Saturday, April 30, 2016

Casey Jones: the man, the event and the hero

Casey Jones, known as the Brave Engineer, is an American folk hero. April 30, 1900, he died when his passenger train collided with a stalled freight train at the Vaughan, Mississippi station on a foggy and rainy night. His dramatic death while trying to stop his train and save the lives of his passengers made him a hero. He was immortalized in a popular ballad song by his friend, Wallace Saunders.

Born Jonathan Luther Jones on March 14, 1863, Jones grew up near Cayce, Kentucky where he acquired the nickname, “Cayce” which he would later spell as “Casey.” He married Mary Joanna “Janie” Brady on November 25, 1886. They would have three children: Charles (1888-1977), Helen (1890-1979) and John Lloyd (1896-1934). By all accounts, Jones was a devoted family man. Jones was promoted to engineer on February 23, 1891. As railroading was a talent, Jones was recognized by his peers to be one of the best engineers in the business. He was known for his insistence to get the train in on time and never fall behind schedule. He was so punctual that people set their watches by him. He was also famous for his particular train whistle. Made of six thin tubes bound together, its unique sound involved a long-drawn out note which began softly, rose and then faded to a whisper. People living along the rail line would hear it and claim “There goes Casey Jones.” A bit of a risk taker, Jones was ambitious and eager to move up the ranks and serve on the better paying and more prestigious passenger trains.

In February 1900, Jones transferred to Memphis, Tennessee for the passenger run between Memphis and Canton, Mississippi. On April 30, Jones and his crew departed Memphis at 12:50 am, 75 minutes behind schedule. The weather was foggy and rainy with reduced visibility and tricky curves on this particular run. The run started well and Jones was able to gain momentum get back on schedule. Unknown to Casey, three separate trains were at the Vaughan station. The No. 83 train was stalled on the switch track, leaving the rear cars on the main line and in Jones’ path. As Jones approached, a left-hand curve blocked his view, it wasn’t until his fireman, Sim Webb cried, “Oh my Lord. There’s something on the main line.” Jones told Webb to jump and reversed the throttle and slammed on the airbrakes. He had reduced his speed from 75 mph to 35 mph when he hit. Because Jones stayed on board, it is believed he saved the passengers from serious injury and death. His watch stopped at time of impact at 3:52 am. Popular legend holds that when his body was found, he was still clutching the whistle cord and brake. The final accident report placed the responsibility on Jones who was said to have ignored the warning signals given by No. 83. His fireman, Webb, claimed and swore until his death in 1957, that they did not see or hear any warnings. Historians today dispute the official report. They find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that an engineer of Jones’ experience would have ignored the different warnings that would have alerted him to the danger.

Casey Jones’ fame could be attributed to the traditional song, The Ballad of Casey Jones. Soon after his death, the song was first sung by engine wiper and friend of Jones, Wallace Saunders. He was known to sing and whistle the song to the tune of “Jimmie Jones.” Unfortunately, Saunders never copyrighted his lyrics, so it is difficult to known what his lyrics were. But the song would travel the country as railroaders picked up the song and vaudeville performers, T. Lawrence Seibert and Eddie Newton copyrighted their music and lyrics for the song. By WWI, dozens of versions of the song had been published and millions of copies were sold. The poet, Carl Sandburg, called Casey Jones – The Brave Engineer, the greatest ballad ever written. The song has been recorded numerous times and Casey Jones’ name has become a household name.

Casey Jones has become a mythological figure like Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan. He was a real life hero whose legend grew as people talked about him. He stayed on the train in order to slow it down and the save the lives of the passengers who was entrusted to his care. On this day, the 116th anniversary of his heroic act, I remember Casey Jones: the man, the legend. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Vow: an amazing love story

The Vow by Felicity Goodrich is unlikely love story in a small Polish village during the heat of World War II. It is a story of love beyond measure and a love against all odds.

The story opens in September 1939 where Anna and her family are running to hide from the German soldiers who are raiding their village. The soldiers are looking for men to fight. Family is caught and huddled with the rest of the villagers. The villagers watch as men of all ages are forced into the army and carted off to fight in a war they didn’t believe in. Father Szymon Wielinski tries to minister to his parish as they fight fear and uncertainty. Rumors come in that the Russians are coming from the east and the German army is weakening. With the war raging around them, they have a battle among themselves. Anna and Szymon become good friends and they seek each other’s comfort as bad news comes from the world outside. Soon Anna and Szymon fall in love, not willing to acknowledge as Szymon is committed to his oath to the church. Rumors fly about their relationship that it forces them apart until they realize that they do not what to be apart. Will Anna and Szymon be able to be together? Will Szymon be able to put aside his commitment to the Church for his love of Anna?

To say that I loved this book is an understatement. I LOVED this book. I read this book in one day. Not because it was an easy read but because the story was so thrilling and exciting that I could not put in down. The story was beautifully written with a love story unlike I’ve read before. The struggles and conflicts are dealt with such reality that Anna and Szymon. The descriptions of the war, while in the background, give just enough to give the reader a sense of the atmosphere of the villager. One of my favorite quotes from the book is from Szymon when he says “I am not cast out of God’s love, only yours.” I love the truth behind this statement as men try to dictate the measure of God’s love. This book was heartwarming and romantic. Probably one of the most romantic love stories I’ve read in a long time. I highly recommend The Vow.

The Vow
is available on Amazon
on paperback for $14.95

or free with Kindle Unlimited

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today in History: April 26, 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

Today in Belarus, it is a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. April 26, 1986, a catastrophic nuclear accident occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, under the direct jurisdictional control of the USSR. It was the worst nuclear power disaster in history in turns of cost and causalities. It is 1 of 2 classified as a level 7, the maximum, on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The accident itself caused the deaths of 31 people with the long-term effects still being felt and investigated.

The Chernobyl disaster was a sudden and unexpected power surge in the number four reactor. When the emergency shutdown was attempted, an exponentially larger power spike occurred causing the reactor vessal to rupture with a series of steam explosions. The graphite moderator of the reactor was exposed to air which caused an ignition. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. The plume would spread and cover an extensive area including the nearby town of Pripyat. The city was not immediately evacuated. Many residents went about their day, oblivious to the events at the power plant. Within a few hours, dozens of people fell ill. Reports of severe headaches, metallic tastes in their mouths and uncontrollable fits of coughing and vomiting.

In the aftermath of the accident, 31 deaths were reported as the reactor staff and emergency workers. As of 2008, deaths from the radiation were noted as 64. Eventual deaths could reach 4,000 from exposure to high levels of radiation among emergency workers, evacuees and residents in the surrounding areas. Fifty would die from acute radiation syndrome. Nine children from thyroid cancer and 3,940 will died from radiation-induced cancers and leukemia. The actual number may be far worst as illnesses and connections to the disaster are still being investigated. In the investigation that followed, two official causes for the accident were determined. First, operator error due to the lack of knowledge of the nuclear reactor physics and engineering. Second, flaws in the operating instructions and design deficiencies.

Chernobyl today is a ghost town. The Dead Zone, as it is called by locals, is a no-man’s land. A “haunted beauty” of “deformed nature” as it was called in one article. Everything is irradiated. The irradiated soil has a half-life of 240,000 years. However, there are people working and living in the area. There are 4,000 engineers, technicians, specialists and laborers who work to make sure that the Number 4 Reactor is under control and decommissioning the other reactors. Other people are slowing moving back into the areas, despite risks of radiation-induced illnesses. There are doctors and nurses who look after the workers. In 2003, the area of Narodychi, Ukraine was deemed habitable again despite that the soil will be radioactive for another 26,000 years.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the disaster and people are slowing returning to the area despite the risks. The citizens of Belarus commemorate the day in remembrance of the victims. However, as citizens of the world with nuclear power being used by all, we need to remember Chernobyl as well. We need to be aware of the risks of nuclear power and take every precaution we can. The effects of this terrible disaster are still being felt and observed today. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Numbers: more than just census data of an ancient world

Numbers. Most people who read the Bible avoid this book. Many think it’s just a list of who begot whom. With this thought, I started reading and as I read, I realized that this book is so much more than just census data of an ancient world. Numbers contains the beautiful blessing which inspires encouragement and hope to those it receive it. Numbers also contains a little story which could be foreshadowing of Jesus. And Numbers contains rules about the importance of promises.

First, in Numbers 6:22-27, the Lord instructs Moses to teach Aaron and his sons this priestly blessing for the nation: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” This simple blessing has five parts which conveys the hope that God will do. First, “bless” and “keep” are for favor and protection. Favor is asking God to support the individual receiving the blessing. To keep is for protection. Protection in everyday life ot for travels, etc. Second, to “shine up on” is to be pleased with. The person is asking God to be pleased with the individual, his actions or his faith. Third, “be gracious” is to be merciful and compassionate. To be forgiving for any transgressions. Fourth, “turn his face” is to give his approval. Lastly, “give peace” is to grant the individual peace and comfort. This blessing demonstrates loves, encouragement and provides a model for us to care for others.

Second, in Numbers 21:4-9 is the story of the bronze snake and link to Jesus. To briefly sum up the story. The Israelites were traveling and they start to complain against God and Moses. The Lord sent venomous snakes which bite the people and many died. The person, realizing their sin, go to Moses to beg for mercy. The Lord instructs Moses to make a bronze snake and place it on a pole. Those who looked to the snake were healed. Those who did not, weren’t. In a book I read recently, the idea that the bronze snake represents Jesus. Those who look to Jesus are saved and given eternal life. Those who don’t and reject him are condemned to eternity without him. Life and death. It was not the bronze snake that healed the Israelites, it was their belief in God that he would. This is the same with believers who have faith in Jesus that he saves them.

Lastly, in Numbers 30, we are given instructions on the importance of vows. Vows are promises. Promises to God and to others which should be kept. In the ancient world, your word was your signature. In verses 1-2, God instructs Moses that a man must hold to his word. In the case of women, if she is unmarried and makes a vow, her father is responsible to make sure she fulfills the vow or forbids it to release her from the promise (verses 3-5). Her husband has the same responsibility (verses 6-8). If a father or husband knows about the vow and does nothing to fulfil it or nullify it, he is as guilt as she is for the broken promises. These conditions were to ensure that promises were not made rashly or in haste. No one is forced to make a vow but once one was made, it needed to be fulfilled. A promise is based on trust. A broken promise is broken trust and possibly a broken relationship.

There are so many more stories in Numbers which we could draw life lessons from. I’ve chosen three which stood out to me. The Priestly Blessing is an example of praying for ourselves and for others as we ask for God’s blessings in our lives. The Bronze Snake is an image of Jesus and his offer and promise of healing. Vows are promises which need to be made with full intention of fulfilling them as broken promises lead to broken trust and hurt. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day: what we can do every day for our home

Earth Day was first created and celebrated in 1970 with participants from colleges and universities, primary and secondary schools and communities across the US. It is a day for ecological and environmental awareness. U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) decided that the week of April 19-25, 1970 would be the perfect time for the first Earth Day. He ultimately chose April 22 as it was the day after John Muir’s birthday. John Muir was a noted conservationist who is responsible for the preservation of Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and other wilderness areas.

This year’s Earth Day has the theme of Trees for Earth, according to the Earth Day Network ( With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, the Earth Day organizer want to achieve 5 goals before 2020, one for each year. The goal this year is to plant 7.8 billion trees. Trees are very helpful to the Earth. Trees help combat climate change by absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In one year, one acre of mature trees can absorb the carbon dioxide produced by a car driving 26,000 miles. Trees also helps us breath clean air. Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (such nitrogen, oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark. You can get involved by planting a tree this year or helping your local community plant trees.

Everyone is familiar with the activities we can do on a daily basis which helps the environment. They are known as the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reducing the amount of waste that is created by choosing what is to be trashed or what can be reused or recycled. One way to reduce trash is to buy products for more than one job like multi-purpose cleaners. Buy products with very little package and sell or donate unwanted items. Reuse items which can be used for more than once. For instance, jars and pots. While glass can be recycled, leftover jars from jellies, pasta sauce can be used for transformed into candles, etc. Old clothes can be made into blankets. The internet is filled with wonderful ideas which you can take an old item and make it new. The last R is recycle which most people are the most familiar with. The main three materials which can be recycled are plastic, glass, and aluminum. But did you know that other items can be and should be recycled. Batteries, old electric equipment, old engine oil, furniture/building materials. If you change your own oil, check with local auto part shops or mechanics ships for opportunities to turn in old oil for recycling. Even the bottles that the oil came in can be recycled.

As important as the 3 R’s are, conservation is very important. As a native of Southern California, water is a precious commodity that many do not realize that is not native to the region. Most of the water which serves the area comes from somewhere else. For instance, the Los Angeles area is state water aqueducts and the Colorado River among others. With the current drought and the threat of future droughts, water conservation should be a part of life for us. There are a number of ways to conserve water. Home owners can choose plants that require do not require a lot of water or frequent watering. For instance, for Californians, drought tolerant plants like cactus and other succulents are a great choice. Check with your local communities for ideas to conserve this precious resource.

On this Earth Day, everyone can look into and find ways to do our part in preserving our home. Start at home and check out what you can do every day. A good rule of thumb is the check what can be recycled or repurposed before throwing it away. Conserve water whenever possible and together we can help preserve this home of ours for future generations. Check with your local communities for ways you can help clean up and beautify your homes and neighborhoods

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

DIRECTV: stay away from the pioneers!


I hate your commercials. The “Don’t be like this me” commercials featuring Rob Lowe, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning were annoying. However, I understand you were marketing to the single male demographic. So they weren’t designed to peak my attention as a married female. The “Hannah and her horse” commercials were just weird; but, I get it. They were not designed for me. However, the commercials featuring the Settlers family has crossed a line. They are irritating and trivialize a group of people who risked it all for a dream.

First, you have no idea what being a settler would be like. Most of us today probably wouldn’t survive on the frontier as our ancestors did. Many pioneers faced toil and extreme hardships for the opportunity for a better life than what they left behind. They carved out homes in the wilderness of the American West. Traveling light, with only the barest essentials, they crossed the Great Plains. Building homes out of sod when no trees were available. Game and other animals provided fuel, food and clothes. Food was scare and only as the land yielded. Illness was frequent and often fatal. Battling the extreme weather in order to have something that was their own. The tornadoes in the spring and early summer. Or the heavy snow in the Rocky Mountains. You were at the mercy of the land, the weather and God. There were no sick days, disability pay, nothing! If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. Everything you had was a precious commodity that wasn’t to be squandered or wasted. Pioneers even included doctors, blacksmiths, ministers, shop owners who were leave their established trades in the bigger towns and cities in order to build something better out West.

Pioneers left everything they knew. They left family and friends, maybe to never see again. The trip was long, difficult and dangerous. The trail was rocky with raging rivers, like the Platte, North Platte, and Snake and Columbia Rivers. All their belongings were packed in a covered wagon pulled by oxen. If the wagon were to break or the oxen die or be injured, you were often stuck or forced to go back. There was also the threat of Native American attacks made the journey fatal. The most famous pioneer trail was the Oregon Trail. Many of us who were in school during the 80s and 90s remembering the computer game. The trail started in Independence, Missouri, through the plains ending in present-day Oregon City, Oregon. Other famous trails include the Mormon Trail from Illinois to Utah and the Bozeman Trail to Montana. To poke fun at a life that was hard and carried no guarantees of success or survival is wrong. This country might not be here as we know it, if it weren’t for the brave men and women who forged ahead despite the risks and their fears.

Second, since when is “settling” a bad thing. Since when is making a choice settling. To settle is to resolve or reach an agreement. We have cable and while it hasn’t always been roses, we are overall satisfied. There are no customer-company relationship that is completely 100% satisfied. There are always moments where a customer will be frustrated with their service but overall, if they were truly dissatisfied they would take their business elsewhere. Before you pipe in and say that I haven’t tried your services before, I have. My husband and I had DIRECTV before and for a while it was great. We loved the service but after a while it started not being so great. It eventually came to the point that we cancelled. Oh, before I forget. When it comes to cost, there is no difference between the two services, so you can’t appeal to my pocketbook.

I know that you have seconds to grab the audience’s attention. To present your argument why I should buy your product. Some commercials are hilarious and grab your attention enough that you may consider buying a particular brand over a competitor. However, when you poke fun at a time in our country when individuals and families were risking everything for a better life is just wrong. To say that if someone has cable, they are living in the past and not “keeping up with the Joneses” with satellite TV is not the way to get new customers. Besides the “keeping up with the Joneses” argument doesn’t work with me. I’m sure it may work for some but not all. I’m sure you can figure out better ways to promote your product without insulting the memory of the pioneers.


Fed up TV watcher

Saturday, April 16, 2016


A good friend of mine gave me a book, Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham. The book is about how to meditate and, the book is from a Buddhist point of view, it focuses on the technical aspects of meditation and the power of meditation. Meditation is a practice to train the mind and while most associate it with Hinduism or Buddhism, it is practiced in all religions. In Latin, meditation, is from the verb meditari, meaning “to think, contemplate, diverse, ponder.” In Hebrew, hágâ, is to sigh, murmur and to mediate. The Tibetan word, “Gom” means “to become familiar with.”

The first question many would ask is “why should I meditate?” The simple answer is the mind is like a muscle, it needs to be used to order to work. Meditation, just like exercise, takes discipline. The mind is constantly on a stream of thought, always moving, always fluctuating. According to Mipham, “a bewildered mind is like a wild horse. More we try to calm it, the more it runs away.” With practice and dedication, meditation can focus the mind and help push aside distraction in order to have clear thought and make rational decisions. Meditation is a very personal journey. It causes us to slow down and look at the patterns in our lives. With meditation, we can see our weak points to work on and strengthen our positive ones. Meditation can be a stress reliever as well. As you take time to breathe deep and focus on something or nothing, you can fully relax.

As a Christian, I learn to follow Christ by mediating on His Word by reading, studying and thinking. Also through prayer. I know that many Christians would speak against anything which originates outside the Bible (like yoga but that’s another post). Many Christian fail to realize that God tells us to mediate. To mediate on His Word, on His Creation, etc. Many verses in the Psalm talk about mediating on the wonderful works of God. In Psalm 77:12 says “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” When we mediate on God, it is like an altar offering to Him. Psalm 19.14 says “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” For me, I can sit in a quiet place and ask God to reveal to me something about a verse I’m thinking about or answer to a prayer. Sometimes I can get a clear response to whatever I am be feeling or thinking about and other times I don’t. The main point is a quiet place to listen for God.

Also, I find that writing is a form of meditation too. I sit down at the computer with my notes and a plan. I can be so focused that I lose track of time and place myself away from whatever may be going on around me. I get lost in whatever it may be that I am writing or even in my research. I also like to go to a quiet park and listen to the sounds of nature and write in my notebook. To let the stream of consciousness flow to the page. Sometimes I have great thoughts which lead to future blog posts or short stories. Other times, they are thoughts I want to keep to myself. However, regardless where I am, when I’m finished, I am relaxed, calm, focused. I feel great relief and energy.

In conclusion, meditation doesn’t have to be sitting in a certain position with controlled breathing or empty thoughts, although it can be. I found that meditation is a form of relaxation in order to relieve stress and refocus the mind, it can be anything an individual finds that will accomplish those two aspects. Meditation can be anything that helps you focus your mind and be able to hone in a certain thoughts in order block out any distractions or intruding thoughts that could wreak havoc on our lives. I recommend everyone do some form of meditation or relaxation as a stress reliever, re-focusing tool to help deal with the craziness that comes with life. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

North of Here: a story of how lives can become intertwined

North of Here by Laurel Saville is the story of four people and how their lives become intertwined. How a simple decision can lead to tragedy and heartache.

The story opens with Miranda and Dix. Miranda is the surviving child of her wealthy parents until her father’s sudden death and her mother’s failing health leaves her with nowhere to go. Until Dix, a friend of the family, offers her a place to stay. The story shifts to Darius and Sally. Darius is a college dropout who has been wandering around looking for his place in the world. He soon meets Sally, a no-nonsense social worker who works with the families of broken homes and juvenile delinquents. Soon Darius starts bringing girls who are troubled. Then Darius meets Miranda and soon Miranda is seduced by the sanctuary that Darius has built, a cult he calls “The Source.” Soon tragedy strikes which brings Dix to meet Sally and the two must fight together to bring down Darius and his “Source.” Can they stop him before he hurts anyone else?

I read this book with interest not really knowing what the story was about. As I read, the writer was introducing the characters, I had to wonder where it was all leading to and then it happened. The climax the tragedy and its aftermath which kept me glued to the pages as I was eager to learn the outcome. What happens to Darius and his “Source?” What happens to Miranda? As with any good book, I cannot give any details without giving away key plot points. However, I will say that this story had me interested from the first page, what I thought would be a romantic story of two people after a tragedy turned out to be far more interesting and dramatic. I was able to read this book in one afternoon as I could not put it down. I highly recommend North of Here for a new and interesting type of story.
North of Here
is available on Amazon
in hardcover $24.95
and free with KindleUnlimited

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Behave: a story of an unsung pioneer in behavioral psychology

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax is a fictionalized story of an unsung figure in early American psychological fields, Rosalie Rayner Watson. She was a part of the famous and controversial “Little Albert” study at John Hopkins by Dr. John B. Watson.

The story opens with Rosalie as a student at Vassar College 1916 where she is taking classes from Dr. Margaret Washburn, the first female to receive a Ph.D. in psychology. In 1919, she attends a lecture where she would meet Dr. Watson which would lead her on a path to working with him at John Hopkins. She becomes a part of his study on babies in early environment and basic emotions: fear, rage, love. Soon, the attraction between the two is evident. Their love affair would lead to scandal and their marriage would lead to some of his greatest successes. As they married and had children, would she agree with his psychological theories and parenting style?

When I started this book, I didn’t recognize the names until I got to the part of the little Albert study. I realized that the name John b. Watson sounded awfully familiar. I stopped reading briefly to look up the name and, of course, it’s familiar. As a psychology student who studied early childhood development, the Little Albert study was covered prominently. Then I returned to the book with eagerness. Eager to learn more about the woman who helped in the study, who would become his wife and the life she would lead. It was interesting to see more, albeit fictionalized, version of some of the pioneers in American psychology. It is an excellent view into the life of a woman who, even in life, remains in the shadows of the psychology field but whose contributions are still studied today. I highly recommend Behave

Friday, April 8, 2016

Before the Fall: a mystery which will leave you guessing until the end!

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is a mystery of a plane crash which leaves two survivors. As the pieces are pieced together with flashbacks which feature each of the victims, little clues are discovered. What brought down the plane?

The story opens with the Bateman family: David, his wife Maggie and their children, Rachel and JJ are boarding their plane at the end of their vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. They are joined by the flight crew, their security team and their friends, Ben and Sarah Kipling and a local painter, Scott.  The takeoff is smooth and the flight uneventful. Until 16 minutes into the flight, the plane disappears from radar and crashes into the Atlantic Ocean. Scott and the Bateman’s young son, JJ are the only survivors as Scott swims them both to shore. Soon the investigation is underway and everyone on the plane had something to hide. With the authorities investigating, rumors fly about what brought down the plane. Terrorism? Revenge? Murder? All fueled by a less than scrupulous reporter, Bill Cunningham, who not only wants the story but wants to make a name for himself at any costs, even illegal costs. The truth behind the events of the flight will leave everyone shocked and shaken.

Before the Fall grasped my attention from the first chapter and I eagerly read to discover the clues and figure out this mystery. When I read the last line, my first reaction was “WOW!” This book is a great story which intrigues and grips your attention. I didn’t expect the ending and I can’t talk about too much detail because it will give too much away. This book did not disappoint and I highly recommend Before the Fall!

Before the Fall
is available on Amazon
and Barnes and Noble
in hardcover for $35
on the Kindle for $26

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Forest Secrets: an adventure to save a forest and a family

Forest Secrets by Laurie Woodward is an adventure of three unlikely friends who must race against time in order to save the home of one of them.

The story opens with Calliandra frantically searching for her parents. She’s scared and along in a dense forest. Daisy Castillo is an 11 year old girl who has just moved to this small town. As she explores the forest near her new home, she sees a girl with vines and leaves as hair. Daisy and Calliandra of the Forest People become fast friends as Daisy wants to help her find her parents. They are soon joined by Albert Mahoney, a 13 year old local boy who knows a lot about being lost and lonely. They soon discover that the local logging company is illegally cutting down trees and destroy the homes of Calliandra’s family and people. Against a greedy logger and a crazy reporter, the three must find a way to prove to the authorities of their illegal plot. Will they be able to stop the plot in time? Will Calliandra be reunited with her family? Will the forest be saved?

Forest Secrets is a fun adventure story which introduces the importance of preserving our national resources. As well as standing up to bullies for the greater good. This story was engaging and fun. The characters are relatable to young children and will be able to connect with the readers. I highly recommend Forest Secrets!

Forest Secrets
is available on Amazon
in paperback for $6.98

and on the Kindle for $3.99

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Daring Sacrifice: a new twist on an old tale

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund is a new twist on an old legend. A story of good versus evil and the battle to right the wrongs. A story of hidden identity until the time is right to reveal all. 

Juliana is the daughter of the late Lord Wessex who was ousted and later killed by his evil brother, the current Lord Wessex. With her uncle thinking she's dead, Julianna goes into hiding and begins to rob from the rich in order to help feed those who suffer under the cruel reign of her uncle. Until one day, she robs from the wrong person. Lord Collin Goodrich recently inherited his title from his father and while he is sympathetic to the plight of Wessex’s tenants, he feels it is not his place to interfere. Until one day, a familiar face from the distant past enters his life. Julianna helps Colin see that he has the power to help those who cannot fight back the evil Lord Wessex. Together, Juliana and Collin must help those in need and fight against Wessex to end his reign of tyranny.

A Daring Sacrifice is a simple and fun romance adventure where two sides: the rich and poor must come together to fight a great evil. The attraction between Juliana and Collin is immediate and intense. I enjoyed reading their flirtations and romance. The final battle is intense and the reader will hold their breath waiting for climax. This book was a fast but exciting read. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath. I highly recommend A Daring Sacrifice. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to read other stories by Ms. Hedlund.

A Daring Sacrifice
is available on Amazon
in paperback for $12.99

and on the Kindle for $7.99

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Music: My favorite art form

Art. A diverse range of visual, auditory or performing artifacts which express the artist’s imaginative or technical skill. Art is intended to express a message of beauty, power or elicit an emotional response. The oldest form of art is visual: sculptures and paintings. Art definitely is “in the eye of the beholder” which will speak, or not, differently to each person. One person may see a work of art as obscene or preserve while another will be emotionally moved. I’ve never really been interested in art before so I challenged myself to study a few pieces to find my pieces. As I studied the famous works by Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Da Vinci, and the thousands of other worthy artists and works, I didn’t feel moved as I thought I should be. As I lay in bed thinking about art, I realized that the only art form that really moved me has been music.

One of my favorite composers is Beethoven, especially Symphony No. 5 in C minor. The Fifth Symphony contains the ionic 4 notes which are probably the most recognized in music. “Ta-ta-ta-taa” the short, short, short, long notes are said to represent Fate knocking on the door. Another one my favorite Beethoven compositions is Fur Elise. The song was published in 1867, 40 years after Beethoven’s death and was found among his papers. According to the original manuscript the song was dated as April 27, 1810. The identity of “Elise” has been lost to time and remains a mystery, although there are many theories as to her identity, which I won’t discuss now. I love this song for its flowing melody which leads to a dramatic flourish and back again. It is as if the composer was in conflict. While researching the history on this song, I found an interesting “coincidence” in the first three notes. German organ scholar Johannes Quack noted that Elise is spelled out in notes E-L-I-E-E. Eis pronounced as “S” in German. I love the Beethoven loved this women, whoever she was, so much that not is her name in the title but her name is repeated throughout the song itself. It once again shows Beethoven’s genius.

I also love the melodies and lyrics of two modern musicals: the Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. The music of The Phantom of the Opera was written by British composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart. It is hard to pinpoint my favorite song in this musical. I love them all. If I had to pick, I’d pick “The Music of the Night.” It is a very sensual song. Les Miserables is another great musical with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and the English lyrics by Herbert Kretzner. One of my favorite songs is “On my Own,” which is sung by the character, Eponine. The song expresses her unrequited love for Marius and how she dreams of him by her side. I deeply identity with this song as I spent my night of my younger days dreaming of the future and my future love. I especially enjoy the climax of the song as Eponine realizes that her dreams isn’t reality: “And I know it’s only in my mind.” One of the most emotional songs is “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” sung by Marius. My favorite performer of this song is Michael Ball whose performance adds to the emotional impact of a survival’s guilt of why he lived and his friends did not: “There is a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.” The unending questions and pain of surviving.

Even though a lot of today’s modern music doesn’t have the same emotional impact as the music I mentioned above; but there are some great songs that do. There are still great songwriters who are able to dig deep into their soul and expose an emotions. “Broken” by Lifehouse is such a song. The song was written in 2008 by lead singer, Jason Wade, after visiting a friend who needed a kidney transplant. I see the song as my relationship with Jesus. From the beginning to end, the lyrics are filled with the life struggles which can crush me and I’m still holding on to the promises of Christ. The chorus is very moving: “I’m falling apart/I’m barely breathing/With a broken heart that’s still beating/In the pain, there is healing/In your name, I find meaning/So I’m holdin’ on…I’m barely holdin’ on to you.” There are many comments online which would disagree with my interpretation. As this song can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the listener, which is why I love music so much. For me, this is how the song speaks to me and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I love how art can speak to different people. I love how a painting can bring out so many emotions in someone. Or for me, music. It amazes me that the artist can hear the notes or melody in his head and create a beautiful piece of music which can be enjoyed for decades. I wonder if Beethoven wondered if his music would last. I wonder what the composers would think to hear that their music is still being enjoyed and discussed centuries after they wrote it. Have you ever look at a painting, a sculpture or photograph and been emotionally moved? Have you ever heard a piece of music which lifted your soul? I hope you have because it is an amazing experience. Music can help us remember feelings and certain times in our lives when the music represented something great or helped us through a difficult situation. Music is a great way to experience our emotions, to release emotions and this is why music is my favorite art form.