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