Sunday, February 17, 2019

Reaction from a Freedom Club reader

This is a letter I received from Jon Howard whom I do not know and have never met before.

Hi Cindy,
I’ve just finished reading the freedom club (it’s 3:18am and I’m not normally a night person) and I just had write back and say...
Thank you
That was amazing
And so much more.

As a victim of bullying back in the 80’s when I was at school I thought long and hard about your story and what it meant to me. It dragged back feelings of sickness and revulsion at the bullies in your story, you did an amazing job on the characters adding a degree of depth and realism that only the bullied can ever really appreciate.

I’m just so grateful that access to social media wasn’t a thing back then as I know I would have been even more of a victim and god alone only knows if I’d ever have been able to recover from some of the crap that the bullied of today have to deal with.

As a victim of being bullied I can appreciate the utter destruction that it does to ones feelings of self worth and confidence and as a parent it was my greatest fear that my kids would be bullied and so I always tried to to what ever I could to quash any signs of bullying and give my kids the level of self confidence that would allow them to develop their own armour. I’ve often told them that if they can’t look in the mirror and learn to love the person looking back then they’ll never develop the sense of self worth that is required to believe that they are worth fighting for, and to stand up to the bullies.

I’ve never understood the compulsion that drives bullies to do the things they do, I think maybe that is lacking a little in your story, but to do that might almost humanise the antagonists to the point where we’re not genuinely happy to see the bullies get their just desserts (so to speak)

Regardless I was drawn into the story and once started I had to finish, I had to see where it would end - I don’t know if it was intended but I felt a strong vibe of the second season of The Netflix show American Vandal and if you haven’t guessed it already i really enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to read it. I think enjoyed might be the wrong word as I felt this was at times hard to read yet compelling all the same. Again if I had to draw a comparison I’d link it to the experience of watching American History X

Anyway, it’s late (or early) and I’m rambling a bit so I just wanted to thank you again and can’t wait to read some more of your work.

Kindest Regards 

You can purchase The Freedom Club on Amazon in both ebook and paperback format.  Here is the link for the ebook.

Cindy Vine is a South African currently living in Norway.  She classes her books as 'reality'  fiction as they cover everyday social issues many people face.  The Freedom Club has been translated into both Spanish and Portuguese.
Some of her other novels are The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective and Hush Baby.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Why you need a Bucket List

Not everybody has a life that is perfect all the time.  Most people have a life full of ups and downs - a bit like a roller-coaster.  When you are on the down part it is easy to get depressed and fall into a funk.  A bucket list can move you out of that dark place.
A bucket list is a list of things you'd like to do before you die, or kick the bucket.
We all have dreams and goals.  We just don't write them down.  Sometimes we store them in some obscure part of our brain.  Most of the time, those dreams and goals gather cobwebs as we push them further and further away.  If we are not careful they will become out of sight, out of mind.  Writing them down brings them to the fore.
Granted, not all dreams are achievable, but many are doable.  The doable ones, write down on your bucket list and then make a plan to start ticking them off your list.  Planning to achieve and complete items on your bucket list is certain to get you out of the funk as it gives you a purpose.  Something to work towards.  A reward to celebrate the journey.
For me a bucket list is all about keeping my spirit of adventure alive.  I want my gravestone to read "She lived her life to the fullest."  I want to experience as much as possible and make as many memories as I can to savor and ruminate over when I am too old and frail to do anything.  And then of course, I might go before I get old and frail.  You just never know.  So, I have to try and do as much as possible before my time is up.
My bucket list gives me hope as well as happiness.  If I find myself feeling down, I will focus on my bucket list and start to get excited.  What should I do next?
For every item I tick off, I think of a new one to replace it with.  So my bucket list is continually evolving.
I have a few bucket list items coming up soon that I will be able to tick off my list.  What can I replace them with?  I feel happy just imagining what I can do next.
Cindy Vine is a South African currently living in Norway.  Besides ticking items off her bucket list, she is the author of The Freedom Club, Defective, Hush Baby, CU@8 and others.  Her books are all available on in both ebook and paperback formats.

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.