BOOK REVIEW: Conquering the Divide: The Legend of Barsicon by Angela Stever

Book Review

Title: Conquering the Divide: The Legend of Barsicon
Author:  Angela Stever
Imprint: Tellwell Talent
Released: October 30, 2021
Pages: 284
ISBN-13: 978-0228863120
Stars:  4.0

Conquering the Divide: The Legend of Barsicon is new, young adult, LGBTQ-friendly fantasy/dystopian science-fiction for the 21st century by well-known Kingston, Ontario radio host Angela Stever. The book’s hero, Seneca Ellis-Brant, is a girl just turning 16 years old, and she’s the youngest Light Seeker in Barsicon history. Seneca has been training her whole life to be a Light Seeker with the help of her two moms, Ma Marie and Mama C (Catherine), and her combat instructor, JD, a diminutive warrior with a neon-coloured mohawk.

In July 2022, two days before the Light Ceremony, she believes it is her destiny to conquer. Seneca meets Alex, JD’s cousin, who is referred to using the pronouns they/them. Alex is the first stranger Seneca has ever met, a popular singer in Light City, and sexual-spiritual fireworks ensue.

Seneca has trained diligently for the Light Ceremony, believing that she will complete it and be able to move her family from The Darkness, the land to the east of Light City, inhabited by the 1% elite of Barsicon on the shores of West Ocean. To gain the privilege of living in Light City, Light Seekers must complete Seven Steps into the Light, which amounts to a battle to the death. But has Seneca been brainwashed? Is the story she has been told about her miraculous birth true? Is she simply a pawn in a very toxic game?

Light City is ruled by President Barbara Crow, an angry woman with daddy issues whose father, General Walter Crow (a comic book buffoon of a bullying leader with no real backbone), demanded the construction of a wall between Light City and The Darkness following the Battle of Barsicon in 1972. Northern Warriors erected the barrier parallel to the coastline, two miles inland from the West Ocean. Only the wealthy live along the West Ocean, its residents made up of people who sleep until noon and feast until midnight, playing games and dancing all day. The wall offers them protection from the ‘unworthy.’

While reading this book—which could arguably be a parable—during the middle of the umpteenth lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, one cannot help but recognize the parallels in the world in which we live and the authors’ world of Barsicon, a simply constructed, dystopian fantasy world. Many of us are seeking a higher spiritual path in light of the darkness we have found ourselves in for the past two years. The 1% elite who govern and decide how we will conduct ourselves and live our lives, have divided us with vaccine mandates, passports, and other draconian restrictions. In today’s world, there is a divide between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, people who are described by the media and even our Prime Minister as unworthy of living in regular society. It may only be a matter of time before we are physically segregated, even though many of us can see that our leaders’ plan to deal with the pandemic is not working. Right now, most of our lives are about survival and not thriving, just like the citizens of Barsicon who live in The Darkness.

There are psychopaths, unexpected twists and turns in Conquering the Divide, and a little bit of magic, lots of mystery, and plenty of heart-centred heroes to cheer for. If you loved The Hunger Games or The Mortal Instruments, you’d want to join Seneca as she discovers her new normal and realizes her true destiny, moving out of The Darkness and into the light. This fast-paced, exciting adventure is filled with nuggets of spiritual wisdom and a satisfying ending that will leave you wanting more.

Angela Stever has peppered her story with “Easter egg” references to local singer-songwriters who music fans in this region know and love and named the main protagonist and another heroic character after her two sons. I suspect she may have used Prince Edward County and Sandbanks Provincial Park as inspiration for Barsicon. Conquering the Divide (available on Amazon now) is her first novel, and it is an outstanding debut. This reader cannot wait for more stories by Stever.

May the God of Light’s Final Judgement find you worthy before you are forced to die for the greater good. “The power should be in the hands of the people, not in the hands of one man.” As in all fantasy stories, there is a battle between good and evil, and the protagonists must overcome seemingly impossible challenges to defeat their adversaries. Sometimes the men in power are simply weak, bullying idiots being controlled by psychopathic puppet masters. And sometimes, it takes standing up to our oppressors and being willing to start a revolution before the light can shine through The Darkness.

Careers AF! (2nd Edition): New Rules, New Tools for the Post-pandemic Gig Economy Offers a First-Rate Fail-Proof Career Strategy

Careers AF!: (2nd Edition) New rules, new tools for the post-pandemic gig economy by M. Michelle Nadon

Careers AF! (2nd Edition): New Rules, New Tools for the Post-pandemic Gig Economy Offers a First-Rate Fail-Proof Career Strategy

Book Review

Title: Careers AF! (2nd Edition): New Rules, New Tools for the Post-Pandemic Gig Economy
Author:  M. Michelle Nadon
Imprint: FriesenPress
Released: July 6, 2021
Pages: 252
ISBN-13: 978-1039126480
Stars:  5.00

Recently, a dear friend and colleague, public and media relations specialist Irene Carroll, invited me to attend M. Michelle Nadon‘s Wednesday Career Jam Zoom group.  As I am trying to grow my second business as an entrepreneur, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to network, and it is.  I was immediately struck by Mitch’s (the author’s preferred name) dynamic, forthright, sincere, and warm personality, and it was clear that she knows about what she speaks. She genuinely wants to help people become career activists who achieve their short, mid, and long-term career goals.

I just finished reading her book, Careers AF! (2nd Edition): New Rules, New Tools for the Post-Pandemic Gig Economy, from cover to cover, and Mitch’s authentic voice comes through in every sentence.  It is chock full of first-rate, mindful, and initiative-taking advice and a clear-cut strategy for everything you must do to land your dream job in the post-pandemic economy—not that the never-ending pandemic is post yet!

Careers AF! is easy to read and understand, and the content is golden. It offers a professional career strategy plan for New Canadians, Boomers, Millennials, and Generations X, Y, and Z. Nadon interspersed terrific Mindset Alerts, Landmine Alerts, and Killer App Alerts that highlight essential tips to grab your attention. In addition, Careers AF! contains insightful quotes and links from media industry professionals, many of whom have worked with Mitch, a highly regarded recruitment specialist, career strategist, and media instructor who has serviced the Canadian media, entertainment, and cultural sectors for nearly twenty years. Her company, mediaINTELLIGENCE, “links today’s business with top talent through innovative recruitment models and cutting-edge career enrichment programs.”

Chapter 21: Smart Start: How To Start Your Own Business was particularly helpful to me, and I wish I had known its contents when I started my first entrepreneurial endeavour in 2008. Oh, to have known then what I know now! I have begun to implement Mitch’s career strategy and will be referring to this book repeatedly as I move forward.

I would like to see branded graphic images within the pages of this book as I believe they would perfectly highlight and punctuate the content, making a designed book shine. The Table of Contents contains the complete contents of this Edition, so if you skim, head to the back of the book.

M. Michelle Nadon Careers AF!
Recruitment Specialist, Career Strategist, and Author M. Michelle Nadon

Recruitment Specialist, Career Strategist, and Author M. Michelle Nadon

Mitch Nadon offers a terrific Career Toolkit for only $29.99 from her website that contains everything you need to reinvent yourself and build a new business. I highly recommend that you purchase this book and the toolkit if you’re trying to navigate the post-pandemic gig economy to land your dream job or build and grow your business. If you do, there’s no way you can fail. Get it on Amazon here.

Chocolate Cake by ZOOM with Shawn Kellerman Is Life-Affirming Party Blues

ALBUM REVIEW

Title: Chocolate Cake
Artist:  ZOOM with Shawn Kellerman
Label: Mouhaha Music
Released: 2021
Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.5

In 2019, when the world was a different place, I attended a Kingston Blues Society show at the RCHA Club in which Shawn Kellerman played with Jerome Godboo and his band. I had seen Godboo a few times and had heard of Kellerman but never really paid attention to his superb guitar playing. That evening, he really got my attention. Like it says on his website, “Sitting up close at a live performance is truly an awesome, jaw-dropping experience.” That night, my jaw hit the floor. Kellerman’s guitar playing is transcendental in that you can almost see his spirit rise above his body when he’s playing the blues. Man, he is phenomenal!

Blown away by his skill, I chatted with Shawn at the break and after the show, and as I work as a social media manager/marketer for musicians, we stayed in touch. I had already heard Kellerman’s guitar playing on Miss Angel’s album, Down In Mississippi, as I’d done some work for her, but that album is Classic Blues in the Mississippi/Delta style and very different from Zoom’s new album, Chocolate Cake, featuring Shawn Kellerman.

Kitchener-based Kellerman played and toured with the late great Lucky Peterson (he passed in May 2020) for many years and I’d seen Peterson’s set at the RBC Ottawa Blues Festival in July 1997. He is also a gifted producer who started his label, Mouhaha Music, producing and mixing Bobby Rush’s Memphis Blues Award-winning acoustic album Raw, and most recently, his longtime friend, Zoom’s latest album, Chocolate Cake, contributing guitar and bass, with some talented musicians from the Waterloo region playing on it—Jimmy Boudreau on drums, Ray Podhornik on trumpet, Dave Wiffen on tenor sax and Matt Weidinger on keys.

Zoom’s boisterous, bawdy, blues/funk vocal performances on Chocolate Cake, knocked me out. I hadn’t heard of her before, but I’ll never forget her now. Based in Detroit, Zoom’s style is Chicago Blues, which to my ears means blues you can dance to. She’s played with legends, including Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Bill Branch and the Sons of the Blues, around North America and Europe. Chocolate Cake is her comeback album after a twenty-year hiatus from music to raise her family.

After almost two years of the soul-shattering, livelihood-destroying pandemic blues, the raucous, danceable life-affirming party blues of Chocolate Cake, is just what the doctor ordered. Zoom’s dynamic vocals, Kellerman’s high-energy guitar, and the amusing, sexy, and saucy lyrics in many of the songs on the album are the perfect antidote to the tiresome, Groundhog Day-life perpetuated by the global pandemic. I laughed aloud at some of the lyrics more than once, with absolute delight! “Amazing Nepenthe (Weed)” might be my favourite new song. Sing it with me, “All I need is a little bit of weed.”

Zoom’s voice is sensational—she was truly born to sing the blues—and I love her passion and the raunchy humour in the lyrics. Standout tracks on the album include “Big Boss Woman” which should be an anthem for all female entrepreneurs. “I’m a big boss woman, I’m a big boss woman / oh, I’m big and I’m bad, I’m the best you ever had, I’m a big boss woman / I am a force of nature, pay me what I’m worth!”

As a single woman who has worked in the music industry for thirteen years, I’ve been living hand to mouth for most of that time. However, I’m a firm believer that music is one of the things that keeps us going during hard times. Its importance should not be understated and musicians should be supported.

“Born To Sing The Blues” is true of Zoom and this declaration is as genuine as it gets. “Still Got the Rhythm,” a testament to the wonder of Viagra, will make you chuckle while you’re shaking your hips to it in your living room. “He came home early in the morning, he was ready to jump / he took a funny little pill, he was ready to bump / I told him, take it, easy baby, you so big and strong / he said, don’t worry about it Mama, I don’t last that long.”

The title track, “Chocolate Cake,” is a funky, infectious horn-trimmed gem that reminds me, rhythmically, of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. “Just like Ricky Bobby, we shake n bake / ah, come and get a piece of this chocolate cake / You like it when I give it to you, tell the truth / I satisfy your craving in your sweet tooth.”

Kellerman’s guitar solo in “My Baby Don’t Love Me” is a stellar accompaniment to Zoom’s weary, scratchy wail which is perfect for this classic, “damn, I’ve got the blues” composition.

The penultimate track, “Love Bone,” is another favourite because of Kellerman’s sensational wah-wah guitar and Zoom’s delivery of the naughty lyrics. “I’m like a bitch in heat, I want a doggy treat / I want your love bone / Don’t want to see your smile, we do it doggy style / I want your love bone / I’m going to twitch and twerk, Big Daddy, go to work / I want your love bone.” There aren’t too many singers who can get away with belting out lyrics like that while sounding like they’re keeping a straight face.

However, on the final, most consequential track, Zoom gets serious with the explicit “Tired of the Hate,” a lament about racism and an important reminder of why Black Lives Matter. “Sonny, day to day I’m going out for a run / I turn around, people chasing me with a gun / All I really want is vittles and iced tea / I got my hoodie on and, damn, they killing me / I’m tired of explaining, I’m tired of complaining / people always think the worst, my colour ain’t my curse.” Every Black woman and man I’ve ever known was born, made of love. This world wouldn’t be as rich, diverse, or meaningful without their contributions to every industry on the planet, and perhaps, Black contributions to music have been amongst the most remarkable.  


Chocolate Cake is a terrific feel-good party album that affirms that sex, weed, and the blues are still viable reasons for not giving up on life when it’s damn hard. But seriously, it’s also proof of why we should and do continue to care about diversity, equality, and every individual’s unique voice, regardless of their colour.

Listen to it on a Friday night or anytime you need to get your groove on.  And know that you would be remiss in not buying a copy for yourself and your friends who could use a pick-me-up this holiday season. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer for blues fans everywhere.

http://shawnkellerman.com/

https://zoombluesmusic.com/

David Leask Announces “FIRE & ICE” Video Release from CFMA-Nominated album, Voyageur in Song

David Leask Fire & Ice Music Video Banner

Voyageur In Song is something truly special…the album is a unique and uplifting, almost spiritual listening experience…that rare thing, a genuinely inspiring album.” ~ R’N R Magazine

“Possibly the most Canadian album on Canada’s most historic instrument.” ~ Toronto Star

“FIRE & ICE” Video AVAILABLE NOW at Youtube.com/DavidLeaskMusic

Toronto, ON – Dec. 2, 2021 – Award-winning Scottish-Canadian singer-songwriter, David Leask, has announced the release of his brand-new “FIRE & ICE” video single from, Voyageur in Song, a concept record inspired by the Six String Nation guitar nicknamed Voyageur.

The song was written about Labradorite, an iridescent blue feldspar mineral from Labrador’s Paul’s Island, inlayed on Voyageur’s 3rd and 9th frets. According to local Inuit legend, Labradorite once held the Northern Lights, which were eventually freed by a hunter. “Fire and Ice” imagines the birth of Labradorite from its own geological and mythical perspective. The upbeat melody of the song, complemented by Jaron Freeman-Fox’s violin, is a nod to the movement of light and colour within Labradorite, engaging listeners in the melody the way the mineral captures the eye.

“I wanted the song to have an underlying sense that sometimes we can’t see everything, that beauty can be hiding and we just have to have a closer look or wait, until the light hits in just the right way.” – David Leask

The “FIRE & ICE” video, produced by Big Red Oak Films, is told through the story of a young dancer who must find a way to rise above the competition and prove that she is everything she wants to be to the only person that matters—herself. The video is the culmination of an amazing thread of creativity from the initial artistic vision for the Six String Nation Guitar through to all the inspired artists that followed one another—luthier, singer/songwriter, music and video producers, choreographer, and ballet dancers.

Voyageur in Song by David Leask

Voyageur in Song, Leask’s 7th record, was written and recorded on a uniquely Canadian instrument—the Six String Nation guitar, Voyageur—built from over 64 pieces of natural, indigenous, oral, recorded, and contemporary history from every province and territory in Canada. It honours both the pain and the beauty in Canada’s history and features songs from Haida Gwaii to Labrador, with stops in Saskatchewan, Toronto, and the shores of PEI.

A decorated artist with international acclaim, Leask has been dubbed “the most consistent Canadian songwriting competition winner” by Songwriters Magazine, having won numerous contests including USA and International Songwriting Competitions. Leask is Mississauga Music 2021 Songwriter of the Year and his current record, Voyageur in Song is nominated for Canadian Folk Music Association Contemporary Album of the Year.

Watch the “Fire & Ice” video on YouTube

Connect with David Leask:
www.davidleask.com/voyageur
https://www.instagram.com/leaskexpected/
https://twitter.com/leaskexpected
https://www.facebook.com/DavidLeaskMusic
https://www.youtube.com/davidleaskmusic

Press Contact:
Mary Ellen Beatty: me@rulistening.ca