place that she has hoped for.

Her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and, while being confronted with the consequences of her issues at work, Hanna and her entire family are forced to reassess their lives.

The book takes a close look at family dynamics and at human nature in a time of a crisis. Their challenges, individual and shared, take the Korhonens on a journey of self-discovery and redemption.

* * *

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Another 5-Star Review for KHAMSIN

5.0 out of 5 stars
Like the WindMay 13, 2014
This review is from: KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of The Nile: A Novel of Ancient Egypt (Legends of the Winged Scarab) (Kindle Edition)
An incredibly interesting dose of fantasy and science fiction... a fable which transports you into ancient Egypt historic sites and then to present day. Ms. Borg must have a deep love for culture and the nature of the universe. The events of the Egyptian dynasties, are spun together to create a highly original and ingenious alternative history of Egyptian civilization, one that will seem attractive to many. Ms. Borg isn't only an excellent writer taking advantage of her natural skills she's also an outstanding scholar of Egyptology. Very few people could have pulled this off and created a story with such layering, a story that reads like a credible Hollywood screenplay in the mold of Raiders of the Lost Ark with the scholarly underpinning of espionage. All three are must read for those who love this genre.
* * *
I relish it when my readers agree with me. I love KHAMSIN best mof all my novels. Not, because it is my "first-born," but because I believe that it is the one book combining literary prose with enough action and probable history (and mystery) to capture anyone's imagination about this amazing long-lost civilization. It captured my fascination a long time ago--as it still does.

And - yes, I am listening: We must finally know where these "first" Egyptians came from. I am working on it, people. Just give me a few months...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

SIROCCO-Featured at eBookSoda

On Saturday, May 10,
SIROCCO, Storm over Land and Sea

is being featured at eBookSoda, a new readers' site where they'll send you ebook recommendations tailored to your taste.

There are three books in the "Legends of the Winged Scarab" series:

KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of the Nile (A Novel of Ancient Egypt)
SIROCCO, Storm over Land and Sea (Modern-day archaeological thriller)
After The Cataclysm (Dystopian thriller)
* * *
All are available in eBook formats and print. – Amazon -  Smashwords - Barnes & Noble

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Review of Jim Bennett's "The Scroll of the Violin"

I was privileged to be given Jim Bennett's fourth poetry volume to read.
Following is my reaction to it:

The Scroll of the Violin - Poems 4
by Jim Bennett

The title is a brilliant analogy, as is the striking cover photograph, taken by Jim Bennett himself. Through both, the poet points to an artist fine-tuning his work; The Scroll of the Violin, Poems 4, is indeed pitch-perfect.

Jim Bennett's fourth poetry volume (I am reading them in reverse order) to me reveals surprising belief in that wondrous creation we so carelessly call our World; but is it? Once again, just as with "Retirement Clock, Poems 5," this book is not something to be leafed through in an afternoon and then put aside. These poems, too, are to be savored and contemplated; as I did, still do, and will again.

"Galapagos Search," for example, is a stirring testament to the Creator. A few poems are written with an interesting looping effect. At first, I thought "echoes, repetition." Rereading them, I got it. Those words are like rain filling rivers, oceans, evaporating, turning back to rain; subtly different, not quite the same.

The Scroll of the Violin is another amazing offering by Canadian poet Jim Bennett.

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You can also purchase this volume in Lulu digital format for the Adobe Digital Editions reader (which reader is free).
Bennett's Poetry:

Friday, May 2, 2014

East and West Passing Each Other

The Khlongs of Bangkok

The Thai capital Bangkok was crisscrossed by khlong and so gained the name Venice of the East. The khlongs were used for transportation and for floating markets, but also for sewage

Today, most of the khlongs of Bangkok have been filled in and converted into streets, although the Thonburi side of Bangkok (covering areas west of Chao Phraya River) still retains several of its larger khlongs.

When I traveled up one of those khlongs as a tourist, I took these pictures.

We stared.

They stared back.

I sadly realized:

East and West passing each other.

Just passing - 

never meeting.

Thursday, May 1, 2014



As we progress into that nebulous phase of our lives where we pretend to ignore the answer from that "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall," and cavalierly shrug that "It's no big deal," "For get it," "Been there, done that," we secretly - fervently - hope that our friends will not forget.

After all, a Birthday marks the passage of our time on this earth, to be reflected on, acknowledged - and celebrated.

We may be pronounced to be old by the young. To them, yes, so brashly-until, one day, years from now, they reminisce themselves.

But as far as we are concerned, we know that we still have spunk to exude, knowledge to share, and the all-important humor to impart.

And, for those of us lucky ones, there is robust health of mind and body to be grateful for, with that twinkle in the eye that lets us view life around us with tolerance and humor.

So, keep those roses and cards coming, my friends - because they let me know that you have not forsaken me - even if the mirror has.

In The Spotlight

All of my seven books are included in The Indie Tribe's May Spotlight.

You can check here:

You count six?

Well, Pasha too managed to get his whiskers in.

For those of you who prefer to read a quality paperback, all my titles are available as such through Amazon.