Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Review of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of AuschwitzThe Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather   Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved, loved, loved this book! Set in the horrors of the holocaust, it is a story of hope, never giving up, human ingenuity and enduring unbelievable love. It is truly a love that conquers all. The author has managed to capture it all and write it so that you feel as if you are watching a movie in your head. Definitely my best read of 2018 and highly recommended.

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Cindy Vine is a South African living in Norway.  She is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, CU@8, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.  All her books are available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Review of The Reckoning by John Grisham

The ReckoningThe Reckoning by John Grisham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like a book with a happy ending, then this is definitely not the book for you. This book is full of tragedies that will leave you reeling. It combines legal drama with historical fiction. As someone who likes historical facts, the war section was quite gripping. But in saying that, a lot of it wasn't really necessary for the story and might put off a lot of readers. The twist in the wtist was a bit of a surprise, and I think Grisham wrapped up the story too quickly. I wanted it to end with at least one good happy event and a come-uppance to the baddies!

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Cindy Vine is the author of The Case of Billy B, CU@8, Defective, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.  All her books are available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback format.

Review of A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

A Spark of LightA Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love Jodi Picult and always eagerly await her latest book. Unfortunately, A Spark of Light left me feeling a little bleh. It was well-researched as always. Maybe a little too much like a lecture at times. But, and I hate to say this, but it felt like she had printed off her manuscript, accidentally dropped it on the floor, and some of the page order got muddled up. It took a little while for me to realise that she was writing in reverse time order, but with the many characters, all their perspectives and different times in their lives within a chapter - it became a little confusing. It then became a book I had to read because I'd paid good money for it and because it was a Jodi Picoult, not a book I read because it was entertaining and I was gripped. But that's just my perspective. Also, the way it was written, the attempt at a twist fell flat because it was totally predictable. I wish I could be more positive, as I am a die-hard Picoult fan.

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Cindy Vine is the author of Not Tellng, Defective, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.  All her books are available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback format.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Rude people are a part of a holiday

You plan your holiday, researching finer details, checking out weather forecasts.  But one thing you never factor in is the rude people you encounter on your trip.  I have to say, invariably they are taxi drivers.
Take for example, my recent trip to Fort Lauderdale.  My plane landed at about 8.45pm.  We had to wait on the runway for over an hour for a gate to be free for the plane to pull into so we could disembark.  Then another hour for the bags to slowly get spit out onto the conveyor belt.  Factor in a ten hour flight and as you can imagine, my patience levels would not be the best.  Finding a taxi was not the easiest, which was surprising.  Signs for a taxi rank were not noticeable.  When I asked a staff member to point me in the drection of the taxi rank, she gave a big sigh and pointed me in the direction of the 'shared ride' area, irritation seemingly dripping off her finger.  I trudged all the way there and waited a while, eventually noticing that taxis were driving past and stopping off where the irritable lady was standing, still sending people to the wrong area.  I headed back to where the taxis were stopping and managed to grab a taxi.  All was well until we went through a toll and the taxi driver turned around and held his hand out, "Gimme $1.50 for the toll."
I replied that I had only just arrived, it was nearly midnight and I didn't have any American money on me.  He shouted at me.  Yes, you heard right.  The stupid taxi driver shouted at me!  He asked me how I dared climb into his taxi cab without cash!  I was shocked.  I pointed out that he had a card machine in his cab.  "It's not *!#* working!" he shouted, "Now I have to take a detour to find an ATM so you can draw out cash!"
To say I was gobsmacked, was quite an understatement.  I had encountered rude people on all of my travels, but this guy was definitely the worst!  He stopped at an ATM, I drew cash, and when he eventually arrived at my hotel, I saw that the meter said $43.50.  He turned around to face me, and said that with the toll added on I owed him $50.  Now I am no mathematician, but I know that 43.50 + 1.50 does not equal 50.  But, it was midnight, I was exhausted so I gave him $60, as the ATM only issued twenties.  He then told me that he didn't have $7 change!  In my exhaustion I shook my head to make sure I heard right.  "$7 change?" I asked.  Somehow, the $50 which was already an overcharge, had changed to $53!  He pulled out some notes, showing me a $5 and a $10 and said he didn't have $7 and would have to drive off to get change.  I knew when he drove off that he would never be coming back again.  Ripped off!  What a welcome to America!
The other taxi drivers I encountered were much friendlier, although there was another one that tried the cash only thing, saying his machine was broken.  When I asked for a receipt, suddenly his machine was fixed.  One taxi driver said I was hot, and wanted to fetch me with his personal car the next day to take me around the city.  When I told my son, he said "Don't do it Mom.  Remember Dexter.  He came from Miami."
In France we found the waiters to be extremely rude.  But on a return visit, they were exceptionally friendly.  So even though the rudeness of some locals might be disturbing at the time, you have to balance it with the friendliness and helpfulness of others you meet.  I guess in busy holiday seasons, one can get easily annoyed with tourists asking the same questions, making the same silly comments.  And there will always be taxi drivers ready to take advantage of tourists whom they might view as easy money.  I guess we just have to accept that encounters with rude people are just a part of every holiday.
Cindy Vine is a teacher and author currently living in Norway.  She is the author of Defective, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook format.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Mistakes you make when Traveling

Have you ever ordered a meal off a menu because the picture looked like the meal would be delicious?  Did the meal live up to the expectations you had from the photo on the menu?
On a recent visit to Istanbul, I went to a local restaurant in a shopping mall.  They had posters of a delicious looking steak that was on special displayed all around the restaurant.  Of course all the writing on the posters was in Turkish.  As I can't read Turkish and the waiter couldn't speak English. I had to go by the picture.
When the steak arrived my immediate observation was that it wasn't actually a steak, but rather thin slices of meat placed on flatbread.  I shrugged and decided if it tasted good, then all was fine in my world.  Before I could shovel the first forkful into my mouth, the waiter arrived with a pot filled with melted butter which he proceeded to pour over my meal.  I was aghast!  I have never been able to handle anything too oily and fatty.  Even cream makes me want to throw up.  Looking at my meal swimming in a sea of melted butter, I could feel my stomach heave.  Not wanting to waste money, I managed to pick off the slices of meat to eat, while trying not to look at the flatbread which was now sodden and soggy with the melted butter.  I bravely ate that meat while glaring at the misleading posters, fighting back the nausea.  For several hours afterwards, I felt physically ill.
The lesson to be learned, don't pick a meal based on a picture on the menu.
I guess another lesson could be not to order from a menu not written in English.  On a visit to Gabon, I went to a cute beach-side restaurant in Libreville.  The menu was in French, and the waitresses only spoke French.  My French is limited to words like 'restaurant' and 'bureau.'  I thought 'poisson' was the French for chicken, and was shocked to be served a very fishy stew with fish heads!
Maybe I'm a slow learner.
A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting Frankfurt.  Knowing that I would be arriving at the airport in time to board and I would't be able to check in luggage, I took a small carry-on and left behind my face cream, deodorant and toothpaste.  My thought was that I could buy toiletries in Frankfurt.  Also, as my residence card was about to expire, I didn't want to have any products in my bag that might draw attention to me, causing someone to ask me for identification.  One of the great things about traveling through the Schengen region, is that you aren't often asked to show identification.  But, I wanted to avoid chancing my luck.  However, on visiting the supermarket near my hotel in Frankfurt, I found identifying face cream to be a problem.  Toothpaste and deodorant were easily identifiable.  Browsing through the products on display, I decided to go with something that sounded familiar.  It said 'Creme' and 'Body Butter.'  Now I have to state, I use body butter from The Body Shop, as I find it works well on my sensitive skin.  The first time I tried the 'creme' on my face, it felt tight afterwards and stung a little bit.  The next day it stung even more and my skin started going red.  Stupidly, I used the 'creme' a third and then a fourth day.  By the fourth day my face was very red and burning.  I decided to wash my face to remove remnants of the 'creme.'  To my horror as I wet my face it started to foam.  It was at that point I realised that the 'creme' was not what I thought it was.  A closer look at the bottle showed the word 'douche' after the word 'creme.'  A German-speaking friend confirmed my worst fears.  The face cream I had been using on my ultra-sensitive skin for four days was actually Shower Gel!  No wonder my face felt tight, turned red and foamed when I washed it!
The Frankfurt visit influenced decisions I made for my Finland visit the following week.
I made three bad decisions.  The first one was to pack in my toiletries so that I didn't have to risk buying a wrong product in Finland as I can't read Finnish.  I didn't want a repeat of the 'creme douche' incident.  The second one was to send my passport away to another embassy to get a visa.  This effectively meant that I would be traveling to another country without a passport.  I didn't see this as a problem as nobody had wanted to see my residence card or passport when I left Frankfurt.  The third mistake was deciding to check-in my bag because I had packed in toiletries.
Well, the airline lady asked me for my passport when I tried to check-in my bag.  She refused to accept a certified copy of it or my now renewed residence card.  Instead, she canceled my flights right there and then.  This should have been devastating as I was leading a workshop the next day and people were counting on me.  Instead, I went to the airport Starbucks, not for a coffee, but to use their table so I could set up my laptop.  I quickly bought new plane tickets on a different airline.  I did not check-in my bag, but took it as hand luggage, my toiletries setting off the alarm.  Luckily, all I had to do was remove them from my bag and put them in a clear plastic ziploc bag they gave me.  Thank goodness nobody asked me for identification on the two flights to Oulu in Finland and the two flights back. 
Desperate times call for desperate measures. 
I blame this all on the toiletries!
Sometimes I think these kinds of things only happen to me.  Maybe it's because I am a risk-taker, who knows.
Cindy Vine is a South African living and working in Norway.  Cindy is the author of Hush Baby, The Freedom Club, Not Telling, CU@8, Defective and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Confessions of a Solo Traveler

I like traveling and I'm lucky that I get to travel a lot.  However, my solo trips are usually ten days max.  This is the first time that I have traveled for such a long period by myself.
I'm not sure if I like it.
I think I might have made a few mistakes this trip, which has impacted on the success of it.
Have I seen a lot of different places?  Yes, definitely.  But, part of me feels that when planning the trip way back in March, I went for quantity rather than quality.
A person goes on holiday to rest, relax and recharge.
I forgot that in my initial planning of the trip.
I looked at a map and thought, it would be cool to stop off at these places.  Then I planned one day for traveling and 2 days to explore.  That was my biggest mistake.  While you can explore a city in 2 days, you need more time than that to factor in relaxation time.  Rushing from tourist sight to tourist sight leaves you exhausted, and then you have to pack up and move onto the next destination.  And, when I planned the holiday I didn't look at how one can get from one city to the next and the cost that involved.  Maybe it would have been better to visit fewer places and spend a week at a time in each destination.
Sometimes, it's not a matter of just jumping on a train or a bus.
Take getting from Valencia to Malaga for example.  A train trip would involve going via Madrid, with a few hours stopover, and another train to Malaga.  This would have taken about 8 hours and cost over 100 euros.  A bus trip was also over 100 euros and would take close on 12 hours.  I opted for catching a lift with someone who advertised the place in their car on Blablacar.  This only cost me 30 euros so I thought I had secured a bargain.
The car was small, had no air conditioning, the driver didn't speak English and had 3 paying passengers squashed onto a back seat that could only fit 2 people comfortably.  Because I had a carry on suitcase as well as my huge suitcase with the broken wheel, I had to hold my carry on suitcase on my lap the whole trip, with my face pressed against the window.  6 hours.
I did not have a fun time.  Never again.  That's all I'm saying.  Loud Spanish rap music with driver and co-driver rapping the whole trip.  Fun times.  Not.
Malaga more than made up for the disastrous trip to get there though.
Dragging my big suitcase with the broken wheel to catch transportation was another nightmare.  Next time I need a suitcase that does not develop Popeye-type muscles in my right arm.  I need to travel lighter, although washing clothes on a 6 week holiday isn't the easiest.
By the time I got to Sevilla I was starting to get tired of my own company, and dare I say, tired of exploring.  I just wanted to chillax, but the trip I had planned way back in March allowed no time to chillax.  It was go, go, Go!
It took 3 buses to get from Tavira to Portimao.  By the time I arrived at Portimao I was so pissed off with traveling, I was ready to call it a day.  It was at that point I decided that it was okay if I didn't see everything and it was acceptable to spend the day sitting outside eating gelato.
Portimao to Lisbon took 2 trains, the second one delayed over 2 hours because of technical difficulties.  Lugging the big suitcase with the broken wheel, my smaller suitcase and backpack was no joke in the extreme heat.
The first train I had to stand for over an hour because a mother and her two teenage daughters thought it was acceptable to each sit on one seat and have their bags on the seat next to them, thus depriving three people of seats they had paid for.
I am still not amused.
I spent my time on that train thinking of suitable curses to put on the three of them.
This trip has given me way too much time for personal reflection.  It's quite depressing actually, when you look back on your life and the many mistakes you've made.  When you travel with someone you don't have time for thinking about your life.  But when you are alone, there is too much time for introspection.  I think a solo trip longer than 10 days might not be good for my mental health.
I feel compelled to record my trip with photographs.  I realise that few people will bother to look at my holiday pics, but it is important for me to do.  You see, I have noticed that my memory is going one word at a time.  It might take me a while to remember a particular word.  The other day it was 'bouncer.'  I had to say, "The person who is like an armed guard vetting people who go into a club."  And the person I was talking to said, "Oh you mean a bouncer."
Yep, it's like that.
So my hope is that when my memory is completely gone, some kind person will direct me to my Facebook where I have all my holiday photo albums, and I can look through the photos of the places I've been, things I've seen, people I've met and I can remember.
I was here.  I did live my life to the fullest.  I existed.

Cindy Vine is an author, teacher, mother, currently living and working in Norway.
Cindy writes the kinds of books she enjoys reading.
Books with real life issues that are thought-provoking and take you places you never thought you might go.
The Freedom Club is Cindy Vine's latest book.  It deals with the sensitive subject of high school bullying, teen suicides and school shootings.  You can buy it here.
All Cindy's books are available on in both paperback and kindle formats.
You can find some of Cindy's other titles here. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Let the adventures begin!

It can only happen to me!
I was originally going to write a blog post about how not to pack a suitcase.  For all my traveling, I have not mastered the art of suitcase packing.  I'm a shover.  Find a hole and shove something in it.  When you have a Star Wars carry on suitcase inside your main suitcase, it makes packing more difficult.
Don't ask.
But then one of the wheels on my wheelie case seized.  So now instead of each wheel moving like a ballet dancer so that I only need to direct my suitcase with one finger, I now have to drag it along as the one wheel has stopped turning.  I could feel my right bicep increase several sizes from the effort I had to put in to drag a heavy suitcase.
Not a good start.
My original intention was to take a train to my hotel from the airport.  However, changing trains and walking to the hotel dragging a suitcase, carrying a carry on suitcase, handbag and my laptop case on my back, made me think that plan might not be my wisest.
After all, I am an old woman.  My hair is grey.
I dragged my suitcase through Charles de Gaulle until I found the exit to the taxi rank.  A kind gentleman asked, "You want car taxi or motorbike taxi?"
Always thinking of the budget I asked, "Which one is cheaper?"  In my mind I imagined the motorbike taxi to be like a tuk-tuk which I used to travel on in Thailand.
I tried to smile pleasantly to disguise my shock when I saw the motorbike taxi was just a large-as motorbike.  The biker gave me his leather jacket to wear, put a disposable hairnet on my head before plonking a huge helmet on me so I had to strain my neck to see out the visor.  He put my laptop bag and handbag into side compartments, and tied my big suitcase with deformed wheel onto the carrier on the back of the bike, then he indicated for me to climb on up.
Let's get one thing straight.  I haven't straddled anything for many years.  My joints have seized up like the wheel on my suitcase.
But, pride was at stake.  So, completely disoriented with the heavy humungous helmet on my head, I managed to make my right leg lift and swing and got myself comfortable on the seat.  The biker man then passed me my carry on suitcase and I realised that I would have to hold it on my lap for the journey, making a wall between me and the biker.
The trip was exhilarating, if not a little frightening, as we weaved in and out of the traffic, going way past the speed limit when the freeway was clear.  My driver liked driving on the dotted line and I was sure I would lose both kneecaps or maybe knock off some sideview mirrors.  However, he was very good, even though he shouted and swore at cars that came too close, and even gave a few cars the finger which of course meant that he had to let go of the handlebar.  My nerves!
So today I am Bikergirl Cindy.  I was pleased when I climbed off that I didn't walk like a cowboy.
This wasn't on my bucket list but I'm pleased I had this experience.  And that it only took 20 minutes when if I had gone in a car it might have taken almost 2 hours in the heavy traffic.
So let the adventures begin...time to forage for food.

The Freedom Club is FREE on @amazon until Saturday! A group of teenagers decide to stand up to the school bullies, but what they uncover is nothing they expected.
Cindy Vine is an author currently living in Norway, but traveling in Europe for the summer holiday.  She's the author of The Freedom Club, Hush Baby, Not Telling and The Case of Billy B.  All her books are available in both ebook and paperback format on Amazon.