Friday, April 21, 2017

S is for Swallow the Sun

I had to listen to a lot of what I considered to be pretty ordinary doom/atmospheric metal bands before I found these guys. Swallow the Sun are Juha Ravio, Markus, Jamsen, Mikko Kotamaki, Aleksi Munter, Matti Honkonen and Juuso Raatikanen, and they hail from Jyvaskyla in Finland. In my limited experience, I reckon they are a cut above.

Formed in 2000, their most recent studio release was Songs From the North I, II ∧ III. (2015) The song I chose to share with you is Cathedral Walls (2012) and I think it showcases every thing good about metal and its diversity. Dare I say it's a beautiful and powerful song.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

R is for R-Genium

R-Genium is a symphonic power metal group from Volograd, Russia. Formed in 2007, they are Nikolay Litikov (keyboards), Aleksandr Radchenko (guitar), Dimitriy Slyozin (bass), Aleksandr Kalashnikov (drums) and Tatanya Shevchuk (vocals).

Their latest release is titled Wonderful Wonderful World and this track is called I Know Your Lie.

On September 3, 2008, I took my son, James, to his first metal gig. Him, one month shy of his 14th birthday, and me, an old headbanger, traveled to the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney to see Disturbed. Actually I was only vaguely aware of, or interested in Disturbed at the time. I was there to see my favourite band, POD, who were one of the support acts. The other was Alter Bridge.

James was a little overawed, by the atmosphere and the music, but he loved it, and it is one of my fondest memories of time spent with him. Sadly, James would no longer call himself a metal head, even though he still likes Metallica and enjoys a bit of metalcore here and there.

POD were great, and one of my greatest desires is to see them play a full show. One day...maybe they'll come back Down Under. As for Disturbed, they are now one of my faves.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Q is for Qantice

This is how this French band describes itself, and seriously, I would not dare add or subtract a word. 

"More than a progressive/power/symphonic metal band. Qantice is a universe where the epics of a sci-fi saga spread over a story and music, mixing ancient and modern instruments, fantasy atmospheres, and jaw dropping virtuosity, with no limit but the wildest imagination."

Way to talk yourselves up fellas. I don't really like progressive metal, or symphonic metal, nor is power metal my favourite genre, so it goes without saying that Qantice is not really my cup of tea.

This Parisian band may have been formed in 2002, or as late as 2009, depending on your source. The current regular members are Tony Beaufils, David Akesson, Yosh Ortias (violin), Aurelien Jouela, and Christine Lanusse.

It seems they hire singers on an album by album, tour by tour basis. Pellek is the vocalist on this track which is called Hoverland

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

P is for Pelican

I know what you're thinking...a metal band called Pelican? How very un-metal. Nevertheless this quartet has been labelled post-metal, and that is a genre of heavy metal. I told you I'd bring you plenty of variety.

Established in 2000, in Illinois, in the United States, the band consists of Trevor Debrauw (guitar), Bryan Herweg (bass), Larry Herweg (drums), and Dallas Thomas (guitar). Notice I didn't mention a vocalist? That's because they are essentially an instrumental group.

Their latest release is an EP called Cliff. This track is called Deny the Absolute.

Monday, April 17, 2017

O is for Oblivion Denied

The Crown Princess of Denmark is an Aussie. She was born in Tasmania. Why am I telling you this? Oblivion Denied is a Danish band and I am an Australian. My gut tells me that the Crown Princess is not a fan of heavy metal, but you never know. I mean if she listened to these guys she might just convert to headbanging. Stranger things have happened.

This duo, yes duo, (Thomas Wagner and Eske Meldgaard Krogh) hail from the city of Stautrup, and offer metal in the groove genre.

Ridin' High is the second single from their upcoming sophomore release titled Lack of Faith.

Both my children attended Dapto High School which held an annual talent show called MADD night. It was at one of these shows where I first heard Four Words to Choke Upon by Bullet for my Valentine. The impressive amateur performance was enough to turn me on to this Welsh pop metal band.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

N is for Nanowar of Steel

The name of this comedy metal band (technically known as parodic metal) is a play on words from the band Manowar. They hail from the Italian capital, Rome, and their clips and their are funny (as one might expect from a parodic metal band)

Formed in 2003, Nanowar of Steel's line-up is Mohammed Abdul (Valerio) on guitar and keyboard, Gattopancer666 (Edoardo) on bass and guitar, Uinona Rider (Alessandro) on drums and guitar - presumably not at the same time, Potowotminimak (Carlo Alberto) vocals and they have a guy called Baffo (Raffeolo) who is responsible for sound effects.

Their most recent release was a 2016 EP called Tour-Mentone Vol.1. This track I'm Heavy has a little fun with Pharrell William's hit I'm Happy.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

M is for Mortal Soul

For some reason there aren't many African metal bands. I only
found three to include in the A to Z. Mortal Soul are a metalcore band based in Nairobi, Kenya, and this instrumental track, Solace, has been running around in my head for weeks now. I love it. It is from their debut EP called Ashes in the Wind which was released in 2013.

Mortal Soul, who have been likened to Bullet for My Valentine, are Leon, Pete, Joey and Celeste. They got together in 2010. On their Facebook page they list their musical likes/influences, and five of my fave bands are in the list: Bullet for my Valentine, As I Lay Dying, Creed, Trivium and Metallica.

In 2001, I was staying in a motel in Newcastle, NSW, to where I travelled fortnightly for many years for work. I usually stayed in the same hotel, but for some reason I stayed at the Sovereign Inn in Mayfield on this occasion: one and only. They had music channels in their pay TV arsenal, and I was channel surfing when I hit one of them and saw a band which knocked me out.

In 2001 this band released their breakout, and most commercially successful LP to date, Satellite. The song I saw on that video channel was Alive. I soon owned a copy of Satellite, and now have every record they've made. To say I love POD, is a gross understatement.

Friday, April 14, 2017

L is for Lefutray

Hailing from Santiago, Chile, Lefutray were formed in 2005, and they play groove and thrash metal. The band's name is a word taken from the Mapudungan language meaning 'fast sound'. Totally appropriate, right? In case you're interested as I was, Mapudungan is the language of the Mapuche people of south western Chile and central western Argentina.

This track is called Screaming in Silence and it's from their 2011 release Last Breath. Their latest album is called Oath (2015)

On the 31st of March, 1989, I saw Stryper play at the Sydney Sports Arena. Stryper raised the bar for Christian metal, and not without some controversy. They attracted plenty of criticism from Christian fundamentalists for their music, but particularly for their habit of throwing Bibles into the audience at their shows. Despite the furor of the small-minded, Stryper gained respect in mainstream metal circles and reached a lot of people with a very positive message. As one metal loving atheist said: "I generally hate everything Christian, but this song kicks f#$%^ ass." He was referring to the 1984 classic Soldiers Under Command.

The 1989 show was great by the way, and the boys in yellow and black are still rocking the world with their message of faith, hope and love.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

K is for Karat

Another new kid on the headbangers block, is this metalcore band
from Malang, East Java in the world's largest archipelago, Indonesia. The name means 'rust' in English, and they formed in 2015. 

Elegi is the debut record by Karat, and from it comes this track Kitalah Luka (which means "Our Wound"). For a debut video, this is pretty slick, and I really like the sound of these Indonesian metalheads.

In 1987, I stopped running from God, and became a Christian. One of the first challenges I faced in my new life was what to do with my huge collection of 'ungodly' heavy metal music. I was working at the time and had sufficient disposable income to purchase a lot of LPs. Most prized was my KISS collection. I had a copy of every record they had released since their debut in 1973, including each of the solo albums.

What did I do? I gave them all away. Yes. All of them. I then began to search for Christian metal. Bands like Whitecross and Bloodgood were every bit as good musically as the stuff I listened to, but they sang about God and positive things like love and forgiveness. Arguably the most successful, and certainly the most high profile Christian metal band of the 80s and early 90s was Stryper...and I'll have more to say about them next time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J is for Jackdevil

Sepultura is perhaps Brazil's most famous metal export (even though I only recently discovered this), but the largest country in South America, this Portuguese speaking island in a Spanish speaking ocean, produces more than its fair share of metal bands: for example Jackdevil who hail from Sao Luis.

This thrash metal group sings about satanism and evil stuff generally, so consequently they are not on my Christmas card list. Nevertheless, musically they are pretty good. 

Formed in 2010, their latest release is called Evil Strikes Again (2015) This track is from their debut full length album Unholy Sacrifice: Under Metal Command.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I is for Insomnium

Finland is one of only three countries in headbanging around the world to provide two bands. Insomnium is a melodic death metal band formed in 1997 in the city of Joensuu. Singing about darkness, loss, sorrow, pain and nature, the band also features doom and progressive metal influences. For me they epitomise the very best elements of melodic death metal.

This is my favourite song at the moment. I can't get it out of my head. While we sleep is from their 2014 album Shadows of the Dying Sun.

In September last year they released Winter's Gate: a concept album featuring one 40 minute track.

Insomnium are Niilo Sevanen (bass and vocals), Ville Friman (guitar and vocals), Marcus Hirvonen (drums) and Markus Vanhala (guitar.)

In the mid 1980s, I was experimenting with more extreme genres of metal when I discovered a band called Possessed who have been credited as the founders of the death metal genre. At the time, I was also trying out other things like petty crime, binge drinking and drugs. I also had a strong negative reaction to many of my friends becoming 'born again' Christians. Possessed were the exact opposite of a Christian worship band. One of the songs proclaimed their faith with the lyrics: 'We love you Satan, we worship you.'

Hearing that record was part of a series of events in my life which I would describe as turning points. It was too much for me. I actually threw it away after just one partial play through, and have steered clear of bands with overt references to Satanism or occultism.

Monday, April 10, 2017

H is for Hiranya

There are a handful of songs in this awesome A to Z line up which I loved instantly, and am still loving. This is one of them. Lost is from newbie metalcore band Hiranya. They launched in 2015 in the Spanish capital, Madrid.

Sara is the vocalist, and what a voice: a wicked growl and clean vocals. Backed by Johnny W and Dani on guitars, Jio on bass and Carlos on drums, this brand of metal is right up my alley.

Very little info available on these guys, but I reckon they are very good, so don;t be surprised if we hear a lot more from them. I leave you with this: hiranya is a sanskrit word which means 'golden.'

Friday, April 7, 2017

G is for God Damn

Not the British rock band, but the French southern metal band from Lyon. Formed in 2004, they are Charly (bass), Pich (guitars), Renato Di Falco (vocals), Jerem (drums) and Julien Alves (guitars.)

They've released two full length albums: Old Days (2009) and Back to the Grindstone (2012). Other than this sparse information, I can tell you nothing more. They don't even have a wikipedia listing. According to their Facebook page (last updated late 2016) they are working on a new album.

This track is called All In

In the late 80s, I was a regular binge drinker and often went to pubs and clubs to see bands play. I may have been under age, but I didn't look it, so I was never hassled for ID. One night my friends and I went to the Petersham Hotel (Sydney) to a live music venue called Max's. They showcased a lot of local metal bands, and we were metal fans.

I recall not being greatly impressed by the amateurish bands that night, but decidedly more interested in a young lady who was there. I spent most of the night imagining starting a conversation with her, which never eventuated.

On our way back to the train station, someone called out to us from behind. We stopped, as you do. The speaker was a punk who spoke in an accent so thick we had no idea what he was saying. From his increasing tone and agitation we suspected something might be wrong, and had that confirmed when he hit one of us, then pulled out a butterfly knife.

We ran. Thankfully, he didn't follow.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

F is for Flesh Juicer

Really? Flesh Juicer? This is one of the worst names in the list, but entirely appropriate for a deathcore band. They all have horrible sounding names. Anyway, Flesh Juicer is from Taiwan (shout out to all my Taiwanese ESL students.)

Although I really don't like deathcore, this video clip is pretty cool: Funeral  is off their 2017 sophomore album Flesh Temple: Build it on Brutal Taichung. 

Information on this band is pretty scarce, but I can tell you they won Best Rock Debut Album (2015) at the Taiwanese equivalent of the Grammy's, so I expect metal heads will hear plenty more from these guys who, apart from frontman Gigo Pro (he of the pig mask), remain nameless because I can't find out who they are.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

E is for Eluveitie

Describing themselves as the new wave of folk metal, Swiss band Eluveitie single-handedly changed my view of folk metal. The particular track which caught my attention was The Call of the Mountain. I dare you not to like it. Crunchy guitars, and something that looks like some sort of guitar, harps, violins and bagpipes...what's not to like?

Founded in Zurich in 2002, Eluveitie are Chrigel Glansmann, Rafael Salzmann, Kay Brem, Matteo Sisti, Nicole Ansperger, Alain Ackermann, Jonas Wolf, Michalina Malisz and Fabienne Emi. It reads more like a mixed football team than a band, doesn't it? How do they combine so many instruments and make it metal? Check them out.

In July, 2017 they will release Evocation II: Visions, and I might even buy it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

D is for Decapitated.

With a name like Decapitated, is there any need to question what kind of music they play? This critically acclaimed technical death metal band was formed in 1996 in Krosno, Poland.

I have an anti cooking food blog called I Don't Cook, on which I regale readers with tales of frozen dinners and take-away meals. How is this relevant you ask? Most of my readers are from Poland, so I was really hoping I would find a Polish band good enough to make the cut. As it turned out they nearly didn't make it. I had the slot filled with a Greek band called Distortion of Perception, but during my research, I discovered they had disbanded many years ago. Only bands who are still producing new music and touring qualified for this A to Z. I stumbled on Decapitated as I searched through a list of wannabe 'D' bands.

Decapitated is: Waclaw Kietyka (guitar), Rafal Piotrowski (vocals), Michal Lysejko (drums), and Hubert Wiecek (bass).Their last studio release was Blood Mantra (2014) This track is called Instinct

Monday, April 3, 2017

C is for Crash

Crash is a thrash metal band from South Korea. With a name like Crash they had to play thrash, didn't they? 

Formed in 1991 and still kicking proverbial, the band consists of Ahn Heung-chan (bass and vocals), Jung Hong-wook (drums) and Ha Jae-Yong (guitars). They used to be a foursome back in the day, but one of the guys was sacked.

Their latest album Untamed Hands in Imperfect World was released in 2014.

This is an older song called Crashday 

In 1982 a British band called Iron Maiden released a heavy metal masterpiece called The Number of the Beast. It featured a new singer: classically trained vocalist Bruce Dickinson, and one the Iron's all time classic songs: Hallowed Be Thy Name. From this record also came a single which took Iron Maiden into the mainstream, and in so doing, they hooked a bucket load of new fans, like me.

Run to the Hills was the first true heavy metal track I fell in love with, and I still love Iron Maiden. The Irons are special for many reasons, but to name one: I think Bruce Dickinson is one of the best metal singers of all time.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

B is for Babymetal

When I stumbled on this band I didn't know what I was looking at. The music sounded like metal, but the band was fronted by three young ladies singing and dancing pop style. Upon further investigation I learned that Babymetal was put together by a record company, and is in fact, the originator of a new genre of metal: kawaii metal which translates to English as 'cute metal'. As I said, I didn't know what it was, or understand what they were singing about, but I liked it a lot.

Babymetal is a concept group which fuses heavy metal with J-pop (or Japanese idol music). The line up consists of Suzuka Nakamoto as "Su-metal), Yui Mizuno as "Yui-metal" and Moa Kikuchi as "Moa-metal." 

Formed in 2014, their latest album is called Metal Resistance.

Check out one of their songs: Karate

Friday, March 31, 2017

A is for A Breach of Silence

My headbanging journey around the world begins at home, almost. In Australia's second most northern capital city (Darwin, where I live is the most northern). Brisbane is home to a metalcore band called A Breach of Silence. 

Formed in 2010, they consist of Matt Cosgrove (guitar), Kerrod Dabelstein (guitar), Blair Layt (bass, vocals), Rhys Flannery (lead vocals), and Daniel Trickett (drums). Their latest album, titled Secrets, was released in February 2017.

Click here to see and hear them in action  Falling Away

My journey to the heavy side of music began in the late 70s when I was a tween who used to hang out in my room and listen to the top 40 countdown each week. It might have been on Sunday nights - I forget- but I was more attracted to crunchy guitars and drums than I was to lighter stuff. I guess you could say I was born to rock.

Ironically, the first album I bought, which was in fact a tape, was Dynasty by KISS. They toured Australia that year, but at the age of 11, I was too young to go see them. I've seen them since so, and I'd still count myself a KISS fan. (I say 'ironically' because KISS's biggest hit in Australia was criticized by some as being a disco track.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Celebrate the small things: Good things

Good things are just around the corner. True, but good things are already here as well. The pump class at gym this morning was the toughest ever, and during a couple of the routines I literally ran out of strength and could not keep up. On the positive side, I did better than last week, and I recovered quickly. (Even though I can still feel it in my arms now - 3 hours after the event.)

The weather has been pretty nice: relatively mild temperatures overnight (25-26 degrees average- that's Celsius) and a storm or two each day with some impressive lightning shows. They said that last week, during one hour, there were over a hundred lightning strikes. Very cool. Unless, of course, you are on the pointy end of one.

Our company's move to the new CBD premises has been postponed yet again, and our manager has resigned, but we are getting closer to those blue walled rooms with doors, and apparently, a new manager will begin on April 10.

Speaking of April. Monday was theme reveal day for the 2017 A to Z Blogging challenge. This will be my fourth year, and for my theme I decided to indulge in one of my passions: heavy metal music. A to Z: headbanging around the world

I'm very much looking forward to it, and even more so to the middle of Easter when we celebrate Easter: my favourite holiday. Also April sees the end of Eastern Daylight Saving Time in Australia which will bring me one hour closer to my loved ones.

All good. Have a great week everyone.

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge theme reveal

Back in the day, I had very long hair, wore black T-shirts, a denim vest and a studded arm band. I was a stereotypical headbanger. Fast forward 30 years, and the only thing left to physically identify me as a metalhead, is the occasional black, band T-shirt. Nevertheless, I still love metal.

I may be the only headbanging, cricket loving, Christian bookworm in the world...I doubt it though. I mean it's a big world, and that leads me directly to my theme. Headbanging all over the world.

I will scour the virtual globe for heavy metal bands from every continent (except Antartica - I think penguins prefer pop and MOR) to bring you relatively unknown heavy metal bands representing the various metal genres. Added to this feast, will be a few heavy metal anecdotes.

The criteria was that the band had to have a proper music video on YouTube, and some thing recent-not older than five years.

This won't appeal to many, but it will appeal to some. Please join me as I head bang my way around the world in 26 days during April.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Doors

We, meaning the company I work for, are about to move to new premises. This move has been about to happen since I started working with them last August. We are now on our third 'firm' move date. The delays have been due to red tape - what a surprise. As an example of the ridiculous fiefdoms being operated by certifiers, the whole front counter had to be moved 30cm in order to improve airflow. Speaking of air, the most recent postponement was caused by another certifier saying the air-conditioning system was not acceptable. It is currently being totally overhauled.

Despite the delays, I am excited about the move. Our boss took us all in to inspect the new place last week, and even though it's rough, and one of the classrooms is only two thirds painted for some reason, it will be a great improvement on what we have now. One of the reasons why it will be better is because there are doors.

Our current premises is two commercial units side by side without internal access. There are three spaces (not rooms) designated as classrooms, plus two other rooms (because they have doors) which are sometimes used for small classes.

Let's be clear, the two main classrooms are open, one to the office and adjacent to the photocopier, the other open to through traffic from one other space (no door) and one other room (door). If I haven't painted a clear enough picture of how unsuitable and inadequate the current arrangements are, then just let me say this: the current arrangements are unsuitable and inadequate.

During the week, I had a couple of small classes so I held them in my office which is a room (because it has a door). At one point there was a lot of noise coming from another space, or maybe a room with the door open, so guess what I did? I shut the door.

Being able to close the door and block most of the noise made me so excited, I interrupted my students and gave them a mini speech about the greatness of doors. I am so thankful for doors.

By the way, the new premises has five good-sized classrooms with doors. (Big smile)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Backyard Legends

There may have been only a handful of us, not even enough to fill a first eleven, let alone field two teams, but the rivalry was no less fierce, and no less intense. We were backyard cricket warriors representing our nation with pride.

We actually never played in the backyard because the local reserve was handy and big; bigger than the MCG, except for the grandstands of course, of which there were none. After school we occupied a portion of the grass and played cricket until the sun went down, or until we were called home by our mothers. Those long summer days and warm nights when we played cricket in the park, then went home and watched it on the television, were wonderful times.

The West Indies dominated world cricket all through my childhood, but Australia's regular defeats did not diminish my love for the game; a love which has only grown stronger through the years.

I never played cricket competitively, never joined a club, but I have become an armchair expert thanks to over four decades of listening to experts describe and talk about the game. I have an opinion on everything related to cricket, and at times I know better than the national selectors.

Australia is touring India at the moment. The test match series stands at 1-1 with 2 games to play. I know exactly who should be in the team to help ensure our victory against very strong opposition in hostile territory, but the selectors aren't listening to me. I'm not saying I could do a better job than them...well, maybe I am - but I have no influence and no authority.

I'm just a passionate fan of the greatest game on earth. I know whoever takes the field on March 16 for the 3rd test will do Australia proud, and I can barely wait for the battle to begin. Go Australia!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Celebrate the small things: winning is everything

All professional, most amateur, and many part-time/recreational sportspeople play to win. Regardless of what they are playing, who they are playing for, or with, or against, they want to win because winning is better than losing. The very best professional athletes and sportspeople, the champions of the various games which entertain us, and with which we amuse ourselves, are obsessed with winning. They hate losing, but more than that they hate not giving it their best: not competing to their potential. The truly great are always in competition first and foremost with themselves regardless of their opposition.

The 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) season started last week, and not surprisingly there were some good games, and some ordinary ones, and some good results, and bad results, depending on you barrack for. Some surprises and plenty of entertainment.

Last night I watched the Brisbane Broncos play the North Queensland Cowboys in Brisbane where the latter team had not won a game in their last five attempts. These clashes have become legendary due to the fact that they are particularly intense and always very close on the scoreboard. The 2015 Grand Final, in which the Cowboys defeated the Broncos in extra time, was arguably the greatest championship deciding game ever.

So these two highly rated and highly motivated teams did battle again last night, and the Cowboys repeated their Grand Final success with a one point victory in extra time.

One lousy point: the difference between a win, (and two premiership points) and a loss. One single point after nearly 90 minutes of gladiatorial combat of the highest athletic calibre, filled with drama and heart stopping excitement. One point to finally declare one of these teams the winner. Some say it's unjust, but the rules are the rules, and one point is all it takes.

One point: a small number with a huge impact. I want to thank the Cowboys and the Broncos for putting on such a wonderful display of rugby league football...again. Great stuff!

Click here for full match report and video highlights if you're interested.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Celebrate the Small things: In between belt sizes

When this hole makes your pants too loose, but the next hole makes them too tight, you have a problem. Being between belt sizes means you are either losing weight, or putting it on, and depending on your goals, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. It is nevertheless, a bit of a nuisance.

If you're a regular reader of Square Pegs, you will no doubt be aware of my other equally superb blog I Don't Cook which chronicles, with riveting flair, my culinary adventures (that is not an overstatement.)

It should be obvious, in a way, how my food blog connects to this particular small things post, but less obvious-obscure even, is how the content of this post relates to being between belt sizes.

I regularly buy frozen dinners. I buy whatever brand is on special when I shop, and the meals are usually of the low fat variety. They come in different portion sizes, ranging from 220g up to around 420g. The small servings have become increasingly unsatisfying due to their...smallness, so yesterday I decided to buy two of the small meals. You know what happened, right?

It was too much. Anyway, I have figured out that a meal of between 300-350 gram is good for me. Unfortunately, that limits my choice so once again I am splayed on the horns of a dilemma. More woe!

Today I am thankful for small servings of generally delicious food, and the small price tags attached to them.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Black Coach

Title: The Black Coach
ISBN: 978-1-62420-311-4
Author: Nickie Fleming

Genre: Gothic Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble


The Black Coach
Nickie Fleming

Reviewed by Tamara White

5 Stars of 5

Abuse, Murder, Love, and the Black Coach

Nickie Fleming’s crisp and colorful words thrust the reader back into a time where horse drawn coaches were the mode of transportation and women’s dresses dragged on the ground. The author’s words give you a real sense of being there. I enjoyed the pace of the book. The book moves effortlessly through the well-defined plot. The book creates an immediate interest in the main character. From the first page the author quickly draws you into the tumultuous life of the young blonde hair woman Maggie. Maggie is a woman who possesses a quiet determination that gives her the strength she needs to defy her beginnings. From the moment you meet Maggie you want to see her make it. Neil Pickering, the man whose life becomes unexpectedly intertwined with Maggie’s, is a unique character. He is as intellectually strong and determined as he is handsome. Whenever Pickering is present his personality commands the scene. His need to understand medicine matches her need to survive. I enjoyed the gritty murders that take place in the book. The murders have a dark undertone, which left me eager to finish each page and discover who has such a thirst for death. The Black Coach plot offers its readers mystery, hope, intrigue, and a quiet love story. It is an immediate for anyone passionate about reading.


The Devil is riding his black coach across the moors of Yorkshire and hunts virgins. Or is this so?


Strange things are happening in the village of Pickering, Yorkshire. Two girls are found murdered, and there is talk about strange going-ons at night. Caught in the middle of this turmoil is Maggie Thompson, an orphan, who needs to fend for herself. Running away from an employer who maltreated her, she nearly dies during a winter storm. She is rescued by a man who lives in a nearly abandoned house. Neil Harrington has his own secrets however. Maggie will have to trust on her feelings to know what is right or wrong. And she can’t forget there is a killer on the rampage…


It didn't take long before Maggie was fast asleep once again. When Martha noted her drooping head, she put a cushion behind it, to make the girl more comfortable and lastly spread a plaid over her, lest she should catch a cold.
She studied the girl for a while. Cleaned up, she already looked a lot better than the previous day. She had better talk to the master. The girl's speech was remarkable fine for a working-class child. She felt sure there was something of a mystery involved here. Perhaps thinking about this would lighten Neil's mood. He'd been mourning Lady Suzanne long enough to her liking.
Around noon her son walked into the kitchen for his lunch. He looked up when he saw the sleeping girl.
"Is she fit to come down already?" he wanted to know.
"She's not completely better," Martha told him, "but she ate all of her breakfast, and as you can see she's sleeping again. No better healer then rest, I say."
"The master asked me how she was," Amos said. "I'm glad I can tell him she's doing fine."
"Did he need you to fetch something?" Martha wanted to know. They both knew to what she was referring.
"I brought in the usual. I don't mind, though," her son acknowledged.
She nodded. "We have a good master in his lordship. No matter what other people may think, he's a decent human and I'm proud to be serving him."
"So am I," Amos agreed.
He sat down at the kitchen table and immediately began to eat when his mother put a full plate before him.
"I thought you'd like some stew," Martha said. "There is enough meat in it to give you stamina for the next trip."
No need for more words. Mother and son understood each other perfectly.

~ * ~

Later that afternoon, in Pickering village, the men of the region gathered in the local pub after ending their work on the fields and farms. The talk was lively and the beer flowed freely.
John Barry put down his pint, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and remarked to his mate Ben, "Saw that black coach again yesterday, when I went to check on the sheep."
Ben hardly looked up. "Aye, I'm listening."
"Wonder whose property it is and what its business is. Always appears when darkness falls."
Ben took another gulp of his pint. Then he acknowledged what John mentioned. "My brother's son, Tim, saw it too. He said it rode so fast, as if chased by the devil."
"Yeah, it was speeding for sure. Could not see who or what was in it."
"Not the first time it's been seen on our road. Something strange going on, I think."
Joshua Thistlewaite, the landlord, heard the comments but didn't comment on them. He just poured the drinks like a good landlord. Besides, he couldn't well afford to spend time talking to his customers. The pub was full, as always around this time. His sharp eyes surveyed everything to be sure he could intervene at a timely fashion.
All the men and lads he knew from around, except for the one stranger. He'd never seen the man before. The man entered about half an hour ago and ordered a light ale in a polite way. Now he was seated in the farthest corner of the pub, sipping his pint.
While enjoying a calmer moment behind the tap, Joshua studied the stranger more closely. He looked to be in his forties, had a stern face and lips which seldom laughed. A lawyer or a banker in all probability, he thought.
What bothered him a little was that the man appeared to be listening in on the conversation of Ben and John, although he couldn't fathom why such ordinary talk would interest a man of his quality.
Disturbing his thoughts, the stranger beckoned him.
"What can I do for you, sir?" he asked, hurrying over to his table and trying not to show he had been studying him.
"First, fetch me another pint of this excellent lager and then, if you can spare the time, I'd like to talk to you for a while."
It was said in a cultivated tongue, and Joshua could immediately tell the stranger didn't originate from this part of the country. London or some other southern town, he guessed.
He hurried to carry out the order, while asking Ben to step behind the bar for the time he was occupied elsewhere. He returned to the table.
"I am now at your disposal, sir."
He saw how the stranger glanced shortly at Ben, who was already tapping another pint for John.
"Do you get a lot of people in here?" he then wanted to know.
"It depends," Joshua replied. "On weekdays it can get busy when all the men need to water their throats."
"You must know quite well what goes on in the village," the stranger continued.
Joshua shrugged. He carefully weighed his words, not wanting to reveal too much. His instinct told him something was not right here.
"Not much goes on in Pickering I don't know about."
The gent nodded. "I thought so. Well, I am trying to locate a young woman by the name of Margaret Thompson. She would be eighteen years of age and has blonde hair. Do you know if any such girl lives in or passed by your village?"
Joshua was silent for a moment. The request confirmed his ill feelings. He understood he would have to be very sparse in answering, to make sure he didn't cause harm to anyone or anything.
"Why do you need to know?" he asked, but in such a way the other would not be insulted.
The man smiled. To all appearances, he looked innocent and seemed trustworthy. Joshua knew better. He felt an underlying coldness and sensed some feeling of threat.
"She's come into an inheritance and the trustees have asked me to find out her whereabouts," the man answered, while smiling again, and producing a gold coin out of one of his pockets.
Joshua eyed the coin and reconsidered. It could be true. He knew there existed men who were employed to search for people who were lost or had disappeared. After all, the stranger had done nothing wrong yet.
"Farmer Aldleigh has a blonde girl working for him," he offered, feeling at last he could trust the man enough. "She came asking for work not so long ago. Perhaps she's the one you are looking for?"
"It might be," the other agreed, while putting the gold coin into his hand. "Can you be so kind as to give me directions to this farm?"
"It'll be my pleasure, sir," Joshua beamed. "When you follow the road leading out of the village, you go until the crossroads and then turn left. Aldleigh's farm is a mile or so from there. If you don't wait too long, you can be there before darkness falls."
"Thank you. I'll go and have a talk with the farmer."
"Glad to be of service."
"No, it is I who must thank you," the stranger said while putting a second gold coin on the table. He then got to his feet and grabbed his overcoat.
Joshua returned to his work. His eyes followed the gentleman as he made his way through the throngs of farmers and finally left the pub.

                                                               Author Bio

Nickie Fleming was born and raised in the historical town of Dendermonde, Belgium, home of the legendary Horse Bayard. Nickie read English and Dutch Literature and Linguistics at the University of Ghent, where she took her master's degree in 1978. She began work as a teacher of languages to 16-18 year-olds and has done so during her long career. She has been writing since she could hold a pen in her hand, but only came to publication when she was well over 50—mainly because she was not actively seeking it. Besides writing, Nickie spends her time with the things she loves—and those she doesn't like so much: housekeeping, reading (favorites are thrillers and good romances), listening to good music, going to see shows and concerts, travelling, food and wine... Nickie is single and shares her house with her only sister, who is equally single. The two ladies get along just fine and do most things together.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Celebrate the small things: full attendance

Full attendance is my elusive dream: at the beginning of each new term, at the beginning of each new week, at the beginning of each new day, I hope that all of my students will show up to class. Sadly, I have had to abandon my other dream that they would all arrive on time and stay until the end. I now that will not happen - but full attendance is possible, and this week I came tantalizingly close.

Due to the rarity of full attendance, I had cause to celebrate 'almost' full attendance twice this week. On Thursday and Friday, only one student was missing.

I am happy to teach whoever shows up. I start the class on time for those who can be bothered to be punctual, and late comers, miss out or have to catch up. Half of the class normally leaves after the second break, but I keep teaching in the last session for the benefit of those who aren't full of excuses about why they can't stay for another forty minutes.

It is annoying and disruptive to have students roll in like browns cows, and/or not attend whole days at all with no good reason, but the students themselves are the ones most affected.

They have to do five assessments every week. Students who are absent have to do those catch up exams when they show up, which means that while they are doing catch up exams which test their knowledge of skills they were not in class to learn or practice, I am teaching new content to those who did show up and who did do the tests. It's a vicious circle for students with poor attendance. Not only do they not learn new content, but they are continually tested on content they don't know, because they don't come to class. or when they do, they are busy doing catch up tests.

Nearly achieving full attendance this week means that all students are now up to date with their assessments, and I was able to teach new content to all but one for two days in a row.

I actually care about how my students perform. I may even care more than some of them do. Full attendance is a little thing, but it makes me happy, so today I'm celebrating 'almost' full attendance and the renewed hope that one day soon, I may get 100%.