Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Review of "Humans of New York: Stories"


A picture is worth a thousand words--but what if you could have both the picture and the story? "Humans of New York: Stories" is a balm for the soul, the antidote to the poison that afflicts our society in these troubled days. Each photo is a glimpse into the human spirit, into each of us, our hopes and fears, our dreams, our inspiration. I heard about this book from a friend who said he reads a story at random each night before he goes to sleep. The stories help ground him after each grueling day of terrible news and inhumanity. 

Not only are the photos beautiful and artistic, each captures a moment in time: a life poised to begin, a love lost, a love found, a dream fulfilled, or not. You'll laugh and cry and shake your head in wonder at these stories. You've met these people, you've seen them, you are them.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Free e-book promo 7/2-7/6! ;-)


Well, it is July, so of course the book on free promo right now is "Jeopardy in July". Beat the heat by staying inside curled up with a good cozy mystery. Pick yours up today. :-) Happy 4th of July!

Here is the blurb:

Old people were dying at an alarming rate at La Vida Boca, a posh assisted living facility in Boca Raton, Florida. With its sterling reputation, dedicated staff, and top-notch medical care, none of the deaths are considered suspicious, but when members of the poker club start to die under strange circumstances, attorney Jamie Quinn finds herself once again embroiled in a mystery. With help from her new friend, Jessie Sandler, and her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie uncovers a crime that took place forty years earlier. Can she stop the killer in time? Or is she in danger of becoming the next victim?

https://www.amazon.com/Jeopardy-July-Jamie-Quinn-Mystery-ebook/dp/B06XWJK9TP/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1530533823&sr=8-5&keywords=barbara+venkataraman




Thursday, June 28, 2018

Free Audio-Book Download Codes! :-)


Good news for audio-book lovers, Audiofile Magazine has all the reviews and recommendations you need to find your next great audio-book. They also feature interviews with authors and narrators--it's a treasure trove of audio-book information!

Check out their wonderful review of my 4th Jamie Quinn Mystery, Engaged in Danger, narrated by the talented Fay Annette:
https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/138287/engaged-in-danger-by-barbara-venkataraman/

Finally, I'm thrilled to announce that my new audio-book, Jeopardy in July (Jamie Quinn Mystery #5) has just been released and is available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. 
I have 24 audiobook download codes for Jeopardy in July to give away to reviewers, so comment on this post if you would like a download code. :-D


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Great Blog for Cozy Mystery Lovers! :-)


Cozy Mystery lovers, have I got a blog for you! Check out "The Cozy Pages" where cozy mysteries are reviewed with the "Espresso Shot" rating system. Personally, I'd rather get a Buzz rating than a Plain Hot Water or Decaf, lol! And today this lovely blog features a guest post by yours truly.  If you would like to know how a good mystery can be just like a sneeze, check it out. :-D

https://thecozypages.wordpress.com/2018/06/13/cozy-spotlight-on-the-jamie-quinn-mystery-collection-by-barbara-venkataraman/

Thanks for the hospitality, Nina!

Friday, June 8, 2018

"Murder on the Beach" Mystery Bookstore! :-)

http://murderonthebeach.com/index.php/upcoming-events-2/

My new favorite bookstore:
"Murder on the Beach" Mystery Bookstore in Delray, FL! 
Great events and good taste in books. 
Those are my Jamie Quinn Mystery books on the shelf, by the way. Hooray! ;-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bittersweet


Who would have thought this could happen to us? An economic superpower in our day and we never saw it coming. Okay, that last part isn’t true. They did try to warn us: the botanists and economists, the climatologists and even those pretentious foodies, damn them! But we refused to believe it. So spoiled and gluttonous were we that we couldn’t imagine such a vacuum in our lives, couldn’t imagine that one of our greatest pleasures, second only to, well you know, could disappear so suddenly, leaving us in a glassy-eyed stupor.

At first, there seemed to be no cause for alarm. Sure, a few high-end distributors declared bankruptcy and most of the artisanal boutiques quietly closed down, but that didn’t affect the rest of us. Even as the price started creeping up, we took it in stride, still happily gorging ourselves on a regular basis.  Every holiday was an excuse to buy new varieties created in whimsical shapes or mixed with exotic flavors like hot chili peppers, spicy ginger, aromatic curry powders or edible flowers. 
                                                             
People even ate it on insects!  Now, why would I make that up? Others drank it in liquid form; some preferred it melted or frozen. Touted for centuries as an energy-booster, an antioxidant, and an aphrodisiac, it was all that and much more. In fact, some of the wealthiest ladies went to luxury spas so they could bathe in it! Isn’t that decadent? The flavors were so rich and complex that no scientist ever managed to synthesize it in the lab. Believe me, they tried. If I told you its name meant “food of the gods,” maybe you could start to understand the depth of our loss…  

In our defense, we had a lot of other problems to worry about. There were no world population councils back then so people could have as many children as they wanted. My own grandparents had twelve kids! The population climbed to 9 billion before we did anything about it. On top of that, the climate was changing and real estate which had been “underwater” due to the housing bubble was now literally underwater. Coastal areas were disappearing, Louisiana was sinking and the popular area known as South Beach was cut off from the mainland forever. At the same time, countries were locked in a massive power struggle over the dwindling supply of fossil fuels.    

Is it any wonder we paid no attention to those whining foodies? I mean, they were always complaining about something. If it wasn’t the shortage of truffle pigs, then it was the ban on pâté de foie gras or the counterfeit caviar flooding the market. Their concerns were so alien to the rest of us plebeians that we tuned them out when we really should have listened to them. Only the Doomsday freaks took them seriously and, naturally, they started hoarding the “food of the gods” because, well, hoarding was what they did best. Always preparing for the world to end, they saw no sense in going hungry while they waited. It was the hoarding that jacked the price up enough for the world to finally notice. 

Outside of our purview, the fragile crops that supplied the delicious elixir were dying from insect infestation, disease, and climate change, and demand was quickly overtaking supply. Speculators entered the mix and real panic set in. It became the hottest commodity in the world, even overtaking gold. Financial markets were so volatile that in West African countries, where the crop was cultivated, ripe pods became the new currency, just like in ancient times. Black markets sprang up everywhere and nobody could talk about anything else. Elected officials were besieged by rabid voters demanding immediate action. Riots broke out and the processing factories were looted for raw materials. Even natural disasters couldn’t distract people for very long…

I’m sorry, where was I? You’ll have to forgive me but ever since I reached my 115th sun cycle, my mind has started to wander. Oh, yes, the governments became involved but of course they only made things worse. Truthfully, I don’t know if there was anything they could have done anyway. Our best agri-scientists worked around the clock but, in the end, all they could do was bank seeds in all of the master seed banks and watch it play out. In only ten years, all of the crops were utterly decimated, never to return. Even the hoarders and black marketeers eventually reached their last precious morsels. And, because they had no choice, the people of the world adjusted, but there was a sadness that permeated everything, a yearning that would never pass, a taste that could not be forgotten…

I know you’re wondering why I told you this long story, especially today, when we should be celebrating your 21st sun-cycle and eating a feast of the best synth food in town, but you’re my only great-great-granddaughter and I wanted to give you something really special. Yesterday, I went to my Cryo-storage unit to get your gift so that it would thaw out in time. Here, please take this and remember to savor every bite: it’s like nothing you’ve ever eaten before and nothing you will ever eat again. Yes, it is a curious shape, it’s meant to resemble an animal that’s now extinct called a rabbit. I hope you don’t mind if I watch you take a bite, it would give me great pleasure. Oh no, please don’t cry! Like life, chocolate isn’t meant to last. Only the joy of experiencing it lingers on.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

WHAT'S YOUR THUNDER? :-)


Our dog Abby suffered from Astraphobia, an abnormal fear of thunder and lightning--although she never called it that, at least not out loud. With the heightened sensory perception all dogs have, Abby knew when a storm was brewing and would start pacing the house hours in advance, searching for a safe place to hide that didn't exist. Fearless when it came to strange dogs or mailmen who dared approach our mailbox, Abby was terrified of thunder, shaking and quaking under the desk as she pressed herself against the wall. Even the warm presence of her sister Phoebe hiding beside her offered no comfort. Holding Abby close, soothing her in a calm voice, had no effect. The fact that thunder had never caused her a single injury didn't matter. This pattern persisted for eleven years until Abby succumbed to cancer one Halloween night.  

Abby was as smart as a dog could be, at least in my limited experience (I hope Phoebe isn't reading this. Sorry, old girl), but she didn't understand that thunder couldn't hurt her. She also didn't understand that cancer could hurt her, but that would have been asking too much. I can't say her fear was irrational as I'm not a dog, but I can say that it was a lot of wasted energy and unnecessary anguish. It made me think-- what was my thunder? Don't we each have our own thunder, some irrational fear holding us back, keeping us from our best possible life?  

My mother was afraid of lightning, planes, and evil people--but not in that order. Knowing that statistically her fears didn't warrant the time she spent on them didn't stop her, no, she was determined, a professional worrier with a reputation to uphold. Nobody was going to out-worry her, dammit. Getting her on a plane was always an ordeal. She would tell us how she was nervous, or she wouldn't tell us, but then remind us over and over how much she loved us, as if we were parting company forever. When I pointed out how silly this was, how she didn't flip out every time she rode in a car, she would shake her head at my ignorance. At least you can survive a car accident she would reply, Needless to say, she didn't die from lightning, planes, or evil people. It was cancer.

Of course, I could walk around afraid of cancer; that would be logical, but not productive. Day-to-day though, what was I afraid of?  Failure--that was a big one. Running out of time was becoming a theme when I realized my mother died when she was nine years older than I am now. Losing my memory terrifies me too. But fear of not living up to my own expectations may just be the winner.

What if I could let go of the fear and seize the joy I know is in there? The joy that elbows her way out when a baby laughs, a Blue Jay chases a squirrel away, or someone tells a funny joke. That joy I feel wading in the ocean, sand squishing between my toes, walking beside my husband and children. It takes practice, finding joy. It's not like you can wrestle her to the ground and pin her there like a WWE champ, you have to be gentle, coax her to walk with you. But don't forget to smile. She scares easy.