Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Book Trailer Spotlight: Stonebridge by Linda Griffin


Rynna Dalton is welcomed to Stonebridge by the ghostly presence of her mother's murdered cousin Rosalind, but both Rosalind and Cousin Ted warn her against marrying Rosalind's son. 

Title: Stonebridge
Author: Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2023
Pages: 256
Genre: Ghost Story/Romance

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After the death of her mother, Rynna Dalton comes to live with her imperious great-grandmother and her bookish, disabled cousin Ted at Stonebridge Manor. Almost immediately she is aware of a mysterious presence, which she believes is the spirit of her mother’s murdered cousin, Rosalind. Rynna is charmed by Rosalind’s lawyer son Jason Wyatt, who courts her, and she agrees to marry him. Meanwhile Ted and Rynna become good friends. But Stonebridge holds secrets that will profoundly affect her future. Why is Ted so opposed to the match? Why does Rosalind seem to warn Rynna against it? And how far will Jason go to possess Stonebridge—and the woman he professes to love?

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Book Excerpt:

She negotiated the stairs one at a time, her bare feet silent on the plush carpet. Halfway down, she leaned over the banister, concentrating intently. No sound from the  direction of the music room, no stir from the servants’ hall.

       She crept in the door of the music room, where she could barely make out the shape of the piano in the darkness. A quick, furtive glance behind her and then she switched on the flashlight and swept the beam around the still room. Nothing lurked in the shadows. She tiptoed to the piano and ran the light across the keys. No visible strings or wires. 

She heard a faint murmur and snapped off the flashlight. She ducked back from the door and hid in a shadowed corner where she was sure she couldn’t be seen with the overhead light off. She waited and heard nothing more. The sound had been almost inaudible, perhaps just the old house creaking or settling.

She held her arm close to her face so she could read the faintly luminous dial of her wristwatch. It was 2:15. Easy enough to wait where she was for a few more minutes. If the pattern held, the practical joker would fall right into her trap. She leaned against the wall and kept her breathing steady and quiet. Just a few minutes more, a little patience. The house was quiet, peaceful, waiting.

Someone was in the room.

Rynna snapped on the flashlight.

No one was there. She had not heard anything to suggest anyone had come into the room, and nothing had touched her, and yet for a split-second she had been absolutely certain someone was a few feet away. She’d had such a strong kinesthetic sense of a presence that the flashlight was on before she had time for conscious thought.

She switched it off again, feeling foolish, but damn it, she had detected something. The sensation was so vivid she had a lingering memory of the other person’s scent. Or did she detect something tangible now? A faint trace of perfume? Something unfamiliar and s suggestive of roses. Now I’m imagining things, she told herself sternly. She hoped the light hadn’t given her away and she still had time to wait undiscovered for the trickster to appear.

She leaned back against the wall and waited, listening to the silence. The house was almost too quiet, as if nobody lived there. Nothing creaked or shifted or fluttered in the darkness. But for the knowledge that she didn’t have long to wait, the silence would have gotten on her nerves. As it was, the hair on the back of her neck prickled. She shivered a little. Like most old houses, Stonebridge was drafty. 

The silence was oppressive and in some way alive. An inexplicable chill ran down her spine. She saw nothing, heard nothing. She didn’t even have a definite sense of someone else in the room. She was simply unnerved for no reason. For a few seconds more she stayed in the shadows of the music room and then, with an almost physical sensation, her composure shattered.

Rynna fled. She ran for the stairs and clambered up them, slipping and stumbling in the dark, half-choked by terror and gasping for breath. At the top of the stairs, she ran full tilt into someone hurrying down the hall, and before she had time to register who it was, she screamed.

Book Trailer:
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About the Author

Linda Griffin knew she wanted to be a “book maker” as soon as she learned to read and wrote her first story, “Judy and the Fairies,” at the age of six. She retired as fiction librarian for the San Diego Public Library to spend more time on her writing. She has had stories of every length from short shorts to novellas published in numerous literary journals, and Stonebridge is her eighth book from the Wild Rose Press. She enjoys the three R’s — reading, writing, and research–as well as Scrabble, movies, and travel. 

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Movie review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

On Christmas Day, in keeping with the theme, I decided that the movie du jour should be The Man who Invented Christmas. This star-studded cast boasts some acting greats such as Christopher Plummer, Ian McNeice, Simon Callow, Donald Sumpter, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Paterson, and Miriam Margolyes. The story this time is not A Christmas Carol, the most beloved Christmas tale, but the story behind the story; how Charles Dickens came to write this 1843 novella. It makes for very interesting viewing, especially if one is a writer. The plot of the movie revolves around how Dickens, facing financial failure, conceives of and writes the story in just six weeks. He comes up with names, characters, ideas, and plot twists based on the people and events around him. But soon one wonders if the author is writing the book, or the characters are writing the book…

Dan Stevens plays Dickens rather frenetically as the somewhat self-absorbed, eccentric author who can’t stand failure and/or criticism, and very nearly loses his friends and family while he wallows in the mire of writer’s block and the pressure of creating a new work. The characters appear in his imagination but very quickly assume more corporeal proportions and offer their opinions of him, his attitudes, his character, his behaviour, and his words. Chistopher Plummer is utterly superb as Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean old scoundrel who knows the value of a penny but not of love. Can he change? Will he survive the three phantom visitations? I can’t think of any other actor being able to play Scrooge with the nuances that Plummer gives the character. He is brilliant. The excellent supporting cast is too large to mention everyone, but Donald Sumpter is wonderful as the ghost of Jacob Marley. 

The sets are fantastic as well, giving the right atmosphere and ambiance, with famous names of the era dropped in here and there. The audience is transported right into Victorian Engand. The scenes are well fleshed out, giving background to the period, and highlighting some of the sadder social issues. Dickens, as a writer and social critic, highlights the issues and desperate plight of the poor at the time. The movie epilogue says that Charles Dickens changed the way people viewed Christmas and revived the spirit of goodwill and giving. A bit of research shows that yes, the novel was so wildly popular that it reinvigorated the Christmas season and people’s interest in an ancient custom. Is it worth watching? Absolutely, it's a must-see. Stevens is chaotic in his interpretation of Dickens but the solid cast and superb performances, plus the poignant nature of the story, make this an excellent movie to both enjoy and ponder a little more thereon. This is a perennial Christmas movie the family can watch year after year without tiring of it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Book review: A Friend for Christmas by Mike Martin


A Christmas book about overcoming your fears and finding friends at Christmas. 

Title: A Friend for Christmas

Author: Mike Martin

Publication Date: October 20, 2023

Pages: 36

Genre: Children's

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Good things come to those who face their fears. 

Robbie Rabbit lived in a warren in a big city with his wife Rowena Rabbit and their nine kits. He called it their rabbit apartment. Robbie and his family were hunkering down for winter when an unexpected visitor makes an appearance. 

A Friend for Christmas is the heartwarming tale of a very brave rabbit who faces his fears and makes a new friend at the magical time of the year.  He learns that friends can come in all shapes and sizes and Robbie and his family discover the joy of Christmas.

This beautifully illustrated book is suitable for children of all ages. Especially those who still believe in the magic of Christmas.

“This lovely fable tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a family of rabbits and a gray cat named Whisper. In these war-torn times, it’s an important reminder of our innate ability to choose live over fear.” – Amazon

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My Review: A Friend for Christmas by Mike Martin is an adorable children’s Christmas story that young readers will simply love. Robbie and Rowena Rabbit have nine youngsters (called kits). All their names start with the letter R: Rhonda, Riley, Rebecca, Rowan, Ruby, Ryan, Rose, Romeo, and Ricky. With so many mouths to feed, dad Robbie must forage daily for food. It’s not easy. It’s winter, it’s snowing, and he must navigate the road and passing cars safely. But Robbie is brave and determined and he and Rowena are devoted parents. However, there’s one thing that Robbie fears the most: cats. Whenever he sees a cat, he runs as fast as he can all the way home, which is the advice he gives to the youngsters. One day he meets a cat, a slinky grey cat called Whisper, that seems determined to befriend him. Robbie and Rowena are astounded. What strange behavior from a cat! Can rabbits be friends with a cat?

A Friend for Christmas is a lovely story just in time for Christmas. Mike Martin introduces the concept of friends in all shapes, sizes and … wait for it … species! The spirit of Christmas and festivities filters through with the tall creatures (humans) putting up twinkling lights and beautiful decorations. From Whisper, Robbie and his family learn what Christmas is all about and that sometimes the greatest gift one can give someone is their friendship. This is the message of the festive season and one that parents will be pleased to see in this charming story. Other positive aspects of this book are the lessons Robbie and Rowena teach their children about road safety, the wonderful sense of a family playing and having fun together, new friendships, and learning about animals. Youngsters will also have fun with so many ‘r’ words in the rabbit family names! The illustrations are simple and clear and help to tell the story.

About the Author

Mike Martin was born in St. John’s, NL on the east coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the award-winning and best-selling author of the award-winning Sgt. Windflower Mystery series set in beautiful Grand Bank. There are now 13 books in this light mystery series with the publication of All That Glitters.

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