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US Elections: Jumping The Gun

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 22, 2014 in Immoral Conversations |

It is fair to say there is nothing humorous about the Presidential Elections in the United States. The battle for nomination as candidate for the next President seems to begin before a running election process is even complete, and it consumes more money than anyone cares to admit. Yet it could be so easy, if we followed a different path and left the democratic process behind. Not that the democratic process is anything like democratic when it comes to elections in the United States, but that has been covered to excess over the last few decades.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if someone took the decision for us and we were just left in peace? Whatever happens, whoever gets the position and by whichever means, no one is going to be happy with the results in the long-term anyway. Not in the USA, not in any other country. So perhaps we ought to go the way the Financial Times appears to be suggesting.

Imagine how much stress and strain, how many fights, how much controversy would be wiped out in just one move if a company like McDonald’s was capable of simply nominating a new President to run the country. No more political party in-fighting, no more elections, no more adverts which distort what we believe we already know. Perhaps it would also herald the end of Fox News and a few other biased entities.

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Books: Setting Targets

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 21, 2014 in Personal |

Anyone who hasn’t caught on to my love of books clearly hasn’t managed to grasp the whole story yet, although I’ve never been one to trumpet what I’ve read it can’t be said that I have never mentioned books and reading in my blog.

Fortunately I am not the only one who enjoys reading, who almost always has a book with them, who reads whenever the chance arises. There are many of us out there, even if it is just a light romance, a penny-dreadful, we read for the love of words, the love of other worlds and experiences. On the Goodreads site, for example, six hundreds and eleven thousand people signed up for the reading challenge this year: setting a target for how many books would be read over the year and then updating their status as each book joined its fellows on the shelves.

Achievable targets are good, in my opinion, they spur a person on to do something. One over what is achievable is also more than acceptable if not downright desired; the extra challenge to spring over your shadow and really do something, to go that extra mile. Without a challenge in life, what do we have?

What surprises me is how many people set themselves outlandish challenges, ones where anyone with an ounce of sense will ask how they can possibly hope to achieve their target. I have seen people who put down one thousand books as their target for the year – I can only assume that they thought they’d have masses of free time and a very deep pocketbook – and those who try for five or six titles. In all, the Goodreads challenge for 2014 encompasses well over thirty-two million titles, with an average of fifty-three titles per person, and nearly two thousand people have reached or surpassed their noted number.

But, as we draw towards the end of the year, I am also surprised to see how many haven’t read any books. Or perhaps they simply haven’t updated their status? I set my target at a very conservative twenty-five books: college work and many other leisure activities taken into account, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up with my past efforts. I’ve surpassed my target, which is pleasing, and still managed to do all those other things life brings.

Setting targets, taking on a challenge, is a good thing. Perhaps we ought to do it more often, and then admit to our success or failure not only to ourselves. It spurs us on to greater things, to new targets, new challenges, new experiences.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Twitter: Have I Got An Offer….

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 20, 2014 in Internet |

Remember that bridge I was offering to sell a short while ago? Well, it seems that I have competition for the attention of the most gullible people out there. How much is your Twitter feed worth? Or is it worth anything at all?

I’m not going to try, I don’t want to know what some web site values my Tweets at because they cannot have a monetary value, not even when:

We also compare your value to Big Macs, iPhones and grams of Gold

I want to sell this bridge, not buy another one!

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Selfies: Is This Mirror Too Small?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 19, 2014 in Absolute Hot! |

It’s not that the model is too large, more that the mirror being used is perhaps too small. We don’t all have full-length bathroom or bedroom mirrors and so sitting, crouching or even squatting are the order of the day when it comes to shooting that all-important selfie.

Viktoria Michaelis: Selfie, Woman Sitting, Crouching

Photo Source: unknown, via imgsrc

Or perhaps the idea is to hide, as much as is possible, the stacks of boxes behind us, the disorder in our lives, the lack of cleanliness left after we’ve searched through the piles of used clothing to find just the right outfit to enhance our appearance. Although most selfies appear to be taken when the model is standing – behind a wash basin, in a changing booth, walking past a reflective window – there are some which just have to be taken in a different position; artistic license perhaps?

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Don’t Bite The Hand That Reviews

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 19, 2014 in Immoral Conversations |

I had an interesting experience yesterday on Google Plus, one which surprised me to a certain extent simply because, well, you don’t expect such things there. On Facebook and Twitter perhaps, but not on Google Plus. I was insulted by someone, and by insulted I mean in a callous and bitter manner with a few choice swear words and name calling.

The story is very simple: a young woman posted a poem for other people to read and comment on. It was short, maybe ten lines, and concerned what may well be a life experience. I took the comment on my work request at face value and pointed out that she had used your rather than you’re, something which threw the poem right out of kink and made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Now, most people might be expected to come back with a correction, such mistakes can happen. This young woman, however, decided that the difference between your and you’re was of absolutely no importance and attacked me for pointing it out, telling me that she is the writer and she decides what is the right spelling and what is not. To which I replied that spelling is important, and the use of the wrong word changes meaning and, in this case, causes the reader to stumble and lose themselves, lose the effect that a good poem should have on them.

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Review: Straight White Male

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 18, 2014 in Articles and Reviews |

The life of a bestselling author is an easy one: rest on your laurels cashing in on the success of your last work and, occasionally, write something new. The real life of a bestselling author is something completely different: not so much resting as searching for a new work which will hold that level of fame, which will prove that the bestseller was not a flash in the pan, that you have considerable more in you than just this one book. It is coupled with a great deal of strain, many beginnings and endings, hundreds of sheets of white paper which simply refuse to fill up with the words necessary to make that next work a bestseller too.

The life of a bestselling author is filled with parties, with celebration, with an ease everyone else, with their nine-to-five mundane lives, simply cannot imagine. Or it is a strict regime: getting up each morning with a target, with a certain number of words which need to be written; fitting in appointments in out-of-the-way bookstores; bargaining with agents, with publishers, with film producers; finding time for your own family and friends amid the mass adulation of the public, of those who simply have to be in the presence of someone famous. The strain of fame, even a fame lasting a mere nine minutes, can bring other aspects of life to the fore, less pleasant ones above all. There is this feeling that an achievement must be bettered, this inner force which pushes the author ever onward whilst, at the same time, holding him or her back with considerations of what the public expects, what the book buying public will purchase.

Viktoria Michaelis: Balancing Act

Photo Credit: Smithsonian’s National ZooCreative Commons

Then there are the offers: film rights; screenplays; articles and talks. Distractions abound, and the laurels wilt and die all too quickly. Everyone wants something, but the author is only one person and has a limited working day just the same as any normal person. Hardly surprising that many turn to their best friend in times of need, and that best friend just happens to be a glass of something strong, something alcoholic.

John Niven has managed to take the life, after the bestseller, of an author and present it to us as less than rosy, as considerably less than we might imagine. The parties are compelling, but the excitement wears thin very quickly. The offers of work, be it talks or television appearances, articles or screenplays, are hedged in with deadlines, with interference, with tens of people who just know better. In reality it is a very hard and bitter fight to keep above water, to not sink into the morass of the has-been, the burnt-out, the overworked and underpaid writer of all and sundry. His writing style brings us to tears, and makes us laugh at the absurdity of life in the fast lane and especially at the life that Kennedy Marr, bestselling author, is faced with.

We live through the bitterness of memory, the dark humor that bites back at every opportunity, the reality of a life not quite on auto-pilot, not quite on the main road any more. And, with Kennedy stumbling along this road more than controlling his chosen life, we see the darker side of the human spirit, oppressed by fame and dwindling fortune, forced into positions he would not normally have considered, battling against those who claim to know better, who can write his words without even knowing the slightest thought within his mind. We live the life, briefly but in great depth, of a man who is sinking, who has given up trying to keep his head above the surface, who has succumbed to the most deadly of all sins, one after another and now, finally, is facing the consequences.

The biting wit, the consequences of fortune, the interference of fate and all her minions draw us into a deep feeling of sympathy, of understanding, even of revelation over a life gone wrong, of one mistake after another, of bad judgement, of foolhardiness. And it is a wonderful experience as the words come out from the page and infest our minds, as we laugh at the misfortune of others, at the characterization of those pitted against a failing, once-bright star.

Published by Windmill Books. ISBN: 978 0 09 959215 0.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Review: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 17, 2014 in Articles and Reviews |

What is it that makes a Young Adult novel suitable for its audience? This is a question which has probably troubled many authors over the years, trying to bridge the gap between children and adults in a way which will capture youthful imagination without seeming too young, but still have all the attributes of an adult work. Young Adult novels should be easy to read, but not so light that they can be skipped through, have no depth or character and, above all, they should appeal to an audience which has a vast array of other leisure time pursuits on offer. Young Adult books should keep our growing youngsters reaching for books, for literature, for the written word over and above all the other possible occupations they could fill their free time with.

Joe Schreiber has clearly taken this to heart. He uses a theme which fits perfectly within the age frame of his potential readers: an exchange student from Europe comes to the United States and is taken in by a typical American family. She attends the same High School as their children, takes the same courses, is there to experience the American Way of Life and benefit from the process. This is not, however, a simple book about one female student visiting America, that would be far too easy, far too lame for the younger reader.

Viktoria Michaelis: Disguise, Identity, Anonymous

Photo Credit: Erathic EricCreative Commons

Gobija Zaksauskas is not your average exchange student, although she seems to be one on the surface. Her appearance, for a teenager hoping to impress and perhaps a little more, is a nightmare: badly dressed as far as modern fashion goes; unattractive; unresponsive to potential advances. Perry Stormaire, and all other teenage men, have something completely different in mind when the words Exchange Student are mentioned. Gobi is, however, not the person she appears to be.

Joe Schreiber takes his well-crafted characters out of their daily routine of life near New York, away from the fantasy of exchange students, suburban life and High School romances with a series of action-packed, fast-moving chapters which simply flow from one to the next before the reader has time to draw a breath, time to pause and check their iPhone. He shows us a different aspect of nightlife, of leisure in the big city, of family troubles and teenage fears. The reader is drawn, riveted, into a world only heard about on the news, in big budget movies on the cinema screen, and he does it exceptionally well. He mixes the world of the adult – of parents – and their seemingly endless demands to do what is right and proper, with the excitement every teenager craves, if not quite on the same level as Gobi introduces Perry to.

Highly recommended for anyone who wishes to just move away from the mundane and, for a few hours at least, live a life of action with a touch of romance on the darker side of society.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978 0 547 85632 2.

  • Viktoria Michaelis

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Twitter: Making Sure We Never Forget

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 16, 2014 in Internet |

There’s nothing like the Internet to remind us of things which are happening, things which have already happened. Google may well be inundated with requests to remove old stories which cast a bad light on someone, but that doesn’t apply to everywhere else. What you can’t find in a normal search, someone still has in their memory, and no manner of hiding the past can get past some people.

There are so many sources out there, so many different things which have been recorded, even when politicians want us to believe something else, it will always come back and bite them.

Although, I’m not sure whether Governor Perry will necessarily forget being compared, unfavorably, to a ham sandwich any time soon.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Selfies: Keep That Stomach Flat!

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 15, 2014 in Absolute Hot! |

Ever thought about how much hard work goes into a woman’s appearance? How much suffering and stress to create the perfect image even for a short trip down to the grocery shop? We’re not talking about Wal-Mart here, but about those little boutiques, those special shops, the walk along the High Street on a summer’s day, the jog through the park. Believe me, for some it is not just the right outfit, not just a dress or a pair of well-fitting stone-washed jeans with a tank-top. It’s not just matching accessories and decent make-up.

Photo Source: unknown, via Tumblr

All those celebrities we see on Yahoo and other similar sites, coming out of the fitness studio, chased by photographers and either blasted for their appearance or lauded for wearing exactly the same clothing as someone else who has been blasted? They’re not just there for the slushies and protein bars: they’ve been working.

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Review: The Strangler Vine

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 14, 2014 in Articles and Reviews |

The idea of a company ruling over a complete country – or a major part of it – with a private army, a complete government mechanism and its own laws and regulations may seem strange to modern thinking, despite globalization and the growth of international markets and interests, but it is nothing new. History shows us several companies which expanded their interests across continents to such an extent that they ruled rather than merely traded and the East India Company, formed by a group of British businessmen in the early seventeenth century, is probably one of the best known examples. Their control over India was, at best, despotic, at worst what we would today term tyrannical, completely controlling the lives of a India’s citizens and forcing a foreign set of values on to the people.

Miranda Carter has taken the wealth of historical information surrounding this period of history, along with a selection of real and imagined characters, and created a work which tells us a great deal about the times, the lifestyle of both the local inhabitants and their rulers, and the mindset of the times. Her writing captures, with the initial stiffness of a British officer writing as the main character, and enthralls with its depth, color and description. She allows us an insight not only into the times, but also into the way in which absolute power controls, abuses and subdues.

Viktoria Michaelis: Guardsman

Photo Credit: Defence ImagesCreative Commons

The reader is brought into contact with two worlds: that of the ruling faction, the British of the East India Company, and the otherwise ordered caste system of the Indian people, from their rulers down to the dirtiest beggars roaming the country, from wealth and splendor to a life of suffering, theft and murder. We see at first hand how an ordered system – be it the hierarchy of the East India Company itself or the caste system determined by birth – can be abused, how rank and wealth as much as good intentions can be subjected to and overcome by greed, power and hatred.

The ordered world of Ensign William Avery is thrown out of track by an order to contact the former Captain Jeremiah Blake, who has gone native and now lives outside of the British sphere of influence, away from the normal, accepted manner in which a British citizen is expected to conduct himself. Avery is confronted with all he believes to be wrong with Indian society: a lack of morals, order and religious belief and sent on a journey across the country in search of the missing author, Xavier Mountstuart, a man considered at odds with the morals of British society through his writings on immorality in the British and Indian hierarchy. Avery has to weigh up is own beliefs, not just as an Englishman but also as an army officer, against the reality of a foreign world he has not been prepared for.

Miranda Carter has created an insightful and riveting novel, packed with intrigue, infighting, abuse of power and position. Her use of language moves from the stiff manner of someone raised to be in command, or to expect others to follow without question, in easy stages to one of understanding, almost of enlightenment as Avery experiences at first hand the convoluted machinations of a little power enhanced through force, through subterfuge and abuse. She manages to combine many different levels of belief, of education, of upbringing in her characters which is believable, as much as the twists and turns of a story that successfully holds the reader’s attention, invites thought and still manages to inform as much as excite.

Published by Fig Tree (Penguin). ISBN: 978 0 241 14623 1

  • Viktoria Michaelis.
Supplied for review by Fig Tree as part of the Goodreads First Read program.

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