Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

SNHU MFA Graduate, Franella Lovie Smith … The Code (book review) … Movies … Bolts Mid-Season Report Card …

Franella with Merle Drown ... 
Franella Lovie Smith … author/mentor, Katie Towland, summed up Franella’s thesis best: “Franella’s novel, Like Apples on Trees, tells the story of a young woman pregnant with her first child and struggling with her identity as she approaches motherhood.  Add vividly drawn portraits of the main character’s mother and grandmother, and troubles with her pregnancy, and conflicts with her husband who is away on business, and you have a story that beautifully portrays challenges faced by many women. But Franella’s accomplished work takes on more than this plot line suggests, for her book is also about the legacy of slavery and the need for blacks and whites to move beyond the history that has kept them from knowing and loving each other fully.  The vision behind this novel is honest, hopeful and powerful, and challenges us to understand ourselves in new ways.”
Some pics of Franella enjoying the moments …

Franella at work with Author/Mentor, Ann Garvin and classmates ...

Congrats, Franella … for all you’ve accomplished already!
The Code, by G.B. Joyce … a cynical proposition is quickly put forth in this crime novel that centers around the ins and outs of hockey, at least as perceived by the narrator (a former 4th liner professional presently scouting for a living). It goes something like this: There exists an extra dose (or 200 doses) of Schadenfreude within the world of hockey; former players, scouts, former players who are scouts, professional players, semi-professional players, owners, GMs, even the guys and gals working the arenas, it seems … nobody seems to care much for one another … and some maybe wish all the worst happens to others. This may well be true in any competitive field (it sure held true on the street), but maybe extra especially when it comes to earning a living. The motive being: when you gotta eat, you gotta eat. That probably does hold credibility in a world as competitive as professional sports. Even in a small school college football environment like the one I attended way back in the day, nobody liked rookies/freshmen, and often the only dopes who didn’t know it were the freshman looking to impress. So it goes. I enjoyed learning a little more about hockey in this story about a very gifted kid (Billy Mays, Jr.) about to be drafted by the LA team. Our cynical protagonist (Brad Shade) has to perform the due diligence, scouting Mays before the big day. The spacing between events is often a bit long and thus awkward, but I was in this for the hockey and not necessarily the crime aspect. If you’re going to buy into a lawyer or journalist or even a private detective solving murder cases, why not a hockey scout? It’s a fast-paced read with some colorful characters throughout (coaches, trainers, former players, GM’s, etc., all of them very concerned about their very vulnerable jobs), and (talk about Schadenfreude), the narration features some razor blade introspection. Shade was once married to an actress turned starlet, immediately thereafter turned ex-wife, and that relationship haunts him from time to time amongst his peers. Not to worry, he’s not a victim. He’ll tell you that throughout. He’s loaded with self-deprecation, which makes him endearing when you don’t want to run in the other direction. It isn’t easy to pull off, but the author does it well. By novel’s end, it wasn’t the payoff I much cared about. It hardly ever is. Most of the time, it’s the trip that makes a book interesting for me, and this was a fun trip. Not your classic mystery novel by any stretch (and those VERY rarely appeal to me), but the ins and outs of the hockey circuit were fun for this novice to visit.
The weird thing is that Wednesday night I watched an NHL production called Behind the Bench featuring the Boston Brunettes, and some of it looked very familiar (i.e., the ball-breaking between players, etc., I still remember from both my locker room and street days—and speaking of Schadenfreude yet again, I’ve yet to see it matched on the street) … but back to Behind the Bench, even a guy I’ve hated until last night for all the irritating shit he pulls on the ice (and for which he never seems to get caught enough), Brad Marchand came off as a decent enough guy (and a pretty good ballbreaker). Hearing him praise his linemates the other night, even after scoring against our guys (the Bolts), gave me a somewhat altered perspective. He did what every hockey player seems to do: NOT talk about themselves while praising their teammates. Kudos to the little irritant.
Even 6’9” Zdeno Chara, Captain of the Brunettes, came off as a pleasant guy (this after watching him destroy one of our guys the other night).
Movies … wow, I really can’t remember the name of the movie I saw this week that I enjoyed (on Netflix), or what it was about ... but that could because I’m getting too old for what my wife often calls my infantile behavior.
One I did see and remember the name of was: Behaving Badly … it was petty juvenile … with an all-star cast (you ask me) … but sometimes my juvenile mind requires I let the dark stuff go for a couple of hours and enjoy some slapstick silliness. This one probably qualifies as a guilty pleasure … guilty as charged.
Tampa Bay Lightning half-season
Report Card …
I’m a self-professed neophyte drawn to the game by a single player a few years ago. I switched allegiance when he was traded. As a new Lightning devotee, I present my $.02 on the first half of our 1st place standing in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. Forgive me my hockey ignorance … and don’t get me started on the Bills hiring Rex Ryan. Suffice it to say: We’ll blow the Cheatriots out of the water next year!
The regular workhorses haven’t let up a stitch and that’s always good to see. Stamkos, Callahan, Johnson, Kucherov, Stralman and Boyle continue to do all the stuff required, like NEVER taking a shift off.
The Players (based on last night’s roster)
J.T. Brown: I love the way this kid flies all over the place, but we can use a bit more accuracy from his slap shots.
Boyle: He’s already put 8 into the net and he’s always hustling and ready to do whatever is necessary (including diving in front of slap shots, 2 in the final minute last night) … another solid veteran with much needed experience for our youngsters to learn from.
Callahan: Already has 14 goals (missed a few games early on), but it’s always the intangibles with our favorite player. Icing the puck at the end of a game so the opponent doesn’t get an extra possession, blocking shots, diving in front of shots, diving to make passes, diving to keep the puck in the offensive zone … you name, he does it. Like his former coach (Tortorella) said, “You don’t win championships without guys like Ryan Callahan.”
Connolly: Tough player with 8 goals in 32 games thus far. A bit more goal production will help the Bolts remain a playoff team.
Drouin: I say he’ll be a superstar in this league over time. The kid has great speed and skill. Why he hasn’t scored more is a mystery to me. He’s gaining confidence and will be a huge asset to this team in the future.
Filpula: Just 8 goals thus far, but he too will pick up the pace.
The Triplets: Get their own special card. Johnson, Kucherov and Palat: What can you say? They’re also flying all over the place … and scoring. Incredible stuff … Palat’s 2 goals tonight (including the game winner) speak volumes. So far nobody has been able to shut them down for very long, if at all.
Killorn: Tough customer with deceptive speed. Will get his share of goals.
Morrow: At 35 years of age, he’s still got some gravitas to his game. No pushover and always in the mix.
Namestnikov: When we visited Tampa at the start of the season, I couldn’t get over this kid’s speed. He’s up and down with the team because of the overload of forward talent, but he’s gonna make it in the NHL in the near future, hopefully with us.
Paquette: You gotta love this kid’s grit, but sometimes question the times he chooses to fire up the team. He’d have more goals with less time in the box. The knockdown he suffered the other night from Chara’s HUGE right mitt will hopefully teach him a lesson. If he can forget the Chara incident next go vs. the Brunettes, we’ll be better off. It doesn’t inspire a team when one of their own gets floored. Nor does it do us any good when he’s in the box.
Stamkos: The guy flies all over the place … a speed demon with a wicked hard slapshot (best in the NHL, I think), his goal scoring ability (tied for the league lead with 26) is essential to our success. I’m amazed at least once a game by this guy’s skill, but even more so at his determination. His output and drive are tremendous assets to the Bolts’ overall game.
Barberio: Good young talent who seems to need a bit more confidence on the ice. He’s sometimes erratic on defense, but not for a lack of trying. Clearing pucks a bit carelessly at time. He’s got grit and a good slap shot, but has yet to put one in the net. Time will tell.
Carle: Is often an enigma to me. Makes some terrific plays but too often gets beat on the wing. Goal production is pretty low, but that may have more to do with opportunity than skill. With Hedman out again, we need him to step up his game.
Garrison: Last few games has been terrific on defense. Tremendous slapshot but hasn’t found the net as often as we’d like. Maybe more shots?
Gudas: Tough as nails, we’re gonna miss his bulk and his fight. He can often frustrate when he’s slow getting back, but he’s young and essential to our defense. Love his slapshot but it’s usually way off the mark (duck if you’re sitting in the first 20 rows). He straightens that out, Madonna mia! I love the big guy!
Hedman: Injuries have kept this key defensive star off the ice. He started off like a house on fire. Just when he was getting back to speed after hand surgery, he was injured again. Come back soon, big guy! Another future defensive superstar.
Nesterov: Also filling in, he’s a youngster lacking experience he can only get on the ice.
Stralman: He was all world playing in the finals for the Strangers last year and at the start of the season, and he hasn’t dropped off much at all. Tonight he was beat by a former teammate (Benoit Pouliot) but those things happen. It’ll never be for a lack of effort when these veterans make a mistake or get beat. I’d like to see him take more slap shots from the point. It’s not as hard as Garrison’s, but he’s has a deceptively strong one.
Sustr: He started off a bit awkward, often losing the puck in our end, especially on the boards, but he seems to be gaining confidence and is letting it fly. Tonight he dove to stop a breakaway and caught a penalty that cost us, but a big A for effort. We can use his help with some defensive scoring. It’ll come, I’m sure.
Bishop: Is usually brilliant and we wouldn’t be near the top without him, so keep him healthy this season, hockey Gods!
Nabokov: He started off fine, but seems to have slipped the last few starts. I know everyone is calling for the kid. I don’t see how we don’t bring him up if Nabby doesn’t find his game soon.
Vasilevskiy: speaking of the kid … he’s been tremendous so far. Let’s hope he stays that way.
Overall Offense: Lately we seem to be on the ebb end of the ebb and flow of a game and a season. I’m sure we’ll come out of it with an explosion of goals, but we can’t let the dust settle. Losing can become a habit. I prefer seeing Cally on the same line as Stamkos, but I’m sure Cooper knows better than me. I’m sure mixing lines for effect is a part of the game, but so are the ebbs and flows. Both Stamkos and Cally are scoring of late (last two games before tonight, although Stamkos has scored tonight as well). I like Cally in front of the net catching rebounds and guiding slapshots from Stamkos, but I also love Cally’s slapshot (2 wicked ones tonight). We’re slacking on puck possession, which scares me. Even tonight vs. the speed skating team from Edmonton, we’re a step behind for most of 2 periods). We have to regain that step moving forward. Fortunately, we came alive in the final period and won the game. Go Bolts!
Overall Defense: Without Bishop, we’d be in big trouble. Last year I thought we were bad on the defensive end. This year we’ve improved, but we never seem to be fully healthy for very long. Poor puck possession on offense leads to defensive breakdowns. Poor lapses on defense leads to losses that just shouldn’t happen. We’re getting better and I’m sure we’ll be much better when fully healthy. Nabokov can use some help, especially on nights he’s having a tough time.

Power Play: Sometimes magically and lately not so much. I think when teams are aggressive against us on the PP, we're off our game. I definitely prefer Stamkos and Cally on the same PP shift.

Power Kill: This frustrates me more than anything else. I don't like our collapsible defense. I prefer being aggressive. At least I see it working for other teams. Sometimes we give up a goal within the first twenty seconds of a PP and I believe it's because we allow too much space. I'll have to talk to Coop about that ...
Prediction: If we’re healthy, there’s no way we’ll be rolled in the playoffs again. Last year the Expos got away with murder when Bishop went down. So far this year we’re handling the Expos, but not so much some of the other better teams in the league. We’re still young, but if we stay healthy and get our mojo back, watch out!

Go Bolts! 

Lightning, Baby!