Saturday, March 10, 2018

My name is Venus Black: a young adult story I could not finish

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd is the story of Venus Black, who at the age of 13, committed a crime which has her incarcerated until she’s 18. During her incarceration, her half-brother, Leo, goes missing. After 5 and half years, she’s released, and she slowly tries to rebuild her life, putting her past behind her and creating a new identity. As her old life begins to remerge in her new one, Venus must find a way to truly leave the past behind her in order to move forward. Will she be able to move past her crime? Will she be able to find her brother after so many years?

Unfortunately, My Name is Venus Black is a book I could not finish. With seven parts, 51 chapters and multiple points of view, it became way too long and too muddled that I found myself getting bored and not caring about Venus, her crime or her life after incarceration. The book is marketed as young adult book which I don’t like it’s why I couldn’t finish it as I’ve read a decent amount of young adult books and was entertained. I cannot recommend My Name is Venus Black. The book started with a great idea, but it didn’t live up to it.

My Name is Venus Black
is available in hardcover and eBook

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Luke: blessings, women's roles and a lesson in mercy

This month’s reading was on the book of Luke. Luke was a doctor, Greek and a Gentile Christian. He is the only known Gentile Christian to author a book for the Bible (he also wrote Acts which we will get to in a couple months). He was a close friend and companion with Paul. Luke’s purpose in writing this book was to present an accurate account of the life of Jesus. This book is the most comprehensive Gospel. The general vocabulary shows that Luke was educated and Luke stresses Jesus’s relationships with people, empathizes prayer, miracles and gives prominent place to women.

In Luke 6:20-23, Jesus gives the Beatitudes. In verses 20-23, he speaks of those who are blessed. The word, “beatitudes” is from the Latin for blessed. They describe what it means to be a follower of Christ, standards of conduct in contrast with the world values. Verse 20 states that “blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God.” Poor in this verse doesn’t necessarily mean poor in money. Many commentaries state that it may mean poor in spirit. Someone who is thirsty for revival, for God’s presence to return to the people. In verse 21, he states “blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” This isn’t a just physical hunger, but for a hunger for God as well. In a time when riches were a sign of God’s favor, those who were poor, hungry and at the bottom of society, yearned for God’s favor. Jesus is telling us that riches are not a sign of God’s favor. God’s favor came to those who searched for him and followed his Word. Also, in verse 21, Jesus states “blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” A time of laughter and joy were coming. In verse 22, Jesus says “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” Jesus is saying that when we are hated, pushed aside, and rejected because of our belief in him and his words, we are blessed. Jesus is also trying to prepare his followers for the days when they will be persecuted because of their belief. This persecution still goes on today as many believers are ridicule in the media, in schools and by family and friends for their belief. Jesus tells us in verse 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”

Luke speaks about the women who accompanied Jesus during his ministry. In Luke 8:1-3, a few are mentioned by name. “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene), from who seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” Three women are named specifically. First, Mary Magdalene, who tradition often tells us that she was an immoral woman, which the Bible never says, and this verse specifically tells us that she was healed from a possession of seven demons. Many scholars believe that the story of her leading an immoral life is because her name is first mentioned right after the story of a sinful woman who anoints Jesus’s feet (Luke 7:36-50). There is no evidence the two women are the same. Second, Joanna, the wife of the manager of Herod’s household. The Bible doesn’t state what she was cured of, but she traveled with him throughout the rest of his ministry. Third, Susanna which no further information is given about who she is or how she came to follow Jesus. However, the most important information about these women is found in the last part of verse 3, I wrote it above and wonder if you caught it. Luke writes “These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” These women had their own money and were using it to support Jesus’s ministry! Jesus lifted women from the agony of social degradation and servitude to the joy of fellowship and service. Women weren’t allowed to learn from the rabbis and Jesus shows that all are equal with God by allowed these women to learn from him. These short verses also give a glimpse into the behind the scenes of the ministry. Many times, the focus is on those in the forefront, but it is those who are working in the background who are the backbone of the ministry.

Lastly, everyone has heard of the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-38). It is a lesson in who is our neighbor and how we should treat them. An expert of the law came to Jesus and asked how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by reminding him of the law. “Love your God with all your heart and with all your sour and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 27). The expert further asks, “who is my neighbor?” (verse 29). Jesus tells the story of a man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was robbed. The man was beaten and left for dead (verse 30). A priest passed him and didn’t offer help, a Levite passed him and didn’t offer help (verse 31). A Samaritan came upon the man, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, took him to an inn and took care of him (verses 33-35). Jesus then asks, “which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (verse 36). Here is the lesson, the expert answered, “the one who had mercy on him” (verse 37). Jesus tells him to go and do likewise. To love our neighbor is to show mercy. Our neighbors is everyone, even those we have a deep hatred for as the Jews and the Sarmatians had for each other. The Samaritan in this story probably had the most reason to leave the man on the road but he didn’t. He saw a man hurt and in need of help and took pity on him. When we are able to push our hatred aside to show mercy, we are loving our neighbor. I know it is easier said than done and we don’t often do it. That is when we need the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit to help us.

In conclusion, the book of Luke is filled with wonderful examples of how we can follow Jesus in our world today. The Beatitudes tells us that we will rewarded for our suffering and persecution today. Women who have been traditionally in the shadows of history and in the church are shown in Luke to have played a major and important role in Jesus’s ministry. And lastly, a lesson in loving your neighbor told through the classic story of the Good Samaritan. Although it is hard to follow or emulate these lessons in life; however, don’t forget we have the Word of God and the guidance of his Holy Spirit to show us, to correct us and guide us to continue on our path with God.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mark: more lessons from the life of Jesus

Mark is the second book of the Gospels. Mark tells the stories of Jesus in a different from Matthew, he’s very cut to the chase kind of writer as this book is one of the shortest of the four books. He jumps straight into Jesus’s baptism, his ministry and his death and resurrection. I want to discuss three things that stood out to be as Mark recounted many of the many stories and lessons that Matthew did. Why does Jesus tell those he healed “not to tell” others about their healing? What exactly is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? What is the meaning behind the Parable of the Wicked Tenants?

First, Jesus gives strict orders for those he healed not to reveal who had healed them. In Mark 3:12, evil spirits saw him and proclaimed him the Son of God and he gave “strict orders not to tell who he was.” In Mark 8:30, he warned his disciples not to reveal who he was. These two verses are just a couple examples of Jesus telling someone to stay quiet about their healing. Why did Jesus tell them not to say anything? For the instance in Mark 3:12, Jesus did not want a false image of why he was here on earth to travel around. As many were looking for a military or religious leader to fight against Rome. This was not Jesus’s mission yet. He was here to offer salvation not come as a warrior, that role would come later. In Mark 8:30, he says not to reveal who he was because the disciples did not know the whole picture yet and still needed instructions about his death and resurrection to come before they can truly know who he is. What does this mean for us? It is an example of why we need more instructions, more knowledge of who Christ is before we can proclaim him to the world.

Second, Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Mark 3:29 as the eternal sin. Many Christians have come to call this the unforgivable sin as Jesus says it “will never be forgiven.” What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy is defined as the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things and the Holy Spirit is the aspect of God which actively interacts with believers. To blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is reveals a heart-attitude of unbelief and unrepentance. It is the deliberate, ongoing rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit and rejecting God himself. It is to deny the active work of God in one’s life or in the world. While all other sins and blasphemes are forgivable, ones against the Holy Spirit are not (verses 28-29). When Christ was speaking about this unforgivable sin, he was not directing it to his disciples or those who believed. He directed it to the religious leaders, teachers of the law who accused him of being possessed by Beelzebub (Satan). They had denied the reality of his miracles. They refused to believe that Jesus’s power came from God. It is people who will continue to deny Christ and God despite what they see before them.

Third, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Mark 12:1-12 is a lesson about people. The parable goes that a man plants a vineyard and he rents the vineyard to some farmers and takes a journey (verse 1). At harvest, he sends a servant to collect from of the fruit of the vineyard, the tenants beat the servant and send him away empty handed (verse 2-3). The man sends another servant and he too is treated shamefully (verses 4). He sends other servants, some are killed, and others beaten (verse 5). Finally, the man sends his son thinking he would be respected by the tenants (verse 6). The tenants decide to kill the son and take his inheritance for themselves (verses 7-8). What does the man do? He will come to kill the tenants and give the vineyard to others (verse 9). The man is God and the vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the religious leaders of Israel who rejected the prophets sent by God and who rejected Jesus. Jesus is the son who has been sent and he tells this parable to expose the religious leaders’ plot to kill him. He let them know he knew what they were plotting and warned them it would not go unpunished.

In conclusion, the book of Mark is a short and concise book of Jesus’ life, ministry and his death and resurrection. Jesus’s instruction to “not to tell other about him” is an illustration that we need further instruction. I know when I read God’s word and I have a moment of inspiration, I want to go and shout it to everyone: Look what I discovered! But often I found that I first need to ponder this revelation. What does it mean to me? What will it mean to others? Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit isn’t usually something a believer needs to worry about as it is the rejection of God. And Christians are taught to be weary of false teachers; however, those who are true believers will (or should I say “should”?) recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the lives of others. Lastly, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants is a look into the type of people in the world: those who reject Christ and those who will inherit the vineyard when he returns.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The House on Foster Hill: a mystery bring past and present together

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright is a story about healing, facing the past and moving forward. It opens in Oakwood, Wisconsin in 1906 Ivy, the daughter of the local doctor and sometimes medical examiner, and her father are called to the scene where a young woman’s body has been found. Fast forward to present day Oakwood, as Kaine Prescott is arriving to start her new life after leaving a horrifying situation back home in San Diego, California. She has purchased the Foster Hill House in the hopes of restoring it and finding a new life in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, she learns that her troubles from home have seemed to follow her to Oakwood. The story is told from Ivy in the past and Kaine in the present, as the mystery of the young girl’s death and the events surrounding Kaine seem to be connected. Will Kaine find the truth and put the mystery of the house on Foster Hill to rest?

I enjoyed The House on Foster Hill. It was a fast read as it holds your attention and you eagerly read chapter after chapter for clues. It is a wonderful story with lots of twists and turns of a great mystery. I enjoyed all the characters as they had their part in the story which seems to fit. Even when the individual behind the strange happens around Kaine is revealed it is not the person you thought of and always a good sign of a great mystery. I would like to reread the story and see if the author gave any subtle clues to his or her identity that I didn’t pick up before. I highly recommend The House on Foster Hill.

The House on Foster Hill
is available in paperback and eBook

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Highland Sisters: a Edwardian Era love story

Highland Sister by Anne Douglas is the story of Rosa Malcolm whose life is turned upside down after her sister, Lorne, runs away with another man on her wedding day. Left with the aftermath, Rosa soon begins a friendship with Daniel MacNeil, Lorne’s jilted fiancĂ©. Their relationship soon turns into more as they are married and begin their lives together in Edinburgh. As they settle into their routines. Their happiness was shattered with times of mourning, surprise encounters and threats of war.

Highland Sisters is a title that is misleading as the main focus is on Rosa and not both sisters. I kept expecting to see some of the story from Lorne’s point of view, where did she run off to, etc. But no, Rosa is the main character and its her life the story follows. I also was a bit confused about the timeline. The story opens in April 1910 and more than halfway into the story and the author reveals that its only been a year. A year? It doesn’t seem possible. Then from 1911 to 1914 and the start of the Great War. A couple of chapters later, the war’s over. The book had 71 chapters in three parts and while the chapters were short, I feel this is way too many chapters. There were some chapters where absolutely nothing happens that adds to the story or the plot. I cannot recommend Highland Sisters.

Highland Sisters
will be available February 1, 2018

in hardcover and eBook

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Promise Between Us: a powerful story of life with a mental illness

The Promise between Us by Barbara Claypole White is the story of one family torn apart by mental illness and how they come back together for the well-being of another. The story opens with Katelynn McDonald as a young mother of 7 month old, Maisie, who has been having very intrusive thoughts about hurting her daughter. Fearing that she would actually hurt her, Katelynn runs and disappears from her daughter’s life. Fast forward 9 years later, Katelynn, now called Katie, has been dealing with OCD and a chance meeting puts her face to face with her daughter and she fears her daughter suffers from the same mental illness. Her ex-husband, Callum, refuses to listen to Katie’s fears until one day when he notices the same behaviors in Maisie as Katie used to do so long ago. Can they come together enough to help Maisie? Are there more secrets buried deep which need to surface before they can fully heal?

The Promise between Us is a beautiful and powerful story. It was difficult to read at times, not because the story lagged, but because Ms. Claypole White’s description of OCD. The mental anguish that the compulsions cause the individual as they try to fight the irrational thoughts. It is a powerful story of how healing can come from facing our deepest fears and how the people we love can be our best medicine. I enjoyed every character and the conflict and resolution fit very well. I enjoyed The Promise between Us as it gives an in-depth, no-holds-bar look into the lives and thoughts of those who suffer from OCD. I highly recommend it!

The Promise between Us

is available in paperback and eBook

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Ones Who Got Away: a heartfelt survivor story with a great love story

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren is the first book of Ms. Loren’s new series. A love story about two survivors who meet years later and find healing as the sparks fly. Olivia “Liv” Arias returns to her hometown of Long Acre, Texas to film a documentary about the shooting at her senior prom twelve years ago. As she sees the other survivors, there is one she wasn’t expecting to see. Finn Dorsey was her secret high school boyfriend who was the hero of that night. The moment their eyes met, she realized that the old feelings were still burning bright. As the two fight their attraction and deal with their old haunts and memories of that horrific night, they realize that healing only comes from within. Will they continue to fight their attraction? Will they let the memories of the shooting continue to keep them apart?

The Ones Who Got Away is a beautiful story about redemption, healing and moving forward. With the added bonus of a sizzling love story which will take your breath away. I won a copy from the publisher through and I eagerly waited and waited for this book to arrive. And it was worth the wait. I enjoyed every character as they deal with who they were before the shooting and who they’ve become after. I look forward to reading book 2, The One You Can’t Forget which will be available June 5, 2018. I highly recommend The Ones Who Got Away. If you enjoy a great, emotional story with a wonderful love story, you will enjoy this book.

The Ones Who Got Away

is available in paperback and eBook

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bloodline: another great adventure in the Star Wars universe

Bloodline by Claudia Gray is a Star Wars story which takes place in the years leading up to the events of Episode VII The Force Awakens. Leia Organa Solo is now a senator in the New Republic which is in trouble. The Senate is made up of two political parties. The Populists who want to keep the power within the individual planets instead of in a central leader and the Centrists who has a strong powerful leader to control the different systems. And she wants to quit and join her husband on his space travels. First, she needs to investigate accusations made by the representative from Ryloth about criminal activity oppressing his people. She is joined by Senator Ransolm Casterfo, a Centrists who collects memorabilia of the Empire. Leia soon discovers that a larger criminal organization is at work who poses a threat to the already weakening New Republic. Will she be able to gathering enough evidence to convince the Senate to put aside their difference and act for the good of the New Republic? Or will she be too late and watch the fragile government fall apart?

I loved Bloodline! It was exciting as well as nostalgic as Leia thinks back to events which occurred in the original trilogy as well as people and events from the prequels. There are so many twists and turns and clues as to the rise of the First Order who we see in full force in The Force Awakens. With the knowledge that I know of the movie and now reading the books, I realized that many of the confusion on part of the fans have been because they didn’t read the books. There is a whole list of books and tv series which help give details about what happens between films. I highly recommend Bloodline and I will read the other books and review those as well to see if my theory is correct.

is now available in paperback and eBook

If you are interested in reading the books and watching the tv series, here’s the list in which to read them and where they fit in the timeline of the films.
Episode I The Phantom Menace
Episode II Attack of the Clones
            The Clone Wars (tv series 2008-2015 available on DVD and Blu-ray)
            Dark Disciple (book) by Christie Golden
Episode III The Revenge of the Sith
            Catalyst: Rogue One Story (book) by James Luceno
            Lord of the Sith (book) by Paul S. Kemp
            Tarkin (book) by James Luceno
            Thrawn (book) by Timothy Zahn
            A New Dawn (book) by Joan Jackson Miller and Dave Filoni
            Rebels (tv series 2014- seasons 1-3 are available on DVD and Blu-ray and the 4th and        final season is currently airing on Disney XD)
Episode IV A New Hope
            Battlefront: Inferno Squad (book) by Christie Golden
            Heir to the Jedi (book) by Kevin Hearne
            Battlefront: Twilight Company (book) by Alexander Freed
Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
Episode VI Return of the Jedi
            Aftermath (book) by Chuck Wendig
            Aftermath: Life Debt (book) by Chuck Wendig
            Aftermath: Empire’s End (book) by Chuck Wendig
            Bloodline (book) by Claudia Gray
            Phasma (book) by Delilah S. Dawson
            Canto Bight (book) by Saladin Ahmed and Rae Carson
Episode VII The Force Awakens
Episode VIII The Last Jedi      

Friday, January 12, 2018

Important life lessons to learn in school

What are the most important lessons to learning in school? When I started researching this topic, to see what others have said, the responses varied but they all had a common theme: life lessons. Lessons which we carry with us every day, to keep learning and live our daily lives. Lessons that will help us in every area of our lives. Some of the most important lessons to learn in school aren’t facts or formulas. These lessons are: to try and not be afraid of failure, someone will be smarter than you, and everyone is special in different ways.

First, Say I will try. My daughter learned this the first day of kindergarten. Instead of saying “I can’t,” she learned to say “I will try.” She may fail but it doesn’t mean she will always fail when she tries. Failure is the greatest teacher. When we are afraid to fail, we fail to try, we fail to attempt and miss the opportunity to learn and accomplish great things. When we attempt and fail, we learn what not to do and try again. Try and fail until we learn what works. Unfortunately, many children are taught to fear failure because the expectation to get it right the first time is pressed upon. Parents are the greatest instigators of this fear. When your child learns to use the toilet, how many parents got angry when the child had an accident? When the child is learning how to speak, how many parents and grandparents, harshly correct their speech? Teachers can be a factor as well. Strict or harsh teachers can be a benefit or detrimental depending on the student. Some would thrive with a teacher who was strict while others would give up rather than fail again. Parents and teachers need to learn how to correct failures without harming the child’s self-image. If they become so afraid to fail, they will never reach their potential. Failure is a part of life. The sooner we learn that lesson, the sooner we can move past the fear and try until we succeed.

Second, someone will be smarter than you or better at something; however, it does not mean you should not work hard. You can still be great at what you know or do. Learning some subjects came easy for me. I’ve been good at remembering facts and dates in history. I remember plot points of stories and books were easy for me. However, I struggled in math in high school. It wasn’t until college did I learn that I could be good at math. Kids need to learn that they are learning for them, to better their lives. Sometimes they will have the highest score and sometimes it will be someone else, that doesn’t mean they should stop trying, to stop learning because ultimately we live life based on what we know then what our grade was. Also being able to recall facts doesn’t always mean the person is smart. For instance, someone claims to have a photographic memory is simply recalling an image of something they saw. Does this mean they are smarter? Or someone who is just good at taking test and eliminating answers to pick the best possible one. Are they smarter? How about someone who sees a problem and comes up with an ingenious situation? Are they smarter? I think we’d all answer they are all smarter but is one way better than the other? No. therefore, every child should find a method of learning that works for them and keep at it. They will find their stride and the sky’s the limit. You only competition is yourself. 

Third, everyone is special; however, not in the same way. Some people are super smart who learn things fast while others need extra help. Some will be amazing athletes while others will never be first string. Some people will be amazing musician while others cannot carry a tune. Some are better dancers and others should never be on the dance floor. Some are born leaders and others work better as part of a group. However, we are not meant to be all things. We all have one or more talents that we do better than someone else. For instance, I am a better writer and reader in my family. But my husband is the better artist. He can see a picture and draw it free hand. I can only draw stick figures. My daughter has shown interest in art and music. So I want to encourage both so she can find what she likes and wants to pursue. The important thing is to find what you are good at, what you enjoy and practice, practice, practice. Don’t focus on what others are doing better and you cannot do. Focus on what you enjoy and pursue it.

In conclusion, ultimately these lessons help an individual to try and learn how to succeed in the process as well as learning to stop comparing yourself to others and being the best you that you can be. These are lessons that we need to learn repeatedly throughout our lives as the learning process never ends. I know that I struggle with the fear of failure. However, I have past examples of where I overcame my fear and succeeded more than I failed again. When you continue to try despite the possibility of failures, when you accept that someone will be smarter than you and we are have different but special abilities and talents, we can erase a great deal of anxiety and stress from our lives. What would you consider to be the most important lessons to learn in school?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Christy and Todd: The Baby Years series

At last! The Baby Years are here for Christy and Todd. The author, Robin Jones Gunn, has written about Christy, Todd and their friends for almost 30 years. I loved forward to seeing Christy and Todd as they grow their family and relate to them as new parents and laugh and nod as they go through the challenges faced as new parents and learning to be a couple with the demands of life.

Sandy Toes is the first book in the series. It begins where One More Wish ended, Christy has found out she is pregnant. She’s at the doctor to confirm the pregnancy and right off the bat, new trials come her way. Her father is facing early retirement, her aunt is thinking of selling her house and she must help Todd with his struggles as he comes to terms with his mother’s lack of involvement in his life. Todd is presented with a new job opportunity which could be the stabilizing factor in their life as they prepare to welcome their baby. Will God open the door for Todd? The top question in the series, is she having a boy or a girl?

Salty Kisses is the second book in the series. The story opens 18 months after the birth of their baby. They are at the airport keeping up their friend, Katie, who is coming home for the funeral of her father. As they deal with their friend’s loss, Christy is desperate to connect with her friend again but the timing is never right. Soon Christy and Todd are leaving on their road trip to Glenbrooke, Oregon to see other friends. During the trip, Christy realizes how isolated and alone she feels without a friend who is also a mother is connect with back home. And as Todd opens the discussion for baby #2, Christy feels overwhelmed. Will she be able to connect with other mothers once they get home? Will there be another baby in their future?

Sunset Lullaby is the final book in the series. The story opens after the birth of their second child and the challenges that Christy and Todd faces as their lives get busier with the children, work and social commitments. Christy faces questions about the decisions she’s made in her life as she struggles to juggle the responsibilities of wife, mother, and friend. As she and her new friend and neighbor, Jennalyn, discuss the cultural and society expectations of women as career women, wives, and mothers, Christy learns a deep lesson that she cannot and doesn’t have to do it all. Where does their lives go from here? What else is in store for them as they build their lives together?

I loved this series as I have loved the original Christy Miller series and all the books which have branched off from the original series. I grew up with Christy. I started reading the series when I was a teenager and followed her as she struggled with every teenage drama and issues one can face as well as what it truly means to trust in God and follow him. I look forward to reading the series again as I can relate to Christy’s struggles as a mom, wife and woman in today’s society. I look forward to the day when my daughter is old enough to be introduced to the series and grow with Christy as I did. If you are fan of the series, you will enjoy seeing our beloved characters in the next stage of their lives.

Monday, January 8, 2018

If I were a teacher, I would teach...

Teachers make a difference. I look back on the many teachers I had during my elementary and secondary education, I have numerous examples of men and women who had an impact on me and still has an impact today. Because of them, I always considered teaching as a career. I began college with the goal of becoming a teacher. Sometimes I wished I had stayed on that course. Regardless, if I could be a teacher now, I would love to teach of one of these subjects: history, literature or a subject I’ll call life hacks.

The subject I would love to reach is history in particular US or European history. I love history. To me, it’s more than just dates and important events. It’s the stories of the everyday people who lived through these events. It’s learning about these ordinary people who stood up and did extraordinary things to better their future and our world. It is also a lesson of what not to do. To learn from the mistakes of others and the grievous injustices done to others because of someone in power. My junior year US history teacher, Mr. Beck, was the one who helped me see past the dates. To understand, as much as I could, what they were thinking, their reasons for doing what they did and why what they did was wrong or right. It is one of the reasons I enjoy a well written historical novel. A story which can transport you to another time and place and give you a glimpse of a time long gone and maybe show us what we are still doing wrong. It is in high school and college history classes that I learned that many facts I learned as a child about US history or even world history were lies, fabrications to boost a figure’s reputation or other motives. To learn the truth about history and past that on to others is a great task, one I think I would enjoy.

Another subject I would love to teach, and probably comes as no surprise to those who know me, is literature. I love reading. I love analyzing the stories for its possible symbolisms and morals. Literature changes the reader who sees a world from another’s perspective. A well written story will impact a reader for the rest of his or her life. Although I’ve been reading since I was a child, I didn’t really become the avid reader that I am today until middle school when my seventh grade English class read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. A book that is required reading for many American students, it is a book that I still remember the impact of the events. It is a book which inspired me to read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and I did. My teacher was so impressed that I read the book on my own that with gave me an award for that quarter, an award I still have. Literature is also ties in with history and I can see the two subjects being used together in conjunction. I also love that literature can speak to one reader in one way and speak to another reader in another. It can be an interesting discussion when you find evidence for both perspectives. Is one right? Is the other wrong? Or can both perspectives be correct?

A third subject I would love to teach is life hacks. I remember as a freshman I took a class which taught me how to balance a checkbook, write a check and create a budget. However, it did not teach me the basics and importance of credit. I learned the lesson too late. I would advocate this class be taught to juniors and seniors who would be using the skills a lot sooner than freshmen. I would also teach how to write a grocery list, to shop smart by comparing prices per unit rather than falling for the marketing ploys that stores use to entice shoppers to buy what they don’t necessarily need or really aren’t saving them money. For example, Target often has items on sale in which when you buy a certain amount, you can receive a $5 gift card and the majority of the time a $5 gift card isn’t a deal. Essentially, teaching young adults to be informed and attentive consumer. Other topics would include simple home repairs that would save a call to a repairman or plumber. Some are thinking would this be a home economics class. Sure topics like cooking and sewing would be included. I find it amazing how much we don’t know as enter adulthood and we’re expected to know. We’re expected to know how to balance our checkbook, be responsibly use credit and take care of our homes. How much time and money could we save when we have ways to do certain tasks ourselves?

In conclusion, teachers are very important. It is why I was curious who my daughter’s teacher would be in kindergarten for she would be another layer of the foundation for my daughter’s education and love of learning. Teachers are passionate about their subjects pass on that passion to their students. Even though I cannot be in the classroom sharing my passion for these subjects, I can pass them on to my daughter. To the teachers out there, you are important to your students, I hope you take your task serious as so many future generations are counting on you. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Great Alone: where one mistake can cost you everything

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is the story of Lenora “Leni” Allbright and her life in the Alaska wilderness. The story opens in 1974, Leni is 13 years old and her parents, Ernt and Coraline “Cora” Allbright are fighting. Her dad is a Vietnam vet and POW who has had a hard time adjusting to life after the war and has lost another job. Things look bleak until a letter arrives which offers the family a new start in Alaska. While life is hard as they learn to live in the wilderness, they are helped by their neighbors, Large Marge, who runs the local grocery story, and The Walker family, whose son, Matthew, is the same age as Leni. Through trial and error, the family learns to live in their new home. However, her father’s demons has seemed to follow them to Alaska and with the darkness and isolation of Alaska wilderness, Leni must learn to fight back and trust her instincts.

The Great Alone is another amazing story by Ms. Hannah. It has heartbreaking drama, love and hopes for survival. The story immediately pulls you in by Leni’s narration. The reader will laugh with her, cry with her and feel her fear as it grips the heart. It is a page turner as you cannot wait to see if she survives. Ms. Hannah’s descriptions of the Alaska wilderness and its cold winters are so vivid, you can almost feel the icy wind. Behind the stunning beauty of Alaska, there is a harshness that very few learn to survive. I highly, highly recommend The Great Alone.

The Great Alone
will be available February 6, 2018
in hardcover and eBook

Thursday, January 4, 2018

It's National Trivia Day!

I love trivia. I love remembering and recalling facts. It helps make conversations interesting as spark debates about whether a piece of information is correct or not. According to National Day, today is National Trivia Day. Trivia day is a great day to share all of these facts that almost nobody knows, making this day a fun and interesting one to spend with friends or family. Although in my opinion, sharing trivia any day is a great time to have fun with family and friends. Here’s a little history about trivia as well as my favorite board game and my favorite TV game show.

The word trivia is plural for trivium which is Latin for a place where three roads meet. During the Middle Ages, trivium comprised of the first three divisions of the seven liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric and logic. They were considered to be less important than arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Trivia is information that is matters or things that are very unimportant, inconsequential, or nonessential. In the 1960s, college students and others began to informally trade questions and answers about the popular culture of their youth. After writing trivia columns, Columbia University students, Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky, created the earliest inter-collegiate quiz bowls that tested cultural significant but virtually useless information. They would later write the first book on trivia in 1966. Trivia has come to refer to obscure or arcane information. Here are a few trivia facts:
  • While many believe Hydrox cookies are an Oreo knock-off, Hydrox actually came first in 1908. Oreos were first introduced in 1912.
  • Forty is the only number whose letters are in alphabetical order
  • The most shoplifted food item in the US is candy. In Europe, it’s cheese.
  • The Pledge of Allegiance was used as part of a plan to sell flags to schools

My favorite board game is Trivial Pursuit. I own four versions of the game: the 20th anniversary edition, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and a team edition. I also own a video game version for the PS2. The game was first created in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1979 by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. The game consists of general knowledge and popular culture questions in subjects as geography, entertainment, history, arts & literature, science & nature, and sports & leisure. The game became extremely popular by 1984 and continues its popularity as it has spawned different editions like the ones I mentioned earlier.  The creators of the game faced a few lawsuits over copyrights. In October 1984, Fred L. Worth, author of The Trivia Encyclopedia and other trivia books, filed a $300 million lawsuit in which he claimed that a quarter of the questions in the Genus edition were taken from his book. Haney and Abbott acknowledged that they used Worth’s books for questions; however, no one can claim copyright over facts. The courts agreed.

My favorite TV game show is Jeopardy! First created by Merv Griffin, it debuted on NBC on March 30, 1964 and ran until January 3, 1975 with Art Fleming as host. Its current format premiered on September 10, 1984 with Alex Trebek as its host. I know many people are familiar with Jeopardy! It is quiz competition in which clues are given in the form of an answer and the contestants must respond in the form of a question. For example, in a category of The White House, an answer would read “He was the second U.S. President to live in the first White House.” The correct response would be “Who was Thomas Jefferson?” According to Merv Griffin, his wife, Jillian, came up with the idea that the answers would be presented and the contestants had to come up with the question. She noted that there had not been a successful question and answer show since the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. She suggested changing it up. The game hosts yearly tournaments for Champions, teens, kids, and teachers even a Celebrity edition in which contestants play for their favorite charities.

In conclusion, I love trivia. Some of my fondest memories is watching Jeopardy! with my grandmother and she urged me to try out for the game. Even now as I watch with my husband, he tells me I have to get on the show. Although, getting on the show is a very difficult process, I don’t think I’d do very well. It’s one thing to give responses on the safety of your couch, it’s another to go on national television. Maybe one day I will; but for now enjoy National Trivia Day and discover tidbits of information you may have not known before. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Daughters of the Storm: a book that fell short of expectations

Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins is the first book in the Blood and Gold series. The story opens with King Atherlrick of Almissia, the warrior king, the Storm Bearer in the land of Thrysland, is ill. News spreads to his eldest daughter, Bluebell, a warrior like her father and heir apparent. She immediately rushes to her father’s side while spreading word out to her other sisters. Rose is married to Wengest, king of Nettlechester but her heart belongs to another. Ash is a student of the common faith who has been having horrible dreams. Ivy and Willow are twins. Ivy lives for the admiration of others and Willow lives for the gods. Together the sisters must discover the source of their father’s illness; however the journey will force them to face their past, their choices and the secrets they keep from each other.

Daughters of the Storm is a slow moving story. So slow I found myself phasing out and realizing that I hadn’t read anything on the page. Of the five sisters, the only one I enjoyed was Ash. I did not like Bluebell as I found her to be too harsh. Overall, I did not like this book. Pages and pages went on with nothing really happening. I read a description online that called this book “Game of Thrones with women” and it fits. A long winded book with pages and pages of description and very little explanation as to what is going on or action. An “elf-shot” was referred to many times in the beginning and I kept waiting for a hint on what an elf shot is? I had to assume bad magic the way the characters seem to terrified of it. Pages later, you learn its “wild” and very old magic. Why couldn’t this be mentioned earlier? And the language! The f-word was used so much in even the open chapters that I cringed every time it was used in the rest of the book. If you enjoy Games of Thrones, you may enjoy this book and even the series; however, I cannot recommend it. I wanted to enjoy it and based on the description of the story, I thought I would. However, it is very slow and way too much language for my taste.

Daughters of the Storm
will be available in hardcover and eBook

on March 6, 2018